Category Archives: Student Affairs

My Heart is Full

by Jodi Koslow Martin

As the first week of classes comes to an end, those of us in student affairs see the conclusion of welcome activities.  Bridge programs, peer leader training, move-in days, dropped classes, added classes, opening convocations…you name it, we’re certainly always in charge of it.  These are days filled with utter exhaustion, what may be called the “good tired” if our experience has an element of fulfillment to it.  And, sometimes, these are days when hope and promise meet glitches and snafus as our smiles get bigger and wider to hide the 15 things that haven’t gone as planned.   It’s in these very days that begin another academic year, affording us the opportunity to bring higher education closer to true equity and inclusion.

I am starting my fourth academic year as a senior student affairs professional at a small, urban Christian university.  This last week led me to a positive place of feeling like I fit in. Odd to say, isn’t it?  Yet, it has taken three full years. There are certainly some realizations that help this situation including a palpable spirit of collaboration at the faculty development retreat of student affairs professionals and faculty working together, a retention rate worthy of attention, and a diverse student affairs staff who are bright, creative, and extremely competent.  Fitting in took some time because as I was being collaborative — a value in feminist leadership I prioritize — I was minimizing my own competency.  Oftentimes I thought that when I heard dissent, it made me think that I must be wrong.  Or, if I shared an opposing viewpoint, I had to think twice because maybe my perspective was off.  Why would I do this?  Was it a lack of confidence? I had thought it was because I didn’t fully understand the culture of my institution.  But, now, I am the culture of my institution.  I’ve carried who I am into this place as I hired and formed staff into being the mentors, educators, and caring individuals.  I’ve carried being a Catholic, female leader into an Evangelical Christian institution where my new student worker felt like he had to ask in a hushed tone, “You’re really Catholic?”  I’ve carried my interest in knowing students deeply into a commitment to know the students who work in our offices and to eat in the cafeteria once a week so that I can start new relationships on a regular basis.  I’ve carried my understanding of leading student affairs into the conversation about student learning outcomes.  I’ve carried my identity and integrity, as Parker Palmer would say, into this sacred space of education.

But, you see, I’ve been carrying it all along.  It didn’t just happen, of course, but it did take 3 years to realize it.  And, it’s not something that can be quantified that led me to this realization.  It came from the heart first.  My heart is full as I think about the impact of the student affairs educators have in the lives of students. My heart is full with the promise of a new academic year.  My heart is full as I recognize that I have the wisdom that comes with time and experience and a love of learning that will keep us continually looking for innovative ways to show we care for our students.  My heart is full because the work is bigger than me, bigger than any one person but it is in the work of student affairs that I, and so many others, can find a place where they fit in because they are being their true selves.

“Be a woman.  Seek and work only for what is life-sustaining. Don’t just change with the times, let the times change because you are present.  Make a difference.” –Mercy Amba Oduyoye

Advertisements

Identity, Intersection, and Collision

by: Kathryn Kay Coquemont

India Arie’s “I Am Not My Hair” is a symbolic anthem communicating that people (particularly those from the Black/African American community) are more than the social identities we use as labels. She sings, “I am not my hair / I am not this skin / I am not your expectations, no / I am not my hair / I am not this skin / I am the soul that lives within”. Although many found these lyrics empowering, others were quick to point out that systemic oppression often does relegate people of color to embody a single dimensional identity. As a woman of color, my permitted identity is often determined by those with more privilege and power than I have. Every day, I navigate the world trying to determine if my racial or my gender identity is more salient in the current space I inhabit. I can only imagine and listen to stories about how much more difficult it is for women with additional marginalized identities to cope with social expectations. Continue reading Identity, Intersection, and Collision

Work/Life Balance: Revisited

I know- you’re reading this title and saying, isn’t this topic old and tired? What more can we say about work/life balance that hasn’t already been said?  Haven’t we been told time and time again that balance is bunk?  I know, I know.  However, a variety of experiences I’ve had over the past few months have sparked my interest in revisiting this topic.  Humor me.  Here goes…

I recently attended a wonderful on-campus session focused on women in leadership. Everyone on campus was invited to attend a lunch and subsequent panel session, which included women who held or had held various leadership positions in higher education.  One panelist was a president emerita; another, a retired assistant vice president for student affairs; two were chief academic affairs officers; and a fifth was a vice chancellor of our state system.  As we asked the panel various questions, the inevitable questions came up about work/life balance.  How do you manage it all?  After the question was asked, the panel grew uncharacteristically silent and looked a bit sheepish.  “Not very well,” admitted the former AVPSA, a rumored workaholic.  The retired president offered up something about a seesaw- sometimes career is up and sometimes personal life is up, depending on the period of life or time of year.  Okay, fair enough. The others sort of hemmed and hawed. What became clear from this panel of very successful women is that balance is hard to achieve and some women (and men) eschew balance in order to achieve success. It didn’t leave me feeling optimistic.

