Where Do I Go From Here? A Self Reflection

“Without self-reflection, you live reactively to the environment around you and not proactively from within for the best desired outcome. When you fail to self-reflect, it can cause you to be unsure of why you are doing what you do”

The Strategic Guide to Shaping Your Student Affairs Career by Sonja Ardoin has been an extremely eye-opening book to read as someone who does not have much of a critical understanding of student affairs from a professional (and in a lot of ways personal) point of view. What I have valued most about this book has been the personal stories and reflections from people who have had different experiences and taken various paths but share a connectedness to student affairs. These stories have been essential in terms of forcing me to reflect on my own path and where I hope to go, how I plan to get there, and most importantly – why.

If I am being honest, I am struggling with the why part and it scares me. It scares me so much that I have convinced myself that because I haven’t found my why yet (at least I don’t think I have), then I must not have one. But I am slowly learning that this is not necessarily true. Just because I don’t see it clearly, doesn’t mean it’s not there. I recently spoke to someone who really put my doubts about my path into perspective. It only took the word “exploring” for me to realize that this experience is about embarking on a journey towards that why without the expectation that it will or should be easy.

So, what do I mean when I say that I haven’t found my why yet? Hmm, answering that question has been its own process for me. But I have decided to stop searching for a why and instead focus on what matters to me, what I care most deeply about, and let that guide me to it.

“Strategy is not a straitjacket. It is not intended to be. We do not want to lock ourselves so firmly into a strategy that we leave no room for movement, adaptability, or growth”

After reading this section in chapter three, I quickly wrote the words strategy is not a straitjacket on an orange sticky note and placed it on my desk to serve as a reminder. I am the type of person that is always thinking ahead (whether or not I have a plan is another story!). But I’m noticing the flaws in my forward and futuristic thinking. I haven’t created a strategy for myself. The future can be overwhelming, and for me, not having a clear picture in my mind of where I am going to be seven months from now is daunting. So I have decided to challenge myself to be more active in strategizing a plan for myself beyond this experience. I have also promised myself that I will be more gentle and patient as I move towards my why. After all, I don’t just have seven months to figure it out, I have the rest of my life!

– Jane Kungu

Shaping MY Student Affairs Career

Reflecting on The Strategic Guide to Shaping Your Student Affairs Career, it made me think about my journey so far into Student Affairs. Why I became interested in the field of Student Affairs, How my networking skills are okay but still developing and where I see myself in the future.  For me, before taking this position I had many conversations with my mentors and other student affairs professional at my alma mater about the topics that this book talked about. At that time I felt that I knew all I could about what I wanted to do as a career and how to get there. But after reading the book the chapters brought new meaning to my prior knowledge about Student Affairs as well as myself. This book caused me to take a step back and really reflect on what I have been doing for both my professional and personal development and ways that I can improve that process.

Throughout the book, the question that I kept asking myself was why do I want to be in Student Affairs? I kept coming back to the answers of one being a representative of my community since there is not a large population of people of color in Student Affairs. I feel that for students of colors it’s good to see someone that looks like them in an administrative position and knowing that they have someone there that will understand somewhat they are going through and someone that will support them and help develop them. Something else that comes up for me is to be the voice of under representative populations on a college campus. I feel that because as the next generation of students goes into their undergraduate careers they are going to be coming with a lot of diversity. As Student Affairs professional I feel that you need to be able to stand up for them and be a resource for them throughout their collegiate years.  Another question that came up for me is what I do bring to the table as a new professional. This is a question that I feel is going to take me some more time to answer because I feel that I am still trying to figure that out. But I feel that at the end of this gap year internship I will better know how to answer that question.

 

-Nzingha Wright

 

Lifelong Learning

Sonja Ardoin’s The Strategic Guide to Shaping Your Student Affairs Career

Chapter four is all about lifelong learning, which one of the contributors, Mat, describes as “capitalizing on opportunities and responding to the unexpected, even when it is extremely harsh, to create something positive.”

I reflect on this section of the book, specifically Mat’s anecdote, as I consider what committing to the process of lifelong learning looks like in my personal life and field. This season has been educationally atypical for me; though I worked full-time while in school, I temporarily have lost out on an 18-year-long routine of formal learning. It’s uncomfortable. Moreover, it can be tempting to convince myself I am not actually learning. But this section of the book helped reframe my perspective on what it means to be a learner.

