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56 lessons I learned through 56 days in Ohio

July 31, 2010
After almost 2 months in Ohio at my NODA internship, there are a few things that I have learned from the experience, or at least entered into my own path of self discovery.  And while I debrief, and get ready for a Texas roadtrip and a new adventure to begin, my nostalgia provoked the below list of ‘Lessons Learned.’ Thank you to everyone at BW (and beyond) who made this such an amazing learning experience.
  1. Make the most out of your experience, and love what you do.
  2. Enjoy the people you work with
  3. Get to know people outside of your office
  4. You never know what moments will ‘stick’
  5. Be enthusiastic about your work ‘YEAAAH,’  and acknowledge your mistakes ‘SHOOOT’ (@A_Orchard)
  6. Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions.
  7. Embrace ‘nicknames’
  8. Take breaks for FUN; even when working seems like the best option.
  9. Take advantage of every minute; it goes by too quickly.
  10. Be flexible
  11. Sometimes a dance party solves just about anything.
  12. Don’t forget about the people who helped get you where you are.
  13. Roll your sleeves up and don’t be afraid to get dirty.
  14. Make to-do lists. Write down feedback; follow them, and use it.
  15. Give praise sincerely, openly, & honestly.
  16. Be open to becoming ‘part of the family’
  17. Go somewhere alone, and be comfortable with it.
  18. A jump in blood sugar can make you loopy by 2:30
  19. Join ‘team wellness’ and get a buddy to keep you on point. (@Kathy_Petras)
  20. Bring a quarter when you grocery shop at Aldi.
  21. Mad Gab will give you plenty of laughs
  22. Postcards make great ‘souvenirs’ when you’re low on cash.
  23. Troubleshoot.
  24. Teach college students to question everything; nothing may be as it seems…1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 (@BWMarcWest)
  25. Know your audience, and work it to your advantage
  26. Talk about your weaknesses; show them.  Adapt to them.
  27. Skype won’t save relationships, but it will certainly make loved ones feel closer.
  28. You can work on 20 things, but you can only do 1 well at a time.
  29. Make the position your own, when the position/situation allows.
  30. Laugh.
  31. Take initiative and go the extra mile.
  32. Ask questions and be genuinely interested in the answers.
  33. Try to find something new in everything you do; you don’t gain anything by acting like you already know.
  34. Turn a ‘heckler’ into an ‘educational moment’
  35. Reach out and be an advocate.
  36. Get to know someones ‘bigger picture.’
  37. ‘Tweet-up.’
  38. Netflix is fantastic. Or an addiction. Or both.
  39. Tweeting, cheese & and little kindness go a long way. (@KARupert)
  40. Be open to the ‘other side’ of your strengths
  41. Do something you wouldn’t do anywhere else
  42. Eat a ‘Buckeye’ (they’re delicious)
  43. Don’t expect to always get it right the first time, but get closer the second time.
  44. Set goals and measure your progress.
  45. Don’t panic about the unknown; it’s never as scary once it becomes reality, just allows opportunities for adjustment.
  46. Identify what your weaknesses, and don’t be afraid to talk to them.
  47. Support and be supported; motivate those around you.
  48. Find the passion of those around you; the more quickly you can identify what makes those around you tick, the more effective a team member you can become.
  49. Ask the why or how; do your work on the ‘purpose’ or anticipated goal, not just instructions.
  50. Explore; step out and learn about what’s around you. The more information you know, the more well-rounded and resourceful you become.
  51. Have a plan (or a GPS).  Seek out the resources around you, and know when you need help.
  52. Be flexible; you never know when a 12-hour drive will become a night in a motel and a morning in a auto body shop; panic doesn’t breed results.
  53. Most goodbyes should be ‘see you later’s’
  54. There is Christmas in July, you just have to know where to look
  55. Baldwin-Wallace Colleges’ Summer Orientation Program 2010 is both an extended ‘Student Affairs family,’ and a place I’ll always be able to call home.
  56. Update to 56. You can survive several road trips with a good travel buddy (@LaurenBuckley3) (So thankful; check & check!)

