Archive for the ‘Reflection’ Category

SA Women Talk Tech: Rosa Parks, The power of women standing up for what they believe in

Rosa ParksEveryone knows what happened after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery Alabama bus in December of 1955, but what is less well known is the real reason why, and what lead up to that decisive moment.

Twelve years prior to the bus boycott, in 1943, Rosa Parks became active in the civil right movement as a member of the local NAACP chapter and secretary to the president of the organization. In this same year, Rosa experienced her first confrontation with a bus driver when she was told to exit the front of the bus in the rain and re-enter through the back of the bus. As she was doing so, she dropped her purse and sat for a minute to pick it up. This so enraged the bus driver that he drove off and left her standing in the rain outside of the bus. Rosa knew this treatment was unfair, but felt there was little she could do.

In 1944 Rosa experienced her first taste of equality when working at Maxwell Air Force Base because the base was federal property and secretion was not permitted. After leaving the base, Rosa took a job working for a couple who sponsored her attendance at Highlander Folk School, a place where she was further educated about racial equality and the rights of workers. Her confidence grew.

In 1955, after coming back to Montgomery, she took a job at a local department store as a seamstress. On her way back from work on day she sat down in the first row of middle section of the bus, behind the section reserved for whites. By a strange coincidence, the same bus driver who had thrown her off 13 years ago was driving the bus that day. When all of the seats reserved for whites filled up, he moved the sign back and demanded that Rosa and three others give up their seats. Rosa refused.People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.

Rosa shared the real motivation behind her decision in her biography:
“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in. I knew someone had to take the first step and I made up my mind not to move. Our mistreatment was just not right, and I was tired of it.”

Rosa parks was not an accidental activist, she was an intentional activist. She made a conscious decision to take a stand. Subsequently, Jo Ann Robinson, organizer and member of the Women’s Political Council stayed up all night mimeographing over 35,000 copies of a flyer announcing a boycott of the buses. This group was the first to officially endorse and advertise the boycott. They started the work that spread through churches and newspapers to coordinate 40,000 people in only 2 days.

While the bus boycott would last 381 days before Alabama’s segregation laws would be ruled unconstitutional, Rosa’s steadfast commitment to the cause through difficult times inspired the movement.

What happens when one woman stands up for the rights of many? What happens when women come together and organize around a cause? Rosa’s story is a reminder of the power of one woman’s voice, and the amplified power of a community of women coming together.   Imagine how quickly our voices can spread when you have the internet as a tool.  How will you use the tools you have at your disposal to make sure your voice is heard?  Share Rosa’s story and be inspired by her strength.  I know I am.

“Parks Recalls Bus Boycott, Excerpts from an interview with Lynn Neary”, National Public Radio, 1992, linked at Civil Rights Icon Rosa Parks Dies, NPR, October 25, 2005. Retrieved July 4, 2008.

Originally posted on Student Affairs Women Talk Tech 3/1/12


Little Known Black History Facts

Black_History_Facts_InfographicOriginally posted on Simmons Campus Life blog 2/29/12

I went to a radical grassroots organizing conference & lived to tell the tale (Part II: Google+)

Day 1: Sessions at #roots12google_plus_logo

Session 1: Google+ & YouTube for Organizing
Session 2: Don’t Touch the Pink Controller!: Telling Our Gender Stories for Social Change
Session 3: Want to be a new media director?: How to set up a New Media Program
Session 4: Art of the SCHMOOZE
Session 5: Infographics are FUN! -Not Scary

Before Andy Roos+, our google presenter, begun his presentation I went right up to him and told him how much I was looking forward to being reenergized to use google+.

Similar to many people I know, I’ve had my interest piqued when I heard of google’s foray into the social networking arena, but hadn’t yet taken the time to really look into its use.  As we know, if your friends aren’t using it, neither are you.  Yet when attending Boston PodCamp6 this fall I was able to attend a session lead by Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan/ChrisBrogan+), one of the leading authors writing about Google+ and it’s benefits.  Chris’ enthusiasm for the medium was incredibly contagious.  He told us we should all be using Google+ because:

  1. It instantly made anything we were sharing searchable (especially important for businesses)
  2. It allowed us to share information with groups of people who the item was most relevant (i.e. random childhood memories only share with your family ‘circle’)
  3. It allows for the friend-friend recommendations we all can appreciate.  If you do a google search, you will immediately see better/more relevant results if your friends are +1-ing content.
  4. It integrates with all of google’s other tools.  If you already live part of your life on google, you will find it even easier to utilize all of the other tools, such as video ‘hang outs’ with people in your Google+ circles.

