Hello all! Amizade Global Service-Learning reached out to me after our recent Winter Break program experience in Bolivia (described in my introductory blog here) to write a post-program piece. Please take the time to read the below reflection of this life-changing global experience. I can’t thank Slippery Rock University enough for organizing and engaging us students to learn and grow in such powerful ways.
Hello all! If you’re hoping to call me or hang out in person soon, you may want to wait until after the 19th of this month. I will soon be traveling to Cochabamba, Bolivia to participate in a service-learning experience with students and staff at Slippery Rock. I’m very excited to go abroad once again (I studied abroad in Spain five years ago) and to support a long-term project in a Latin American community.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Who are you going with? And how long will the program be? I am going with staff members and student leaders within SRU’s Office for Community-Engaged Learning as well as other undergraduate students at Slippery Rock. Our team of 12 is getting ready for the upcoming altitude shift (over 7,000 feet!). The trip should be a little over two weeks and I’ll be staying with a Bolivian family via homestay.
Who put this on? This international alternative break is a joint partnership between SRU’s Office of Community-Engaged Learning (OCEL) and the Pittsburgh-based non-profit, Amizade Global Service-Learning. OCEL is the hub for student volunteerism and civic engagement on campus. Throughout the Fall and Spring semesters, OCEL leads long-term service projects within Butler county and the Pittsburgh area as well as short domestic Alternative Breaks during short breaks. One framework that they abide by for their projects is Place as Context; Service-Learning as Strategy; Civic Engagement as the Goal. Below is more detail about their alternative break programming:
The Office for Community-Engaged Learning develops alternative breaks for students to learn about partner communities through the lens of direct service. The knowledge gained through service and pre-departure education will serve as context as students confront the social issues of the partner communities, unpack personal responsibility regarding these issues, and create a plan to continuously address these issues to create positive social change.
Amizade, which means ‘friendship’ in Portuguese, is has been hosting service-learning experiences in multiple countries (including the United States) for 20 years. One important aspect of their work is their focus on Fair Trade Learning, based on the move toward fair trade labor in developing countries. Overall, they focus on how service should be reciprocal and beneficial to all parties participating; they don’t just focus on American students “feeling good” about their service but helping students reflect meaningfully on their global citizenship while providing members of the community served with their own professional development and adequate compensation. Learn more about their work in Bolivia here: https://amizade.org/site/bolivia/
What are you doing there? Part of our days will be service for a local primary or secondary school in Cochabamba, which will include construction. We will then return to our homestay families for the largest meal of the day, lunch, and family time. Every day our team will participate in whole group reflections focusing on our impact, our cultural transitions, and group dynamics. Some days we may travel to a nearby city or go salsa dancing at night, or go to church with our families. I’m
How did you prepare for this experience? There were some logistical pieces like getting my passport ready, getting a few vaccines, and filling out some forms but with a few months of prep time during the semester, it worked out well. One great part of the program was our monthly pre-departure programs touching on topics such as site specific, group dynamics and member roles, cultural humility, and community development through Fair Trade Learning.
Goals: I want to be as flexible as possible during this trip so I’m hesitant to make goals that are too specific, especially before I better understand that context of our service and stay. However, I do have some hopes that I’d like to share below that I will further reflect on when I get back (and through a new post!):
- As one of the four members of our trip who know Spanish, I hope that through this experience I can be less shy speaking the language. I’m excited to be able to connect to my homestay family and learn more about their lives and help my teammates connect as well.
- One of the main reasons I joined our team for this trip was because I wanted to learn more about service-learning and it’s function within higher education, first-hand. Last Spring, I interviewed our site leader, Jeffrey Rathlef, regarding his role as Director of Community-Engaged Learning about this functional area. Through this interview, I gained insight into theories such as Simon Sinek’s ‘Start With Why’, David Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle, and civic engagement associations such as Campus Compact. I hope through this trip that I can see these models in action and see where I can apply them once I’m back on Slippery Rock’s campus.
