Granting Ourselves Grace During Challenging Times

To start us off, I want to make it clear that I am struggling. I know that you’re probably struggling too. It’s okay that we are not okay. 

Our COVID-19 world is absolutely draining. One moment we find a semblance of “normal.” We have a meal outdoors with family and friends. We run to the store and social distance, maybe to pick up an item that was much needed for the last few months. The next moment we learn our states are continuing to rise in COVID positive case numbers. We learn of someone we know personally who either has COVID-19 now or who has recovered from COVID-19. The uncertainty is draining.

Within my profession there is so much uncertainty. I absolutely love what I do as a Residence Hall Coordinator, but to be honest, I’m scared. My institution is bringing back students and my job is to protect them. How do I protect them and make sure that they’re having an enjoyable collegiate experience during a pandemic? Plus there’s the fact that we still have so many unanswered questions as a field. Will our plans work out? Will students, faculty, and staff be safe? I am trying to be positive, but I’m absolutely exhausted. All student affairs and higher education professionals are exhausted, among many other professions right now.

On top of this, I had to move my October wedding reception to 2021. While, yes, I still get to marry my best friend, I won’t have the wedding I dreamed of. While I am grateful for my health and the health of my family and friends, I also need to grant myself the space and grace to grieve the loss of the traditional wedding of my dreams. Our decision was not an easy one, but it was the best for the sake of all those we love.

I think the point of this post is to share that you’re not alone. I think that many have this perception that we need to be adjusted to our COVID-19 world by now, and that is completely wrong. We also need to recognize that grief comes in stages, and that sometimes we start at the beginning of the grieving process all over again. Our new world is so uncertain. It’s anxiety provoking, and unfortunately, we cannot control most of what is happening.

What we need to keep in mind is that we will get through this. The world will not be like this forever. We need to work diligently to listen to state officials and to wear our masks to protect our families, friends, colleagues, community members, and ourselves. Minor discomfort is worth it if it means that lives were saved. We also need to give ourselves grace to not be okay and to admit when things are difficult. Sometimes we try so hard to hold it together but at the end of the day, there is a lot of comfort in knowing that others are struggling deeply as well.

Granting Permission to Struggle

The last month-and-a-half has been a weird one to say the least. We are all continuing to struggle with adjusting to our new COVID-19 world. If you’re like me, this has been especially difficult on your mental health. As someone who struggles deeply with depression and anxiety, I haven’t seemed to find a way to balance these unusual times and the emotions that come with these changes. One day, I am at a 10/10 and feeling incredible. I get work done, eat balanced meals, and take multiple walks. Fast forward to the next day, and I’m struggling to get out of bed and wash my hair. There is seemingly no end to this lack of balance. For a while, I was afraid that I was the only one struggling to manage my work, life, and ability to get through a day as a human. I then started to read articles about how others are facing similar struggles, that our productivity levels look very different for some, and that this is all okay.

I have been trying to give myself permission to struggle. As someone who has worked hard to do well in my work and other aspects of my life, this is actually really difficult. My brain struggles to think forward to productively planning for the future because I am in crisis mode. This may be why you are also struggling to find productivity to get things done for work. Additionally, I’ve been working from my apartment because I am more comfortable in this space during these times. I am giving myself permission to accept that my anxiety is in a very weird place and that it is okay to work from my apartment like the majority of others in the world, regardless of whether others are judging my decision.

While I am still struggling to find balance, the greatest gift that I gave myself was permission to feel the things that I am feeling. Yes, others are putting all their energy into their work projects as a distraction, but unfortunately, my brain is not functioning in that capacity at the moment. I’m in survival mode. I’m answering emails and supporting my students where I can. I am fulfilling my responsibilities, but I’m also coping with this world on a personal level too.

Give yourself permission to not be okay. Give yourself permission to have “off” days. We are all facing this together, yet we are all coping mentally in different ways. Regardless of how you are feeling, it is okay. Your feelings are valid. 

