Category Archives: Uncategorized

My Vote is For…

Today, at 8:04am in my Democrat blue and Suffragette white, I voted for our first female president. I was, and am, overcome with emotions. I have been crying pretty much non-stop because this vote was for me in so many ways, but it was for other people even more.

It was for groundbreaking women who came before Hillary. Not just Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but for Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Fanny Lou Hamer, Shirley Chisholm, Angela Davis, Dolores Huerta, and Grace Lee Boggs. It was for the countless other women of color I never learned about in school because their narratives didn’t matter to my teachers.

My vote was for the many honorary nieces and nephews in my life. For them to grow up in a world where a woman president is as normal as anything else. For my nieces to say, “I want to be president one day” and for them to be told “of course you can” and not just be given a pat on the head. For my nephews to realize a woman in power isn’t a threat to their masculinity, but rather someone who is worthy of dignity and respect.

My vote is for the many students I have been in community with who are either undocumented themselves or have close family members who are undocumented. For these students who simply want to contribute to this country: Their time, their talents, and yes, their taxes.

My vote is for my students who take on crushing student loans because they fall in love with their education and are then are swimming in debt, leading to the inability to live independently on their own, buy a home, start a family, and help grow the economy.

My vote is for, let’s be honest, the vast majority of my friends who identify as LGBTQ. My vote is for their right to love and build lives and homes together, to lovingly bring children into their families, and to be able to live their lives without fear of violence or being fired for simply being who they are and loving who they love.

My vote is for the far too many students and friends I know who are survivors of sexual assault. My vote is to tell them that the next president of the United States should not be a sexual predator and to let them know this toxic stew of masculinity which contributed to their assaults has no place in our country.

My vote is for Eric Garner, Rekia Boyd, Alton Sterling, Sandra Bland, Philando Castillo, Mya Hall, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, and the hundreds of additional people of color who are victims of police violence. I voted because Black Lives Matter to me and I want them to matter to this country.

My vote is for Virginia Tech, NIU, Umpqua Community College, and many other campus shooting tragedies. It is for every time I walk into a new room on campus, I immediately identify my exits and think about a plan if a shooter showed up. It is for the yearly training I have to take my RAs through so 19-year-olds have the skills to escape or disarm a fellow student with a gun.

My vote is for dear friends, family members, and students who are impacted by mental health disorders. You are not crazy. You are not damaged. You have a health condition which needs compassion and treatment. And if you need it, you deserve affordable health care.

My vote is for my body and for the bodies of women everywhere. Our bodies are not punchlines or barometers of our worth. And we deserve to make our own decisions about our bodies. To the many women in my life who make decisions about birth control, fertility treatments, or to terminate a pregnancy for whatever reason, I trust you and I voted for you. I voted for us.

And if I’m being honest, this vote is also for me. For every time I’ve been ridiculed for being too prepared, too organized, too invested, too emotional, or not emotional enough. For the five-year-old Marci who said she didn’t want to be a teacher, but wanted to be the principal instead. For every time a man has interrupted me during a meeting or taken credit for my idea or called me a bitch behind my back. This is for all of the times I’ve let them. This is for the male colleague who told me “people will take you a lot more seriously if you wear high heels.” For being too loud, too quiet, and for being told I’m bossy since the day I was born. I’m not bossy. I’m a leader. And so is Hillary. That’s why #ImWithHer and I hope you are too.

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NASPA SA Speaks: A Recovering Racist

Hi friends. A few months ago, I took the stage at NASPA and shared my story of growing up in a racist environment and the transformational college experience that shook me out of my white privilege and set me down a path of deep reflection and purposeful action. NASPA has recently posted the video and I wanted to share with you. Please feel free to use, share, post, and send to your uncle who keeps forwarding you terrible email chains about the downfall of America.

 

To see a text version, click here

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A Recovering Racist

Two weeks ago, I stood on the NASPA stage and called myself a racist. It was in the context of an SA Speaks session, which is similar to a TED Talk. Professionals are given 10-15 minutes to give a talk about a topic near and dear to them, and for me, growing up in a racist environment, being racist as a child and adolescent, but being transformed by my college experience was the story I needed to tell.

