Last year, as I wrote a few items for the CSSA blog, I expected to start the program with the 2008 cohort, but I didn’t. I ended up having to defer school for medical reasons and now I am back to start CSSA in the 2009 cohort, better than new!

Over the last two weekends I participated in an excellent professional development opportunity: Team Liberation facilitator training. When I applied for the training I knew I would learn about group facilitation, learn some new stuff about myself and meet some great people–I just didn’t realize how much I would learn! In four days we covered communication styles, the power of language and hospitality, how to affect optimum cross cultural communication, and more.  I got to practice group facilitating and participate in several more group exercises to learn how to achieve desired outcomes from specific activities. It was fun and I’ve come away with new insight and more confidence about where I’m going. 

I can’t describe Team Liberation better than the Team Liberation Web site. It’s an excellent student-run resource on the OSU campus and everyone should know about it.  Please take a minute to learn about it by clicking here.

Enjoy~
Mary

Well, may the recent inactivity of the CSSA Blog demonstrate the sheer business of the Winter Term, for both the first year, second year, and part-time cohorts!  On my part, I blame my absence on the perfect storm: portfolio, legal issues, conferences, and the job search.

I would like to share with all of you my experiences attending the Association for Student Judicial Affairs annual conference in February. I received the ASJA Bracewell Conference Internship, which meant not only did I get to attend the conference in Florida for free, but I got to work alongside important leaders in my functional area in organizing and facilitating a 600-person conference. I assisted with registration, the conference evaluations assessments, volunteer training, and, of course, “other duties as assigned.” I am very grateful to the ASJA association for providing funding and opportunities for graduate students to attend conferences, which is not usually part of my GTA budget. I left the conference not only with an increased awareness of emerging trends in student conduct and best practices in responding to campus concerns, but established contacts with professionals and colleagues in my field. After attending the conference, I would recommend graduate students join professional associations – both the large and broad like NASPA and the narrower functional area-specific associations like ASJA or NODA – sooner than later.

It was apparent to me, however, that professional associations are not immune from the current state of our economy. Attending a conference can be very expensive – the airfare, hotel, per diem, and registration fees… it adds up. Most professionals at the conference reported next year their office will be unable to contribute any funds towards professional development, which is unfortunate given the need for us all to stay current on campus climate issues and students. I think professional associations, both the broad and specific, are challenged now to create more cost-effective and accessible professional development opportunities that do not require airfare. I predict we will see see an increase in regional conferences, webinars, online courses, and publications for download on professional development websites as fewer institutions are able to provide professional development funds.

While hopefully the education component of a professional association can continue despite economic hardships, I feel what will be missed most are those opportunities to connect and share with colleagues across the nation. For me, I loved being around people who got what I do. Student conduct can be a lonely, misunderstood job sometimes; let’s face it, the students do not always want to hug you after meeting with you and some colleagues find the work to be rather unappealing (which is why people like me exist who love it). It was really unique to be with people who could relate to the experience of enforcing campus policies, laugh with you about the funny incidents that occasionally happen on campus, and be part of important conversations about the transforming changes coming to our functional area. I think there is absolute merit in establishing yourself within an association and maintaining those relationships. Some professional I met had been to every ASJA conference since it started 21 years ago!

For those of you attending NASPA in Seattle (how lucky are we that it is so close this year?), my word of advice is to attend the social functions, participate in the concurrent session discussions and case studies (not because you want to “win” but to learn), take interest in other people and their institutions, and aim to build connections beyond just to find a job (though it cannot hurt). Seek out authentic relationships with your colleagues. If you are going with friends or peers, try to reach out to graduate students and new professionals who came alone from their institutions. I think taking active measures to make connections will improve your conference attendance experience.

A big congratulations is in order for the CSSA 2008 Cohort for making it through their first term of CSSA!  You all should be proud of what you accomplished and curious and excited for what you will undoubtedly accomplish next.

If I could give you one piece of advice it would be to not squander this winter break!  Catch up with friends, read the fourth-grade-reading-level books that have been collecting dust on your shelf, sleep, enjoy a few moments of non-responsibility, and store some energy for next term.  I know many of you feel like you have to make big decisions rightthissecond about your area of specialization/minor or whether to do a thesis or portfolio, but take time to connect back with yourself before you try to make any choices. I believe if you do, your decisions will better reflect who you are and what you really want to do with your time here.

