Highlight A Woman: Stacy Oliver-Sikorski

By Kathryn Magura

Hello everyone! Today I have the pleasure of highlighting a woman who has not only been a pioneer of advocacy for women in Student Affairs, she is also a good friend of mine. Stacy Oliver-Sikorski has been a mainstay in the Student Affairs community on Twitter. Surprisingly, Stacy has never been featured in this series, so consider that glitch fixed!

  1. Tell us a little about yourself, and how you use technology in your professional role? I currently serve as the Associate Director of Residence Life for Student Success at Lake Forest College, a small, private liberal arts college 30 miles north of Chicago. In my role, I work primarily with housing operations — including room assignment processes , academic programming, and student conduct. Technology is imperative in my role. If our office is a bus, my role is serving as the computer in the engine. I work intently with our student information system, our conduct software, and we recently started the implementation of a housing software solution to assist with assignments and operations.
  2. What advice do you have for women looking to get into a career path of leadership in technology? Very simply, you can’t break it. People, especially women, are intimidated by technology and afraid of breaking something. I jump in, feet first, and start testing the limits of our solutions. I ask questions when I don’t see a function that would be helpful for me. I try new things. I always have a test student in each of our systems so I can run through a series of processes before launching something more widely. I meet regularly with Tonja, my colleague in IT, to talk through what I have going on in my world and what ideas she has for helping. I regularly ask her to teach me things so I can do them for myself, rather than letting her do them for me semester after semester.
  3. SLOWhen you were younger, did you ever see yourself pursuing a career in technology? Absolutely not. I’ve always been a nerd, but in different ways. This position is the first place that all of these separate interests have collided into something that finally makes sense for me.
  4. When you were younger, did you ever see yourself pursuing a career in technology? Absolutely not. I’ve always been a nerd, but in different ways. This position is the first place that all of these separate interests have collided into something that finally makes sense for me.
  5. What are some barriers for women in technology? Women are afraid to ask questions, afraid to look stupid in front of others.  But it’s through asking those questions that we learn. Women are also not always given access to technology in the way men are, even from the time they are young. Open doors for yourself, tear down walls. Even if you don’t have the solutions, asking the right questions is a perfectly valid reason to claim your seat at the technology table.
  6. Who are your female role models (student affairs or otherwise)? Oh, you don’t have time for this list. Deb Schmidt-Rogers at DePaul University is who I aspire to be; Anne Lombard at SUNY-ESF is my cherished mentor of 11 years; Kristen Abell at UMKC is someone whose courage and passion is awe inducing; Kathy Collins at Michigan State University is a force in this field and in my life.
  7. If you were one of the seven dwarves, which would you be and why? Sneezy. I’m allergic to EVERYTHING. I sneeze twice every morning while eating a banana, and I have no idea why (neither does my allergist). 🙂


Thank you for sharing your story, Stacy!

Highlight A Woman: Stacy Oliver-Sikorski

A post about a post

By Valerie Heruska

In approximately 14 days (give or take a day, depending on when you read this), it will be 2014. With a new year comes all of those “Year in Review” lists. I love reading these lists because it gives us the opportunity to look back on the great, good, the bad, and in some instances (like mine) the very ugly.  I’ve decided to write a short little post regarding these posts because  I have a few tips on what you should include, should you ever be inclined to write one:

1. New additions to your life. I think this can be a very general topic. Have new kids, great. Have a new TV… even better.  It doesn’t matter what the “new” is in your life, as long as it makes you happy. I’m totally going to write about my new life in Bloomington, IN.

2. Out with the old. What did you purge is 2013? I purged a lot: significant others, clothes, weight (the healthy way), shoes, kitchenware, books (I know), lots of money (because I moved.. not by choice). Purging is very cleansing and good for the soul. If you haven’t purged in 2013, go ahead and do it now. Seriously, you’ll feel better.

3. Fun Facts. I want to know what fun things people did in 2013. Did you run 4 half marathons? Did you go some place new? Did you hang out with someone famous (if you did… I want to know). Sharing your fun things, it’s definitely something we don’t do enough.

