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Friday, October 30, 2009

100th Post Means Free Stuff for Readers!

This is the 100th "Dean's List" post! This blog had its humble beginnings in June 2008. Congratulations to me! Someone recently said that if I have had a thought related to Trinity I have blogged about it. That is not entirely true, as I only verbalize or write about 10% of what pops into my head. This would surprise those who think I have no internal filter. The filter is just a liberal little sucker.

The idea of the blog was to have another way to communicate with students. Turns out that there are probably more parent readers than students, but that's okay. Some students, like Raj Singh, have drawn attention to the blog. He satirized it in the Trinitonian in more than one column. Others, like Ali Deizza and Leslie Stryker, have tried to bribe their way into the blog. These two said they would bookmark it as favorite on their web pages. I am a little offended by that. I am not that easy. One of my new favorite students is Puru Shah, who routinely posts responses as "Digital Subway."

I was going to make a list of what I considered to be the top five posts, but decided that would be arrogant. It also dawned on me that I might not be able to identify five, which would be pretty embarrassing. So in celebration, I am offering FREE Trinity car wind socks and car flags to anyone who wants them (while supplies last). These have real retail value between $7 and $10. I have a huge stash that was I given by the TU bookstore because they were going to throw them away. I love Trinity and love those who read my blog, because I am narcissistic. So we all deserve to do a little flag-waving. Stop by Northrup 118 during normal business hours to pick up a free flag or sock. (Students, you can get ones for your parents.) And thanks for reading. I would probably still write even if I had no audience. But then again, I would be stuck with all these flags...

Trinity Faculty Going Downhill (Part 1)

At Trinity University, some believe that drawing faculty members physically downhill – from the upper campus academic area to the lower campus residential area – can create an enriching and meaningful learning environment for students. It is a sometimes controversial issue because faculty members can only be stretched so far and students often like to separate, rather than integrate, their in-class and out-of-class experiences. This three-part series will take a look at the history, issues, and current standing of the blended educational experience at Trinity University.

Part 1: The set-up
In 1996 ACPA, a student affairs professional organization, released the Student Learning Imperative. This was a bold document signaling that the student affairs profession was about more than room assignments, dances, and campus activities. In truth, there has long been an educational slant to programs outside the academic area. These are done to support students and help them become engaged, which translates to retention, which translates to success. This call to new action, however, has further entrenched the role of student life staff members as educators.

The expectations for student affairs staff to add value to the learning experiences have increased dramatically, as demonstrated by the Student Learning Imperative and its follow-up, Learning Reconsidered. The landscape features outcomes-driven programming and assessment in which the staff must demonstrate not just that students enjoyed a program, but that they learned something, and can articulate that learning. Students and parents expect, and institutions promise, the shaping of global citizens who are prepared to interact and contribute to the greater good in the world. There are many such opportunities outside the classroom, such as through service learning, through how students treat others and are held accountable for their actions, and through campus organizations. Collaboration with faculty members is seen as a “best practice” and expected, if not demanded.

There was a time when faculty members did all campus administrating and coaching in addition to teaching, but the system evolved to a faculty/staff system to allow professors to focus solely on teaching while others could focus on student services and campus life. The paradigm has shifted again, though, to one in which learning is seen as happening everywhere and all the time, and is the responsibility of everyone on campus. Most professors probably wouldn’t want to deal with hazing anymore than I want to tackle differential equations with students. But we can probably all agree on student learning, development, and growth as our primary and shared goals. Strict compartmentalization of upper and lower campus may not best serve our students.

Anyone who has ever sat through a student commencement speech quickly realizes that students see their own learning as comprehensive. Their experiences in the classroom are supplemented by the ones in life: whether this occurs from talks about their goals and ambitions over tacos at 3 a.m. or how they dealt with difficult roommates. Students reflecting on their college experience will discuss their decision-making, relationships, involvement, and exploration and experimentation as critical to their education.

I have long compared the university to a sports franchise. The faculty members are like the players. Without them, there is no product. The quality of the team or the faculty determines the quality of the team or university. The students are like the fans. Without them, we are left with a group of older people playing with a ball and drinking Gatorade or reading a lot of really complicated books. For students, there is not a guarantee that the game will always be good and likewise, there is no guarantee that every class will be a buzzer-beating thriller. Finally, the staff members are like the coaches, management, and cheerleaders. The students and faculty actually could live without this group for a short while. But eventually someone would need to prepare schedule, make the arrangements, provide the food, manage the Web page, deal with the disorderly, and collect the money.

