Monthly Archives: November 2012

Never a dull moment…

“Well, today was boring!” said no one in Student Affairs EVER.

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Conference Season

Ahh…the most wonderful time of the year…CONFERENCES!! Those of you that follow me on Twitter have probably seen that earlier in the fall, I was doing a bit of traveling. PDFM U is a rather small school, so we don’t have a huge professional development budget to send all of us student affairs professionals across the country to big, fancy conferences. Instead, we get creative and we stay local. Creative is me finding things like #sachat and creating this blog to touch base with other SA pros. Staying local is MACUHO – the Mid-Atlantic Association of College and University Housing Officers.

The first conference I ever went to for MACUHO was MAPC – the Mid-Atlantic Placement Conference, great for if you are doing a regional job search. I wasn’t originally planning on going, but I decided to sign up at the last minute as a warm up for the MUCH larger TPE (The Placement Exchange). The good news is that every job offer I received came from MAPC! For those of you in grad school now, don’t discount smaller, regional conferences.

In October, I went to the Student Staff Live In (SSLI) at Rutgers, Newark. This conference was aimed at all sorts of live in/on staff, ranging from RAs to professionals. I enjoyed bringing my RAs with me and talking about why they were choosing the sessions they wanted to attend. Additionally, I got to attend some sessions aimed at new professionals. One thing to note – this conference was held on Saturday, October 27th, a day that most schools in the area were announcing their decision to close due to Hurricane Sandy. Lots of the professionals were constantly answering calls and texts regarding their institutions’ plans for the hurricane. It was definitely interesting to hear how other schools were planning to handle things. Also, it was nice knowing that I was not the only person with two phones in the room.

Earlier in November, I went to MACUHO’s annual conference in Baltimore. While SSLI has a lot for RAs, the annual conference is more geared at grad students and up, but can also be useful for students that have decided they want to do college forever…or in other words, become a student affairs professional. This conference made me eager to participate in more MACUHO events, such as helping with a committee or participating in RELI – Regional Entry Level Institute.

A bonus for  both of these conferences was seeing people I knew from other institutions. The world of student affairs is a rather small one…you know the whole “six degrees of separation” thing? Well, in student affairs, it’s like two. If that. I loved catching up with old friends and making new ones. At MACUHO (it was a three day event) they had social events including a casino night and karaoke night. Tons of fun. I honestly am already looking forward to next year (Pittsburgh!) and seeing some of the people I met this past year.

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The New Normal

Remember how in elementary school when you got a new kid in your class, for the longest time they would be known as “the new kid”? Well, at some point they stopped being the new kid and by the time you’re in high school, you can’t imagine your class without that person. Or maybe you were the new kid. And eventually you stopped referring to it as “my new house” and just started calling it “home”.

Except Gus…he’s always the new kid.

A big joke for me is “when do I get to stop saying I’m new here?” Even though PDFM U is rather small, I’m constantly meeting people that don’t know who I am, whether it’s a student, staff member, or a national Greek organization representative. I know someday I won’t have to tell people that I’m the new blah blah blah, but I’m sure by that point I’ll be about to move onto my next job and the poor soul that takes my job will be the new kid.

However, this place has started to feel like home. I’ve caught myself referring to my apartment as “home”. There’s been a few times where I’ve wanted to do something here, but because I wasn’t on call, I had already made plans to flee the state.

There have been other signs of all this becoming normal. I have a hair salon here. That probably sounds completely normal, but up until last month, I was driving over two hours to my old hair salon. So I have a hair salon and a regular grocery store. Normal, local things.

I also am starting to navigate my way around without a GPS. When I first moved to Grad School State, I swear I used my GPS for the first six months just to get to the grocery store. And it’s not like I’m just going to places I always go. I look at an address and realize it’s near some place I know and just say YOLO and get in the car and go. There’s only been a few times that I’ve had to have my faithful assistant, Siri, rescue me.

When did you start to feel at home in your job or new city?

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There aren’t too many things I miss about being a grad student. I’m perfectly content with never having to write another paper again. I’m also okay with not having to cram student meetings in between classes and project meetings. Probably the only thing I actually miss is being able to take advantage of school breaks.

Now, I’m not talking about being able to take summers off (although there are many entry level Residence Life positions that are ten month positions), I’m talking about Spring Break and Thanksgiving Break and all these other little days off here and there. I hear students talking about their plans and I just sigh and shake my head.