Chris talked about the need for everyone to be on Google+ so emphatically that I was CONVINCED to needed to go home and get on board (read more about Chris’ view at his blog).   However, as with many things we learn at conferences, I put it on the back burner and hadn’t spent the time I had wanted to get familiar with the platform.  Enter Andy Roos.

I told Andy that I had listened to Chris Brogan’s presentation, loved Google’s products as a whole, present on using Google in the workplace at least a couple times a year, and in general couldn’t wait to hear about how using google products can further help with my work.  I think I might have overwhelmed him a bit with my excitement.

Andy shared some pearls of wisdom, which I think can be relevant to the work we do as Student Affairs Professionals:

  • Video content is king (or queen)
    Videos are hot on YouTube, hot on Facebook, and in general one of the most popular forms of communication on the web.  They need to be short and fun to get lots of views, but clearly people find this format for receiving information (or just wasting time) enjoyable.  Consider a video about activities happening in your area for the week like Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS) has done.  Have your students shoot video interviewing other students, or taking tours of their favorite places on campus.  If you have a blog for your department, you might as well take advantage of the interactive format and post videos, both of your own students, or to content you think they would enjoy.  Video content drives people to your blog.
  • You can integrate Google+ into your work in a meaningful way; especially through Google hangouts
    An example Andy shared was how newscaster Sarah Hill uses Google+ hangouts live in her newscasts.  She invites average citizens to be involved in conversations on the air through the medium, and now has over 620,000 followers because of the revolutionary way that she is engaging with her audience.  How can we engage with our students using this medium?  How Could we use it to connect with Student Leaders over the summer?  How can we use it to be more efficient (and more personal) in our professional organization work?  We’d be crazy to not look into using this helpful new technology.  Read more about Sarah Hill’s “social genius”
  • Clear and simple visuals are VERY important to getting points across. 
    Whether it is on your webpage, your presentations, or your Office’s Google+ page, inforgraphics and pictures matter.  Andy offered Obama’s Google+ page as an example of a good way to feed information to followers in a more interesting way.
  • In 180 days, Google has made 212 product improvements on Google+
    We all know that Google is constantly rolling out products and improvements.  While it might feel uncomfortable to be ‘ahead of the curve’ when it comes to a new product, imagine how wonderful it will feel when you are more familiar with it than everyone else because you started working with Google+ in it’s younger days.
  • YouTube is the 3rd largest site on the Internet
    Reinforcing the point that video content is BIG.  Whether or not your video turns ‘viral’ or becomes someone makes an ever-popular meme out of it, you are more likely to get your students to watch a video than read a long article.  Case in point – wouldn’t you rather me show you these tips in a video than read this blog?
  • Make people stay interested in your YouTube videos
    Andy offered an interesting tip I hadn’t heard before.  If you are worried about folks tuning out after the first minute you could try adding captions to the pictures in your video (like pop up video style).  It gets people to pay closer attention so they don’t miss something.
  • Google Video Tools for Nonprofits
    Andy said that not everyone knows about Your institution, or organization can use these tools to make branded pages, avoid ads, and have access to many more tools.
  • Get Interactive with Google Moderator
    Andy also suggested checking out Google Moderator (  With this YouTube tool you can crowdsource comments or questions.  The way it works is that someone gets to suggest a question and then the rest of the audience can “vote up” the question in the queue if they like it.  Imagine setting up a video message (or Google Hangout) with your Dean of Students and let the parents or students bring up questions and vote for which questions for her to answer.  Check out this VIDEO about how to use Google+ live video conferencing.
  • You are more likely to remember an ad on YouTube than an ad on TV
    YouTube is a “lean in media.”  This might be less relevant for student affairs professionals if you aren’t making ads, but I find the point very interesting.  When a commercial is on TV you are more likely to walk away, go to the bathroom, get snacks, etc.  However, no one clicks on an ad via the web and walks away.  If someone is looking at your ad they are literally “leaning in” toward the computer and much more engaged with receiving the information.  While we might not be making traditional ads ourselves, we certainly could be using videos to inform our students of things we want them to know (such as closing information, bed bunking, programming on campus, leadership position openings).  No matter who you are, you want your audience to “lean in” to your message.

Forty five minutes of Google has reminded me just how much I love Google’s products as a whole.  I’m excited to re-embrace this technology and see how many places I can use it in my work. How are you using google+ or YouTube in you work?  Post below!

