NWACUHO

Northwest Association of College & University Housing Officers

Theory Review Part I: Challenge & Support

By Olivia Stankey

With the conference season upon us, it is once again time to gather together and learn best practices and current research from each other.  It is a time of great learning, networking, and conversation.  But sometimes, those conversations can be stressful when a colleague brings up a student development theory that you have not heard of or have not brushed up on in a while.  That is what this blog post and those following are for.

Over the next few weeks, I am going to be providing summary guides for major theories related to student development and leadership, as well as other relevant topics to our everyday practice.  These guides are designed for ease of understanding and translation into your professional practice with students.

Today, we begin with a foundational theory in student affairs: Sanford’s Theory of Challenge and Support.  The essence of this theory is that a student or individual develops through being challenged.  This challenge can be either internal or external, and only occurs if the challenges upsets the current equilibrium of the student (Evans, 2010).  In turn, the student may respond in a variety of ways.

If the challenge is too great and the student is not ready for the challenge, a student may go into a state of retreat, where they cease to develop and pull away from the challenge (Evans, 2010).  This is where support, and your work as student affairs professionals comes into play.  By providing support, you can help prevent this state of retreat.  However, if too much support is provided, the student may reach a state of stagnation, where the support is too much in proportion to the challenge and therefore becomes unhelpful (Evans, 2010).  In order to be most affective, you must provide enough support to prevent retreat, but not so much that the student stagnates in development.  Finding this balance is called Optimal Dissonance (Foubert, 2015).  A simple example of this is the idea that when you are working with a first-year student, they are likely to need more support for any challenges they encounter because they are new to the environment and are already in a state of constant learning, whereas, senior students are likely to need less support as they are familiar with their environment and culture around them and have had time to build higher order thinking and coping mechanisms.

Another key component of this theory is the idea of readiness, which happens when a student reaching a tipping point, either in body, mind, or environment (Evans, 2010).  According to Sanford, this idea of readiness is essential for development, asserting that the student must be ready for the challenge to be successful in developing through the challenge.  Otherwise, they may go into a state of retreat (Foubert, 2015).

In terms of student affairs practice, this theory is often one of the “go-to” theories because of the intuitive nature of the theory.  It makes sense that if a student is being challenged, that they are in need of some support.  Student services are often in an optimal place to provide that support.  However, there is one common misunderstanding to avoid with this theory.  Many student affairs professionals assume that they must be the ones to provide the challenge, when this is not a requirement and often not the case in practice.  Most often, the student’s life situation or the environment has already provided a challenge and professionals can then work to provide the support needed for the student to develop through said challenge.

References:

* Evans, N. J., Forney, D. S., Guido, F. M., Patton, L. D., & Renn, K. A. (2010). Student development in college: Theory, research, and practice (2nd Ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

* Foubert, J. (2015). Nevitt sanford: A founding student development theorist in all his complexity. [PowerPoint Document]. Retrieved from https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__oc.okstate.edu_d2l_le_content_1322078_Home&d=DwIFaQ&c=C3yme8gMkxg_ihJNXS06ZyWk4EJm8LdrrvxQb-Je7sw&r=QMxydpjOntoavhIpJb42DQ&m=rCNc_BsbbMRWWmh0eQcbqxUfUs9M902C_JVGbE6O_Cw&s=ZoauoRE8AKz_2LqnaggGbyJ7oVjvbPDFkmQ6S1CAesU&e=

Olivia works as a Program Coordinator for Residential Leadership at University of Oregon. She may be reached at stankey@uoregon.edu

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10 Things to Bring When Attending a Conference

By Olivia Stankey

Getting ready to attend a conference, but do not know what to bring on the professional side?  Below is a list of 10 items that will help you network, learn, and rock your conference with ease.

  1. Business Cards: Meet someone at the conference who has a shared interest? How about a great presentation you’d love to hear more about? Business cards are a great way to exchange information quickly following a session, at conference meals, or any time in between scheduled events. (Pro Tip: If you receive a business card, do not forget to write on the back how you know them or what you connected over. It’s quite difficult to remember after the conference)
  2. Power Strip: Our society uses so much technology that there are often not enough outlets to go around. Bringing a power strip not only solves this potential problem for yourself and others, but also allows for networking with those who also need an outlet. Makes you look resourceful and prepared! (Credit: Alycia Pruitt, Baylor University)
  3. Note Taking Device: People take notes in different ways, from laptops and tablets, to regular pen and paper. Whatever method works best for you, make sure you bring something to take notes on. You never know when a presentation is going to cover exactly what you need or a networking conversation leads to an opportunity you do not want to forget.
  4. Cash: Much of our world runs through cards and apps, but sometimes cash is still needed. Possibly a chance to tip a hotel valet or employee, or maybe pay a local vendor for their art at a street fair happening in town, or even cover a meal from a local food truck.  You do not want to miss out on an opportunity because you forgot to bring cash. With this year’s conference being in Canada, you may want to exchange some cash to have on hand in that currency. (Pro Tip: If you are driving to the conference, make sure you also have cash in the form of low bills and coins as you may run into toll roads, not all of which are card or even bill friendly.)
  5. Receipt Bag: Whether your department reimburses you for travel expenses or maybe you are at a job searching conference, it is never a bag thing to keep track of your receipts. If you are at a conference job searching, it is important to keep your receipts as you may be able to claim them on taxes (same thing for moving expenses). If your department reimburses you for travel, it is important to have the original receipts as proof of purchases.
  6. Copies of Your Resume: When at conferences, it is a hotbed of networking opportunities, from connecting with a speaker with a great presentation to who you sit by at lunch. Having a few copies of your resume on hand in case a conversation turns into a potential job opportunity is a great way to be prepared. It also makes you look organized and prepared.  Secondly, it is a great way to let a potential new mentor know about your past work and school experiences.
  7. Snacks: Oftentimes, conferences provide a few meals, such as during an opening or closing banquet, a lunch here or there, etc. However, many conferences do not provide snacks throughout the day other than possibly coffee or tea. If you are someone who gets peck-ish in late morning or early afternoon, snacks are a must. They are also a great way to make connections if the person next to you is also hungry. (Pro Tip: stay away from foods that are common airborne allergies, such as peanuts).
  8. Water Bottle: Have you ever had to hunt for a water fountain or used your hands to scoop water from the bathroom sink? Staying hydrated is important during conferences. It keeps potential headaches away during long days as well as keep you feeling well even if the room is freezing and drying out your skin. Additionally, you can scope out where you can fill your water bottle ahead of time at your hotel or convention center so you can fill it when convenient, rather than rushing and hunting between sessions.
  9. Medication (Tums, Tylenol): Ever try to sit through a session with acid reflex? How about a throbbing headache? You want to be on top of your learning and networking game at conferences, so being sick is not helpful. Packing medication for headaches, such as Tylenol or Advil, or stomach medication like Tums or other antacids, can really come in handy in case of a mid-afternoon lull. At the risk of being a broken record, they also come in handy for making connections as you may not be the only one in need of medication.
  10. Headphones: Conferences can be draining, especially if you are introverted or need the periodic break from others. Having headphones allows you to kindly let others know socially that you need a break without telling anyone to back off. Listen to your favorite music or try out a new audiobook. Make sure you take care of yourself during the process. (Pro Tip: If you’re feeling on sensory overload and music or audiobooks may add to the problem, putting in headphones and not listening to anything also may help. It sends the same message to others, but does not add additional stimuli to the experience.)

