Reflections on #CCPA15 Spring Institute

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the California College Personnel Association (CCPA) Spring Institute.  You can catch social media highlights curated by the folks at CCPA in this Storify post.  I thought I’d share a couple of my takeaways:

Ascend to what end?

The conference theme was “Ascent: Climbing the Steps of Your Student Affairs Career,” which I found intriguing enough.  Then ACPA Vice President Donna Lee (@DeanDonnaLee) delivered a dynamic lunchtime keynote and brought the discourse to another level when she asked us, “Ascend to what end?”  In sharing some of her professional journey, she encouraged us to reflect on our paths, passions, and purposes.   She also mentioned that ascent doesn’t always mean up, which was a helpful reminder that a professional trajectory need not be a straight slope. Sometimes I feel myself getting caught up in the race to the top and comparing myself to other people.  Checking in with the question of “Ascend to what end?” reminded me to think about my values and to reflect on my journey with that lens.

Think local

If you are not a member of a local professional organization, I encourage you to find one and jump on board now!  Both ACPA and NASPA have regional versions of their national organizations, and many functionally-focused groups also have presence at state or regional levels.  Leadership opportunities abound at this level, and are an especially great entry point for graduate students and new professionals (plug for my CA friends – CCPA elections and appointed position applications are now open).  Professional development programs from these groups also tend to more accessible, both in terms of finances and logistics, as events are typically cheaper and closer than national ones.  And, of course, networking with local colleagues is fun and can be particularly useful for geographically-bound folks looking for jobs.


Shoutouts go to the CCPA Leadership Team and volunteers for putting on a great event, the California College of the Arts for hosting, all the engaging presenters and speakers, and the many enthusiastic participants.

Reflections on #CCPA15 Spring Institute

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

Be the Change, or Shut Up About it Already

By Kathryn Magura

Howdy everyone! Last time I posted, I lamented about how we always talk about being busy, but how that seems to not really mean anything anymore. Being busy is more like a Facebook status than actual tangible outcomes: A lot of words with no real meaning. Today I thought I’d rabble rouse a bit more and talk about whining.

That’s right, I said whining. I hear a lot of it at work, and I would be remiss in not owning up to my own culpability in hopping on the whiner train at times. So what’s the point? Why complain about something for the sake of complaining? What good does that actually do?

A few years ago, a mentor of mine encouraged me to put in a program proposal for a regional Housing conference. I had very little presentation experience at the time, and had not even thought about attending that particular conference that upcoming year. I had attended the conference the previous year, and found most of the programs to be bland and for entry level resident directors. I was not a resident director, and had a hard time finding transferable knowledge from the presented materials. I proceeded to whine to my mentor about how there were never any programs for my area of speciality in housing operations. My mentor, always wise beyond my years, nudged me with this little gem: “If you don’t like the options presented to you, offer an alternative.” To this day I still remember those words when I find myself falling down the whiner rabbit hole.

I didn’t like the program options available to me, yet hesitated to offer my own program ideas. How exactly was that going to change my situation? Similar to the myth of being busy, I think we take a lot of solace in our ability to complain about things without having to take ownership over them. That year I took my mentor’s advice, and presented at the conference. This was a true turning point for me in my career, because it gave me a different perspective about how I to could influence change in my professional organization by contributing to it.

To this day, I hold on to that piece of advice and use it with the staff I supervise. When my student staff complain about a policy or procedure, I ask them to offer an alternative. When a parent complains to me about something happening with their student’s experience in our residence halls, I usually ask them what a positive resolution would be. What do you need to feel better about this situation?

As I look around at the Student Affairs community I see on social media, I see some tendencies to complain about something, without offering alternative solutions. How different could our field be if we looked for ways to influence change instead of just complaining about the things we don’t like? Think of the example we could set for others – including the students with whom we work!

So what do you think? Are you in?