Baldwin-Wallace College: Week Eight

July 27, 2010

Orientation Session 2 quickly approached, and we began to prepare.  With one Orientation under my belt I felt more comfortable with the schedule and the logistics to make it work, but the nerves rose nonetheless.  Short on our ‘Leadership Team,’ I had the opportunity to take a more active role in contacting multiple departments on the status of several students to both Academic Advising & Admissions.  It was really awesome to gain some (while minor) experience in seeing the relationship that is built between these three functional areas within Student Affairs, and how they interact to gain an impression on the transition of students.  From start to finish, these three areas are able to gain an understanding of students and their personalities, and are able to troubleshoot effectively based on their experience.  The strength of this relationship seems directly related to the institutional strength of connection to incoming students, and it was reflective in my experience here.

We powered through the program despite being down a staff member for the better part of day 1 and with several Orientation Leaders at sub physical ‘peak’ (one with surgery just a few days before, and another on crutches).  We worked in some ‘fun’ and kept clear communication between staff members, and things worked out well.  Keeping one another in the loop and being clear with the duties that needed to be completed throughout the weekend ensured that we got everything done that we needed to!

We broke the stress with some mid-afternoon ‘Peanuts‘ (FUN) and recuperated before the evening events.  The President and VP for Student Affairs sat in on the “Goal Setting” presentation a Student Life Summer Intern & I put together.  Needless to say, it was a little nerve wracking, but kept us on our toes!  We had a VERY rowdy crowd, but we were excited to hear the feedback we received from both administrators and students was positive.

The weekend came to a close without event; I had the opportunity to flex my ‘customer service’ muscles a little more than I expected to (and to be honest, when I least expected it) but it was a great experience, and gave me a little more perspective (and decreased my naivety) about what staff members are navigating with students, parents & families.

Once the session closed, it was off to South Carolina, and right into assessment; my ‘sneak peak’ into the REAL busy life of the Student Affairs pro 🙂

Baldwin-Wallace College: Week Seven

July 27, 2010

To say the least, my blogging has been negligent recently.  The end of the summer and 2 back to back Orientations appears to be wearing on me, but I’m determined to finish out recapping my experiences, even for at a lack of timeliness.  Good thing I have some notes and a decent memory to take me through it 🙂

This week was spent both preparing for an Orientation session in the distance, realizing that they were the first ‘back-to-back’ weekend sessions that were attempted, and that the quick transition meant that things needed to be as ready as possible for the transition.

Thankfully, this ‘lull’ also offered me an amazing opportunity to speak with a Housing pro as well as the Director of the College Union/Associate Dean.  I had never conducted informational interviews before (while thankfully both of them had) but I hope they aren’t my last; I recieved some great tips and advice for developing myself as an emerging professional, and gaining a much better understanding about what it takes to succeed in the field.  For convenience, I decided to extract the themes that I gained rather then the great detail of each idea, because there are definitely ideas I found that go beyond functional area.

  • Get to know your students, but know (and set) boundaries
  • Be proactive in setting your impression; don’t let others create it for you
  • Anticipate problems before they develop, and have a plan about how to handle them! (process & reflect on experiences)
  • Don’t jump to conclusions, try to understand ‘both sides of the story’ (earn respect, and develop trust)
  • Be courteous, and show class (dress, concern, take pride in work, be on time)
  • View others on a continuum, not in black & white (context is important)
  • Show initiative & passion for what you do!

I loved the opportunity and appreciate very much being able to hear the experience of others in their path to Student Affairs, especially when they are ‘less typical.’ It says a lot about the professional when students that are mentored by these pros end up in the field; ‘they’re just that good.’


Additionally, I found out this week that I will be working with my supervisors in presenting at the NODA convention on both a small panel describing my experiences as a graduating Senior entering a NODA internship before Graduate school, as well as presenting a session with Kathy on learning outcomes in Orientation programs based on the assessment data that I have been collecting all summer! NODAC ’10 here I come!

