Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Top Ten Moment

So apparently the posting has been relegated to once a month, which is not planned or ideal, but what is possible. Actually, that's not entirely true. I've just chosen to knit the world's largest "family" blanket, as opposed to participating in literary creative expression.  Choices, right? In short, my topics have been relatively uninspired as of late, but every once in a while, a great suggestion pops up and I feel the need to run with it. The last time I looked outward for suggestions, the response included miraculous subjects such as waffles and Emilio Estevez. I did actually have a pretty good discussion going in my head about Emilio, and his whole family situation, but it didn't gain traction, so I let it go. I shouldn't have let it go.

Today's suggestion was spurred by a lighthearted conversation over lunch about good locations to work and live, which led into why those things are important to a career in Higher Education. A lovely lady in my life was chuckling at the revelation that I have a list of the top ten things that I've learned working in Higher Education over these last 6 months. Some are Higher Ed relevant, and some are just... things. That I will never forget.  I've decided to expound upon these "important" things for the benefit of posterity. I never want to forget and I feel that there is so much yet to learn that these impressionable first 6 months will pale in comparison to what is yet to come. SO, without further ado, my first top ten list of my Higher Ed career.

Number One:
There is an acronym for everything. And if there isn't, we'll make one up. It doesn't even have to make sense, could be 10 years old and obsolete, but it is still used by someone at the University. My first day on campus I was hit with no fewer than 5 of them in the first hour. I followed a lot of them as we went along, but after awhile I did have to admit that I spoke in complete words and finally just asked what all the letters stood for. Naturally, I know that the magic of acronyms is not exclusively limited to the Higher Ed world, but the prevalence they have over actual titles, phrases and organizations is mind-boggling. In fact, there are situation that create the acronym BEFORE assigning the letters meaning... and then there's a debate over what the letters should mean, because the acronym is THAT good. It's become second nature to me now. In fact, I've decided to refer to my household as an acronym because their actual names are too many letter and words. DMERB- our official household acronym.

Number Two:
There is absolutely no way to tell what a student is capable of just by looking at them. I come across some interesting... stories... in my line of work, which inadvertently conjure a mental picture of the student that could possibly be capable of such...stories... I am always wrong. I create these impressions in my head, likely born of past experience with many many people and when they approach my office for their meeting I am constantly stunned, not only by what they look like, but also by how they present themselves. I think, "YOU are the one that berated that police officer" or "you had HOW much marijuana in your room?" But you're so (small, sweet, quiet, liking of Harry Potter marathons on the weekends... fill in the blank) not what I expected. I've tried desperately to remove this automatic functionality of my brain, but alas, I find it entertaining to guess.

Number Three:
Email is obnoxious. There are so many emails in any given 10 minute period that no one could possibly keep up with all of it and remember to answer it and be productive in any other facet of their lives. The awesome group of people that I spend the most amount of time with find it to be equally as burdensome, yet we all know how necessary it is. Our institution is fond of copying everyone on everything to foster an environment of inclusion and communication, which I adore, but it means piles upon piles of emails.... we always know who's going to the bathroom, when, and which other staff members are covering for that particular 10 minute span.  This is not an uncommon practice in Higher Education, which makes us well connected, well informed and, well... always needing internet.

Number Four:
Higher Education is the only occupation I've ever been involved in where coworkers, managers and subordinates alike openly discuss where they're going "next". It's a regular practice to discuss how you aren't going to be there in a couple of months, job hunt together, and yet still do your day to day duties effectively. In fact, it is so transparent, that we all expect that our current dynamic is perpetually temporary, and yet it's very positive. However, no one takes their current position for granted because it is constantly fluid. I've never experienced anything like it. It's evolution at its finest- watching the growth of a person's career right in front of your eyes... openly and honestly.

Number Five:
Haboobs are a real thing. That is not a made up word. The first time I heard that, I thought my dear friends were messing with me. No. It's real. A Haboob is defined as is a type of intense dust storm carried on an atmospheric gravity current. Haboobs occur regularly in arid regions throughout the world. I know what you're thinking... how could this have anything to do with Higher Ed? Well, as stated in number four, the higher education employee is moderately nomadic, and thus has usually lived in other locations. I learned this term from my supervisor, who had just come from Texas, where haboobs are relatively commonplace. This is a fact I may have never learned while doing hair in Illinois. Though I suppose if Haboobs are possible, and it's possible to NAME something a haboob, anything is possible.

