Making a Case for Traditional Residence Halls

By Jenni Chadick, assistant director of residence life

Recently, there have been some articles on the web (here and here are two examples) residence life world that have highlighted how the shine and sparkle of newer suite-style halls are deadly to positive student outcomes during first year. Turns out, traditional “dorms” (i.e. corridor style with gang bathrooms) are really good at promoting student success. This runs counter to what many students say they want – a perpetual issue in higher education. See, the thing is, institutions often want to respond to what students say they want in order to attract students to a campus – better food or amenities, better facilities (i.e. an amazing gym or state of the art pool), programming that focuses on free food and socializing instead of learning, or even freedom from rules (i.e. the “quiet hours are unnecessary, and no one actually cares” phenomenon. I can tell you, students do care, they are just afraid to speak up). Yet in so many cases, what students say they want  isn’t necessarily what they need, or even say they wish they had by the time they graduate. I’ve even seen this as we plan and promote our sophomore engagement initiatives – seniors who say “I wish the administration had made sure I had known about X or how to do Y” but current sophomores reporting that they aren’t interested in knowing about X or how to do Y. That’s a whole other blog post though!

This is what summer in student affairs looks like – bridging the gap between student expectations and student outcomes. We as higher education professionals know a few things to be true about students in the aggregate – students that are engaged are more likely to persist and graduate (i.e. continue all four years and obtain a degree); that most students will struggle to live with a roommate but the students who by chance end up without a roommate at move in are the most distressed; that many students will struggle to have conversations about diversity and difference yet every year’s entering class is more diverse than the last (at least at Puget Sound); and that with college costs skyrocketing it is imperative that everyone on our campus continue to assess and evaluate everything we do to ensure at our core we are promoting student success and learning despite what students might say they want. Responding to the landscape of higher education is challenging in its own right, but it’s near impossible in the day-to-day minutia of the academic calendar year.

That’s what makes summer my special-favorite-time. It’s a time for research and reflection, to re-center both professionally and personally, and put things back in perspective. It allows for time to read the articles about how traditional residence halls actually have something very special going for them – and having the time to write a blog post to tell you all about it! Because hopefully one of you reading this out there is an incoming new student, and while you’ve already made the good choice to attend Puget Sound this fall, maybe you are wondering what the heck your new home will look and feel like. I can tell you we have nothing like this or this or this on our campus (and neither do most campuses really, as these are mostly off-campus housing options). But that is okay. In fact, it’s more than okay. The floor to ceiling windows are very pretty, it’s true. And some may argue that rooftop pool and tanning salon on site is essential to balance and well being. But our campus would argue that relaxing on the quad with a Frisbee is a perfect way to blow off steam after class, as well as form the connections with peers that really enhance the college experience.

Yes, there will be times you wish you had a private bathroom. Yes, there will be times when you wish you had your own room. There will definitely be times your roommate/hallmate/suitemate is playing music too loud or watching that show you hate, or just generally being a human being and that somehow will irritate the living daylights out of you. But that is essential to your growth and learning. And beyond being a very important part of your interpersonal development, believe it or not, you will miss that closeness at some point. The ability to have someone (maybe your roommate, maybe next door) to vent to after a tough class, or who exposes you to a whole different genre of literature/music/movies that you never would have though you’d be interested in, or who will provide endless entertainment in your adult life with stories of “remember that one time so-and-so did such-and-such.” These kind of experiences are almost guaranteed to happen in those traditional residence halls, which is why we call them res halls and not dorms. They are more than just a place to sleep. Res halls are vibrant communities where all those practical things you will learn in the classroom abruptly clash with real life. Where expectations and outcomes meet. And just like summer in res life, being a resident in res life is a great time for reflection and action. So get ready for an awesome adventure!

 

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Welcome to the Team!

By Jenni Chadick, Assistant Director of Residence Life

Yesterday was our first day in Residence Life getting to know our 2014-2014 staff team. Look at them – that’s a fine bunch I think!

The 2014-2015 Res Life Staff

The 2014-2015 Res Life Staff

This is a great time of year in the northwest – spring is on our doorstep marked by the daffodils and tulips blooming, the birds chirping, and daylight past 6pm. It’s a time of new beginnings and looking toward the future – yet knowing there is still some time before it’s truly summer BBQ weather. For Residence Life, this is our best time of year to reflect on the past year and make plans for the future. Welcoming our new staff is just step one, but it’s an important step.

As part of our welcome, we showed a few videos that even though I’ve watched several times still struck a chord.

Everyday Leadership – Drew Dudley TED Talk

(Not gonna lie – I tear up at around 3:23 as soon as “home” is mentioned)

Kid President’s Letter to Someone on Their First Day Here

(I mean really… who doesn’t love Kid President?!)