Olivia works as a Program Coordinator for Residential Leadership at University of Oregon. She may be reached at stankey@uoregon.edu

 

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It’s Time to Engage in Dialogue

By Pamela Altmaier

It was my first year as a Resident Director at Oregon State University. I had the best student staff members, residents that were engaged (like 100 residents attended Friday night Bingo level of engaged), and a living-learning community that fostered dialogue around power and privilege. To this day, that community is one of my favorites.

One day, I had a resident approach me and share that an unknown individual had vandalized her door with a derogatory term based on her racial identity. I listened to her experience as she told me that this action made her feel unwelcome and unworthy. It had hindered her view of the community. During our interaction, I asked what I could do to support her and she requested a community dialogue that would educate others around bias-related incidents and what it meant to be a community member. I was inspired by this request and as a result, began my research around bias-related incidents.

I was excited to know more about what makes someone choose to disclose their experiences with bias to another and how as a profession, we could support students when they do disclose. I must have read every book by Derald Wing Sue over those next few months. I met with my committee members, submitted my IRB, and planned my interview questions.

Before continuing on, the names shared throughout the rest of the story below are pseudonyms meant to protect the identity of the participants in my study.

That excitement completely transformed during my first interview. I met with Stephanie that day; I had my questions ready, recording started, and she started to share her experience where a colleague of mine had targeted her. I am so thankful that I had a recording of her interview, because all I remember is being stunned that a colleague was responsible for the impact and struggle of that student. This feeling only continued throughout the interviews. Seventy-five percent of my participants reported that the individual who targeted them was a university employee. Seventy-Five Percent!

During my interviews, students shared the impacts of these biased actions. They shared the emotional tidal wave that would hit them every time they were targeted. That’s right – every time. Participants shared that these experiences have continued to occur throughout their entire college experience. One participant, Matt, even shared that he became suicidal because he experienced a bias-related incident every day.

Something needs to change! As housing professionals, we need to strive to do better and to change culture.

  • I ask that we engage in dialogue with each other. Based on various involvement, identities, and level of student interactions, housing professionals have a wide range of understanding around power, privilege, and the experiences of students from marginalized identities. Seventy-five percent is unacceptable. We need to educate each other on what constitutes a bias-related incident, the impacts of these experiences, and how every bias-related incident is creating an unwelcoming and hostile environment for students.
  • I ask that we commit whole-heartedly to every interaction that we have with students. Every participant that disclosed to a university employee did so to a housing professional. That’s huge! As housing professionals, we have so many more opportunities to build connection, a sense of belonging, and trusting relationships with students. We have the opportunity to respond and support students through these experiences. What a waste if we don’t listen.
  • Lastly, I ask that every institution – every housing office – has a response plan for bias-related incidents. Students are being impacted and often times that impact is caused by university employees. If we hear the disclosure and do nothing, we are just as responsible. And honestly, we can impact the students just much through our betrayal.

Pamela currently serves as the Area Director for Conduct and Community Standards at Oregon State University. Before this role, she served as a Resident Director at Oregon State University and an Undergraduate Hall Director at the University of Montana. The blog post is referring to Pamela’s Master’s thesis: Students’ Decision to Disclose a Bias-Related Incident, which she presented on at the NWACUHO Annual Conference in Spokane, WA and was named Best in the Northwest Program.

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An Overview of the 3 Main Moral Development Theories

By Olivia Stankey

Ever worked with a student who made a decision against their better judgement? Ever had to work with a student leader who put themselves in a moral dilemma? Ever been in a moral or ethical dilemma yourself? There are three main Moral Development theories within the realm of student affairs: Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development, Gilligan’s Theory of Women’s Moral Development, and Rest’s Neo-Kohlbergian Approach. Each of these theories has added something new to our collective understanding of moral development in the students we work with. The following is an overview of each, along with how they compare and contrast to each other.

Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development

Of the three moral development theories, this one came first. Kohlberg drew his inspiration from the work of Piaget and Rawls. He was one of the first people to student the moral development of adolescent and college aged students. His work centered around analysis of how psychology and moral philosophy worked together. The result of his work was a hard stage model, meaning the stages are inflexible and individuals work through them in a specific order that does not change (Evans, 2010). There are six stages within three levels.  In addition to these stages and levels, Kohlberg outlined three criteria for his theory and used a very specific justice orientation with his work.

The first criterion is the structure criterion. This criterion states that individuals in each stage display the same level of reasoning ability no matter the situation. The second criterion is the sequence criterion. As stated above, within this theory, individuals move through in a set order that does not change, even if environment changes. Lastly, is the hierarchy criterion. This criterion states that this theory builds on itself to create higher orders or reasoning. Each stage encompasses the ones that come before (Evans, 2010).

