Say What You Need To Say: Why We Need To Talk About Conflict Resolution

ConflictResolution_RockPaperScissors

Rarely do I have blog post ideas come to me like flashes of insight. I take great pleasure in being a planner, and generally I have a few ideas brewing long before I ever post them- this post, however, is an exception. Over the past few weeks, I feel like I’ve been dragged into the middle of a number of fights, disagreements, and critical conversations between individuals or groups of people that could easily have been resolved if the parties actually took some time to communicate with others. After spending the better part of the middle of last week cleaning up a situation between an individual student and a group of other students that could easily have been avoided with a simple conversation- likely without a great deal of help- but instead was blown out of proportion to the point of parent involvement because people chose to avoid conflict, I knew immediately that this had to be my topic of choice today. You can thank my Pandora account for the title of the post- literally 20 minutes after I had my topic, one of my saved stations Summer Hits of the 2000’s played John Mayer’s 2007 song Say (What You Need To Say) – and this post was born. Here’s the song for those who haven’t heard it:

Granted, as a student affairs professional, I mediate conflicts for a living, and I generally don’t mind them because they are great learning opportunities for all involved.  I don’t expect that people are going to come out of the womb being able to perfectly articulate themselves and feeling especially confident enough to take on all who come their way; I certainly didn’t and to expect that of others is foolish. What I am beginning to wonder about is why this seems to be a problem that gets worse by the day, for students and for professionals (no, we’re not immune), and what we should be teaching our students and ourselves going forward.

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Why Can’t We Get Conflict Right?

There are a number of reasons that could contribute to this- including our overall desire as a society to avoid conflict, a lack of good examples of how to resolve it, degradation of social skills related to social media and cell phone obsessions- and I think each of them could use a bit of exploration.

Think about the first time you had a conflict with someone ever- in many cases, it was probably with another kid at school or if you had siblings, very early on in the household with one of them. What happened? Did the adults in your life actually give you the opportunity to work through it, or did they just separate you and tell you to stop? I’m going to guess that the latter happened. There are reasons for this- teachers have enough to deal with and I’m sure dealing with petty squabbles between students are not at the top of the list, and at young ages, students don’t necessarily have the cognitive and emotional tools to resolve these things well. Additionally, I think that especially with the Millennial generation, we’ve gotten away from the idea that just because someone says something you don’t like, that doesn’t make it wrong, insensitive, or evil- it just makes it something you don’t like. Our generation got told over and over again that we were special, we all deserved trophies for existing, and that if anyone dared tell us no that they’d have to go through Mom and Dad- so it’s no wonder that more and more people just skip the conversation these days and go straight to complaining to the nearest authority figure.

Again, I don’t expect anyone to have the innate capacity to work out who gets to play with the favorite household toy at 4 years old or who gets to take the class pet home at 7 years old, but in those moments it’s important to ask what the adults in the room are doing and if it’s setting folks up for a lifetime of mess. We include a variety of learning goals in elementary and secondary education related to social interactions- the most infamous “works well with others” has to have been on at least one report card you got as a kid- so why can’t we be more focused on conflict resolution as one of these goals? Yes, it takes effort and a level of cognitive function that may be outside an individual’s zone of proximal development to have a nuanced, thoughtful discussion of key differences of opinion at a young age- but getting people to that place is the role of the educator and today’s talk about sharing toys becomes tomorrow’s talk about sharing apartments.

All the lecturing and discussion on conflict resolution means nothing if you don’t have good examples to choose from in formulating one’s personal conflict management toolbox. If you don’t have the opportunity to engage in meaningful conflict yourself, seeing other figures like parents, relatives, friends, authority figures, etc. being able to do it confidently and thoughtfully can make a difference. Not having these opportunities can put one at a double disadvantage. We live in a world where congressmen scream out “You Lie!” during a presidential speech, where police officers turn their backs on the mayor of NYC while he gives a eulogy, and where Twitter wars take center stage, sometimes on national news- so being shocked that normal, everyday people can’t get it together isn’t realistic. Even when you have individuals around you who can effectively manage conflict, the fear that exposing others to your conflicts could either cause embarrassment or more conflict may sometimes keep them from leading by example.

