The Power of Pictures

by Kristen Abell and Sue Caulfield

If you have been following the student affairs blogosphere at all lately, there’s a good chance you’ve seen several blogs with companion illustrations, or #Suedles, as they’re fondly known.

Suedle about SuedlesIllustration by the amazing Sue Caulfield

Sue Caulfield has been spreading her work across numerous blogs besides her own and sharing the Suedle love. I’ve been mulling over a topic for the last few weeks trying to come up with something worthy of one of her illustrations, and I thought there was no better time to involve her than in a blog about her drawings and how they’ve infiltrated student affairs.

Why are these illustrations so powerful? I think part of it has to do with the prevalence of the written word in student affairs. We read, read and read some more – whether it’s articles, books, blog posts, or tweets, those of us engaging online are reading ourselves silly. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be the last person to discourage reading – I think we mostly enjoy it, too. But these illustrations are so refreshing to those of us inundated with words, that we can’t help but be drawn to them.

And of course, there is something about the illustrations themselves – Sue has done a masterful job in taking full and complex ideas and boiling them down to a single image. I think we love her drawings because they tell so much more than we can with just a tweet or a blog post. They take us beyond the written word and allow us to picture ourselves in them.

Somebody indicated on Twitter that we should make Sue our official student affairs artist, and I couldn’t agree more. Here’s to seeing more #Suedles in the student affairs blogosphere!

What do you like about Sue’s illustrations?


The Power of Pictures

I’m Shivering – Either Winter is Coming or There’s a ‘Chilly Climate’ in Student Affairs

By Niki Messmore

I’ve been fortunate to have some excellent women mentors both as an undergrad at Bowling Green State University and during my masters at Indiana University. Indeed, I feel fortunate with how many women I’ve been able to work with in student affairs. But this summer I began to think about gender representation within higher education. Student affairs is a field that is predominantly female, yet many of our senior student affairs officers (SSAO) are white men (Engstrom, McIntosh, Ridzi, & Kruger, 2006).

So the question I have to ask is “Why aren’t there more women in senior student affairs positions?”

It seems strange, does it not? The field appears to embrace diversity and social justice – after all, “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion” are one of the core competencies of student affairs. So why is there a disconnect? Even from a mathematical standpoint, if there is a larger population of women within the field then one would assume that more women would be senior officers.

Is there sexism in student affairs?

I’ll be honest with you: I don’t have an answer to these musings. I think this an area that we need to discuss as a field (#SAchillyclimate, anyone?).

There is a lack of research that analyzes the lack of female representation in SSAO positions, according to Yakaboski & Donahoo (2011), but here is a starting list of possible explanations

  • Institutional Sexism: According to Acker (1990) organizational hierarchies are male dominated and the institutional structure demands conformity to male norms. Simply put, men are more likely to be seen as best representative of university leadership and women are not seen ‘as a good fit’ for leadership because they do not fit into those male norms; if anything women must assimilate in order to get promoted (Dale, 2007) – or get put into a ‘binder full of women’.
  • Retention: Dissatisfaction due to sex discrimination and racial discrimination causes women to want to leave their positions (Blackhurst, 2000)
  • Female Socialization: girls are taught to be nice and take care of another person’s needs over their own and not ask for things for themselves. This results in women not asking (or even realizing they can ask) for raises and promotion (Babcock & Laschever, 2007).
  • Not on the ‘Right’ Track: Women, through their own volition or due to the institution, tend to work in roles that do not lead to SSAO positions. For example, studies show that Black women are concentrated in student affairs roles that are directly responsible for promoting diversity initiatives (Howard-Hamilton & Williams, 1996; Konrad & Pfeffer, 1991;Moses, 1997, cited in Belk 2006)
  • Fewer Mentors: With few women SSAO, there are fewer women to mentor other women, creating a full-circle affect (Sagaria, & Rychener, 2002, as cited in Stimpson, 2009)

What are your thoughts?  Do you agree with any of these explanations? Which ones would you add? How does the intersectionality of race, sexual orientation, ability, and other identities affect the promotion of women in student affairs?

Taking it further, if you identify as a man, do you think there is anything you (or your university) does that contributes to a chilly climate for women? What have you seen on your campus?

And if you identify as a woman, have you experienced any of these challenges to promotion or know someone who has?

Please leave a comment below. I welcome you to also join me in a conversation on Twitter (@NikiMessmore) under the tag #SAchillyclimate. Let’s talk this out. I’m interested in your experiences.


**”Winter is coming” – a pop culture reference from Game of Thrones. See the meme here

I’m Shivering – Either Winter is Coming or There’s a ‘Chilly Climate’ in Student Affairs

What’s up with WhatsApp?

By Josie Ahlquist

This will serve as my first official post as part of the blogging team on Student Affairs Women Talk Tech, which I am honored to be part of!  I am a second year doctoral student at California Lutheran University, with my research based around social media and higher education.

