Tag Archives: leadership

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


Going Grey – Reflections on Turning 40

by Heather Shea Gasser

(The featured photo on this post is of my mother, Susan Shea, and me on my 40th birthday)

You wouldn’t know it by looking at the array of women’s magazine covers at the grocery store check out line, but aging ISN’T actually the worst thing to happen to women. Consider the headlines on a recent SHAPE magazine: “Age-Proof Your Body: The Best Moves & Foods To Do It” and “Sharon Stone: 56 & Hotter Than Ever: Her Stay-Sexy Secrets Inside”. Statements like these contribute to the anti-aging, diet, and beauty mega-industry whose ads fill nearly every page inside. These products, ranging from wonder creams to hair dye, promise a more youthful appearance and are marketed nearly exclusively to women. It’s no secret that we live in a culture obsessed with youth.

Today, on my fortieth birthday, I feel compelled to share my thoughts on aging and how the blatant double standards in our society harms all of us but specifically targets and undermines women. Much of the focus on aging has to do, after all with appearance and how one presents to the world. As we’ve discussed in other posts on this site, professional dress standards also disproportionately impact women in the work place and specifically in student affairs. Regarding age and appearance – I contend that we internalize the pervasive anti-aging media messages and these in turn impact how, as we grow older, our effectiveness is perceived and judged in personal and professional contexts.

Continue reading Going Grey – Reflections on Turning 40

Empathy in the Workplace: Fact or Crap

by Jennifer R. Keup

OK, confession time: I have become highly suspicious of the use of the term “empathy” in the workplace, especially with respect to leadership.

I realize that this statement is likely to be interpreted as heretical in the highly emotionally-intelligent, person-centered, post-modern world of student affairs practice and leadership. So, let me clarify that I am actually a kind-hearted, sensitive person who values plurality. I cried during the death scenes in the movie Titanic, have been known to get emotional during commercials featuring babies and families, and maintain many longstanding personal and professional relationships. I value diversity, seek opportunities for international exposure and awareness, and actively integrate intercultural perspectives into my life and the lives of my children. I am a good “read” of people, am often the person to whom friends and colleagues confide, and regularly feel my heartstrings pulled by the trials, tribulations, and accomplishments of others. In other words, I believe that empathy is a real and important trait and that it is present in my own innate personality, although I will admit that I have never participated in any formalized training that would allow me to cite a specific measure of the depth or degree of this aspect of my psyche.

My trepidation has more to do with the way that “empathy” is cited and, I would argue, largely misused in the modern workplace.  Empathy is “the ability to experience and relate to the thoughts, emotions, or experiences of others” (Gentry, Weber, & Sadri, 2007, p. 4).  It is the ability to see and understand the worldview of others and “share their perspective” (Gallup, 2014, para. 1).  It requires trust, the ability to read subtext and nonverbal cues, strong listening skills, and a healthy balance between compassion and cognition. Several studies of professional performance and leadership in higher education and the corporate world provide evidence that empathy is an important professional quality. This body of research shows that empathy is a critical component of successful management, is related to employee satisfaction and productivity, and is becoming an ever more important leadership quality in a pluralistic and global society. Continue reading Empathy in the Workplace: Fact or Crap

Musings of a Vice President



By Jodi Koslow Martin

One of the pleasures of reading a blog is to get to know its author. If you read consistently enough, you get a sense of who she is and seeing if her experiences align with yours.  It’s been fun for those of us writing this blog to see what gets shared, what gets comments, and what gets people thinking.

To share a bit more about myself, I am coming up on finishing my first full year as a vice-president. There is a part of me that wants to write, “well, I work at a small school so it’s not a real vice-president position.” What? How about that for listening to nothing my co-bloggers have written so far? Then, there’s another part of me that wants to share with you that this year as a vice-president has been so different from every other year of my career. Vice presidents are the people I used to talk about…all the time. I used to analyze what they thought, what they did, what they said, what I thought they believed. Ugh. How is it possible that anyone would care to give serious thought to what I think? Who am I? And again…am I even reading this blog? But, then, I think again. I’ve worked towards this position and I’m proud to have it. Right?!?! Damn straight. The job fits my skill set and my love for higher education. I often think using the word “passion” for working with college students is overused; I, on the other hand, have a love for higher ed. I believe in it for its transformational power and am committed to it in spite its imperfections. Look at that. I’m in a committed relationship with higher education.

My friend, Jennifer Keup, recently posted her review of the book, Composing a Life. I love the idea of “composing a life.” We are all composing our lives. As we think about composing our careers in higher education, we may find that we thread together a bunch of experiences (and sew them up into a neat resume) and discover where we make the greatest of contributions in higher education. I’m finding that leadership in higher education comes together in large parts in the meetings we have, in the tones of our voices, and in making appearances. In Composing a Life, Bateson spends some time reflecting upon an instance where someone mentioned the pastoral role of an academic dean. Her colleague was referring to the listening, consoling, counseling, and ministering parts of leadership rather than to a bucolic way of living life.  One day after I read this section, a colleague of mine offered me advice to try to be more pastoral with staff. Working on a Christian campus, being pastoral is something many are familiar with.  The term “pastoral” struck me, admittedly not in a positive way at first. Yet, it resonated with me how Bateson managed to put the pastoral comment in context; she offered that being nurturing can include both concurring and agreeing with someone as well as offering a realistic version of the truth. She’s spot on. I’m continually striking the balance to sit next to someone and listen intently and quietly with clearly laying out my expectations and vision.