In an age of police brutality, structural and systemic oppression, and all the way to professional Facebook groups, racism is everywhere. In light of all of these continuing dynamics and especially in light of the magnificent #BlackSAPBlackout in the Student Affairs Professionals Facebook page at the end of last week, I wanted to share the script of my talk before the video becomes available online. In complete transparency, I know I diverted from the script a few times and don’t remember a ton of it (thanks adrenaline!) so the finished product will be slightly different, but here it is, as it was meant to be given.

I would also like to thank Heather Browning and Bulaong Ramiz for being my incredible editors and feedback providers. Their incredible work made my work so much better, so please think of them the next time you need a critical eye.

Hello everyone! My name is Marci Walton and I am not here to talk about assessment or retention or budgets. I’m not going to share my research or talk about a program I’ve implemented on campus. Instead, I want to talk to you  about race. I want to talk to you about someone who grew up in a racist environment, internalized those messages, held hate in my heart, but was transformed by my collegiate experience, and stand before you as an aspiring racial ally and accomplice.

I want to talk about race because the time for passive head-nodding of white student affairs professionals is and has been over. I titled this session “A Recovering Racist” because I view racism as a socially constructed sickness. One that is insidious, can lay dormant for years and mutate into different manifestations and college campuses are the perfect Petri dish. The racist part of me will always be there so I must be vigilant and battle flare-ups from time to time. I also want to acknowledge the inherent privilege associated with being listened to during this session. I was quite literally given a stage and a microphone when so many of my students and colleagues of color are not given the same opportunity, so I have to use this moment to say something, to stir something inside of you, to help inspire less hand-wringing and more action. So here’s my story.

To know me is to know my hometown. I grew up in the village of Sycamore, Ohio. Census data from 2000 shows a population of 914, 99.67% identified as white. This meant my teachers were white, my friends were white, my church congregation was white, my pharmacist, doctor, dentist, hairdresser, and banker were all, you guessed it, white. This meant the only messages I got about race were from people who were white, plus movies, magazines, and TV. This means that when my Dad got a deep tan one summer and I asked him if he was now Black. This environment meant hearing the N word used as just another way to describe people in my community or to refer to the lower income part of town. This environment meant confederate flags were a dime a dozen and my high school mascot was and still remains a Mohawk Warrior. It meant I became a stereotypical white first-year student who freaked out when I was matched with a black roommate.

Move-in day was stressful. I was scared to death to meet Kia, my college roommate and it wasn’t just typical jitters. This was going to be the first time I EVER had a conversation with a person of color and now I was living with a phenomenal Black woman. I remember overhearing Kia’s younger sister whisper to her, “Kia, you have to live with a white girl? Good luck with that!” I immediately bristled. I thought to myself, “I’m not a white girl. I’m just me.” I had never been asked to think about my race before, but I was about to get an education I did nothing to deserve.

For some reason, Kia gave me grace that I did not deserve. She deserved to have a college roommate who was easy to live with and not someone who asked her if she was in a gang when she wrapped her hair and threw a scarf around it our first night as roommate. I was shocked when she said her high school didn’t have metal detectors. I snubbed my nose when she turned on BET. I told her collared greens looked like weeds. I was racist. 100%. And for reasons I still don’t understand, Kia gave me a chance. She invited me to come along to weekly meetings of Concerned Black Students, our campus organization dedicated to Black students and racial equity. I so distinctly remember the uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach during the first meeting when I was the sole white face in the crowd. I whispered to Kia, “It’s so weird. I’m the only white person. Is it really okay for me to be here?” and she whispered back, “You’re fine. This is what it’s like in every single class I’m in. How does it feel?” This was a turning point. I decided to reserve judgement. To listen more than I spoke. And to learn everything possible to supplement a racial education that had just begun.

