Posted by Kathy Petras | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 30-03-2009
Tags: ACPA, Book Suggestion, Failure, Inspiration, Relationships
So our keynote speaker last night was Greg Mortenson, author of the book Three Cups of Tea. It’s a book I’ve always been curious about but have not yet read. After hearing him speak however, I am definitely planning reading that for me April Book. So, today I went to a session that discussed parts of the book (luckily I wasn’t the ONLY one who hadn’t read the book)
When we first started talking, we introduced ourselves and really talked about how the book could be used with our students. We weren’t asked to share that, it just sort of happened. (As student affairs professionals I think we are conditioned to just think it that way) So after we had shared, Johnathan (one of the presenters) asked us to think beyond how we use this with our students and really begin to reflect on ourselves. In our first initial conversations (definitely a conversational session, not a presentation) a few themes emerged. Basically the ideas of: reflection on self, failure (the first chapter in Greg’s book) and also mentoring.
We split into two groups and our first question was to talk about whether we have known someone in our own life like Mortenson. I didn’t really share for this first one, because I really had to process that in my mind. Professionally, I think there are several people I have known along the way that have mentored me in some way and put me in the career direction I am in now. As an undergraduate student, I know I had many people show me this profession in many ways. The Director of Student Life was a great mentor to me. When I was a sophomore, I was having difficulties in a few areas, and she really took me under her wing. She would make plans to have lunch with me, and would find ways to send me encouraging notes about things I was involved in. She really showed me how amazing some student affairs professionals can be, and she is someone I have strived to be a lot like. Towards the end of my junior year, i was one of those overly involved students, and one of my major responsibilities was being an RA. I loved it. I was having lunch with our Director of Residence Life one day and she was asking me about my plans for after college. I told her that I was planning on being a teacher and she asked me if I ever considered teaching in another way. She was the first person to ever mention Student Affairs as a career option. I had no idea. She steered me in the direction of something that has become my passion. Which is why I try to be that same resources for my students, especially those who are interested in student affairs as a career.
In continuing our conversation, we discussed a lot about developing relationships. How we are a very technology focused society (or world really) and with all these things like Facebook, and Blogs, and Twitter (all of which I use) that we lose that personal connectivity with people. Which for me, while I do those things, I thrive of my personal interactions with students, and those colleagues closest to me definitely know that. Having that time with students is what motivates me to do my job. It is really the best part of it for me. And I brought up how I have the chair in my office. I feel like having that chair does exactly that – it ensures that I am still continuing to have those personal conversations and develop those relationships. With both students and colleagues.
In relation to that we talked about Failure – the first chapter of the book like I said previously, but it’s important to recognize that we do fail. Greg Mortenson failed many times and he learned from those things. Johnathan pointed out that people are sometimes afraid to fail because that shows vulnerability. But he said that vulnerability doesn’t have to seem so negative, that in reality it is the way we can best connect to other people because we are showing them who we are and not trying to appear higher up or better than someone. And that in developing relationships, we can use failure as “grace extending”, meaning that when someone makes a mistake, or things get difficult, you are not giving up. Professionally, especially when supervising, advising, or mentoring people, it’s good to recognize that we need to be grace extending.
Another thing with relationship development is also the idea of what we discussed as “Just Do It” vs. “Creating Intentional Relationships” They brought up how a lot of times we have this to do list, tasks, things we need to check off and we get so focused on those things that we forget that the important thing to do is to create intentional relationships. The example was given in terms of RAs and their programming requirements and whether or not they are really achieving their goals. Are they developing relationships with their residents or are they just mindlessly checking things off a list of requirements?
In summing things up, Johnathan said that really the underlying theme of the session was “Increasing our Emotional Intelligence.” Which I thought was pretty funny because I’m going to another session on that same topic later today!