It’s not about you. It’s about them.

If you were on any social media site last night, you saw that stream blow up when it was announced that Penn State football coach, Joe Paterno, and Penn State president, Graham Spanier, were fired, after it came to light that many in administrative and power positions at Penn State did nothing to stop Jerry Sandusky from continuing his abuse of small boys.

A friend of mine, a new mother, emailed me yesterday, asking, “How do you not just fall down, paralyzed in fear for your girls when you hear news stories like what is coming out from Penn State?” Like me, many parents went home over the past few days and hugged their kids a little harder, and told them we love them a few more times than usual.

Because this story is not about a football legacy. It’s not about a scandal or a cover up. It’s not about misguided Penn State students who are overly proud of their school. It’s not about idiot celebrities.  It’s about eight boys, and possibly many more, who were hurt and petrified and stolen of their childhoods, and adults who did nothing to stop it. Adults, who should have protected those children and stopped it from happening again, did nothing.

I don’t know any of the victims names, and I truly hope they don’t come out. They do not need to be assaulted again by the media. But we have conveniently forgotten about them in most of the stories. So, let me help you think of them as the people who were victimized, the children who were victimized. Like I said, I don’t know their names, but imagine with me for a minute.

Michael didn’t do anything wrong. Marcus didn’t do anything wrong. Jeff didn’t do anything wrong. Zachary didn’t do anything wrong. Jacob didn’t do anything wrong. Ryan didn’t do anything wrong. Tony didn’t do anything wrong.

Eight boys, most likely wide-eyed with excitement about being mentored by a Penn State coach, were victimized.

And here is what I do know:

Sandusky did something wrong. McQueary did something wrong. Curley did something wrong. Schultz did something wrong. Spanier did something wrong. And Paterno did something wrong.

My heart goes out to the campus who is trying to rise above this, to the parents trying to help their children heal, and to those boys, who expected more from adults who should have protected them and who deserved to be treated like the amazing people I hope they become.

What would you do?

The #SAchat this past week was a great conversation about how we respect and celebrate various religious observances on our campus. Once our fearless transcribers are able to provide the transcript, I highly recommend revisiting the chat.

I know that discussions about religion have the potential to become contentious, or even mildly awkward. However, I think understanding the faith based grounding of much of our educational system is essential in determining how we move forward. Many of us seek to create environments that respect all faiths, but we cannot deny that many schools (K-12 primarily) will be closed tomorrow (although few will label it as a Good Friday closure), that our academic calendar was built around an agricultural calendar, and our semester breaks conveniently still fall around the Christmas holiday.

So, what would you change? If you were president of the university, if you were Arne Duncan, if you had the ability to make changes and offer solutions, what would you do? The problem is that not all religions are created equal in our American educational system, so what do you propose as part of the solution?

Please be part of this conversation. Comment, share, and listen to others ideas.

Checking In

The other week, I attended an in-service training for academic advisors on my campus. The session was held in the MSU Museum, a building that I had, sadly, never entered. Now, in my defense, this campus is frickin’ huge. There are multiple buildings I have never set foot in, but I am disappointed in myself for never visiting the Museum (which hosts a killer chocolate party benefit every year from what I hear).

When I walked up the steps, I got a chuckle out of the fact that the Museum has a Foursquare check-in sign on the front door. Historical artifacts and social networking weren’t an automatic for me, but I am glad to see forward thinking on the part of the museum. At that moment, I was disappointed that I couldn’t check in. I wasn’t on Foursquare. Despite encouragement from some of my early adopter students (see Nick Lucido) and more recently, my deal savvy staff member, Lauren Gaines, I had never seen the purpose of Foursquare. I was on Facebook, Twitter, loved every Google application I could get my hands on, and I was addicted to my smartphone. I had even read how campuses were using Foursquare or Facebook Places or Layar to introduce new and prospective students to campus – how fantastic!

However, I thought Foursquare was for my students and for those who wanted a free latte at Starbucks. I still wasn’t seeing the impetus for me to try it. However, the MSU Museum moment made me think of how we, as administrators and student affairs professionals, encourage our students to explore and try new things. And here I was, with a perfect opportunity to not only role model stepping outside my comfort zone, but also promote my own campus.

