Metaphorically & Literally: Shaking Up Student Affairs Through A New Leadership Lens

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Brandon Ishikata

May 2, 2018

From Loyola University Chicago (LUC) President Jo Ann Rooney to international LUC celebrity Sister Jean Delores-Schmidt from the Sweet 16 March Madness craze, I have been told to live out my graduate institution’s powerful theme and a famous quote from founder St. Ignatius of Loyola, “Go forth, and set the world on fire.” The past two years as a graduate student at LUC have challenged me to rethink how I support students through a Jesuit-Catholic lens and how I can live out my authentic values. After reflecting on the quote, it made me think. How am I setting the world on fire while simultaneously being my whole self within student affairs? As a dancer, choreographer, and instructor, I have always wanted to see if student affairs and Latin/ballroom dance could be a combined discipline to reshape new methods of leadership and student development.

During the NASPA Philadelphia conference this year, I was determined to attend sessions and meet other professionals who shared a common creative spark. When attending the session entitled, “Exploring a Research Based Approach to Creative Leadership Practice”, by Dr. Colin Stewart, Dr. Brandon Common, and Mr. Jeffery Rosenberry, the light bulb immediately came on. Through an improvisation theater game approach, I was immediately hooked by the presenters enthusiasm, energy, and excitement for combining two disciplines. As an artist with a previous theater background, I immediately understood the parallels between the two fields. Thinking on your feet in the “Say Yes, and” activity made me think of my on call duty response as a residence life staff member. The “Connections” game reminded me of my one on one conversations with my student leaders and how I could find that common ground between our two different lives. The connections were clear and I had this glimmer of hope seeing how arts based practices could help our field prosper in new innovative ways.

Towards the end of the presentation, two lessons clicked with me- being comfortable with failure and build up other creatives in the field. As a dancer, I have faced rejection and have been disappointed when I did not make the cut. I have also experience the time when I felt like giving up on a dance because it was too difficult. With presentations from Stewart, Common, and Rosenberry, Knowledge Communities like the Student Leadership Programs, and legendary professionals such as Dr. Susan Komvies, I learned that I should not be afraid of innovation and the failure. Instead, I should take my diverse experiences and “shake up” the student affairs field metaphorically and literally with Latin/ballroom dance.

As NASPA rang into its 100th Anniversary in Philadelphia, PA, the energy and excitement of the centennial celebration filled the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Not only did the annual conference energize me in building community with professionals across the globe, I left

Philadelphia with an firey feeling and new determination- to set the world of student affairs on fire through four numbers- 5-6-7-8!  

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