I will admit my primary lens of technology in higher ed is through communications, marketing and community development, hence why many of my posts will have roots in social media.  I am not always an early adopter or ‘in the know’ about every new device or platform.   It takes a little convincing and sometimes even a couple tries for something new to sink in.  Many times I will explore a new application, but with the intent of answering two questions: the what and the why.

So, I appreciated the challenge of specifically highlighting an app, which has been picking up steam with youth around the globe called WhatsApp.  Last week a number of articles were released, featuring the strength of WhatsApp, especially to youth.  I caught myself asking, “What’s Up with WhatsApp?!”

As listed on their company website:

“WhatsApp Messenger is a cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS.”

The company started in 2009 from previous Yahoo staff, with now 10 billion messages per day.  The reported that CEO Jan Koum announced there are 350 million active users, up 50 million just from August.

What does this mean?  An article from The guardian claimed it makes WhatsApp the largest messaging app in the world by users, even more than Twitter at 218 million.

Finally, what really got my attention was an ABC News feature, on how teens are leaving Facebook for WhatsApp.  The article points to teens finding networks that adults are not on and are instant communication tools.

Armed with information (like a true doctoral student/qualitative researcher), I sought to understand from others why they use WhatsApp.  I took to the Twitter stream, seeing if any of my followers actively used it.

Within seconds, responders cheered.  The common theme: communication with family in other countries.  This makes sense, as WhatsApp has the strongest force outside of the United States.

For me, without close family in other countries, it is hard to know if I would have begun using this application at an earlier date.  Come to find out, I have had the app downloaded on my iPhone for sometime, buried in a folder three swipes in.

Logging into the application was simple and automatically populated with the contacts in my phone.   When I downloaded it over a year ago, I added the byline “exploring.”  While I am still not what WhatsApp would classify as one of their 350 million active users, I am keeping a close eye and, as my byline announces, still exploring.

I encourage my colleagues to do the same.  Applications will surge, settled and compete against the next emerging platform.  For WhatsApp, this is against WeChat, who has a strong presence in China and 235 million monthly active users globally.

No matter the app, what can be assumed is that mobile communication applications are in demand.  Mobile users are looking for alternative methods for messaging other than text, especially those connecting internationally.   As higher education professionals the challenge is not to download every emerging app, rather gaining an understanding of trends and answering the what and the why.

Happy Exploring!




What’s up with WhatsApp?

Follow Friday: East Coast Edition

By Kathryn Magura

It’s my favorite day of the week, Friday! Not only does the culmination of busy week come to an end, it’s Follow Friday day on the blog! I love this blog series because it gives our blogging community an opportunity to highlight some people or places to follow (in a non creepy way, I promise).

I’m excited to present what I’m referring to as an East Coast Edition of the Follow Friday series, because I am choosing to highlight two women I admire who happen to reside on the east coast. And they say east and west coasts can’t get along!

  1. Cindy Kane: Cindy is the Director of Student Involvement and Leadership at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts. I first “met” Cindy soon after I found the #sachat community on Twitter, and instantly knew that this smart and witty woman was incredibly kind and authentic. Cindy is known for adding wonderful insights into conversations, and is especially adept at discussing the intricacies of the Strengths Finder assessment. Cindy and I frequently commiserate about our shared Individualization strength, and how exhausting it can be. As a bonus, Cindy is the proud mother of the most hilarious red haired kid I know on Twitter: Little Red Said.
  2. Sue Caulfield: One of the things I love about social media is how you can get connected to people you may never meet otherwise, yet are grateful for the opportunity that brought you together. Sue is a recent connection, and someone who quite simply is a joy to know. Sue is caring, compassionate, and quick to advocate for her fellow introverts. Sue and I share a number of nerdy tendencies, which is something I really appreciate. Something that truly inspires me about Sue is her artistic talent. If you haven’t checked out the myriad “suedles” on her website, I would encourage you to look through them. Simply amazing and inspiring!

Check out these two outstanding women on Twitter!

Follow Friday: East Coast Edition

Fitness: Are We Encouraging or Shaming?

by Kristen Abell

In student affairs it seems that this year has been one of focusing on health and wellness (at least in the online world of student affairs). We’ve seen the rise of the #safit hashtag, the Student Affairs Runners group on Facebook, and at a recent regional conference, our participation in the fun run/walk jumped from four last year to over 70 this year. With student affairs being a notoriously unhealthy field – especially in terms of balance – this seems like a welcome change.

And yet.

From the beginning, there has been something about the whole focus on fitness that has bothered me, and it took me awhile to put my finger on it – and even longer to write about it. It feels like when we talk about health and wellness, all we are talking about is physical health and wellness – and for many, what we are also talking about is size. Pictures and stories abound of weight loss, fitting into clothes, being the smallest we’ve been. To me it feels as though some have turned the focus from health to size, and those folks have turned from being supportive of all sizes to being supportive only of those who are making an effort to be a smaller size. I don’t believe anybody has done this intentionally, but it stings, nonetheless. For a field that is supposed to be supportive of all shapes and sizes, we’re acquiring a tendency to shame those of larger sizes because they’re not doing anything about it.