5 Tips for Creating your “New Normal”

So many of us are struggling to find a sense of normal during these difficult times. The majority of people in the world are either working from home or struggling to navigate their personal safety at their jobs. We are all struggling to balance navigating a normal routine with managing our emotions. On a personal level, I’ve struggled immensely to process everything going on in the world with COVID-19 over the past few weeks. This entire situation has been very emotionally draining. Over the last weekend into this week I have taken time to process my emotions and to work toward developing a new routine. Here are some of the things that have helped me:

Do something active every day. Like many people, I have struggled deeply to find any motivation for weeks. I have made it a goal to do something active every day, even if it’s just a 10 minute walk around the block. I also have been doing yoga with “Yoga with Adriene” on YouTube in the mornings and the evenings. She has a range of classes for all competency levels. You can find her free classes here: https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene. In addition, be forgiving of yourself. I know that many don’t have access to healthy food or may be stress eating as well. Do something active for the sake of feeling better mentally above all else.

 

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This weekend Dave & I took a walk by a local lake (while social distancing of course).

Set one goal every day. I have found it really difficult to think forward and to set future work-related or personal goals for myself during this time. Set one work-related, personal, or professional development goal every day. This can range from anything, such as finishing a nagging project, cleaning out your closet, or watching a relevant webinar. It is not possible to be your most productive self during this time. If you can manage to get one thing done every day, it will create a small sense of accomplishment. Your future self will thank you.

Express gratitude every day. One thing that I practice in my daily life is to write down 3 things I am grateful for every day. This ranges anywhere from my family in general to a cup of coffee, depending on my mood. I have also carried this tradition into my RA staff meetings and have started asking them randomly for one thing they’re grateful for in the group chat. It is important to remember the good we have, especially when our world is struggling. It is also important to share this mindset with others whenever possible.

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Create a master “to-do” list for the next few weeks. One thing that has always kept me semi-productive at work has been to create a master “to-do” list for the next few weeks with some concrete deadlines. It is even more difficult to get things done when things are closed and deadlines are now placed on the back burner. If you set personal deadlines, you will still manage to feel productive in some way.

Know that some days will be more difficult than others and that’s okay. The greatest thing to keep in mind is that some days you will struggle with my mental health more than others. Some days you won’t be as productive and may just have the capacity to get out of bed. Be forgiving of yourself when you have these days. Understand that it’s okay to struggle during this time. Yes, some people put their energy into project work to distract themselves. Others will need to grieve all the things we have lost or are struggling with. The wide range of emotional responses to COVID-19 are ALL okay.

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My mental health has finally been in a better place. Remember to practice self-care during all of this.

At the end of the day, I keep telling myself that this will all pass. This will be our new normal for the next few weeks or months, but inevitably, this cannot last forever. The most important part of the situation is that we take care of each other and ourselves by social distancing, quarantining if necessary, staying home when we can, and “filling our cups” and our hearts with things that help us to get through the day. Create space to add positivity to your day. Spend time on a new hobby you’ve always wanted to try. FaceTime friends and family that you don’t see often. Use this time to connect with the world and remember that there is always room in your “new normal” for things that bring you joy.

My Student Affairs Perspective: Struggling in the Midst of the Chaos #SAPro

This week has been a whirlwind. As student affairs employees, we are facing a situation that we have never experienced before. Institutional leaders are being forced to make decisions to close colleges and to begin online education, which poses many challenges for students. Many students do not have access to internet, an environment conducive to studying, or even have a computer. In addition, some students may live in abusive households and their mental health may struggle during this time. So many people are questioning the decisions of higher education, yet the reality is that no one has a right or wrong answer at this time. Higher ed admins are trying to keep campuses safe while also balancing the challenges of students who do not have the appropriate means to successfully complete online classes. It’s a lot, and we are taking it day-by-day.

On a personal level, I am mentally drained. I have not done much at this time because my institution is on Spring Break this week, but the anxiety over everything is crippling at times. I am balancing the struggles of taking social distancing seriously while not being perceived as “over-dramatic,” wondering how my students are doing and if they are being taken care of wherever they are, and contemplating how this will all continue to unravel over the next few weeks. Will the students return to campus for in-person classes? Will we close for the semester? The unknown is something that we have to embrace at the moment, which has been very difficult for me.

All that matters right now is that we continue to support one another and validate that these feelings of anxiety, fear, sadness, and discomfort are very real. We have to respect that institutions are doing what they can with little understanding of how to handle a situation like this. We have to look out for one another and to take social distancing seriously out of respect for our friends and family who are immunocompromised. We need to be strong for each other while creating space to process the things that are effecting our mental health. There is so much uncertainty in the world and the United States at this time but one thing is certain to me, we must continue to spread love. We need to maintain human connection from a distance and at the end of all of this, we will all appreciate one another a little bit more.