Below is a brief overview of each level and stage:

  • Level One (Pre-Conventional)
    • Stage 1: Heteronomous Morality
      • Individuals justify actions based on avoidance of punishment and the superior power of authorities
      • The rights or concerns of others are not considered
    • Stage 2: Individualistic, Instrumental Morality
      • Individuals follow rules if it is in their interest to do so
      • Right is defined by what is fair, an equal exchange, or an agreement
    • Level Two (Conventional)
      • Stage 3: Interpersonally Normative Morality
        • Right is defined as meeting the expectations of those to whom one is close and carrying out appropriate, acceptable social roles
        • Shared feelings, agreements, and expectations take precedence over individual interests, but a generalized social system perspective does not yet exist
      • Stage 4: Social System Morality
        • Right is defined as upholding the laws established by society and carrying out the duties agreed on
        • Individuals behave in a way that maintains the system and fulfills societal obligations
      • Level Three (Post-Conventional or Principled)
        • Stage 5: Human Rights and Social Welfare Morality
          • Laws and societal systems are evaluated based on the extent to which they promote fundamental human rights and values
          • Moral obligations and social relationships are based on making, and being able to depend on, agreements
        • Stage 6: Morality of Universalizable, Reversible, and Prescriptive General Ethical Principles
          • Morality involves equal consideration of the points of view of all involved in a moral situation
          • Decisions are based on universal generalizable principles that apply in all situations
          • Note: Kohlberg unsuccessful in empirically demonstrating stage 6 because the stage was based on few individuals, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., with formal training in philosophy and a demonstrated commitment to moral leadership (Evans, 2010)

Overall, Kohlberg’s theory was groundbreaking and opened up a new line of research into individual moral development. However, like many studies and theories of the time, Kohlberg only studied white men. Therefore, this theory may only apply to students who fit those identities, or may partially fit for others who do not share these identities. This is where Gilligan and Rest come into play.

Gilligan’s Theory of Women’s Moral Development

Gilligan built off of Kohlberg’s research. She felt that the moral development of women was not represented within current moral development theories of the time so she worked to change that. Her work studied women in particular, so this theory, like Kohlberg has a binary slant in terms of gender and sex. Therefore, think critically when applying each of these three moral development theories.

Gilligan’s theory has three levels and two transition periods. She focused on how women make connections to others as a central idea of women’s moral development. Where Kohlberg had a justice orientation to his theory, Gilligan has a care orientation. This care orientation focused on how relationships with others must carry equal weight with self-care when making more decisions (Evans, 2010). This orientation made her the first to recognize and document two different moral orientation. Additionally, she worked to link moral development and student affairs more specifically, creating a long-standing relationship between the two (Evans, 2010).

Below is an overview of her three levels and two transition periods:

  • Pre-Conventional/Orientation to Individual Survival
    • Goal is individual survival
    • Selfish, (child)
  • Transition
    • Selfishness to responsibility to others
  • Conventional/Goodness as Self-Sacrifice
    • World is based on reliance on others,
    • Social morality, (wife, mother)
  • Transition
    • From only thinking of others, to also seeing self as a person
  • Post-Conventional/The Morality of Nonviolence
    • Principle of nonviolence
    • Do not hurt others or self, principled morality
    • Similar to Kohlberg, not all reach this highest level (Evans, 2010)

Overall, Gilligan’s theory was meant to build off of Kohlberg with specific consideration to the women who were not represented in his theory, which is why the model is similar in that both theories have stages that you build upon, when you must work through one to reach the next. Additionally, both have a final stage that they both believed not all individuals reach in their lifetime. They mainly differ in terms of orientation – Kohlberg with a justice orientation and Gilligan with a care orientation. The final theorist, Rest, changes some of these assumptions.

Rest’s Neo-Kohlbergian Approach

Rest’s work mainly builds off of Kohlberg’s, similar to Gilligan, but takes a different position. Rest viewed moral development as more fluid and more broadly than Kohlberg did (Evans, 2010). Where Kohlberg and Gilligan have set stages to move through and build on each other, Rest felt that the stages of moral development were more fluid, that one may use more than one stage at a time and may even show forward movement in more than one stage at a time. Like Kohlberg, it is assumed that Rest mainly studied white men, again limiting the range of applicability of these moral development theories.

Where Kohlberg had his three criterion, Rest had three schemas: the personal interest schema, the maintaining norms schema, and the post-conventional schema. The first develops during childhood, where individuals consider what each stakeholder has to gain or lose in a moral dilemma. This schema views morally right as what appeals to the investment an individual holds in the consequences (Evans, 2010). The second criteria is a first attempt to see societal collaborations, such as wanting generally accepted social norms, believing that norms apply to all in said society, establishing a chain of command, and more (Evans, 2010). This schema assumes that respect for authority comes from a respect for society. Lastly, the final schema asserts a moral obligation on communal values and is more advanced in terms of ethics.  With this schema, individuals appeal to an ideal, want shareable values and full reciprocity. With these schemas and the more fluid stages of the theory (overview below), Rest set out to examine how expectations about actions/rules are known and shared and how interests are balanced in a society.

Below is an overview of the central concepts for determining moral rights and responsibilities:

  • Stage 1: Obedience
    • “Do what your told…”
  • Stage 2: Instrumental egoism and simple exchange
    • “Let’s make a deal”
  • Stage 3: Interpersonal concordance
    • “Be considerate, nice, and kind, and you’ll get along with people”
  • Stage 4: Law and duty to the social order
    • “Everyone in society is obligated and protected by the law”
  • Stage 5: Societal consensus
    • “You are obligated by whatever arrangements are agreed to by due process procedures”
  • Stage 6: Non-arbitrary social cooperation
    • “How rational and impartial people would organize cooperation is moral” (Evans, 2010).

Overall, Rest contributed to our understanding of moral development by asserting that individuals do not necessarily develop in neat and tidy stages, but rather can make progress in multiple areas at the same time. Rest also looked more closely at how society affects and is involved in an individual’s moral development, whereas Kohlberg and Gilligan focused more on the individual. Lastly, Rest is known for being one of the first to create an objective measure of moral development, called the Defining Issues Test (DIT).

