Category Archives: Fall 2022 Issue 2

Let’s Make a Pie

by Nicole Hindes

Let’s make a pie.

With that simple sentence, I’ve invited you into a collaboration, but I haven’t actually asked if you want to make a pie with me. Do you also want to make a pie? How will we proceed? What norms and patterns will guide us – and what can intentionality help provide for us? At Indiana University, where I completed my Higher Education and Student Affairs master’s program, we often spoke about how important it is to be intentional in our practice, both in completing the work, and in how we showed up relationally with our students and colleagues. We used intentionality to further goals of student development and dignify relationship norms. “Be intentional” was a repeated refrain inside of my graduate experience. Intentionality is a powerful ingredient we can bring to our pie making effort and how we approach our work together.

So, we’ve chosen to make a pie, together. Both of us are in the place of wanting pie and wanting each other to be involved in the effort.

Is the pie the only thing we care about? How do we want our experience of pie making to be? How will our relationship be impacted by this experience of pie making?

One of the things that helps me find my way to intentionality in my practice at OSU is to look at an experience through a metaphor. We can use our experience of pie-making to deepen understanding about who we are in collaborations with others and build understanding about choices between us in how we will make this pie that illuminates patterns of collaboration and choices that aren’t limited to pie-making. We can also look at roles common inside of academia to consider how these roles, in archetypical form, constrain our access to choices.

If a Professor archetype is collaborating on a pie, we might see the busy professor ask that the pie crust be made ahead of time, expecting (or assuming) a level of base knowledge before deciding what will go in the crust. The professor might use communication norms that assert expertise and authority about the quality of the pie ingredients or the best way to make a pie. The professor may not see that their assertive claims make it too risky for the other to suggest an unusual, but also delicious, gluten-free crust.

Similarly, if a Campus Leader archetype is collaborating on a pie, we might come to the meeting about pie making and see that person set the timeline and predetermine the output expectations (‘traditional cherry’ or ‘key lime’). That person might not see how their suggested ideas or preferences could be heard as expectations that are limiting opportunities to consider the seasonality of fruit, the recipes preferred by the bakers, or understanding that there is a backlog of cakes that have been ordered.

If a New Student archetype is collaborating on a pie, they may be relating from a place of insecurity, unsure that pie in Corvallis is the same as pie in their hometown. They may not know how to bring up the shepherd’s pie they loved eating at their grandfather’s house. They may not know that the blackberry bushes in their backyard can be a valuable contribution to our pie-making goals.

Because archetypes and metaphors are so powerful to the human experience and how we make meaning of the world, we often find ourselves playing out scripts or norms of what dominant culture prescribes as normal. We can do this knowingly to find belonging – or unconsciously because we’re busy and operating as if on autopilot. Because we do our work inside of academia, there are some ways that norms and patterns might prescribe for us how to approach our pie making. These may or may not serve our goals. If we’re not intentional, we might find ourselves communicating or planning in a way that limits the possible pies we could cook up together.

So, remember that I want to make a pie with you? I have some ingredients, some experience and some challenging limitations getting a flaky crust. What ingredients do you have? What experience do you bring? Do you want to work together? What will our conversations be as we make this pie? After we make and consume the pie, how will our relationship have changed? What will that mean for future fruit harvests? Did my choices in relating with you create the context for you to trust me enough to tell me about your grandpa’s shepherd’s pie?

I’ll never forget asking a peer “how do you like to approach collaborations?” and seeing reflected back to me, in her response, how rarely she was asked that question. When I practice intentional collaboration with a group, I might use agendas and meeting design to create the context for collaboration that works for me, the team and our goals. If there’s anyone new to OSU or meeting each other for the first time in the collaboration, I might spend a meaningful chunk of the first meeting (30 minutes!) to build relationships and trust with the group. I like to choose conversation topics and questions that encourage everyone to share about prior roles, strengths and skills that may not be evident based on title or positionality. I’m practicing how to create a brainstorming or idea-generating process that ensures everyone—especially those with less social or positional power—have opportunities to contribute to the vision and approach of the project. Along the way, I try to promote conversation that builds understanding about everyone as whole people with lives outside of roles at OSU.

