The Invisible Force

naspa avp steering committee

Darryl B. Holloman

May 16, 2017

I was pulled this way and that for longer than I can remember.  And my problem was that I always tried to go in everyone’s way but my own.  I have also been called one thing and then another while no one really wished to hear what I called myself.  So after years of trying to adopt the opinions of others I finally rebelled.  I am an invisible man.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Ralph Ellison, Invisible man

As an English major in college I learned to appreciate various forms of literary expressions; however, one of my favorite genres was mid-century American Literature.  The above quote is from one of my favorite authors, Ralph Ellison.  In Ellison’s Invisible Man, the protagonist grapples with being a man of color navigating a segregated society.  The protagonist’s primary contention was his belief that his contributions to mankind were unnoticed, and so, as an affect he decides to live his life as an invisible person.  I thought about this novel as I prepared to write this piece because life in the role of an AVP may at times feel similar.  As AVPs, we are often responding to various entities.  We are either toggling between the needs of our staff and their interactions with our students.  We are the mediators between student focused policies and our University Senate committees.  We may be the negotiators between Vice Presidents, our own and others, and the student body.  Increasingly, we are called upon to implement state legislation to the entire campus. 

Whatever the “go-between” there are often moments where we may feel lost, scared, confused, frustrated, or just down right tired!  Invisibility, in and of itself, is a transcendental state because there are times that it takes you beyond a purposeful senses of reality.  Invisibility is often obscure so it gives an illusion of being hidden within the shadows.  In short, invisibility can make you feel unimportant.  Invisibility makes you feel alone.  Ellison continues, “All dreamers and sleepwalkers must pay the price, and even the invisible victim is responsible for the fate of all.”  I am sure, like myself, many of you have had one heck of a semester!  We have faced challenges or events that seem insurmountable, but we must remember in our roles that we can never become the invisible victim.  Our roles demand that we remember our responsibilities to the fate of all those constituents who need us, who rely on us, who depend on us.

 I will be the first to admit that this was a challenging year for me professionally as well as personally.  As I sat on the dais during Spring Commencement, however, I was reminded 3,000 times over as each student walked across the stage why I do the work that I do - whether that work appears visible or not.  I realized that Ellison’s work also reminds us, even during moments of invisibility, to love the light.  He muses, “Perhaps you’ll think it strange that an invisible man should need light, desire light, love light.  But maybe it is exactly because I am invisible.  Light confirms my reality, give birth to my form.”  With that reminder, I am gearing up to continue to embrace the light, as I prepare for another great year!  I am meeting with my staff during the summer to solidify our assessment efforts to support Georgia State University’s commitment to student success.  I am preparing to speak to the bright new faces that come through our new student orientation.  I am serving for my second year on the faculty of the NASPA’s MLAC.  I am participating in all these wonderful things that feed my professional and personal light.

 As we advance into another year, I leave you with Ellison’s parting words, “No indeed, the world is just as concrete, ornery, vile and sublimely wonderful as before, only now I better understand my relation to it and it to me.”  On that note, colleagues, have a wonderful summer!  Spend as much of it in the light as you possibly can!  It helps those invisible moments that inhibit our actions. 

Now can you guys help me decide whether I should spend my summer at the beach or the mountains?  Email me your vote at [email protected](SMILE)

Lightly yours,


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