Encourage Students to Tolerate Uncertainty and to Take Risks

Melanie BufordMelanie Buford, Program Coordinator/Adjunct Instructor, Career Development Center, University of Cincinnati
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/mebuford/
Website: www.melaniebuford.org

It’s amazing how the title of Jullien Gordon’s TED Talk, “How to graduate college with a job you love and less debt” resonates with students.  Their enthusiasm is all the more remarkable in its rarity. Most of my students are attending the University full-time, while simultaneously supporting themselves with at least one part-time job. They come to my class already exhausted, so when they ask me if they can stay late just to finish Gordon’s talk, I am always equal parts shocked and gratified. Clearly, this is a subject students are interested in.

Jullien Gordon is a kind of Millennial whisperer. He travels around the country speaking not only to students, but to staff, parents and faculty about how to engage Millennials in higher education. One of the things I appreciate about Gordon is that he’s direct. He doesn’t try to soften the truth about career by promoting college completion as a magical key to success. In fact, within the first few minutes of his talk, he challenges students to re-think what success really means – to them, to society, to their parents, friends and teachers. He encourages Millennials to redefine achievement so that they’ll be motivated to make the most of their college experience.

When I last showed his talk, I engaged the class in a discussion about the pros and cons of letting someone else make your major and career decisions for you. One first-year student summed it up perfectly: “you lose freedom, but you don’t have to deal with uncertainty!” After this speech, he put his head down on his desk. I asked for a show of hands. How many of them enjoy the feeling of uncertainty? No hands went up. They gave me pained looks. I imagine this might be why they’ve registered for a class on career decision-making.

I empathize. Taking responsibility for your own success or failure is difficult enough. Having to make choices about what your success will look like, at 18, is more difficult still. It’s a big ask, but I think students appreciate when we’re honest with them about what’s expected. They resonate with Gordon’s transparency. They understand the concept of competition, and the signs on the wall, even in school, are increasingly clear.

If someone asked me to name the most important role a career counselor plays in the life of a college student, I wouldn’t talk about major requirements, or internships, or resume and cover letters, or even preparing for the long weeks of the job search. The most challenging, and important, part of my job, is encouraging students to tolerate uncertainty and to take risks. These skills are critical in our current job market, where technology is transforming entire fields in a space of a few years.

As Gordon implies, risks often mean sacrifices. Students may not be able to graduate with the perfect major, have a 4.0 GPA, lead three student organizations, and get the internship experience they need to be successful. No one can do it all. But if a student has a passion for travel, it may be more important for them to study abroad than to have a perfect GPA. These risks may pay off in unexpected ways, but they take courage in the short-term.

Career professionals have the opportunity to help students strategize as they decide where and how to take risks in school. Success in college is about more than just completion, it’s about preparing for the realities of post-graduate life.

Are Happy Faces in Professional Communication So Bad?

Lee DesserLee Desser, career and academic adviser, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lmdesser

To smiley or not to smiley: that is the question. My first year out of graduate school I became involved in a heated debate around, of all things, smiley faces. As a summer program coordinator for George Mason University’s Social Innovation Program, I was in charge of overseeing ~25 students as they worked on consulting projects for various nonprofits in the northern Virginia area. As part of the program we held several sessions on professional communication.

We brought on a guest speaker who was serving as a consulting intern at Deloitte. She said, “There’s a space for happy faces in communication: texts, Facebook posts, and the like, but they should never be included in professional e-mails.” I had no idea the furry that would come as a result of this statement. One of our rowdy environmental studies students chimed in, “I disagree. Happy faces show approachability. They can help you connect with your colleagues and show appreciation of their hard work. There’s nothing unprofessional about them!” A public policy student said, “I agree! My teammates like a little winky. What’s the harm there?”

To this the consultant said, quite definitively, “No. Smileys shouldn’t be included in e-mails. It makes you look immature and unprofessional. It’s best not to include them.” At this point it was summertime in Virginia and about 80 degrees outside and we were drinking Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and eating white powdery donut holes. I thought they were going to fly across the room. OK maybe that’s an exaggeration! But I think both sides made solid points: Is it appropriate to include any emojis in e-mails? I wouldn’t want my lawyer to include them in briefs or my doctor in medical evaluations: Her cancer is in remission : ) That’s surely not appropriate…

However, I’ve struggled with this from time to time thinking, “Maybe it lessens my professional image by putting smileys in my e-mail” to “This e-mail totally calls for a smiley (maybe even two!).” What does it come down to? Ultimately, I think it’s somewhat industry (and office!) dependent. While certain conservative industries, such as finance and accounting, may be less accepting to a dose of smiley fun, other ones, especially creative and artistic industries and even education, are more accepting of personal vehicles of expression.

