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Another Spring Semester: Some Inevitable Lessons

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by dr. Saby Labor in Blog, Resources, Standard
May 13, 2016 0 comments

Let me tell you, it has been a whirlwind these past couple of weeks. I concluded a graduate assistant position requiring a 90-minute commute (one-way), defended my dissertation proposal, as well as wrapped up final grading for my gender studies course. Reading the stories of students who are predominantly refugees, immigrants, and first-generation college students is a privilege I do not have words to describe. I watched many students share out their graduation reflections, photos, and celebrate their accomplishments with them in person. I spoke at a scholarship recognition ceremony, in a classroom to student affairs graduate students at UW-LaCrosse, and participated as a panel discussant about serving transgender students in higher education. Needless to say, it has been…(drumroll please)…AWESOME! I loved every moment of it!

As some of you know, I published my first blog post ever and to date, it has reached 623 people (many thanks to creepy facebook analytics). Subsequently, Kayley Robsham and I published a post we have been working on for weeks about the stories of first-generation college professionals and their contributions to college retention efforts (284 unique visitors so far). I spoke to 40 more people at a panel discussion and 80 people at a scholarship recognition ceremony. Why all the numbers, you ask? Well, my decision to start my own consulting business, as someone who is head over heels in love with the college campus environment, was made with a leap of faith. Those of you that know me, you know I love talking to people, asking how they’re doing, connecting them with resources, and supporting their process of realizing their true talents and genius. Thanks to the invitations and generosity of folks in my network, I was able to reach over 1,000 people in the span of 14 days!  I learned some lessons along the way that I wanted to share:

1. We Cannot and Should Not Do This Work Alone.
I was honored to be in dialogue with so many dynamic people. I learned so much about the fierce efforts of students and professionals on college campuses. Folks shared their stories of navigating higher education environments as the first in their family to attend college, and they were so inspirational! Each person emphasized the importance of family support, mentors, and other role models who supported their college journey (even if they did not understand the jargon and strange college traditions). Not one person said they successfully completed their degree or got to where they are now by themselves.

2. Don’t Let One Negative Person Dim Your Light.
While I was delivering a talk at the awards ceremony, I scanned the room as I spoke and was alarmed to find a single person staring back at me with look of massive disappointment and disinterest. I have to admit, I was thrown off and really distracted as a result. As much as I tried to avoid that area of the room as I continued speaking, I couldn’t help but to wonder “Am I boring everyone?” “Do I belong here?” and then I thought that dreaded question we have all entertained at one point or another: “Do I have something hanging from my nose?” (I’m 90% certain the answer was “no” to the last question). From a crowd of 80 attendees, this one person’s twisted facial expression derailed my thoughts and energy and dimmed my confidence. I’m sure you have shared similar moments of self-doubt due to the energy (perceived or actual) of someone in your environment, in your life, in your “orbit”. Let’s agree right here and right now that we should amplify each other’s energy and confidence with a practice of gratitude, authenticity, and warmth. I believe that the degree we life up others and help them succeed is an indicator of our integrity and ultimately our success.

3. Support Has Many Faces.
Many people supported me in small and big ways. Some commented and shared my blog post, praising my courage and decision to build a business. Others went to the next level and signed up for my email listserv. One friend went as far as to email his colleagues at a local college of my availability as a campus speaker (Thanks, Taylor!). I smiled with gratitude at each and every one of these displays of support. My dissertation advisor provided me with calming words before my defense and my dissertation committee provided constructive feedback and questions from a place of care and brilliance. 

A Call to Action
How many people have you reached or impacted this week? You might be surprised by the number when you take a moment to look back at your week, month, and dare I say…year.

Have you expressed gratitude to those who have supported you on your journey? I encourage you to take a moment and send a quick note (virtual or handwritten) to communicate what their support has meant to you. We can collectively increase our impact with this tiny act of kindness.

Saby Labor
Founder of Resilient Campus

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