Friday, August 31, 2012

August always makes me wonder why I do this job.  Every year I swear that August in higher ed might not be worth it.  This is especially true of Res Life in New York City.

It's always something.

For years, I did leadership retreats and new student orientations and opening days and managed to put together a syllabus.  (Side note: who decided it was a good idea to let me teach classes?)  I thought August was always a little hectic.  Then I moved to New York and started working in Res Life.  (Other side note: why didn't any of my Res Life friends tell me?)  And people, you just would not believe the stuff that happens in these residence halls in this quiet little corner of the Upper West Side.  Of course, I can never blog about any of those stories.  But buy me a cupcake or something and maybe we can talk.

So anyways...August.

Last August, after living in New York for all of three weeks, there was an earthquake and major hurricane all in one week.  That one week happened to be RA training and student move-in.  Now, being an Okie who loves storms and thunder (the kind from the sky and the kind with a basketball) and natural disasters, I can look back and say that the hurricane was absolutely one of the most fun things about my first year living in New York.  But still, it made for an interesting twist on an already insane time of the year.

So of course, there was this August.  Unrelated to my job, I had that not-so-minor certification exam business to conquer.  No big deal.  I started training the next day to prepare for a new academic year.  All in all, work has been really great since I returned and I truly love the people I get to work with everyday.  But still...RA training rolled around and there was a fire in my building.  And then the day new student orientation programs started a few days later, a first year student took her life on campus, sending shock waves through the whole Columbia community.  We had spent the weeks prior talking as a professional staff and with our student staff about how to respond to mental health issues and potential suicide threats.  I spent a good part of this week helping my RA staff understand and process this tragedy and think about how to help their residents.  Move-in starts tomorrow.  Yikesabee.

And yes, I love higher ed and mark my professional life by those rare, sometimes too few-and-far-between instances when I feel like it actually matters. (Not that ice cream socials and room checks don't matter, but you know.)  And I can say with confidence that this was my last August in Res Life.  I am too old for this business people...although I'm sure I have a lifetime of crazy Augusts left to experience.  Who knows where I'll be living and working and etc. next August...suggestions, anyone?

All I'm saying is that September and quieter days cannot come fast enough.  September always was my favorite month...and there is definitely a lot to look forward to in the coming months.

And besides, don't you just love New York in the fall?

Caps for Sale

Thursday, August 30, 2012

People.  You know that whole, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten business?  It's totally true.  It is not the smart sounding stuff I talk about at Columbia.  It's way more basic than that.

Now, you should know that Baby Sister teaches preschool in Kansas.  So children's books are a big deal in our family.  Plus, they're just way more fun than grown up books.  My two favorite children's books are Eloise and Caps for Sale.  If you don't know it, Eloise is the story of a little girl who lives in the Plaza Hotel in New York City.  No wonder I was so obsessed.  But I absolutely love Caps for Sale.  Don't know the story?  Well, obviously you're probably at work wasting time, so here's a reading of the story to fill another six minutes of your day, complete with the funny voices.

Baby Sister's favorite book?  Don't Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus.  There's a whole pigeon series.  I'm pretty sure we have all of them.  Here's the story for your viewing pleasure.

Now, just to throw it out there, I found this addition to the series in a New York bookstore this week.

But that's not what this blog is about.  Not even going there, people.

So where am I going with this?  Other than giving you a nice little distraction from that project you don't want to do?  All my higher ed friends know that student affairs, or any job in university life, is notorious for this one tiny little line at the end of our job descriptions: "other duties as assigned."  Those four words strike fear in the hearts of any good higher ed professional, because you just never know what your boss's boss will manage to include that you never knew you were assigned.  In my experience, other duties as assigned typical represent a whole entire other full time job.  Other duties as assigned is never good people.

Sure, we consider ourselves professionals and the rest of the world just thinks we never left college.  Student affairs people wear a lot of hats and do a lot of different things in any given day.  Get where we're going here?  Hats?  Caps for Sale?  Yep.

Take the last few hours of my work life.  In the three days, I have worked 30 hours and managed to wear the following hats:

  • Teacher
  • Leadership Trainer/Coach
  • Event Planner
  • Personal Counselor for a variety of issues (big and small)
  • Locksmith (don't even ask)
  • Academic Adviser
  • Group Therapist in the wake of a student suicide during our orientation programs
  • Liaison between students and administration
  • Policy Interpreter in light of housing crisis/shortage three days before students move in
  • Apartment Manager
And that's not including my fire safety gig from last week or tonight's anticipated medical/psychological first responder type person (prayers for a quiet night please).  All in a day in higher ed.  Lots of hats.  

But I'm just saying people...  Caps for Sale.  Selling to any interested party for a super cheap discounted rate.  Anyone want to buy? 

Seize The Day

Friday, August 24, 2012

So here's the deal.  Sometimes my job/life is super intellectual and academic and Ivy League smart sounding.  Sometimes it resembles something more like Baby Sister's life in early childhood education, with bulletin boards and art projects and snack time.  Snack time is important no matter how old you are.  For the last seven days, we've been nonstop RA training for the new academic year...lots of talks about crisis management and building community and other good things.  Lots of sitting in classrooms and group work.  So today was the best...because today was field trip day!  Oh my goodness...field trip day is always the best day.  