Kia invited me to hang out with her friends. There was a group of about 10 Black women who lived on our floor and they welcomed me with open arms and a healthy dose of skepticism. I continued to attend CBS meetings. I began taking classes in Africana Studies. I broadened what movies I watched and what music I listened to and what books I read. I walked out of classes to attend an annual CBS Walk-Out for racial awareness and equality on campus. As I was preparing for this presentation, I reached out to some of my college friends to compare my recollection with their experience. Erica recalled me asking lots of questions about Black girl’s hair and attending as many of her gospel choir concerts as I could. She said her favorite memory was seeing me in my CBS stole at graduation which showed her unity across skin color. Travette remembered my presence at CBS events and participating in and attending forums on race relations. She said my presence and participation were a testament of my effort to try and understand cultural differences  and learn that although we have differences that does not make us unrelatable. Kia, my roommate, had perhaps the most poignant reflections. She said she expected to have issues with me due to my small town roots. She remembered me be unsure about attending CBS and later apologizing for my nervousness around having a Black roommate. Kia remembered me listening to her when she expressed opinions around race and asking questions to better understand, but never invalidating her experience. She said I was supportive during times of racial turmoil on campus. “I really wish more people would approach racial relations in the way that you did, by holding back their opinions, listening to others, and being supportive when needed.  Overall, it was great having you as a roommate.  You taught me a lot of things too…that people can change their views if they are really open and want to understand the other point of view.”

It’s clear I was getting what college should be, a truly transformative experience.

But then I had a healthy dose of reality set in. I was on fire for my Africana Studies courses and wasn’t for the classes of my major. So over Christmas Eve dinner of my sophomore year, I boldly announced to my parents I was switching my major, wanted to go to the peace corp, and then become a professor of African History. It did not go over well. They told me I could change my major all I wanted, but they wouldn’t pay for my education. As hot, angry tears rolled down my cheeks, my father’s words rang in my ears. “Who cares what a white person has to say about race?”

So I did what any logical 19-year-old would do and that was continue to take classes and just not tell my parents. I kept my original major and supplemented it with Literature of the Caribbean, Slave Narratives, African-American history, and more to feed this desire. I read Martin AND Malcolm. I stayed active in CBS, attempted to get my white friends to come to meetings and events, called out my sorority when they tried to have a “ghetto” themed party, with varying degrees of success. Some white friends were receptive, many were defensive and I often impacted relationships. I used my role as a Resident Advisor to do programming around racial justice and invited sometimes resistant white residents to attend CBS events. I did original research on the racial discrimination my friends faced, wrote a senior thesis on the sociological implications of the Divine Nine, and marched on Washington with my friends when an affirmative action case was being heard by the Supreme Court. My parents still don’t know about that one!

I don’t share these example to do what so often well-meaning white people do and that is collect “ally” cookies, expect a pat on the head for being a decent human being, or to prove I’m one of the “good” white people, but instead to illustrate the possibilities of engaging white students in reflections on race through conversations across cultures, co-curricular engagement, and academic curriculum.

It is this critical reflection, acknowledgement of my responsibility to use my racial privilege to work towards critical change and the amazing educators/friends that led me to student affairs. It was this undergraduate foundation that brings me to this stage. It is being pushed and challenged and called out and called in by amazing professors in my graduate program like Dr. Dafina-Lazarus Stewart and Dr. Ellen Broido. It is reckoning with my privileges and realizing I didn’t need to be an expert before I could think critically think about myself, my peers, or my students in new ways.

So what does this mean now? What does my story have to do with us in this room? Well, first I want to apologize. To my Asian, Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and multiracial colleagues, I am deeply sorry. Your white colleagues, myself included, have not done enough. We have been silent. We have mistaken the feeling of being uncomfortable with being unsafe. We have huddled in corners and looked to you as experts and asked you to educate us. We have re-centered conversations with our tears and have crowned ourselves allies when we have done nothing to deserve the title. We’ve been all about social justice during job interviews and then operated like business as usual when black and brown bodies have been brutalized, not just in Ferguson or Baltimore, but on our very own campuses. We have lost opportunities to educate white students about their privileges. We have looked to diversity offices to do “the work” of inclusion and equity when this is everyone’s work because students of color are everyone’s students, even if we don’t act like it. We have been so worried about doing the wrong thing that we don’t do anything at all. And it is unacceptable.