Videos are fun, yes, but I also think these ones in particular speak to a certain hopefulness we all have for the future. A future where we are kinder to one another (especially our loved ones), a future where we are the best version of ourselves, a future we know is possible just beyond the horizon. What’s neat about these videos and their popularity is that it’s a universal human desire to do better, to be better, and to create a community that cares. We can sometimes differ on how to get there, but there is something innately human at the core of these messages. Spring is the best time I think to hear these messages – when our world is full of new beginnings, when we are thinking about next steps, new relationships, new careers, new classes, new versions of ourselves (cue the Felicity theme here, New Version of You… R.I.P. classic J.J. Abrams and the best thing to ever happen on the WB). What inspires you most in the spring?

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What’s Happening On Campus

By Jenni Chadick, Assistant Director of Residence Life

Hi folks, it’s been awhile. Residence Life has been busy the past month and half – and so has campus! While Residence Life has now successfully hired 61 student leaders for 2013-2014, placed all returning students in housing for next year, and continued to serve our current students, the rest of campus has been abuzz in the busyness that defines spring semester.

Despite all these goings ons, there is always the passing comment we hear… “I’m so bored, there is nothing to do on this campus!” Believe it or not, there are students who get bored. It seems to be a comment I hear during conduct meetings as an excuse for the drinking/smoking/whatever, but more than that – some students (especially those in their first year) truly aren’t aware of how much is happening on campus. And no, they aren’t all boring lectures! I would argue most of our lectures are in fact fascinating… but I also understand the desire for some plain old fun on a Friday night. So what is there to do on campus that is easy to get to, free or low cost, and won’t land you in the conduct office? PLENTY.

As an experiment of the “I’m so bored” a top-level colleague (ahem our VP Mike Segawa) commissioned a student in his office to put together a list of what’s happening on campus – simply drawn from walking around the SUB and reading posters, pursuing websites, and checking on Facebook. Take a look at the next semester and then tell that bored friend they are just being lazy then – there is so much to do! From films (Lego Movie anyone?!) to Sports (ever seen a regata?), to campus events (Luche de Sound is back for it’s third year of awesome Mexican wrestling on Saturday – complete with Tacos, and yes you can use your dinning dollars!)

Seriously. There is no reason to be bored on this campus!

Campus Films

04/04 – 04/06 | American Hustle

04/09 – 04/09 | Mary Poppins

04/11 – 04/13 | Saving Mr. Banks

04/16 – 04/16 | The Big Lebowski

04/18 – 04/20 | Her

04/23 – 04/23 | The Boondock Saints

04/25 – 04/27 | The Lego Movie

 

Spring Campus Events

Friday, March 28: Adelphian Concert Choir, Steven Zopfi, conductor, Kilworth Memorial Chapel, 8 p.m.

Saturday, March 29th 5 p.m.  Junior Recital: Delaney Pearson, clarinet, Schneebeck Concert Hall. Free

Saturday, Pie Conference (3/29, 10am, Tahoma Room)

Saturday, Puget Sound Crew: Daffodil Sprints

Saturday, PSO Beginner Kayak Trip

Saturday, Puget Sound Track and Field: Peyton Scoring Meet

Saturday, Japanese Week: Ohanami: Cherry Blossom Viewing Trip in Seattle

(Japanese Week: Tuesday, 4/1 to Saturday 4/5), Contact Professor Ludden, mludden@pugetsound.eduucha de Sound III 3/29 (7-9pm) Field House

Saturday, Lucha de Sound 3!!!!!!! March 29, 2014 7 p.m.–9 p.m. Memorial Fieldhouse

Sunday evening, Confessions of a of a College Student (Club Rendevous)

Monday, March 31: 6–8 p.m.  Film Screening: Narco Cultura (2013) directed by Shaul Schwarz, film in both English and Spanish (subtitled), screening followed by discussion with Melisa Galvan, department of history, Rausch Auditorium, McIntyre 003. Free

Monday March 31st, 7 p.m. Guest Lecture: “The Death of Play in U.S. Culture,” by Douglas Anderson, part of the Weyerhaeuser Colloquium Series Tahoma Room, Commencement Hall. Freeuditorium, McIntyre 003, 6 p.m.

Monday March 31st @8pm ASups Lecture “a Night with Anne Reom” (Kilworth Chapel)

Tuesday, April 1, 12 noon  School of Music Noon Recital, Music Room L6. Free

Tuesday, April 1, 3:30–5 p.m.  Japanese Week: Mountain Temple Style Tea Ceremony, Wyatt Hall, Second Floor Atrium. Free

Wednesday, April 2, 4 p.m.  Guest Lecture: “Tuberculosis,” by Peter Small, deputy director, tuberculosis, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Thompson Hall, Room 395. Free

Wednesday, April 2, 5 p.m.  Film Screening: Milking the Rhino, followed by discussion with Janet Matota, a conservation practitioner, Thompson Hall, Room 175. Free

Wednesday, April 2, 6 p.m.  Daedalus Society Lecture: “The First Crusade and the Limits of History in 12-Century Europe,” by Katherine Smith, associate professor of history, Murray Boardroom, Wheelock Student Center. Previous reservation required.