Continue reading Work/Life Balance: Revisited

Where do Women’s Centers fit?

by Heather Shea Gasser

Campus-based women’s centers hold a special place in my heart. The five+ years I spent as the Director of the University of Idaho Women’s Center, as you may have read on my personal blog, were incredibly transformative for me as a feminist, as a student affairs educator, and as an activist. Now as a scholar and doctoral student in a higher education program, I keep going back to the tensions I experienced in the women’s center as I consider my emerging research interests. Somewhere in the long list of the potential topics are the questions: What is the continuing role of women’s centers as organizations within institutions of higher education? Where do women’s centers fit?

I bring this topic to the #SAfeminist blog today because the professional association home to women’s centers since the 1990s (thank you to Juli Parker for the history), the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA), just removed all formal representation of women’s center professionals from their governing council. The co-chairs of the Women’s Center Committee have resigned and submitted this open letter to the NWSA governing council. InsideHigherEd.com carried the news story today.

In the letter, former co-chairs, Dr. Gina Helfrich and Dr. Adale Sholock state “NWSA has failed to center the work of Women’s Centers professionals, the front line practitioners of feminism in the academy and so often those who carry the burden of translating women’s and gender theory into action for and alongside students. Instead of providing a welcoming and sustaining home for Women’s Centers professionals, NWSA has repeatedly marginalized Women’s Centers professionals, their research, their work, and their needs.” Continue reading Where do Women’s Centers fit?

#SAfeminists: One Year Later

By Jennifer Keup, Jodi Koslow Martin, Sara Hinkle, Jennifer Stripe,
and Heather Shea Gasser

Just over a year ago, the five of us gathered at ACPA at a 5 p.m. ed session in Indianapolis hopeful that a few folks would straggle in at the end of the day to talk with us (roundtable-style) about feminism in student affairs. Much to our surprise, the room was full to the gills, spilling out into the hallway. Shocked at the much larger audience than we expected, we proceeded with openness and vulnerability to tell our stories under the title Wonder Women: Leaning In as Women in Student Affairs. Clearly there was a need and an interest for opening up space within our professional development for the intersections between our personal, political, and professional lives as feminists working in student affairs.

After the session, we wondered out loud, where else can we continue this conversation with all of these fabulous people? and, how can we invite more voices to this discussion? and further, how can we move this forward for the purpose of social change?

And so in April 2014, we launched this blog, Feminists in Student Affairs, to provide a forum to continue the invigorating feminist conversation, connection, and activism. In the 11 months since, we’ve gained over 200 followers, received over 18,000 views, and posted nearly 50 contributions from over 21 different authors. We’re thrilled to welcome Amy Howton and Kristen Abell to the core editorial team. Continue reading #SAfeminists: One Year Later

Space and Grace

By Brandy Turnbow

The closing months of the year are often a time of intense reflection for me as I struggle to understand what has been most meaningful about the year thus far and what can be done to better navigate some of the challenges experienced as I prepare for the next year to come. I rely heavily on my simple meditation of Space and Grace. Both capitalized; they’re that important. Space to attend to my self-care and self-reflection. Grace not to hold guilt for prioritizing my needs.

The past few years have been tedious and difficult. Small wins met with larger defeats or complete restructuring of purpose. Suffice it to say, when the calendar begins to wind down toward November, my anxiety increases and I find myself vulnerable and heavily reliant on my protocols of self-care.

Continue reading Space and Grace

Trans*ing Feminism

by Z Nicolazzo

This morning, while scrolling through my Facebook feed, I happened across a post that brought a smile to my face: it now appears that Simmons is the third Women’s college to openly affirm its stance on accepting transgender (herein referred to as trans*) students (Rocheleau & Landergan, 2014). This announcement follows those made earlier this fall by Mills College and Mount Holyoke, signaling what I hope will be a sea change for not only Women’s colleges, but for all institutions of higher education. I agree that all institutions of higher education need to be considering trans* students more seriously, and have even mused why Men’s colleges have yet to publicly address the inclusion of trans* students. However, I think there are important questions to be addressed by the recent increase in attention on trans* students (lack of) inclusion at Women’s colleges, most notably, how does recognizing and affirming trans* lives shape the future of feminisms?

Continue reading Trans*ing Feminism

Dreaming of an Administrative Sabbatical

by Anonymous

So, here’s the deal: I’m TIRED! Like to-the-core mentally, physically, spiritually, and professionally tired.  This is not the kind of tired that a vacation, a long weekend spent in bed, or a weekday massage can dispel.  This is the kind of exhausted that I suspect is the hallmark of many mid-level and senior student affairs professionals who are also juggling other demands in their lives.  Add to that the fact that many of us who are drawn to this field are innate and lifelong “caretakers” whose responsibilities and obligations in service to others probably predates our professional roles in higher education for reasons that range from being type A personalities, first-born children, lifelong leaders, or even managing more pressing challenges in our inner circles such as addiction or mental health issues.  Contextualize all of that within a resource-sensitive era of higher education (read: “we ain’t got no money!”), being asked to do “more with less,” and continually needing to prove our worth as partners in the academic mission of the institution, and it can be a recipe for serious burnout.

Continue reading Dreaming of an Administrative Sabbatical