So what can white professionals do? We can stop christening ourselves allies without taking action. I know I try to be an ally, but you need to talk to my friends, colleagues, and students to see if my actions match up with my aspirations. We can stop trying to learn on the backs of our colleagues. By constantly positioning professionals of color as the educator of able white professionals, we place undue burden on them when we have all the resources we need right at our fingertips. Want to know more? Do the work. Google brings up 146 million results for the “white ally.” Don’t ask your colleagues of color to labor for you for free. By doing so, you are further perpetuating problematic systems of inequity. For example, I had two amazing women of color, Heather Browning and Bulaong Ramiz read over this speech and provide suggestions and I paid them for their time. I didn’t expect them to want to help me, simply because I’m showing some commitment to progress.

White professional can stop using intersectionality as a reason to opt-out of conversations around race, because yes, I am a woman and middle-class and temporarily able-bodied and many other target and agent identities, but none of them make me any less white. We can interrupt racist assumptions. We can sit down and be quiet when people of color are gifting us with their truth and we can stand up and shout when their voices are not being heard. We can ask students of color how they are and actually listen and respond with compassion. We can realize our colleagues of color are weary, not just from doing their jobs, but also from living in a world which consistently tell them they don’t matter.

We can think about how racism is woven within the structures and institutions on our home campuses. I realize this can be especially overwhelming. I get it. But you take down structures brick by brick, so what’s your brick going to be? Maybe you will look critically at how students are given housing assignments so the students of color aren’t placed in segregated housing due to economic resources. Maybe you will suggest an author who isn’t white for your first year common read book. Maybe you will ask why there are so many people of color as cafeteria and custodial workers, but few in top leadership positions. Maybe you will ask how financial aid practices impact retention rates of students of color. Maybe you will take a critical look at getting beyond tolerance during your student leader training. Maybe you will commit to diversifying your social media networks so you aren’t constantly seeing narratives similar to your own. Maybe you won’t so quickly dismiss white students who don’t “get it,” around issues of race because I didn’t get it until I was asked to think and reflect and struggle with myself. Maybe you will instead think about how to provide an experience like I had in college which wove race into conversations across cultures, co-curricular engagement and the academic curriculum. Maybe you’ll ask why the racial composition of your college doesn’t match the glossy pictures of your brochures. Maybe you will not just buy tickets to a Beyonce concert, but engage your students in conversations of the #BlackGirlMagic found in Formation. Maybe you will partner with your campus police departments to address relationships with communities of color. Maybe you will vote. And help your students become informed voters. Maybe you’ll listen. Maybe you’ll read. Maybe you’ll think. Maybe you’ll do something. Anything. If you’ve been waiting for a sign, this is it. Let’s collectively answer my father’s question, “Who is going to listen to a white person talk about race?”

Let’s get to work. We have plenty to do. Thank you.

 

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Dear Candidates

Dear Candidates,

It’s the night before The Placement Exchange. You have your outfits ready to go and all of your research in order. I’m an employer this year and my outfits are also ready to go and your candidate files are in order. A few words of encouragement before the four-day whirlwind begins:

Nervous? Good. It means you care. It means you want to do well in interviews so you can do right by our students. Have a thousand questions? Awesome. It means you are invested. Worried you won’t get a job? Wonderful. It means you are committed to this field.

TPE is the best and the worst of student affairs. It is loud and overwhelming and raucous and relational and impersonal. It inspires everyone to have an opinion, myself included. What to say, what not to say, what to wear, what not to wear, what questions to ask, how to schedule, when to take a break, how to talk to your cohort, and how to tell them to mind their own business. Maybe you’ve watched an webinar, participated in a Twitter chat, connected with mentors, did mock interviews, and more to prepare. Good. These are all good things. But they aren’t the only thing.

No amount of preparation will prepare you for the exhausting, exhilarating profession of helping college students find their place in the world. No mock interview prepares you for sitting next to a student whose roommate just died. No webinar will replace the feeling of total pride when you see one of your troubled students walk across the stage at graduation. No Twitter chat will help you understand the political landscape of a college campus.

And this is okay. This is fine. No one at TPE expects you to already have these skillsets in your back pocket. We are hiring not just based on your experiences, but also on your potential. Believe it or not, employers want you to succeed. We want you to be amazing, to be awesome, to knock our socks off, and say to ourselves, “If only we could make a job offer now.We are rooting for you. 100%.

So you need to root for yourself. Employers want you to be the best version of yourself. To come with your experience and knowledge and opinions. We don’t want perfection. We want a holistic sense of who you are and who you will be for our students. No one knows how to be a better you than you. So go out there and be it.

