Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Let's Get Technical: Post 10

For my last blog post for my summer internship, I would like to share a few memories and stories that have stayed with me. They may be snippets, instead of fully formed stories, but that is the way that memories often shape up.

1) During training, we threw a gigantic ball of yarn to each other, appreciating one another. I don't remember the color of the ball of yarn, but I remember how many smiles there were and how much appreciation there was between the professional staff, the student staff, and the interns.

2) The Northeast MTC campus was absolutely stunning. I loved the gazebos, the space-age technology and furniture, and the plush chairs in the boardroom we advised in. I could feel the air in the campus change. There was so much pride at advising in a place like that campus. It amazed me how much location can change attitudes. (There was also free coffee.)

3) Outside of work, a bunch of the student staff and interns went to dinner and to see The Secret Life of Pets. We had so much fun getting to know one another better, laughing at the movie, bonding. That was one of my favorite experiences of the summer.

4) I've had some incredibly special experiences with students. One student told me that she'd moved from Virginia for a fresh start. I could see a story unfolding in her eyes. Unfortunately, I didn't have the time to hear all of it. I remember another student telling me his dreams to work in film in L.A. and about the contacts he already had there. I had many students come through with excellent grades from high school who wanted to save money by attending a two-year college. Many students knew exactly what they wanted to do with their lives and knew that their goals could be achieved through a community college--saving them time and money. I met with a student who wanted to pursue English and reminded me of myself when I was first headed into college. The stories and memories are endless, and even long after their faces may have faded, I know I'll still see the smiles.

5) My favorite memories of all are of spending moments sharing one-on-one conversations with different staff, student, and interns. As an introvert, I love one-on-one and small group interactions. I've made it a point to try to travel between the people that I work with to develop stronger relationships. Many of the conversations are too personal to share, but I know that they're engraved in my heart. It's been a wonderful summer of building new relationships and has reminded me how important that part of the human experience is.

It's been a wonderful summer, one that has flown by. In just a couple of weeks, we will be back in classes and 2nd years in our Master's program!

Though I may forget details and colors from the summer, I know that I'll never forget the warmth I feel for Midlands Technical College.

Until next time!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Let's Get Technical: Post 9

I'm veering away on reflecting on my summer internship at Midlands Technical College for this post. In addition to working my internship, I have also been the summer graduate assistant for the College of Education.

Before I transitioned into the Student Affairs side of the collegiate world, I worked for the Academic side--first in a writing center, then in the testing and proctoring center. Working for the College of Ed. has been a great way to reconnect to the other half of college operations.

I've worked on several projects specific to my Master's program, including to help redesign our Practicum I course, build a new program manual for incoming first-years that focuses more on academics, and work on finishing our new comprehensive exam, which will be a portfolio of student work. In addition to these large projects, I worked on the orientation manual for PhD students in our higher education program, and I oversaw a lot of day-to-day administrative operations for the whole of the College of Education.

I've learned so much about what it means to have a long-term vision for a program. I understand far more intimately how all of the individual pieces--decisions, faculty weigh-in, program alterations--fit not only with a department's vision, but also the institutional mission and demands.

Though some of my days may consist of answering phone calls and emails, at the College of Education, I have always felt like my opinion has been valued. I've been on the ground floor of massive changes that will not only impact my last year in graduate school, but will leave their impact for years to come.

Working for HESA (my cohort) and closely with our education faculty has been an incredibly rewarding and--honestly--fun way to spend my summer. A large part of me wishes that I could continue the work that I've started over my last year of graduate school. However, I know that when I turn the position over to the new GA, I'll have done all that I can to improve and care for the program and that I'll leave it in capable hands.

Everything I've done for the College of Ed. this summer has reminded me of my years as an AmeriCorps VISTA--lots of strategic planning, lots of goal planning, lots of project implementation, but little contact with students. On the other hand, everything that I've done at Midlands--high student touch, little connection to long-term planning, day-to-day impact rather than multi-year planning--has resembled my earlier years in the world of higher education.

This summer has been a good balance of two very different worlds and very different jobs. I'm thankful for the opportunity to have pursued both of these jobs.

Until next time!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Let's Get Technical: Post 8

As we are entering the final weeks of the summer as advisors at MTC, I've been able to do a lot of reflecting on the kind of supervisor I see myself being in future positions.

Because I have worked in a college setting since 2009, I have had the opportunity to supervise others many times at this point in my career. As such, supervision is always on my mind--what I can learn, what I would do, and what I wouldn't, based on my bosses.

From the leadership course that I took in my graduate program, I know that one of my main leadership styles is Authentic Leadership, meaning who I am at work closely mirrors who I am in the rest of my life. I chose to embody this leadership style because I consistently hold myself to higher and higher standards both in my personal and professional life--and I like to think that I encourage others to do the same.

Likewise, I strive to be someone with whom others feel safe both in my personal and professional life.

I also believe that you should be comfortable being the person you are no matter where you are--and if you aren't comfortable, you should seek out why.

Of course, MTC has given me insights to how others lead, encouraging me to once again examine how I see myself as a supervisor in future workplaces.

Everyone on the professional staff at MTC is incredibly warm and personable. I feel like I'm surrounded by family. This is the kind of office environment that I want my future students and staff to walk into. Like in a real family, there may be ups and downs, but above all, I want to support and challenge each individual with whom I work.