I spent my last winter break trying to get ahead in the reading for my winter classes (who was I kidding?) and pouring over the OSU course catalog.  If only I knew I would be spending this upcoming break, my second year winter break, toiling away on my portfolio, I would have cut myself some slack last year and said “I’m going to enjoy this while it lasts!”

I wish you all a very relaxing break and I hope it can be spent with loved ones and friends.  Take care of yourself and take care of each other –  BQH

I am nearing finals week in my first term as a CSSAer.  This has been an incredible few months.  I have learned an incredible amount of information not only about student affairs, but about myself.  In addition, this term has thrust me into this deep search to find a purpose within this field.

I’d like to share with everyone, a recent source of inspiration I’ve found while writing my final history paper for Dr. Frost’s History of Higher Education course.  The topic is the History of the Multicultural Competency in our CSSA program. I have spoken to many of those involved with the process I have been impressed by what asking a question can start.  The four students that took the reigns on creating the competency and seeing it through have made a big impact.  Even bigger than they know.  Now, anyone who goes through the program can fully understand how important it is for a student affairs professional, or really just a citizen of the world, to pay attention to all aspects of a student’s identity. It is an incredibly empowering story. I hope that when I am done I can tell others about how this competency was created and they will see the power of courage, passion and hard work.

Soapbox thought of the day:

Our dreams are often stunted by fear of failure, but if you believe in yourself, and the potential for positive change, there is nothing that you can’t do.

To conclude, I’m very pleased with this program and support that I’ve found in the faculty, my cohort and the second years (especially my 2nd year mentor), my GTA supervisor, and many others that I’ve been supported by along the way.  This has been truly amazing, and I can’t wait to begin my next term.

Chris Pittman is a 1997 graduate of the CSSA Program and shares the following as a guest author:

I am currently in Iraq establishing new Education Centers so our U.S. service members can take college classes on-site. I am already convinced that the service member student is as “non-traditional” as it gets but in a combat zone, “non-traditional” is taken to a whole new level. We just started the first two classes last night and had the “incoming” siren. That means mortars are being shot into the compound.

This happens at deployed sites fairly often. Needless to say the classes were disrupted for about 30 minutes and after the “all clear” signal resumed as if nothing happened. Just a perspective I would like to share. This also demonstrates the commitment of our service members have to get their education. Not to mention the civilian professionals providing it.

Chris Pittman

I wanted to reflect on an interesting professional development experience I had this week attending a panel discussion of disruptive behavior in the classroom setting.  The panel was designed for faculty members of OSU and on the panel was a number of influential and knowledgable professionals on campus, including the Vice Provost of Academic Affairs, Director of Student Conduct, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services, Director of Affirmative Action and OSU’s legal counsel.  The panel was advertised to address faculty concerns such as:

- What would you do if you felt a student’s classroom behavior was unsafe?
- What can you do if you find a student has posted inappropriate comments about you on a web site?
- What would you do if a student left a threatening note on your office door or mailed one to your home?
- What are your options if a student is making inappropriate sexual or racial comments in your class? What if those comments are directed toward you?
- What can you do if a student refuses to do an assignment based on his/her personal opposition to the material?
- What are your rights in the promotion and tenure process if a department chair or other administrator opposes your involvement in social justice teaching, research, and service?
- What are your rights when students give you lower teaching evaluations because of their personal, religious, and/or political opposition to the viewpoints you present in exploring social justice issues?
- Where do you go for help when you confront these difficult issues?

Obviously, with only two hours, we did not address half of these issues or potential concerns.  However, it was an informative experience nonetheless.  If you’ll indulge me, I would like to share some of my key observances and reflections.

My first observation was every faculty member in attendance was either a woman and/or person of color.  I find it hard to ignore the implication of what it means when there is an all-campus open presentation on safety in the classroom and only members of underrepresented groups are in atendance.  Without disclosing some of the personal stories shared in the forum, each person shared a negative interaction with a student that appeared (by their own self admission) to relate somehow to their identity or status as a female or minority faculty member.  This included several female faculty members sharing about intimidating male behavior in their classrooms, sexual harrassment, and their expertise being challenged because of their gender.

