“Trust No Process, Trust You”: Reflections on my #SASearch

 

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When I started out my aspiring career in student affairs as an undergrad, I was often given advice to start off in a general area and then move into a functional area of you interest. If I done it the way I was advised, it would mean that I would find myself working in residence life or admissions straight out of graduate school. However, that greatly changed when I arrived to graduate school with no GA but an open mind because I just wanted to work with students.

In my honest opinion, I had the some of the greatest learning experiences during graduate school because I was able to experience different functional areas outside of housing, which is what I was primarily involved in as an undergraduate student. When my #SASearch began, I was thinking that I was beginning to miss housing and missed being in an area where student engagement was high. So I began to focus on looking for entry-level positions in housing and residence life for my job search. Up until the beginning of March, I felt fine about it… and then I went to The Placement Exchange.

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You know TPE is always being perceived about only having housing jobs available and I am ready to defend them because it’s not true, however I will say that if you are looking for a housing job, you’ll have many options. The interviews I had went well for the most part, but I did have some interviews that were absolutely up in the air and did not make me feel confident. While I enjoyed interviewing with different institutions on housing positions, I did not feel confident about follow-up interviews. So I ended up looking for other opportunities to interview with other institutions for positions in areas such as multicultural affairs and student activities while at TPE and when they did come, I felt more confident about sharing my experiences and I ultimately felt that my experiences were valid.

Do not read this as a diss towards housing or another other area because it is not the case. Participating in TPE and continuing my job search has made me realize how to read job descriptions and qualifications better. “Preferred” is preferred for a reason and I realize now that if your materials meet the preferred qualifications, they will pursue you first. Is that okay? I guess so, I mean they do want someone who is going to do the job and will do the job well because they have experience in it. At the same time, there could be the counter-argument, how can you get experience working in a position if you need prior experience? It can be a conflict at times. There is more of a need in student affairs now to have professionals who are specialists than those who are generalists, which for someone like me, it’s a bit disheartening coming out of grad school because I would like to explore the field a bit but as a professional, it doesn’t seem like there is much space to really do that.

I have also reminded myself that I am values-centered and I am often looking for purposeful work. I need to follow my passions and my values to find the position that’s right for me, or at least one where I meet the experiences/qualifications. I think with that realization, my job search has become more complicated than it was to begin with. I’m very selective about everything, but at the same time I am also flexible which has resulted in my process being all over the place. But now I have somewhat of a foundation in considering my search in that it is centered on student engagement, program coordination and doing social justice and inclusion work (for now). I know I would like to work in multicultural affairs or student success programs at a point in my career, do I really care if it happens straight out of graduate school? Not really.

So what does this have to do with not trusting the process? I think it has everything to do with it. I can be really interested in a position but I can only so far if the people who are interviewing don’t think I’m a good “fit” (another conversation for another day). Institutions could also be interested in me working in their institution but I may not feel the same way after an interview. My process changed in the matter of days, and while I was super emotional about my plans not going the way that I wanted them to, I have also come to realize that I will not have the perfect job straight out of graduate school. Does this mean that I am settling? No, because I feel like I need to be in a position that challenges me to be a better person and professional overall.
So wherever that position is at, I am ready. Come find me… Preferably before August.

 

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The D Word: When Words Lose/Lost Meaning

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*Photo Credit – Google Definition

For those who are reading this, you have to believe that I mean well and I am not just some student affairs hater who has something to say about every term that we use in our daily work (although most SA lingo makes me cringe when it comes out of my own mouth or when I type it).

This actually takes me back to the (Social Justice Ed.) #SJEchat that some of us had last December about Professionalism and Marginalization. One of the questions that were asked was “What are other words used in higher ed that are rooted in the system*?”
*(System being performing professionalism while being marginalized/oppressed)

To no surprise, people responded with some of the words that now cause me to roll my eyes:
– Inclusion
– Civility
– Minority
– Community
– Equal

And everyone’s favorite word to use… Diversity.

As someone with marginalized identities, it is a constant slap in the face every time someone in our field misuses these terms. What do I mean by misusing?

I mean when we say these words out of context. I mean when we say these words so loosely when they were created with so much purpose and intention.