Baldwin-Wallace College: Week Six

July 12, 2010

A little late on posting this week, my usual post schedule altered by an Admissions event on Friday that essentially started the weekend ‘early,’ even though I didn’t actually leave the office until after 8 pm.  First thought might be questioning work/life balance, but it’s hard to leave when you like the people you’re working with, especially when those ‘extra hours’ aren’t exactly spent working, but hanging out with students and ‘playing.’

These people bring fun to the office. Every. Single. Day. It’s contagious, relaxing, comforting, and makes the moments of work more productive because the ones away from your desk are so refreshing.  Laughter is the rule, not the exception.

With this at the backdrop of the work environment, it’s easy to overlook, but also continuously emerges in my reflection of work week -to-week.

With this backdrop, it seems that conversations about social justice, gender, or personality can develop naturally, and regardless of whether or not this is the true cause, they do.  I had great conversations this wesk about all of these topics, and gained some great insight about how I may be perceived by others, especially as it relates to my StrengthsQuest assessment.  While the basis of the conversation was light-hearted and funny, I began to really be reflective on how many could perceive my personality in that context, while I felt very differently about them from my own perspective. 

Realizing where a cold, manipulating vibe can be gathered from these themes, it’s given me a lot of reflective consideration about my approach with others, and how to avoid coming across in that way!

Even more intriguing was the fact that this assessment of my personality was confortably without SQ as a reference, and created an exciting goal (relator, competition :-)) to pursue through my experiences in Student Affairs; and for my own self-efficacy.  My undergraduate degree in Psychology, you can imagine my excitement in opportunities to have conversations about personality, and understanding others’ perceptions.

In my one-on-one with Kathy, we re-evaluated progress on goals, and checked in at the halfway post to make sure that we were on track.  If we goals haven’t directly been achieved, they are definitely well in progress, and the limitations primarily lie in scheduling or are premeditated, and thus ‘in progress.’  It was really encouraging to know that we’re working in the right direction, and with a few adjustments, I will be able to get out of this experience what I had hoped (and more, for sure).

Major breakthroughs aside, there are some really exciting things in the works.  In next week’s post I will reflect on opportunities able to speak with several members of the Division of Student Affairs, and perhaps even an #OLchat moderation thrown in!  Evaluation creation continues as we are beginning to develop materials for ‘Color Partner’ feedback, and closing feedback about Orientation training to improve it for the future!

Baldwin-Wallace College: Week Five

July 2, 2010

The calm after the storm.  Orientation session 1 is complete, and I had a chance to process things and reflect on my experience.  More importantly in the bigger picture, however, is that I was able to evaluate the data related to the Orientation program, look for trends, act as the voice of the students and familes, and give input to help refine the program.

The evaluations (tailored specifically to either the Student or Family program) measured the student experience with each session individually (which we conducted after it’s conclusion), their overall experience in sessions throughout the day, their experiences with their summer Academic Advisor, and feedback on their Orientation Leader.

It was fantastic to have the opportunity to provide that kind of data towards the success of a program (and from a variety of ‘angles’), and also do a little investigating into the rationale behind the responses!  This point was especially more effective than in the past (I’ve been told)  because of the detail in the results (presumably) as Orientation moved from paper evaluations to an online counterpart.  Additionally, we added several items to reflect and measure the effectiveness of the learning outcomes designed over the previous year.

Comparing the program to last year, it seems that the changes that have taken place to refine the program are succeeding; and while it’s difficult to truly measure the reliability of the data because of the new population that is taking it, the change from paper survey to online, or the fact that it’s only our first session and their isn’t a larger data set to work from, we are still very content with the results thus far.

The ‘down time’ this week post evaluation was spent having great conversations with my supervisors in the office.  With students around only sporadically, we discussed anything and everything from technology, “personal life” in Student Affairs, relationships with students, identity, and other often Taboo topics.  Put a lot of things out there, and got A LOT of thought-provoking stuff in return.