Finally, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t comment on the way that texting, social media, and other technologies have played a role in this. Why actually confront someone if you can just subtweet them? Those who decide to confront electronically can do even more damage than the average subtweet- z many times have we heard of a physical fight or confrontation that ended in tragedy but started on a touchscreen? The relative anonymity of some social media technologies combined with the distance given by others, coupled with our inability to gather tone and sentiment from written communications like e-mails creates a perfect storm that can allow for the tiniest disagreements to become massive crises that require more than the usual cleanup. I won’t stand here on my soapbox and pretend that I don’t use technology in this way, but I’m at least aware that it’s not the most productive way to go about things- and I’m not sure that folks growing up in the digital age DO know that.

Internet-conflicts

There are a myriad other reasons for our inability to have positive conflict- personal hang-ups around conflict, power dynamics, dysfunctional relationships and organizations, human nature, etc.- and if I focused on all of them we’d be here for a decade- but as educators I think we do have an opportunity, or rather an obligation, to create spaces to remedy some of these issues and to allow students to develop.

So How Do We Fix It?

We’ve got quite a mess to clean up in this case- no one actually expects an entire generation (or an entire society) to figure out how to better engage one another in conflict overnight, or even over the next year. However, we’ve all heard the story of the little girl throwing starfish back into the sea (if not, read this), and we know that making that difference even slightly for one person is a BIG step. So how do we do it? This is by no means an exclusive list, but here are a few of my thoughts:

meme_respectfully_reconciling_disparities

Stop sending the message that conflict is bad.

Too often, we try and swoop in as professionals, as supervisors, as parents, and as friends to clean up conflicts and make everyone happy. Newsflash: It’s actually OK to not be happy all the time- and occasionally that unhappiness can end up teaching you a valuable lesson. I’ve made a habit of actually making folks try and talk it out before I jump in unless there’s a significant reason why I shouldn’t (threatening behavior, violence, mental duress, etc.) – then offering help to do so, and only THEN jumping in. If we stop giving folks the hint that actually having to talk out their problems with each other is a bad idea, they’ll eventually start doing it themselves. This leads into my next point…

Stop hiding conflicts that we get into and use them as teachable moments.

This one requires a bit of vulnerability and being willing to lean in and move into a brave space- I think it’s important that we are honest about the times that we’ve been in conflict with someone and use these examples to teach others. I’m not saying expose yourself to the point of being unprofessional, but it’s time to make conflict resolution a topic we talk about beyond just being theoretical and high-minded and to make the subject real for our students. Do we make conflict resolution part of our student staff trainings? Do we integrate the acquisition of these skills into our departmental goals and educational priorities? Is this a topic we discuss as part of professional development plans? Are we looking for ways to give our students the opportunity to practice? If not, maybe it’s time to think through why.

Teach concrete skills that students and staff can use.

This is something that I do believe many people do, but they may not necessarily make them priorities. In saying this, I’m including tactics like active listening as well as tips like separating people from positions, looking for points of mutual gain, using the STATE method to tell one’s individual story and to listen to others’ stories, and using reflective techniques to show that you did hear someone’s point of view and understand it. There are some great books out there that can give you some pointers to share, including Getting to Yes, Crucial Conversations, and The Mediator’s Handbook. Take advantage of your campus mediation group or Office of Conflict Resolution if you don’t feel confident about teaching these skills (and take notes!)- don’t wait until things blow up and become issues to teach students how to engage in conflict.

Encourage face-to-face contact in times of conflict over social media hijinks.

Let’s be honest- we’ve all said things on the Internet that we’d probably NEVER let come out of our mouths if we were sitting in front of someone. Well… some of the stuff I probably SHOULDN’T say WOULD still come out of my mouth at times, but that’s another story… Anyway, it’s important to make clear to younger folks that hashing out conflict is best done face to face and not behind a screen. We can do this by not feeding into e-mails or communications we get from angry students who want to go back and forth online as well as by reminding students we have conversations with them about their previous attempts to solve conflicts.

Finally, encourage students and staff alike to be introspective and to develop stronger awareness of self- and to bring these personal skills and traits to conflicts they face.