I remember when I was still an undergraduate student learning about higher education and the impact that the student affairs professionals have on educating students outside of the classroom. I would go to conferences and workshops and I would be amazed by the topics that centered on diversity and identity and multicultural awareness. Honestly, the workshops and those conversations increased my interest in the field even more and got me more excited about the work that I could do to create and increase diversity on college campuses.

I have to come to learn that sometimes all you have to do is utter words like diversity and associated terms to please people, sort of like a magic trick. People are so fascinated about talking about the wonderful things thatdiversity and inclusion can bring, but then they leave it in their dreams and neglect to talk about the real work that needs to be done, and then do it.

What does diversity on campus look like? That depends.

It looks like about 20% of the student population being from marginalized racial populations on a significant number of campuses.

It looks like identity offices being understaffed, lacking funding, and located in isolated spaces where people who need those services are always the ones who know that the offices exist.

It looks like a never-ending attempt to avoid looking racist, not realizing that oppression comes up in other forms of prejudice, neglect, and marginalization. It often looks like damage control and timely celebrations.

When powerful words like diversity begin to lose its meaning, it is difficult to prevent people from interpreting them the way that they want to.

Here are some truths about diversity and inclusion, civility, equity, and equality.

They do not all mean the same thing and you cannot use them interchangeably.
They are not magic words that you can say and not think you do not have to continue to prove.
They are not always about the visibility of people from different walks of life and having surface-level conversations.

If we all cannot understand these truths, we are failing to practice what we preach. We are failing the students who take us for face value. We are failing the students come to us believing that we are working to support their belonging. We are failing our colleagues who came into the field to be agents of change. As a field, if we are misusing these terms, then we are not effectively working towards making society more educated and socially responsible.

When, as a collective, will we get to a point where our actions and decisions as professionals and institutional leaders can match our mission statements and learning outcomes?

 

* As previously posted on GoldenHigherEd.com 

just another poem about fear

“everything you want is on the other side of fear.”

 

i know better.
i want to start this off by saying that I know better
knowing better doesn’t make the fear go away instantly
you can’t shake fear off like a dog on your leg
you can’t shake fear off like dirt on your shoulder
you don’t get to shake fear off just cause you said f*ck fear
cause fear doesn’t give a damn about your what you say
until you say you’re scared.

 

My Last First Day as an #SAGrad

I finally reached the last semester of my graduate program and I am a step closer in attaining my Master of Science degree in Higher Postsecondary Education. I have to say even though it’s been less than two years, it feels like it’s been a long time coming. This experience has not only educated me about this field that I am about to enter, it has challenged me to be who I am in space that I don’t know very well. I have gotten more comfortable with solitude, comfortable in myself, while growing comfortable and uncomfortable with others and the way that I respond to them.

My last first day of grad school has been no different than the previous first day of classes but my mentality has changed now that I am closer to the end. There is no more room for wondering about my potential to succeed in grad school. If I made it past the previous semesters, I am confident that this semester will be the semester that I will be focused from the beginning to the end.

I am taking my last two classes this semester; one being Inequality and Intergroup Relations in Education and the other is Legal Issues in Higher Education. I am very interested in both courses but I am nervous because I find that the content of these courses are very specific, so I hope that I can keep myself interested and engaged all semester.

Along with completing my degree, I also have to focus in on my work at my job and also my job search process. On the surface, it seems like a lot to deal with but I feel like I am now at a higher place where I feel capable that I will not just survive this semester, but I will thrive. I will excel in everything that I am responsible for and committed to.

Here’s to making it to May 15th, with degree in hand,  good grades, and hopefully an accepted job offer! 116 Days Left 🙂

You “Woke” Yet? Probably Not.

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Photo Credit: Paul Heaston Via Craftsy.com

I am starting to hate the term “woke.” I roll my eyes when I hear someone say “stay woke.” And it was never like this before. I used to think everyone needed to open their eyes to recognize the nonsense that happens in our society that affects our identities.

For the sake of making some sense, most of this post will primarily refer to racial identity and the level of consciousness that people have (or are expected to have) but can also apply to other dimensions of identity as well. In the past few years, I have noticed and witnessed the great changes in people about understanding of multiple identities. My friends, colleagues, and social media connections are more vocal about social justice issues in that they are having conversations online and in person, which I truly believe is great. It’s important to be in touch with society and the way it works visibly and inconspicuously.