Perhaps part of this is my frustration with my own health issues. I’ve been fighting to breathe easy for so long that physical fitness still sometimes feels like a bit of a luxury to me. So to be told I need to be focusing on running harder or lifting more or losing weight just feels like a small part of the bigger health picture, and it feels out of focus.

And when we keep the focus on physical health, we have lost a large part of that picture. I know I’m sensitive to this because of my own struggles, but it is just as important to me – if not more so – that my mental health is good. And this can take more than just seeking balance. Sometimes it requires doctors, and therapy, and medication. Sometimes it requires that our physical health isn’t just fit, but that we are actually healthy – that we aren’t suffering from other types of illnesses. If we only focus on physical fitness, we’re excluding those who are fighting for even a baseline of health – physical or mental.

This has been a hard post to write – not least because I have several friends who I feel have benefited from the #safit movement. And I want to be clear that I don’t think it’s a bad movement at all. I myself love the encouragement that I get when I post a workout or something positive about my journey to better health. I’ve had several people who also have voiced how much they have been encouraged both from my posts and from this movement. I just think we have to be careful about crossing the border between what is good about this movement toward fitness to becoming more exclusive than encouraging. It’s a fine line, but it’s one that we should be particularly cognizant of as student affairs professionals.

What are your thoughts about the movement toward health and wellness in student affairs?

Fitness: Are We Encouraging or Shaming?

Exciting Changes on the Way!

By Kathryn Magura

Hello everyone! As we move into the cold winter months, also known as conference season in Student Affairs, we wanted to take the opportunity to let you know about some upcoming changes to the blog. Over the next few weeks we will be introducing you to some new bloggers, and wishing some of our previous bloggers well as they move on to new opportunities.

As we move into the winter season, we also wanted to check in with our readers on what you’d like to see on the blog. Are they any segments or features you’d like to see? Are you interested in joining our blog team? Know someone we should ask to submit a guest post? Feel free to hit up the comments with your thoughts.

Exciting Changes on the Way!

Highlight a Woman – Jenny Muschinske

by Lauren Creamer

Jenny Muschinske is one-of-a-kind. She knows what she wants, goes for it, and doesn’t stop until she gets it. She is bold. She is funny and quick to laughter. She puts forth quality work in all aspects of her life. Jenny is one lady I would not mess with.

Jenny graduated from Northeastern University this past May. Like the rest of her cohort-mates, her goal was to have secured a job by the end of the summer. She cast a wide net, as she was set on staying in Boston. Much of her experience lay in student activities and late-night programming, so her aim was to be doing something along those lines. She loves to work directly with students and appreciates the personal interaction that is required when directing and event on the ground. When she wasn’t advising students or doing physical labor herself, she was promoting events through social media – not uncommon for student activities folks. The majority of her experience utilizing technology was focused on developing a following for her events and programs on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

As the summer wandered to an end, Jenny began to apply to jobs increasingly outside of her comfort zone. She was open to trying something new (and really wanted a job… we all did). So, she applied to an administrative assistant position… and was surprised to find she got a call for a completely different job. A few weeks later, Jenny began her position as Assistant Director of the Student Activities Business Office at Northeastern University. (Some stroke of luck, right?!). Jenny wanted to stay in Boston and she got exactly that. (I told you she gets what she wants).

Having spent some years in the field before graduate school, Jenny felt like she was ready to take on this new position. Her job focused changed from heavy student interaction to spending most of her time in front of a computer. When I asked Jenny how she was coping with the increased use of technology (specifically, outside of her wheel house), this was her response:

“It’s a big adjustment going from a role where I was face-to-face interacting with students 90% of the day, to one where much of my interaction happens online.”

Part of Jenny’s role is to approve program funding for Residential Life programs through the still-developing eRezLife software. Instead of spending time brainstorming around a table and submitting paper forms, Resident Assistants are required to plan and track all of their programming efforts in this system.

“I think there are pros and cons to the increased accessibility of doing programming online now.” Jenny says, ” it’s convenient for the students and it helps me to manage my day [instead of running meeting to meeting], but it takes away from the brainstorming that happens when students and staff meet face-to-face to talk about campus programming.”

I asked Jenny how she would like to see eRezLife evolve to encourage more collaboration and she shared the following:

“It’s hard to say so early on, but I’d love to see a message board of some sort where RAs can share successes and challenges. I see so many students submitting proposals for programs that weren’t successful in the past – it would be great to see them sharing these things with each other in the very program they are utilizing.”

And for now? Jenny will keep learning the ropes in her new role and maybe, one day, will get to implement some of the changes she’d love to see.

Highlight a Woman – Jenny Muschinske