Commemorating Transgender Day of Remembrance #TDoR

By Rachel Luna

When I write for this blog, I write from various perspectives: as a student affairs professional, an educator, a tech nerd, etc.  I also write from my perspective as a cisgender woman.  As someone who identifies in this way, I reap multiple privileges, many of which represent safety.  For the most part, I can use the restrooms where I feel most comfortable, people will call me by my preferred name, and I do not have to justify my existence or humanity based on my gender identity.  Unfortunately, for many members of the global transgender community, safety in these ways and others is inadequate or nonexistent.

This Thursday is the 16th annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR).  Held each year on November 20, this day serves to memorialize people who have been killed due to transgender hate or bias.  Events often include a vigil and reading aloud the names of victims who have been killed in the past year (this year’s list is a staggering 11 pages long so far).

A 2013 National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs report shows increases in reports of physical hate violence in 2013 compared to the previous year, with transgender women and people of color among those facing the highest risk of homicide. Data from a national survey on transgender discrimination indicate that 1 in 4 members of the trans* community have experienced violence.  College campuses and higher education are not immune from these social realities as 35% of respondents reported experiencing harassment and bullying in higher education settings.

One way to honor the victims of transphobia is by observing this day and working toward making our campuses and communities safer and more inclusive for all people.  So on Thursday, I invite you to acknowledge and honor the victims of trans* hate, perhaps in one of these ways:

  • Attend a TDoR event – Find an event in your area (check this list of events or this one).
  • Host a vigil and/or dialogue in your community- Create space to host an event in your office, on your campus, or in your neighborhood to honor the victims and reflect on this day.
  • Educate yourself – Enhance your awareness and build your knowledge about the trans* community and issues facing this population.  Read articles (like this one) or visit your campus or community LGBT center to learn more.
  • Honor intersecting identities – I currently work at a health sciences institution, so in addition to memorializing the victims of the past year, I’m screening and discussing a short film regarding transgender cultural competence for medical providers.  You can explore available resources for a variety of intersecting identities, such as the Trans People of Color Coalition and Trans*Athlete.


Commemorating Transgender Day of Remembrance #TDoR

Forging My Own Path

by Kristen Abell

Last week on the #SAchat, the topic was “getting ahead in student affairs” – which I think might have been a little tongue in cheek on the part of the moderator, but I think it still begs a good question. What does it mean to get ahead in student affairs? And exactly why do we strive to do it?

Well, sorry, but I’m not here to answer those questions for you today. Instead, I thought it might be nice to share the path of a nontraditional student affairs professional – one who has bucked the ladder completely, as well as most definitions of getting ahead. Too often we hear of those who progress straight up the ladder and think we must be doing it wrong. I want to offer a different perspective for those who just aren’t sure the ladder is for them.

First of all, I got into student affairs the same way most of us did – as an undergrad who stumbled into an RA role and found I had an aptitude for leadership. But unlike many of our colleagues, I didn’t go on to get my master’s in higher education – I got mine in social welfare. I held down a 20 – 24-hour internship both years of my grad school program while also serving as an assistant hall coordinator. And of course, because of all that, I wore myself down and ended up with pneumonia, but that’s a story for another time.

Once I graduated, I struggled to find a job that was a good fit for me – I was hoping for a job in a women’s center, but those were few and far between. I finally ended up working in a TRIO program on my alma mater’s campus for a year until my partner graduated. We moved together halfway across the country, where I found a job in residence life doing training and curriculum for student staff. In many ways, the position was a great fit for my interests. In other ways, the atmosphere was not. But I stuck it out for my partner’s two years of grad school until we moved again for his first full-time job.

I spent half a year out of work because the university he was working at was going through and economic crisis and was downsizing instead of hiring. I then stumbled across dream job number one – in a women’s center at my alma mater. I worked in this position for approximately two years – it was a sexual assault education and services position. During that time, I had a child and decided I wanted to be a teacher. So I went back to school and added a third major to my bachelor’s degree in English. All while working full-time and taking care of a newborn with my partner. Did I mention that I’m not always the smartest of cookies?

In any case, after thinking about the fact that I would have to be an extrovert for eight hours of the day in order to be a teacher, I quickly dispensed with that career choice and instead became the assistant director of a women’s center on another campus closer to my house. I held this position for two years, became extremely involved in my regional NASPA board, and got to be known as a bit of techie in student affairs on my campus. I also got the chance to really dig in and hone my social media skills in this job, as well as my web editing skills.

When an associate director position in student housing with responsibilities for marketing and online presence opened up at the same university, it seemed like a great chance for me to continue to hone my social media and tech skills in an area in which I already had a lot of knowledge. Little did I know how much that job would change within just a few months of me starting it. The director was promoted shortly after I began there, and I took on acting director responsibilities for the next two years, finally being promoted to director. This left very little time for expanding my marketing and tech skills, but hey, I was on the right path headed up, right?

Or at least I was until I began to be plagued by a series of health problems exacerbated by my stress level – and the fact that I almost never stopped working anymore. Why was I doing this again? Just because it was the logical next step? Suddenly, that didn’t seem like such a good reason. When a position in our marketing and communications office on campus opened up, I threw all caution to the wind and applied – being completely honest about the fact that I had minimal web development skills but was eager to learn and I had plenty of other translatable skills to bring with me. I didn’t get it – instead, I had an incredibly supportive vice chancellor at that time that wanted to keep me and created a similar position that was also half-time student affairs so I could remain a part of the division and continue to advise my colleagues on their online presence.

It was a step down and over, and not everyone understood it. Some people who are at the director level don’t talk to me nearly as much or respond to my emails as quickly. I’m sure I lost credibility with some folks in professional associations or that I had met through social media because I took a path less travelled. You know what? I’m okay with that – those people don’t have to live my life. Those people don’t get to come home to my awesome family, enjoy the books I read, or the hobbies that I find entertaining.

At the time for me, it seemed like dream position number two. Then I realized that there really is no dream position – I really love parts of my job. I really struggle with other parts of it. It’s not a dream – it’s reality. And it won’t be my last position, but it’s a good fit for me right now. I’m building some great skills, learning what things I love and what I don’t, and I know when the next position comes along, I’ll be ready for it.

If you also have a different path, I invite you to share yours, too – let’s change the perception that the only way to go in student affairs is up. Share a blog post or a video about your path and link to it in the comments below. I know there are people that want to hear your story.

Forging My Own Path

Why is student affairs so difficult? [graph]

by Jess Samuels (@jessmsamuels)

A few years ago I was reading my favorite geek comic, xkcd and came across this one graphing fruit – items that have no business being on a graph.


Immediately I thought of another thing that has no business being on a graph – the work we do as student affairs professionals. So, what did I do?  Graph it of course!  As with any humor, it’s meant for a little laugh at ourselves, so take it lightly (and don’t forward it to any parents at my institution) 😉


 <Click on image to enlarge>

What did I miss on the graph?  Let me know in the comments!

Why is student affairs so difficult? [graph]