3. I will (not hope to!) commit myself to journaling and documenting my thoughts, feelings, unique experiences, and cultural observations during my two weeks abroad. I previously studied abroad in Spain for the summer after my first-year in undergrad and so appreciate the blogs that I wrote my my family and friends. I now realize that I also wrote them to myself, giving myself a glimpse of who I was then and reflections on how hard the transition was at first. I hope it’s a little easier for me now five years later.
4. After the program, program participants and member of the SRU administration will attend a re-entry dinner where we present about our unique experiences. I’m excited to have to opportunity to share what we’ve learned and leave something for future participants in programs like this. Though I’ll be graduating in May, I hope that I can further educate about Amizade’s mission and service-learning to my cohort mates.
Follow along my journey via my Twitter account. I’ll see if I can tweet out pictures and experiences after our long days! I will be keeping a journal of my travel experiences and I’ll be sure to post the highlights before the end of the month. I’ll see y’all again when school starts!
Bonus! Slippery Rock University has posted an article about our trip here: SRU group to practice fair-trade learning during service trip to Bolivia
Author note: Hello all, this is a repost of a blog that I wrote for the NASPA New Professionals and Graduate Students Knowledge Community. The original posting can be found here: https://www.naspa.org/constituent-groups/posts/student-affairs-twitter-resource-guide-2-creating-and-curating-your-unique
Hello again members of the Student Affairs profession! Welcome to the second iteration of the Student Affairs Twitter Resource Guide! If you have not read my first blog on this topic where I highlight tips on how to start your Student Affairs Twitter journey, check it out here first. Since the first publishing, I’ve added a section where I include more first follows, hashtags, and chats to participate in. As always, please feel free to comment with suggestions on other hashtags, chats, resources, and tips as well as questions about the platform!
The premise of this follow-up blog is this: “I’ve started my Twitter and engaged a bit, what now?” While the previous blog focused on starting your presence on Twitter, this blog will focus more on active engagement strategies and maximizing your brand on this social media platform. “Can’t Student Affairs be my brand?” Yes and no. Student Affairs more than likely is a differentiating factor between yourself and most users on Twitter, but not within the field. I hope through this blog readers can bridge the move from using Twitter passively to curating content to promote your specific brand within Student Affairs!
After presenting about Student Affairs Twitter at a regional Resident Assistants conference, the most popular questions revolved around the lists feature. On Twitter, you can group multiple accounts in a list that you give a name and description. With the list open, you’ll have a curated feed of specific Twitter accounts, their original tweets and tweets they retweet. Often these lists are created by folks who want to gauge how many individuals on Twitter are engaged in a specific topic. Earlier in the year, I was added to a ‘Higher Education Social Media’ list due to my interest in the topic, all my tweets featured amongst others that tend to revolved around that specific subject matter. All users can create a list and add other users manually via their profiles.
One important aspect of creating lists is the ability to create feeds about specific topics or from accounts related to your goals. This strategy is important in getting started with sharing and adding your voice to curated content. For example in my role as the Master’s level Graduate Intern for NASPA this past summer, I created lists for the NASPA Divisions and Groups, Knowledge Communities, and Regions via the @NASPAInterns account: https://twitter.com/NASPAInterns/lists. A couple times a week, I’ll browse through these lists to retweet relevant blogs and promote educational initiatives and opportunities that come from the staff and volunteers at NASPA.
For instructions and more details on creating lists: https://support.twitter.com/articles/76460
Make Twitter a Routine
If you’re serious about using Twitter as another avenue for professional development and for name recognition, try a few of these tips to stay current and active the platform regularly:
- Set Twitter activity goals. Why are you on Twitter? To directly chat with professionals you admire, to gain a sense of community outside of your campus, to find the latest blogs and share them with colleagues? These focuses all direct the type of content you create and promote and how often you do. As stated in first blog, posting more than once a day on Twitter is normal and often encouraged! Try tweeting three times a week: two original tweets and one retweet, and see how that feels. Are you connecting with folks? Are you learning more about the field as you scroll through your feed? Gauge your successes regularly and update your goals as you meet them!
