Posted November 13, 2013 by Elizabeth Beltramini 

Attracting Possibilities

A few years ago, a speaker at IPDS: New Professionals Orientation told the participants: “Don’t ever say you’re ‘tired’ or ‘busy.’ Who isn’t, after all? And doing so will just prevent you from what possibilities a conversation or a new project may bring.”

Since then, I’ve often given myself a mental pep talk restating her wise words. I’m sure Jane Addams, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela were often tired or busy—no more so than I. Just within our own community, I think of the ACUI volunteers giving countless hours to the Association while simultaneously working full-time, raising children, and pursuing an advanced degree. They are most definitely tired and busy. Then I imagine whether I’d be “too tired or busy” to accept a free trip to Disney World leaving immediately. Absolutely not. If given the chance, I’d schlep my daughter all over the Magic Kingdom to see her face glow with excitement. And those machinations all help to give me perspective, knowing that I can make a difference today if I stay positive and don’t underestimate my stamina.

This issue of The Bulletin tackles several of those topics that we all know are important, but that can be wearying given the continuous pull of more immediate concerns. These topics require that we step back for some difficult and honest reflection. November 2013 Bulletin

For starters, some of us might feel relieved to have finally made headway in multicultural programming or programs structured with attention to identity theories. Not to devalue such accomplishments, but the last installment of our yearlong series on student development theories examines intersectionality. It prompts us to ask how we can offer programs and services that reach not only specific identities (e.g., black students) but individuals with layered identities (black, gay male students). Doing so successfully requires collaborations with other departments, again taking more of our precious hours and adding one more item to our to-do list, but with the potential to transform lives.
As we develop or optimize programs to engage those with intersecting identities, yet another task is demanded: We also need to lay the groundwork for effective assessment to determine whether those programs meet our objectives. We have all gotten the message that assessment is important and helps arm us with evidence of our relevance in a time of great competition. So, in writing learning outcomes we set out to make profound and sweeping statements about the good work that we do. The problem then is when we go to assess these learning outcomes: How do we know if we really are building community? How do prove it?

Authors from The Ohio State University outline a different approach, one that might offer more plentiful yields in this burden of proof. They walk through examples of how learning outcomes can be written at an appropriate level and nested to showcase the genuine work we do, not our aspirations. While assessment can be difficult to fit into one’s schedule, for those who haven’t written scaled learning outcomes or who are starting new programs and services, this article can provide an opportunity. It could also mean revisiting and possibly rethinking existing learning outcomes within one’s own scope of responsibility. Just keep repeating: “I am not too tired. I am not too busy. Today I can make a difference in the lives of others.”

Beyond making a difference for students, supervisors know that warm feeling of knowing in even a small way they helped empower their staff, taught them something new, or made their lives a little easier. We want to be good supervisors. We appreciate the research on generational differences, know the dangers of micromanaging, and understand the importance of delegating. And then work happens. And good intentions become just that—plans that never really materialize.

Managing in All Directions: Up, Down, and Sideways” is loaded with practical advice for improving employees’ relationship with their supervisor on a daily basis, identifying seemingly benign behaviors that might really be signs of micromanagement, and delegating not only to subordinates but also to other team members. The good news? Maybe by implementing some of the strategies shared, we all can be a little less tired and a little less busy.

Recently, I was part of a discussion in which several people bemoaned having too many meetings and too much work. While I didn’t verbalize being tired or busy, I could feel myself mentally nodding. But then one individual asked: “Who controls your calendar? Your schedule?” No one quite understood the question until she rephrased it: “Do you manage your own schedule? Can you effect decisions about your time?” Of course we all said that we could and thus the point was made: Yes, Microsoft Office’s default is that meetings should take an hour, but when scheduling a meeting I also have the option to make it 25 minutes. Similarly, no one else is going to give me energy when I need it or to check items off my to-do list. Only I can do that. So, perhaps I’ve been preventing possibilities by not realizing my own power.

Elizabeth Beltramini

Elizabeth Beltramini is the Director of Content Curation at ACUI.

Comments

I agree assessments are very important, the feedback shows us what to do better next time. Where I work we do not use assessments we just do the same each year.
Comment posted 04/27/2014 10:28 PM
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