This really is at the heart of all lessons on social interaction that we can provide as educators. It’s incredibly easy to look at someone else and see their faults, missteps, and moments of idiocy and judge them, further feeding into any conflicts that we may have with them; it’s not so easy to take a step back and think about how WE may be contributing to the problem. When we deal with conflict, we need to be asking ourselves:

  • What did I bring to this situation?
  • How can I take steps to solve it?
  • What stake do I have in this relationship and its success?
  • Is this someone I can easily walk away from, or do I really want to fix the situation?
  • Do I feel good about the way that I’ve handled this situation, and have I stayed true to myself in doing so?

This is definitely an area that students of the Millennial generation need to take to heart- but we can all use a little time to reflect occasionally to figure out if we’re really engaging with others in the way that shows our best selves. If you ask yourself the questions above and you don’t like the answers, think about why. Talk to a trusted friend or colleague if you need to, then approach the situation differently. When we take the time to let go of our own egos and really hear someone else for what they are really saying, often we are able to resolve our issues and move forward- so let’s start today.

Again, just a few thoughts- but definitely some steps that we can take to help make the situation better. If you agree, please share the post and feel free to add some of your own suggestions, experiences with conflict, or thoughts about how we got to where we are and how we can move forward. Looking forward to hearing from some of you on this- it’s a crucial topic that I think we don’t address enough. See you later this week!

 

J

Being an Introverted SAPro, Or: How I Learned To Stop Plugging Square Pegs In Round Holes

 

Being An Introverted SAPro

NOTE: For the purposes of this post, I’m defining introverts using some points that Susan Cain used in her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can’t Stop Talking (go buy it NOW if you want to know more about introverts in general): people who need less outside stimulation to function well, work more slowly and deliberately, need time to recharge after prolonged contact with others, and who prefer writing their thoughts or engaging in deep conversations to small talk. There really isn’t a “perfect” definition of introvert or extrovert (or of ambivert, the new buzzword for personality traits)- it’s best to do your own research and develop your own working definition. 

Time for some real talk. I’ll admit that I have some explaining to do.

The activity on this page has admittedly gone down in the past week and a half: shortened posts, posts of mostly TEDX talks, or as in Friday’s case, no post at all. Rather than apologize for it (mostly because it’s my soapbox and I use it when and how I want), I figured I’d tell you why- then use it to reflect on a topic that is near and dear to me- introversion and how I’ve been able to make it work as a student affairs professional. I promise there’s a connection between the two if you give me a few minutes.

The Why: What I’ve Been Up To And Why It Matters

One of the assignments that I’ve taken on in the past few months in my professional role is the position of Co-Chair of my department’s student staff training committee, which puts me in the position of leading both Winter and Summer staff training as well as a number of staff in-service sessions along with a colleague. As someone who is working towards a role that allows me to manage selection, training and leadership development, it’s an amazing opportunity that I’ve loved; as a dyed-in-the-wool introvert who can only take so much human interaction before I turn into a snapping turtle, it’s definitely been a professional challenge at times. In addition to taking a leading role in training, I was a part of running four presentations and had to oversee my supersize staff of 34 students (not humblebragging- there is an eventual point here that I’ll get to later).

Our Winter training was over last week’s long weekend (made longer by the fact that classes here don’t start until the Wednesday after MLK Day) and I’ve needed to take the time to decompress and recalibrate- thus, decreased workload here at GotDegrees. Now that I have my life back and feel more like my normal self, I’ve been thinking about just how much I was able to accomplish and how I probably couldn’t have done it a few years ago- not because of a lack of personal skills and abilities, but because I might have tripped over my own introversion at the time instead of valuing it as a part of what makes me who I am. It took me a while to stop forcing square pegs into round holes in this area, but I’m glad that I did- and that I didn’t have to leave the field to do it.