I spent a good week torturing my RAs about our mystery retreat location.  You should have heard their version of what was going to happen.  Helicopters and pedicures and paint ball games were all on their potential list.  Wrong, kids.  We hopped the M4 bus from Columbia to Washington Heights/Inwood (the northern tip of Manhattan) to visit The Cloisters.  It's this super cool medieval castle type situation built by the Rockefellers and is now a museum.  Check it out...    

After our museum tour, we wandered through Fort Tyron Park and Washington Heights for lunch at La Marina, this brand new waterfront restaurant along the cliffs of the Hudson River.  It's about as far north as you can go and still be in Manhattan.  That's the George Washington Bridge in the background there.  They happened to be filming an episode of Mob Wives at the restaurant, which I now know is an actual show.  For real.  My RAs were pretty impressed.  I was mostly a little scared that I hired people who watch Mob Wives.  But I'm not judging, except that I totally am.

Last (unplanned) sighting on our afternoon adventure off the beaten path?

Good lesson to end training and start a new year, I suppose.  I mean, how can I argue with that?  

All In A Day

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

So there I was enjoying my only quiet moment in the last three weeks of Res Life training when the fire alarm goes off.  I assumed they were testing the system before students move in next week, but being the good hall director that I am, decided to go check...just in case.  Wearing my hot pink pajama shorts with blue polka dots, a black and white striped shirt, and hot pink Sperrys, I open my 10th floor door to see what's going on.  And get hit with the worst, smokey, building on fire kind of smell.  I run down ten flights of very uneven spiral stairs, herd the RAs, and deal with the wave of public safety officials running around the building.

In about ten minutes, six FDNY fire engines and about four dozen firefighters were all over the place...and I am dressed like I am.  Fantastic.  And it's my job to coordinate with the college's Public Safety and relay messages to the rest of Res Life.  And for over an hour I stood on 116th street in my pajamas dealing with the "smoke situation."  Luckily, my friend Laura offered to bring me real pants.

So this is it.  This is my life.  

Sometimes I have no idea how I got here.  

Light Up The Sky

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

"She wondered if the locals realized how beautiful it was, or if they were immune. In New York, icons faded into the background most of the time--then one day you'd look up and notice the Empire State Building and it would take your breath away."
(J. Courtney Sullivan, Maine)

You know those days or weekends or moments when it's all worth it, however few and far between?  Sometimes all it takes is some pretty spectacular friends and a little perspective.  Living in Manhattan, it's so easy to get caught up in being busy with school and work and life in my little neighborhood.  But then I see this city from a different point of view, and it absolutely blows my mind that I get to live here.

I mean, really...a girl could do a whole lot worse...

Just to review, I missed a week of training for work due to my certification exam.  So my reintroduction to the crazy stressful training process?  Sunset cruise around Manhattan and the New York Harbor as a hall director retreat.  Not a bad way to start a new year.  Plus, a few of my work friends have just become some of my best friends.  They're lucky too.  They get to be friends with me.

So full and happy from good pizza in Chelsea, off we set to Chelsea Piers for our sunset cruise.  And by cruise, what I actually mean is a kind of cute tiny little boat.  Not one of those yachts you see in the background.  But it was worth every minute.  It was a super romantic date...for the nine of us.  And I just kept thinking, how do I get to live here and take these pictures and just be, instead of seeing them in a postcard?  Well done New York.  Well done.

So end of cert exam and sunset cruise and amazing friends and some other good things?

I'm just weekend has a lot to live up to.

Previously on {the ivy project}

Sunday, August 12, 2012

So here's what happened...

I disappeared from the blog.  It's because I had this little test type situation.  And by little test, I mean the only test that's ever really mattered.  I mean, yes...I got myself into Columbia.  But don't pass this test and it's adios Ivy League.  And so I studied like I've never studied before.  I made study guides and charts and graphs and a bunch of other things I may or may not have actually used.  I wrote seven practice essays on the seven test topics.  Yes, you read that right.  I wrote papers that were not even required.

Who am I?

Really, I have no idea.

But I rocked it.

So this test...certification exam...required for all doctoral candidates.  There were seven possible topics (transformative learning, experiential learning, adult development, leadership, program development, literacy, social action).  On test day, we were given four to write about.  All day exam in a computer lab, an hour and a half for each question.

Oh yeah, and the computer I was using crashed on question two.  Whoops.

I won't find out the results until maybe Halloween-ish.  Passing the exam is one of two parts of the certification process.  The other is a qualifying paper, but that's practically already halfway done.  Once all that happens, then I move from being a "doctoral student" to a "doctoral candidate."  Impressive, right?

So it's a huge relief to be done with this whole pesky exam business.  I promise not to be quite so MIA in the future.

Cause good thing are happening this fall people.  Really good things.