#atozchallenge: moments

“Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones.”
– Phillips Brooks

Life is made up of millions of moments.  From the eagerly anticipated big moments, to the ones that pass us by without much ado, our lives are lived.  There are moments that are years in the making, moments that take us by surprise, and moments we would rather forget.  Whether the moment brings excitement, apprehension or sadness, there is a lesson to be learned.   We often don’t realise that lesson when we’re in the moment.  Sometimes it takes years to truly understand what each moment was meant to teach.

It is moments like today that make us stop and think about our lives, our loved ones, and what moments still lie ahead for us.  It is often in tragedy that we search for perspective and begin to reevaluate if we are living the way we want to be living.  We compare the issues we are currently facing to the horror that some families are now experiencing and  are reminded that our moments are precious and finite.  We don’t have unlimited access to our moments.

Every moment presents us with a choice, no matter how insignificant, or life-altering it may be.  Moments connect and build upon each other.  You may be able to recall a choice you made that led to a number of other moments.  Perhaps it was a job you decided to accept, an event you chose to attend or a suitor you turned down.  We never really know the extent of the impact these choices will have on our lives when we make them. Sometimes they lead us to greatness, and other times, they leave us wondering “what if?”

We know that the “what if” game is dangerous as it is impossible to change the past.  All we can do is make the most of each moment we are given, accept the decisions we have made, and let them inform the choices we make in the future (whether it means making similar choices or completely changing our course).

“If you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.”
– Anne Morrow Lindbergh

boston

If you are looking for ways to help Boston, consider these:

http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/16/us/iyw-boston-marathon/index.html
http://beccaobergefell.com/move/runforboston/#sthash.0A3z3waA.dpbs


How do you make the most of each moment? 

For more information about the a to z challenge, click here.

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financial literacy for new professionals

In honour of National Financial Literacy Month in the US, I thought I would share some tips for those just starting out in the student housing field.  Next week, I will share financial tips for those looking to make the move off-campus (yes, that world DOES exist).

As a new professional, you will no doubt be very excited about your first role.  If your new position requires you to live on-campus, you may face some unexpected expenses, so be sure to ask your supervisor for clarification.  Some incidentals may not be covered by your department, like a parking pass, so be sure to ask so you can plan ahead.  Also, make sure you find out if your apartment is furnished or not.  If not, furniture can be a major expense.  Shop around for sales, and if you are offered hand-me-downs, make use of them.  It’s better to have an older, outdated couch than no couch at all.

If living on-campus is a component of your job, find out if you will pay rent or if your accommodation is a taxable benefit.  If it is a taxable benefit, find out how much will be listed on your T4.  That number can bump you up into the next tax bracket, and you could end up owing come tax time.  If you know this in advance, you can save each month so when you get the bill it won’t be such a shock.

Credit Cards & Student Loans
Often, credit card companies will up your limit without consulting you.  Keep an eye on your statements and if you do not want the increase, call the credit card company and ask them to lower the limit.

You can call credit card companies and negotiate a better interest rate, especially if you are a client in good standing (always pays at least the minimum payment on time, etc).

If you have a student loan from a bank, once you graduate, the line of credit is no longer revolving (meaning that the loan is technically closed and you no longer have access to the “unused” or paid-back portion of the loan).  Talk to your bank about opening a regular line of credit (LOC) and transferring your student LOC to the new LOC if you are interested in being able to access the “unused” portion of the LOC.  Usually a LOC will have a lower interest rate than a credit card and can be a good alternative.  Note, not all banks will allow a student LOC to be transferred to a regular LOC.  Also, student LOCs tend to have a lower interest rate than a regular LOC.

Make sure you update your mailing address information with your bank to ensure you receive your monthly statements.  Or opt for e-bills if your bank offers them – it’s environmentally friendly and regardless if you move, as long as you have access to your email, you’ll always receive your bills on time.  Just make sure to use an email that you won’t change!

Budget & Set Goals
It will be really exciting to get your first full time paycheck, but be smart about how you spend it.  Be pro-active and develop a budget.  Know how much your fixed expenses are (the amounts that are the same every month – car payment, student loan payment, rent, etc.) and anticipate your variable expenses (the amounts that fluctuate each month – groceries, gas, entertainment, etc.).  Set aside an amount that is realistic for savings every month, and add that to your fixed expenses, so you learn not to miss that money.  Some people call this “paying yourself first” and it is truly a good habit to get into.  You’ll be amazed at how much even $100 a month turns into! Be realistic with your budget and don’t deprive yourself.  Make sure to include an “entertainment” line in your budget, to include small luxuries like going to see a movie, going to dinner with friends, etc.