Great week for blog posts, and I look forward to a great weekend and the same for another ‘off’ week before Orientation prep comes back in high gear.

For the time being, I’m taking advantage of the opportunity to check out the CAS Standards for Orientation as a preview of things to come in Grad School, working on accumulating some data for help in a presentation for Kathy, developing an evaluation between Orientation ‘color partners,’ and maybe even trying my hand at developing materials for a mid-summer #olchat!

Have a great 4th of July weekend everyone!  I’ll be enjoying the fireworks from Coe Lake after some weekend fun at a Farmer’s Market in Cleveland (West Side Market)!

Baldwin-Wallace College: Week Four

June 28, 2010

I can’t help but take a moment and reflect on the fact that I survived this week.  If there were ever a time for a ‘Game Face’ in this internship, this was it.  Prep for the first round of Orientation: getting keys, registration, advising appointments, and room assignments settled (truly this was the work of some incredible student coordinators), working the kinks out of presentations for training and Orientation, and preparing for the 8 groups of OL’s to arrive and get their ‘crash course’ on BW, ‘form,’ and jump right into session one!

I don’t think that I could have asked for a better experience.  Abby and Kelsey, our Student Directors, were on point, upbeat, organized, and prepared.  They were definitely the glue of a sometimes hectic office environment, and led the charge.  Check in and training with the OL’s was incredible.  I wondered how only a few days of training would actually apply itself in building a group dynamic with cohesion while also giving them the adequate knowledge to feel comfortable once Thursday came around.  It happened.  They rallied around one another, asked thoughtful questions and soaked in information, practiced the check-in process, ice-melted, team-built, Chipotle(d), Whirl-Ball(ed), broke down some dance moves, sang the fight song, and most importantly, learned about one another.

Our leadership team took some reflective time before each day to check in on progress and address concerns, and did just that; creatively and effectively.  We had fun along the way, and built a strong foundation for a comfort amongst one another.  By the end of training I even felt like I knew all of the OL’s well enough to have fun and joke with them, and they definitely kept me on my toes returning the favor.  I ended training with a whole multitude of nicknames (both appropriate and questionable) and laughed. A LOT.

We entered session 1 enthusiastically, and as ready as we could be.  Of course the fatigue of training and stress of the program itself made our prep all the more important and easier to lose track of, but we managed our way through.  The program itself is very much the product of lots of communication; phone calls, emails, planning, and understanding.  The benefit of all of this meeting, planning, and communicating, is that the program runs on it’s own, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, because there isn’t much room for adjustment or ‘nimbleness.’  On the other hand, it allows for moments to catch your breath and enjoy the students, sessions, and one another amidst the craze.   There were definitely some nerves.  The other graduate intern and I put together a goal setting presentation for the first-year students with activities and steps to help to begin to set their goals, and with only one formal run-through, I spent the day with our notes glued to my hands.  When it actually came time to present we settled right in, and things went rather well.  Getting that opportunity was so much fun, and we had a great time with it; best of all, the students were really interactive, and while they were bursting with energy, seemed to enjoy the content (we’ll see once we check out the evals); we even managed to attract a few casual former students to the student life presentation to hang out with us!

After a late night dance party, a few incidents with loud residents, and an early morning, we got the ball rolling again.  In fact, a few former students of Kathy’s stopped in and we chatted for a bit on their way to an alumni weekend at BGSU. It’s awesome to really see the work that is done pay off.  Orientation seems to really be based on the edict of ‘beginning with the end in mind;’ and not just building a seamless program, but one that engages students, prepares them for college, and in some cases, helps them narrow their deposit.  And while I maintained the evaluation area to collect feedback on both the Student and Family programs (mandatory for Students to check-out, recommended for Families) some real understanding in the role of Orientation washed over me.

