Unpacking Two Current OSU “Scale-Up” Efforts

by Clare Creighton

The topic of “scaling up” has been prominent on the higher education landscape the past few years. Scaling up refers to the act of taking a program, interaction, or idea that is working on a small-scale, or in one area, and increasing the scope of that work, in many cases to serve more students. One of the values of scaling-up existing innovations is that you’re building upon the programs that have already seen successes, rather than inventing new programs that may be unproven. Yet presumably, there are challenges and growing pains to scaling up as well. This summer I had a chance to connect with Dr. Kim McAloney, Assistant Director of Engagement in the Educational Opportunities Program (EOP), and Chris Gasser, Coordinator of the Supplemental Instruction (SI) program in the Academic Success Center, about scale-up efforts they’re leading in their departments.

Clare: Let’s start with some context. Would you each share a bit about the program you’re scaling up and the size of the scale-up you’re working on?

Kim: The EOP Bridge is an extended orientation program that brings EOP-eligible students to campus prior to the start of fall term. Students arrive six days early and engage in a range of activities designed to build community and prepare for the transition to OSU. We’re scaling up from 40 students in Fall 2019 to 100-150 students this fall.

Chris: SI offers academic collaborative study tables for traditionally challenging courses at OSU. This year, we’re more than doubling in size and the number of courses supported. We’re going from roughly 11 courses to 23 courses, and from 16 SI Leaders last spring to 36 SI Leaders this fall, and a full-time assistant coordinator.

Clare: From your experience this summer, what is making this scale-up possible? What is it about your existing programs that makes the scale-up work?

Kim: Understanding our history, where we’ve been, and being able to draw on that knowledge. We know what we do, we know that what we do works, and we’re solid with that. We believe in ourselves, we believe in the work, we believe in the relationships that we’ve built, we believe in the pieces in our programs. This isn’t the first time we’ve done some of these things– we’ve done pieces of this before, we’ve learned and we’re able to carry that with us. I know these things worked and these things didn’t work and we’re able to lean into that.

Chris: Having a strong foundation in the existing program is essential. There have been a number of moments where I have had to say “I have to move forward with this, I have to trust in what’s there and know that we’re prepared for it, even if on paper it’s not as clean as I want it or had initially hoped.” The blueprint I have for this scale-up is in the solid foundation and the history of the program. I think that plays a tremendous role.

Clare: It sounds like you both are building off of strong programmatic foundations. What was needed that was new? What else did you discover was necessary that maybe wasn’t in place previously?

Chris: With the SI scale-up the logistics are only half of it: do we have the people to lead the tables, where will the tables be held, etc. Those are the pieces we often think of in a scale-up. The other element is the relationship building – building relationship with new SI faculty — folks who have never heard of the program, don’t know if it works. The same is true for students. SI relies on institutional memory. Students are more likely to sign up when they hear “yes, this is valuable, this is worth your time” about SI from peers and faculty, and it takes time to build that awareness for new courses.

Kim: With the bridge program there are so many more people involved in the layers: students, peer mentors, academic counselors, campus partners, and community vendors. The program is growing three times its size of students and this is a program that works because of small group dynamics and relationship building. You can’t just make the groups bigger. You have to keep the part of the program that builds relationships. Taking the structure pieces and thinking creatively about how to maintain the relationship building and our goals at this larger size. In this case, we use small cohorts to maintain that small-program feel.

Clare: What kinds of things have you learned that you would pass along to others who are considering scale-up efforts?

Chris: It’s not as easy as it seems on paper. There is newness to this. It’s a program I’ve known for a long time but I have been surprised by some new challenges and new places I have had to innovate. I think it’s important to not be too attached to how you’ve done things before because you don’t see new ways of doing things. Leave yourself enough time to innovate, to make changes. Leave yourself enough time to account for that. And construct a good team – that makes a world of difference.

Kim: I think about creativity and innovation, successes and failures. In moving forward with something new, there is some trial and error there. We’re in it for the long haul – we need to be able to adapt and change and continue to hone as we go on learning not just from our past but learning from our current as well. We want to be able to be adaptable to our current students and current context as well. It was helpful for me to engage with thought partners to help me hold onto the purpose of the program while also engage in the creativity, innovation, and adaptability that allowed me to dream and then execute.

Clare: Thank you both for your time today. I appreciate the perspectives you’ve shared with campus and best wishes for the rest of the term!

