Student Affairs

Kappa Kappa Psi SED Convention – Convention Recap #1

With the Southwest District Convention of Kappa Kappa Psi happening this weekend in Texas (no, I’m not there), I figured it’s time to share my reflections on the Southeast District (SED, from here on out) Convention that I attended March 21-23 in Atlanta, Georgia. I’ve had more than enough time to process and reflect on the experience! What follows is the first in a three-part series of convention recaps posts covering two fraternity conventions, one professional conference, and assorted experiences in between.

This being my first time attending an SED Convention, I will say that I was very impressed with how the host chapters from Georgia Tech and district leadership worked together to present a well organized and enjoyable event. While there were many great take aways I could talk about, my recap of SED 2014 will touch on two main points:

  1. planning for the future (strategic planning)
  2. re-evaluating traditions

Planning for the Future (Strategic Planning)

Kelly Nellis, Kappa Kappa Psi National Vice President for Student Affairs, delivered a great presentation to a packed house on how chapters might approach chapter goal setting sessions in the future, but with the ultimate goal of helping chapters run more efficiently and effectively. It was interesting to hear why students chose to attend this particular presentation:

  • “Our chapter is a mess”
  • “The chapter needs to improve”
  • “We need to clarify our goals”

The list continues, but those seemed to be the underlying issues. Many of the students who chimed in, as well as a VAST majority of others in the room, indicated that they have chapter meetings that go for an HOUR or more. Suffice to say that those are (probably) not the most productive, nor pleasant, chapter meetings to sit in. Ugh. A few issues might contribute to this: 1) no clear-cut plan of attack for the meeting (an agenda) and/or 2) allowing for free-for-all conversation/commentary throughout the meeting. Rectifying these issues will help chapters move towards achieving their overall goals.

However, our chapters need to know who they are before they simply lay down a list of goals. One way to do this is to conduct a chapter SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis. By doing so, chapters can learn what they do well, what they could do better, where there are opportunities for success, and what might hold the group back. It is important though that this process be a full chapter project, not just something done by the executive board. By incorporating the entire chapter, it helps to paint a more accurate representation of the organization.

Once a chapter has a basic idea of who they are, then it is time to start looking at goals. What is it that the chapter wants to achieve? What would the chapter strive for if there were no limits on what was possible? Start with a large end goal and then work backward – this will help define what needs to happen along the way in order to make the large goal come to fruition.Regardless of the goals, chapters should ensure that the goals are SMART. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Bound. Following this format, chapters will lay down a framework for how the goals will be achieved, any deadlines, and how they will assess if they make sense to even pursue.

Re-Evaluating “Traditions”

After a chapter identifies its strengths, weaknesses, and so on and then establishes their goals, the next challenge may come in the form of chapter traditions. Christine Beason (current KKPsi National President), Kelly Nellis, Dr. Kirk Randazzo, and Dr. Malinda Matney (past KKPsi National Presidents) engaged the fraternity delegation in a candid discussion on how members might work to re-evaluate their chapter traditions. But where should a chapter start? With the leadership.

Before I proceed though, let me be clear – my definition of leadership (picked up while working in the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke) is that leadership is actionnot position. Leadership is when a group of people who are able (and willing) come together to influence positive change. These are those chapter members who motivate, take on the tasks that aren’t popular, hold themselves accountable, and influence others responsibly to execute a shared vision.

  • “…but this is how we’ve always done it.” Nope, I call bullshit.

As a leader, your primary objective is to help inspire the group towards achieving the shared vision and goals that were just established. Where does the existing “tradition” fit in? If the answer is that “it doesn’t”, then it might be time to re-evaluate that tradition. If your chapter’s goal is to win best organization on campus, then some of the more questionable traditions might need to get the boot. Remember: just because you have traditions doesn’t mean they aren’t incredibly stupid.

  • How do we navigate re-evaluating / changing our traditions?

First and foremost – and this cannot be stressed enough – start small. You have an idea of what should be based on your organization’s vision/goals/etc. Share this vision with other members, particularly those who are of a similar mindset. This will help to develop buy-in later as the idea progresses to the whole chapter. Also, remember that changing a tradition takes time and will likely not happen overnight. Your fellow members (hopefully) want the best for the organization, regardless of how they feel about certain traditions.

  • Okay, we’ve made some changes, but our alumni aren’t as thrilled about them…help!

Your alumni are an important link to the past of the organization. They have great stories about their own individual experiences as well as of the organization as a whole. They may have participated in some of the traditions that you’ve recently re-evaluated/change and they some alumni might be okay with the changes, some might be upset, and some may not even care. What is important to remember here is that their time as an active member has come and gone. The local chapter was, in most cases, founded before they were even born, evolved multiple times before they even joined, and will continue to do so long after the current members join the ranks of alumni. What might have been relevant to an active member in 1985, might not be to an active member in 2025. The current organization should reassure alumni members that they, as individuals, have a place and are always welcome back. However, they should also be made aware that visions and goals change over time, and some traditions may just need to go.