As we learn more about ourselves, others, and where we are with making sense of our identities, we will change. The way that we interpret the media will change. The way that we react to social justice/injustice will change. We will even come to realize that our interactions with others are no longer the same.

The potential drawback with developing consciousness is that we have less patience and understanding for people who don’t have enough (or have enough for us to deal with). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in grad school thinking to myself Isn’t this common sense? Why don’t my classmates get it? Why aren’t we talking about (insert racist/discriminatory/oppressive situation here)And to this day those thoughts are hard for me to shake.

As a Black person, especially in this day and age, there is a great and growing awakening among us when it comes to our level of consciousness. And despite what the rest of my post may say, I think that it is amazing. I am very happy that we are understanding themselves more and are no longer ignoring the BS, the micro/macro aggression that comes with being Black. I am happy that we have become more proud of ourselves and are being active in embracing our cultures. However, I (as an individual) am also nervous. While many of us have awoken, we have also begun to shame each other for the decisions that we make, for what some of us believe and don’t believe, perceiving each other as ignorant and stupid, and have begun to believe that we have a say about the level of Blackness that we all should have.

Honestly, it’s very hard not to get upset when there are many different ways to interpret or understand situations in our society. But if you get anything out of this post, it should be this: my consciousness ≠ your consciousness.

In a Facebook post I shared a few days ago I wrote:

I try really hard not to judge people for being more or less aware about things than I am because I really believe that everyone has their own journey of “woke”-ness to deal with. But I can never wholeheartedly feel like because I am at a certain level of consciousness that they need to be on that same level. Some people will never get that “woke.” And honestly, that is okay. But who am I shame them when we all interpret things differently? We all have different truths. My truths are not better than yours, they are MINE, as complex as can be.

I truly believe that, despite how I may feel about others who don’t get it. It’s important to consider where people come from, their identities, their upbringing, their values and beliefs, what they know, and what they think they know. Ultimately, all of those factors and more determine how “woke” someone is and/or will be. People need to be able to open their eyes at their own pace. Although with that said, there’s nothing all too wrong with helping them along the way.

Use social media as a tool. Share posts of things, events, and people that you are interested in. Write a blog post or a tweet, or post a picture on Instagram. You may never know whose perspective you’ll change or how many minds you will open.

Make room for open discussions to discuss topics with your peers. Similar to my previous point, some people never talk about things like race, religion, class, the government, etc. so their opinion on those topics could be very limited to their own understanding. Sharing perspectives helps each of you recognize that that there’s no one way to view a topic.

Don’t be afraid to connect to people who are as “woke” as you. Sometimes you really just need to be around like-minded folk to keep you at bay and to share experiences and insight with.

On the flip side…

Don’t confront people with the intent to shame them. Don’t be surprised if people clap back if it seemed like you shamed them either. People do not deserve to feel isolated or like they are problematic just because they are not “woke” enough for you. We either need to learn to develop patience for our peers and our communities or we need to be better in finding others who get it.

So are you woke yet? Probably not. Might not ever be. But you have to work on that for yourself, not for anyone else.

 

Blogging, Writing Poetry, Journaling – Different stories, Same Author

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Photo Credit: Princeton Writing Program

Sometimes in my mind, I ask myself why do I like writing? I never give myself the right answer. Sometimes I convince myself that I am an interesting person with interesting things to talk about. Sometimes I convince myself and try to convince others that I have a story to tell. All the time, I convince myself that I’m not always a verbal person and none of thoughts sound more organic or make more sense until I can see them in front of me.

I think about a lot and I hate it because when I’m in deep thought, I never have a pen and paper or a writing tool near me. I also have a questionable memory in that I could remember something happening but not remember how it made me feel or if the impact of what happened was something worth the energy to try and remember.

So I write to keep up with myself, my ever changing mind, and an ever changing world. By the end of last year, I wanted to begin writing more in different forms and on different platforms.