Engaging with the Student Affairs Priority: How We Created a Structure for Collaborative Learning

 by Anna Bentley


Please visit this document for an accessible version of this article.


In support of the Division of Student Affairs (DSA) Priority, the Academic Success Center & Writing Center identified areas of our work to critically examine in order to create more equitable student success outcomes.

Visual showing a quote from the Student Affairs PriorityOur unit holds a shared value around equity work and engaging with the Priority. During the 2020-2021 academic year, we engaged in a year-long exploration of four topics:

(1) Equity in recruitment and hiring of student employees

(2) Merit’s impact on equity and student success

(3) Research, literature, and theory

(4) Work culture/decision-making


We designed a structure for learning about these topics that emphasized shared responsibility and a collaborative approach.


Shared Responsibility to Equity Work

Sometimes we don’t know how to make things better when systems produce inequitable outcomes. We may feel like we need to be an expert in a topic before we offer our ideas, or we need to have an expert tell us what to do in order to make changes. But when it comes to transforming systems and programs that we affect through our decisions and leadership, we can’t wait for an expert to emerge or for us all to know everything before we move forward.


Our team knew that we had a lot to learn about our topic areas, and we all came to the table with different perspectives and degrees of understanding. However, we also acknowledged that we are experts in our own experiences, we are all capable of facilitating conversations, and we all have a responsibility to equity work. With this in mind, we designed an approach to learning together where we had shared responsibility for leading our team’s learning.


Our Collaborative Learning Approach

Each topic for exploration was led by 2-3 members of the ASC & Writing Center. We started by creating milestone documents so we could define our project scope and goals, plan for learning activities, identify takeaways and possible actions, document actions we would take, and create an assessment plan. This structure kept us from rushing the process and jumping to action right away before we were engaged in exploration and learning. Milestone documents also held us accountable to taking action instead of staying in the learning phase indefinitely. The visual below offers a brief description of our milestone documents and the timeline for our projects.


A visual depitcing five steps in a timeline

Though we all shared a common timeline and framework for our approach to learning, our topic leaders facilitated topics in ways that were unique to them. Some of our activities included writing about our personal experiences, answering prompts related to selected readings, interviewing campus partners, and creating comprehensive project summaries. Group discussions followed nearly all of these activities so we could hear each other’s ideas and experiences and further our learning together. Topic leads designed learning activities, but everyone in our unit contributed to learning by engaging in group activities. Designing this structure for collaborative learning gave us a greater sense of engagement with the DSA Priority and a deeper understanding of other perspectives, while also developing our team facilitation skills. This graphic below describes our topics for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Visual with four quadrants containing descriptions of four projects

Looking Ahead

At the end of the last academic year, we assessed our approach to engaging with the DSA Priority and continued to improve our learning process. Moving forward, we’re keeping our milestone documents and our collaborative, facilitative approach. This year we’ll explore four new topics, exploring two topics throughout summer and fall and two topics in winter and spring.

As we begin exploring a new set of topics, we’re keeping in mind that we must constantly revisit and apply what we’ve already learned. We still have a lot to do to transform our practices, processes, and policies to improve student success and produce equitable outcomes for Students of Color. We’re committed to ongoing learning, critically examining our approach to serving students, and positively transforming our systems and structures.

Just Do It? Why Motivation Isn’t That Easy & How You Can Help Students Get Things Done

by Anika Lautenbach

Motivation has been a common topic of conversation the last year and a half, and understandably so. Many students felt less motivated learning remotely and that their motivation would return once they were back in-person. However, it may not be that simple. A student may feel motivated to complete course work but may find it difficult to study for exams; they may find it easy to motivate themselves to connect with peers but find it challenging to connect with instructors. Given motivation is complex and contextual, I wanted to provide an overview of how we in the Academic Success Center (ASC) talk about motivation with students and share tools you can use to support students.

Encourage Self-Awareness

I hear many students talk about motivation as something that is out of their control. They see it as something they have to wait for, or they see it as a fixed trait; they are either someone who is easily motivated, or they’re not. When talking with students, I encourage them to see motivation as a skill that can be better understood and improved. Understanding themselves and how they respond to the task they need to complete can help them tap into strategies for getting work done. As with many of the skills we chat about at the ASC, developing successful motivation techniques take time and practice.

Everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for another. Given motivation can shift depending on the context and task, it may help to start a conversation with the following questions when helping students develop self-awareness around their motivation:

  • What about this task feels challenging? Does it feel too large? Do they need resources? Are they uninterested in the subject? Knowing what feels challenging can help you ask better follow-up questions.
  • When you’ve felt unmotivated in the past, what has helped you start working on things? Tapping into previous strategies can help students realize they are capable of getting work done.
  • How could you reward yourself for finishing this task? Sometimes having something to look forward to can provide incentive.

You can also support them by introducing ASC worksheets. After your initial conversation, you could introduce Motivation Techniques and ask them what they think could work for them, depending on the situation.

Thumbnail of procrastination worksheetThumbnail of motivation worksheet

To help with developing self-awareness, you could share the 6 Reasons People Procrastinate. This could be especially helpful for students who aren’t sure why they aren’t feeling motivated and want to read more about the research behind procrastination.

Help Students Identify What They Can Control

One important note is that motivation often depends on our environment. We each face countless distractions in our work spaces – our phones, friends or family, that Netflix show we would rather be binging. One strategy for motivation can be setting up an environment that feels more productive. As you’re working with students, consider asking them some of the following questions:

  • Where do you do your best work?
  • Is there anything you can do to make your environment more productive?
  • How long can you typically focus before you need to take a break?

Besides adjusting their environment, students can also control the way they break down tasks and how they use their time. Students may have a hard time starting a task if it feels overwhelming or if they don’t have much time. One strategy we discuss with students is the “ten-minute rule.” We recommend students tell themselves, “I’m just going to work on this for ten minutes.” Once a task is started, people often keep going – motivation builds as we work on things, rather than striking like lightning. If they only have ten minutes, they’ve still gotten something done which could motivate them to keep chipping away at the task later.

Let Them Know They’re Not Alone

As I mentioned before, we talk to students about motivation a lot. They may feel like everyone else is able to get stuff done while they struggle, but they are definitely not alone in the challenge of motivation.

As you support students, consider sharing your own stories and techniques, while also noting that the strategies that work for you may be different from what works for them, and this is ok. Being able to normalize different approaches and validate their ability to seek support is so important.

In addition, sometimes talking to fellow students about motivation can be a helpful step. Students can drop by the Academic Success Center in Waldo 125 M-F 9 AM to 5 PM to talk with an ASC Strategists. Strategists are also available via live chat on our website and via email, phone, or text message.

I know how challenging it can be to talk about motivation, and I hope these tools and strategies are helpful as you support students.

Staff Picks – Pets and Plants

Hello! As we lean into fall, we wanted to celebrate the pets and plants of the ASC & Writing Center team. These beings have made us laugh, helped ground us, and given us something to look forward to. We hope they delight you, too!

Almond, dog friend of Carl Conner, Assistant Coordinator of Supplemental Instruction

A photograph of Almond the dogMy dog is named Almond or Almo for short! He is such a quirky and goofy boy. He wiggles his entire body every time I walk through the door and he takes long naps in sunny spots like a cat. Almond has been my emotional support animal since 2017, and I’m his support human. He came from a really rough background of neglect and abuse, but he has made enormous progress since he first came into my life. He’s one of the most facially expressive dogs I know, and makes incredibly funny faces all the time, but in this picture his expression is one of pure love and contentment 🙂

Carolina Reapers, plant friends of Anna Bentley, Administrative Program Assistant for the ASC & Writing Center

A photograph of Carolina Reaper chilisI don’t have any pets, but I do love my garden. During the growing season my housemates, family, and I try to make the most of our two raised beds, containers, and the perimeter of our backyard to grow all kinds of produce. Chili peppers have always been my favorite thing to grow, and this year I’m particularly proud of growing Carolina Reapers, the world’s hottest chilies! They require a lot of sunlight, which has been challenging in my shady yard. I’ve given them a lot of love and care and even spent the earlier part of the growing season moving their container all over the yard to chase the sun. Seeing the [literal] fruits of my labor was so rewarding!

Dessa, cat friend of Anika Lautenbach, Coordinator of the ASC Strategist & Academic Coaching programs

A photograph of Dessa the catI have a tabby named Odessa (Dessa or “the Bubs”). She is, as her previous veterinarian said, a sassy redhead. We adopted her from a friend who moved to Germany. I am not responsible for her name, though I know she had two siblings named Osha and Ophelia. She’s an extremely vocal and cuddly companion whose primary interests are eating, sleeping, and jumping on things she’s not supposed to. She brings me great joy, especially when she flops on the carpet and lets out an audible “oof” sound. She’s sweet sixteen and I’m hoping she’ll be around a lot longer.

