NWACUHO
Northwest Association of College & University Housing Officers

Professional Development Highlights

Author: Katie Bartel

Paraprofessional roles offer the space to make mistakes and learn to take on professional responsibilities in a forgiving environment. Throughout my two years in the paraprofessional role of Residence Coordinator at the University of British Columbia, I’ve engaged with many books, presentations, and professional development initiatives that have shaped my leadership and approach to my work in Residence Life. In this post, I would like to share my top picks of books, videos, workshops, and other initiatives that have been the most impactful for me as a paraprofessional. I hope that this list offers a taste of the many professional development options for paraprofessional staff and that you consider these specific resources as ways to support the staff at your institution.

BOOK: The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More, and Change the Way You Lead Forever – Michael Bungay Stanier

This book was really influential in my approach to supporting residence advisors. I began my Residence Life journey with the Residence Hall Association and National Residence Hall Honorary councils where I became used to providing specific advice and direction to colleagues. This worked well to ensure action and accountability, but it was not effective in supporting the learning of those I was advising. This book teaches what questions to ask to get your employee (or student staff) to critically analyze their challenges and generate their own approach and solutions instead of relying entirely on direction from above. Although the book was written for a more corporate readership, the approach it describes is incredibly transferable to a Residence Life audience. It is especially applicable when it speaks to advising on challenges where you are not an expert. My staff have appreciated the balance of support and challenge that this approach has informed this year.

WORKSHOP: Growth Mindset – Kari Marken

“I don’t have a professional job offer… yet.” Growth mindset is about approaching life as a continual opportunity to learn and grow, to focus on trying new and different things and working on challenges rather than fixating on what you believe you can or cannot do. UBC Educational Strategist Kari Marken presented a growth mindset workshop during my first Residence Life staff training that I still remember today. With a good blend of cognitive evidence and interactive activities, Kari illustrated the impact of embodying a growth mindset and encouraging a growth mindset in others in a Residence Life and personal life context. I would highly recommend sharing a version of this workshop or message with incoming student staff or paraprofessional staff to promote a positive learning-centered approach to the work they do with residents.

VIDEO: Everyday Leadership – Drew Dudley

This TED TALK [https://bit.ly/1kYLC8w] is about redefining leadership as “lollipop moments,” or small, everyday acts that have a substantial impact on others. There are many times in Residence Life where I have experienced a “lollipop moment” and have recognized that there is power in small gestures. As part of my closure and transition reflection, I’ve asked my staff to identify the most influential experiences of the year, and every single one of them identified a small gesture or initiative or moment that stuck with them and that has impacted the way they approached their role. Small gestures can mean absolutely everything to students you’re supervising, residents you’re supporting, and colleagues you’re learning with. Learning to recognize and appreciate those “lollipop moments” takes a lot of pressure off of leadership and creates space for every leader to have an equally impactful influence on those around them. This short video would be great to share as part of your orientation or training curriculum to inspire and motivate your staff to believe in themselves as everyday leaders.

INITIATIVE: UBC Residence Coordinator Projects

This year, UBC Residence Life redesigned their model of Residence Coordinator projects to allow the paraprofessional staff to experience aspects of student affairs outside of Residence Life. Working with campus partners on projects anywhere from student assessment to career support to educational support programming allowed my RC cohort to build their network, develop a broader skill set, and approach their work with Residence Life from a new perspective. Working on an assessment project this year with the UBC Faculty of Science, I also learned a lot about project management and adapting to a new workplace culture, which is valuable in any professional position I may hold in the future. I highly recommend connecting your paraprofessional staff with campus partners or skill-building projects to prepare them for the breadth of student affairs roles that may interest them post-graduation.

Katie Bartel
Residence Coordinator
University of British Columbia
katie.bartel@ubc.ca

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