Being An Introverted SAPro

Looking Back: Being An Ambivalent Introvert

I knew very early on in life that I was different somehow- it wasn’t that I didn’t like playing with others or talking, but that I didn’t want to do it non-stop without having some time for me. I was a kid who liked playing video games, reading, writing- all things that introverts tend to gravitate towards- but I had a family who for most of my childhood just wanted me to go and make friends and do things with other people. My mother especially was concerned about this; as someone who was introverted herself but who had developed a number of really close friends, I think she just wanted to make sure I was OK. However, at the time I really took it as people trying to tell me that what I was and what I wanted to be wasn’t valid- which is rarely something you want to hear as a teenager when your identity is under siege anyway- so I did what every teenager does: got angry, rebelled, but then tried to be like everyone else. Luckily, I had some great friends growing up that allowed me to be who I needed to be- but despite having good grades, great participation in extracurricular activities, and making it to the Ivy League as a first-generation college student, the only thing I heard from people in a position to judge me was “make more friends and be more social” or “you should talk more”. After a childhood like that, you’d probably think I’d dive headfirst into something like information technology or research to embrace my inner introvert. To the contrary, I went towards one of the most stereotypically extroverted professions out there- student affairs.

Some of you might be wondering how it is that someone who is so introverted gets into a field that so heavily prizes extroversion like student affairs. The short answer (for me, at least) is that I wanted to help people and that being introverted wasn’t an issue where I started out. After being the equivalent of an RA at my school for three years, I realized that I might- MIGHT- actually be good at it. What I didn’t realize at the time was that for some people in the field, the way that I felt most comfortable doing the job- working with students in smaller groups or individually, using e-mail and other electronic means as opposed to multiple in-person meetings, not pushing myself to meet EVERY SINGLE PERSON in the field who ever lived at conferences, etc.- was either not going to be enough or not “the right way” to do things. As a student, I felt like I was respected for what our program’s then-director called “quiet leadership” when I was brought on to become an RA. As a grad and as a professional, that hasn’t always been the case. By the time that I got to the beginning of my second Master’s program, I seriously thought about leaving student affairs behind and took some steps to do so.

Readjustments: How I Learned To Embrace Introversion As a Strength

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I DO still work in student affairs and enjoy it- so what changed my mind? I’d like to say that there was a glorious shining moment straight out of an inspirational, Stand and Deliver or Lean on Me type film in which I came to my senses, but to be honest it was more like a series of smaller moments in my academic and professional journey over the past few years, beginning with my experience at Harvard. In my Higher Ed master’s program, I did everything that I could initially to distance myself from student affairs- I took an internship in Harvard School of Public Health’s admissions office and tried to write papers and take classes related to development, alumni relations, organizational behavior, enrollment management, etc. I wanted to see if I was more attracted to the overall field of higher education than I was to student affairs.

For a while, I really enjoyed what I was doing- the admissions work was especially fun and to be honest I could see myself making the shift over one day if I didn’t have to deal with the intensive travel schedule. However, I began to miss the ability to interact with students daily, to advise them, to get them headed in the right direction after mistakes, and overall to be part of their development- so I took on an additional internship in HSPH’s Office of Student Affairs working on a stand-alone project related to communication plans with admitted students. I did most of the work organizing the project alone with support from my supervisors, and the project required a lot of listening to student input, writing what they were saying and analysis and synthesis of their thoughts into a worthy final product- an introverted SAPro’s dream job that I took to quickly. In the process, I got to meet a number of other grad students and to learn a lot about what is needed to best support that population- and I also learned that all work in student affairs is not centered around running 24 hours of icebreakers or being the king or queen of meet and greet programs. I found my own ways to contribute to the field and felt more confident about making my previous endeavors the focus of my professional search and was lucky enough to find a professional role in residence life at MIT.

My previous institutions were more non-traditional environments where student affairs was concerned, and MIT would be no exception- students there were high-achieving, independent, skeptical of administrators and- most importantly- tended to be very introverted. I shared many qualities with my residents, and when some of my colleagues who were less used to students like the ones at MIT struggled at times to develop relationships I was able to sit back, build rapport with them, and let them come to me- and I ended up having some real successes in the time I spent there. I made it my business to be open and transparent about campus and departmental updates, to allow students time and space to prepare before meetings, and the ability to meet me in smaller programming options or in individual or small group settings rather than hall-wide programs; students responded with real interest in me and what I did in a setting that previously eschewed anything and everything student affairs. I was incredibly lucky to also have an amazing supervisor and colleagues who were open about their introversion- they didn’t use it as a crutch or try to hide who they were, but they made their personal tendencies and needs a part of their work and infused it into everything they did (whether or not this was a conscious effort I’m not totally sure). While I’ve since left MIT for a different opportunity, I learned that it’s important for students to see people who look like them physically or demographically but also tempermentally as well- and that introverted SAPros are needed to be that support to their brethren who are in student populations.