Sending peace, love, and good vibes to all of you. We’re going to get through this.

A Season of Detoxing my Life

As some of you know, the Christian season of Lent is starting tomorrow. While we may not all be religious, I think that the true meaning of the season transcends to everyone. We all need periods of detoxing our lives in an effort to be our best selves. Lent is a time of sacrifice and a time of adding good practices that help to make your life more full. I personally love Lent. Even when I am struggling with my faith, I find so much growth during this time. While many of us give up some of our most toxic vices during this time, I also like to make a point to add just as many good things to my daily/weekly life. The following is my list for this Lenten season:

Things to Give Up: 

Sweets/Candy/Desserts and any junk food: I keep overindulging in these to the point where it’s becoming a toxic habit again. I need to make an effort to preserve my health to be my best self.

Being less cruel to others: I want to be kinder & more forgiving in general. Life is too short to be mean.

Being cruel to myself: I will mess up somedays. I need to be forgiving & realize that I can always pick myself up & get back on track.

Limit social media usage: I don’t personally find social media use to be toxic to me. I don’t compare myself to others or think negatively of myself because of social media. I just think this is a good practice in order to focus more on mindful living.

 

Things to Add to my Life:

Attending church services weekly: my spirituality is currently lacking in so many ways. I want to reaffirm my faith in God by attending services every week.

Go on Walks Daily by Yourself: I struggle with creating space to get inside my head & to clear my thoughts. Going on solo walks seems to help the most with this.

Volunteer 2-3 Times During the Lenten Season: I want to connect with my community & give back to others by volunteering at least 2-3 times this season. I’m not sure where I want to volunteer, but I know that I want my focus to be with the homeless population in the community.

Do More Random Acts of Kindness: I want to do more random acts of kindness. I love doing things for others. Random acts of kindness are simple, yet still fulfilling.

 

Letting Go of Perfection & Shame

In a world of chaos, it’s hard not to become stressed easily when things don’t go our way. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been struggling with my anxiety and sought out the help of a new counselor. Yesterday we met for the first time and I was pleased with the connection so far. I rambled on about wedding planning, the constant business of work, and some of my other typical stressors while she nodded and listened receptively.

One thing that stood out to me the most was that she kept reminding me, very calmly, that we cannot attain perfection. When was the last time you reminded yourself that this is a completely unattainable goal? It was only after my session that it truly clicked and I realized how important it was for me to hear this. We will go through our jobs and our lives attempting to be our best selves but at the end of the day, we will never make perfect happen and that’s okay.

I always joke that I’m a perfectionist at times with my type A personality and obsession for a good planner (Erin Condren Design planners are the best fyi), but in reality, how often am I focusing on creating a sense of perfect? How many times a week do I become completely disheartened when things don’t go my way or I get a nasty email from a student? A lot. Yet in reality, I’m trying my absolute best. I live a fulfilling life and I like to think that I do well in my job. You can be full without perfect. You have to be. 

This also ties into Brene Brown’s research on shame, which is included in her book The Gifts of Imperfection (my current read). Brown defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging” (p. 39). How often do we think that we are completely unworthy because things don’t go well or something that we create/produce isn’t as perfect as we wanted it to be? So many of us live in shame when we make the most simple mistakes. We fail to let things go and move forward.

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So today, I’m letting go of perfection. I’m giving my all, even if I cannot give as much energy and time every time I take on a new task. I am accepting my flaws. I am giving myself permission to screw up and move forward. And I am reminding myself that I will always be loved in the process. We should all let go of feelings of shame because we cannot attain perfect. We owe it to ourselves. 

My 20 for 2020 Goals #20For2020

If you read my blog last year, you’ll know that I did a 19 for 2019 list like my favorite podcaster, Gretchen Rubin. Instead of setting a complicated and unrealistic set of goals, you set an attainable list for yourself. 2019 has been a year of abundance and joy in my life. I earned my Master’s degree and found a job at an institution I absolutely love. I grew as a person and fell more in love with my fiancé and myself. I have continued to grow, and that is my plan for 2020. Here’s to a year of abundance full of love, new adventures, and being my best self.