- Check Twitter every day. I’ve recently stumbled upon this great article on how professionals can use LinkedIn at least 15 minutes a week to maintain their activity. Great insights include making sure to like and comment on people’s statuses (especially if you’re hoping to maintain a relationship with them and reach out more meaningfully in the future) and spot-checking your profile for typos and incongruencies with your brand. What else can you apply from this article to your Twitter game?
- Don’t want to tweet every day? Schedule them out! Try an app or website (I use Tweetdeck for example) that allows you to schedule pre-written tweets. Though scheduling is helpful with remaining active, you’ll still want to check the platform every once in a while to reply to others, to remain updated with local and national news that you may want to learn about and respond to, and be sure that any scheduled tweets do not go out on unfortunate times. There are some horror stories of innocuous tweets coming out during times where they contextually read as offensive. For example, a weekly Friday joke may look different if the tone for the day is somber after a national tragedy. Overall, a good mix of scheduled tweets and in the moment tweeting helps make the platform less time-consuming to use while also looking fresh and active. Here’s an informative article on balancing scheduling more generalized content and in-the-moment tweets.
- Ride the Trending Wave. Every day, on both the website and the mobile app, Twitter will highlight trending hashtags and topics for the day. These insights allow members to celebrate fun and informal holidays such as #NationalCoffeeDay (September 29th) and connect that lightheartedness to your company, department, or personal/professional brand. They also ensure that your content is being pushed out to large crowds on the site, helping you engage with new people. Twitter also provides hashtags for your region which can key you into what topics are most salient for folks living around you. For example, #NASPA17 was trending in San Antonio during the conference!
Your Own Voice
One defining trait that distinguishes you from HAVING a Twitter and USING the platform is sharing your unique voice, not only reaffirming the voices of others. This is where one’s unique Student Affairs branding truly starts. What distinguishes me as a Diversity and Inclusion professional (or ResLife, or Service Learning, etc. from professionals in other areas? What areas of expertise have I been honing in my work that I have research to back up and opinions that I’ve formed? Don’t just follow people and pages that resonate with your interests, but also contribute to the knowledge shared!
- Giving a name to your brand. First, if you aren’t 100% sure on what exactly your brand is, don’t let that stop you from engaging online. As you engage, you gain exposure to how others invent and reinvent themselves which can hopefully help you gain insight on what makes you unique! To start thinking about what your brand is, ask friends and colleagues what helps make you unique. Perhaps your penchant for writing and research could help you brand in a different way than your commitment to infusing humor and pun-making into your work. Both are valid aspects of the self that you could focus on that help you distinguish yourself. This is an area that I’m working on too!
- Balancing personal and professional tweets. For those who wish to not keep two separate Twitter accounts for the personal and professional, thinking about how you wish to balance these spheres is important! For example, more personal posting is more likely to gain engagement from folks that you know in-person while focusing on the professional usually connects you to others in the field. There is no perfect formula or percentage breakdown for success in this balance. Thinking again to the brand you wish to present, what balance works best? For example, in my case as a second-year graduate student, my more personal posts (like about a hard week or hearing the ice cream truck near my apartment) are more likely to expected due to my student status. Additionally, it’s important to showcase your personality and your interests outside of Higher Education. Interest groups like Student Affairs Runners wouldn’t have come about if everyone engaged only about the field!
- Own your knowledge! Don’t be afraid to nerd out a little bit in 140 characters (or 280 if you have that now!) Find accounts and chats related to your expertise and share it. For example, there are hashtags who folks who share expertise on being a professor, on content writing, on alumni services, etc.
- Own your learning! Twitter chats are a great place to find out what you don’t know and use the collective to help you find resources to further educate yourself. You can use a tweet to ask a question or use Twitter polls as an engaging way to gain public opinion on a topic. Asking a question every once in a while doesn’t make your brand ‘Doesn’t know things.’ Instead, it allows you another way to engage with your followers and continue your learning.
- Don’t only retweet! If an article or blog shared by another personal resonates with you, don’t just reshare it! Quote the tweet with your opinion, with a suggestion, with a quote in it that stuck out to you and why, with an opposing stance, etc. Use this space to also share your original content. This may be photos that you take, a blog that you have recently posted on your website, an article that you were mentioned in, etc. All of these pieces of content help establish you as a contributor of knowledge.