The student affairs profession has tried too hard, sometimes, to legitimize itself to the faculty rather than accept serving in this important support role. This role has evolved beyond one of providing services to students, and has become one of educator. In becoming educators to improve the student experience, staff members have worked to break away from their silos, expand their roles, and collaborate with the faculty. By seeing the student educational experience as a shared responsibility, faculty and staff members can work together to offer the best in student learning.

Coming in Part 2: Collaboration

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mission Accomplshed

This is a story about coffee mugs. Not ordinary coffee mugs. These are brand new Student Affairs coffee mugs. The mugs feature the Student Affairs mission and the values that the Division members hold dear. This is good stuff and the development of the mission/vision/values was the first step in assembling the Student Affairs strategic plan. That five-year plan contains important elements, including goals and learning outcomes. The goals and outcomes are all systematically being assessed to determine what students learn as the results of our efforts to develop the co-curricular educational experience for our students.

Thanks for getting this far: There will be a payoff. Before the current VP arrived there was a different new mission that was about learning, helping students discover their identities, and helping them discover their places in the world. We brainstormed then about how to brand and communicate our mission, which was before we had our own Web page. One of the ideas was coffee mugs. Sometimes something gets into your head and it won't go away, like the new Miley Cyrus song or the Princess Leia costume in Star Wars. That's the same with me and the coffee mugs.

So, the odyssey began. Students should know that in any work environment employees must justify programs, proposals, purchases, and expenditures That is usually a good thing, to ensure that people are good stewards of their resources. The questions that the mugs and I faced were: How much will the mugs cost? Who will pay for the mugs? What is the point of the mugs? Are they for the staff to learn the values more closely? Are they for others who need to learn our mission? Will they promote the Student Affairs mission and values? Should we have t-shirts instead? Are the costs justified? Where will you get the mugs?

The mugs were approved under the condition they be paid for out of the Dean of Students' humble budget. In order to properly dispense the mugs to the Student Affairs staff I decided to host a Student Affairs "coffee" morning for staff members to come to Northrup 118 for some hot joe and their new mugs. So began odyssey two. I communicated this idea to the Residential Life staff, to which they were supposed to say: "Great idea for the give-away of the great mugs!" In reality their responses were: "I don't drink coffee, do I still have to come?" and, "if you have hot chocolate people might come," and "I only drink tea. Will you have tea?" Josh Brack announced that he would use his mug as a pen holder and not for a drink. The other thing students should know about work environments is that sometimes you just feel like giving up.

So the morning of the unveiling and the Student Affairs "Coffee/Hot Chocolate/Tea Reception" Vice President Felicia Lee responded to my query about her excitement-level by responding "You and those mugs. You are like a pit bull with those mugs." I think this was code for "you, my friend, might just get a bonus this year. The morning was going well. There was great vindication. Staffers were stopping by, enjoying their choices of beverages in the new mugs (which everyone pointed out should be rinsed first...) and then Reverend Nickle gleefully announced that the word "department," in the mission, was supposed to be "development." Though the values on the mugs include things like caring, respect, and integrity, the value of "ha-ha-ha, the stupid mugs aren't even right!" seemed to trump the others. My attempts to blame my senior secretary, the mug company, and Dr. Lee's current and former assistants never gained traction.

All subsequent visitors were asked to read the mission and none of THEM picked up on the mistake. Much like you may have missed the misspelling in the title of this post. If not for the Rev, these mugs would be on the hot ticket list today, rather than being pushed in the face of the Dean of Students by his wonderful colleagues. Amen Reverend.

This all evoked memories of the inaugural Sophomore College t-shirt I designed that read "Sophmore College," and the "Trinty Parent" newsletter. And I consider myself a detail guy. And so goes the story of the Student Affairs mugs... The story of serving, of supporting, and becoming global citizens. And maybe on the next go-around, of double and triple checking.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Newlywed Game for Roommates

Residential Life Coordinators Josh Brack and Lily Gonzalez, who oversee the first year housing area and supervise the Resident Mentors strutted their own event planning skills, hosting the Newlywed Game for Roommates on October 13. Many students hoped to be selected, but only a few were chosen to compete for prizes based on how well they know their new roommates. This is the first time Residential life put on this program at this scale, though Res Life student staffers have done smaller versions in the past. Josh Brack, pictured at right, emceed the event and apparently didn't even have to look beyond his closet for an appropriate jacket.

As with the old Newlywed Game, roommates were quizzed about the habits and preferences of their other halves. The event drew a great crowd to the Tigers' Den, which is still available only for programs. Check at right for a slide show (photos by Sophomore College Coordinator Cally Chenault). Don't fret about the co-ed pairings, they are all staff members who either live alone or in the case of the pro staff, definitely not together.

