In defense of the fax machine

We’ve all heard the noise.

That noise, while archaic, doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant.

My friend Eric Stoller wrote a blog post this morning about the irrelevance of the dated fax machine. In his post, Eric suggests faxes are silly and a waste of technology. And they are.

Eric is right.

Unfortunately, not everyone else agrees. The majority of businesses around the country do not agree. We can disagree all we want, but we can’t ignore the reality of the situation.

College students have to fax things all of the time: proof of address, health records, insurance forms, student loan information.

And you know what? Fax machines are hard to find. This is a huge burden on a lot of students. It can stress the hell out of them. When students are told to fax a form immediately or be evicted from their apartment, they don’t know where to start. Why should they? WHO THE HELL HAS A FAX MACHINE?

I would counter and say we, as student affairs professionals, can provide a service. Have a fax machine in your Student Life office. Provide a fax service free of charge. Be helpful.

A fax machine may be outdated, but it’s also an opportunity to serve our students and their needs.

#endrant

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In defense of the fax machine

Creativity is a privilege

This week I was lucky to find myself sitting around a table with other Emerson College professionals in a meeting called “Conversations on Creativity.” As a college that prides itself on innovation, it’s important we create a common vocabulary about what creativity means and how it impacts us. Together with tenured faculty, adjust instructors, entry level student affairs administrators, deans and Vice Presidents, we would start a meaningful conversation.

A colleague threw down the gauntlet early in the conversation and it changed how I thought – he took a deep breath and said:
Creativity is a privilege. 

Higher Education is a conservative beast. Many of our offices, and many of our own leaders, call for us to be forces of creativity, to use our ideas to further the scope of the college, to push boundaries, to break down walls and to challenge others. But are we really allowed to do that?

Are faculty willing to try innovative teaching strategies and curriculum that may leave students feeling unsettled? Will faculty be willing to try to teach difficult material when their salaries and jobs are directly tied to assessment provided by those students?

Are students willing to create ground breaking projects and challenge academia when their grades are tied to the success of an assignment? Are they willing to challenge convention when scholarships and internships may be impacted by their grades?

Are young student affairs professionals really allowed to create new and exciting initiatives, or does campus tradition and pressure from alumni force new pros to recreate the same programs that have been occurring for decades? How many #sapros are told “But we always do it this way.”?

True creativity comes with failure. Higher education, being a conservative beast, is not okay with failure. We don’t allow ourselves to spectacularly fail. We aren’t given permission to watch a pet project sputter upon launch.

In an exit interview from a job early in my career, a Vice President once apologized to me. She said it was a shame the institution couldn’t appreciate new ideas and she sincerely hoped I would find an institution that valued progress, that valued creativity.

The words didn’t make sense at the time, but today, I understand. At my current job, I’m fortunate to sit on the privilege to create, to change, to modify and to take risks. I have been given permission to push boundaries and to fail in the most spectacular ways. I’m one of the lucky ones.

Creativity is a privilege.

The future of higher education is dependent on innovation and creativity.
Are we willing to change the system… change how we assess our faculty and staff for merit raises… change how we grade our students?

Until we are willing to do that, none of us will truly have the privilege to be creative.

Creativity is a privilege

Embracing the Laughter

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve selected #Light as my #OneWord2014.

As part of living my OneWord, I’ve decided to help spread some light by profiling some of the happiest people I encounter. Students, co-workers, family and friends… their relation to me is irrelevant, only that they emit some form of light and positivity. The goal is to do one every week, maybe every other week. We’ll see how this goes. My first profile in positivity was an easy one to select.

Meet Rebecca.

Rebecca

Rebecca is a student at Emerson and a student leader in my office. While she may appear pint sized, she is a force to be reckoned with… Rebecca has the biggest laugh you’ve ever heard. It’s an unusual laugh… part dolphin, part whale and all happy. It literally rings through the halls. You may not see her coming your way, but you’ll always know she’s near. I asked Rebecca a few question about being positive and I wanted to share her insight with you.