Give Your Notifications Some Attention
Twitter has started sending out more notification types lately, some more arguably ‘annoying’ than others. Why would I want to know if someone has started tweeting again? Or that five people I follow are chatting about a specific hashtag? Though these notifications may push to your phone more than once a day, these are useful insights if you act on them within the day!
- A person you follow just started tweeting again? Tweet at them or message them welcoming them back to Twitter! They may follow you after you connect with them and that may encourage them to continue participating
- Folks you follow are tweeting about #SAChat or #TuesdayThoughts? Check out the conversations and see if you can contribute! Participating in these hot topics can help you get noticed and help you stay current in the field and with local and national news.
- General notifications. It’s tempting to turn off your notifications as a whole, especially during a highly-attended Twitter chat, but don’t turn them off long-term! It’s important to engage with folks on the platform while they’re on it. And like above, seeing what your notifications are and the types of posts that your followers and others are engaging with are useful bits of information for future post making.
Practice Makes Perfect!
Promoting yourself as a brand is difficult. Sometimes it’s hard starting off without a mission and vision statement about yourself. It’s often easier to read up on and embody the values and brand of an organization that you run or a department that you serve in. And often, by tweeting through another account, you can learn what works with the populations you’re trying to engage and how to transfer those skills to you personal account! Here are some ways that you can continue to gain social media experience.
- Find opportunities to moderate a Twitter chat. Moderating a Twitter chat is tough work. You need to have the questions prepared, the chat well-advertised beforehand, and skills in facilitating dialogue about tough conversations. However, these skills can be taught! Historically, the Student Affairs Collective has had volunteers who take turns to “MOD” their weekly chats. As the opportunities are open, they should share them out! Additionally, every Spring the #SAGrad chat looks for a new moderator. Keep on the lookout for these opportunities if available!
- Be Their Guest. Some Twitter chats are looking for guests to help co-moderate a chat and provide their expertise in a subject area. @BlogElevated does a great job of partnering with marketing experts and corporate partners to broaden and deepen the scopes of their chats.
- Twitter Takeovers anyone? I have had the opportunity to engage in a Student Twitter Takeover during my first year of graduate school. Slippery Rock University allows students of all years, majors, and backgrounds to apply to take over the @srustudents Twitter account for a week during the semester. I used my run as the Twitter takeover student to educate about entering the field of student affairs, chat about what it’s like as a graduate student, and to promote a networking night that I was hosting with Student Affairs Professionals on-campus. I learned a lot about patterns of Twitter usage from students, how to pre-write my tweets in advance so that I had content, and how to hone my student voice in order to relate more to undergraduate students.
Twitter seems like a lot of work, huh? It definitely can be if you try to do everything all at once. However, a little work every day (or most days) can help you develop a unique voice in the field. Engaging in Twitter and using it to create and promote your brand can pay off in views to your content such as blog posts or your LinkedIn. Standardizing your engagement can also pay off in the relationships that you build and maintain through the website and find yourself a community of supporters in our profession. The opportunities available to demonstrate your expertise and to learn will hopefully bring you back regularly. This openness to a non-traditional form of professional development and education can certainly kick start your brand from the start!
Introduction to Placemaking
The environments in which we develop and learn are often more active factors in the way we develop and learn than we initially imagine. The university as a physical place of learning has a lot of merit yet is becoming more critiqued, especially as the growth of online learning inherently places pressures on the on-campus experience. Will we continue to need physical campuses when we can instead learn online? This question has been the spark of numerous debates, opinion pieces, and research proposals. What makes a physical university a place of learning?
Within the higher education environments literature, the concept of placemaking helps answer the above question. “Placemaking is about the creation, transformation, maintenance, and renovation of places we inhabit (Schneekloth & Shibley, 1995).” These places often include the “buildings, landscapes, and circulation systems…” that we act upon and are acted upon daily. The question that guides this piece is how does Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, use placemaking to establish itself as a place of learning that aligns with the values it puts forth? As we dive into this question, we must first examine the vision and mission of this institution of learning.