The pies we make will get eaten and enjoyed. The connections we make when we bake together will be the nourishment that resources us both for years to come. Do you want to make a pie with me?

Reflection Practice #countsaswork

by Anna Bentley

One of the most important meetings I have at work is one you might not expect. Since July 2021, the professional staff in the Academic Success Center & Writing Center have established a practice of synchronous, individual reflection and writing time, which is scheduled every other week for one hour. Originally, this began as a way to think about our work in a different way and potentially find threads of interest for content for The Success Kitchen, though there has never been any obligation to produce anything. This is a completely voluntary space where folks are free to reflect and write about whatever they choose.

Here’s how it works. First, we check in with each other briefly, and then we leave the meeting to reflect and write for 40 minutes. There are prompts to guide us if we want to use them, but we are free to write about anything we choose. After 40 minutes, we rejoin the meeting and take turns sharing as much or as little as we want about what we wrote.

Example prompts:

  1. What is something a student has said or shared recently that you’d like to think more about or reflect on?
  2. Talk about a recent leadership experience that’s on your mind. What was meaningful to you about that experience? If there were any challenges, how did you work through them?
  3. What’s a favorite memory from your own learning experiences (in any context)? What made that experience valuable and important to you?

Through writing and reflection, we make space to generate ideas and insights, process experiences and emotions, deepen our awareness and understanding, make meaning and connections, feed creative energy, and develop our writing skills. I certainly have benefited from our collective reflection time. Before this, I had never had a writing practice, and I used to feel intimidated by a blank page. Now I find joy in writing freely and have grown more confident in my writing skills. I’ve used the time to write about work, draft articles like this for The Success Kitchen, journal and process emotions, make goals and lists, and even write poetry and fiction.

It’s been a gift to explore many facets of writing without any obligation to produce or perform, and it’s positively impacted the way I work. A few months ago, I began supervising a team of student staff after going many years without supervising anyone. I’ve used our reflection practice to unpack and discover my values around how I show up as a supervisor, a colleague, a parent, and a friend. Having the time to intentionally articulate who I want to be has made a difference in my relationships and my journey as a supervisor.

Beyond the practice of writing, what has made our reflection practice particularly powerful is what we get out of sharing with each other. Any of us could write on our own, but doing this together and sharing allows us to make connections and offer support to each other. Listening to my colleagues’ reflections inspires me and leads us to exploring ideas we otherwise may not have considered. We sometimes find, coincidentally, that our reflections are related, and we generate new ideas by hearing each other’s perspectives. Sometimes we share the emotions and challenges we’re experiencing, and our colleagues support us through that. Perhaps that is what I love the most about reflection and sharing – that it can be whatever kind of space you want or need it to be in that moment, and we’re able to connect on a different level than we can in other spaces.

As a unit, we find meaning in processing what we’re experiencing, articulating our ideas, sharing with each other, validating what each of us brings to the table, and supporting each other as whole people. To make this a reality, we put this on our calendars and count this as work. I’m energized by this practice, excited to see what’s possible, and curious to hear what beautiful, powerful ideas others have within them.

Tales from Adventures Emailing First-Year Students in Fall

by Sarah Norek

Part of my role at the Academic Success Center includes drafting and sending the Transition Communication Campaign (TCC) emails to all incoming first year (FY) and new-to-OSU students. It’s one of my very favorite projects to work on and learn from, and offers a lot to consider and explore.

For folks unfamiliar with the TCC, I begin emailing students in their first term at OSU, and continue throughout the entirety of their first academic year (here’s an example from week 2). Content is timely to each week in the term and covers academic support and advising information; resource spotlights; and processes, strategies and tools. Messages are sent via Marketing Cloud using student lists created through Banner, and emails go out each Sunday as well as the Wednesday before add/drop deadlines.