What I’m really worried about are the winter holidays – Christmas and New Years. We HAVE to have people on call even though we don’t let students live in the halls from December 21st until January 1st…and oh yes, they start returning on January 1st so even though all the offices are closed, I’m going to be working. Joy. So I’ve kind of gotten over the New Year’s thing…but Christmas? I really don’t want to be on call for Christmas. I’m the only professional staff member that is not from the area so I definitely don’t get to see my family as much as the others.

How does your office decide who gets “stuck” with the holidays for on call? Which holidays do you get off?

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TBT – The Worst Trip Home

After Monday’s post, you would think that my first trip home would have been my first visit home my freshman year. Yeah, it was a rough one. But at least during that trip, I was welcomed by the family welcoming committee – my aging black lab and the sounds of my mother’s “new age” music.

Unfortunately, my aging black lab eventually went to the large dog park in the sky. I know not everybody is a dog person, but all you dog people out there will understand when I say that my dog meant just as much to me as any sibling. Eventually I got used to calling my mom and not asking how my dog was. My mom still sounded upset when I talked to her, but to be fair, things were a lot different for her. I wasn’t at home hearing the silence of our house without a collar jingling and claws clicking on the wood floor. I was at school where I never had my dog.

And then I went home for break. Now, I was a very independent child so when my mom went back to work, she didn’t arrange for me to go to daycare or have a sitter. It wasn’t abuse or neglect. It made sense. I would only be home alone for thirty or forty minutes before my dad came home and I had a strict set of rules to follow. So in my mind, I had been staying home alone for ten years. The idea of coming back from school while my parents were at work didn’t phase me.

When I got home, I went in through the garage. Even though it had been a month since my dog had died, it still smelled like dog. It was like nothing had changed…until I opened the door to the kitchen and didn’t get barreled over by 100 pounds of dog. Suddenly it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was truly home alone for the first time in my life. And what did I do? I cried and called my mom. I asked her to leave her job early and drive an hour to come home so I wouldn’t be home alone.

It’s been almost five years since then. I’ve lived completely alone. I’ve gotten a new dog. Now when I go home, I am once again welcomed by a dog and some sort of crazy music that my mom is listening to (she’s been on a Carrie Underwood kick lately). I actually now look forward to trips home.

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Up All Night

Last week, I found myself running around like crazy one evening. The work day was LONG over, but I had to attend a meeting, go to an event, stop by an organization’s new member education session, drop something off at a house, and go to a program. Even typing that was tiring! But you know what, I didn’t mind!

I was an incredibly busy college student once I got involved in all my activities. Looking back, I honestly don’t know when I had time for sleep. Or homework. How did I get the grades I got?? In all seriousness, a typical day for me involved waking up at 7 am so I could be ready for class or work at 8 am and then spending pretty much all day on campus, going to the library in between class/work to do homework. I would finish with class at 10 pm or work at 11 pm. If I didn’t have a late class or work the night shift, I finished usually around 6 or so but then had club meetings which still kept me on campus til 10 or 11. Then I’d get food with friends and hang out with them. Insanity!

I like staying busy and I like what I do. I’m sure that if my evening had consisted of going to visit the rooms of students being written up, I would not have been as happy. I hear a lot of my entry-level twenty-something friends complain about their jobs. They hate going there, they hate being there, god forbid their boss asks them to stay late… What are my biggest complaints? Sometimes I have to stay around here on weekends. It’s not the end of the world.

Overall, I feel a lot of my student affairs colleagues feel the same way and we’re a pretty happy bunch. I’m glad I (eventually) figured out what I wanted to do with my life!

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This Thanksgiving I’m thankful for several things. I’m thankful that I have a job. I’m thankful my parents took my dog in when said job said I could not bring her with me. And I’m thankful it’s break time and my students are LEAVING. Finally…a few days where I don’t have to pace around the laundry room waiting for a dryer to become available.

But then I almost feel bad for the freshman who are making their first trip home from college. I remember mine. I missed home so bad. I couldn’t wait to be home for A WHOLE WEEK. And then once I got there, I could not wait to leave. I actually made up some lie about a project I had to do and said I could ONLY do it in the studio.

The whole week felt a little like this.

So just like there are stages of grief and stages in student development theories, I have decided that there are stages of vacation time at home. While this is geared more towards students, I think some if it (with a few tweaks here and there) still applies to twentysomethings/adults.