References: Evans, N. J., Forney, D. S., Guido, F. M., Patton, L. D., & Renn, K. A. (2010). Student

development in college: Theory, research, and practice (2nd Ed.). San Francisco, CA:

Jossey-Bass.

Summary of Comparison and Contrast 

Comparisons:

  • All three are Theories on Moral Development
  • Kohlberg and Rest studied similar populations
  • Gilligan and Rest both built off of Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development
  • Gilligan and Kohlberg both have progressions where you complete one to move onto the next one, where Rest believed you could be in multiple or make progress in multiple at the same time

Olivia works as a Program Coordinator for Residential Leadership at University of Oregon. She may be reached at stankey@uoregon.edu

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A Collection of Diversity Practices

One of the goals of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee is to highlight the work that is already being done within our region. Please continue to send highlights to diversity@nwacuho.org and our committee will continue to share those! Diversity work is on-going as we strive to make our residence halls home to students from all backgrounds. Our hope is that we continue to engage in conversations and connect institutions and people who are wanting to implement programs, services, or other good work being done. 

 

Gonzaga University, Housing and Residence Life

At Gonzaga University, we were approached by students to be a part of RA training regarding diversity and inclusion. We worked with three students to develop sessions that they believed might leave a greater impact on the importance of the RA role in the community, including a session where students described how living on-campus impacted their experiences of inclusion/exclusion.

Oregon State University, University Housing and Dining Services

University Housing & Dining Services at Oregon State University overhauled its assignment process for 2017-2018 to be more gender-inclusive, allowing for students to self-identify their gender from ten different options and participate in room selection and roommate matching based on their gender identity, not biological sex.  UHDS also expanded its restroom options across its entire system to include at least two gender-inclusive multi-stall restrooms in most residence halls on campus. As has always been our policy, residents are not limited to using a restroom on their floor, but can use the restroom that best fits their needs, regardless of what floor or wing they reside in.

Saint Martin’s University, Housing and Residence Life

In response to a desire for students to have more voice in the residence halls, Residence Life developed a student training which focused on educating students on different spaces in which social justice work occurs. This included teaching strategies on developing affinity, educational, and action-based spaces. From a programmatic perspective, Residence Life has also started initiatives partnering with different student-led cultural clubs on campus to bring programming into the residence halls.

University of Washington, Housing and Food Services

This year, in an effort to improve diverse staff retention, UW HFS Residence Life piloted a New Staff Orientation session on Diversity and Inclusion. The session was compiled based on feedback from the UW HFS department on what they wished they would have known and covered everything from student demographics and culture to affinity groups and professional staff resources on campus. The 2018 session will be improved based on participant feedback as we seek to give our staff the best foundation possible with diversity and inclusion work at University of Washington when starting their new roles.

Washington State University, Residence Life

We have worked with students and staff this year to update and try new social justice trainings and initiatives. Specifically WSU takes the Student Staff to camp for 3 days each year to specifically talk about identity and privilege, this 3 day experience is often the highlight of our training and gives specific tie to the value of social justice. This year WSU also changed our traditional Tunnel of Oppression program, through consultation with students a new name and process was decided.  Rebranding to “Rooms of Resistance” and making it activity oriented, this 40 minute experience exposed students to concepts around Immigration, Gender Identity, Sexual Assault, and Privilege. Continuing training with our professional staff is important too, and our staff common reading book this year is “On Being Included” by Sara Ahmed.  We will be reading and discussing the importance and history of inclusion on a university campus as a staff and exploring how we can have an impact.

The Diversity and Inclusion Committee would like to thank the following committee members for their contributions: Tiffany Firestone, Ashlee Norris, Benjamin Medeiros, Simone, Staley, and Michael Zangl. 

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It’s O.K., It’s Alaska!

By L. Byrd

I committed several weeks ago to a member of the Board, that I would submit an article for the blog. Naturally, those weeks flew past as I considered some topics: Education in a Changing Political Climate (I am not emotionally prepared for that at this time); How to “Unplug” and Still Meet Students’ Needs (is this about technology or de-stressing?); Children in Non-Family Housing (am I just complaining now, or do I have something useful to say?). Finally, I found something that is hopefully a little fun and also informative…

A little over four years ago, I moved to Soldotna, Alaska to join my former supervisor in developing and running the brand new 96-bed, suite-style residence hall at Kenai Peninsula College. KPC, a community campus of University Alaska at Anchorage, is a rural commuter campus of roughly 2,000 total students from the lower 48 and all over Alaska, including the bush. “The bush” is pretty much any village or town located off-the-road-system, often times requiring multiple flights, boats, or even atvs to reach. Our nearest Costco is 3 hours away in Anchorage and nearest Whole foods is 44 hours away in West Vancouver (per Google).

This is quite unlike my previous “rural” campus in northeastern Oklahoma. It was situated about an hour and a half from the nearest Costco & Whole foods. During my time there, it had a total student population of over 10,000 and nine residence halls with a bed capacity of more than 1,600 beds (I know, it’s still tiny to some of you folks!).

We had a professional Housing and Residence Life Staff of 12 (plus 21 facilities and custodial staff). Here at KPC, we have 2.5 full time professional staff to run our entire operation. The responsibilities of the 2 include all aspects of Housing and Residence Life: staff recruitment, selection, supervision, training, programming, case management, conduct (including Title 9), facilities management, office management, accounting, budgets, conferences, custodial management and all-encompassing custodial duties (and then some!). The responsibilities of the “.5” includes any professional level maintenance (as needed and on borrowed time).

There are surely a lot of challenges to a two person Pro-staff: being on duty half the time, never ending to-do lists, and more work than time. But, it also has its advantages: more autonomy about the direction of the department, more flexibility, and we are truly student oriented – all other staff positions are occupied by student workers: front desk, custodial, maintenance.

We also face some pretty unique situations being so far removed (maybe our mountainous neighbors can relate?). We have wildlife warning signs on the door, mostly for moose sightings, but occasionally a bear or lynx will wonder on to the property. I have now lost count of the amount of times we have  watched moose try to come inside, eat all our plants on the other side of our windows, and escort students to class. At my previous school we worried about squirrels and stray cats! We have too many eagles here, they would never make it.