Mat goes over three essential aspects of lifelong learning: risk, failure, and accepting help from others.

I have never been known to take risks; I am actually notorious for quite the opposite. My aversion to failure (more on that later) is plenty enough to scare me off from an opportunity associated with even minimal degrees of risk. But one note I highlighted in the book was that accepting risk does not equate to taking unnecessary risks—rather, accepting risk is doing everything reasonable one can do to ensure success. I was grateful to read this section because it encouraged me to acknowledge the ways I accepted the risk of coming to Adams and how it continues to pay off. I have had a longstanding love/hate relationship with my calculated approach to decision-making, but I think recognizing the acceptance of risk requires thorough preparation makes me love both my leadership and self just a bit more.

“Failure is an acceptable outcome.” It’s easy to say, especially to someone else, but not so easy to believe when it comes to my own performance. I’ve been conditioned to be averse to failure– I don’t fear failure as much as I hate the feeling of it. I grew up the youngest of four children in a Chinese-American home. My Dad was a pastor before eventually earning his third advanced degree and becoming an associate dean at a university. My Mom was my grade school’s foundation and PTA president. I recognize I was born and raised in omnipresent social pressure; if I did not feel enough pressure from my Church, teachers, and principals, my parents and siblings were there to finish the job. However, this section of Mat’s anecdote once again reframed my perspective. As an outdoor programs specialist, he writes there is a significant difference between someone being too lazy to make it to the summit of a hike and someone not making it to the top because he/she has been severely injured. While the outcomes are the same, they are caused by two very different factors. The point is to acknowledge that I might miss the success mark sometimes, but I have to evaluate whether I did everything I could to achieve it. We can’t control it all; failure exists within the process– not the outcome.

And lastly, accepting help from others is essential. I have a lot of room to grow in this one. While deep and intimate relationships are core to my being, I admit asking for help often feels impossible. My parents taught me to always serve others and to never be served. In ending this section, I rediscovered gratitude for the relationships I have, in which people break past the walls I setup to (try to) protect myself. I don’t think accepting help requires becoming a desperate case– but I think I can stop making it so difficult for others and myself when it comes to working together.

Note to self: learn to embrace risks, reconcile failure, & accept help.

-RJ

Salsa, Soul and Spirit?

 

Multicultural?

Salsa, Soul and Spirit

Does not do the trick

 

Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a multicultural age. I have to say, I was very excited and had high expectations of this book. The title and the cover were both catchy and at the same time promised a broader understanding of leadership from different perspectives and how to really tackle leadership when you are working with diverse populations (or so I thought). I expected this book to serve as a guide, or at least starting ground in knowing how to work with and motivate leaders who come from different backgrounds. To my understanding the book offers a different purpose and focuses instead on what diverse communities (specifically latino, black and American Indian) have to contribute to the conversation of leadership. It focuses more on what they can do for the “majority” (by contributing new insights of leadership) rather than what the “majority” can do for them. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It is important to provide a platform to those voices, and this book does a good job in showcasing that leadership should be more inclusive as it has different takes on different cultures. It just is not what I was expecting from the book, although I probably should have paid more attention to the subtitle “New approaches to leadership from Latino, Black, and American Indian communities”.

 

Keeping that approach in mind, the book becomes more likeable. We can all learn from each of the principles described and use them to inform our own leadership, how we talk about it and even how we carry out our daily lives. I appreciated the principle that talked about the future generations. The importance of building connections with those leaders of the future, and helping them be ready for their own time to take on the world. It is essentially what we do in this field, and reading about it from a different culture’s approach was intriguing.

 

There was one concept I had a little bit of a problem with (if you can call it that). The second principle I to We. On first glance it seemed like a good concept, especially when it comes to talking about leadership. At its very core leadership should be more like collectivistic cultures, taking everyone into consideration, embracing everyone. Leadership should be more about others and less about oneself. While I was reading this section however, a thought popped into my mind. It sounds awesome, lets focus more on the we and less on the I. The problem comes when we begin to think of who the we is. The we should be everyone, we should be including and advocating for everyone to be part of our collective we. While I have no problem believing society at large could embrace the “we” dialogue and want to move to that, I find it difficult to believe the we would truly include everyone. Society tends to be selective in this and it would be the first hurdle to overcome before fully taking on a collectivistic approach.

 

Leadership & Self-Deception

We are in boxes

All of us really, but

We can all get out.