Gatsby, dog friend of Chris Gasser, Coordinator of Supplemental Instruction

A photograph of Gatsby the dogThis big golden doofus /shedding-machine is Gatsby. We rescued Gatsby about 6 years ago, and he’s the best! Gats loves food, and if you put your food at Gatsby-level (floor to back of the counter-height) you better watch out! He might trick you with the grey face, but the second you look away, you realize it is just a disguise. Gatsby is always calm, always friendly, and always there just when you need him. We could not ask for a better friend.

Lulu & Hazel, rabbit friends of Chris Ervin’s family, Coordinator of the Undergrad Research & Writing Studio & Online Writing Support

A photograph of Lulu the rabbitA photograph of Hazel the rabbitOur kids have two rabbits. Lulu is a bribery rabbit. When we told our daughter Maia that we’d be moving to Oregon, we promised her a rabbit when we arrived, so Lulu was adopted from Safe Haven in early 2019. Hazel, our juvenile male, belongs to our son Noah and was named after Hazel-Rah from Watership Down. We brought Hazel home from Safe Haven when he was the size of a large hamster. And we can’t talk about the rabbits without mentioning the neighborhood Red-tailed Hawks, who hunt above the aforementioned rabbits’ backyard hutches. The hawks would have to work really hard for a meal, as the hutches are very secure, but if crows can pick locks . . .

Mango & Hugo, cat friends of Kelley Calvert, Multilingual Support Coordinator at the Writing Center

A photograph of two cats: Mango and HugoWe have two yellow tabby cats, brother and sister, who look exactly alike except the female is smaller. Their names are Mango and Hugo. We rescued them when they were sickly and abandoned kittens in Thailand, and they made a quick recovery. Today, they put up with all kinds of indignities, such as being carried around in baskets (by kids), slung over shoulders (by kids), and dragged away from sunny naps for rough playtimes (by kids). They lovingly put up with it all.

Pete the Cat, dog friend of Clare Creighton, Director of the ASC & Writing Center

A photograph of Pete the Cat the DogPete the Cat is named after the character from the children’s book series. He’s a mixed-breed rescue from California, and at 105 lbs he’s a sweet oaf that tolerates a lot of snuggling. He’s currently recovering from knee surgery so his hobbies are lying around, trying to get his cone off, spitting out pills, and giving wistful looks from his bed.

Ripley, dog friend of Sarah Norek, Coordinator of Outreach & Education at the ASC

A photograph of Ripley the dogRipley has bird dog in him somewhere, but has a terrible sense of smell, so tends to do his best work tracking squirrels, who he can hear and see. He wears a very wiry beard that gets wet on water breaks, and loves to sunbathe, tiptoe, has recently learned how to sustain a soulful howl, and believes he should be able to fit all 75 pounds of himself into anyone’s lap. Much of the time, we agree.

Highlights from the 2021 Transitions Survey

by Clare Creighton

In February of 2021, the Office of Undergraduate Education launched the Transitions Survey to learn from first-year OSU students and provide insights about the undergraduate student transition experience specific to the Corvallis Campus. The invitation to participate was extended to all first-year students (first-year freshman and first year transfer students) who had matriculated during summer or fall 2020. Of the 4941 students invited, 22.5% answered at least two questions on the survey.

Recently, I had an opportunity to review results from several of the survey’s academic-related questions. While Erin Bird (Transfer Transitions Coordinator) and Megan and Danielle (URSA interns working on this project) are by far the experts on this survey and the analysis, I’d like to reflect on a few of the areas I found intriguing and share ideas for using those insights in our work.

First-year students emphasized academic goals.

Visual listing percentages of responses from 1113 students. 91% Enrolling in my courses. 91% Earning the grades I want. 88% Learning in my courses. 79% Making friends. 53% Physical activity routine.I’ve long been curious about goals that first year students identify for themselves. Question 2 of this survey asked respondents, “During your first few terms enrolled at Oregon State, what were you hoping to accomplish? (Please select all that apply).” Of the 16 options provided, the responses selected by the highest percentage of respondents were “Enrolling in the courses I want,” “Earning the grades I want,” and “Learning in my courses.”