Carnegie Mellon University Vision and Mission Statements
The above vision and mission statements mainly focus on the following principles that CMU hopes that their education fosters in each student: transformation, research, creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Environmentally, they claim to “[create] a collaborative environment open to the free exchange of ideas” where the above principles can flourish. Lastly, and still speaking to their physical environment, they hope to “[engage] with partners outside the traditional border of the university campus.” This may look like cross-university partnerships, partnerships with organizations and events such as the Tony Awards®, and even more locally, engaging with City of Pittsburgh. Though this project, I will next examine five pieces of evidence I collected where I found CMU to uphold and ignore aspects of placemaking as it relates to their vision and mission statements.
For the past few years and in alignment with their 2025 Strategic Plan ‘Ecology of Infrastructure’ section, Carnegie Mellon has been investing their resources into creating new learning and living centers on campus. The Tepper Quad, expected to be open by May 2018, will host “a cutting edge technology-enhanced learning center, a new home for CMU’s Tepper School of Business, a new visitor center, and collaboration, meeting, dining, and fitness spaces for use by the entire university community.” As a former undergraduate student from 2012-2016, CMU was consistently in a building and rebuilding period, closing off parts of campus for a short time to re-open with enhanced spaces and up-to-date technology.
Investing in campus spaces does not only mean building new ones. An important aspect of placemaking is the renovation and maintenance of spaces that are currently utilized. The introduction of the Makerspaces in the Morewood Gardens residence hall not only transforms these study spaces but also ties into Carnegie Mellon’s goal to promote innovation and collaborative problem-solving not only in the classroom. These 24/7 accessible spaces include power drills and soldering equipment, dress forms for making and displaying clothing, and a laser cutter.
Evidence #3 and Evidence #4
The expansion of the Cohon University Center, completed in May 2016, included the incorporation of a new fitness facility on the first and second floors as well as a new study space, aptly named the Collaborative Commons, and a graduate student lounge on the third floor. By developing more spaces for both personal health and well-being and more study spaces, both requests by the larger student body, the university is not only saying that student voice matters in the creation and renovation of spaces, but also shows it.
When walking past the ArtPark during this project (and for the thousandth time since I enrolled at CMU), I tried to remember the last time that it was used for a performance art piece as intended. Since my attendance at the institution, I believe I saw one demonstration hosted in this space. As further evidenced by the lack of updates on the ArtPark page on the CMU website (as of September 2017), a critical view of the lack of maintenance of this space can be seen as a lack of university importance for what this space means – the importance of public art on/near campus property. However, as a university well-known for their School of Drama and overarching College of Fine Arts, it’s more than likely that the ArtPark has dropped down the list of priorities when it comes to promoting artistic expression. In fact, The Frame Gallery on Margaret Morrison street has been steadily increasing in the number of shows they’ve hosted and attendance at these shows. The importance of public art and artistic expression is not unimportant, yet this function “outside the traditional border of the university campus” is does not seem to be well-attended right on the border of the university.
Overall, Carnegie Mellon’s focus on innovation, student spaces for personal health and well-being, and spaces for research are highly supported by the creation of new buildings, renovations of the centralized Cohon University Center, and the focus on making these updates with the student voices and needs in mind. There may be more to be desired in landscapes such as the deserted ArtPark but I am hopeful through the 2025 Strategic Plan, specifically where the development of the ACTIVATE program seeks to “create spaces, structures, and resources for interdisciplinary research and teaching that lead to some form of social change and/or raise awareness on topics such as immigration, public health, sustainability… among others” is detailed, that these renovations will continue to uphold and honor the vision and mission of this institution. With this said, I do believe that this physical university is working to maintain their functionalities, is aligning with their values and goals, and are successful in embedding these values onto their students and alumni.