Tuesday, Yazmin Monet Spoken Word Performance (4/1 at 7pm) at a local church

Wednesday, April 2, 6:30–8 p.m.  Guest Lecture: “Rowing Across the Atlantic-A Bold Journey,” by Jordan Hanssen ‘04, Tahoma Room, Commencement Hall. Free

Thursday, April 3rd @8pm Tacoma Music Showcase (Club Rendevous)

Thursday, April 3th 6pm Sister Cities International film festival (Tahoma Room

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014 4-5pm “How Batman changed my Life” Collins Library Archives Talk

Friday and Saturday April 4th-5th @7:30 pm (Schneebeck) Evening of Opera Series

Saturday, April 5th UPS Rugby Home Game, Todd Field

Wednesday, Humanities guest Speaker Micah White: What is a protest? (4/9, 5-7pm)

Saturday, April 12th UPS Rugby Whitman @ Home Todd Field

Saturday, April 12th Hawaii Club’s Lu ‘au (Performance 8pm and Meal 6pm)

Monday, Hispanic Studies: Sonia Ramos Spanish Lecture (4/14)

Monday, “Los Vampiros del Norte” (4/14, 6pm Rausch)

Wednesday, Theatre of the Oppressed workshop with Juan Enrique April 16 at 2PM (Place TBD)

Friday-Sunday, Spring Family Weekend (4/11-4/13)

 

Art Exhibits

Through Saturday, April 12: Kittredge Gallery: Large Gallery: Works by Michael Schall; Small Gallery: Paintings, Kittredge Gallery

Collins Memorial Library Exhibit (February 3rd – March 30th)

Ongoing Opportunities on Campus:

Tuesday @8:30pm Light house meets in Kilworth Chapel

Tuesday @5pm (Kilworth Basement) Eating Disorders Anonymous

Wednesday 3-4:20pm (Howarth Hall) Academic Advising Major decision assistance!

Wednesdays Open Figure Drawing, Kittredge 201, 6 p.m.

Friday and Saturday @7:30pm (4/4, 4/5, 4/11, 4/12, 4/18, 4/19, 4/25, 4/26, 5/2, 5/3) Senior Theatre Festival in Rausch

Sunday (3/30, 4/13, 4/27, 5/4) Confessions of a College Student, Celler/Club Rendezvous

Diversity Advisory Council (DAC) Forums
Race and Ethnicity
Tuesday 4/8, 3-4pm
Wednesday 4/16, 10-11am
Friday 4/25, 12-1pm

Tuesdays: Mindfulness Meditation Kilworth Chapel

April 1: Loving-kindness
April 8: Compassion
April 15: Body appreciation/body image
April 22: Sympathetic joy
April 29: Equanimity

Fridays @ 5pm (Kilworth) All Addictions Anonymous

Tuesdays & Thursdays ASUPS Senate Meetings (all are welcome, Thursdays are formal) Murray Boardroom @ 7pm

 

PSO Trips and Events

Friday and Saturday (3/29-3/30) Beginning Kayaking Trips!

(Pool session on Thursday prior for training, all welcome to attend)

http://www.pugetsound.edu/student-life/student-activities/puget-sound-outdoors/

 

Sporting Events

Saturday, March 29: Crew: Daffodil Sprints, American Lake, 8 a.m.

Saturday, March 29: Track and Field: Peyton Scoring Meet, Peyton Field, 10:30 a.m.

Saturday, March 29: Softball vs. Linfield Doubleheader, East Athletic Field, noon and 2 p.m.

Saturday, March 29: Baseball vs. Linfield Doubleheader, Baseball Field, noon and 3 p.m.

Saturday, April 5th UPS Rugby Home Game, Todd Field

Saturday, April 12th UPS Rugby Whitman @ Home Todd Field

(Future Events) Get a pocket Sports Calendar from info!!!