4. The tough stuff. I know everything isn’t always rainbows and sunshine. What are some of the challenges you faced in 2013? What did you learn from them? What are you going to do in 2014 to improve on those challenges? Be vulnerable, we will love you and support you.

5. Wild card. This is one of my favorite topics. Did anything weird happen to you? Did you end up in a hilarious situation? Write about anything you want! I’m still figuring out my wild card topic. Oh wait.. no I have it. Moving on…

These are just some of the suggestions I have about writing your end-of-year post. I love reading them, so I hope you can share yours in the comments section of this post.  If you think of any other topics, go ahead and share. Happy Writing!

A post about a post

Follow Friday: Financial Empowerment

by Jess (Faulk) Samuels

This time of year I am always searching the web for the best deals, the best gifts, and the ideas on how to save money during a time when expenses can skyrocket.  Between that flight home, gifts for the family, and gift exchanges in the office, you can end up spending way more than you intended to.  As student affairs professionals, you are likely on a tight budget, paying down school loans while saving for your financial goals.  Today’s follow Friday highlight two sites, run by women, and for women to help you plan for the future, and save right now.

LearnVest, @LearnVest


This website was first brought to my attention when I met the founder, Alexa von Tobel,  at Internet Week New York.  I was inspired by her focus on educating women about money.  The free version of this site offers education bootcamps on everything from “living a debt free life” to “getting hitched.”  Also, like mint.com it allows for you to set up a budget and link bank accounts so you can plan better, for big life moments, or just making sure you have enough saved for all of the Hanukkah gifts you plan on buying.

Money Saving Mom @moneysavingmom


I stumbled upon this site when I was looking for online coupons.  This site is run by an awesome, authentic mom, Crystal Paine, who prides herself on saving money and offering tips for you to as well.  In her bio, she states, that her mission “is to challenge women to wisely steward their time and resources and live life on purpose.”  I was especially impressed by the organization, with drop down menus for coupons, store deals, and freebies.

I am a sucker when it comes to beautiful design, and easy to navigate layout –  which both of these sites do very well.  Do  you have favorite sites for money saving, money planning, and empowering us to know our finances?  Share them in the comments!


Follow Friday: Financial Empowerment

Choosing a Spring National Conference

by Josie Ahlquist

As we approach the New Year, tis the season for a restful and joyous holiday season.  But come January, early bird deadlines for spring professional association national conferences await.  If you have not already made your professional development plans, making a quick decision to save on registration fees could lead to conference attendee remorse.

There are many things to consider when choosing a conference.  Recently, I have found myself torn in choosing conferences, with the inner wish that I could attend them all.  Colleagues and I have joked that if we could attend conferences as part of our job, we’d do it.

In Student Affairs, there are number of popular conferences offered across the country each spring, which I will highlight in this post.  There may be many others I have not included, either offered in the fall or at the regional level which are also popular.  I will also provide suggestions for elements to consider when choosing to attend one or more of these, as well as how to approach your institution to receive support.

Student Affairs Related Spring Professional Association Conferences (by date)







Elements to Consider in Selecting a Conference

1.  Your Conference Goals.  

Before committing to a conference, you should have a clear purpose for attending.  For example, if you know that you will soon be taking on supervision responsibilities in the next year, you will seek out sessions that explore management, as well as network with attendees whom have experience in supervising.  Another example is if you are about to enter a job search, so attending a conference that has a job placement element should be a priority.

What is not a goal to go to a conference?  Picking a conference based upon location, such as Hawaii or Florida, even worse not being an active participant once at the conference because you are ‘vacationing’.  Be respectful to the conference planners, as well as your own resources.  While vacations can be paired with conference travel, as a professional you should separate your time, such as taking that time before or after, especially if you are bringing family.

 2.  Add Up Your Costs

I have provided the registration costs, at the early bird rate for both Member, non-member and student rates.  Keep in mind registration will always be cheaper for members.  If you are not already a member, you with pay more for registration or also pay for a costly yearly membership fee.  An easy decision, could be only attending conference to organizations you are already a member of.  In order of early bird deadline.