If I had to try and pull out one defining moment at MIT that highlighted just how important introversion was in my professional work, it would probably be the work I did in my role after the Boston Marathon Bombings. Oddly enough, I was a block away from the blasts when they happened- being in a crowd of thousands of people in the middle of a crisis is a VERY odd place to be for an introvert- but was able to get back to campus pretty quickly. In the days after the event and the subsequent death of one of our campus police officers, I had the opportunity to be supportive to a number of students in my hall who may not have responded to a group event or someone who was more extroverted- at the end of the day, students want someone familiar in a crisis, and even though I had only been part of their lives for seven short months at that point my background and behavior made me a familiar when others in their circles weren’t. I learned a great deal in my work at MIT, but most importantly I learned that I was valid both personally and professionally for being who I was- and that this included being an introvert.

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Lessons Learned: Where I Am Now

In my current role, I’ve found that not only is my introversion a strength, but that it doesn’t have to always look the same as what people would typically consider introversion. I still feel like I have a knack for individual or smaller group conversations, for more deliberate work like analysis or systemic evaluation, and for advising and supervising, but in my work I’ve also found ways to better do what Amma Marfo referred to in her book, The I’s Have It, as “masking introversion” (another very good purchase if you’re interested in introversion, particularly in student affairs- she does much more in the way of explanation of theory than I could hope to do in a 2000 word post). There’s something about returning to your alma mater that changes the game- and in being able to return to the department where I began to love student affairs, I’ve been able to better use my masks of energy, normal stimulation and breadth in a way that doesn’t feel phony like it may have when I was a teenager doing it to get familial or parental approval. I’m able to oversee a full weekend of training with few breaks and not feel like I need to get away from everyone or I’ll snap (most of the time…), or to bounce from table to table in a dining hall checking in with staff members without wanting to run and hide in my apartment with my Netflix subscription and a glass of wine; one of my staff even said to me a short while back that he noticed that I was much different now than when I started in my role and that I seemed more comfortable around my team now than I did when he started out with me. I think that the time to grow and appreciate my traits as strengths rather than roadblocks as well as being exposed to many others in the field who are like me (and many more who aren’t but who get me) has helped, as well as my amazing support system that includes fellow introverts as well as extrovert allies. I won’t say that the naysayers who think you have to bleed glitter and do icebreakers in your sleep to be any good as a professional don’t occasionally get to me, but I do think that I know that I bring just as much to the table as they do and that both extroverts and introverts (as well as ambiverts) are needed to reach out to all types of students.

Being An Introverted SAPro

Introvert SAPros- any thoughts or experiences you’ve had while working in student affairs? How have you learned to tap into your introversion? Extroverts- thoughts on how to best support introverts that you’ve worked with? Questions? Feel free to drop them below!

New Year, Better Me: Professional and Personal New Year’s Resolutions

New Year, Better Me: Professional and Personal New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year! Welcome Back! Things may look a little different around here, but you can count on getting the same quality snarkformation (snark + information) that you got here in 2014. More posts on my views on Student Affairs. More advice on how to make it as a SAGrad or SAPro. More “What I Learned About Student Affairs” posts that will take you from early 20th Century England to a meth lab in New Mexico and beyond. More pop culture musings and reviews. More PROTIP Phridays. More everything…

But first, some business is in order: New Year’s Resolutions. Some of you may be surprised to learn that I do believe in making them. There are definitely reasons not to: people often make them more to brag about the “new me” rather than actually accomplish them, the resolutions are often ridiculous and unattainable (like wanting to lose 60 pounds when you are so well acquainted with McDonald’s and Burger King’s Value Meals that you roll up to the window and just start spouting numbers) and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who actually remembered what they resolved on January 1st come April.