At my previous institution, absolutely any form of weapon was forbidden – and is still the case here in the buildings and on campus property, but students are allowed to keep them in their vehicles. The first time I saw a rifle in the window of a student’s vehicle, I stopped in my tracks and my heart skipped a beat. But, it’s ok, its Alaska!

Even being in the Southcentral part of Alaska, and coastal, we still deal with the difficult weather that winter brings. Snow is NOT a big deal, at all. It is the ice that is the real monster. In the winter, once the first real snow hits and sticks, we hope to stay below freezing as to keep the ice at bay, cause once we get it – we keep it from about mid-late October through mid-March, and sometimes on into May even. Some choose to don “spikies” to keep from breaking bones in a slip and fall.

The cold is really relative. I used to think 60* was cold. Now, I can wear flip flops at 38*. It’s not REALLY cold until your boogers start to freeze (around 12* and below). It actually has to warm up to snow sometimes. It’s not too bad though, we all know to bundle up and be safe, and I come home to in-floor heating and a large fireplace in the commons.

Winter also brings with it several other challenges, largely mental health related, not because of the cold really, but the darkness. As I write this, we have just over 7 hours of dailyight and the sun sets around 4:30. At our shortest, we will have about 5 hours of actual sun, which is full of 5 o’clock shadows due to its position on the horizon. Some of us deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder and have to get “happy lights”. Some try to combat it with fun winter activities as well.  Which is great, but our students face the additional challenge of where to store their snow machines, atvs, sleds, and summer tires. But the aurora borealis is the real show stopper. We can go out to our pavilion and turn of the outside lights, start up the fire pit, and watch the greens dance in the sky most nights. The term “the lights are out” does not mean that the power has gone off.

We don’t get all the seasons the way the lower-48 does. We have “winter” (October-March/April), “break up”/spring (April-may) and “fishing season”/summer/tourist season (May – August). Fall lasts for about 2 weeks in September. You can tell its fall because the winds start to knock out power and several of our coworkers take 2-4 weeks off to go hunting. Many folks rely on subsistence hunting and fishing in our area.

Oh, but summer! Despite having to share it with visitors, who are a great boost to our local economy, it is a short, but jovial time! We gain up to 21 hours of daylight in the summer, with the remainder being more twilight than total darkness. Alaska comes to life in the summer in a way I have never seen anywhere else. The people here truly appreciate the outdoors in a way that give you hope for the relationship between humans and nature. For those who still value sleeping in the dark, nothing is better than blackout curtains.

I discovered that not all shopping is created equal here – pots for flowers and box fans seem to be seasonal items, so buy them in the summer, once the stores run out, you will be waiting a while or paying exorbitant shipping prices. Our cable dishes appear to point at the ground as our latitude requires a bit of a downward angle to reach most US satellites. We had to cut a straight line across some of our spruce trees so that we could get a clear signal for the reshall cable service. Coffees stands are on every corner here, like snow cone stands back in OK. Prices are surprisingly comparative, minus convenience items (those WILL cost you). One of my former RAs worked in a place called Naknak this summer, one bag of Nachos Doritos cost $9.50 and a gallon of milk was $14! Luckily, we are located on the road system, so our Doritos are about $4/bag and milk is $3.89.

I know this hasn’t been a typical NWACUHO article, and it hasn’t really helped you at your institution or offered any advice, but sometimes it’s fun to just read something that shows you a new side of life, right? Now, I’m off to check bear mace expiration dates!

Leslie Byrd is the Residence Life Coordinator at Kenai Peninsula College. She was worked in Residence Life for 9 professional years; 3 undergrad. She really enjoys the variety presented by working with students and the ability to use creativity in her work. Her favorite thing about Alaska is the midnight sun and opportunity for adventure. In her free time she paints (check out Leslie Byrd Painter on fb if you have a minute!).

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Trauma Informed Care in Everyday Supervision

By Julia Vizcaino

Resident Advisors are our first line of defense in almost every residential situation. During rounds RAs regularly encounter dangerous drinking behaviors, mental health concerns, suicidal ideation, sexual assaults, and a smorgasbord of other concerns. As a field, we emphasize the procedural response we want our students to follow in these scenarios, giving them flow charts, and duty protocols, and “behind closed door” simulations. It has become clear to me that there is another side of the RA experience we address far less frequently: secondhand trauma.

The typical RA is a student who does it all. Generally, they are ambitious, meeting grade requirements, conduct requirements, and doing a live-in job that most professionals outside of higher ed would not be able to handle. Because our students are handling professional level situations, it is easy to forget that they are students.

Residence Life professionals are often aware of terms such as “compassion fatigue” or “burnout”.  Many live-in professionals only stay in one place for around three years because of the high stakes, stress, and unrelenting schedule. As a field, our students aren’t always factored into this picture. As a supervisor, I want to make sure I do everything I can to keep my student staff from experiencing the burnout, compassion fatigue, or at worst traumatic stress or mental illness as a result of their work as an RA.

In a study of first responder’s done by Benedek, Fullerton, and Ursano (2007) showed three categories of response to trauma from first responders. Most commonly, “most people experience mild, transient distress such as sleep disturbance, fear, worry, anger, or sadness or increased use of tobacco or alcohol”. A smaller, second group, may experience “moderate symptoms such as persistent insomnia or anxiety or changes in travel patterns or workplace behavior”. Finally, a small subgroup may develop psychiatric illness as a result of the trauma, “such as PTSD or major depression”.

When a student staff member responds to duty calls on some of our most serious topics, they are not just responding to an anonymous call the way traditional first responders like firefighters or police officers might. Our students are responding to their peers, their classmates, their friends. I have seen RAs listen as close friends recount details of sexual assault, as classmates reveal their suicidal ideations, as they find their high school teammate unconscious from alcohol poisoning. Because RAs are in the center of their communities, they are deeply intertwined with the lives of their residents, and when conversations turn to serious topics, RAs are there to listen, support, and follow their protocols for these students. Why do we not have a protocol for helping our RAs, college students, who have now experienced the trauma of responding to a traumatic incident involving their fellow students?