I was surprised by the emphasis on academic goals, as I expected some co-curricular and social engagement goals to factor in as highest priorities as well. As a caveat: learning and earning grades are deeply connected to a student’s social network, sense of belonging, mental health, and support systems and these results don’t undermine those connections. I’m excited that these results offer us a chance to frame ongoing orientation experiences (first-year courses, fall term events) around students’ self-identified priorities. If students name learning, grades, and course access as top priorities, we have an entry point to frame resources and information in service to those goals. If we audit our own orientation and transition support, how often do these topics come up? Are they clearly addressed and visible to students?

Information about motivation, time management, academic support, and advising was identified as key to success.

Visual showing survey responses from 1109 students. 68% Motivation, time management. 64% Academic Support Services. 64% Academic Advising. 55% Costs associated with OSU. 49% Emotional support.Knowing what kind of help is available and how to access it is, in my opinion, a key component of student success. Question 4 of the survey asks students to identify “which of the following types of information are most important to your success at Oregon State. Please select all that apply.” Motivation and time management was the top response, followed by Academic Support Services and Academic Advising. These responses make sense given students’ earlier responses. Motivation and time management seem directly related to academic goals—particularly for students transitioning from a semester system to a quarter system, and especially during remote learning.

At the Academic Success Center, we often field questions about time management tools, breaking down assignments, scheduling exam prep, and more. Perhaps we can work as a campus to make these topics more visible and integrated within conversations, first year courses, advising, and other transition experiences. Students also indicated that they valued information about Academic Support Services and Academic Advising. To me, this calls for more reflection. What type of information do students need to access services? What information is important for them? What services are available? I believe students’ responses to the resource awareness questions can help us begin to answer these questions.

Increased awareness and more information may expand resource utilization.

Respondents were asked to identify categories of services they had used. Those who selected “yes” to having used Academic Services & Offices were asked what made them want to use the service again.  Those who selected “no” they hadn’t used Academic Services & Offices were asked what held them back from using those services. About one third of students who answered this question indicated they “wanted to use it but did not know what to say or how to get started;” a third said they were “intimidated to go by myself;” and 40% said “I did not know how to access the office/service in a remote setting.”

I find these results compelling because I believe they indicate barriers we can address with orientation and way-finding support. Many of us share information about resources, but often this resource exists, and this is its name. These results suggest we could better aid students by clarifying how to access resources, what to expect when they arrive, and how to get started. If we have time and capacity in our conversations, we could more intentionally invite discussion around concerns and barriers, answer questions, and help students develop plans for accessing resources.

Where to next?

I find myself curious to know the degree to which these trends were unique to the remote delivery of classes in fall and winter or if we will see similar patterns when classes are in-person. Lucky for us, Erin will be running this survey each year, and we’ll have more context for how students’ transition to OSU was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and which trends and patterns are more enduring.

If you have additional questions or are interested in more of the findings from the Transition Survey, I encourage you to reach out to Erin Bird (Erin.Bird@oregonstate.ed). The email invitation as well as the questions from the survey itself are available at this link: https://beav.es/Jb7 (Box login required).

Remote End-of-Year Celebrations

It’s that time of year! Many of us are planning end-of-year celebrations and activities to recognize our student staff and graduating seniors. Now is a great time to get creative and find fun ways for our teams to connect, say thank you, and celebrate together.

Here are five ideas for how to celebrate remotely:

  1. Online games. Websites like backyard.co allow users to create game rooms where folks can log on without an account to play. Within each game, people can choose to use video/audio or the chat.
  2. Videos. Create a video where team members can all contribute a picture, brief message, or thanks. Try out lipsync-ing to a celebratory tune.
  3. Gift packages. There’s something nice about getting mail and knowing someone was thinking of you. Packages could include things like a thank you card, snacks (be sure to check for allergens before sending), or useful gifts. Small gifts might include things like blue-light blocking glasses, miniature tools, magnet picture frames, origami books with encouraging notes, or mugs.
  4. Zoom games. You can make your own MadLibs with stories themed to your work. Or consider creating a quiz for your team featuring lesser-known facts about colleagues. For some friendly competition, have your team break into groups for some Jeopardy! You can even have folks vote on topics in advance. My vote: Star Trek the Next Generation plotlines.
  5. Customized cards. Use an online design platform like Canva or Kudoboard to create customized cards for graduating seniors. Each team member then has a chance to add to the message with their own drag-and-drop design elements.