  • NASPA: Early Bird Ends January 10th Member $410 Student Member $125 Non-Member $585
  • ACUI: Early Deadline by January 8th Member $795 Students $395 Non Member $1,025
  • NACA: Early bird January 24th Members – $351  Non-Members – $483
  • ACPA: Early Bird February 18th Member $499 Student $215 Non-Member $700
  • NIRSA: Early bird March 12th Member $540 Nonmember $700 Student Member $350
  • ACUHO-I: Early Registration May 14th Member $560 Non-Member $760

Just the conference registration is the tip of the iceberg on your conference budget.  Additional items include: flight, hotel, ground transportation (taxi, bus, rental car, etc) and meals.

So, here are few things that can make or break conference costs:

  • Look to see if meals are included in the conference.  This could save you $50-250.  Usually larger conference, such as national ones do not.
  • Think about getting a roommate.  I have seen conference hotel rates anywhere from $150 up to $300 per night.  Splitting those costs even in half will be significant.  Some conferences have roommate matching services.
  • Look for a conference that is closer, possibly having the ability to drive or even carpool.
  • If driving or renting a car, what are the conference site parking fees.  In large cities, these can range to surprisingly high amounts.
  • Does the hotel/conference site offer complementary wifi?  If not, this could range from $10-25 per day.

3.  Conference Details

Explore the Keynote Speakers.  Conferences typically include 2-3 major speakers.  Especially for national conferences, big names are sought out and highly marketed to entice potential attendees.  For example, ACPA secured a couple big names this year: Erik Qualman and Brene Brown.

Educational Sessions.  A major part of conferences are smaller sessions for 10-60 attendees.  These sessions typically are vetted through conference reviewer’s, months prior.  At many conferences, it is very competitive to be offered an opportunity to present so the quality if typically high.  Ideally as a attendee, you would submit an educational session to any conference you are interested in attending.  However, based upon early deadlines, no conference I have mentioned still are offering submissions.

Conference Theme & Mission.  Every year, conference themes change, which will impact the type of experience such as educational sessions attendees will experience.  Also consider the target population and mission of the conference.  For example, NASPA and ACPA reach through all disciplines, while NACA and NIRSA will be more geared to Student Activities and Recreation, respectively.

Attendees. I have found the number and type of attendees can make a huge difference in helping meet conference goals.  For example, if your goal is to connect with professionals in the northeast, because that is where you are job searching, an ideal conference would be located on the east coast.  Also, there are some conferences that are geared more for undergraduate students in delegations, over professionals, which will change the feeling of the conference.  Finally, based upon the amount of attendees can make it more or less challenging to get into sessions or even restaurants.  For the large national conferences, be prepared to plan ahead and possibly be flexible in your choices.

In Person & Online Networking.   A priceless component of attending professional conferences is the networking.  While some individuals are brave enough to go up to a person they would like to meet while grabbing coffee or in-between a session, others need formal methods.  Look in the schedule for receptions, socials or networking events that will aid in building your networks.

Also just as important is the online networking of a conference.  For example NASPA 2014 conference hashtag is #NASPA14, so everyone can start the conference conversation even before the conference.

Conference Extras.  Especially if you are traveling a long distance, it may be worth looking for a conference that also offers a pre-conference ½ or full day experience.  For example, NACA has a Strengths Quest Institute directly before the conference.

Involvement & Volunteer Opportunities.  A great way to meet people and get the most out of a conference is volunteering.  For example, conferences need help at registration, gathering evaluations in sessions or directing traffic for events.  Finally, look into how to get more involved in the association in a leadership position, as a long-term commitment to the organization.


Receiving Institutional/Supervisor Support

After reviewing the costs related to attending a professional association conference, you may be overwhelmed with how everything adds up.  As in most professions, higher education typically supports employees in receiving professional development through attending these experiences.