The concept of trauma-informed care is often discussed in the world of Behavioral Intervention Teams. There are four main principles of trauma informed care according to Hopper, Bassuk, and Olivet (2010): trauma awareness, emphasis on safety, opportunities to rebuild control, and strengths-based approach.  I believe there is a way to incorporate each of these principles into everyday supervision of student staff.

Trauma Awareness:

The process of incorporating trauma-informed care into everyday supervision starts with an acknowledgement of the trauma students may face in their role. Our student staff members come from a variety of backgrounds, and may have a history of trauma that would be triggered by student behaviors in certain situations. A time for students to seriously reflect on what situations they may encounter, and how comfortable they would feel addressing them should happen early on. If a student staff member is aware of their own trauma and risks, they are going to be more likely to ask for help when things come up.

Emphasis on Safety:

Because student staff are responding to situations that involve a wide variety of stressors, one way to emphasize safety is to set clear roles and boundaries. Many of us who work in residence life know how difficult it can be to draw boundaries when you live where you work. Student staff should be encouraged to set realistic boundaries when they are not on-call. A student staff member should not be expected to report to incidents when they are off-duty, but should instead be trained in utilizing appropriate on-call systems so that they feel comfortable having time away.

Opportunities to Rebuild Control:

I often tell my student staff that they can do everything right in a situation, and it can still go wrong. The nature of first response is that you are reacting to whatever is put in front of you. Hopper, Bassuk, and Olivet state that one way to rebuild control is to “emphasize the importance of choice”. One way to bring in choice is level of involvement in incidents. In our current response model, pro-staff respond to most incidents with student staff. I let the responding students decide if they would like to take the lead in the situation, and if they want me to be involved, or if they want me there just as a means of support. I have found that student staff often want to take the lead in situations, because it gives them an opportunity to handle the situation with the knowledge they have of the residents, as well as practice developing their conflict management and crisis response skills. More often than not, I am standing there just as a presence for my student staff, while they harness a situation.

Strengths-Based Approach:

The key to a strengths-based approach is to “focus on the future”, rather than be deficit-oriented (Hopper, Bassuk, Olivet). Student staff are going to make mistakes in their job. It is my job to focus on their strengths, and pull out the areas I know they can excel in. An increase in strengths focused practices increases the confidence of student staff. A confident student who responds to crisis will be more likely to know when they are in over their head, they will have a better idea of what areas they can succeed in, and they will be more likely to seek after-care help as needed.

I often see my student staff respond to situations that may be hard to process. I ask my students to build community and get to know their residents, and it can be difficult to see those same students engage in dangerous behavior or have mental or physical crisis. I believe that if I tailor my supervision to involve trauma informed practices daily, I can set up my student staff for a longer-term growth trajectory that will allow them to respond to these incidents and cope in healthy ways.

References:

Benedek, D., Fullerton, C., Ursano, R., 2007. First Responders: Mental Health Consequences of Natural and Human-Made Disasters for Public Health and Public Safety Workers. Annual Review of Public Health, 28:1, 55-68.

Hopper, E., Bassuk, E., and Olivet, J., 2010. Shelter from the Storm: Trauma-Informed Care in Homelessness Services Settings. The Open Health Services and Policy Journal, 80-100.

Julia works at the University of Alaska Anchorage as a Residence Coordinator.

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Drops of Change on Burning Fires

By Simone C. Staley

I was deeply impacted by the thick smoke that filled the air of our Northwest Region this summer. The British Columbia, Oregon and Eastern Washington fires turned our skies dark, clouded our sight, obscured our view of the mountains and turned the sun a haunting red. As the Northwest we collectively felt the eerie environment. For me, it took my breath away–figuratively and literally. I physically impacted–the smoke had caused a few asthma attacks. The feeling of tightness in my lungs, the fear of not being able to breathe, was something I hadn’t experienced in years.

As I write this the weather has cooled off but some of the fires are still burning in B.C. and Oregon, even our neighbors to the south in California. Here in Seattle atmosphere has slowly dissipated-it was a collective relief to see the blue sky again.

There was another collective impact that clouded our sight and made us catch our breath–the events in Charlottesville, VA, and on the University of Virginia campus. They also caused a tightness in my chest, a deep throbbing in my heart and my eyes to well with tears. I watched these events in horror and yet did not feel surprised to serve as witness. We have seen events across the country, many on college campuses, occur since then. Outside of academia we also viewed natural disasters and violent tragedies and the stress of these events compound the stress and uneasiness our work. It has become something that the world, our campuses, our students and colleagues are talking about. Higher Education does not exist in a protected vacuum- as professionals we are called to respond to each of these events.

These fires, the actual burning ones and the political/social tensions, present challenges that feel insurmountable–something that has made the air thick and difficult to breathe. Academia is facing difficulties in the constant response to global connections and the events around the world impact us and our students that we serve. Plus, events can happen on our campuses. I was working here at the University of Washington when a protest on January 20, 2017 on our campus felt all too similar to what has occurred since then at University of Virginia and UC Berkeley.

These fires have impacted us and left us with profound issues that cannot be addressed with a simple fix. Our students look to us for safety and security of their bodies and their minds–their lungs and their hearts. As professionals in housing—not only those of us in residential life, but also those of you in facilities, dining, human resources and all our units—we all are responsible to offer a response.

It calls to us all. It calls for cohesion. For me, it brings to mind a story, one of hope. So, let me share with you a multiethnic tale of a brave hummingbird. My kat’sa (grandmother) called him tama’mno (hummingbird) but the Salish native to this region call her Dukdukdiya.

When a burning fire consumed the forest and all the animal peoples ran and flew for safety, Dukdukdiya was the only one who fought back. She gathered small droplets of water in her bill and repeatedly dropped them onto the fire. She was criticized and questioned because she was just one small bird. The animal peoples, from the bear people to the wolf peoples, to the even the mouse people, did not understand why she would try to put out the fire. But she told the animals of the forest, “I am doing what I can.”