Be the Change, or Shut Up About it Already

Higher Ed Websites: a Work in Progress

By Kathryn Magura

As I sat down to write this post tonight, I felt uninspired for a topic. I asked Twitter if anyone had a suggestion, but came up empty handed (to be fair, I had only given people about 30 minutes to respond). I then decided to check the #sachat hashtag to see what the Student Affairs community on Twitter had been talking about today. Perhaps I could find inspiration there? Sure enough, I came across this tweet from Erica Thompson that got my attention:

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Before I get into discussing my thoughts on websites in higher ed, a disclaimer: I am not responsible for my departmental website. I do not get to say what goes where, or edit the content. That said, I am part of a team that continually revises our website, and am responsible for the customer experience our current and future residents have via our website. I’m also a big fan of social media, and helped get our department started on Facebook and Twitter years ago. What does this mean? While, I do not have the web development or programming background to make a quality website, I DO have strong thoughts on how a website should be organized. Basically, when I don’t like something on our website, I’m that pain in the ass who will continue to talk about it until something changes. 😉

I have spent a lot of time looking at higher ed websites. If I have a job interview, I like to research the website for the office and see what information is available to me. I have also done quite a bit of research for the work I do with my national association in terms of benchmarking best practices based on what I can find on other university websites. So when I say this, know that it comes from a lot of experience. For the most part, I find most higher ed websites I encounter to be difficult to navigate and unintuitive. Basically, they suck. Sorry, it’s the truth. Why can’t I find things like a staff list or departmental policies easily? Why can’t I figure out what your department does when I go to your website? Isn’t that sort of the point?

One thing I stress with our web management team is to continually look at our website through the eyes of our customers. Can a student find everything they need to know to make an informed decision about the services we offer? Can a parent find who to contact about a specific concern? Why do we in essence “bury the lead” so often? In my experience, most higher ed websites are organized in ways that align with various departmental desires and goals, not for easy navigation by a customer. Does the content on your website help a customer (yes, students are customers, that was the topic of another post) get the information they need without having to call or email you? Does your website look like a boring link farm of over-saturated information? Do YOU know how to find information on your website without using the search tool?

So here’s my challenge to you: I would love to see examples of higher ed websites you perceive are doing things well. What do you like about their site? Let’s share examples of best practices with each other so we can help each other improve for the better.


Higher Ed Websites: a Work in Progress

Blurring the Line

by Kristen Abell

Last week I presented to a group of student affairs professionals on the topic of using technology for professional development. At the end of my presentation, I asked them to discuss in their groups three questions, but only one seemed to garner much discussion – and boy did it. This was the question of how one presents oneself online – when you are communicating with friends and family, students and colleagues, how do you define your boundaries? We came up with one definitive answer: It depends.

I wish there was an easy answer to this question – if for no other reason than it would make my presentations easier. All I can tell you, though, is that the boundary is different for different people. When I originally started blogging and Facebooking, I kept the two completely separate. I didn’t necessarily want folks on Facebook to see the bluntly honest me that I was on my blog. And then along came Twitter – what a great way to promote my blog! Until my friends and family that were on Facebook started joining Twitter. And then it all got to be a big muddled mess.

At some point, I had to come to terms with the fact that having different online personas was only going to give me multiple identity disorder and boil them all back down to one person. And that person is maybe just slightly more open than I am face to face (depending on the face), but it’s all the same person. I know it would be nice if I could describe my boundaries a little more concretely, but that’s just it – they’re my boundaries – they’re most likely different for everyone else.

But lest you think I have no advice to offer, pay heed – here are a few rules I’ve found helpful in establishing both my own online presence and in guiding others:

1. Do no harm – this is the main tenet by which I try to guide myself on my blog and elsewhere. There’s just no point to insulting or hurting others online or otherwise. Just don’t do it. Please.

2. Don’t put something online unless you’re comfortable with your grandparents, parents, siblings, and children seeing it at some point. The interwebs are practically forever, people. I’m pretty sure your kids don’t want to read about your nasty divorce, nor do they need to – please save it for your bestest friends and a glass of wine.

3. Do not keep separate accounts for different personas – most of the time, this is illegal anyways according to site terms (specifically on Facebook), but it’s also just a poor use of social media. The beauty of social media is that it allows us to form deeper relationships with people we don’t see face to face as often. How is someone going to form a deeper relationship with just Work Kristen? And how is my work not a part of Personal Kristen? These are both the same person, and as I said above, keeping them the same will help you avoid a multiple identity crisis.