Parents Talk

Parents braved the rain to attend the Parent Talk coffee at the home of the Dean of Students during the 2009 Fall Family Weekend, organized by Ben Newhouse and Student Affairs. This tradition allows list-servers to put names and faces together so they can get a better feel for who they are chatting with on-line. There was some conversation lamenting the fact that the students ridicule their parents for being involved with this list. The students should be thrilled though. No one is trading embarrassing stories, as they might suspect. The parents are, however, venting their own angst about the travails of parenting college students. It is a great outlet for them to be able to turn their angst toward one another instead of their college kids. Besides, when the students need some advice, they often ask the parents to seek it for them on the list. It is pretty much the way they treat parents and money: They need it, but preferably just on their own terms. See the slide show at right, with pictures from the Dean, and Trinity parent -- and four-time PT coffee attendee -- Leanne McClellan. Included in the pics are the coffee, the mixer with the faculty at the library, and a little bit of the football game.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Collegiate Obituary

"It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of..." So begins a half dozen or so e-mails each year from the University Communications Office. It is always very appropriate, but sad. It is the proper way to announce to the University community the deaths of retired professors, administrators, and benefactors, though most of the readers never knew the deceased.

So how do I appropriately announce the loss of my trusty Schwinn Collegiate 5-speed bicycle? Certainly not with the same gravity. But it is gone. It must be known beyond a brief, almost insultungly sparse mention in the campus paper's crime briefs. So here goes: "It kinda sucks, but someone stole the Dean of Students' trusty bicycle out of his campus driveway on September 18, 2009. The green 5-speed Schwinn Collegiate was used to propel the Dean up the hill in the mornings and coast him home at night. It took him to and fro without adding more golf carts to the campus environment. It was old-school, functional, not too flashy, but it was a good ride."

I was not actually as bummed as I thought I would be. I had seen this coming for awhile. It is about the seventh bike of mine (or members of my family) that has been stolen while living on campus. You are never really prepared though. And this one was different. I had the same model as a kid in Milwaukee, receiving it as a Christmas gift circa 1972. Little did I know then, that the "Collegiate" moniker would be foreshadowing my career, and version two of the same model nearly 30 years later.

In truth thought the name to be rather docile. It was no Stingray. But it was my bike. "Collegiate." Though the "Collegiate" went with me to college at UW Madison, it was gone by the following summer. I actually forgot to bring it home. Upon trying to find it on a return trip, I hit nothing but brick walls in the bureaucracy that was the University of Wisconsin's abandoned-bike-removal-and-abyss department. It would never be recovered.

Imagine my glee in seeing a green 5 speed Schwinn Collegiate posted for sale on the in-house TigerTalk list serve on campus. Trinity secretary Linda Hyatt was offering her father's bike for sale. It had my name all over it: History, Collegiate-ism, familiarity, and the intersection of past and present. I believe it was posted for $100 and I negotiated her down to... $100. I didn't care. I was getting a Collegiate again. I got something back that mattered to me. And the name? Now it made sense.

After taking it apart, cleaning it up, and then having the bicycle repair shop help me get it back together (so I'm not mechanical), I was ready to roll out the new ride. It had a new bell, a new horn, and shiny silver fenders. Sure, friends and students would yell at me, half-kidding, asking where the flag was, or why it didn't have the playing card attached to the spokes by a clothes pin to simulate a revving engine. I didn't care. It was my bike.

So last month someone walked up my driveway, cut the lock with a bolt-cutter, and took it all away. My daughter, Joelle and my wife, Donna were there when I saw it was gone. I reported it to Security and Sergeant Morales seemed devastated. My friend Rick... Wanda and the staff in Residential Life.. and my VP, Felicia Lee; They all had the same reaction as my wife, daughter, and Officer Morales. They were hurt. "You loved that bike!"

Maybe that's why I didn't get too down. It is, after all, just a bike. The wheels weren't riding true anymore, to be honest. It was needing some new lights and a new horn. It was time for something new. Having people worry about me because of my stolen bike seemed almost silly, really, but it made me feel better. "It's okay," I would tell them. "It's just a bike." They tried to believe me.

One day, God-willing, I will have long since retired from Trinity, and the University Communications Office will have to roll out yet another obituary. Like my bike's write-up here, I hope the story about me reflects some history (I have been here 20 years and counting...) and something not too mundane. I hope it begins with something different than "It is with great sadness..." Maybe that is self-centered. Just for kicks, though, I hope it starts something like this: "It was a good ride..."