I went to a radical grassroots organizing conference & lived to tell the tale (Part I)


To be 100% honest, when I signed up to volunteer and attend RootsCamp (#roots12) in Washington DC I didn’t know exactly what to expect.  I knew it was run by the New Organizing Institute (NOI) and would be bringing together community organizers and creating opportunities for cross-issue discussions and idea sharing.  Because there is no pre-set agenda, and no schedule posted from last year (that I could find) I didn’t know the breath of topics they would cover.  However, when a community organizer friend of mine suggested I join him at the conference he did mention that there would be plenty of techy sessions, and that is enough to get to me to go to ANY conference.

Volunteering at the conference served three purposes for me:

1. Allowing me to go (it was sold out!)
2. Giving me a purpose when I knew I would feel a little out of place
3. Getting a ‘behind the scenes’ perspective of the conference.  If I learned nothing else, I wanted to see how UNconference was run.

roots12 volunteers

At our volunteer orientation I got my first taste of the diversity of our attendees. Environmentalists, political campaigners, occupy supporters, new media managers, international activists, cultural group community builders and many more.  The likelihood of one person repeating the same activity or organization as the next was as likely as…

As an aside – Cool new icebreaker is asking for folks to say 3 examples of “what kind of people are you?”

I am geeky/tech loving people
I am LGBTQ activist people
I am Panera loving people

UNConference Organizing: Dos                                       

From an organizational perspective, I had already learned from the NOI team that if you are going to pull off something this huge, you should do a couple things:

  1. Have one of your interns/office students call every volunteer twice.  Call once to confirm a volunteer is on board and that they are receiving your information email information (I wasn’t, it was going to my SPAM folder) and the second time the day before the event to remind them of the volunteer info session.
  2. Bring everyone in the night before for an orientation.  The morning of the conference sounds like a good idea in theory, but there is always running around to do, and our orientation the night before was much more relaxed.
  3. Break everyone into subgroups for more direction.  I really liked that we started out as a big group and then after introductions, a tour, and a general overview, broke into subgroups.  This let us get to know our smaller teams better and be assigned specific tasks.
  4. Organize a thank you for the volunteers before the event begins.  By having one of their sponsors take care of free drinks at a local bar the night before the conference, it made us feel special before the work begin.  It gave us an additional reason for coming the night before, and it allowed us to get to know each other better.  In knowing each other, I think we have a better system for supporting the conference attendees, and we felt more a part of the team.
  5. Set up gender-neutral bathrooms and make sure everyone knows where they are.  Besides “Where is x room?” the number one question you are likely to get is “Where is the bathroom?”  I think it is great when volunteers have not only been told where the bathrooms are, but also shown.  After all, you only remember 20% of what you are told (more on that later).  In this case, the conference was on 3 floors, and one of the floors had two gender-neutral bathrooms.  While I think that may have worked out okay, I would suggest having them on the middle floor of a conference when you set them up, or as could have been the case in a conference like this, switch it up, and have only one separate-gendered bathroom and have all of the others in the building gender-neutral.  I recognize that not every organizer has the ability to set this up, especially if they are sharing space with others, but when you can, the more gender-neutral bathrooms, the better!

UNConference Organizing: Don’ts

I do not want to nitpick the conference staff too much, but for the purposes of this blog, I figured it would be helpful to note my insights so you can think about these things when planning your own UNconference.

  1. Have the building staff uninformed. When we arrived we headed downstairs because the guard thought that was where we were suppose to go, despite the direction being different in the email.  There was no NOI staff in either of the two places so the volunteers organized themselves to figure out where we were suppose to be, and then told the building staff what we figured out so others would not be lost.  Clear signage is key, even pre-conference.
  2. Have the staff team come in late or disjointed.  We started our icebreaker with only the volunteers, and then the NOI staff slowly started trickling in.  We didn’t really know if they were late volunteers or staff and I think it would have been nice to know whom our go-to people would be the following two days if we had questions.
  3. Assume we know what’s going on.  In general I wouldn’t suggest asking a question such as “Does everyone know what rootscamp is?”  This is similar to asking the question “Does everyone know what Transgender means?” in a session.  No one is going to want to raise their hand and be the only one who admits that they don’t know.  Just tell us what you want us to know, or if you really want to gauge your audience, do a “thumbmomoter” or “five-fingered check in.”
  4. Not be on the same page as your volunteer coordinator.  As I mentioned before, I was super impressed with the fact that I had been called TWICE before the conference even started.  On the second call, we talked about which shifts I would want to work, how that might conflict with going to sessions, switched shifts around, and confirmed my volunteer assignment.  I felt well cared for and well communicated with.  However, after the general volunteer intro, we were asked, “Who wants to work on logistics?  Who wants to work on AV?”  This was SUPER confusing since I thought we all already had our assignments. Tip: Once you have everyone assigned, have those assignments out for people to review on paper as they check in & that way you know if you need to re-adjust personnel times or teams.