If you need a pep talk, processing, or just a listening ear, feel free to reach out to me. I will be recruiting with the Xavier University team and you can reach me via Twitter @MarciKWalton

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Join Us for #SAsearch Office Hours!

Amma Marfo, in all of her glorious wisdom, had an idea. When Amma has an idea, you say yes. It’s just what you do.

Amma had the idea to hold virtual “office hours” surrounding the upcoming and seemingly never-ending student affairs search season. Are you a grad searching for your first position? We’ve got you. Running a search for a new team member? All over it. Want to know how to thrive as an introvert, extravert, or ambivert?  Need to ask a question you are worried about throwing out to a colleague, mentor, or social media? Come to office hours! We are there for you. We aren’t experts, but we are experts of our own experiences and we are here to HELP!

On Tuesday, March 1st from 7pm until I decide it is time to get back to West Wing episodes on Netflix, Amma and I will be on a Google Hangout. The session will be recorded, so feel free to pop by for a little bit or for awhile, post a question for us to marinate on, or check out the session when it is more convenient for you. Basically, we are here for you!

You can leave your questions in advance via the Q&A app for the event (at http://bit.ly/OfficeHoursLive), or tweet them to us via our handles– we’ll be answering them on Tuesday, March 1st at 7pm EST via a Google Hangout chat! No worries if you can’t make it live, we’ll share the link to the recorded event afterward…plus there may even be a few additional downloadable treats afterward!

Looking forward to hearing from you, and hopefully helping out a bit!

Office Hours Are Open!

 

About Amma:
Amma Marfo is a thoughtful, yet incurably silly, independent educational professional based in Boston, MA. As a writer, higher education speaker and popular culture enthusiast, she’s dedicated to the idea that our leisure pursuits can inform and enrich the work we do. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies from the University of Rhode Island, and a Master of Education from the University of South Florida. 

She is an outspoken advocate for creativity, believes strongly in the power of humor, and looks forward to helping you find the way you live and work best. Her other interests include running, yoga, surfing, trivia, and gluten-free cooking/baking. You can follow her on Twitter @ammamarfo, especially if you know how she might be able to become friends with Gina Rodriguez or Jack Falahee.
About Marci:
marci headshotMarci Walton is proud to serve as the Associate Director for Residence Life at Xavier University. Marci has been involved with recruitment and selection cycles of undergraduate, graduate, and professional staff for more than a decade and loves helping candidates find the right position for them. She tries to bring humor, honesty, and efficiency to search processes and in doing so, bring more compassion and transparency to the #SAsearch. Marci is interested in residence life, social justice, service, and the intersections of identity. She is passionately curious about social media, women’s leadership, and becoming friends with Adele. Marci can be found on Twitter @MarciKWalton and blogs regularly at www.marcikwalton.com.
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When a Great Job Isn’t Great for You

I recently transitioned out of what I thought to be my dream job. It was in a major city, I was supervising Masters-level professionals, and was working with faculty to build and improve a living learning community program. My professional peers made it an entertaining and motivating place to work, the institution aligned with my personal values about higher education and yet, I was still unhappy. So unhappy that I decided to leave after a year and a half. After a LOT of soul searching, I realized a position can be great and still not be great for you.

I didn’t plan to job search. I planned to tough it out, make the best of it, and learn some things I could look back on and say, “Look at me! Look how much grit I showed. Look how resilient I was.” But then I realized the only person I would be hurting would be me. I simply was not happy, but it took a lot to talk myself into realizing it. The problem became not about the department or people or processes, but instead about fit.

I think fit has gotten a bad wrap in student affairs. It is often seen as a magical reason not to hire someone who doesn’t align with the culture of the department or university and we can severely limit the diversity of our candidate pools. However, fit matters. Feeling like you belong and align with what matters to the university, quite simply, matters. At least it did to me.

The problem with fit is that it often changes. I really thought my last employer was a good fit when I applied, interviewed, and came to campus. I thought it was a good fit until it wasn’t. Until I got overwhelmed during our department meetings that were 35 people strong. Until I realized I didn’t actually like living in a huge city. Until rent sucked up more of my paycheck than I had anticipated. Until I realized I wasn’t interacting with students nearly enough due to departmental structures and my own workload, both of which often kept me in my office.

