Every time I make it “around the horn” to celebrate another successful year of consulting, speaking, and writing, I get a bit reflective about the journey. As if on cue, Dustin Ramsdell from the The Student Affairs Spectacular Podcast, invited me to do an interview about my endeavors.
Here’s the full audio interview where I go into detail about my journey as a student affairs professional / higher education consultant. I manage to throw in some thoughts on work/life balance as well as some insight into what my typical day is all about.
Spoiler alert: life is great, work and life aren’t a dichotomy, and it’s been 4 years since I started doing this work full-time. Thanks Dustin for giving me some time on your show.
This month has been jam-packed with speaking and consulting engagements. One of my favorite moments on this month-long set of trips was when the Chancellor of Indiana University Southeast took a picture of one of my slides during my social media / digital identity presentation.
When I reach the third mile of a run, that’s when it happens. My body hits another gear. Thoughts are clearer and emotions are muted. Time clicks away with serenity. Running becomes something more than just exercise. It’s a space for reflection, dreams, and determination.
Three years ago, after I quit my job at Oregon State University, I decided to go for a run. I mapped out a 3 mile course, put on my sneakers, and trotted out the door. So many of my friends had told me about how much they loved to run. I figured, how hard can it be? The first mile was extremely difficult. My lungs were on fire and my legs were already fatigued. I ended up walking the remaining 2 miles back to my apartment. I was not a runner. But I am fairly stubborn. Determined to try running again, I went out to do the same 3 mile loop after giving my legs a couple of days rest. Again, it was so hard. My lungs rebelled and my legs were sore. But I made it a little bit further before I had to start walking. There was a glimmer of progress.
Growing up in Iowa and doing a lot of manual labor instilled a work ethic inside of me that still prevails to this day. Knowing that sometimes it takes a lot of hard work for incremental gain, I attempted to rationalize that running might be hell now, but it could be good if I kept working. A month went by and I was able to slowly run for 3 miles without stopping. It was a lot of work. There was a lot of heavy breathing and self-doubt. I wasn’t a runner yet, but I was trying.
When I moved to Boston in 2011, I got into a regular groove of running. From three miles to five and then finally I made it to eight miles per run. It was something that I never expected to be able to do. No one in my family ran for exercise. In fact, my mom always told me that running was akin to a four-letter swear word. We didn’t run. And then I found myself piling on the miles. Sharing stories with other runners and actually understanding why they, why we did it. Sure, it was about fitness and exercise, but it has always been about something else.
I started 2013 off with a digital identity talk at Curry College for their Career Services Conference for Seniors. They were an awesome group! I’ve included the video of my talk and a Storify from the event:
I’ve lived in Boston since the summer of 2011. It’s been my home for almost two years. Boston is an awesome city. I love its people, places, sights, and sounds.
When news broke (via Twitter) that bombs had gone off at the Boston Marathon, my heart sank. I was sitting in a coffee shop. Out of state, but not out of touch. I felt an adrenaline rush go through my body. The kind of rush that happens when you first find out that something awful has happened and you want to help, to assist, to be there for those in need.
Knowing that several of my friends were most-likely going to be watching the race, I immediately started checking Facebook and Twitter for posts/tweets. Several of my friends had already checked-in to let people know that they were okay.
This past Monday in Boston was a horrible day for so many people. Lives were lost. Lives will be forever affected.
Boston is a great city. Its people are resilient. It’s a city that is made stronger by the acts of caring and courage that took place on Monday. I’m still out of town for another week or so and my heart is heavy. I’m still processing. Still working my way through intense emotion. Empathy reigns.
The people of Boston are showing the best parts of their spirit this week: hope, love, kindness, and strength.
Part of the experience of being a keynote speaker at the Jon C. Dalton Institute on College Student Values is that you get to do an interview with the Character Clearinghouse at Florida State University. The questions from Pamela Crosby, the editor of the site (as well as the Journal of College and Character), were stellar. Here’s an excerpt:
Why should students care about their digital identity?
Students should care about their digital identity for a variety of reasons. As members of a campus community, it is important for students to know that their online actions can have impact. Student Conduct offices are no longer just concerned with what happens in the brick-and-mortar campus spaces. Additionally, most students are pursuing future careers, and higher education is their launch pad. Social media posts can show up in search engine queries. Companies are no longer just looking at your resume. They want to know what you are doing (and saying) online too. Now, that’s more of the punitive side of things. Digital identity is about much more than just worrying about its effects on future employment or conduct violations. Students with a fluent grasp of social media can accelerate their learning, develop meaningful connections with peers, and grow their professional network. What we do online can affect our face-to-face interactions…and vice versa.
Why should higher education be concerned about students’ digital identity?
I think that when the original work on “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” first became popular, it caused an educational disconnect. Administrators and staff at institutions seemingly (without a lot of critical discourse) bought the rhetoric that students were digitally savvy. In fact, students are no better at creating and cultivating their digital identity than anyone else. We’re all digital students in the sense that we are constantly learning how to use the social tools while they are constantly evolving. Schools need to be intentional about how they incorporate digital identity development into their educational constructs. Social media are not a trend or a fad that are going to someday evaporate. We need to be proactive with teaching our students how to build their digital identity versus being reactive whenever they post something that we wish hadn’t made it onto the web. Like anything in education, critical conversations about digital identity are essential. It’s like that movie, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly,” we have to jump in, create our own digital identity, and educate our students too.
In my attempt to be connected to all things related to higher education, I did something that has had interesting ramifications. One day while perusing Facebook, I liked the University of Phoenix page. I figured that it would nice to see what they were up to and didn’t think twice about it.
Well, always remember that what you do on Facebook can come back to you. Seth Odell, a good friend and interactive marketer for Southern New Hampshire University, sent me a text message today. He asked why I was supporting “team Phoenix.” Little did I know that Phoenix has been running a sponsored ad campaign that shows my “like” of their Facebook page on my friend’s feed. Now, it could just be as simple as Phoenix showing my Facebook connections that I liked their page, or I wonder if Phoenix is using my brand without my permission. I write for Inside Higher Ed and do a fair amount of speaking and consulting within higher education. If that’s the case, I’m not a fan of how that looks or feels. It’s a good reminder that liking something on Facebook can be used by advertisers to promote their brand. While this certainly isn’t a new phenomenon, it is the first time that I’ve had to think about my personal brand in this particular context.
If you’re ever in need of a quick and easy way to visualize the growth of your followers on Twitter, look no further than the Wildfire Social Media Monitor. While your total number of followers on Twitter is really more of a vanity metric, the Wildfire tool is a great way to see if certain accounts have been artificially increasing their following.
According to the graph, on April 28th, 2010, I had 1,586 followers on Twitter. Whenever a client asks me to help them grow their followers on Twitter, I usually talk about providing quality content and engaging with their audience…over time, your follower count will grow on its own.