In a career where I am so focused on the needs and support of students, I was struck by how little advocacy faculty felt they had, too – particularly faculty from underrepresented groups.  I do not mean to imply this is a problem unique to OSU; I believe it is systemic across academia.  Several faculty members mentioned their fears of responding to student’s behaviors lest it negatively affect their evaluations and progress towards tenure.  One faculty member said she felt trapped because if she gave a student a low grade, her evaluation from the student would be unfairly negative.  She said she felt pressure to give better grades so she would be given a better review by her department chair.

Another valuable insight I got from attending this panel was to see a collaboration between Student Affairs and Academic Affairs (ahh, “The Great Divide”).  It struck me as very interesting that most faculty members did not seem to know the purpose and role of various services on-campus.  Many had never heard of the Critical Incident Response Team, which in part responds to reports from faculty members concerned with a student’s behavior.  I myself learned more about the role of the Affirmative Action office and their role in responding to disputes and conflicts between staff, students, and faculty.  I wonder how faculty are typically introduced to these services and if they are encouraged to utilize them.  One faculty member talked about being harrassed for over a year by a student and shared the psychological damages the experiences caused; yet there was no support for her.  Students can utilize CAPS, but faculty are left to manage on their own.  As the panel opened my eyes towards seeing students as less powerless in the faculty-student relationship, I wonder if we should be doing more for faculty, too.

I first had to ask myself “What is the responsibility of the institution to support faculty members?”  I do not pause for a second to think any member of the OSU community – whether faculty, staff or student – should have the right to a positive working and learning experience on-campus.  Whether they pay student fees or are paid by student fees, do we not have an obligation to respond to injustice and serve every member of our community?  Yet, I get the feeling that in disruptive behavior situations, most of our energy goes towards the student.  We connect them when appropriate to CAPS, advising, Disability Access Services, and Student Health Services.  Yet the faculty member who had to respond to the student’s behavior or may have experienced personally the student’s disruptive behaviors (threat, harrassment, etc.)?  What do we do for them?  Do we assume they know to seek counseling off-campus privately?  Do we assume the department chair can follow up with the faculty member and reach out in support? Do we assume that they can take care of themselves?

I dwell on this after the realization that we – both Student Affairs professionals and faculty members – are all potential victims of compassion fatigue.  Day in and day out, we are involved in – and sometimes held responsible for, usually by our own caring selves – the success of other people.  We give and give, emotionally investing ourselves.  Some of us meet with students on a daily basis who tell us of heartbreaking experiences with discrimination, racism, personal crisis, failures and loneliness.  We don’t want to complain; but it can be exhausting to be empathetic.  Yet we are so used to taking care of students that we forget to take care of ourselves, and sometimes each other.  I think we need to also recognize all of us could use the same support and services the campus provides for students.  We may need five free sessions at CAPS or the compassion of a colleague just the same.

I am not entirely sure what should be expected from the institution and I am sure I can find 1,000 people who would oppose the idea of faculty being eligible to utilize services on campus (though if staff and faculty can buy a pass to Dixon for the year for a fee, why can’t we provide Faculty Wellness Passes at a nominal rate for access to CAPS and Health Services?).  And of course I understand most offices are stretched thin as it is, just taking care of the 20,000 students at OSU.  But I wonder if inviting faculty into Student Affairs offices may benefit students in the long-run, as their awareness of these services may help them to make referrals and promote our services.

Any thoughts, dear readers and colleagues?

Friends, Romans, countrymen: The second year of graduate school has came, saw, and conquered me. And I still have 2.5 quarters of it to go!  Not to mention a job search and a portfolio looming on the horizon.

Gah, every time someone says “job search” my blood pressure spikes a little…!

As much as I complain or joke about being busy, though, I love every project I am working on.  I am continuing with my internship in the Office of Student Conduct, co-coordinating the Community Standards Boards with UHDS, designing a curriculum for a course I am TA-ing in the winter, and now in my assistantship in Career Services, supervising the paraprofessional Career Assistant staff.  This term I am a recitation leader for the U-Engage first year course. Every week I have the privilege of sitting in a class with 20 first year students and talking about transitions, healthy behaviors, campus involvement and the college experience. I leave the classroom every Wednesday energized and all the more affirmed of the need for Student Affairs professionals on college campuses. The opportunity to interact with students in a classroom setting is not too common for Student Affairs professionals but maybe it should be because it helps me to better understand students, theory, and yes, I daresay, develop a lot of respect and empathy for what faculty have to do every day!