I also realized this mismatch in fit was no one’s fault. It wasn’t my department or university’s fault. It wasn’t mine. It wasn’t my co-workers. It just wasn’t working. And this is in no way an indictment of my previous workplace. I will sing their praises until the day I die. Their work ethic, ingenuity, ability to make things happen with little notice, commitment to social justice, and many other attributes all make it a wonderful position, great department, and the job will be the perfect fit for another great professional. It just wasn’t a perfect fit for me. And that needs to be okay, too.

But then the worries and naysayers and caution creeps in. The voice that says only staying 18 months at a job “looks bad.” Looks bad on your resume, looks bad to future employers, looks bad on your LinkedIn, looks bad at conferences, it simply looks bad. You know what else looks bad? A burned out professional who leaves the field, or worse, phones it in, but doesn’t give it their all. Our students deserve more.

I’m writing this at the start of my second week at my new job. It is too early to be sure, but I am already finding a better alignment within what now matters to me and what the position will offer. I’ve had more student interaction in the past week that I did in the past several months. Our department has nine people around the table. The city I’m in has a ton of arts, culture, and restaurants, but I feel like I can explore without getting overwhelmed. I’ll have the opportunity to grow and shape processes that matter to me and matter to the student population. I’m on the path to home ownership. Is it a fit? It certainly feels like it.

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“Do Your Research!” Wait, What Does that Actually Mean?

I was delighted to be asked to write a blog for The Placement Exchange website. My topic was all about being prepared and “doing your homework” for the looming job search. Thanks to Nekesa Straker and the TPE blog for the opportunity to write about researching, while not creeping, on future employers and positions.

 

If your job search turns out anything like mine, you will hear the advice of “do your research” over and over again. You will hear it so often, it may start to lose its meaning, but doing your homework is often what will set you apart from other candidates. Showing off your research will help convince employers you want their job, not just any job.

  • Ask yourself, “What is the university all about?” Community college? Research 1? Liberal arts? HBCU? Religiously affiliated? Urban campus? Showing you have a comprehension of the type of university is the first step to doing your research and showing it off in your cover letter, interviews, and on-campus experience. For example, I have always worked at Jesuit institutions. If a candidate doesn’t mention anything about Jesuit education anywhere in their cover letter, or gives a blank stare during an interview when we ask about their understanding of the Jesuit mission, they will likely not be moving forward in our process.
  • Get the basics right. Nothing turns off an employer more than getting small, easy details wrong like the name of the position. Writing “Residence Hall Coordinator” when the job is actually “Hall Director” shows a lack of care and makes an employer wonder if you can bring an attention to detail to the position. Take a moment to check the spelling and titles of search committee members before you fire off a cover letter or thank you note. This means taking your time, and making sure you are applying to jobs in a slow, methodical fashion and not in marathon sessions, because this is often when details get missed. This also means reconsidering your plan to make a template cover letter and simply cut and paste specific details. Employers can smell a template a mile away!
  • Think about the resources already at your disposal. Reach out to your network, your professors, your cohort-mates, your mentors, and co-workers to ask if anyone has connections at the university. Even if there isn’t a direct link to the specific department, you can still connect with folks to learn so much! You can gain knowledge about campus culture, student life, what it is like to live in the location, or if there are good support networks for your specific identities.
  • Social media is your friend, when done in moderation. There are so many online resources for you to access information about the jobs that make your heart flutter. Official and unofficial Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts, LinkedIn profiles, YikYak, SnapChat, university hashtags, student newspapers online, and don’t forget the tried and true departmental website. If you ask a question for which the answer is easily accessible from online resources, it may give the employer pause and wonder if you are serious about the position. Also, I offer a small caveat around online resources. You can be informed and ask thoughtful questions without coming off as a creep. For example, perhaps you notice an interviewer tweeting on a conference hashtag. Don’t ask them how their dinner was with their grad school bestie, but perhaps ask a question about their favorite session they have attended at the conference.
  • Find a way to keep yourself organized and a way for this to be sustainable. It is great to have your stuff together during the phone interview season, but if you don’t keep this up during the TPE experience, you could sabotage yourself. One method I found helpful was to compile all of the information about the university, department, and position into a comprehensive folder with tabs. I also created a one-page overview of the most important information as a “cheat sheet” which I could quickly review during time between interviews. This helps keep it fresh and at the forefront of your mind to incorporate all of that hard-earned knowledge into your conversation with the employers. Whether it be note cards, file folders, a Google drive, setting up an Evernote account, or Post-Its, do what works for you to feel centered and as balanced as possible as you go into interview season.
  • Allow yourself to be surprised. You should absolutely be prepared, but don’t make the mistake of thinking you know everything about a department or position solely from your extensive research. Ask thoughtful questions and be receptive to the answers. You could find out your dream school isn’t a great fit after all, while an underdog may race to the front of the pack.
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I’m Loan Free! 10% Hard Work, 90% Privilege

