Four undergraduate students standing alone on stage transformed my experience and helped refocus my career path. This year, the Association of College Unions International (ACUI) chose to end a day of the annual conference with student stories and how the Union impacted them.
There were several thought provoking speakers during the conference, such as Soul Pancake CEO Shabnam Mogharabi and NPR host Celeste Headlee. However, none brought so many in the audience on a whirlwind trip of emotion as the “Student Voices Panel.” I admittedly was convinced prior to the session that I knew what I was signing up for - students sharing a bit of their experience - and I was not expecting to be impressed. After all, I had seen student panels before, and while I always found them somewhat interesting, I felt they quickly descend into specific questions about who the students are as individuals or generalizations about the identities the students hold. Instead, this time, when the lights went down, we witnessed a TED-style story told by each of the four students from the stage. ...continue reading "The Impact of a Student Union"
I have been privileged to have amazing professionals invest in me over the years, from assisting me into university as a first generation student, to landing my first student affairs role and moving through each step in my career. Through their support I have been able to observe good practice, have an outside view into my experiences, receive needed challenge and validation, and gain assistance in navigating unknown territory. More so, they did all this not because they had to, but because they genuinely wanted to. As such, these are things that I have worked to emulate in my own practice, remembering to “pay it forward,” as one of my closer mentors reminds those around them to do.
For myself, paying it forward comes through in a variety of ways, and it was most present in my ACPA conference attendance. What was most striking for this year’s conference was that I have reached a clear point in my career where I am spending greater time investing in others then seeking it out for myself. Where my conference calendar had once been filled with coffee and lunch meetings with mentors, colleagues, and connections through my network, I was now taking more time to meet with mentees and new professionals who sought me out, to talk about everything from job searches to current issues in our field. While this meant a change in how I was spending my time in conference, it was just as beneficial to my time, as each interaction somehow gave me fresh perspective and energy.
With the GW student population spanning over 130 countries, GW Housing has taken the proactive measure to support and enhance the student experience by purchasing the Xerox Easy Translator Service app for out Xerox machine. This app has the capability to translate documents into numerous languages, which assists our office in both translating our documents into students’ native languages and translating documents received from students in other languages to English.
By utilizing this tool, we are able to provide students with an increased understanding of the documents they are signing, such as the Housing License Agreement, and help to clarify any questions they may have. Outside of housing, other departments may find this app helpful in translating advising guides, codes of student conduct, applications, directions, or FAQs.
The cat over the moon. The moon jumped over. The cat jumped over. Moon.
Did that make sense to you? Me neither. But that’s what reading, writing and math are like for me. Words, numbers and symbols that make sense to others come off as gibberish to me. Things that are suppose to tell a story, give directions, communicate a thought or solve an equation are a constant battle and source of stress to me. The very things that guide others through the world are the things that keep me from experiencing it in the same way.
Getting into college and planning for your first year is a very exciting time for most students. One of the first things that most new students must do is complete a housing application if they are planning to live on campus. For most, this is simply another rite of passage but for students who do not identify on the gender binary, this can be an anxiety-inducing moment. Will they be in a safe environment? What will happen if they are assigned roommates? Are roommates assigned based on biological sex? In order to help address some of these concerns, many universities have introduced a gender neutral or gender-inclusive housing option.
GW began offering gender inclusive housing to all students in 2010. The initiative was student-led but gained buy-in from faculty, staff, alumni, and parents by creating different working groups that examined from a diverse set of perspectives how this initiative could affect the on campus living experience. ...continue reading "Creating a Gender Inclusive Housing Process"
For the first time in my career, I attended both NASPA and ACPA in the same year. I know there are many perspectives about the two organizations and who belongs where and who each one serves in our field. This is a debate and discussion that will probably go on for years into the future. There is even debate about the value of each organization and I have always wondered about this myself. What I found after attending the two conferences was that both organizations had an equal but very different meaning and value to me. ...continue reading "Two National Conferences – Two Different Experiences"
The annual NASPA conference began for me with an opening session from Justice Sonia Sotomayor who shared the story of her journey. It was compelling to hear her narrative and how she allowed the people along her path to clear the way ahead. There is a humility and steady strength that comes from accepting direction and assistance. My own journey at NASPA this year was about being open to new connections and expanding existing professional relationships. I had the pleasure of spending time with several women in the student affairs profession who have walked the road I am currently traveling and were willing to share their stories.
Statistics show that women are less likely to state their accomplishments boldly. As women we sometimes underestimate the power of our narrative. Several conference sessions were focused on assisting women in boldly owning their work. A panel session entitled “Her Place at the Table” featured female Vice Presidents and offered insights on how to be present and heard in the decision room. There were sessions that taught women how to negotiate salary, how to manage leadership transitions and how to pursue a terminal degree while managing other aspects of life. I saw and experienced the transformative power of our narrative as I engaged in conversations with women from campuses around the nation.
Colette Coleman is the Assistant Dean for Mount Vernon Campus Residential Engagement and Administration. She oversees the student experience for students on the Mount Vernon Campus.
Every year, thousands of new professionals and representatives from hundreds of colleges descend upon a major U.S. city to participate in The Placement Exchange (TPE), the nation’s largest career placement resource in the field of higher education. This year, TPE was held at the Philadelphia Convention Center and was attended by three of CSE’s own: Laura Rouse, Frank Schleimer, and myself.
Long days of interviews, resumes, and thank you notes were certainly worth it as TPE provided us with an incredible opportunity to meet with an enormous variety of institutions and refine our interview skills. The apprehension was high as we prepared for this whirlwind experience. Laura Rouse reflects, “As a bonafide introvert, the thought of attending The Placement Exchange was initially very overwhelming and intimidating for finding my first professional job. Though the nerves were in full force the first day, I can truly say that I have never felt so comfortable speaking and connecting with employers from a variety of institutions. While interviewing can seem like you are just trying to prove yourself over and over again, the employers at TPE are really looking to just get to know you and to mutually see if the school or position is the right fit.” ...continue reading "‘Twas the Night Before TPE"
Back in December, we posted about some ground-breaking work in the GW TRAiLS program. Staff from the Center for Student Engagement have taken an innovative approach in their work by partnering with the university's Mental Health Services staff to promote healthy living. More about that work was recently published in the Outdoor Insider magazine published by the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education (AORE) when Lin Philpott, the CSE's Coordinator for Outdoor Leadership, wrote about Making Your Outdoor Program a Mental Health Resource. The article shares how Center for Student Engagement staff have partnered with colleagues in GW's Mental Health Services to decrease stigma around help-seeking behavior and increase participation in outdoor programming by viewing it as a resource in self-care. Congratulations on being published, Lin!
How do you incorporate mental health into your outdoor education program?