This parable, while local to the Haida, also exists around the world. Iterations of the folktale are traced to histories in Japan and Ecuador. This folktale has been professed and retold by our global leaders like Wangari Maathai and the Dalai Lama.

Our students are seeing the smoke in the air. We are feeling—breathing—the smoke in the air. Are we doing what we can? As a department? As a campus? As our NWACUHO community?

As a Resident Director, I have been thinking, “Am I doing what I can?”

These fires have changed us. They ask us all to do what we can to our full capacity, in our capacities. They ask us to give attention in each of our units to contribute to our Department’s meeting our mission to listen and to help our students. To give every drop of water, every contribution we can.

Let me be explicit- this parable does not simply tell us the importance of every small drop. Every drop does matter, but it also means giving everything you possibly can to a cause- every drop of change that can possibly be given. There is a difference between convenient advocacy and courageous advocacy.

Like a hummingbird, my heart feels like it is beating a thousand times a minute. I am here working for the University of Washington and for Housing and Food Services so I can have an impact on the citizenship development of students. I am here to help. When I come to work every day, I am doing what I can.

Will you join me?

Simone-Calais Staley is a Resident Director at the University of Washington, Housing and Food Services. She is a professional passionate about community development, student advocacy and civic engagement of residents. Simone encourages continued dialogue and outreach between colleagues, please feel welcome to connect with her to continue this conversation. Email: staleys@live.com or LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/simonecalaisstaley/

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Weathering Change

By Kate Gannon-Cullinan

I began thinking “I need to write a blog post, but have no content for our membership to enjoy.” In searching for a topic, I kept coming back to the idea of change and how I’ve coped and developed my career through it. For some of us, we’re in our 5th week of the semester already, others have just completed the joyous moving in of their residents. In either case, here in the Pacific Northwest the weather is turning toward the beautiful fall colors, cooler temperatures, and the time to implement our summer hopes has arrived; it’s the start of another academic year.

People, priorities, student culture, trending topics, and effective practices – all evolve as human nature does. I often tell my team that we deal with humans, and humans are messy and complicated and beautiful, and that’s our business in Student Affairs. So whether you’re experiencing change at the micro level: new student staff, maybe a new building placement; or at the macro level: a new Senior Administration team, changes in budget allocations, etc. – perhaps my external processing via this blog may help push your thoughts in different ways as you navigate your own changes as an #SAPro. My focus here is twofold: (1) how to deal with change as it affects you, and (2) how to handle the changes in your own role as you progress in your career.

It’s taken me several years in life to figure this tip out: I am not the center of everything. I know, I know… I can feel readers rolling their eyes at the screen – but I don’t mean this in a “generational stereotyping” way. It is natural for our first instinct with decisions and changes to be “how does this impact me?” and that’s a fine place to start. Don’t get stuck here. What I’ve tried to do is process how one might make that decision (that macro level scope), push past my own department even, “what would the impact of this have on this other department?” and how can our teams support each other (back into the micro vision)? Sure there can be frustration and even annoyance, but eventually get towards a place where you’re not at the center of it and are able to move back and see the connecting dots. Are there times when those macro decisions are made that impact you significantly without that having been considered – heck yes. Try to allow grace and come forward with feedback, but also solutions or alterations

What kind of supervisee am I being? As I am now firmly (re: fourth year) in the mid-level manager section of my career, I have been asking myself this a lot recently. With my boss being our Senior Housing Officer, and understanding the time commitments that they have, this puzzling reflection is often on my mind. When we discuss mid-level preparation it is focused on the supervision of professional staff. This of course is incredibly important, and a large piece of the job. A gap I’m starting to feel in my own changes and growth in my role is how to be supervised at this level. How do I shift my focus and continue my own preparation for the director level? What things are best saved for a 1:1 conversation? Does this decision affect other supervisors, and if yes, then maybe that’s better for our central team meetings. The supervisee I am as a mid-level manager cannot be the same one I was as an entry-level professional – I have different needs and wants from my career and much more perspective. The time I have with my boss each week – or sometimes every other week as schedules need to adapt – is limited, so I have to make it count. The questions I had at the micro level I maybe don’t have now, but more so because the scope of my role has grown to expound on the macro level decisions. The autonomy of my everyday decisions doesn’t only impact an RA staff and hall, but the assumed answer for everyone in the hall director position – another unforeseen change as I grow through the mid-level. This too has changed even from my first year as an Assistant Director to now my third year. I am of course more confident in my ability to answer questions and instead give updates on my staff. Spend a moment or two reflecting on how you approach those 1:1s with your supervisors. They are your time to get direct and individualized feedback and advice, so be sure to take (and ask for) what you are needing, and it is okay if that changes from week to week.

And now for a little Strengths Finder infusion…and a quick plug to find out your full 34 – my central team did that this summer and it has proven extremely enlightening and helpful for our weekly meetings. My view on sustaining through changing priorities within my department, division, and even university has certainly grown throughout my career. So too have the order of my top 5strengths in the assessment. In my early, entry-level hall director days, my Activator was somewhat impatient with the ‘exploring every option’ or awaiting trickle-down directions. Don’t get me wrong – I still struggle with the inaction that can happen within decision making. However, my view has widened to allow context and input (though still in my bottom strengths) as my administrative scope has expanded. Who we are in our first few years helps to shape our career for sure, but it doesn’t have to define it, nor should it prevent us from maturing and broadening our knowledge to be inclusive of the varying perspectives and experiences of our stakeholders. Again, where we start as professionals isn’t where we end up, as long as we learn from all the experiences, and change and grow from them.

I recently read a quote that has really stuck with me the past couple of weeks, and I thought it summed up my feelings about being too emotionally erupting for every decision within my institutions: “YOU CAN DO ANYTHING, BUT NOT EVERYTHING.” Now I don’t know who said that, or in what context it was taken from, but the message resonates with my – a sometimes-over-controlling-professional. I won’t limit myself, but I must understand my limits. This mindset has truly helped me to better adapt to changes and even within the unknown limbo that we all do so well with [insert winking emoji here]. So I hope that this rambling of a mid-level professional has helped in any small way as we all continue to work through and with changing environments and directives. Keep focused on your WHY and start broadening your HOW.

