Posted March 14, 2016 by Brandt Johnson 

10 of the Top Commons Blogs of 2015

This wasn't easy to narrow to 10, but outlined below are some of the many insightful blogs published to The Commons in 2015. Thank you to all contributors who have helped to provide a constant flow of knowledgeable, perceptive content that educates and instills occupational pride in the Association's members. Members consistently rate content from colleagues in the Commons and Bulletin as one of the most used and appreciated ACUI services. If you are interested in writing for The Commons, please contact assistant editor Brandt Johnson at

Advice for New Professionals ” by D.J. Fox
  • Fox recommends the book Job One: Experiences of New Professionals in Student Affairs to those entering their first job in student affairs.
  • He offers a top 10 list of tips he learned during his first full year as a professional, including: “It is okay to say no.” Sometimes when a talented new team member is hired, the excitement leads the department head to assign a collection of tasks that is too heavy. Be transparent about your comfort level in regard to the responsibilities.
  • Fox mentions the best advice he received in graduate school was to stick to his guns. “Be confident in your decision making; you were hired because the department felt your knowledge, experience, and desire to excel at the job was qualified enough to be trusted.”
  • Establish on day one what you expect from your supervisors and coworkers, and ask them what they expect of you.

Breaking the Cycle: PTSD in the Workplace” by Sonya Abbott
  • It’s common for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to experience symptoms that prevent completion of rudimentary tasks.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, approximately 10% of women and 4% of men develop PTSD at some point in their lives, which translates to about 8 million adults in a given year.
  • Abbott details the three unique sets of symptoms that exist: intrusive (flashbacks, body memories), arousal (heightened anxiety), and avoidance (memory loss, sense of feeling distant from others).
  • Common issues at the workplace for those with PTSD include memory, concentration, absenteeism, interaction with coworkers, and panic attacks.
  • The best approach to supporting an employee with PTSD is to create an open dialogue regarding their triggers and symptoms, and develop a customized plan.

Do You Do It, Too?” by Michael Patterson
  • As a union director, Patterson can’t help but notice and examine unique features such as promotional signs, carpet and seating design, and artwork on the walls of public facilities in his day-to-day life.
  • He calls it inspiration to help benchmark his work and compare his union facility to the rest of the world.
  • He admits to trying to find the nearest college union, mall, public square, airport, market, etc. to tour while on vacations, but all of these spaces share a purpose: They are gathering places for bringing community together, and a student affairs professional shouldn’t feel reluctant to share ideas with colleagues on other campuses or explore other unions for best practices and contemporary design and technology.

I-LEAD®: The Power of Four Words” by Benjamin Williams
  • Williams explains his interest and decision to enter student affairs was affirmed during his participation in the I-LEAD® program in 2012. He returned to the program as a facilitator in 2015. 
  • “The power of our profession is demonstrated through this program that brings over 100 strangers together and ends with friendship, community building, and a call to change the world.”
  • The four words in the title refer to “That I am enough.” These words were written as part of an activity where students jotted down the one thing that they will leave I-LEAD® with on a sticky note.
  • He notes that those four words are “a beautiful reminder that by showing up, caring for our students, and pushing them, I learned that I am enough and that we as educators play a role in supporting students, colleagues, and others knowing that they too are enough.”

It’s Campaign Season–‘No Buts’ About It” by Jeff Pelletier
Below are a few of the eight lessons Pelletier learned and taught during Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s speaking engagement on The Ohio State University’s campus:
  • Hold firm to as many policies as possible when dealing with the myriad requests, which means creative solutions will be needed to meet their needs.
  • As you accommodate your clients, also try to minimize the impact on surrounding events such as retail operations and students traveling to class.
  • Use the event as an opportunity to teach student staff about event execution and management, as well as the client if they are stopping by as part of a tour.
  • Take time after the event to discuss what went well and can be improved upon with the key players.

It’s On Us: A Call to Community Building” by Benjamin Williams
  • One of five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted in college, and as of Jan. 7, 2015, 94 colleges 
  • and universities are being investigated for pending 
  • Title IX violations.
  • These statistics provided by the It’s On Us campaign reinforce the importance of having the conversation of sexual violence on campus and students affairs professionals being prepared for a difficult conversation with a victim.
  • Williams offers the following ideas to generate conversation between staff, students, and communities:
    • As part of a department meeting, encourage staff members to present a broad definition of sexual assault that includes conversations about assault outside of the heteronormative paradigm, including the LGBTQ community.
    • Let students know of your responsibility as a campus security authority and obligation to report an incident if disclosed to you.
    • Engage in conversations with students and staff about how to intervene if something looks suspicious.
    • Develop procedures and training around issues of sexual assault on campus, how staff can support a survivor, and what it means to be a campus security authority.
Reflections on a Student Center's 50th Anniversary” by Tiffany Moffo Simpson
Simpson recaps the Central Connecticut State University Student Center’s 50th anniversary celebration and includes historical facts about the facility including:
  • Its Bellin Gallery exhibit was part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Work Progress Administration efforts during the Depression.
  • The beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles was the reason for the birth of the Mosaic Center, which seeks to foster intercultural unity.
  • Blue film on the windows supports CCSU’s mantra “We Bleed Blue.”
  • Richard Judd, former Student Center director and past CCSU president, said, “There are so many innovations that the Student Center brought about … lectures, concerts, dances etc. … The most important thing to me was that they were student initiatives supported by a student-centered staff.”
  • “Sixty percent of all college learning takes place outside of the classroom, and much of that takes place right here at the Student Center,” said director Otis Mamed during the Student Center’s ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 10, 2014.

Transforming the Table Tennis Experience: My Journey” by Willy Leparulo
  • Leparulo, a graduate student at the time, first learned of ACUI on a poster at the Florida State University Union promoting an intercollegiate tournament for his favorite sport: table tennis.
  • He stepped out of his comfort zone to approach FSU’s union director with a pitch to sponsor the FSU Table Tennis Club for a trip to the tournament at the University of Georgia. The pitch was a success!
  • Fifteen years and many tournament participations later, Willy’s long-time goal of promoting and managing college table tennis was realized when ACUI offered him the position of table tennis director.
  • Months after ACUI appointed Willy as table tennis director, the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association elected him as president, which led to a highly productive relationship between the two associations from 2004–2015.

Turn Left: Choosing Your Path” by Jessi Eaton
  • Eaton applies the premise of her favorite Doctor Who episode, “Turn Left,” to her career progression. The episode conceptualizes a character’s life had she turned left rather than right at the end of her street on a particular day.
  • She expands on three intersections in her life that led her to a career in student affairs and her love for the student center and advising students.
  • “Take a few minutes today to consider the left turns in your life and how much they’ve contributed to the person you’ve become—and the one you’re becoming.”

Why Aren't We Moving Forward?” by Mara Dahlgren
  • Dahlgren expresses concern that other facilities, such as the library, are more effectively performing the union’s historical role of creating spaces that build campus community, and unions aren’t looking at how to frame themselves as the primary campus community builder.
  • She likens the issue to the BlackBerry phone, which was a major hit in the initial years of the 21st century with its newfound capability of mobile email, but didn’t evolve as technology advanced and similar, competing products introduced their own innovative services.
  • “It feels like we are doing what we’ve always done and hoping this trend will pass.”
Brandt Johnson

Brandt Johnson is the Assistant Editor at ACUI.

Brandt manages The Commons, coproduces Association newsletters, and assists in editorial duties for ACUI's website, The Bulletin, program materials, and other print and digital content.


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