On Failing Forward

by Chris Gasser

Nobody likes to fail. It can hurt; it is often embarrassing; and its acceptance has largely been trained out of us. It is also something that I continually encourage in Supplemental Instruction (SI). As a program that cherishes socially constructed knowledge in historically challenging courses, we believe in learning through asking, positing, and attempting to explain. Each of those carries a potential for failure. The dilemma then is that, even in a low stakes environment intentionally created for students to try new things, it can often feel easier to say nothing than to say something wrong, and this fear of failure can be a real problem. Trying to find a solution to this problem led me to failing forward, or, acknowledging failure as an important element of the learning process, which enables us to improve.

In recent professional development meetings, I asked SI Leaders to think about the idea of failing forward. SI Leaders were asked to watch a video from a doctor, an entrepreneur, or a teacher  (some of the most prominent career paths in the SI group) on the topic of failing forward and how it relates to their discipline. They were then asked to debrief the idea of failing forward, how it differs from simply accepting failure, and how we can promote failing forward at our SI tables.

Here a few of the ideas SI Leaders came up with of actions they could take to promote failing forward at study tables:

  • Explain the value of a low-stakes environments and name mistakes as valuable in learning
  • Normalize mistake-making by revealing specific places they’ve struggled with concepts
  • Acknowledging when they make mistakes at study tables
  • Resist shaming themselves for making mistakes
  • Celebrate misunderstandings as valuable contributions to the learning process

And while we often celebrate Edison’s quote of finding 2,000 ways to not create a lightbulb, before ultimately succeeding, SI Leaders raised some really valuable concerns with the idea of failing forward:

  • How much failure is acceptable in the learning process?
  • How do traditional grading concepts challenge the ideas that failure is an acceptable part of the learning process?
  • What privilege is associated with the concept of failing forward? How should students from low-income backgrounds, or students experiencing stereotype threat celebrate failure when it can have drastic implications for their future?

In addition to their questions, I still have my own that I’m grappling with:

  • Knowing that culture starts at the top, how do I show my failures to SI Leaders without undercutting my own ethos?
  • I may be their senior as a Coordinator, but I’m also the most junior SI Leader on the team; how do I share my moments of learning with them?
  • How much am I willing to accept failure as a learning process for SI Leaders? Am I ready to devote the time and energy to a professional development model that views mistakes as an integral part of the learning process?

I think the only conclusion I have come to is that failure is extremely nuanced, and not as clear-cut as I perhaps wanted it to be at one time. While I definitely don’t have complete answers to the questions above, I am finding value in thinking on them. I would certainly welcome your thoughts and ideas!

Finding Failure

by Sarah Norek

Lately, I’ve been digging into failure. It all began with wondering what it meant to be or not be transparent about failure, and then it kind of unspooled from there. Below is my messy process thinking, complete with way more questions than answers. And at the end, if you’re still here, I’ll share some ways you might explore failure too.


As I write this, I’m sitting with my son on the couch, where I’ve been trying to form something coherent about failure for the last forty-five minutes. This alone feels a bit like a failure. When I started reflecting on the topic over a week ago, I could hardly rein it in at a half-hour. But now: all these brief starts and long stops as I try wading in again.

I just asked my son what failure meant to him and he replied, Giving up.

His answer pretty accurately reflects how we’ve raised him and his sister. We’ve been intentional about how we talk about failure, in that we don’t exactly. We talk most about trying, and practicing, and seeing the opportunity in things that are difficult or that don’t go how we’d like them to at first. If I translate his response in relationship to this, failure is the act of not trying.


Facilitating academic success workshops, emailing students through the Transition Communication Campaign, and drafting content for the Learning Corner, I emphasize the opportunity in trying things out. I pitch the OSU years as a sandbox, where folks can practice with strategies, see what works and what doesn’t, and bring that knowledge into their post-graduation space.

And yet, as much as I may write about the opportunity within failure, and growth that can come from failure, I don’t like failure, and I don’t go into things hoping I’ll fail – but what if I did? When did I stop engaging with this idea of having a sandbox of my own, or of being a part of the greater sandbox of experimentation? I love experimenting. I love trying new things. But I also feel a disconnect between my love for innovation and permission to not have it all quite work. Because sometimes – lots of times – new ideas might fail.


The potential for failure, and the feelings failure carries, can consume me. And I see connections between failure and perfectionism. As much as I may be working to undo my dedication to perfectionism, it runs deep; for me, the potential for perfection is never far from the hazard of failure. But what does bringing opportunity into failure do? Could it counter the perfectionism, and could that soften failure’s sting? Could failure be remade into something that feels more like an invitation to experiment and innovate?