All of this is part of my reflection — a year into this job as vp — of my continual journey to be an authentic leader. I’ve mentioned authenticity a few times in past blogs and I still connect with the concept. It’s only in being most genuine do I find that people can trust you. Just last week, I made a new hire. I always begin interviews with candidates who will be direct reports with breakfast and then end the day with the candidate to assess what she or he has learned. One candidate recently told me at the end of the day, “So…you’re different.” Yes I am. There is only one way for me to be VP and it’s as me. I know no other way. I have to keep that in mind. And, I like being different. So much so that I hired the person who noticed.

Lessons from the Field: Feminist Supervision

by Heather Shea Gasser

This entry was modified from the original post on heathersheagasser.com

Very early on in my career in student affairs I had a really terrible supervisor (who will remain nameless). He was a “good ole’ boy” in the purest sense, catering not to his staff but to the upper administration (nearly all men) at the college. He undermined my role as the primary advisor to a group of students frequently: sometimes he provided only lukewarm support of my decisions and other times he blatantly advised students to take a course of action in direct opposition to my previous advisement. It probably comes as no shock that I moved on from that position as quickly as possible. There is nothing worse than having an unsupportive and hierarchical supervisor.

Supervision in student affairs comes in all shades. Some supervisors are as developmental and intentional in supervising their staff as they are in working with undergraduate students, applying lessons of Sanford’s “challenge and support” in every context (maybe inappropriately at times). Continue reading Lessons from the Field: Feminist Supervision

It’s Lonely at the Top

by Sara Hinkle

I have long considered myself an extrovert, bolstered by several rounds of MBTI results and my personal experiences. I’m a social person, I appreciate situations where I can collaborate with people, and I draw my energy from being around others. This applies not only to my personal life, but to my professional life as well. At my very first student affairs job as an area coordinator, I had fellow ACs who were hired at the same time that I was. Their jobs were slightly different from mine, but we were peers and contemporaries. I appreciated the experience of being able to consult with them, share ideas, and (occasionally) commiserate about the joys and frustrations of being a live-in professional. I worked at a tiny institution where the staff was lean, but many new professionals have a wealth of peers within their institution at their similar professional level with whom to interact.

Continue reading It’s Lonely at the Top

Notes from the Mainstream

by Amy Howton

(This post is cross-posted from amyjhowton.comMy Feminist Praxis)

I pretty much hate mainstream feminism. Critiques of mainstream feminisms and the movement’s pervasive reinforcement of the status quo really get me fired up. And I mean fired up–head bobbing, fist pumping, mumbling Amen and all. Here’s the problem: I’m about as mainstream as it gets.   I’m white, married, middle-class, working as a professional feminist in a campus-based women’s center, I might as well get “mainstream” tattooed on my forehead.

Of course, the privilege that accompanies this mainstream status is nuanced in how I actually experience it. As I join with colleagues and students to advocate for gender and social justice in and beyond our institution, our work often times feels marginalized, dismissed, devalued. Continue reading Notes from the Mainstream

Balance is Bunk

by Jennifer Stripe

Oh, balance.  That elusive state of Zen-like being.  The one in which I find plenty of time to attend to the needs of home, work, family, friends, and myself.  I have often heard others say that adding just one or two more hours to the day would solve time challenges and allow them to achieve balance.  I suggest that doing so would simply provide more hours to fill.

Please allow this blog post to serve as your personal invitation to my “balance does not exist” bandwagon where we will comfort each other with the understanding that balance is not elusive but, rather, a downright impossibility.  As I have advanced in my career, I have found striving to achieve balance just another stress-inducing task on my to-do list.  I once believed that I could do it all … Continue reading Balance is Bunk

From Lucky to Worthy

by Kelsie Poe

A few months ago I went to an on-campus retreat about women’s leadership. I was excited to meet with undergraduate women, talk to them about leadership styles, and what problems they had while leading. Our keynote speaker, Valerie Hennings, really struck a chord with me. Hennings discussed the issues facing women in leadership, citing attribution theory as one reason for a lack of women in leadership positions. Attribution theory looks at where we attribute our successes and failures within our lives, and the evidence shows that men and women are generally opposite in their attributions. It hurts me to see women attributing successes to external factors and failures to internal factors while men generally do the opposite. We were asked to take control of our leadership and take responsibility for what we were achieving.

After we learned about attribution theory in the morning, we had a panel of guest speakers in the afternoon who held prominent roles in the surrounding community. One woman, in describing her life story and successes, said she was so lucky to have been given the opportunities in her past and hoped that all of the young women in the room would have the great fortune of experiencing those moments. Continue reading From Lucky to Worthy

Holding Ourselves to Unrealistic Expectations

by Kathleen Kerr

Beginning at the 2008 ACPA Convention, and at each one since, I have had the privilege of being a presenter for a program called “Secrets of Success: Women Leaders on Their Own Terms.” The program was initiated by two-time past ACPA President Jeanne Hart-Steffes, who is currently serving as the Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students at Western New England University. She believed that we could create a powerful learning experience for our colleagues, simply by telling our stories. So each year, she has gathered together five or six women who have diverse professional experiences and are from diverse backgrounds, to talk about their work in higher education, and how this connects to our values, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, and our personal and professional aspirations. Past participants have included Susan Komives, Patty Perillo, Bridget Kelly, Stacey Pearson-Wharton, Lynnette Willett, and Dafina Lazarus Stewart.

While the women on the panel have changed over the years, the response to the session has remained constant. Each year, whether we are presenting for an hour or for three; whether we are at 11 am or at 8 am on the final day of the convention, women arrive to fill the room. Continue reading Holding Ourselves to Unrealistic Expectations