Number Six:
There is SO MUCH tech. So much. Everything has a cord, a gadget, an app, a website, a program, a machine or a code. The logins, networks, links and calender reminders are so plentiful that they swim in my head while I sleep.  I like technology, don't get me wrong, but it is no longer possible to function without it at the rate Higher Education utilizes tech. And, truth be told, my institution is still joining the ranks of tech savvy campuses. Just today I learned of a website that organizes a meal planning and delivery schedule (for when, say, a colleague has a baby) and an application that organizes, plans and outlines conference events. I also learned that even with as many webinars as we've done, the results of your experience are still completely dependent on the technology working properly. Of course operator errors play into that, too. Staying on top of the tech is impossible. I've never seen so many iBasicallyeverything's in one place. Did you know you could be mayor of something just by checking in there like ten times a day on Foursquare? Did you know there was Foursquare? Someone please tell me what the hell Foursquare is...

Number Seven:
I am inspired every day. I kind of want to change the world some days. Some say that wears off, but I don't see how it's possible given the constant desire to be inspired emitted by everyone around you. Being a part of Higher Education is to be among the highly educated. There are educational opportunities every day, and growth is a natural part of the career. There is no point in being involved in Higher Education if you have no interest in changing the world, even a little bit. Every program, event and opportunity is designed to promote an culture of development. Higher Education is where grand ideas begin. We focus on social justice, bettering the community both within university walls and out, making a difference in every student's life, no matter how small, and everything we do satellites the greater good. We are forming the future, and creating a very positive present. It's impossible not to be inspired... even a little bit. However, with regard to changing the world, I was given this advice: Don't discuss social justice issues and drink wine simultaneously. I say, heed this warning.

Number Eight:
There is not a true hierarchy. Sure, there are directors that make the decisions, and the leaders who guide us in the right direction, but everyone is treated as an equal colleague. If you don't feel that way, and you work in Higher Ed, you might be doing something wrong. The word Team is used interchangeably with department, group, etc. which is uncommon in many other occupations. Of course there is management, but management is approachable and respects the input that everyone has. The deep respect for every ones' lives outside of the university is also rare and wonderful. Entire meetings and committees are held to discuss the topic of recognition. That is mind blowing. If you've never worked outside of Higher Ed, trust me, it's not like this everywhere. Perhaps if it was, people would be happier with their jobs, but then again, it wouldn't be such a treat to be a part of it when you haven't been before. I mean seriously, one on ones- weekly- just to touch base with your superior/supervisee... and sometimes it involves coffee.

Number Nine:
Like acronyms, there are conferences for everything. Which are named by acronyms. They involve team building and networking and...uh... food? Well, I don't know. But there are so many conferences. I'm sure I'll attend one someday. They involve travel and recognition and...uh... food. Sounds like fun to me! I just know my colleagues usually look forward to them, so how bad could they be?

Number Ten:
There is tremendous value in levity. You absolutely have to have a good sense of humor. About yourself, and everything you are going to encounter. It's right up there with working in medicine. If you can't laugh about the darkness, it will take you with it.  I don't believe it to be possible to be successful in Higher Education without being able to lighten up. If you take yourself, or things around you, too seriously, it will swallow you whole. I work with a group of people who see so many different, sometimes tense situations in one day that they would go nuts if they weren't able to laugh. About everything. A sense of humor gives them the ability to move between student conduct and community council seamlessly and still do it again the next day. It also makes the student's experiences more positive to be surrounded by humor. I see it in everything we do. And a perk of being surrounded by highly educated professionals is that the humor has the potential to be intelligent. But it's not usually. However, I think the grumpy (and sometimes cute) cat pictures on the meeting agenda are brilliant.

I have limited my accounts of the last six months to only ten lessons learned about working in Higher Education, but I am certain there are more to come. Almost daily I think about what I could go on and on about with regard to my career experiences. For now, these are predominant and have inspired many moments of design for me.

Moment of Design Captured....

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