Stage One – Excitement

You probably haven’t even left for home yet. You are counting down the days until break. You’re excited to sleep in your room and eat some home cooked meals and hang out with your friends and sleep in and do nothing all week. This week is gonna be great. You love home. Home home home.

Stage Two – Suddenly Everything Has Changed

You get home and run up to your room to put your things down when suddenly…what are all those boxes doing in the corner? And is that dad’s bill paying desk? And why are there no pillows on your bed?! Whatever, it’s only 7 pm, you’ll deal with that later. You go back downstairs, excited to see what’s for dinner and your parents tell you that they’re going out to dinner. But but but…you wanted mom’s lasagna, not Olive Garden. You cave and decide it’s worth it for the bread sticks. While are dinner with your family (BO-RING!) you text your friends to see what they’re all doing tonight. “Can’t, busy with the fam!” seems to be the standard reply. Okay, okay, you’ll have a boring night in (maybe spend some time searching for pillows) and see your friends after you wake up at like 2 pm and have pancakes.

Stage Three – You Want to Kill EVERYTHING

WHAT IS THAT BLINDING LIGHT? Oh, just your mom flipping on the lights because she needs something in one of those boxes RIGHT NOW. What time is it? Oh, you know, 8 am. And what’s that noise outside? Is that the leaf blower? Come on dad, couldn’t that wait until a reasonable hour? Your mom promises that you can go back to sleep as she tiptoes out of your room but then the next thing you hear is the vacuum. So much for sleep.

Stage Four – One is the Loneliest Number

Your friends are nowhere to be found. Foursquare informs you that they all are over town…at the movies, the mall, grocery shopping…with their boyfriends, girlfriends, siblings, and parents. By the way, where is your family? Your parents went to the grocery store without you. I know, how could they, that could have been a social outing! Your siblings still have friends and live in your hometown since you know they still go to school here. Looks like it’s just you and the internet.

Stage Five – Family Time!

Remember that family that you missed in stage four? Well you don’t need to worry about that anymore because now they’re all home and guess what? So are twenty of their relatives! That’s right, it’s time for Thanksgiving dinner. Now you have to spend the next six hours pretending that you love every single minute of college and are really working hard for that education your Citibank loans are paying for.

Stage Six – Now They Want Things

Ahhh…the relatives are gone and you have two days left of break. NOW you’ll be able to see your friends and relax. No, no, that’s not happening. You need to clean up after Thanksgiving and while you’re at it, take some of that crap from your room to the basement, your parents need more room for storage. And what do you mean you want to hang out with your friends? There’s only two days left of break, you need to spend more time for your family. Right now you’re probably about to scream…

Stage Seven – GET ME OUT OF HERE!!

You can’t stand it anymore. You wonder if it’s possible to sneak out and hitch a ride back to school. Are any of your friends leaving tonight? You can’t possibly wait until morning. You better pack your bags in case it gets to be too much to handle and you need to leave in the middle of the night.

Stage Eight – Homecoming

You finally get back to college and you’re thisclose to dropping to your knees and kissing your uncarpeted dorm floor. As you unpack, your roommate gets back and starts raving about how terrible her Thanksgiving was. You are not alone.

It almost feels a little something like this.

So fear not college students, you have a few more weeks of college living until…Winter Break.

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Ahhh…that wonderful moment when your benefits kick in. Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to announce that I am an insured individual with vacation time!

This is quite a strange concept to me…paid time off. Part of me isn’t too sure what to do with it. I mentioned in a previous post that we have a mighty strange holiday schedule. I kind of want to take some days around Christmas off so I can spend the time with my family. Also, if you request (and get approved) for the time off, it’s kind of like “Oh, they are taking the day off too, so they definitely can’t be on call”. But what happens if I don’t have enough time off accrued by then? Is taking unpaid time off a thing?

I also don’t know the rate at which I accrue time off…I’m sure it’s printed somewhere in an employee manual and that I can look it up and start calculating stuff. I know it is printed in our pay stubs, so I guess I’ll just check next week!

And now the fun part…thinking about what I want to do with this paid time off. If we don’t use it, we lose it. One of my friends took a week off just because she was about to lose the time and chose to just hang out at home. My friends from undergrad are scattered across the country…maybe I’ll travel to places I’ve never been before!

What are some places I should check out on a student affairs type of budget?

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Running Homecoming

I’ve really never had anything to do with the planning and execution of a Homecoming before. The two schools I attended celebrated Homecoming VERY differently. Undergrad U had school sponsored events and the whole thing was more along the lines of a Parents’ Weekend. It honestly didn’t seem all that different from any other weekend, except I had to sing in my choir concert. Grad School State had a BIG Homecoming with a HUGE tail gate…and most students got too drunk to go to the game and by 8 pm the campus looked like a battlefield.