Today, I paid off my undergrad school loans! I’m out of debt!!! Considering that I am only 10 years out of undergrad and went to a pricey, selective, private institution, this is kind of a big deal. 

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Alright, it is a HUGE deal! I also deferred for two years while I was in grad school, so to be able to pay them off in only eight years of full-time employment kind of blows me away. It also made me think about what had to happen for me to pay them off in less than a decade. Did it take discipline, hard work, and careful planning on my part? Of course. But there were so many other factors that made it possible.

College Educated Parents: Both of my parents have their Bachelor’s degrees. My mom followed a traditional path going straight from high school, to college, to employment as a speech language pathologist in our local school district. My dad went to college as a non-traditional student. He worked for his family’s farming company after high school, then went to a community college and finished up with his Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering when I was just starting kindergarten. Since my parents lived for several years on my mom’s income alone (which was a teaching salary in the early 80s so she was bringing in less than $25,000/year for a family of four!) they were adamant about both my older brother and I going to college somewhere the gave excellent financial aid and required the least amount of personal debt.

A College that Valued Holistic Achievement: In high school, I was under the assumption that you had to be the valedictorian of your class, with at least a 4.0 and several AP classes to get any kind of scholarships or grants. I was so wrong! While this is the case for many colleges, Wittenberg University, my eventual alma mater did not prescribe to this train of thought. I had decent grades in high school (between 3.5-3.8 GPA), but I was super involved. I was a varsity athlete, in school plays, managed and did stats for basketball teams, edited the yearbook, plus I had a part-time job since the age of 15. I was clearly on the road to student affairs! I have a vivid memory of sitting down with a Financial Aid officer at Witt on our visit with my mother who started grilling the poor woman about debt, private vs. government loans, Pell grants, work study, and more! The Financial Aid officer eventually stopped her and said, “Mrs. Walton, we want students like Marci here. She has above average grades, but more than that, she’s well-rounded. She is someone who will come to Wittenberg, get involved, love it, and then sing our praises once she graduates. That’s how we decide who gets aid around here.” 

A Fortuitous Envelope: After I toured Witt, I was in love, but it was a wistful kind of love. I loved the professor I met, the students I talked to, the Admissions Counselor was incredible, and the campus was the most beautiful I had seen in my half-dozen visits to private colleges around Ohio. I say it was a wistful kind of love because Witt was also the most expensive choice of the places I had seen. 10 years ago the total bill was around $40,000/year, which seemed untenable. My mom drove me away from my visit and said, “Don’t fall in love, Marci. Everything depends on the financial aid.” A few months later, the tell-tale giant envelope came in the mail. My mom saw it was from Witt and nearly threw it away, as she was so convinced we couldn’t afford it! We opened it, saw the generous package and my mom said, “There must be a mistake. This can’t be right.” She was so convinced that there was another Marci Walton out there who received my Financial Aid package, bummed that she couldn’t afford Witt, that she called the Financial Aid office to confirm. It was true. I could afford my dream school!