During Academic Year 2022, we wanted to look more closely at the FY engagement with emails throughout fall 2021. To do this, we used reports from Marketing Cloud to determine students who received all 13 messages (a total of 3596 students), we looked at patterns of engagement (opens and clicks), and we also invited folks to participate in focus groups or complete a brief survey. We learned so much! It was so much fun! And a lot of what we learned was counter to what I’d thought to be true, which was delightful and curious and exciting. Here are some of my favorite perception shifts:

  • I thought students weren’t opening emails, but when we looked at reports, it turns out that they were: 69% of students opened 8 or more of the TCC messages in fall, and about 25% of students opened all 13!
  • I didn’t expect students to return to the messages, but the average opens per messages was two; and, on average, 41% of students opened the messages two, three, or four times. Students found reason to revisit the content.
  • I was pretty sure receiving duplicate information would be a total turn-off. In our focus groups, students shared that they’d received similar messaging from other sources (at times ahead of the TCC’s arrival), but also shared they still found value in the campaign, even if it was redundant, especially for students who might not be getting this content elsewhere.
  • I was under the impression that the email’s organizational sections were more for me and my drafting process, but it turns out that students used the sections too, as signposts to focus their content consumption.
  • I was convinced my subject lines were boring (and I don’t think what I learned means they aren’t). I started each subject line with the week in the term, a move that felt uninspiring but also helped with my organization process. Lo and behold, students shared that they appreciated the naming of the week because it helped orient them within the term.
  • I’d had a feeling that the messages were too long, but continued to draft under the (old? outdated? incorrect?) impression that folks were willing to scroll; students said that, no, the messages were too long (especially when accessed via phone), so much so that certain sections were never reached. Noted!
  • Even though I focused most of my energy on the body of the message, the two sections folks went to most were Important Deadlines, at the top of the emails (highlighting deadlines for registration, change of grading basis, course changes, etc.), and Upcoming Opportunities at the end of the email (naming events, engagement opportunities, workshops, etc.).

Are these all the ways I felt surprised and delighted by the data? Nope. Do I wish we could’ve heard from each of the 3596 students who received the 13 total messages? I do. But still, we learned a bunch! And, I think what we learned could contribute to conversations and thinking around how campus communicates with students, how to be effective in our communications, and how to encourage engagement. This fall I’ve made changes to our TCC messages based on last year’s learning; already I’ve noticed higher open and click-through rates, and I’m totally pumped to see how engagement plays out for the rest of the year. More data to consider! More questions to ask! I’m not excited, you are!

New Book on Studying Lands in January

by Clare Creighton

I had the opportunity last week to connect with Dr. Regan Book cover for Study Like a Champ by Regan A.R. Gurung and John Dunlosky. Cover includes a picture of a brain lifting weightsGurung, Psychology Professor and Executive Director of the Center for Teaching & Learning here at OSU about his upcoming book Study Like a Champ: The Psychology-Based Guide to “Grade A” Study Habits. Coming in January from the American Psychological Association’s LifeTools Series, Study Like a Champ aims to equip students with tools and information to improve their approach to college-level learning. Regan collaborated with a former colleague from the University of Washington, Dr. John Dunlosky, combining their strengths from lab-based cognition research, college classroom research, and decades of university teaching experience.

For Regan, that’s what feels particularly special about this book. In the field of cognitive science there is a lot of information available about effective studying and learning, but not much of it makes it into a format that is accessible for students who in their busyness wouldn’t have time to weed through dense scientific journal articles (my words, not Regan’s) or books written primarily for educators. With years of teaching experience, Regan is excited to bring specific strategies to students based on what he’s learned working with college students in the classroom. This practical classroom setting has prepared him to frame strategies in a way that students can use.