So first, I came back to my blog. It was important for me to take greater ownership of a space that I created for myself and I cannot do that effectively if I am not seeking to define what my blog is supposed to do and what it is supposed to feature. Initially, I was going with the idea that all of my posts were going to be related to higher education/student affairs and responding societal flaws. However, I realized that although I like to write about those topics, those aren’t always going to be the topics that make me want to write and share my thoughts. So in developing my blog more, I started to visit other blogs that I follow to understand how they design and format their blogs to make their content fit. I came back to my site and made a lot of changes to the theme, to my about page, to my menus. I still feel like I need more pictures on my site but that would have to wait until I finally decide to take pictures.

I still continue to write poetry time to time because eventually I would like to publish a chapbook of some sorts. I’m not writing as much poetry as I would like to, but at the same time, I am not really the type of poet who can write anything at any time. I need personal inspiration, most of my poems are ignited by some energy I receive based off of my feelings. During my previous semester in grad school, I found time to attend writers’ workshops for a poetry program on campus called Verbal Blend. It was an amazing experience. The workshops challenged me to write about things that I seldom think about and also things that I think a lot about but reluctant to dedicate a piece to it. Participating in the writers’ workshops made me a better poet and encouraged me to be more honest in my creative writing because I always try to find ways to not say what I’m trying to say. Writing poetry also helps me consider public speaking more. Out of all the forms of writing I do, it’s poetry that makes me want to be more vocal with my words. Sometimes I wish that I was good at memorizing my pieces like all the poets I watch on YouTube, but to me it’s more about the words than the delivery.

For Christmas 2015, I bought myself the ultimate journal package, which to me is:

  • A journal, with a bookmark ribbon. I’m not too concerned about how it looks but it needs to have a bookmark ribbon.
  • The book 365 Journal Writing Ideas (the real MVP)
  • A pack of Black Papermate Flair Pens. If I needed to write everything by hand for the rest of my life, my only request is that I get to do it in these pens, they are my absolute favorite.

Like many inconsistent writers who still write, I have at least three journals that have words in it with the days of the week from the past, but they are not complete. I would love to complete a journal for once. Not only would I like to complete a journal, I would love to complete a journal that I could come back to and find somethings that are meaningful to remember about myself and improve or maintain (I’m all about personal development, if you didn’t know). That reason alone is why I decided to buy 365 Journal Writing Ideas; I wanted to journal more with a purpose. The prompts in the book are amazing so far, I really feel like I have done more purposeful writing. I’m still working on remembering that the journal is supposed to be a personal and private space and I do not think that I have broken it in just yet, but it’s only been a few weeks, so I’ll get there.

In blogging, poetry writing, and journaling, I am the same person but my approaches on each are very different. My mindset is different in each. In blogging, I use more of my mind. In poetry, I use more of my soul. And in journaling, I think that I use a mix of both. I don’t think that makes any of the stories that I share outweigh each other. But I like that I could be versatile in how I write and how my words come off to others.

For those who like to write, keep writing. Whether you are blogging, writing a short story or a poem, or writing in a journal, your words are important. Your words help you learn who you are, what you believe in, and what makes you feel good about you.

 

My One Word for 2016

thrive

Instead of making resolutions for the New Year, I am taking on a new approach to keep me working towards a better self and a better life. I recently remembered about #oneword through viewing tweets on my timeline, and thought about how such a great idea that is. When I write a number of resolutions, there’s always the likelihood that one or two or more are not going to be accomplished. Don’t get me wrong, the resolutions that I set last year did help me work towards something tangible, but I also think that it would have helped if I instilled something in place to connect them all, so that they will all get accomplished.

2015 was a pretty fair year to me. After the challenging year of 2014, I think that 2015 was a great beginning for me working on myself and my relationships with others. There were some downs of course, many that I felt responsible for and many that I really had no control over. Nonetheless, those downs were nowhere near stronger than the ups that I had in 2015.

As you can see from above, I have decided to make my #oneword “thrive.” I will be going through a grand amount of changes and situations this year; starting my job search, graduation right around the corner, and hopefully starting a new job in a new city. And I know after this chapter, a new one is to begin, and I cannot afford to let the experiences happen to me. To me, thriving is living in and beyond the moments that you make, whether they are good or bad (hopefully more good).

I want to thrive in my last semester of graduate school. I want to thrive during my job search. I want my relationships with others to thrive and manifest into stronger bonds. I want my physical and mental wellness to thrive so that I can be that I am meant to be.

Looking forward to 2016!

* Photo from JenniferLake.com