Exploring Failure

I don’t think all failure is redeemable. I don’t think all growth from failures inoculates us against any judgement that may be doled. Sometimes, we really fail badly, and the impact expands beyond our individual edges to affect or engulf others.

At the same time, I think normalizing and validating failure is important. I also think it’s important to consider our privileges and identities that afford us to fail more or less easily than others, or to more or less easily share our failures.

I appreciate how the SI Leaders’ reflections in On Failing Forward help me see this gap in my reflection. I’m not insulated from the repercussions of failure, but how has my identity made certain failures safer/less safe for me than for others who identify differently? I know it has.

So now I have even more questions: If we see failure as an opportunity for growth, then is it the failure that we grow from, or is it the recovery – the way we choose to recover – that induces growth? What is it to fail publicly versus privately, or individually versus within a team? How does failure in one sphere of our life shape and inform what we do with failure in the others?

For me, the concept, practice of, and recovery from failure is like a big onion. There are so many layers. After peeling one back I might be shaking my head or crying or walking away to regroup and return or push on to the next layer.

I won’t give up failing. It will always be there. But I like to think that the way I – and we – engage with failure has the potential to become, or remain, or return to malleable.

Curious to explore failure? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Check out the videos Chris mentioned in his article about Failing Forward.
  2. Engage in a thought experiment: When’s the last time you talked with someone about something you failed at? What failure did you choose to share, and who did you share with? How long after the failure did you choose to share about it? What did you share about the failure? How did you feel – when the failure happened, or when you realized it was a failure, or when you spoke about your failure?
  3. Start a conversation with a colleague, friend, or loved one about failure – what does it mean to be transparent about failure? What is it to enter, move through, and exit failure – or do we? When is it failure and when is it learning? How do privilege and identity impact/shape our failure?

Student Affairs Staff Picks

In this issue, we’re delighted to share perspectives from our Student Affairs Colleagues who responded to the prompting question: “What have you read that has informed your work or resonated for you, and why?”

JP Peters – Associate Director, Center for Fraternity and Sorority Life

CurrePicture of the Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencionintly, I am reading The Ideal Team Player, by Patrick Lencioni, and he highlights the three essential virtues to be the ideal team player. You must be humble, hungry, and smart when working with a team or leading a group of people. For the last two months, I have strived to incorporate this philosophy into the work I do with my colleagues and students. It is too early to determine if the philosophy is beneficial, but I am excited to engage in finding out the results.

Earlee Kerekes-Mishra – Assistant Director, Disability Access Services

I have recently started reading more and more about the #SayTheWord movement started by Lawrence Carter-Long. Carter-Long started this in response Picture of an orange wall with an orange speaker shaped like a megaphone attached to itto the erasure of identity for disabled people. This movement is reclaiming that identity, by reclaiming the word “disability” and also educating why other words such as “differently abled” or “handicapable” are harmful. I am a firm believer that language is impactful; the words we choose sometimes speak louder than the message being conveyed, and the article “Say the Word,” by Anjali Forber-Pratt (along with other disability identity research), has assisted me in being more mindful with my choice of words overall.

Ben Medeiros – Assistant Director, UHDS – Residential Education

Picture of the sky, mountains, and a body of water with the title "Maslow's Hierachy connected to Blackfoot Beliefs" across the visualThere’s a blog post circulating about Maslow’s misappropriation of Blackfoot teaching.  I also attended a conference session recently about indigenous assessment strategies, including LaFever’s Medicine Wheel, a more holistic learning outcomes model than Bloom’s taxonomy.  Both sources disappointingly affirm the foundations of our educational system have been intentionally encoded to remove indigenous ways of knowing and being.  Which begs a question of personal and institutional action… what will I do to center the voices of students of color and other marginalized populations – from the learning processes that I direct to the hiring decisions we make at every level of our institution?

Jen Humphreys – Operations Associate, Student Affairs

SA Voices from the Field is a NASPA podcast hosted by Dr. Jill Creighton. My role does not include working in a Picture of the letters "SA" in blue at an angle. Surrounding the picture are black and white photographs of four individuals wearing headphonesspecific functional area within Student Affairs, so resources such as this help me to stay connected to the work that our division members are engaging with daily. Topics include such things as leading a residence hall during COVID, dismantling systemic racism in student affairs, and the future of grad prep programs.