My 20 for 2020 List

Dry January. This year I’m committing to a month of going alcohol free, or as many are calling it, “dry January.” I want to take time to cleanse my body and to see how well I feel when I cut alcohol from my system. I don’t drink a lot in general, but I think that this journey will be a good one for my mental and physical health. When I’m stressed, I tend to want a glass of wine or a margarita. Now that I don’t have the option of using alcohol to cope, I will take a healthy approach to recovering from a stressful week like reading a book or heading to the gym. 

Go to Starbucks Less. While this is painful for me to admit, I recognize that I spend way too much money at Starbucks. In order to be kinder to my wallet (and my wedding budget) I am committing to going to Starbucks less. I am fully capable of making coffee at home. My goal is to only grab Starbucks as a treat every 2 weeks. I think this is a fair way of treating myself with my favorite coffee while also cutting back significantly.

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Eat Takeout Less. While Starbucks is definitely my greatest downfall, I also have a tendency to grab takeout to go when I’m too tired to cook or don’t want to eat in the cafeteria. Eating out is both expensive and unhealthy. I am committing to resisting the urge to grab takeout and to only dine out once in a while socially with friends or my partner. 

Walk Every Day (20 minutes or 1 mile). Like Gretchen Rubin, one of my goals is to walk more. I find that walking is not only a great form of exercise, but is an opportunity to clear my head and to create space for reflection. I am committing to walking for 20 minutes or 1 mile per day (these are roughly the same with my stride/speed). This is a time commitment that doesn’t take a lot of time from my day and is manageable on a regular basis.

Pray Every Day. One of my greatest challenges in 2019 was a deep struggle with my faith and prayer life. While I am a devoted Christian, I have struggled deeply with my Catholic faith because of the recent allegations in the church. I am committing to praying every day in my own way and creating space for God. I am also staying open to praying in different churches/denominations in the new year. While I will always remain Catholic, I want to be open to new prayer and worship opportunities.

Drink Water Every Day. I have been doing well with this goal, but I want to keep up with drinking a sufficient amount of water every day. I have an app that tracks my water intake and requires me to drink 1.8 Liters per day and have a water bottle that fills to 750 ML. Before drinking water regularly, I was dizzier and had less energy throughout the day. Now I know what my body needs and have seen the benefits of this. 

Be Kinder and Gossip Less. Plain and simple, being mean is toxic. It drags not only myself down but others around me. I am being kinder in this new year so that I can be a more positive presence to those around me. Being kinder is makes your heart more full. We should all aspire to this.

Be More Forgiving of Yourself and Others.  I need to be more understanding when things go wrong with not only others, but myself. We all make mistakes. What is important is that we can pick back up and grow from those mistakes. Being forgiving takes a lot of stress out of these mistakes and allows us to move forward.

Rest More.  If you know me, you know that I literally cannot sit still. On my days off I feel the need to keep going by doing chores and running errands. I frequently find myself burnt out and exhausted. I am creating space and giving myself permission to rest more. When I don’t need to wake up early on a Saturday I won’t set an alarm just to get things done. Im going to step back and relax when I can.

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Stick to my WW Eating Plan. I have been super successful with the WW program at the beginning of the year. Over the past few months, I’ve gotten lazy with my eating plan and gained a bit of weight. I let my health fall to the wayside after starting a new job and adjusting to living with my fiancé (because I never used to have chips or other junk food in the house). I have to commit to my healthy eating plan because of how it makes me feel; my mental and physical health are greatly impacted by living a healthier lifestyle. I also refuse to refer to WW as a diet. This is a lifestyle change for my body and mental health. And while, yes, I would like to lose weight, I am no longer making it a priority. I need to focus on the bigger picture.

Go to the Gym at Least 3 Times Per Week. I am committing to working out at the gym 3 times per week because I love my body, not because I hate it. I am trying to reframe my mindset so that I look forward to the gym and how I feel afterward. I think that 3 days a week is a reasonable commitment to make for myself. I am also trying new workout strategies/machines at the gym so that I won’t become stagnant.

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Put Down Your Phone More. I want to put my phone down more and live in the moment. I feel like we are all entirely too dependent on our phones today. I would like to put my phone on sleep mode by 8:30 every night so that I can make time to read and decompress before falling asleep. I also think it’s important to put my phone on silent when I’m with my family or partner, especially when we are sharing a meal or are celebrating a holiday.