As a geeky side note, people probably should’t refer to the volunteers as “red shirts,” since we might equate that to mean disposable/about to be eaten or shot by an unknown alien species. ;)

I have way too much to say to limit it to one post, so this will be a “to be continued” reflection.  I hope that these insights help folks think of planning a UNConference of their own one day.  And if you do, call me up, I’d love to be a volunteer :)

Why is a student affairs pro on her way to a radical grassroots organizing conference? #roots12

I am writing this post while on a flight to Washington DC, headed to my first RootsCamp “unfconference” where hundreds of organizers from across the US will come together to share ideas and create conversations about successful practices in order to organize around causes they care about.

At first glance, I am sure many people in the field would dismiss this conference as “something my students would go to”, or possibly “what I might be doing if I wasn’t so busy on my own campus.”  It is true that this conference does not offer the tradition Student Affairs practitioner sessions.  It won’t offer speeches from authors in our field, a chance to meet other people around the region that do the exact same thing as us, or speak specifically to how we retain our students.   But in these differences are its real strengths.

When was the last time you stepped outside of the HigherEd bubble and saw how things were run in the corporate or non-profit world?  When have you taken time to volunteer for a major (non-college related) organization?  I find that there is immense value in stepping outside of the field of Student Affairs and interacting with individuals whose goals are in alignment with our own (make this world a better place and help others succeed) but are working at it from a different angle.

What I hope to gain from RootsCamp:

A reminder of what is important

I hope that this conference will remind me of what is most important in my work.  Sure, things like how quickly a student can fill out a spring break form matters, but what matters more is that our students are aware of what is happening in the world around them.  Yes, it matters that students learn how to plan a program, but it is matters more that a student who is struggling to make ends meet has the supports in place to finish her degree. I expect that going to a conference with hundreds of organizers will put my work into perspective.

A completely new way of doing things

When ask to think about it, you may be forced to admit that it has been a while since you have learned through a Student Affairs conference a completely new way of approaching a problem or designing a program on our campus.  Many times we are reminded of things we heard about, but didn’t take the time to fully research and implement, or a slight shift in how you were doing something on your campus already.  There is a really obvious reason for that – we are all recycling the ideas we learn at our past institutions.

Getting outside of the HigherEd bubble I expect to be exposed to some completely new ways of approaching problems; new ways of engaging an audience or growing a movement.  We need to step outside of our own insular world sometimes to bring fresh ideas to the table.

A new approach to communicating

This won’t be my first unconference.  I may actually be going on number 3 or 4 since I first heard of the concept.  However, I recognize that it is still a fairly new idea for our field.  UNconferencing asks people to come forward on the first day of the conference and make up the conference schedule on a giant wall.  Some people (who don’t know each other) with similar themes will join together and joint present on a topic, others will bring pre-set presentations to share.  The scale of this unconference is going to be so much larger than I have ever seen and I am looking forward to being on the volunteer side of things so I can see how it is all put together!

I will no doubt have much more to share after the weekend, and I certainly will also have something to say about being ‘radical’ on your campus after having broken the mold of SA conferences by headed to RootsCamp.  But I will leave you with this one thought for now: What have you done lately that has exposed you to fresh ideas?  When was the last time you stepped outside of the Student Affairs field and gotten a truly new perspective?  What was it you learned?  Please share in the comments section.

I’ll be tweeting throughout the conference at #roots12 . Rootscamp is sponsered by the New Organizing Institute (NOI)

Does our constant connectedness kill our creativity?

Commuting. Walking. Waiting. We are never alone.  We have angry birds, plants vs. zombies, and facebook to keep us company. Whether we are sitting completely alone in a room, or waiting in a room full of dozens of others, our phones are our pacifiers and our safety net.  If you have 20 minutes until the next bus comes, you don’t fret because you know you have something to occupy your time.  If you are caught in a space with people you don’t know, you don’t have to reach outside of your comfort zone and awkwardly talk to someone else, you just pull out your phone.

I know you have heard it all before.  Pundits tell you to unplug from technology.  Authors write about how it is hurting our ability to get work done.  We feel guilty for being allowing a dependence on our techno gadgets.  It’s easy to rationalize our relationship with technology (and specifically our smart phones) because you see so many others around you with the same approach.