What keeps you happy?
When I make other people happy, it brings me the most happiness. I just love making people feel good and smile. If I can make someone else’s day, it makes my day.

Who do you surround yourself with?
I want to surround myself with people who I want to be like. People who inspire me. Maybe I can be like them and that makes me happy.

Tell me about your laugh. Why does it draw people to you?
My laugh is very unique. I have a low registered voice, but laugh at such a high range/pitch. It throws people off, they don’t expect it. It’s an unusual, joyful sound. You can tell that my laugh is genuine. You can’t fake it. People feel good when they hear it. That’s what draws people in to my laugh.

What’s your goal for the year?
I live on a day-by-day basis. If I make one person smile today, it’s worth it. If I can make 365 people smile this year, then I’ve made it.

 

 

Many thanks to Rebecca for being not only fierce, but being a fabulous first interview as I begin these profiles! Keep doing beautiful things, my friend!

Embracing the Laughter

Post-It Project 2014

Friends know my office window has had a certain amount of character for the last two years.

In 2012, I found myself at a loss on the last day before the holiday break. With little ability to work (no one, and I mean no one, was working that day), I found myself in a creative space. This was the result.

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In the event you aren’t a child of the 80s (or a big geek), you may not recognize him or his distinctive art style.

His name is Link and he’s the hero from The Legend of Zelda games. For those of you still not following along, he’s from a Nintendo game that came out in the 80s.  You may also not recognize it, but he is completely made out of Post-It Notes.

IMG_20121221_143739

In 2013, I made the decision to replace Link with a new creation. And again, on the last day before the holiday break, this was born.

In the event you don’t recognize this guy, his name is Cheep-Cheep and he’s the fish from Super Mario Bros. Sometimes he was flying out of the water and sometimes he was swimming happily in the underwater levels. No matter, he was always out to get Mario. And still, he was made out of Post-It Notes.

So this year, there was a certain level of pressure to top by past two Post-It Note creations. I’m happy to unveil the Post-It Project for 2014.

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Yeah, to the average eye it’s a blank window of Post-It Notes. But there’s a catch… It’s not just a blank window overlooking an alley. It’s an interactive project that I officially invite you to take part in helping me create.

After a day and a few meeting with students, this is what it looked like: 

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What’s different? Notes.

I’m inviting students, faculty and staff to write notes to each other… notes of inspiration and positivity. Notes of self-worth and value. Notes written by your peers because they believe in you.

If at any time, someone needs a pick-me-up or a moment of inspiration, they’re welcome to stop by and take a note. No questions asked.

If they take a note, I’m asking they replace their note with a new Post-It in a different color. As the year progresses, the wall will grow and change, flowing with positivity and light. I consider it my first foray into an art instillation.

If you’re ever in the area, I hope you swing by, say hello and leave a note for someone. Or, if you need it, you stop by and take a note. It’s time to spread some light.

Post-It Project 2014

Slowing it down

In January 2013, I loudly proclaimed this to be the year of #Slow.

Deciding on my OneWord 2013 wasn’t something I did carelessly. This was a thoughtful, deliberate (and I might I add, SLOW) process. I wanted the right word to guide me, to give me direction and to give me a reason to pause. My OneWord was something I felt I had earned. After years of work to get where I am now, I deserved to move slowly.

#Slow it was, and #slow it wasn’t.

Foolish Jason thought – “OH! I’ve been in Boston long enough to know my job, my city and myself. I should slow down and enjoy it.”

Foolish Jason thought – “OH! Because I’ve decided things are going to be slow and peaceful, that they’ll just be that way.”

Foolish Jason thought – “OH! Since I want to reflect on how I got to this place in my life, everyone else will let me do it.”

These things were categorically false.