So why make them if I have so much to say against them? I DO believe in having goals, making plans to reach them and becoming a better person as a result- this blog and many other amazing decisions I’ve made would never have happened if I didn’t. 2014 was a year of ups and downs, but at the end of it I felt like I was in a great place to make some moves and get closer to where I want to be. Many of these resolutions are things that I’ve considered doing, looked into, or began the process of doing already- and I think they’re pretty attainable in 12 months. Finally, one of the biggest reasons that people don’t turn resolutions into reality is because they aren’t really holding themselves accountable- and no one else is holding them accountable. By posting them publicly and in sharing them with you, I’m hoping that I’ll motivate myself to take my resolutions seriously- and that you’ll motivate me as well.

With all of this in mind, here are my resolutions for 2015- professional & personal:

Professional Resolutions for 2015

Move to the next level in my career in Student Affairs- a mid-level position. 

I’ve been doing Student Affairs professionally for about three years now, and I’ve had the opportunity to really develop my skills over the years, particularly in staff supervision, crisis management, and counseling and advising students. Part of the reason that I started GotDegrees was a desire for something more professionally, and over the past semester I’ve realized that it may be time for a new professional challenge. In the coming months, I’ll be taking some of my own advice regarding the job search and advancing in the field, so stay tuned to hear more about what happens in this arena and where I end up. If you’re reading this and know of mid-level positions in Residence Life, Student Support or Student Activities, let me know!

Read at least one book per week related to professional pursuits and read The Chronicle/Insider Higher Ed headlines daily.

Speaking of following my own advice, I want to be better about staying on top of what others are writing as I advised others to do in one of my previous posts. Last summer, I made an effort to read more, particularly in the areas of supervision, organizational change, teambuilding, social justice and college student issues that are major interests for me- doing so allowed me to improve my practice as a professional and kept me motivated. Now that we’re beginning another year, I’m hoping to make time for my own development, with the ultimate goal of building a base for more advanced work professionally and academically.

Take the GRE again by June 15, 2015 and seriously prepare to start a Ph.D program in Higher Education within the next three years. 

New Year, Better Me- Professional and Personal New Year's Resolutions

My old GRE scores “expired” a year ago and in the spring of 2014 I started studying with a plan to take them in September… but then summer happened and it turned out to be more mentally and emotionally taxing than I thought it would be to help supervise the residential side of a summer enrichment program. To be completely honest, I gave up on the idea for a variety of reasons that include being busy (if you’ve read my thoughts on being busy you know I don’t think that’s an excuse), but I do want to take the test by June 15th so I can begin to look at doctoral programs. Applying may not necessarily be a part of my plan for 2015 (jury’s still out on that one), but having the standardized test part out of the way would be great and would give me the confidence to start looking again. I’m not rushing back to get my Ph.D, but 30 approaches and from what I’ve heard from everyone who has gone back, doing it sooner rather than later is a good idea. More on GotDegrees’ Quest For the Fourth Degree to come later this year..

Build on my professional knowledge by seeking out certification programs and short courses in areas of interest, and participate in three before the start of the 2015-16 academic year.

Doctoral study may be a bit off for me, but I do still want to get back into the classroom in 2015- just in a different way. I’ve started looking at smaller certificate programs and workshops as a means of both getting back in the habit of reading and synthesizing information like I used to in school and as a means of beefing up my resume- the last time I did something remotely like this was refreshing my SafeZone knowledge as part of the orientation for my current role nearly 18 months ago, so it’s definitely time to find a course. I’ve been particularly interested in courses and certificates related to Title IX and the Clery Act- with the changes in the law and new “Dear Colleague” letters popping up (not to mention the national conversation about campus sexual assaults that’s taken place recently) it’s probably a good time to get a refresher in this area. I’ve always wanted to learn more about coding and web design as well- as much as I appreciate WordPress for doing most of the work of this site for me, I’d love to be able to eventually build my own (UPDATE: This one is officially a go- I signed up for MIT’s Introduction To Computer Science course on EdX starting Wednesday! More to come!). Getting certified as a facilitator for the MBTI or StrengthsFinder also ranks high on my list of options, though expensive. If you’ve done something like this recently and think it might be a good fit for me, let me know- I’ve got some other ideas but I’m open to suggestions too.

