Reflections from Beantown: Helping the Helpers

I was lucky enough to be in Texas and not back home in Boston during the explosions at the Boston Marathon, but of course my thoughts were immediately with my students, friends and family in the area.  I also had the firsthand experience of having my cell phone pinged with texts and messages from those making sure I was ok… and the experience of trolling Facebook and Twitter to make sure those that I knew who might be close to the explosions had posted that they were safe.  One of my students finished the marathon about 20 minutes before the explosions went off.  Quite the sobering reality.

Once I determined my loved ones were safe, my thoughts turned to my students and colleagues, many of whom are in a helping profession.  They are the counselors, the advisors, and the crisis first-responders.  Although our immediate thoughts are with the victims and their families, as they should be, it reminded me about how we can’t forget those that are the helpers.  Yes, the firefighters, the police and others… absolutely… but also those that work behind the scenes that often respond and give support without thought for themselves… those that rarely are given a spotlight.

I’ve been there before: directing massive crowds, evacuating buildings, staying behind at scenes that are unsafe just to make sure the last person is accounted for, comforting students who lost loved ones or just don’t know what happened to them, and helping other students cope with and make sense of difficult events.  I wasn’t formally trained in all of his, but many skills you pick up along the way.  When you’re a helper, you don’t think about yourself in the moment.  You just do.  You spring into action.  It’s, in part, your job, but it’s also a part of who you are as a person.  You take pride in that.

But the difficulties of working through a hard or traumatic event, that are set-aside in the moment, often emerge afterwards.  One of the difficulties of being in a helping profession is that you need to remember to take care of yourself.  For someone who gives to others, this is often something that is hard to accept in return.  Who helps the helpers?

As I prepare to teach a class to my students at Boston College tomorrow (a university which is directly on the marathon route, albeit miles away from the finish line), I know I will begin with a processing through of yesterdays events.  Not only does it present an enormous learning opportunity, but also a time to make sure THEY are ok.  We’re all in this together.  Let’s not forget about the helpers and help them too.

The Six Degrees of Esther Lloyd-Jones Project


The Six Degrees of Esther-Llyod Jones Project is a crowdsourced initiative I started to learn more about how current student affairs professionals can trace their lineage back to some of the founders of our profession.  Click on the following link below to go to the page where you will find out more information about the project, how to engage with it, and how to contribute to it by adding your information.

> > > Go to the Esther Lloyd-Jones Project < < <

Cookies in the Lounge! What The College Dorm Can Teach Us About Building Community Online

cookie_with_bite“Door decs” with your name on it… Crafting in the lobby… An icebreaker where you rhyme your name with a vegetable… you might be surprised by how a college Resident Assistant (RA) goes about building and maintaining community.  Of course, the RA position is far more complex than the stereotype that often gets portrayed, or the hokey activities that are often the source of satire, but some of this “hokiness” is there because it works… and yes, some of it is just hokey.

One of the current courses I am taking at Boston College is MI621: Social Media for Managers in of the Caroll School of Management. During a recent meeting of the course, we heard from Jen Reddy, the Senior Vice President for Global Marketing from Communispace.  Communispace is an innovative marketing and research firm that crates online “communities of insight” comprised of customers and demographic groups that advise client companies on numerous issues. Although an oversimplification, these communities act like extended focus groups that can be mined for qualitative feedback and ideas. Their unique community nature provides more powerful and different insights than might be generated through other methods.

Listening to Jen speak got me thinking about my past work in residence life and how principles of community building in those contexts might carry over to online communities. I was excited to discover that much of what some of the Community Managers at Communispace do in creating insight communities was eerily similar to what I’ve spent 10 years advising undergraduates and professionals to carry out.
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Bowling Leagues, Cheers Bar, and Central Perk: Cultivate a Third Place, Cultivate Your Brand

norm cheersIn his 1989 work, The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg floated the idea of our needing a “third place.” Our first place is our home, where we live. Our second place is our work, where we spend a large portion of our time. Our “third place,” however, is an informal space that brings us together in community and where we interact with others and build social bonds. Classic “third places” in pop culture have included the bar from the television show Cheers and Central Perk, the coffee shop from Friends. At our colleges and universities, these may include dining halls, student unions, student activity offices or residence hall lounges.  These third places are important because they serve as anchors in civic society. They create spaces where “regulars” can meet to build relationships, develop community and join in conversation. They create an opportunity to connect with, build empathy for, and bond with fellow citizens outside of the confines of our family and work relationships.

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The Thrill of Victory, Agony of Defeat: Presenting PechaKucha Style at #ACPA13

PK-Cyborg.keyIt’s almost time for our PechaKucha experiment at the 2013 ACPA National Convention!  Ed CabellonPatrick LoveKristen Renn and I have been hard at work designing and rehearsing (and rehearsing, and rehearsing…) to get our presentations ready to go and out timing right.  Believe me, it’s harder than you might think.  (Some of my previous blog posts on the topic can be found here and here.)

For those of you heading to Las Vegas next week, please join us for our session:

The Future of Student Affairs in Six Minutes and Forty Seconds
Wednesday, March 6, Noon-1:00pm PST
Planet Hollywood – Celebrity Ballroom 2

If you are not attending ACPA, you can also participate by following out Twitter backchannel at #ACPAPK.

TEASER ALERT!  The following is the opening slide deck for our presentation.  This will give you an overview of PechaKucha and what we’ve prepared.  Below that, I’ve also uploaded a video version of my PechaKucha presentation.  It won’t mean much without my talking over it, but it will give you an idea as to what to expect. Enjoy!