So, I am on Foursquare, and I will head back to the Museum to check in…as soon as I figure out how to check in. How are you using Foursquare to promote your campus to your own students?

I Am a Salt Sister

After meeting and bonding at the Women’s Leadership Institute (#WLI10), a group of us in student affairs created the #WLsalt hashtag on Twitter in an effort to support, affirm, lift, and transform (salt) the voices of women in higher education.

The  #WLSalt hashtag was sparked by this email from Teri (@tbump) to the other founding #WLSalt sisters:

“I want to use the hashtag to send tweets that support, lift, encourage, promote women leaders. And, to invite others who do the same to use it as well building a network of women focused on consciously choosing to push women forward. I watch the twitter stream and women Student Affairs professionals are quick to devalue their work/skills/smarts. I send at least 1 DM a day to someone who has publicly diminished herself.  I’m looking to help build their self esteem, self respect, and encourage them to take their place at the table with confidence and the support of women like us. We can create a network of women who value what matters and will enthusiastically help each other achieve, score the best opportunities and see this world as their oyster. Are you in?”

Once the hashtag was created and we, the “salt sisters,” shared the story behind their new initiative at sawomenlead, we each reached out and invited supporters to join the movement as “evangelists”. I am an evangelist.

As an evangelist, I intend to use the #WLsalt hashtag on tweets that:
* Support: Provide support, connections, and resources for leadership, academic, and career opportunities
* Affirm: Highlight the success of women as leaders at all levels
* Lift: Lift up the voices that may be quieted in other venues
* Transform: Facilitate the continued success of woman in higher education

Please join us as we advance and support all women in the academe.

Learner Observer: Why Stacy Oliver was right.

Stacy Oliver’s timing is impeccable. Granted, I also believes she is a machine. While I have random notes in a blog draft about Corey Booker’s leadership during the Newark snowpacolypse, Stacy pumped out a lesson for student affairs administrators on the value of using social media to connect with students. But my awe of her timing has more to do with her post on the The SA Blog yesterday, appreciating her colleague’s skill in working with students.

I am writing this blog in the middle of orientation, where I play more of a Girl Friday role to support my advisors meeting with new students. For our late orientation sessions, we relocate to a classroom across campus. Claiming a student desk and stringing laptop cords in MacGyver-like fashion, we meet with students in our makeshift bullpen. Since I monitor check-in lists and field questions, I have the rare opportunity to watch my advisors meet one-on-one with these incoming students.

And these advisors are amazing.

Minus the cape, they reach superhero status with how much they explain (over and over and over again with the patience of Job), how sincerely they listen, and how deftly they navigate the university’s bureaucracy for these students. If you just watch the non-verbal communication from the students, you can see them visibly relax their shoulders. In full disclosure, I had a hand in hiring all five of these professionals. All were directly out of their masters program, and all have grown in ways I could never have imagined.

But more than being impressed with their skill in welcoming and guiding students, I am humbled by how they have guided me. They have pushed me to reevaluate my own advising skill set. They challenge the status quo in ways that set me back on my heels and say, “Hmm, I’m not sure why we do that.” Their indignation at how they system fails students and their dedication to making sure the impact on students is minimal is phenomenal.

I am not perfect, and neither are they. However, we easily tease each other about our quirks. We find humor in every staff meeting. I am very blessed to work with such a great crew. And if you are looking for an incredibly spirited game of Apples to Apples or Uno, we double dog dare you to join us for lunch.

**To learn more about the machine, Stacy Oliver, please go here.

You are who you tweet

About six months ago, my brother-in-law asked me, “So, what is sac hat?” More importantly, he tweeted the question to me. Many of us in student affairs spend various holidays explaining to family what it is we do for a profession. I was now trying to explain to my brother-in-law what I tweet about my profession. For him, #sachat was just good fodder for ribbing me. For me, #sachat has become my go-to place for collaboration, learning, and professional development.

Therefore, in tribute to the theoretical framework I used in my comprehensive exam for my Master’s degree many years ago and to pay homage to the #sachat community, I offer my application of William Perry’s Stages of Twitter Development (I am truly sorry, Bill):

(Me, early 2009) Twitter sounds ridiculous. It is just people telling other people what they had for breakfast. Isn’t it really just Facebook updates? What’s the point? I’ll stick with Facebook. All of my family and friends are on Facebook.