Go for a Hike. When I was younger, I would go hiking a lot with my mum and sister. I feel accomplished after a hike. It feels great to be in nature and to disconnect with the rest of the world for a little. I also have the privilege of living in beautiful, wild and wonderful West Virginia now, so I have plenty of options close by.

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Travel to a New Place. I absolutely love travel, so one of my goals every year is to go somewhere new. Luckily, I plan on going to Montego Bay, Jamaica for my honeymoon in October. I want to travel to more local places too when I can, especially this summer.

Be Kinder to My Partner (and don’t pick fights when you’re crabby). This is one that many of us need to work on. It’s easy to be irritable and cranky with our significant others when we’re in a bad mood. I plan on being kinder to my fiancé and finding healthier outlets for days when I’m feeling cranky.

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Create Space at Work for More of What I Love. I am in this profession because I love working with my students. While I need to complete a lot of mundane administrative tasks and other requirements that I may not particularly enjoy, I need to create space for the parts of my job that I love. One of my favorite things to do are create events for my students during the work day so that they can stop by my office and engage in conversation. I also want to make an effort to attend RA programs like I have in the past. My students are the reason that I love what I do. Instead of becoming burnt out on routine tasks, I need to create opportunities that remind me why I love my job.

GET MARRIED and Be the Best Wife I Can Be. I can’t believe that I can put this on my list! I am SO excited to marry my best friend in October of this year. On top of the excitement of getting married, I am committing to being the best wife/partner that I can be. I want to make sure that I am creating opportunities for new adventures and continuing to make our life together an exciting one.

Read 2 Books Per Month. While I love to read, I find that I haven’t made enough time to read when I have free time. My original goal was 3 books per month, yet I still managed to fail. I think that reading 2 books per month is an attainable goal that I can commit to.

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Do More that Makes Your Heart Feel Full.The greatest goal that I have this year is to do more that makes my heart feel full.While I want to be more frugal financially this year, I want to create the space to take more leaps of faith. Whether that’s going to a yoga class once in a while, having a date night with my fiancé, or taking a road trip, I need to continue to do more of the things that make my life worth living. Here’s to new adventures and experiences! 

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A Decade of Challenges, Triumphs, & So Much to be Thankful For

As I sit here today, I cannot believe that a decade has come and gone. The past 10 years have been a whirlwind. I have grown up so much since the beginning of the decade. So many things over the past 10 years have shaped me into the woman I am today. In 2009 I graduated high school and started at Saint Vincent College. I ended a toxic relationship and began to thrive. I experienced great loss in 2011 when my friend tragically passed away. I grew up fast and came to terms with my mental illness. I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in 2013, found my first professional job at Saint Mary’s College in 2014, and began to grow into a strong, confident female leader. During that time, I came to terms with past trauma and found healing in that space. I fell in love in 2016 with the man I plan on spending the rest of my life with. I started my Master’s degree at IUP in 2017 and graduated in May of 2019. And now I’m here. I am stronger, more confident, and so full of life. I learned how to love myself over the past 10 years, which was something that did not come easily. Although my past defines me in so many ways, it doesn’t weigh me down or dictate my future. It has simply shaped me into who I am and I am grateful to be this woman today.

 

2019 was a year of abundant blessings and I am so truly grateful. I have accomplished so much this year…

I graduated with my Master’s degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in May.

I found a job at West Virginia University and am so proud to call this home.

I moved in with my fiancé and created a home together.

I had a case study published in a printed student affairs book. 

I bought my dream car. 

I continued to fall in love with my life & myself. 

I have been incredibly successful and have finally began to see my hard work pay off. As a first generation college student, I never thought I would have 2 degrees. I never thought that I would fall in love and find a healthy relationship. Yet here we are.

Despite these triumphs, I still struggled at times. I absolutely love my new job, but the transition to new challenges has been a difficult one for my mental health. I’ve allowed my self-care to fall by the wayside at times over the past few months and my depression has completely drained me. Transitions are hard for me, even if they are good ones. I know that I still have the power to change this and I plan on focusing on my mind, body, and spirit again in 2020. I have also struggled so much with my faith. As a member of the Catholic Church, I have experienced great pain from the allegations surrounding the Catholic priests. I have lost so much trust and because of that, my faith has fallen on the back burner. I plan on reconnecting to my spirituality again in 2020 and finding peace with God. 

