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.
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).
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!
‘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!