Women’s Lacrosse – HOME 4/4, 4/6, 4/11, 4/16

Men’s Tennis – HOME 4/12, 4/18, 4/19

Crew – HOME 4/12 (8am)

Women’s Tennis – HOME 3/29, 4/4, 4/11

Track and Field – HOME 3/29, 4/5, 4/25-26

Softball – HOME 3/29, 3/30, 4/12

Baseball – HOME 3/29, 3/30, 4/12, 4/13, 4/26, 4/27

 

Specific Club Events

Friday, April 4th RDG Recital

First and 3rd Monday of the Month, Dungeons and Dragons (7pm Wheelock 202)

Tuesdays at 8pm on turf, Women’s Frisbee

(Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 7pm Tennis Courts), Yoga Club

Wednesdays, 5:30pm WSC 201 J-Street Club meetings

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Do What You Love, Love What You Do – The Challenges of the Mantra

Written by Jenni Chadick, Assistant Director of Residence Life

Recently, I’ve read a few articles (here and here) regarding the “Do What You Love” (aka DWYL) movement, and they have shaken my perspective on a mantra I myself have espoused at times. These articles challenge the common mantra which idolizes if you are doing what you love as a career, work will no longer feel like work.  The authors argue that this mentality is in fact dangerous for us – and devalue the economic value of hard work.

“Do what you love” disguises the fact that being able to choose a career primarily for personal reward is an unmerited privilege, a sign of that person’s socioeconomic class.” - Miya Tokumitsu

The goal of so many students, 20-somethings, baby-boomers and millennial alike seems these days to be to find a way to make a living that does not actually feel like work. How many times have I told students “find your passion.” Res Life’s own motto is “Passion Lives Here.” These articles challenged me to think of how I’m contributing to this myth that work shouldn’t ever feel like work.  The concept of “DWYL” is ubiquitous with “the pursuit of happiness” that is part of the modern American dream, and what does that mean for those of us that either are working jobs that do not feel like we are living our passion, or for those of us who do find meaning in our career – but not every minute of the day-job?

Don’t get me wrong – I do love the idea of what I do. I like working with students (generally). I like working on large projects (generally). I enjoy the moments where a student tells me the impact they have had on their development. But do I love every educational conversation I have with a student about why we have our alcohol policy? Do I love telling students that maybe they do not have what it takes to be on our staff? Do I love all the paperwork, the politics, the minutia of every day tasks? Not always. And I am priviledged to even be in the position to love the idea of what I do. Many Americans, and many citizens of our global economy, are forced into  jobs out of necessity and not from pure passion. Does this make their contributions less valuable or meaningful? Do their contributions define who they are? And should those contributions only be looked at as “temporary” on the way to finding our true calling? It’s a very privileged perch to be on to say “when you find what you love, you’ll get paid to do it.” That ignores systematic oppression, systems that oppress and marginalize millions.

What troubles me is I am not sure I have this honest conversation with my peer professionals, let alone with the students I work with. It seems a disservice to model and emulate this idea that “I love every component of my job” for students who are in that critical stage of discovering what brings them the most meaning. Note, a career is only a sliver of who we truly are. If we begin to wrap up our whole identity in our career, we fall into a dangerous trap that ignores the complexity of meaning making, ignoring needs and values outside of career and work. Needs that often speak to a bigger contribution outside of ourselves – family, society, citizenship.

Bringing the conversation down to a micro level, at a recent professional conference I attended I found myself in conversation with other mid-level professional who sheepishly admitted not being sure if residence life, or higher education in general, is where they see their professional career in 10 years. It’s a secret that seems important to keep cloaked. Admitting that a job (one that all of these professionals were exceptional at) was not necessarily their best fit, or where they saw themselves in the future, seemed to be a betrayal. Like admitting we’re in a relationship that has no future. “Seek counseling!” We might exclaim, in the form that it’s maybe just a challenge that needs slight adjustment and not a total role reversal. As if a relationship with a career is the same as choosing a life partner. I find the same issue at play in the current RA interviews we are conducting on our campus. There is an inherent distaste for the response to the question “why are you applying for this position” that focuses on the economic benefits of the position. Too many of my peers are too quick to write off the student who focuses on room and board compensation, when the reality is these students are facing skyrocketing costs of higher education and student loans. Is it so unreasonable to expect that for some that’s what gets them into our office in the first place? And the student who is motivated by a paycheck to remain a student on our campus just may put the most effort into the job, because it yields such economic benefits?

I’m not sure where exactly I stand on the DWYL movement. I see challenges, and I also see value in the discernment process of finding what you love in life. I think more than anything these articles have challenged me to think of how this movement represents privilege and power in ways I had not thought of before.

Most of us have to work for a living. And a few of us are lucky enough to find meaning in our jobs. Let’s be careful then to acknowledge the privilege, and the systems, that allowed us to be so lucky. And let’s not turn our nose up to the “real work” that does come across our desk when (and if) it does – it’s a small price to pay.