And yet, with the struggles that I experienced, my soul is still very full. If you told me 10 years ago that I would be going into the next decade with 2 degrees, a wonderful job, and that I would be marrying the kindest, most loving man I would think you were crazy. Yet here I am. I am so ready to run into the new year with goals and aspirations that will continue to make me extraordinary. I encourage you to do the same. We all have the power to dictate our futures and to go into the new year with an open mind. I hope that you find strength, growth, joy, and love in this next decade. 

Here are pictures of some of the amazing humans who have made my last decade an incredible one. I love you all! 

Connecting with your Students: The 8-Week Plan

Originally posted on Involvio.com.

Programming in Residence Life is typically a challenge when it comes to student attendance and sparking the interest of the residential population. Despite the challenges, it is critical that student affairs professionals find ways to engage the student population early in the semester. According to multiple studies, it is critical to “catch” students in the first 6 weeks of their semester. As a Residence Hall Coordinator in a new professional role, I wanted to test a first 8 weeks programming structure that implemented one program of a different “style” every week. I decided to make this model 8 weeks, rather than 6, for the sake of creating space for the adaptation of additional types of programming.

Throughout this plan, I created a range of programs. My first event was a traditional large-scale social program called the “Housewarming Party,” which welcomed first-year students to their new home and offered a variety of crafts, such as West Virginia state backpack pins that they could decorate and mod-podging tile coasters. This event was intended to also create space for first-year students to engage with one another, and overall, it was highly successful. In addition, I provided opportunities for on-site community service, a selfie photo scavenger hunt on campus, a football away game watch party, and others. One of my favorite events that I plan on implementing regularly was the “Coffee & Tea with your RHC” program. During a few of my office hours during the normal 9-5 class day, I set up a table with a Keurig outside my office. I also laid out coloring books and just hung out there for a few hours while waiting for students to either grab a coffee to go or stay to chat. I loved this event and although I did not necessarily have the highest attendance, I would say that it was successful based on the space that I created for some engaging student conversations. My plan is to implement one in the next few weeks focused on National First-Generation Student Day.

Overall, this strategy to step outside of my comfort zone and provide a range of activities went exceptionally well. I found that sometimes it was exhausting to plan an additional event per week on top of my routine student meetings, staff meetings, hall council meetings, and other evening event obligations, but it was completely worth it. I also appreciate that I now have some personal data on which types of events reached my student population. Although I have a building that is very community-service oriented, the care package drive was a huge flop. I believe that a lot of this was due to poor scheduling of the event and competition with another service event that week. This also gave me a good perspective on what times worked well for students to stop by programs (i.e. evenings, 9-5 school day). The final triumph was that through these events, I was able to connect with my student population in a positive way early in the semester. I have found that a lot of my students know who I am and have a positive perception of me, despite the fact that my role often requires me to serve as a disciplinarian. In addition, I was able to connect with a number of leaders who inevitably joined my Community Council executive board as a result of conversations we had at early programs. My goal in the future is to create a plan next semester which focuses on “experimenting” with additional programming styles within the first 6 weeks. I also hope to create some programmatic traditions every fall as well and know that the “Housewarming Party” is one that I will continue every year.

I challenge you to seek opportunities to engage with your student population and to test these opportunities. Within our profession, we are often disappointed when programs lack attendance or are not as successful as we had hoped. Through this plan, I found ways to reflect on small wins and opportunities to make the events better going forward. This was also a great way to understand what my students were attracted to in programming opportunities in order to plan additional events for the rest of the academic year.

Here is the full list of programs and descriptions!

Week 1: Housewarming Party

Crafts included painting a wooden WV state backpack pin and creating a beverage coaster with a bathroom tile and mod podge. In addition, we had some “throwback” snacks, such as juice boxes, and had an RA baby picture board where residents could guess who their RA was based on the baby photo for a prize. The goal of this event was to welcome residents to their new home while creating space for socially engaging with their peers.

Week 2: Resident Selfie Scavenger Hunt

Residents were provided with a list of landmarks and important locations on campus. Students then submitted their selfies with these landmarks via email for the opportunity to win a gift card. The goal of this activity was to provide a program that residents could do on their own time while also creating a space for them to learn how to navigate our large campus.

Week 3: Coffee & Tea with your RHC

During this event, I set up a Keurig coffee maker at a table outside my office and sat there with coloring books. This was an event where residents could stop by for a cup of coffee or could spend some time hanging out. The goal was to provide some hospitality to my students, which is a personal value that I attempt to implement in all aspects of my life. In addition, the hope was that residents would make time to stay and engage with myself in a positive environment.