Along with your budget, set financial goals.  Think about the near future (next 3 years) and more distant future (beyond 3 years) and what you want to accomplish.  Do you want to buy a car? Go on vacation? Purchase new furniture? Save for a down-payment on a house?  Determine how much that will cost and work backwards.  For instance, if you know you want to purchase a home in 5 years, and have a $25,000 down payment, you know that you need to save $5000 a year.  Break it down even further…$5000 a year works out to a little over $400 a month.  Can you afford that?  If so, add that to the fixed expenses portion of your budget.  If not, take a look at your goal.  Maybe a $20,000 down payment in 5 years is more realistic.  Do whatever works for you.

Setting, and sticking to, a budget will help put you on the road to financial freedom.  Good luck, and welcome to the field!

What financial tips do you have for new professionals? Share them below!

*Originally posted on the OACUHO blog.

do conferences still count as professional development?

Late last night, Joe Ginese dropped a bit of a bomb.  He tweeted out a new blog post entitled All About Development.  You should read it if you haven’t yet.  Joe centres his thoughts around one main idea: “We do conferences wrong and have been for years.”

If you’ve attended a large national conference, or even a smaller regional conference, I am sure that you can relate to some of the concerns that Joe raises.  I know I can.  I’ve attended disappointing sessions (session content did not live up to its description), felt disconnected with vendors (mainly because many of them don’t ship to, or service, Canada), and recycled ideas (although, I don’t think this is a bad thing – more about that below).  I agree with Joe, that the connections and conversations with others are often more valuable than the sessions.  However, I don’t think that they need to be mutually exclusive.  Let me unpack this a little more.

When I attend a conference session, I try to find something to connect to, even if the content is light years away from the program description.  Attending national conferences in the US, I usually have to “translate” the information to Canadian (FERPA = FIPPA, 401K  = RRSP, college = university & community college = college, etc.)  so I tend to always be thinking about the content.  Luckily for me, this can often provide a starting point to converse with the presenter(s) after the session.   Even if the terminology translates beautifully, there always seems to be something I can connect with, and talk about with the presenter(s) afterwards.  This had led to some fantastic conversations and connections that have transcended the confines of the conference schedule.

If I feel that a certain idea or program would really benefit the staff and students on my own campus, I make a point to talk to the presenter(s) in more detail.  It’s usually impossible for someone to reveal everything about their program/initiative during a conference session, so finding a time to follow-up (either during or after the conference) is a great idea.   Most, if not all, presenters are more than willing to chat further with you about their topic, otherwise, why would they have presented it in the first place?  So, instead of just taking the information and running out of the room, connect with the presenter(s).  Make it more meaningful.

To me, conferences are so much more than just program sessions.  You have the opportunity to connect with colleagues at task force or committee meetings, attend tweetups and receptions, engage in “extra-curricular” activities like case study competitions and early morning fitness events.  If you go to a conference and only attend program sessions, then you will be missing out.  Like anything, you get out of a conference what you put into it.

As for funding, Mallory Bower tweeted a thought-provoking question/statement earlier today as part of this whole discussion: “Wondering how many would still attend conferences if their employers didn’t pay the bill…”
I think this is a fantastic question and one that we must consider.  Professional development funds are finite (non-existent even on many campuses), so they need to be handled with care.  If you did have to pay your own way, would you still attend?  Would you get more out of it because the money is coming out of your own pocket? Would you be more willing to attend early morning sessions or volunteer for a committee?  Or would you feel less guilty if you skipped a session to do something else?  Your answers to these questions should be a good indication of whether or not you should attend a conference (or partake in any PD opportunity for that matter).

So, do conferences still count as professional development, and are they good value for money?  That depends on you.  Before you partake in any developmental opportunity, you need to decide what you want to get out of it.  I really like what Becca did for the Women’s Leadership Institute.  Read about it here.

Development without purpose can be wasteful and expensive.  Having a professional development plan is key, so you can map out what opportunities you want to take advantage of.  Funny enough, I’ll be presenting at the ACUHO-I Annual Conference and Exhibition related to this topic (“PD for Free: Making the Most of Limited Professional Development Budgets”).  Why yes, that is shameless self promotion 🙂

Thanks Joe, for starting such a great conversation! I’m curious to hear what others think about this.  Share your comments below, or join the google+ hangout.

 

who knew credentialing was such a dirty word?