 

 

My experience reading the book can be separated into 3 parts. The first impressions before reading it, the actual process of reading it, and the post (and stunned) reflection. When I first got the book and the title I thought it would be about how we deceive ourselves into thinking we are not capable of certain things, or of being leaders and how this is not true. I thought it would be a motivational book all about happy feelings. One could even say that in a way, I was in the box towards this book and the experience I would get out of it. I was looking at this title and the book and immediately assumed something from it that would fit my own needs. I truly had judged a book by its cover.

 

My experiences with this book had not gotten off to a good start (although I did not know that at the moment), and when it came to the process of reading it, things did not get any easier. While the way the book was written made it a little hard for me to follow and get the main ideas out, that was not my biggest struggle. As I was reading the book and going along with Tom’s (the main character in the story) process of self discovery, I found myself aligning and recalling examples of my own that fit self deception. Choices I had made that had made me be in the box towards someone, and in some cases I could recognize myself as being in the box towards someone, but could not trace it back. I had spent too much time in the box. While Tom was quick to defend himself, I began feeling panic and anxiety over past behaviors (not something that I’m unfamiliar with). As the book progressed, my experience changed with it as it looked more hopeful. Getting out of the box did not seem like it was something impossible, but rather something that I could work towards.

 

After reading the book, I had to had some reflection time in order to be able to truly digest what I had experienced. While it might seem cheesy, reading this truly gave me a new outlook in life and I was excited to work on myself so I could improve my relationships with other people. It may sound like a simple thing, to consider others as people but the way this book put it with the concrete examples shed a different light on that. I have begun to have conversations with my parents using this philosophy and we have managed to get to a deeper level and more common ground of understanding of little things so far, but I am excited to see how else this may grow in this relationship and in relationships with students that I work with. Something I liked about the book was that it makes it clear that it is not necessary to know someone or have a relationship with them in order to be in the box towards them. We can be in the box towards people we come into direct or indirect contact with everyday and recognizing those moments is something that will help us be generally more out of the box people (although no one really is ever completely out of the box permanently).

 

Salsa, Soul, and Spirit

Intergenerational is defined as relating to, involving, or affecting several generations. This part of the book really caught my attention because it is so relevant in life right now. We have many generations that are currently working together and sometimes it feels as if we are working against each other. As a millennial (I’m not a normal millennial, I’m a cool millennial), I enjoyed that they discussed this idea that generations were living in such a “me, I” life but millennials are working towards a “we” culture. Being on a college campus, I can see this desire to change our world and make it better. Don’t get me wrong there are always people who work against that goal. The book really blew me away when it focused on this want to help our world but pointed out the weight that we also carry on top of that desire. When people hear millennials, they think of this negative view that has been placed with the generation. I am not trying to say that our generation is perfect and is always trying to progress forward because we definitely have had some set backs the past few years. On top of this push to help get our world back in shape, we carry burdens like student loans and cleaning up the mess from other generations whether they see it as a mess or not.

 

The students I have the pleasure to work with everyday show this drive by being positive leaders on campus. They have this craving to grow as individuals but this craving also transfers over to helping the students. Working with student government has shown this push to make changes on campus because they believe that students voice is important to hear. The student government works to make sure they hear what the students are saying and stand up for them. It is so amazing to watch them work together and make a difference on campus. I know that this inspiring push to make change

 

Peace and Love,

Kayli Marie

Leadership and Self-Deception

I really enjoyed this book because it is not only something that I can apply at work but also in my daily life.  Leadership is not always about what you do. Leadership is about who you are and how you do what you do. The strategies and techniques are less important than the person you as a leader bring to the task of leadership.  Reflecting back on my leadership experience, I can remember moments where I was in the box. As a leader, I know there have been times where I was frustrated in certain situations and it was easier to point fingers and blame others. Instead of trying to look for the problem, the book talks about viewing the struggles we face as an opportunity to observe our lives and how we live everyday. Failure in leadership is a result of self-deception. If we genuinely feel respect for people they will more open to me as a person.

The book spoke volumes to me when self-deception was discussed. We are all human so this idea of self-deception is just natural. As I was reading this book I was trying to identify a time when I was in the box. I realized that I did inflate the other person faults as well as inflate my own virtue. This led me to inflate the value of things that justify my self-betrayal and then blaming the other person. It is so easy to be in the moment and focus on yourself. We can easily justify why we didn’t pick up the trash because that is someone’s job to do that. In that moment, we are viewing that person merely as an object and not as a person. To get out of the box, we should do our best to help others achieve and be successful. In the book they write, “We can’t really achieve results like we otherwise could if we’re in the box. The question is how often we are “in the box” and how can we work to live “outside of the box”?