The Take-Aways

Planning for the Future / Strategic Planning

  1. Meetings that go an hour or more are no fun. Establish an agenda or some other plan of attack and stick to it.
  2. Allow each person who wishes to speak have their chance before allowing repeat speakers.
  3. ALSO, keep a running list of interested speakers. When someone wants to talk, acknowledge & add them to the list, and then have them put their hands down – it’ll keep the focus on the current speaker.
  4. Figure out what makes your chapter tick – conduct a SWOT analysis.
  5. Establish the END goal first when goal planning then figure out the smaller tasks to get you there.
  6. Make your goals SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Bound

Re-Evaluating Traditions

  1. Leadership is action, not position. Leaders influence positive change in the organization.
  2. Line up your traditions with your vision and goals. “This is how we’ve always done it” shouldn’t be the justification.
  3. Establish buy-in. Get a few other members on board, then a few more, and THEN go for the large group.
  4. Alumni aren’t active anymore – you are. The organization needs to reflect the people who are in it NOW.

Leaving ATL

As stated before, the 2014 SED Convention was a fantastic event. The content of presentations was incredibly relevant and seemed to flow nicely together, especially the two sessions that I chose to review. These sessions made sense and hopefully these take aways made it back to the local chapters.

As always, it was great to visit with friends from all over the region/country that I haven’t seen in some time. Between enjoying a humorous brunch at Babs’ and getting to visit the World of Coca-Cola, I would say this was a successful trip to Atlanta – a city that I would normally avoid simply for the traffic woes alone. It’s actually a great city to visit and I look forward to visiting again.

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Convention Recaps

It’s March and that means convention / conference season for many people. And yes, there are actually other things happening in the world right now besides college basketball – though you wouldn’t be able to tell based on my location (Dayton & Indianapolis). But I digress…

March is prime conference season and this means attending professional development conferences such as ACPA – where I am now in Indy – as well as attending regional conventions of Kappa Kappa Psi & Tau Beta Sigma – where I was this past weekend in Dayton and two weeks ago in Atlanta. Busy to say the least, but definitely learning a great deal throughout.

What I hope to do is recap some of the information I’ve gained as a result of attending all of these events over the last few weeks. As an alumnus of Kappa Kappa Psi, I still find that I learn more and more about my organization and how I can help it grow. As a student affairs professional seeking that next gig, I’m building on my existing knowledge base and figuring out how that will allow me to better serve students.

So I hope that you’ll stay tuned over the next week or so as I clean up my notes, put thought-to-keyboard, and re-live some of the highs (and hopefully not many of the lows) of the convention season.

COMMIT to Wellness

Let me be clear from the onset – never in my life have I ever been overly concerned with the idea of wellness. Sure, I’ve focused here and there on losing some weight, got back into running, and even ate a few carrots rather than a few cookies. However, I have never put a significant amount of effort into my own personal wellness. 

Now that I am in the field of student affairs (and have been for a few years), I find myself often wanting to make healthier choices when it comes to my personal well-being. I find myself encouraging students (and often other colleagues) to do the same. Ed Cabellon hit the nail on the head – asking how can we serve our students when we are not well? Truth is, we probably can, but not nearly to the capacity we could if were well…not even close.

So, as part of my #oneword2013 to commit this year, I am throwing down the gauntlet and making a solid commitment to my personal health. My two big focal points? Smarter food choices and giving myself the kick in the rear I’ve been needing to put the running shoes back on.

Nutrition

With the new year comes a new outlook toward my dietary habits, which – to be honest – have been kind of hit or miss as of late. However, I have noticed that I haven’t been eating out nearly as much over the last few months. It also helps to know that that I haven’t been going overboard with sweets and snacks. All that aside though, I still have some work to do when it comes to how/what I eat. So, a few bullets of my commitment to nutrition in 2013 look something like this:

  • Logging what I eat/drink using the Lose It! app

I began using Lose It! at some point in the early fall last year with not much success initially. However, I re-discovered it later and it proved to be pretty useful. It not only tracks meals and snacks throughout the day, but it lets you set a specific weight loss goal and track calorie intake/output so you can reach that goal. I will say that last year I did lose a good 10 lbs, which was tracked using this app. Unfortunately, I am pretty sure I gained it all back over the holidays…ugh.

  • Cook at Home / Pack my Lunch

Speaking of putting on pounds through food – I grew up as a child of the fast-food nation. And while that statement sounds like a great beginning to a novel, it still remains the truth. In the past, I would eat fast-food once or twice a day – almost every day like clockwork Just thinking about that makes me want to vomit. Now, I’ll swing by McD’s or Subway every now and again at work, but not nearly as often. With Tammi here now (and for the past 4 months) we cook much more often and even though there’s only two of us, we seem to cook for four. And yes – I do cook…just not as often as Tammi. Still though, we hardly ever have a shortage of leftovers, which means I rarely ever have to go “out” for lunch.