 

 

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How to Get a Job in Residence Life

Written by Jenni Chadick, Assistant Director of Residence Life

This time of year in a Residence Life office is a very busy one. Opening a new semester, even mid-year, always bring changes to who is living on campus and where. Roommate issues that were just simmering fall semester can sometimes now become unbearable, and our office is inundated with room change requests. On top of this we are planning for spring housing lottery – when current students can sign up for housing next year – and February brings our region’s annual housing professionals conference, NWACUHO. Last but not least, we are selecting our student staff team for 2014-2015. Hard to believe we are thinking that far ahead, but January and February in Residence Life is almost all about looking forward and setting up the foundation of what we do.

RA = Really Awesome

Our student staff applications are due this Friday, January 31st, and we always have a competitive pool of applicants. With good reason. In my admitted biased option, being a Residence Life staff member is one of the best things you can do for yourself personally and professionally while in college. You’ll be challenged in ways you never thought, gain confidence in handling difficult situations, gain valuable transferable skills applicable to any post-graduation job, and making lasting relationships with your peers. So how do you land this golden opportunity?

Be yourself. I know it sounds so cheesy and cliché, but it’s true. We are never looking for one thing from every candidate, we are looking to put together a team of 60 dynamic leaders. The best way to showcase your skills and talents are to know yourself and be yourself. It’s no coincidence that the last line of our university’s mission is “to know thyself.” In order to truly let your unique qualities shine, you need to know what they are! If you are unsure of where your talent lies, and how that aligns with Residence Life, talk to your peers. Talk to your RA or RCC. Talk to a mentor, a professor, and advisor, or a parent. Talk to those who know you best and ask “What qualities make me a great team member?” It’s going to vary from person to person what comes to mind – someone who energizes the group, someone who keeps the group on track, someone who is not afraid to speak up if they are concerned about a group’s direction, someone who is great at connecting 1-1 with team members. It’s impossible to be all these people at once, so the best you can do is know what you do well and continue to cultivate and nurture that skill. We can all learn to be more outspoken or reserved, a better listener or better contributor, more confident or more cautious. We can smooth out our rough edges, and we on the other end of the hiring table know that. Those candidates who shine in our process put themselves out there and give us no doubt as to who they are. The tough calls we make when hiring often have to do with candidates that we have no experience with (i.e. have not been involved in their community) AND do not share much about themselves in the interview process. It’s hard to know if you are the best for the team if we don’t have a sense that you know who you are, and can communicate that to us in the admittedly brief time we have to get to know each other.

To summarize, there are tricks you’ll hear from folks in our department (don’t say dorms, say residence halls) or stereotypes you think we are looking for (i.e. the outgoing, always talking, over involved leader), but these aren’t the real reasons we hire who we hire. We know we can teach a student why we say residence hall, but we don’t know we can change a person’s character. Show us who you are, and why that makes you an excellent peer mentor and odds will be forever in your favor.

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Welcome to Spring Semester

Written by Kimberly Webber, Resident Programming Advisor for Todd/Phibbs

Well, we did it! Fall semester down, one more to go! Whether you’re a freshman finishing up your first semester of college, a junior preparing to go abroad (or coming home from abroad), or a senior heading into your last semester of college, I have one piece of advice for the Spring semester: treat it like a whole new year.

After 4 months, you’ve gotten used to your classes, what your professors require of you, where you love to eat lunch, and how to get ready without waking up your roommate; you’ve figured out a rhythm. But don’t let that rhythm, those friends, or your feelings about those classes dominate your second semester. I challenge each of you to try something new this semester. Go out for a new intramural team or join a new club. Better yet, get more involved in the organizations you’re already a part of by applying for leadership positions or by bringing friends along to meetings! Apply for new positions to get more connected to campus next year, like ASUPS, Residence Life, the Campus Visit Program, or Passages and Perspectives. Greek Life holds recruitment during the spring for those looking to get more involved and find a new niche of people to spend time with. It brings together people who are plugged into all different areas on campus!

During the spring of my freshman year, I joined Greek Life, applied to be an RA, made unexpected plans for my summer, took classes that challenged me and in which I met wonderful friends. I became more confident in the role I play on campus and I saw my friends do the same. I spent the majority of my time with different people than before as all of our schedules aligned differently and I began to see who my real friends were: those with whom I would stay close, regardless of whether or not we saw each other everyday. I grew up so much during my first semester of college that I felt like a different person second semester. So don’t let the title of “freshman” or whichever year you are to get in the way of your experience at Puget Sound. Don’t think that just because you missed out on something, or were thrown into something you weren’t quite ready for last semester, that there aren’t one hundred and one opportunities for you around the corner.

You have 3-5 years to make this place your home, to positively affect the lives around you, and to better yourself. Go! Do it! Don’t wait! Treat Spring Semester like a new year!