On the flip side, MTC has enforced that I truly want to ensure that with that challenge and support aspect, I also want to be as transparent as I am able to be. If I see work done incorrectly, I want to pull the individual on the project aside and have a conversation. If I see conflict between employees, I want to confront it early. If there are any policies or procedures that need to be addressed, I want to do that as soon as it becomes apparent.

While overwhelmingly my experience at MTC has been positive and affirming in every way, I have learned from the staff's decision to make broad observations in group meetings about problems seen (for example, filling out an advisement sheet with incorrect numbers for a class or for the number of credits given) that I want to address things not only in a group setting when appropriate, but I also want to pull individuals aside and give guidance on how they can approve their work.

I received a half a point off for professionalism on my final evaluation, based on the fact that I have back tattoos that may show when I wear sleeveless, business casual attire. I wish that this was a matter that had been brought up with me early on by a supervisor during a one-on-one meeting, instead of showing up on my final evaluation.

Personally, I take great pride in my ink and everything that my tattoos stand for--and I find that it makes a great conversation starter with students or staff who also have tattoos--but I also respect that some workplaces still see ink as a negative, instead of a positive. (Here's to hoping that we continue to break that negative stigma!)

Happily, I would have covered up the tattoos (I have them in places that are easily concealed for this very reason) had the issue been raised to me in person or talked about during our training when we went over MTC policy and procedure. Unfortunately, the issue went unaddressed until appearing on my evaluation where it now affects my grade for my internship class.

As a future (and past) supervisor, I have learned a lot from this experience about how I want to address issues. Being up front and honest with my employees ties into my Authentic Leadership style. I want to be able to balance appropriate discipline and difficult conversations with a caring and warm environment where individuals are unafraid to be themselves.

I have learned a great deal from this experience and plan on taking it into future workplaces!

Until next time! 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Let's Get Technical: Post 7

We are halfway through July, which means that we only have a short few days until our internships at Midlands Technical College are over.

At this stage, several things are happening:

1) I've started composing my final reflection paper for my internship class. This means rereading my blog posts and spending some contemplative time by the river.

2) We got PAID! One less than ideal circumstance with the internship was the delay in our paychecks.

3) We had the option to opt into NODA and NACADA student internships. After this summer, I am fairly certain orientation isn't the place for me to be, in terms of my professional career. However, I could see myself as a director of an advising office at some point.

4) The team bonded! We saw The Secret Life of Pets as a group, had dinner together, and also formed closer, smaller relationships within the team that hopefully will last the duration of our professional careers (at least).

5) We have a country shindig to look forward to at our supervisor's house. Community colleges truly do target their communities--both in terms of attracting students and employing staff. That means that several staff members grew up around Columbia or in more rural areas of Columbia, SC. It's been neat to learn more about their lives. The party should be a fun piece of cultural sharing to round out the internship experience!

In all, so far I've had an excellent time both advising students and getting to know the individuals with whom I work.

I couldn't be happier with my decision to remain in Columbia for the summer. Though I didn't need much of a positive experience to solidify that I belong in a community college for my higher education, this great one certainly didn't hurt.

On a more personal note, it's been nice to be in a stable location for more than a year. While my AmeriCorps placements were fun, I couldn't imagine myself moving yet again for the summer when I had the opportunity to stay and strengthen connections at home.

Did I make the right choice? I'm pretty sure this picture answers that question.

 Until next time!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Let's Get Technical: Post 6

For today's post, I wanted to take the time to talk about my lovely team and how every individual works together at Midlands Technical College to make orientation come together.

To start with, we have our executive team of professional staff. MTC believes in a philosophy where there is no job too small for someone to do. That means we see our director and assistant director on the ground floor with the rest of us, pitching in, advising, giving presentations, smoothing over all the rough edges to make orientation seem seamless.

Underneath the directors are the team of full-time advisors that work alongside us. Advisors do everything that we do, everything the executive staff do, and more! One of the full-time advisors was in the same graduate program that those of us doing the summer internship did. It's neat to see how far HESA took her.

The team of HESA interns are not the only students that the orientation and advising departments employ. MTC also employs orientation leaders and orientation assistants. Honestly, without the OLs and OAs, we'd be lost. If there is behind the scenes work to be done--setting up signs, setting up rooms, getting out snacks and water at intermission, directing students to orientation, and so much more.

All of the teamwork leads to smooth transitions and happy students. Advisors, like me, have time to go through their students' paperwork and prepare for our sessions. We are able to pitch in with orientation and with registration, but we know that we have a full team of individuals around us to help with every step of the way.

So far, our students have given us high ratings on the survey that asks about their experiences. Students come to me grinning and hopefully leave just as happy. Students talk about how excellent all of their experiences at orientation are when I ask them how things have gone so far.

I leave 9 out of 10 sessions wishing that I could get to know the students better. As I've talked about in previous posts, I know short a time our 15 minutes are with students. Yet, I also know how impactful those 15 minutes can be. They can deter students from their dreams. They can inspire a new dream. And for me, the students have a huge impact on me and how I see my job. They've helped reaffirm that I belong in the community college setting, and they've spurred some of my reflection on the issues that are facing our time.

Each of us plays a part in our team. Without the entire team, we wouldn't be able to function. But together, we make a great unit that helps students reach their goals.

"You can go anywhere from here." --Midlands Technical College slogan.

Until next time.