Continue writing and to expand my reach by contributing material to other blogs and publications at least once or twice monthly.

Of course, I plan on continuing my work here at GotDegrees- this has been a great way to express myself and to start conversations with colleagues across the country and I don’t plan on stopping now. However, I know that this arena is a bit different than most and the style I use here is much more relaxed and irreverent in comparison to other SAPro writers- so I’m looking to reach out and find additional places to share my thoughts like the SA Blog (check out my first post on their site here). If I plan on moving forward in this field academically, writing will definitely be a daily task- so I’m more than ready to get the experience and exposure.

Personal Resolutions for 2015:

Commit to being more healthy in the new year by exercising for at least 5X/week for 30 minutes and by improving my diet.

(Apologies to those offended by the meme here earlier- as someone who definitely has my own issues with weight I have no intention of offending anyone in that arena. Meme was there more to poke fun at myself than anyone else. JR)
Notice I didn’t throw out some crazy number of pounds to lose or say that I was going to be running marathons (I plan on going to the Boston Marathon, but not to run… more like to watch with a glass of something in hand)… Anyway, for a number of reasons, I haven’t been great about staying healthy and I know that I need to make this a priority as I get older. I’ve been exercising pretty regularly since the beginning of December but want to make it a more consistent part of my weekly routine, and while I don’t plan on going Paleo or gluten-free anytime soon I do think it’s a good idea to switch out some of the fast food I tend to eat for some fruits and vegetables. This is something I’ve started doing in recent weeks so I’m not worried about losing motivation here- more to come on this resolution this year!

Pick up my old hobby of ceramics and look into taking an introduction to photography course. 

I wrote my college admission essay on my inability to display artistic ability of any kind before high school, when I took a few ceramics classes and found my inner artist. I learned how to appreciate art, how to think about conveying concepts without words, and most importantly I made some cool stuff. 2015 marks 10 years since I’ve done anything substantial- way, way too long- so I want to get back into a studio and see if I’ve still got it. In addition, I’ve always wanted to take a photography class- I actually ended up in ceramics my sophomore year of high school because Photo 1 was full- and if you’ve seen my Instagram pics you know that occasionally I can take some good shots. Being walking distance from the premier art school in the country (and having disposable income) makes this easier than it’s been in the past, so I think I can actually make this one a reality. I’d love to learn more about photography in general, so look for more on that if I can make it happen.

Do some genealogy research to find out more about where my family comes from.

This is another one of those things that I’ve wanted to do now that I have time and disposable income- not that I expect to be on the next edition of African American Lives when PBS inevitably drags it back out of the vault for Black History Month, but because I genuinely want to know. I haven’t the slightest idea where or when I’m going to start, but I know that I want to at least know more than I did going out of 2015 than I did coming in.

Get off of College Hill more often and reconnect with old friends and colleagues.

This one is really important to me- I know that in the past few months I’ve hunkered down on my campus and dedicated my time to my job, but it’s important to me to be a well-rounded person and part of that is traveling to other places. I’ll be honest: I’m not talking about hopping on a plane here- more like a train to get to nearby locales that I haven’t been in much recently to see old friends. Weddings have happened, babies have been born, doctoral programs have been started, and I’ve gotten tired of hearing about it from Facebook or Twitter.

Get my wisdom teeth taken out. 

New Year, Better Me- Professional and Personal New Year's Resolutions
Let’s avoid this, shall we?

Yes, you read that right…. What can I say? It’s time- everyone’s doing it so I probably should (great reasoning, huh?) and waiting longer probably won’t make it easier. I usually have a high tolerance for pain and discomfort (I do work in Student Affairs after all..) so I’ll get this done soon. I may even post pictures if I feel inspired…

So those are my plans for 2015 in a nutshell. Definitely an ambitious list, but I’m confident that with the support of those in my circle (and that includes all of you fantastic people who read this blog), I’ll be able to make this stuff happen.

Thoughts? Suggestions for accomplishing my resolutions? Ideas for your own that got sparked by my post? Please share them below in the comments section- I’m really hoping to see some more regular responses to my posts this year so feel free to share.

Happy New Year- and stay tuned!

J