Course-wise, I think this year will be a challenge for me because of the nature of the classes in the second year (or third year). Last year, our required program courses were familiar and comfortable subject for me – theory, identity studies, multiculturalism, history. This year, our classes are far more nuts and bolts – administration, budget and finance, legal issues. Of course, the nuts and bolts are important and necessary to any study of Student Affairs. But I feel less confident in these areas as I have had such little experience with leadership, finance, and you know, being a grown up.  Ultimately, I think my discomfort in these areas reflects that there is important learning occurring and I need these courses all the more.

As for other courses, I am loving the opportunity to delve deeper into my area of specialization in crisis management. Like most of my cohort colleagues, I am starting to branch off into my elective courses in other OSU departments. This term I am taking a conflict management course in the communications department. Next term I will take a public health course on violence in society. The challenge with these courses outside the AHE and CSSA department is to relate and connect the course material to the college campus, but I have found most of the course assignments allow for me to tailor the readings and class discussions to my interests. It is also nice to meet graduate students in different disciplines!

If you’ll excuse me, there is a beautiful fall day outside to be enjoyed.  I love OSU’s campus in the fall!

I have been a bit MIA on the blog lately, I started my assistantship with the New Student Programs and Family Outreach office (NSPFO) on September 3rd and I have been busy ever since! I am so glad that I started early since I am new to Corvallis, OSU, and I haven’t been on a college campus for a few years. I still have a lot to figure out when it comes to locations of buildings, computer programs, acronyms, etc., but each day gets a bit easier. I am really enjoying my assistantship and still pinch myself that I am getting paid for this work since I would volunteer my time for the same kind of work in the past!

NSPFO works with first-year students and thus, last week was a busy one! We put on two orientations (one for first-year students, the other for transfers) along with many events. It is interesting to be working with orientation since I am also a new student and many questions such as where something is located I cannot answer immediately, I usually have to pull out my campus map! People have been very understanding and patient with me and I am thankful for all of their support. I am also working as an assistant with the National Student Exchange and love it so far! I am a big fan of studying abroad or in a different location in the US and I find this position a perfect match for me. I have also been getting involved with other departments on campus such as the English Language Institute (ELI) where I plan to be part of the Conversant Program. I will be matched up with an international student learning English in the institute and help them with their language skills. I am really excited to participate in this program and I will keep you posted on how it all goes. Every time I check my email there is another event, program, class, seminar, etc. that I can participate in and I can see already that it is going to be hard to decide which one to get involved with and how to manage my time so that I am not spreading myself too thin.

Classes start tomorrow and I hope I am ready! I already had some reading for two of the classes before school even started…welcome to grad school! And I can’t end this entry without a shout out to the OSU football team that beat #1 USC last Thursday! Go Beavs!!!

I have been a bit MIA on the blog lately, I started my assistantship with the New Student Programs and Family Outreach office (NSPFO) on September 3rd and I have been busy ever since! I am so glad that I started early since I am new to Corvallis, OSU, and I haven’t been on a college campus for a few years. I still have a lot to figure out when it comes to locations of buildings, computer programs, acronyms, etc., but each day gets a bit easier. I am really enjoying my assistantship and still pinch myself that I am getting paid for this work since I would volunteer my time for the same kind of work in the past!

NSPFO works with first-year students and thus, last week was a busy one! We put on two orientations (one for first-year students, the other for transfers) along with many events. It is interesting to be working with orientation since I am also a new student and many questions such as where something is located I cannot answer immediately, I usually have to pull out my campus map! People have been very understanding and patient with me and I am thankful for all of their support. I am also working as an assistant with the National Student Exchange and love it so far! I am a big fan of studying abroad or in a different location in the US and I find this position a perfect match for me. I have also been getting involved with other departments on campus such as the English Language Institute (ELI) where I plan to be part of the Conversant Program. I will be matched up with an international student learning English in the institute and help them with their language skills. I am really excited to participate in this program and I will keep you posted on how it all goes. Every time I check my email there is another event, program, class, seminar, etc. that I can participate in and I can see already that it is going to be hard to decide which one to get involved with and how to manage my time so that I am not spreading myself too thin.

Classes start tomorrow and I hope I am ready! I already had some reading for two of the classes before school even started…welcome to grad school! And I can’t end this entry without a shout out to the OSU football team that beat #1 USC last Thursday! Go Beavs!!!