Just because you want something to happen doesn’t mean outside forces won’t hamper your efforts. I’m not saying I failed to live up to my OneWord, but I don’t think I fully grasped the reality of what it meant to be #slow. I naively thought others would help me do this. Because I put it out there in the world (and painted on a canvas that has sat on my desk), the world would let this happen with ease.

So, on my last day of work of 2013, I think about how I moved… sometimes slowly, sometimes running so fast I lost my breath. There were times I enjoyed where I was, but there were times I was forced to run faster than anyone else in the same vicinity. It was a year of fast and slow, a year that pushed me beyond my emotional and physical limits.

For the next 11 days, I plan on being very slow, spending time with my friends and family. I’ve got 11 days left to be slow. Let’s be slow together.

Here’s to a wonderful 2013.

Slowing it down

Rethinking Parents in Higher Education

It’s not their fault.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and it’s not a parent’s fault they hover over their new college student.

Popular culture and the media has a term for this: Helicopter Parent. They’re wrong, and we’re wrong for perpetrating it. Let me backtrack and explain.

Every fall, higher education faculty and staff bemoan parental involvement. Facebook statuses and tweets overflow, each complaining about the latest, most over-the-top parent interaction. People complain and fear that parental over-involvement will rob a new college student of the opportunity to become a fully realized person. I’m just as guilty of this. Overseeing New Parent Orientation and Family Weekend give me plenty of interaction with families… and plenty of moments, both good and bad, with said parents.

This year, it’s finally dawned on me. It’s not their fault.

Parents can’t help but be helicopter parents because this is what we’ve told parents to do.

In 1992, the US Department of Education made a booklet about how parents had to take an active role in their child’s education. It was a 48 page document about how to teach their children to study, how their children should take tests, how parents should interact with teachers and how parents should interact with administrators.

This document has been updated several times, most recently in 2005 to incorporate information on No Child Left Behind. For a good laugh, check out the use of Comic Sans on page 4 (used for a quote by President George W. Bush).

For parents to be successful, they’ve always been told to be helicopter parents.

Why are we, as administrators, so shocked they might want to be overly involved with an 18 year old’s college education? After all, 3 months prior, the government told them they had to be a helicopter parent if they wanted their student to be successful.

I’m not saying there has to be a partnership with the parents to ensure success for their student (after all, if you are in college, you should be treated as an adult), but administrators should be respectful of where the families are coming from. They’ve been trained to be overly involved. We can’t break their training in the 3 months between high school graduation and the first day of classes.

I may never be a parent (oh god, kids are literally shitty) – but I can respect the relationship between a parent and the institution their student chooses to attend.

Rethinking Parents in Higher Education

Help us tell a story

April 15 started out as an interesting day. By noon, I had already talked to The Barefoot Contessa on the phone (no really, it was a weird morning), did a ton of work for our end of the year leadership banquet and had been tracking one of my student leaders as she ran the Boston Marathon. I was thrilled to see her cross the finish line.

Within hours, all of us in the city had been shaken to the core. Things were rearranged and altered.

In the coming days, students, faculty and staff across the city of Boston reacted with a swift and sure hand, despite our general unease and confusion. We reacted with care, compassion and creativity. We reacted in the best way we could to help each other.

Today, three staff members from three Boston-area institutions want to tell this story. I want to share how three Emerson students started a movement called Boston Strong and in turn, started a healing and grieving process none of us expected. My friend Gordon wants to share how Boston University altered and evolved an admissions event by using social media when the city was on lockdown. My friend Amma wants to share how students at her college made their response expectations loud and clear.

The three of us want to present at Austin’s South by Southwest EDU. To do it, we need you to log on to their site and vote for us.

Take a few minutes and register at the SXSW PanelPicker and give us a comment and an upvote.

We want to share this story. It’s a story worth sharing.

Besides, you should just click on this because Robin Thicke wants you to do it.

Listen to Robin Thicke.

Help us tell a story