Employment Opportunities: My first year, I claimed my federal work study award. I worked mornings as the campus operator, so if you called Wittenberg University in the fall of 2001 or spring of 2002, you probably spoke to me!  I also worked at the Phone-A-Thon, calling alumni as perspective donors. My sophomore though senior year, I was employed by Residence Life as a Resident Advisor and then Community Advisor. This provided free housing and a $1,500 per year stipend. During my summers, I always had a job. I worked as a telemarketer (truly hell on earth…one day I was told “no” 143 times in a row!), camp counselor for high school students with severe mental and physical disabilities, and had the summer of my life on the Witt Conference Services team. I was privileged to be able to find work that helped to supplement my bill at Witt. I was privileged that my parents took the bill each semester, split it in half, and then out of my half came my grants, scholarships, loans, and supplemental income. All of this was under the auspices of keeping my loan amount as small as possible.

Interest Rates and Knowing What those Were: During grad school, when my loans were in deferment, the government slashed interest rates. My brother and I both consolidated loans to an incredibly low 2.32%. We knew to do this because our parents told us to AND, in my case, because Witt sent communication to me post-graduation! I was privileged to have parents who knew the power of an interest rate and how much money that would add to payments over multiple years of payments. I was privileged to attend a university that cared about students’ financial health even after they were no longer students. 

A combination of my and my parents socioeconomic, educational, financial knowledge, and a variety of other privileges contributed to paying off these suckers. Being privileged to attend a private university that cared about how students were going to be able to afford the sticker shock also contributed. It didn’t just take me writing a check once a month. All of these privileges, along with a multitude of others, helped me graduate with HALF the amount of the average student who graduated with in 2005. The allowed me to follow my true career interests in education, which are notoriously low-paying jobs, instead of taking a job solely to keep up with my loan payments. It allowed me to have a traditional college experience so I could engage in extracurricular activities, not have to work multiple jobs, ship money home to my parents, or worry about food insecurity or where I could stay over the holiday breaks. I am eternally grateful and even more motivated to creating college environments that help to supplement the privileges that I utilized to finance my education. With student loan debt skyrocketing, what can YOU do for our students?

edvisors-student-loan

Link to graph and accompanying article

20 Memes to Get You Through Closing

Closing is upon us. The time of year when you go cross-eyed from paperwork, wonder if your student staff have been listening to you whatsoever, and brace yourself for nasty rooms. Any time you try to get thousands of people to do the same thing, in more or less the same manner, there are bound to be hiccups. I hope these closing memes will provide a respite from the monotony of signing your name 300 times or a giggle after dealing with a ridiculous damage appeal.

I used these two years ago as a way to advertise closing policies with my students and they were a huge hit. Feel free to copy and use on your campus as you see fit! And happy closing!

GoT

 

Y U No

 

Wonka

 

Teacher

 

Success Kid

 

simply

 

Scumbag Steve

 

raptor

 

New fav resident

 

office space

 

maury

 

Me Gusta

 

Lawyer Dog

 

kermit

 

insanity pup

 

Grumpy Cat

 

brian

 

Bear

 

fry

 

old sport

SA Speaks: Getting a Tshirt that Fits References

If all goes according to plan, this will post just as I’m taking the stage for my NASPA SA Speaks talk about the intersections of shame and overweight members of the student affairs community. It’s possible I forgot every single word, but it’s also possible I killed it. Either way, several publications and resources helped inform my talk and are listed below.

References

Bennett Shinall, J. (2015, January 15). Why Obese Workers Earn Less: Occupational Sorting and Its Implications for the Legal System. Retrieved February 21, 2015, from http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2379575

Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York: Gotham Books.

Cable, D., and Judge, T. (2011). When it Comes to Pay, Do the Thin Win? The Effect of Weight on Pay for Men and Women. Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol 96(1), Jan 2011, 95-112.

Kinzel, L. (2014, November 28). New Study Finds That Weight Discrimination in the Workplace is Just as Horrible and Depressing as Ever. Retrieved February 10, 2015, from http://time.com/3606031/weight-discrimination-workplace/

Ross, J. (2014, November 11). 9 Facts That Disprove The Most Common Stereotypes About Fat People. Retrieved March 1, 2015, from http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/11/9-facts-stereotypes-fat-people/

Strange, C. C., & Banning, J. H. (2001). Educating by design: Creating campus learning environments that work. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

All photographs used in my presentation were accessed at Flickr.com and are licensed for public use under Creative Commons licensing. Or were taken by my mother before a dance recital when I was five. 

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