August 29, 2017
So, here I am writing a blog. It is not something that I would normally do, but I was invited and encouraged to contribute, so here it goes. For whatever reason, writing a blog seems so “millennial-like” – kind of like a selfie, which I don’t generally take. I’ve always wondered: why would people outside my daily circle of face-to-face contacts care about what I was doing or what I thought or what I looked like at any given moment? I don’t post very much on Facebook or Instagram and only do so when it is job-related. I rarely tweet and I’ve never Snapchatted (although I do know what a “streak” is).
So, how does an old AVP like me “survive” and “stay in touch” in this age of what I will call “social media millennialism”? The answer to that question is: “I’m not sure.” That being said, here are a few things that might shed some light on keeping up.
1. I do tend to use social media to the extent I feel I must. In many ways, that is getting more challenging on a daily basis. I, of course, read the student newspaper every day, mainly on line, as it is no longer available in hard copy on a daily basis. I also read the various campus journals, magazines, newsletters and other publications on campus, as being in the know about the institution is important. Although there is a great deal of specialization in Student Affairs, I have found that being a generalist and embracing the entire campus is much more effective.
2. When I exercise (which is usually every day), I go to the gym on campus. Several folks over the years have suggested that this is a direct route to burnout, as you never get away from students and colleagues. For me, this has been another way to stay in touch and be in the know. Today’s campus gym/fitness center is like the barber shop or beauty salon of the past, where interesting “news” tended to be shared. I find that it is the one place where students are more inclined to remove their earbuds and talk; maybe it’s just an excuse for them to take a break from their workout. Regardless of the motivation, being in the gym with the students may put us in a more approachable (and humbling and vulnerable) position and we might learn something we would have never known otherwise.
3. Four years ago, I decided to participate in a faculty-in-residence program and live in a freshman residence hall. When I moved in, a student immediately asked me, “why would a woman of your age want to live with a bunch of 17 and 18 year-olds?” I appreciated her straight-forward question and it did make me chuckle. I told her that I worked in Student Affairs and was responsible for a number of student-related services and programs on campus. “What better way for me to truly understand students than to live with them?”, I asked her. I will be starting my fifth year living with 200 freshmen in about 3 weeks. It takes enormous energy to fully engage in this residential setting, but I love it and hope to continue doing it for a few more years. I am getting a bit tired of baking brownies!
4. I still call students on the phone and ask them to meet with me in person or join me for a meal. I refuse to completely succumb to texting and email, as the power of the human voice cannot be denied or overlooked. And, in spite of the impact of social media and technology on relationships, food continues to be a great connector.
I’m old and only getting older, but I’m not quite ready to be “put out to pasture.” And, maybe, when all is said and done, the “generation gap” and other challenges created by social media and technology really aren’t significantly different from what we were dealing with on college campuses 50 years ago.
Joe Friday and Bill Gannon of Dragnet-fame were wise men. Check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5pe7z_X4mA
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