Posted May 8, 2012 by Erin Morrell 

Rising to the Occasion

This year has been very challenging for me as a professional, and I am happy to say that I have learned a great deal from my colleagues and students—maybe more so than in the past. This year, I found myself having more of the tough or difficult conversations with some of my students in the office, on personal time, and even while at a conference. While some find this uncomfortable (don’t we all), these are the meaningful conversations from which both my students have and I have learned.

Sometimes I find that students just expect things to be a certain way, for me to take care of it, or that they can use the “I didn’t know” excuse. Some students even gave me an attitude this year when I explained to them that an event was full and that they would not be able to attend because did not respond by the deadline.

I have found that the faculty is more lenient in terms of handing in assignments late or even allowing students to pass all their work in at the last minute near the end of the semester. As someone that is a part time instructor at my institution, I find that this is unacceptable. When I give my students a deadline, I expect that they adhere to it. Barring any major illness or major life issues, deadlines are set for a reason. How can students possibly learn if we are always accommodating their every request? Some of the time, students believe that I should make an exception for them or understand that they are “busy” and didn’t get to it. Guest what? We are all busy. I have taught you time management skills so that you can manage your time effectively. I had conversations this semester with students that had taken on too many leadership roles on campus and were feeling very overwhelmed, sometimes to the point where something had to give, and most likely, it was their student organization involvement.

Students often struggle to manage and juggle so many things with expectations from family, friends, significant others, faculty, staff, and their peers. They don’t want to disappoint anyone. While it takes extra time from my schedule and my life, I believe that it is important to have these conversations in hopes that the students listen to what we have to say and that it motivates and encourages them to strive to succeed. Students are often fearful of failing, and in turn, rarely take risks. One quote that I share with students is: “The only real failure in life is one not learned from” by Anthony J. D’Angelo. This quote explains that each time you face a failure, there is something to be learned from the experience. Leaders learn from their experiences, and not all experiences are successful at first. Growing is a part of the process, and sometimes students are too quick to fix it rather than learn from it.

In thinking about this blog post, I thought of all the students that I had these types of conversations with this semester and throughout the year. Then I came to realize that in each of those conversations, something was learned. In one particular case, I had a student leader that was posting negative things online as well as had a severe attitude problem earlier in the year. Once I spoke to this individual, there was change in behavior; however, I honestly wasn’t sure if it would last. I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt. It paid off. This person came into their selection interview for our programming board with goals in mind individually and for the board. Additionally, this person addressed all of the “issues” from the previous semester without me having to bring them up. This showed great maturity and growth to me, and I was impressed. Overall, this has been a great year in terms of my students challenging the process and the way I handle and respond to situations. It was also rewarding when students surprise me by rising to the occasion.

Do you often see your students rise to the occasion when they face a challenging situation? What are the difficult conversations or situations you have dealt with this year? Are you still challenged by your students each day?


Erin Morrell

Erin Morrell is the Associate Dean for Campus Activities & Orientation at Albertus Magnus College.

Erin has responsibilities in advising student organizations, including the programming board and student government, and supervising department student employees. She oversees the Albertus@Night late night programming series, and serves as the Director of New Student Orientation.


I agree Erin - I have found myself having these same conversations and hearing the same excuses. Most recently, a student worker of mine was asking to leave a shift early on a Friday because she had two exams on the coming Monday. She legitimately was expecting sympathy that she had to deal with the pressure of two exams and blamed the professors for creating such a situation. It was a very interesting conversation that left me feeling very worried about the lack of time-management & planning skills that I am seeing from a much larger percentage of college students. The bigger issue here I think is that students nowadays are left at a disadvantage without having to commit to deadlines or feel any real responsibility towards their coursework, which causes their approach to extracurricular activities/work to lack the same dedication and responsibility.
Laura Rogalski
Comment posted 05/09/2012 10:00 AM
Laura - I definitely see that trend where students are "allowed" to hand in late work and assignments, and therefore, they assume that we will be flexible when they need the time to work on those, and in turn, everything "student involvement" related goes to the wayside, especially at the end of the semester because they didn't keep up with their academics all semester. Here's hoping that we can teach better time management skills to our student leaders, and that they take our advice when it comes to taking on too many responsibilities!
Comment posted 05/09/2012 10:17 AM
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