ASUPS Involvement:

http://asups.pugetsound.edu/getinvolved/

Residence Life:

http://www.pugetsound.edu/student-life/campus-living/residence-life-applications/

Orientation:

http://www.pugetsound.edu/student-life/orientation/orientation-leaders/leadership-opportunities/

Greek Life:

http://www.pugetsound.edu/student-life/student-activities/greek-life/

Fraternity Recruitment:

https://pgtsnd.icsrecruiter.com/ifc/enrollment/Registration.aspx?UID=PGTSND

Sorority Recruitment:

https://pgtsnd.icsrecruiter.com/pan/enrollment/Registration.aspx?UID=PGTSND

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New Year, New Resolutions

By Jenni Chadick, Assistant Director of Residence Life

Ah, a new year has begun again. With any new year, many of us make resolutions – resolutions to eat better, get exercise, sleep more, laugh more, study harder, find our inner zen, etc. As I was catching up on my favorite higher ed blogs this winter break, I stumbled upon the idea of a one word resolution. As someone who generally does not make resolutions (because I’m always trying to eat better, exercise more, sleep more, etc.) this idea really struck me. One word is easy to remember, and can be powerful. And one word can sum up a year, just as much as set the tone.

The idea of a one word resolution is less resolution and more intention. What do you hope to look back on 2014 and remember? Becca Obergefell (whose blog introduced me to this concept) has a beautiful post on her one word: Joy.  In her post, she recounts the moments of joy from 2013, moments that she captured in her memory and wrote down in a joy jar. What a beautiful idea! Through the moments that brought her joy in 2013, she looks toward 2014 with a sense of gratitude and fullness. What a juxtaposition to the filling of “less-than” and defeat that many of us have facing yet another year trying to meet ambiguous goals.

The beauty of the one word resolution is its focus on who you want to be, rather than what you want to do. What you do to get there will depend on the day, the people around you, the life happening around you. One of my favorite sessions I lead with students is a core values exercise, which asks students to narrow down from a long list of values – love, faith, courage, family, etc. I think there is parity in this exercise for a one-word resolution. A core value is something that guides your everyday actions,  but it is not a prescription. Oftentimes our goals, our values, our resolutions can be in competition with one another (Spend time with friends or go on that run? Stay true to my faith or lose an important connection to a family member?). There are not right or easy roads in these conflicts, but the practice and intent of keeping one concept at the forefront of a year helps exercise that muscle. Only with practice do we become better able to live a life congruent, on a daily basis, to our values.

Not only do I have a one word resolution for 2014 for myself personally, I think this is a great idea for a team to employ. Think of it as the “next step” of stop-start-continue. Where do we, as a team, want to be at the end of another year? As a department, what will drive us forward, and push us to reaching new heights? For Residence Life, I think our one word could easily be many things: progress, growth, sustainability, passion. Coming off the heels of an all-day retreat there is one word though that rises to the forefront: Communicate. Communication between team members, communicating what we are to our residents, how we communicate the value of a residential experience, how we celebrate one another and communicate where we need to grow. This blog is just one element of this idea of communication. Residence Life has undergone some significant changes in the past year and half, and we are only beginning to recognize how important it is to communicate these changes (and what they mean) to all our constituents – from parents to alumni.

What is your one-word resolution for 2014?

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Bye Bye Bye Fall Semester. Hello 2014.

 

cat bye

As we wave goodbye to 2013, we leave behind us an infinite amount of Buzzfeed Lists and fall semester at the University of Puget Sound.  In our department, it is tradition for our student staff to reflect over their first semester as RAs/RCCs/GHSs as a staff team.  We call this activity: Stop. Start. Continue.  (Very similar to Tyler Pau’s last post). It’s a time for everyone to discuss successes and address challenges to be better in 2014.  As you enjoy the perks of a home cooked meal or the laughter of loved ones who’ve known you since you were twerking in diapers, take a moment and ponder the past semester.  To get you going, I’d like to share with you MY Stop/Start/Contine:

STOP
I’d like to stop comparing myself to others.  The perks of social media is seeing what all of your friends and acquaintances have been up to 24/7.  To share in their victories and comfort in their struggles.  I guess at a certain point, you start to wonder if you’re where you’re supposed to be when you’re in your mid 20’s.  Some people are working on their doctorate while others are building a family.  Instead of going baby crazy or thinking of professional short cuts, I want to just focus on my journey.  It’s meant to be different than everyone else’s, and that should be celebrated.

START
I want to start training for my first full marathon.  I would consider myself a “hobby runner.”  I run when I have free time and the weather is nice.  I run when I’m stressed out or angry.  I just like to run, I feel powerful and in control.  In January, I plan to start training for my first FULL marathon.  I’ve done a handful of half marathons and enjoyed them, but I’ve never conquered 26.2 miles and I think I’m ready.  I’ll keep you posted on the progress, I promise.  I guess my “START” is really to just start doing things I didn’t think I could do.  Overcome fears, be brave.  2014 should be scared of ME, not the other way around.