Each book that we read and reflect on is also discussed during our book club so that we can understand the take away from each other. I found myself pointing out “so that person would be in the box!” when in reality I was in the box based off of merely just that comment. As mentioned, we are all human and it is natural to have a biased view of problems but the challenge is working towards being outside of the box and remembering to view people as people and not as objects.

Peace and Love,

Kayli Marie

Where You Work Matters

If student affairs

is your path, spoiler alert:

where you work matters.

 

We have arrived at the second reflection of the year, and with that I don’t just mean for these blog posts, but total. Okay, I might be exaggerating (definitely am) but in a way reflecting to write this has helped me be more intentional about my reflections. Instead of letting my mind wander aimlessly (which by the way, inevitably leads to singing showtunes), reading the books and thinking about how what each one covers is applicable to me has helped me remain on course with my reflections. This does not mean that I have found all the answers, but it just feels more productive and I feel better after.

 

As I began reading, and thus reflecting on “Where you Work Matters” I started to feel a little anxious.I have known for a while that all colleges are different and that each one has its own culture. I also knew that in order to have some sort of fulfillment from my job I needed to be some place where I connected, that aligned with my values and that placed importance on things that I consider most important and dear. However, I had never gone about trying to materialize what this would look like. I had always just assumed I’d look at job descriptions and look into the mission and vision of the institution and that would be it. I never considered how the fact that there are different types of institutions might affect how student affairs departments function at each one based on type (I know, what was I thinking). Reading about the types, and the perspectives of SA pros who work in the different institutions has been a good start in thinking about where I want to end up. I think that I need to do further exploration, and hopefully that can be through experience, because while I enjoyed reading this and felt it had a lot of useful information, it did not make me feel like inclining in any particular direction. It just made me realize how many options there are out there, and I don’t think I’d be content with picking a path without further exploration that includes some experience. I mean, this is a big decision! Committing to an institution where you will spend your golden years, it’s a big a decision as marriage! (again, maybe exaggerating but you get what I’m saying).

 

I have already had the opportunity to start on this exploration journey, by experiencing different types of institution during my undergrad and now. My undergraduate school was more research type and bigger than Adams. There were many “branches” of student life, many resources and a lot of specialization from the professional staff. As big as my undergraduate school was, it was not very diverse so when I was doing my research on Adams I was very excited to find out it was an HSI. From being here for a couple of months already, I can see how the nature of the work and the way people relate to each other differs. I can see the benefits of working at both types of institutions, in general and for myself, and I have yet to find a something big I dislike that would make me not want to remain at an institution like Adams. I still have the rest of the year to keep learning as much as I can, and I am looking forward to it!

Beginning Your Journey

‘Tis student affairs

Beginning Your Journey, Man

Yo, sounds like a dream.

 

Reading “Beginning Your Journey” has been, for lack of a better word, a journey in and of itself. When I first got the book there was a mix of emotions happening. On one hand I was very excited to dive in and absorb all the information I could, but on the other hand I had this mini crisis where the path that I have chosen for my life felt real. For some reason, having a book called “Beginning Your Journey” in my hands gave my decision a sense of finality. I had to take some time to think about what my journey was, where was I in it and what it would look like from here. As soon as I began reading the panicky side that had surfaced began to calm down, as I discovered in the first chapter (and kept reading in later chapters as well) that concerns are common even if not everyone has the same ones, everyone has some.

 

There are many things that I have learned from reading this book, and some of them I feel like I have known all along but reading them in a book about starting a professional journey in student affairs just brought their importance to mind. The biggest one for me in this sense, was a common thread throughout the book: starting with yourself. I have a history of overlooking this little detail, so I appreciated that it was brought up in different chapters. I already knew self care was important since I have heard it before but reading about how it’s important for different things made me want to take a harder look at myself and actually do it. With assessments for example, it is important to assess your own work and progress. I have not done a very good job at this in the past, but as I said before, it has now been brought to mind and I will try harder to improve at this.  Another common thread in the book that similarly was something I knew, but it’s been made present is relying on other people. This is something that I also have not been very good at in the past, but I realize its importance. Making connections is crucial for many aspects of our journey, from having someone that can help us navigate the career or a new environment to just having someone who can be there when you need to talk. This is the most challenging for me, being vulnerable enough to lean on others for support and trust that they will not let me fall. I recognize however, it is even more challenging and maybe not even possible to go through this journey alone and that requires some vulnerability from my part.