Take care and best of luck in your opening semesters/quarters!

Kate currently serves as the NWACUHO Communications Director and works as an Assistant Director for Residence Life at Washington State University. She can be reached at kgannon@wsu.edu

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Master Plan Decision Making

By Mike Porritt, Ed.D.

“I think we need a Master Plan – Now what? “:  Suggestions from a Consultant’s Perspective who has Been in Your Shoes

Deciding whether or not to pursue a master plan is among the most significant and impactful decisions a housing operation can make.  If done well, this will lead your decision-making and mission for a decade or more.  The cost can be significant and the scope will be broad in the best of circumstances.  Narrowing the scope with advanced planning can be a cost-saver to the institution as well as providing the opportunity to narrow the scope of the RFP and receive better bids from consultants.  As you can imagine, any responsible consultant will want to provide each client/campus with the best possible service because they want to do well for you.  They want to develop a long-term and positive relationship even if no other work is ever done.  The positive reference from a job well done is incredibly valuable for future work with other institutions.

Before the RFP:

Some of the most important items you can address BEFORE getting to a master plan decision are these:

  • Identify a few possible consultants that have worked with your colleagues and talk to them. You can gather advice (free of charge) about options and some things to consider specific to your situation.  Talking to at least two consultants will give different perspectives and you can identify similarities and differences that most connect to your situation.  Creating an RFP without talking to some of the potential consultants is an opportunity missed.  Consultants can also identify other institutions that are similar to your situation providing you more good resources.

Doing some pre-shopping and discussions about what is available will allow you to write a bid that is requesting exactly what you want.  Any good consultant will want to talk to you.  Of course, part of that desire is the consultant wanting to get your business and learn about what projects may be coming.  In addition, building positive relationships and being helpful matters to good consultants.  If they can help you to design a better proposal that will leave you happier with the resulting work, that is a positive for the consultant.  A good consultant does not mind this discussion if you are coming from an honest place of getting feedback and ideas for a project proposal.  An honest consultant is not looking to skew their advice for their own purposes just as an housing professional is not looking to “stack the deck” in an RFP towards a particular consultant but wanting to write the best RFP to get the best work.

  • Identify colleagues that have undergone the process and discuss the lessons learned from their experience. This is less of a reference call about any particular consultant and more about the experience of planning and what they learned that may assist your project.

Knowing that your colleagues can be a fountain of information is no surprise.  The key is to contextualize their advice to your situation.  What worked best for them may be of high value to your situation or it may not apply at all.  Listen carefully for those items that connect with your situation and for the general lessons you can apply to your specific situation.  A consultant might be able to direct you to institutions that are very similar to your context and have done projects.

  • When considering a master plan, is increasing capacity and/or doing significant renovations a near certainty or just one of the questions you want to have answered? This is a key item for having a narrow scope of services for your master plan RFP.  If you are unsure about new construction or significant renovations then you may be better served by doing a smaller project first.  If you are certain about needing more capacity and/or significant renovations and are looking to find out how much and what type to build along with the visioning, planning processes, costing and financial options involved then an RFP for a “full” master plan from the start may be more applicable.

Most consultants will put together prices that reflect a volume discount of services for a large project.  This can lead one to think that doing a master plan as one project will save money and be more efficient.  This can be true.  However, if you are not in a place where you can write a narrowly scoped RFP for a master plan the consultants must propose in such a way as to cover potential issues that may come up and prepare pricing in such a way as not to be left in a position of doing more work than was priced.  Writing a narrowly focused scope will leave the institution with better bids and lower prices.  For this reason, doing a student housing market demand analysis of your own campus and the off campus market can be a valuable exercise to do first.  You will end up with a report about your competition in the local market and significant feedback from your students and campus stakeholders about the current situation with your housing including the demand for new or renovated housing broken down by cohort, unit types and price ranges.

When the institution has the demand information in advance, it allows for the writing of an RFP for a master plan or a capital renewal plan that can be very specific in scope related to the need or lack of need for new capacity, preferred elements and information about the competition.  That specificity will lead to more focused bids from consultants that will be priced lower than they likely would have been for more open language.  For a campus that is unsure about demand issues and the local market, doing the market and demand analysis first will provide valuable information to write a tight RFP for a master plan.

The impact on timeline of separating the items does not need to lengthen the entire process if it is well planned.  One can often receive advanced approval for moving forward with the post-demand study project and the ‘leg work’ can be done early so that the second RFP can be put out more quickly.

When a campus that knows it needs more housing based on the combination of enrolment history and projection as well as institutional mission, doing a market demand analysis separately becomes less important.  If you are thinking, “what if we don’t know what we need to do?” – don’t worry.  Figuring out mission and vision is always part of doing a master plan.  If you have figured out the demand situation in advance you will often find that you have a much better picture already and the master planning and visioning process will be that much more productive.

Final notes:  Working with your procurement office, it is often possible to pre-arrange the element of asking clarification questions to the proponents after reading the bids prior to the evaluations.  If this element of the review is not included in advance, you may not be able to include it.  Having the chance to question the bidders about their proposals will allow you to make a more accurate evaluation.  If you are reading the proposals and have questions that are not reflective of a poorly done bid, it is very important to ask rather than assume!  Be willing to question items before you do the final evaluation so that you get the team that will fit your campus and provide you with a plan that will carry you forward in creating the best possible situation for your campus and its future students.

Mike Porritt is the Director of Advisory Services for The Scion Group in Canada. Based out of the Toronto area, Mike’s office works across Canada and Scion also has offices in Chicago, IL; Irvine, CA and Dallas, TX. Mike’s background includes stints as the Senior Housing Officer at McGill University and Trent University in Canada and also Winona State University in Minnesota. Professionally, Mike served a term on the OACUHO Executive Board, 3 years as a co-chair of the Canadian Senior Housing Officer Network and was involved in committee work in SEAHO and UMR-ACUHO. You can reach Mike at mporritt@thesciongroup.com

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