Homecoming at Please Don’t Fire Me if You Ever Read This U (PDFM U for short) is very traditional…it reminded me of what I had seen in Grad School State’s old yearbooks. There’s a parade, a dance, a Homecoming court, and, of course, a football game. I had never seen Homecoming like this, much less planned one. Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about that. It was somebody else’s job. I was just going to have to be on call for the weekend. (Of course, after attending and working at Grad School State, I was fully prepared to be unable to leave campus the entire weekend.)

That all changed literally the day before the Homecoming festivities were supposed to start. The two people who were in charge of running Homecoming could no longer be there for a variety of reasons. So, twenty four hours before things are supposed to start, I get a call asking if I can run Homecoming. UMMM WHAT? I’ve never even SEEN a Homecoming at PDFM U, much less run a Homecoming anywhere EVER. But hey, student affairs is all about “Other Duties as Assigned” so I went along for the ride.

The first thing I had to do was supervise parade preparations. That one was no big deal. I literally stood there. I put some cute pictures on Instagram. I judged my students’ artistic abilities. After that, I headed off for my more challenging event of the evening – Lip Sync. Now, when I was in high school, we had a lip sync contest. It was a BIG DEAL. Undergrad U didn’t do anything of the sort, but every school I’ve worked at has had some sort of Lip Sync, usually as part of Greek Week. Well, here at PDFM U, Lip Sync during Homecoming is for anybody and everybody. It’s all planned, so I wasn’t too worried. My students kept trying to scare me and tell me it’s notoriously a zoo and students try smuggle alcohol in, but after working at Grad School State, I feel I am prepared for many things. Not all though.

So, there I am on stage, about to welcome everybody to this year’s Lip Sync and Homecoming when suddenly everybody’s phones, including mine go off. It felt like an episode of Gossip Girl. What was the oh so important message? Spotted – three miles from campus – a tornado. My mind starts racing. Here we are in an auditorium…the roof of my high school auditorium got torn off during a storm with high winds. Does this building even have a basement? Luckily, thanks to my awesome student staff and some campus officers, we quickly came up with an evacuation plan (that unfortunately left us up in the auditorium as the stairwells and basement were STUFFED). To complicate things further, I was on call for the weekend, so I was responsible for EVERYBODY on campus. RAs were trying to call me as I was trying to give directions to all the students in the auditorium. After the tornado warning was lifted, we let the students back into the auditorium and it was on with the show! Spotted – on stage at Lip Sync – The Author not letting a tornado stand in her way.

You know you love me. XOXO The Author.

After Friday, Saturday was a breeze (haha get it? Instead of a tornado?). I went to the parade, I supervised a Homecoming Dance…and I visited the hospital rooms of students that celebrated Grad School State style.

I’m sure that this is a Homecoming PDFM U will NEVER forget. And, in total student affairs style, it was a learning experience and gave me an idea for a new project – developing emergency plans for large campus events.

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The Way Things Were

The power is back on all across campus. The students have returned. Classes are back in session. There are no longer hourly news updates to tear me away from whatever it is I’m working on. People keep saying that we’re going back to normal, we’re going back to how things were before the storm.

Watching the news in the few days after the storm was absolutely terrible. It was like driving by a car accident on the highway. You don’t want to look, but you do anyway. You just have to. Watching the news reminded me of watching Hurricane Katrina footage early in my freshman year. At first, the footage just showed water, damage, and destruction. Later, the news showed much worse things. There were bodies floating in the water and laying on the sidewalks. There were horror stories from the shelters that were supposed to be keeping all these people safe. As I write this, not all my friends have power, not all schools have reopened. I am hoping that the worst of the news footage has passed. I don’t want to see bodies floating in the water.

What made this different from watching Hurricane Katrina footage is my personal connection to it. I had never been to New Orleans. I felt bad because I was a human being with a soul (contrary to popular belief) and the things I saw on TV were terrible and upsetting. But this time, I was seeing places I knew, the places I grew up, the home to many of my memories.

I don’t think we’re back to normal yet. Things aren’t like they were before the storm right now. But I do think we are going to get there. My students have already started planning events to help everybody affected by the storm. People on the shore are vowing to rebuild. I think eventually things will be better than the way they were.

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