Obviously I’ve recognized the time commitment involved, but I truly have never stopped to enjoy or appreciate the ‘product’ of Orientation until my experiences at BW, and more specifically this session.  It really is the genius of Admissions, Transition, Academics, Marketing, and Customer Service combined at their best.  More importantly, is the role of the student in that process.  As an Orientation Advisor and Coordinator in my undergrad I respected the experience and the importance, but watching the program actually take place and listening to the reactions of the Orientation Leaders throughout the day, I noticed my thoughts wondering to new places, not just thinking about the OL’s role, but the role of the program overall, the glitz versus functionality of the program, and how important it is to remain united and clear in communication throughout those involved.

The transition from a functional role to a reflective and theoretical understanding of Orientation has become difficult to grasp, but the perspective is a welcome one.  I really enjoy the role of Orientation in the college experience both through transition and engagement as it truly exemplifies campus collaboration.

How do you view the role of Orientation in the college experience?

Baldwin-Wallace College: College Profile & Background

June 27, 2010

This post is definitely a long time coming, but to best understand my experience, some background information on Baldwin-Wallace College and the Orientation program itself immediately become relevant.  Realizing that I neglected this background at the initial creation of my blog, it felt only natural to acknowledge and explain it before examining my first experiences with training and a summer session.


Founded in 1845, BW is a small, private, liberal arts institution.  In fact, it was created upon the merger of Baldwin University and German Wallace College.  It’s product, now know as Baldwin-Wallace College, was at it’s creation one of the few Methodist-related College’s in Ohio and also one of the first to admit students without regard to race or gender.  Offering a wide variety of programs to their nearly 3,000 full time undergraduates and 1,000 Night/Weekend UG, MBA and Graduate students, BW has a world-renowned Conservatory (one of the few as a direct program instead of a campus affiliate). Often the Conservatory draws students from outside of the state (and country) while a large  majority (90%) of students are from Ohio.  From what I understand (and can find) it’s not a particularly ethnically diverse school, but it does not appear that students even acknowledge it, for better or worse.  What is notable, on the other hand, it is a rather selective admissions process, with more than 60% of students in the top 25% of their class.  It shows.  So far, the students I have met are smart, articulate, and mature.  To be fair, I have only a limited experience to draw upon in this capacity, because I have only met a small group of students.

Orientation Program:

Leadership Team: Director of Student Life & Involvement, Assistant Director of Student Life & Involvement, Student Directors (2), and Graduate Assistants/Interns (2)

Orientation Leaders: Pairs (1 Male, 1 Female) Divided into ‘Color Groups.’ 8 groups total; Student Directors also part of Color Group Pairings.  There is a larger group of Orientation Leaders hired for ‘Weeks of Welcome,’ including Summer OL’s, totaling over 40 students.

Session type:

Transfer: Day Program

First-Year: Overnight

Both include families in their schedule, and offer specific sessions for families adjusting to sending their student to college.  The program covers the Academic core, with a special session for students in the Conservatory, making responsible choices, as well as breakout type sessions from Residence Life, Study Abroad, Commuter Services, Career Services, and a resource fair featuring many of these departments to answer individual questions. Financial Aid and Billing also present, and offer appointments for to go over individual cases and questions.  Newly added this year was a breakout with students in their respective disciplines facilitated by the Orientation Leaders.  In the evening of day one, students take part in a goal-setting presentation, followed by a campus life presentation where they learn about campus involvement as well as aspects of school spirit including the fight song and alma mater!  Like many Orientation programs, OL’s also create and take part in skits regarding topics of interest for first-year students, followed by a group discussion session in ‘gender groups.’

The program is filled with information and opportunities to understand campus life, and ask questions.  It is very well constructed to make students responsible for their own experiences, while still remaining focused on individual attention (for example, specifically scheduled advising appointment during session).

Offers a wide array of levels for engagement in program because of functional area breakouts and social time through a late night “Dance Party,” as well as focus groups based on ‘Color Group,’ discipline, and gender.


BW Orientation

BW Website and Fact sheet

US News & World Report