Strange, C.C. & Banning, J.H. (2015). Designing for Learning: Creating campus environments for student success (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
This post is based on an assignment for the Spring 2017 section of ‘Higher Education Environments, Cultures, Students’ taught by Dr. Stacy A. Jacob at Slippery Rock University. She can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @stacyajacob.
This past spring as I was applying and interviewing for summer internships, I wanted to find a position that would allow me to distinguish myself as a professional with experiences both in and adjacent to the campus environment. As these interviews went from the first to second rounds, I realized that the pull of interning in a more generalist higher education space was where I needed to be to grow into a more dynamic professional. During this summer internship period in Washington, D.C. at the NASPA Central Office, gained a macro-level view of the function of student affairs and our role within higher education as a whole. I was also able to compare and contrast the values, environment, and structure of this association to the campuses that I’ve attended and worked at. Below are my observations on NASPA University!
Mission and Values
NASPA seeks “to be the principal source of leadership, scholarship, professional development, and advocacy for student affairs” by serving “a full range of professionals who provide programs, experiences, and services that cultivate student learning and success in concert with the mission of our colleges and universities.” NASPA indirectly touches the lives of the students that professionals work with daily, helping them gain skills and relevant, up-to-date knowledge on how to serve them. When thinking to the model of a university, I’d say that NASPA members are like the students at the university, gaining the practical knowledge needed to do the best work for the campus community. NASPA is an educational place, for graduate students, practitioners, researchers, and policymakers, and as we invest in professional development, we invest in all who we work with and serve+.
Locations and Spaces
NASPA’s “main campus” exists in the Central Office located in Washington, D.C. The association additionally has “branch campuses” in Denver where our BACCHUS Initiatives are housed as well as the multiple locations across the country where NASPA staff members work remotely. NASPA also extends their online ‘campus’ component to their constantly updated blog and constituent contributions and the many online tools that connect the team together. As NASPA continues to make its mark online, this placement mirrors the growing number of online learners who attend classes virtually.
Office Structure and Roles
The office structure and roles at NASPA often mirror those of on-campus Student Affairs offices. As illustrated on the NASPA Staff page, the organization is lead by a President and three Vice Presidents for the three overall organizational divisions at NASPA: Professional Development, Operations, and Research and Policy. Under these auspices are the directors for various departments, their assistant directors, often times a departmental assistant, and interns.
Member and Student Interaction
Throughout the year, NASPA hosts multiple work-study students from neighboring universities who aid in departmental work in accounting, membership, educational programs, and in research and policy. And of course, during the summer NASPA hosts graduate, undergraduate, and high school interns that work with full-time staff members to create and deliver well-rounded services to 16,000 members and counting. Though students aren’t always buzzing around NASPA’s office on the daily, our association still has direct connections with students through the NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program (NUFP), the Graduate Associate Program (GAP), and the New Professionals and Graduate Students Knowledge Community (NPGS KC). In addition, if you find yourself in the DC area during the summer, NASPA hosts an open house and rooftop reception!
For members, NASPA’s Constituent Groups (such as the Divisions, Regions & Areas, Knowledge Communities) serve like majors and ‘student’ organizations on a campus, bringing together people through content interests and identity affiliations. These co-curricular and often digital spaces allow us to transcend our physical campuses, if only for a little while, to gauge best practices for students and for ourselves.
Staffing the joint-located Closing the Achievement Gap and Symposium on Financial Well-being conferences with NUFP Intern, Thalia
Having the privilege of serving as the 2017 NASPA Summer Graduate Intern allowed me to have a myriad of unique experiences, ones that I may not have had if I had interned on a campus. From staffing a 500 person joint-located conference, to planning and translating a national social media campaign centered around our field’s progression, many of these learning moments and opportunities for me to grow were unique to a higher education association. I challenge all incoming and current graduate students to think of the multiple spaces adjacent to the campus environment and to think how their degree can often translate far past a campus. As my supervisor Lucy explained in one of our last meetings, our degrees are often focused on the training and development of young people, skills which can easily be used on campus, in various non-profits, and even for-profits! Look for the spaces that excite you, that bring you toward new experiences, and that will challenge and push you. I did and I’m thankful for graduating from NASPA U!