The cover of the book "So You Want to Talk about Race" by Ijeoma OluoSo You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo is a very accessible book that has helped me focus on action over angst. In other words, moving from analysis paralysis and seeking opportunities to not only talk about race and systemic oppression, but to be attuned to the ways that I benefit from it, doing this from a place of inquiry to better support students and Colleagues of Color at OSU. The book is written in a very straightforward way, and I appreciated that Oluo brings her own family experiences and identity into her writing. She speaks to the dynamics of being biracial and provides you with a sense of what it’s like to navigate both black and white spaces—just as many of our students do.

Jeff Malone – Director, Cross Campus Strategic Initiatives

Music Theory & White Supremacy (or “The Harmonic Style of 18thA picture of a Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Century European Musicians” & White Supremacy) by Adam Neely is a video on music theory (yes, music theory). It is lengthy (~45 minutes) but interesting and impactful. I do not feel one has to have a grounding in music theory (my own is shaky at best) for resonance. This video illustrates how systems of whiteness are so often privileged in our academic disciplines and educational habits/practices. This content is helpful as I consider, and reconsider, previously accepted policies, practices, and ways of knowing.

Remote Onboarding Adventures

by Anna Bentley

Starting a new job is always exciting, nerve-wrecking, and full of anticipation. The last time I started a new job, I set aside what I would wear, programmed the coffee maker, and packed my lunch the night before. I set my alarm extra early because I didn’t know how long it would take me to get through traffic, find parking, and walk to my office. I wanted to set myself up for success and make a good impression on my first day.

That was before the pandemic. Starting a new job looks different when your entire team works remotely, and your commute is to your living room. I joined the Academic Success Center and Writing Center (ASC & Writing Center) as the Administrative Program Assistant in January 2021, and this remote experience has been overwhelmingly positive, which I attribute to thoughtful preparation and design of the onboarding process, as well as strategies I employed to make the most of the first few weeks in my new role. Here’s what I believe made my onboarding experience a positive one.

My supervisor prepared for my arrival weeks in advance

During my interview, Clare and I talked about what Photo of a welcome package including a laptop, pens, paper, chocolate, and a plantworking from home looked like for the ASC & Writing Center and what tools and support were available for the team’s success. After I accepted the job offer, she emailed me to see what technology I needed. When we met for the socially distanced technology hand-off, I was delighted to find that she provided not only my basic needs (laptop, notepads, and pens) but also included a hand-written note, chocolates, and even a plant. That gesture made me feel so welcome and valued before I even started my first day.

We prioritized building relationships remotely

From day one, it was clear that Clare wanted to create a genuine, welcoming experience for me. We had 30-minute check-ins every morning during my first few weeks, and she arranged a drop-in Zoom meet-and-greet for campus partners. I also connected individually with each member of our team to get to know them and how my role connected with their work. I found that building relationships remotely requires intentionality and a willingness to try new communication modalities. Spontaneous conversations in the breakroom might not exist at the moment, but a quick check-in via Teams chat can go a long way towards building a sense of belonging over time. When we feel like we belong and trust our colleagues, we collaborate more and have the courage to take creative risks.

I found my place in meaningful ways

In-person work experiences involve orienting new employees to physical spaces. For me, remote onboarding seemed to place greater emphasis on connecting to ideas, values, organizations, and philosophies. Instead of spending my first day getting a tour of Waldo Hall, Clare connected my work to the unit’s programs, the Division of Student Affairs Strategic Priority, OSU’s mission, and the history and values of the student affairs profession. Instead of introducing me to folks near my workspace, as is typical of an on-site experience, I was connected to campus partners who shared how they collaborate with our unit. While I look forward to an orientation to the physical space as well, I appreciated finding my place in the work in these meaningful ways.

 I took an active role in my onboarding experience

Starting a new job can be intimidating. There’s so much to learn, and a lot of us are afraid to mess up. But taking initiative during your first few weeks can be empowering – and a gift to your team. Instead of waiting for tasks to come to me, I was intentional about reaching out, asking how I could help, and keeping an eye open for projects. I tried to speak up and share my opinions, even if it scared me. In times when my confidence was shaky, I reminded myself that I am an expert in my experiences and that my perspectives are valid. Most importantly, I communicated my needs throughout my onboarding process.

This onboarding experience continues to be the best of any job I’ve had, which I credit to the thoughtful preparation and genuine interest in my success. If you’re hiring or onboarding new employees, I invite you to consider how you might design a welcoming, inclusive, and empowering experience for them. And if you’re the new employee, I encourage you to take an active role in your experience, have grace with your supervisor and colleagues, and be intentional about building relationships within your organization.