 

Perhaps the most interesting thing that I learned by reading this book was to begin thinking about each institution and even departments as their own culture. I found myself thinking more and more about this, and even though it may not be the exactly the same as immersing oneself in a new culture there are some similarities that come to mind. For example the different terminology in the two institutions I have been a part of can be compared to the different slang terms I had to learn when I first came to America. Having this lens of looking at each institution as a new culture will have certain advantages as I will be able to apply similar methods of absorbing each new culture, and more than anything it will be interesting to see how each culture is unique.

All in all this book has been a great way to get started with this year of readings. It seems like the perfect book to always have at your bedside and revisit as time goes by, I feel like it is kind of like a journal that you did not write but it has some sense of familiarity to it, it seems like something future you wrote and sent back in time for you.

 

P.S:  Please enjoy my  (poor) first attempt at a haiku in the beginning, I think I will be writing one for each post!

Salsa, Soul, & Spirit: “I thought leading meant becoming white”

Ok, what’s the deal with assuming ALL Latinos love salsa? Or even better “we have salsa running through our veins”…..

Growing up I had a knack for being usually well liked in my elementary school classrooms. I would blurt out random phrases, get a laugh and so on. My mum would call it charisma, I called it just being so uneven headed.  I remember in Ms. Riveras 2nd grade class she announced that we would be electing a class president for the day in contribution to the ongoing U.S. election during that time. I won by a landslide, and while my goal of building a roller coaster for the school was immediately shot down, I was able to give out jelly beans to my classmates that engaged in good behavior. See, the thing is that while this small role seemed so unimportant in my development, it actually has inspired me much more looking back now. I would look on the tv and they would show the occasional video clip of a couple scraggly senators in navy suits and striped ties talk about “the economy”. Did I forget to mention they were white? While I knew I wanted to be in the government one day, there was something about who  I was that seemed as a barrier to me accomplishing that goal. While hard to understand then, (Disclaimer: I don’t want to become a politician now) it was hard to see myself in this role mainly because no one who looked like me was in that role. I thought only “white men” lead and it was because of the treacherous path like systemic oppression that leads someone to feel inadequate.

While reading, it often focused on the parallel between both anglo-american cultures and what we know as historically underserved collectivist cultures. My favorite. Well, my favorite until Aunt Caro decides she needs to budge in for dinner uninvited and you have to spare your second servings. Collectivism is fun and all but presents challenges that I believe are truly generational. It talks about hospitality being big amongst Latinos and a sense of hope being something that drives them. Well it’s certainly changing. I was casually reading last week and it mentioned that when Latinos have immigrated to the U.S. their grandkids feel a lot less connected to their Latino roots meaning one loses their sense of Latinizmo. Scary. Scary because we’re caught in fighting worlds. An american world focused on “me, me, me” and a collectivist culture focused on “we, we, we”. You’ll see in my family we’re more reserved and to ourselves even though it’s expected we hug everyone we meet and say “mi casa es tu casa”. Contradictory to the cultural norms but it has become my norm regardless. It’s changing and I think it’ll continue to change and generations develop. These things that were once valued will morph into something else and will consequently turn into a faint memory.

Anyways, I feel like I’m ranting. Oh wait, I am. I screenshotted a specific picture on my phone and sent it to my family…they agreed. The book noted that some Latinos want things done immediately, no room to waste time. Also that we didn’t want to do things on a comfortable schedule. This is seen as pushy and emotional and not having good manners. While originally I was like, “this book can’t dictate my life”, this is very much true. I hate wasting time, and being slow with many things. It infuriates me but I acknowledge it’s something I need to work on. I’m not pushy because I want to overthrow someones authority, I’m pushy because I care so much about the cause I’m advocating for and want to make sure we’re moving along towards a solution. If you’re passionate about it, why do it in the first place.

While general I appreciate this book for reinforcing what it means to be a leader from a multicultural aspect. Dear white people, you can be leaders too but so can us black, American indian, and latino leaders as well. Hey the world is changing, meaning we also got to change with the times too.