I am no different.  I never leave home without my iphone in my pocket and my ipad in my purse.  However I read an article a while back that planted an idea in my head that has been eating at me.  Does our constant connectedness kill our creativity?

As a techie, your mind probably does the same thing that mine does – instantly defends the stance that constant technological connectedness ENHANCES our creativity.  We share ideas, we build communities, we are exposed to new perspectives!  What could be bad about that?

But consider this; what did you used to do in all of those moments commuting, walking, and waiting before you had a smartphone?  Daydreaming, list making and absorbing information about your surroundings.  You were taking in the world in a different way.  Perhaps it was just to see an exciting new font, a shoe style on the person next to you that reminded you to call your brother, or read a magazine that had an article that spurs your next blog post.  The article I read proposed that without these moments of daydreaming, the unstructured time in our lives not invaded by videogames, facebook, and TV shows, we don’t allow ourselves to make the random connections that become a fully formed thought, which in turn can become an idea that leads to a true creativity.

I am not proposing that we cut all technology out of our lives.  I am certainly not suggesting we throw out our smart phones (my iphone isn’t going anywhere!).  I am simply suggesting that instead of pulling out a smartphone the next time you are on the subway or waiting in line, you consider using those precious minutes in your life to just take in the world around you and see what creative moments it might inspire.

Note: I do want to acknowledge that I am writing this article aimed at the privileged folks in Student Affairs who are able to afford a smartphone and other fancy pieces of tech.  If you are not one of those people, consider my article as a good way to rationalize enjoying this freedom from the smartphone world, and how much more thoughtful you have the potential be without the distraction J


Originally posted on the SA Women Talk Tech Blog at:

If you could relive any moment in your life what would it be?

Several months ago I clicked on a twitter link to a TED talk that started with a statement, “Imagine if you could record your life…you can go back and find memorable moments and relive them…sift through traces of time and discover patterns in your own life that had gone previously undiscovered…”  The TED talk by MIT researcher Deb Roy went on to show a project that this speaker embarked on that captured on video the first two years of his son’ life.  While the project was interesting in itself, what really captured my attention was the “question” embedded at the beginning of his presentation.

I reframed it to think about what moments in my life I would have really love to have captured.  Whether on video or through some sort of futuristic sci-fi virtual reality where I get to actually relive the moment, there are certainly moments in my life that rise to the top of my mind.  I began with asking myself the question, when was I most happy?

For me, I immediately thought of the time I spent with my brother and his wife two summers ago.  We spent an afternoon on a hot Northern California summer day sitting together on the edge of a cool river.  The older of my two nephews splashed around in the water while we took turns holding the baby.  We ate cheese curds with dried apples and drank ice-cold cider. In that moment it felt like time stopped.  The only decisions that needed to be made was whether you would want to go swimming or just sit and watch others playing in the water.

In thinking about this memory I tried to identify the key elements that made it so significant in my mind.  Relaxing. Family. Food. Conversation. Clearly these are all very good things.  But only when I started to make my list of other moments that I want to relive did I begin to see patterns.

My Short List

  • My birthday when a group of friends went had a picnic at a winery in Santa Barbara and watched Shakespeare in the park.
  • The small backyard dinner party I threw with two friends at Beacon Street. Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas & Black Bean Dip made the menu.
  • Bocce Ball & a summer picnic in the park in downtown Bowling Green with new friends from BGSU.
  • Canoeing (sans paddle) on the Louisiana bayou with my cousin.
  • Enjoying a Fall weather chili cookout “tailgate” before a BGSU football game.

In making my list, I found that time and time again I would think about experiences when I am with friends, times when I am having great conversations, and of course, occasions when I am enjoying wonderful food.

Using the computer, watching TV, and hanging out alone didn’t make the short list (or even a long list).  Sure, these are all things that I do regularly, but if these are not the moments that I want to remember in my life, it begs the question, is this how I want to be spending my time?

After making this list, I resolve to reallocate my time to doing more of what matters most to me. I resolve to cut out timewasters, like watching TV so that I can get out of my apartment and begin making connections.  I resolve increase my social circle to include people who I can learn from and enjoy having great conversations with.  I also resolve to keep enjoying food whenever possible J

I encourage everyone who reads this blog to make your own list.  Think about the times in your life when you were happiest.  Think about moments when you felt most alive.  Who were you with and how did they make you feel?  This list can serve as a reminder to you, as mine will for me, about what is most important in your life.  Hopefully it will also help you prioritize your time and find ways to make those moments happen more often.  Your themes will be different from mine, but what is most important (in the absence of a sci-fi virtual reality) is that you are actively making new memories that bring you happiness.

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