Running

Though it sounds cliche, 2013 is my year. I have spent far too long not running consistently like I used to. I’ve run more so far this month alone than I did in all of the last three months of last year combined – and for me, that’s saying something. But I’ve fallen back in love with the one sport that I’m relatively decent at and have begun to make a habit of it again. So, again, 2013 is my year for running and I plan to commit to it by:

  • Running at least 1000 miles before the end of the year
  • Entering and finishing no less than 12 5k races – preferably one per month
  • Participating in at least one Warrior Dash/Spartan Race event in 2013
  • Entering and finishing a half-marathon in the fall
  • Tracking my progress with RunKeeper and Nike+ apps

The first of those goals (1000 miles in 2013) is probably the one I am focusing on the most. In 2012, Tammi and I challenged each other to 366 miles in 366 days. Neither of us “won” because neither of us got close. I plan to not only smash through that mark this year, but blast past it completely and I’m already on my way. Tracking progress towards that goal has gotten much easier as well – utilizing the apps above and the various features within them.

Stay on Course…

Like all “good resolutions”, none of this means anything if it isn’t put into action. Being specific in my goals helps immensely, but I am also thankful to have the support of an amazing significant other, co-workers/friends, and an online student affairs wellness pledge group who have helped keep me accountable thus far. I’m already keeping track of my progress, running consistently, and already eating much better. I’m not planning to go overboard on the wellness idea, but it feels good to know that it is a significant item in my world now where it wasn’t so much in the past.

How are you planning to commit to your personal wellness this year? 

One Word 2013: COMMIT

Let’s start with the obvious – it’s been a few days *cough* almost a year *cough* since I updated last. Funny enough, that provides a fantastic segway into this post. 2012 is behind us and now 2013 presents us all with yet another opportunity to set resolutions…and likely give up on half to all of them. Case in point, I thought 2012 was going to bring me back into the blogging fold a little more often. Oops.

Last year, I joined Mallory Bower and Becca Obergefell as well as many others in student affairs and elsewhere to set what would be my one word resolution  (#oneword2012 or #oneword365), which was focused on the idea of PUSHThis idea behind choosing push was not to push back, but to push forward. In some areas, I feel I was successful, but not nearly to the extent I could have been. This year, as cliche as it sounds, things are going to be a little (a lot) different. Reflecting back on the highs and lows of the past year, and evaluating how push impacted it, my #oneword2013 is COMMIT. 

This seems fitting not just for me, but I think for many others out there as well. We all make choices and too often, those choices lead us into projects, challenges, resolutions, etc that we just cannot finish for one reason or another. In 2012, I wanted to push myself and but came up short. Maybe it was because I didn’t set a clear strategy of how to do that ahead of time. Maybe it was because I got complacent at times. Regardless, there are things to be done this year that I not only want to do, but are things I feel that I need to do.

My strategy to commit in 2013 initially focuses on four areas:

  1. Professional Development
  2. Running / Fitness
  3. Family
  4. Other* (this has potential to expand outward a lot I think…)

Over the next few days and weeks, I’ll go into more detail as to what each of these areas consist of and how I plan to commit to each one and how I will push myself towards the overall end goals. I’ll also explore the potential challenges associated with this goal. But today, I will end with a quote from Chris Esparza, a very energetic and inspiring individual who I met last May through my experience with the LeaderShape Institute. Chris was offering up lessons that he learned throughout the week and his lesson #4 hit home with me the strongest. He said:

LESSON 4: Stay on Course.
“There is meaning in everything we do. Stay with what lights you up.”

This statement is, at least to me, very poignant. There is meaning in everything we do.  Even the most trivial, most mundane, most spontaneous, or the most planned out activity has some meaning behind it. Stay on course, commit to what you love and have fun.

I’m on a mission to commit this year- how will you commit in 2013? Feel free to share through comments and/or via email

P.S. – I’ve been trying (nay, pushing) to find an opportunity to utilize that quote for months.

The Little Things…

A few days back, while working on a few different projects in the office, a link to the Student Affairs – The First Years blog came across my Twitter feed. Of the large number of similar tweets that show up daily, I rarely find myself reading very many of them. However, this one caught my eye for two particular reasons. The first – it is a blog dedicated to the experiences of first year professionals in the field of student affairs. Convenient, as I fall into this category. Secondly, the title of the article (“Student Affairs – I Get a Good Feeling”) just seemed different and worth the read.

Upon further reading, it became clear that this was not just a post about good times, but rather a focus on the little things that get the author through the course of an average day. Naturally, I smiled from ear to ear (as I do when in a LEGO store or a  when I read the first item in the author’s list. “Tap tap tap…the sounds of the marching band in the fall semester through my office window is a good feeling.” Yeah…I’m kind of a band geek. But I digress…

How often do we just take the time to think about those things? In my particular case, not often enough as of late. There are plenty of things that, for one reason or another, keep me pushing forward and get me though the day. Here’s a few of them:

  • Sharing random links with friends and other professionals via various social media networks. Sometimes these are more practical…other times, not so much. I think we all need those at times.
  • Watching various DCI, WGI, and general marching band videos when it is time for a break from something else. Especially videos of the groups I’ve been in or taught.
  • When students come into the office and have/share “ah-ha!” moments. Always a good feeling.
  • Going through old (and recent) photos to re-live some amazing memories.
  • Listening to any of the BGSU Dance Marathon line dances.

So, how often do YOU take the time to think about those little things that make you happy?