However with budget cuts and shifting priorities, some universities or certain departments do not send professionals to conferences.  At this point in this post, I will disclose that I am a long-standing member of NASPA, attending as many regional and national conferences as I am able, and involved in many areas of the association such as the Region VI Volunteer Coordinator, Faculty Council Doctoral Student Representative and Technology Knowledge Community Emerging Practices Coordinator.

It is becoming more and more common to spend personal money on conference attendance.  In the past 10 years of fulltime student affairs positions, I have picked up a few tips for negating for professional development funds, specifically to be used on conference attendance.

  1.  Propose a yearlong professional development budget to your supervisor in the summer.  Spell out all projected costs, dates away from the office, etc.  Allow this to open the conversation for a plan for the year, early on.
  2. Submit educational sessions for all conferences you would like to attend.  This will be a selling point to your institution for being a university representative and an active attendee.
  3. If there is an association that you are committed to, by taking on a leadership position, not only does it give back to the association but also shows your institution that your conference attendance is more than a one time thing.
  4. Be flexible in negotiating for funding support.  Here are a few examples:
  • Split costs half and half.
  • Split other cost such as you will pay for the registration and food, while your institutions tacks care of travel and hotel costs.
  • If no funds are available, ensure time away from the office will not need to be taken as vacation time .

I’d love to hear other conferences to consider in Student Affairs this spring and early summer.  What helps you make a conference decision?  How have you successfully negotiated for institution support?

After considering and implementing a number of suggestions I have offered here, I have decided on attending both NASPA and ACPA.  Hope to see you there!  If you can’t attend, follow me at @josieahlquist as I’ll be tweeting out session content!

Choosing a Spring National Conference

Best Practices for Creating Community in a Graduate Program

By Niki Messmore

If student affairs graduate programs were to be depicted in a painting, they would most likely be said to resemble one of Bob Ross’ “happy trees”. In reality, graduate school is often more of a ‘whomping willow’ than a happy tree. Grad school can be difficult in many ways (class/work/life balance) but it can be an especially isolating experience. I’ve written about the 4 types of #sagrad loneliness before in my personal blog and was surprised to hear from the number of people who identified with those experiences.

Community is key to supporting student success and I would like to discuss best practices for creating a community within a student affairs graduate program; particularly through social media.

I’ve taken on several roles, both official and unofficial, to help create, build, and sustain community in Indiana University’s Higher Education & Student Affairs (HESA) program through social media.  We’ve experienced success in building community through Twitter and Facebook during recruitment, orientation, and ongoing experiences, and I’d love to share some practices that have worked for our program.


1. Explore a deeper understanding of social media, both as a philosophy and the technical aspects. Social media works when there is engagement; i.e. capture people’s emotions, ask questions, interact, post interesting news about the program, etc.

2. Create a social media guide. Identify the purpose that social media will play in building community within the cohorts and the strategies that will help to engage students. For example, the guide I created is 5 pages and identifies our philosophy on social media and how we will be engaging students, alumni, faculty, and friends via Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. Intentionality is the key to success.

3. Create a ‘how-to’ guide. The term ‘digital native’ is unrealistic and we can’t expect all grad students to understand how to use the different social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, etc). Consider writing a manual if you don’t have one already. For example, I’ve written a 13-page document (Professional Social Networking for the #SAgrad) outlining how to technically use social media (create and manage accounts), how to professionally use social media (live tweets, student affairs hashtags and connections), and best practices.


Twitter usage is increasing in the student affairs world thanks to excellent live tweeting sessions and hashtags that connect us across institutions. Therefore Twitter is not only a tool to engage students within a grad program but good professional development.

1. Create a Twitter account for your program. For example, the IU HESA program has a Twitter account for the HESA student organization that I currently manage (IUSPA_HESA). This will give you an official voice in sending out news, interacting with students, and reaching out to alumni, faculty, and staff. Several other great programs out there tweeting with their students include BGSU BGSDA, UT HEASPA, Northeastern CSDA, Baylor HESA, and FSU HESA.