Two of the concepts discussed in “Study Like a Champ” are spaced practice and retrieval practice. Spaced practice refers to the act of spreading out learning/studying sessions over time to allow memory consolidation to take place, which is more effective than cramming. Retrieval practice is the technique of trying to recall information without reminders or visual cues. Instead of looking at something and feeling like you know it, you actually test yourself to see if you can recall that information without looking at it. Learning about spaced practice or retrieval practice is useful, but Regan says he wanted to make sure students knew how to do those things as well. Regan shared with me that he used to mention retrieval practice in his psychology classes, but now he goes a step further to ensure that students understand what he means and how to do that, and get to experience it through the course design. For example, students in his intro psych class get to practice information recall every class period.

According to Regan, the goal of this book is to “provide students with the latest cognitive science on how to learn effectively and efficiently, in a way that translates jargony science into practical information they can use immediately after reading.”

I like the idea of giving students more information about what effective studying looks like, backed-up by research and information from the field of psychology. That’s one of our primary goals in the Academic Success Center and we work on this through different programs (the Learning Corner, ALS 116, Academic Coaching, Supplemental Instruction). What excites me about this book is the conversations it invites.

Like Regan, I see possibilities for conversations about studying happening across campus. If students, faculty, and staff are better equipped with the language of effective study strategies, we can have more conversations about studying and integrate it into our work. Planning, note-taking, and learning happen beyond the classroom as well which makes information about how we learn relevant to everyone. Myths about learning styles and other learning practices are pervasive and the antidote in my mind is in this book and other sources that provide practical information on what works and what doesn’t.

When “Study Like a Champ” is released in January, I’ll be reading it and thinking of how to get this information in the hands of students. Maybe it’s new content for the Learning Corner, maybe it’s a student staff meeting on the topic of studying, or reviewing the orientation content from our OSU Welcome event. I’ve requested the OSU Libraries purchase this text once it releases and I offer an invitation here to each of you for further conversation about how to integrate these concepts into our work with students.

Building a “New Normal” at the Academic Success Center & Writing Center

by Chris Gasser

Grey clouds, early sunsets, drivers cutting each other off at the Harrison Bridge; for the first time in two years, things almost look normal at Oregon State. As we return to campus it is easy to forget that we just spent the last two years in higher ed. surviving, both in a literal and figurative sense. Throughout the emergency measures of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a strong sense (and a lot of anxiety) about what the new normal would look like. At the Academic Success Center & Writing Center, we spent a lot of time thinking about how we could create something new and better, rather than returning to how things were. We heard it a lot, “we can’t go back to the way things were”, and we embraced that.  One overarching question we found helpful was “what have we done differently during the COVID-19 pandemic that was better than what we were doing before?” This question, combined with specific questions focused on important areas of our work, led us to these strategies:

  • Prioritizing health for student staff and participants over service delivery and numbers
    • Do our policies and practices encourage staff to come to work when sick or students to access services when sick? How and where might we change/impact that behavior?
  • Seeking out employee feedback in major (and minor) decisions
    • What decisions are we making about student staff and service delivery? Do people affected by our decisions have an opportunity to inform those decisions? When and how are we inviting feedback from student staff?
  • Delivering clear guidance and processes on valuable resources for our community
    • What information might not be getting to students? How can we use our platforms as supervisors and program leaders to support students in understanding and navigating policies and resources? What messaging can we proactively highlight and signal boost to the benefit of student staff?
  • Focusing on community— building relationships within our teams and with our campus partners
    • What are we doing to foster relationships amongst our team? How do we create a sense of community and belonging across modalities? How often does community building show up as a part of our agendas and structured time?
  • Creating a culture of support where staff and students are encouraged to bring their humanity, with all the messiness that it involves
    • What do we convey to students about the way their lives show up in their work? What space do we make for sharing about their lives outside of work? How do we define professionalism in a way that lets them be autonomous human beings and not robots?

While we don’t suggest that we are perfect, in our return to campus or otherwise, we are excited that our new normal is a more compassionate one. It’s more nuanced, more human. We value flexibility, intentionality, and sometimes saying no when our plates are full. We’ve done a lot of thinking about the new normal we want to create. We share some of that thinking in our annual report, and we invite you to read it here.