4. Figure out your boundaries early and stick to them. The earlier and more firm you can do this, the easier it will be to share online.

What rules do you have for setting boundaries and developing your online persona?

Blurring the Line

Linkage Love: Talk Nerdy to Me

By Jess Faulk

This week’s linage love will pay homage to the female geek.  It’s been a while since I have looked outside of my own geekery and seen what other geeks are talking about.  I am specifically interested this week at looking for blogs or sites that concentrate on talking about geek culture through the lens of a feminist blogger because it more often will allow for an interesting reflection of the stuff that I like (Sci-Fi, fantasy, comics, and computers) and how gender plays out in each arena.  You don’t often find the “average” geek blog or site making the space for gender reflection.

In my search I stumbled upon “The Mary Sue: A guide to geek girl culture.”  Here are a few of my favorite posts from her site, or posts linked from her site:

10 Characters whose gender was swapped in production

You probably already knew that Ripley in Ridley Scott’s Alien was written originally as a man’s part, but did you know that so was Dory in Finding Nemo, Spock in Star Trek, and Luke in Star Wars?  What was so interesting about this list was how strong each of these characters were written when they were created for men or without gender stereotyping.


GoldieBlox: The Engineering Toy for Girls

This kickstarter project by Debbie Sterling was created to get little girls interested in engineering.  She tells us in her video that only 11% of engineers are women, and that toys such as legos and erector sets lay the groundwork for the way you need to think as an engineer.  While the disappointing “pink = girls” concept is still at play here, I did find myself considering whether makings something pink might make it more attractive for larger number of parents, which in the end, still serves the purpose of exposing little girls to these challenging new concepts.

Daughter wins with Geek Dad who hacks video game gender pronouns

This is another link I found off of The Mary Sue site.  While I was really impressed with this dad’s commitment to his daughter having the experience of “being a hero in the game,” I was also stuck by the reflection of the author about what it means to be a ‘good dad’ and how much lower the bar is for people to be impressed.  It’s interesting to reflect on how much society just expects from women as mothers, and gives major props to fathers for doing the same thing.  Despite that, I do think this is a pretty awesome thing to do for your kid!

While I only highlighted one post from the actual site, I really do recommend checking out The Mary Sue.  You can check out posts about the new Hobbit film, Game of Thrones comedy, Fashionably geek designs such as princess Leia spinning at the Mos Eisley cantina, and much more!

Linkage Love: Talk Nerdy to Me

Linkage Love: Online Learning

by Kristen Abell

So I recently picked up the book DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education for a work book club, and I’m reminded of all the opportunities we have now for online education. I thought I’d share just a few of my favorite sites in our Linkage Love for today, and I’d love to hear about yours.

Codecademy – Since I’m completely self-taught when it comes to websites, having some actual instruction on programming languages is incredibly helpful as I continue to do more with them in my everyday job. I love the short snippets of lessons, and the badges – what is it about the badges that makes them so desirable? – as well as the super easy-to-learn format. Seriously, anyone could learn from this site. Oh, and did I mention that it’s totally free? Sign me up!

Skillshare – This site has a combination of face-to-face and online (hybrid) classes in a variety of areas. There is everything from designing your own sneakers to photography to social media. You name it, there’s probably a class for it. And if not, you can sign up to teach it – I recently took the “create your Skillshare class” course on here, and I’m planning to offer my own class on blogging soon. Some classes are free, and some are offered at a pretty minimal fee (usually around $15), but there’s lots to find on here. Try it out and share some of your own talents, too.

Coursera – Although I haven’t played around with this site as much, I’m hoping to do more on it in the future. Tons of free classes in a variety of topics from multiple institutions. My main problem in looking at this site is figuring out which course I want to take first – I want all the courses! Again, this site offers its classes totally free. Who doesn’t love that?

MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) – Another site I’ve only recently discovered and hope to spend more time on. MIT is the original open-courseware site, and they have lots of great offerings for free. Only the course materials are provided, so it’s less structured and more learn-at-your-own-pace, but it’s definitely a great resource.

What sites do you use for online learning? What are you learning about online?

Linkage Love: Online Learning