2. Create a program hashtag. Make sure it is unique (check Twitter to see if it gets used by unaffiliated people), captures your program brand, links the reader back to your program (i.e., that it makes sense), and is easy to remember. For example, for IU’s HESA program uses #IUHESA. It was first used by alum Sean Ryan Johnson in 2011 but has been sporadically used since then; I revived it as part of our branding in July. Since then there have been almost 200 tweets using the hashtag. It’s helped masters, doctoral, faculty, and alumni connect to one another over Twitter and has been great in building relationships with one another; adoption of the hashtag by the IU School of Education has been beneficial as well.

Other examples actively used by SA programs include #IUPSAHE and #HESAnation; my search did not demonstrate that there are many grad programs actively using hashtags to connect with one another.

3. Create lists. On your Twitter profile you can follow people and add them to lists that can be made public. Create separate lists for alumni, institutional student affairs staff, and faculty. This will allow people to use the program Twitter account to find one another and interact.


1. Create a Facebook group for your interview weekends. One current first-year student informed me that IU’s Facebook group for the outreach experience was a strong factor in selecting IU. Why? Because she really cared for the community that was built in the Facebook group.  Current HESA students posted in the Facebook group, encouraged questions in group, interacted with prospective students, and during the weekend experience many group photos were uploaded – effectively building a welcoming community for students.

2. Create a Facebook group for your admitted cohorts (one for each cohort and then one combined group has been effective for us). This increases opportunities for interactions in both a fun and academic capacity. For example, our Facebook groups are a combination of social plans, updating on events, and sharing articles to help create discussion on issues of social justice and other areas of higher education.


This is a brief outline of some of the best practices in creating community via social media during my time at Indiana University’s HESA program. Based on personal observation, I can see a distinct difference in the HESA community, especially among first-year grad students. I believe that social media, coupled with creating social events in July and August, helped to build a stronger community within the program.

How does your program use social media to build community? Do you think social media engagement relates to overall program engagement? Leave a comment or tweet me at @NikiMessmore.



Best Practices for Creating Community in a Graduate Program

A Season of Kindness – A Legacy of Hope

By Kathryn Magura

It’s the holiday season again, and many of us find ourselves in the midst of prepping feasts and presents for friends and family. I try to take time to savor the precious time with my family during the holidays (I love getting to experience the holidays through my niece and nephew), but find myself getting very wrapped up in the hustle of activity this time of year. Before I know it, it’s January, and I’m slugging through a new year.

I’ve been spending some time over the last couple weeks reflecting on my legacy. I know, I’m still fairly young (unless you ask my students), but I’m also getting to an age where the realism of mortality is all around me. We all have a relatively short amount of time on this earth, what are we doing to leave this place better for the generations to come after us?

Once again, it appears that my good friend Stacy Oliver-Sikorski is reading my mind, because she posted a challenge on her blog for the month of December. Perform 31 acts of kindness over the course of the month, and share them on social media via the hashtag #31RAOK.

When I read Stacy’s post, I marveled at what an excellent idea it was, and vowed to support her and others as they proceeded to perform these random acts of kindness over the month. It never occurred to me that I’d actually participate. Funny how life works sometimes then isn’t, because on December 1st, I found myself performing my first random act of kindness. Now, I’m quite the planner, so there is very little that’s random about my approach to things. That said, it was fun to just sort of give into the moment and follow my intuition.

Monday, I did the same thing – followed my intuition by showing a little kindness to a stranger. Not only does it feel great to bestow a simple gesture of caring to someone unsuspecting, I find it to be very contagious to see what other people are doing to care for others. I am hoping to continue participating in this challenge throughout the month, as long as it feels organic and right.

So here’s my challenge to you all: What will be your legacy? As we go through the holiday season, I encourage you think about this question from a perspective of how you can provide joy to others. Whether you participate in the #31RAOK challenge, or find other ways to give, find some intentionality to how you approach this time of year. You may just be surprised by what you learn about yourself in the process.

A Season of Kindness – A Legacy of Hope