I wasn’t able to partake in the #sachat discussion on credentialing in student affairs this afternoon, but I did read through all of the tweets generated by such a hot (and current) topic.  [You can now view the conversation transcript here].

As I scrolled through the discussion, it became quite clear that there is not one simple definition of “credential” or how and where it fits in to the student affairs field.  I thought a dictionary definition of credential might help to clarify the conversation.

cre·den·tial
noun

1. Usually, credentials. Evidence of authority, status, rights, entitlement to privileges, or the like, usually in written form: Only those with the proper credentials are admitted.

2. Anything that provides the basis for confidence, belief, credit, etc.

Unfortunately, I don’t think this definition helps us to get any closer to a broad, student affairs focused definition.  For many professions, there is a set path to said career.  In order to become a lawyer, one must obtain an undergraduate degree, be successful in the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), complete a law degree and an apprenticeship (articling), take the bar admission course, and then of course, pass the licensing exam (better known as the bar exam). Doctors and teachers have similar concrete paths.

However, there are many routes to obtaining a position in student affairs.  In the USA, attending graduate school (in a student affairs focused program) and completing a graduate internship appears to be common.  In Canada, most student affairs practitioners enter the profession after obtaining an undergraduate degree (often in an unrelated field of study).  As we increasingly look south of the border for comparisons sake, more entry and mid-level positions are requiring candidates to have a graduate degree in a related field.  This has encouraged many Canadian student affairs practitioners to return to the classroom to obtain a graduate degree.  Luckily, more Canadian institutions are catching on to this, and are offering more specialised graduate programs for professionals.  As student affairs and student services continue to grow on a global scale, the path to a career in this field is becoming more and more diverse.

Earlier this month, the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) released information about its newly appointed Credentialing Implementation Team.  Who would have known that this would spur such rich, lively, and sometimes contentious conversation?  Many in the field took to Twitter and their blogs to share their thoughts about credentialing in student affairs.  With there being so many avenues to enter the field, how does a credentialing program serve a wide scope of professionals? What purpose does this type of program serve?  Is this simply another way to alienate those who wish to partake in such an opportunity but do not have the financial resources (personal or institutional) to do so from those who do?  Will we see job descriptions requiring candidates to have a specific credential from a professional association?  In an effort to respond to the growing concerns throughout the field, Dr. Heidi Levine, ACPA President shared this message on her blog: Statement on the ACPA Student Affairs Credential Program.

Right now, there seem to be more questions than answers.  While the discussion about this topic is diverse, and tends to be rooted in individual experience, bias and allegiance, it is fantastic to see so many contributors to the conversation.

Here’s my take:

Student affairs is an incredibly competitive field.  We are among some of the most educated individuals in the country (probably the world) and come to the table with such diverse job-related experience.  We know that any given job receives hundreds of applications and that we must find a way to stand out from the crowd.  Because of this, there is a certain level of onus on the individual to supplement their own learning and development, to prove to be a worthy candidate.  This need not be expensive, as there are many ways to remain current on trends and challenges in the field. [Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on my top-ten “PD for free” ideas].

Unless student affairs goes the way of the law profession, I see taking part in a credentialing program after working in the field for a number of years.  ACUHO-I offers two certificate programs, each focused on a specific area of housing. While these programs are completely open (to those in housing and outside of the field), I see them being most beneficial to those who foresees a long-term career in housing/student affairs, and to those who have mastered the basic skill set for a housing professional (although I know we could argue what such a basic skill set consists of).

ACUHO-I, ACPA/NASPA and CAS all provide exceptional documents on professional standards and competencies.  If you are not familiar with these documents, I suggest you read through them.  As assessment continues to be an important part of our field, it is crucial for departments to understand the importance of such standards and competencies.

For me, the most memorable tweet from the #sachat discussion came from Joe Ginese: “If your position doesn’t require you to keep learning, I fear #studentaffairs is in trouble (starting with your institution).”

If departments or institutions do not value the learning of its employees, then how can it support the learning of its students?

While it is up to you to stay current on trends and continue developing professionally, I think it is also the responsibility of the department and institution to contribute to your professional development.  If you find yourself working in a place that does not support this, or does not have the financial resources to fully support this, you need to take control of your own development.  Think outside of the box and utilize your resources.

So, is credentialing important? Absolutely! I think it can be a great professional development tool and help to further develop the skills and knowledge required to move-up in the field.  But we cannot forget the importance of experience.  After all, you can read all the student development theory you like, but until you can see it in your work and put it into practice, what use is it?

What is your take on the credentialing conversation? Share your thoughts here, or continue the conversation on Twitter!

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