CONTINUE
I was given some great advice this year that I’ve been working on.  Life has been busy the past semester.  And when life gets busy, it’s easy for things to turn into a giant check list, rushing to cross something off of it so you can put it behind you.  I want to continue to breath, think AND THEN act.  Sometimes decisions or actions are better when they are strategic.  I want to continue to consider all of the options.  Who does it impact?  How much does it cost?  I can’t be like Beyonce, dropping an album on iTunes without telling anyone.  I’m not at that level yet.  (But I will be someday.)

2014 is a fresh start.  Take the time to reflect on things you did well and things you’d like to differently.  You’re in college to grow, now is the time to learn from fall semester.

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Start. Stop. Continue.

By Tyler Pau, Assistant Director of Residence Life

In my time in higher education, I have had the privilege to work with a number of high caliber teams, both student staff and professional.  These teams challenged and supported each other professionally, bonded personally, provided excellent service, and regularly checked their bearings as a unit.  Through time, I have seen how important the last part of that equation is to improvement.  Timely and intentional efforts for teams to orient themselves are vital to their success.  A former supervisor introduced me to the feedback grid and I have used it as an effective way of checking how teams are doing and how they can improve.

In the feedback grid, people are reminded about the teams identity, mission, or goals and then asked what they need to start doing, stop doing, do more of, do less of, and continue doing to achieve success.  Here are the most brief guides to these questions.

Start doing:  What do we need to begin in order to be successful?  What haven’t we done yet?  What haven’t we tried?

Do more:  What are we already doing now that we need to do bigger/better/more often?

Stop doing: What are we doing now that is impeding our success?  What is keeping us from being as successful as we can be?

Do less:  What are we doing that we need to monitor and limit?

Continue doing:  What are we doing now that works and we need to keep doing to be successful?

As helpful as an exercise like this grid can be for a team and their development, it is also extremely beneficial to individuals.  It is a classic case of “what’s good for the gaggle is good for the goose”, right?   Okay, maybe that isn’t a saying but trust me, it is good for people to do this for themselves.  So, this being the close of one semester, followed by a long winter break that allows for a lot of reflection and projection, I would encourage you to do a feedback grid for yourself.

To obtain better grades, maybe you need to continue studying in groups with your peers because that works best for you.  Perhaps you need to start creating a schedule to manage your time better and make sure you begin and submit your assignments on time.

A successful varsity athlete may need to do less late nights so you can make it to practice on time and well rested.  Another idea could be to commit more time to treatment with the athletic trainers to rehabilitate or prevent reoccurring injuries.

The effective student leader might need to continue reaching out to their constituents and seeing how they can better serve and represent them.  Another could be spending more time with other leaders across campus in various roles to seek out opportunities to collaborate.

Whatever the case may be, determining where you have come from and where you are headed is paramount to your progress.  Sober review of what you have been doing, how that has worked, and what you can do to continue your improvement is good for each of us.  Anthony Burgess says “It is always good to remember where you come from and celebrate it.  To remember where you come from is part of where you’re going.”  Reflect on how this past semester has gone.  Celebrate making it through.  Consider ways that you can grow and improve.

Good luck on finals, stay warm, and have a great winter break.

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An Interview With Social Justice Leader: Aja LaDuke, Ph.D.

In October, Resident Director Ayanna Bledsoe attended the National Association of Multicultural Education (NAME) conference in Oakland. This conference is a great opportunity to meet educations across the nation dedicated to making our campuses, both K-12 and higher ed, more socially just. What does that mean to leader Aja E. LaDuke, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Teacher Education  at Thelma P. Lally School of Education at The College of Saint Rose? Read here to find out! 

What does social justice mean to you?

My first point of contact with social justice, or I would be more correct to say the first point in which I “woke up” to it, was in a graduate level education course called “Literacy in the Secondary Schools.”  At this point I had been teaching for two years in a public elementary school, and had chosen the course as a step toward earning my certification as a reading specialist.  Little did I know, but this course would be much more than that and put me on another path entirely – one that guides both my life and my work as a teacher educator.  On our first day, our professor asked us to explore the question, “How are schools like prisons?” which would be a guiding question for our study throughout the semester.  The group conversations, academic reading, and individual writing responses that stemmed from that question served as my first exposure (or again, the first exposure that I was conscious of) and first engagement with examining schools from an institutional lens.  We read works like “Literacy with an Attitude’ by Patrick Finn – a book that introduced me to the works of others like Jean Anyon and Paulo Freire, and that I still have my underlined, dog-eared, post-it note covered copy of to this day to show to my students.  I use it as an example of “transformational literacy,” or in short, literacy that can change one’s life – in ways that they will when they become teachers themselves.

How did you get involved? 