(Me, March 2009) Okay, so I hear a lot of my students talking about Twitter. That’s great for them. I’ll create a Twitter profile, but I don’t see the big deal. I follow about 30 news organizations, which feeds my news junkie side. But really, what would I use this for?

(Me, late 2009) I searched “academic advising” and came across a few other advisors on Twitter. That’s pretty cool. This @EricStoller called me out for not including student affairs in my profile. Apparently, I have a lot to learn. Maybe I can connect with a few other student affairs types on here. Whoa. What is this #sachat thing?

Commitment to Relativism
(Me, March 2010) Ok, I just got more out of a conference than ones I have actually attended, and all of it by just following #naspa10. This #sachat is amazing. There are so many student affairs professionals. I now have to figure out these lists things, given how many people I am now following. We’re talking about first year experience and orientation and professional development. So many ideas flowing, and hilarious people.

So, Tom and Debra, thank you. Thank you for providing an environment where I have moved from clinging to the wall, to tapping my toes, to busting a move right under the disco ball. I have connected with amazing people and ideas. I have received books in the mail from Teri, skype conversations from Rey, and LOL direct messages from Eric and Stacy. I have been inspired by so many, including some incredible women like Julie and Cindy. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, and I am looking forward to all that’s next.

As @tbump once shared (via @scottmonty), “you are who you tweet.” Good to know, since I am now keeping some pretty amazing company.

I want to be like Nick

I love when students just blow me away, and fortunately, this happens to me regularly. When I think of my top five students that have (or will soon) turn the world on its ear, I see that they all have committed their time and energy to their passion. This is definitely the case with Nick.

Nick Lucido started with The State News the minute he dropped his suitcase in his residence hall room. He helped secure funding for the PRSSA chapter on our campus. He runs, has over 2000 followers on Twitter, and has guest blogged at Brazen Careerist. He’s national president of PRSSA, and he is finishing up a double major (Advertising and Public Policy) with a specialization (Public Relations). Yep, he’s one of those students.

Now, students change our lives for many different reasons. Some tug at our heartstrings because they have tackled amazing obstacles with grace. Some get in trouble so many times they have an assigned seat in your office (and know the best candy you have in your dish). Some are just impressive…living their passion right in front of your eyes. That would be Nick, and if he were just shaking up the PR world, it would be one thing. But he has pushed me to become a more connected, more engaged student affairs professional, and I haven’t had the chance to thank him.

The top five things I have learned from Nick:
1. Go with passion. You cannot meet Nick without walking away feeling more enthusiastic about things. Nick’s blog is about getting started in the PR industry, something you would expect from a seasoned professional, imparting wisdom on the young. Nick is sharing it as he’s gaining it. He has much to teach other students and other professionals, and he is not wasting anytime in doing so.
2. Get connected. Honestly, I first got on Twitter because of Nick (well, and two of my brothers). I had no idea what it was for, and although not an early adopter myself, I am a quick study of the innovators. I was impressed by the conversations and quickness of information sharing occurring on Twitter from Nick, and thought I better look into this.
3. Learn from others. Nick unabashedly shares what he is learning from others. He highlights the great activities of PRSSA chapters across the country. His learning from internships is what we dream for students. He retweets and references others’ ideas and creativity.
4. Try it. Nick isn’t waiting around for someone to tell him how to be a PR professional. He’s developing his owns ideas, sharing them for review and collaboration, and inviting all of us in to see how he is evolving as a professional. He is one of the most honest examples of a lifelong learner I have encountered.
5. Make an impression. Nick’s positivity and professionalism have few peers. I would be hard pressed to find a faculty members or administrator in my college who doesn’t know who Nick is. When we need a panelist for any number of events, we ask Nick, and if he’s available, he has always been there. This year, I asked Nick for his take on the next generation of students leaders, and his recommendations were stars as well.

I don’t worry about Nick. I am inspired by him, and I am challenged by him. How do I create an environment that helps the best in students emerge? How do I support students to find their passion and define for themselves their profession? How do I continue to remove barriers for students like Nick to show us all how it should be done?

So, thanks, Nick. I appreciate learning from you, and I look forward to seeing what you do next.