Week 4: Care Package Drive for a Local Homeless Shelter

During this event, I set up mini toiletry items that I purchased from a dollar store and invited students to create care packages and to write notes to individuals at the shelter. The goal was to create a simple on-site service opportunity that promoted community responsibility.

Week 5: Away Football Game Watch Party

During this event, I ordered a lot of pizza and wings from popular local restaurants and invited students to watch the away game. This game was more successful because it was not televised on cable, so I had to purchase ESPN+ for the event. We had a large number of attendees and it went very well. The goal of this event was to implement an alternate-alcohol event for students to watch the game.

Week 6: Coffee & Donuts with Facilities

During this event, I ordered donuts and provided a Keurig with coffee for my residents and our facilities staff. We set up a table outside my office so students could either stay or stop by in passing. The goal of this event was to create space to thank our facilities staff while providing our students the opportunity to engage with the staff. This event was coordinated as a result of community cleanliness concerns.

Week 7: Pizza & Pumpkins Alternate-Alcohol Event

During this event, I collaborated with 3 of my colleagues to create an event for all students in our residential complex. We offered pumpkins for students to paint and ordered a large number of pizzas and wings. The goal of this event was to create a healthy space for students to engage because it was the weekend of a popular football rival game. The event was extremely successful to the point where we ran out of food 30 minutes in!

Week 8: Halloween Door Decorating Contest

During this event, students were invited to decorate their doors and to submit their decorations via email for the chance to win a gift card. The goal of this event was to foster a sense of community within the hall.

Finding a Professional Home: My Reflection on the 2019 MACUHO Annual Conference

As professionals it is critical that we find ways to incorporate professional development into our careers. This year I had the privilege to attend my 3rd MACUHO Annual Conference in Atlantic City, NJ. In addition, this was my first year on Leadership Council. Here are a few of my takeaways from the conference:

Find your people in the field.

Over the past year on Leadership Council, I have had the privilege of connecting with a network of some of the most competent, caring, and dedicated professionals that I have ever met.  I have found a sense of family in the MACUHO organization. My advice to all professionals in student affairs is to find an organization that focuses on an area that you feel passionately about. Find ways to get involved in that organization and embrace the incredible network of people that you connect with.

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My lovely friend Tiffany, newly elected VP of MACUHO! I am so grateful to work with this amazing woman.

 

Get involved. 

As mentioned above, getting involved with an organization is critical not only at an annual conference, but throughout the year as well. I volunteered and presented multiple times as this conference. When you get involved, you add an additional way to network with colleagues in the field. This is also a great way to give back to an organization.

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My amazing friends & co-presenters! Brandon (left), me (center), & Heidi (right).

Network when you can (even if you have a job).

One of the most critical parts of being a professional or aspiring professional in the field is networking. Although I currently have a job that I love, I created space to engage with other professionals and to network with vendors that contribute to the organization. Networking with vendors is great practice for those who want to become directors of Residence Life & Housing someday like myself. This is also a simple way to practice networking with someone that you may not necessarily be interviewing with for a job. I cannot stress this enough to new professionals and graduate students.

Create space for fun!

One of the most important things I learned early in my career is that conferences are also a time for self-care. Although I was running around constantly, I still made time to nap before long evenings and signed up for the fun excursion, which included a trip to the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum! Yes, this is a professional development experience, but it is also a time for growth.

Stay committed to growth post-conference.

One of the greatest things that we struggle with is staying motivated after that post-conference high goes away. It is critical that we use what we learned at the conference to continue to develop ourselves. In addition, since I have a leadership role in the organization this year, it is critical that I continue to create space to work on the big ideas that came from the conference. I am feeling energized now, and I need to create ways to keep up that energy.

Although I am sad that it is over, I am eternally thankful for the relationships that I’ve developed within the MACUHO organization over the past few years. I work in a region with an incredibly passionate, dedicated, and competent group of professionals. I look forward to continuing with my Leadership Council role in the organization and cannot wait to continue to develop myself through this organization. I am thankful to have found my professional home.

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MACUHO is always a time to connect with new friends & old! Thankful for my lovely friend Elizabeth who graduated from the IUP SAHE Program the year before me.

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