I had chosen teaching as a profession for many of the reasons that others would name, for example, wanting to make a positive difference for future generations.  I had also been drawn to the idea of the evolving nature of teaching, how there would be no point at which I would reach a pinnacle and be able to say, “I’ve got this” and not find ways to improve my practice.  My logic was that society is always changing over time, so teaching changes with it and I have to keep up.  Though I was entirely wrong (ex. technology), this course and a host of other courses and experiences that followed asked a question that I now use to guide my own courses: “Though schools have the potential to be sites of powerful social change, how do they instead work to perpetuate the status quo?”  I had not thought about how schools contributed to societal “non-change.”  In exploring the ways in which schools are normed to dominant groups (i.e. White, middle class, native English speaking, etc.) through their policies, curricula, testing and other practices, I realized that my job as a teacher was not just to “help students learn” but to help many of them to exercise their right to learn, in other words, to gain access to educational opportunities in a system designed to only give them to some, not all.  This also began me on a journey of examining my own life and school experiences from an institutional lens.  I hadn’t ever thought of school as a prison before that moment because schools were set up for me to succeed.   I wasn’t supposed to see them that way, and I didn’t – until I was already in adult teaching in one.

As a teacher educator, I see it as my responsibility to make sure that new generations of teachers do not enter the field without examining schools from an institutional lens and identifying unjust practices that are embedded within them (including, but not limited to the underrepresentation of students of color in honors and AP courses, overrepresentation of students of color and bilingual students in special education programming, inconsistent disciplinary practices, emphasis on order and procedure vs. authentic learning, White/Eurocentric curricula, etc.).  We unpack widely used phrases in the education community, such as “the achievement gap” or “dropout,” through consideration of schools’ roles in the underachievement or low graduation rates of students of color and/or speakers of other languages, making “opportunity gap” and “pushout” as Michelle Fine and other scholars have purported, more appropriate choices.  Without this institutional lens, teacher candidates may enter schools to complete field experiences and see situations that reinforce deficit perspectives or stereotypes that focus on what students “don’t have” either academically, socially, financially, etc. and/or reinforce myths of meritocracy (“these students just aren’t trying hard enough).  As a class, we examine counternarratives that challenge these deficit perspectives, and see examples of teachers using social justice pedagogy, multicultural education, and culturally relevant pedagogy that to engage ALL students, regardless of cultural background.  These examples show that when an alternative is introduced – for example, a more inclusive curriculum in which students multiple perspectives of historical events or an environment in which students are not tracked by “ability” as determined by a standardized test score – that traditionally underperforming students perform.  We realistic look at the challenges associated with creating these alternatives, as well as the potential societal consequences if we do not pursue social justice education on a broader scale.  What would change if this was happening in more places and with students of all ages, instead of in small pockets and only with “older” students.  What can be accomplished if we educate students to both curricular standards and social justice  – - and avoid situations like mine in which I did not begin building my awareness until graduate school as an adult?

How can students get involved?

My first recommendation seems cliché coming from a professor and a professor of literacy education, but it is to read.  As I have mentioned, the reading piece was key to my understandings of institutional forces how they influence individual interactions.  Getting back to the idea of transformational literacy, Freire says to “read the word is to read the world,” which I have found to be true.  I see and read situations very differently than I did before my social justice “awakening,” the difference lying mostly in that I can read them from more than one perspective – one that considers privilege and oppression and the overt and subversive ways in which they operate.  I ask students to consider their own place within these systems and how their positions as oppressor and oppressed change according to context.  We talk about the power they will inherit as teachers.  Regardless of their various social identities, as a classroom teacher they will be positioned as an authority over their students.  We discuss how being an effective teacher often includes stepping out their comfort zone – which may include admitting mistakes or ignorance, and confronting the fact that mistakes and ignorance may have a negative impact even if they had a positive intent.  This also may mean leaving their comfort zone physically and spending time in communities very different from their own – particularly for educators, in the communities that your students call home.  Students quickly identify teachers who teach in their school or district, yet live somewhere else, and never spend time in their community.  Essentially, if you talk the talk, you need to also walk the walk.  Walking the walk can begin with self-examination that is needed for social justice work.  Asking yourself questions like, “How have I been socialized by family, friends, schools, or media to think about people who are different from me and how does that influence my interactions?”  Walking the walk also means building authentic cross-cultural relationships, which like any other relationship require time, active listening, and honesty.  Part of my work is to encourage students to engage in field experiences in communities with students representing different social and cultural identities than their own, and for an extended amount of time.  These experiences – on the individual level – combined with an “institutional level awareness,” set the groundwork for any social justice action.  This awareness will empower you in knowing exactly what you are up against, and the individuals in your life with whom you have these relationships will provide the most inspiration to keep fighting until change is achieved.

Learn more about the NAME conference here!

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