Ted Bouras, the Dean of Advising, Career, and Student Services at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, introduced me to the M.B.A. students in this way: “Lee’s first day was yesterday and she will shortly send a note to students about her availability on Zocalo. Until then you still have to put up with me as your adviser : ).” Notice the smiley? Was it absolutely necessary? No, but I thought it was a nice touch, especially for a summer e-mail.

So for me, to the question of whether to smiley or not to smiley to students in emails, I’ll smiley : )


Helping Students Make Employer Connections

Irene Hillman

Irene Hillman, Manager of Career Development, College of Business, Decosimo Success Center, The University of Tennessee Chattanooga
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/irenehillman
Career Services Programs that Engage Employers
College career fairs can feel like a blur. Hundreds of college students, many of them prepared—but just as many of them unprepared, shuffle in and wander from table to table giving employers their pitches. Employers return the favor and point these young professionals to their websites to apply for positions. It’s a way to build visibility on both sides—company and candidate—but creating a meaningful connection simply isn’t in the cards.

So, how can colleges support the authentic engagement needed for both their students to build relationships that will help them launch careers and their employers to gain in-depth access to a targeted and valuable candidate group? Here are some methods being used by the College of Business at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga that might provide some inspiration!

Show Students Where They Might Work

The Company Tour Program was developed specifically for entering freshmen to help tie them into both the UTC and business community very early in their college careers. The college develops a schedule of bi-weekly tours for approximately 20 students (lasting one to two hours) into the facilities of the area’s top employers and these students gain access to companies to learn more about the area’s economy, explore potential employers, and network with Chattanooga’s business community in a very familiar and engaging fashion. This encourages students to think about how their degrees can be leveraged and their academic learning can be applied following graduation, motivating them to be better students who are engaged in networking within professional circles of the city.

Connect Students and Employers Over Lunch

Through Bridge Luncheons, the College of Business invites businesses seeking a way to connect with current students, pending graduates, or alumni to sponsor a business meal. This series brings business students and local or regional organizations together in an intimate setting over a served lunch where candid and interactive dialogue can occur. Typically this is used by companies as a recruiting venue for open positions. Such events are an effective means for companies to spend quality time with multiple candidates at once and serves, in many cases, as a first and simple step in the vetting process. The luncheon is also an ideal place for students to to practice business meal etiquette. Bridge Luncheons are by invitation only based on the criteria set by the sponsoring companies. Students receive e-mails requesting an RSVP if they care to attend.

Jennifer Johnson, a UTC Accounting student (Class of 2015), says, “The luncheons have given me an opportunity to connect with local businesses and to build relationships with their owners and employees before joining the work force.”

She adds, “I am very thankful that UTC has provided me with the opportunity to participate in these luncheons because they have helped ease my apprehension interacting with potential employers and colleagues.”

As an additional perk, colleges can consider such luncheons a minor revenue stream since a reasonable flat rate can be charged to companies and remaining funds (after catering and room costs are covered) would be retained to support other career services activities and events.

Pair Students With a Mentor

The Business Mentor Program is available to sophomore, junior, senior, and graduate students. Experienced professionals are paired with students in a mentoring relationship based on common professional interests, guiding students toward career success. Employers are encouraged to nominate a seasoned professional to the Business Mentor Program.

The program provides a great opportunity for professionals to counsel and influence the next generation of business leaders and increase the work force readiness of future recruits. Undergraduates may even engage in the program for academic credit (one credit). The course integrates academic learning with business world application and experiences. Students meet in class for one month to prepare for the mentoring relationship and then pair with mentors for the remaining semester period.

Practices Makes Networking Easy

The semiannual Resume Week and Mock Interview Week events are another way to help recruiters and students engage in effective networking and develop significant dialogue.

During Resume Week, the college seeks out a few dozen professionals (hiring managers or recruiters) whose careers align with the College of Business academic programs and invites them to participate in the event. Students visit the centrally located student lounge with their resumes to give managers and recruiters a chance provide their professional opinions through a 15-minute review while networking one-on-one. Bios of the volunteers are provided to students so students can plan who they want to meet. We encourage students to dress professionally and bring a business card to make a great first impression on our visitors.

Abdul Hanan Sheikh, UTC Human Resource Management and Management student (Class of 2015), summarizes the impact that the Resume Review event has had on his career launch: “By attending this event, I received remarkable feedback, which helped me make adjustments to my resume. This event helped me get more engaged in networking effectively. It was a great opportunity for me to make connections with business professionals from around Chattanooga. Furthermore, I believe these events helped me land my first internship last fall and then my summer internship as well, and those positions gave me the experience I needed in HR to feel confident about finding a great job after graduation. So now I have a strong resume and solid experience!”

A month following Resume Week, the college holds a similarly arranged series of events for Mock Interview Week. Students walk away with invaluable advice on both developing a robust resume and interviewing successfully, but they get a chance to ask questions about launching their careers to people with realistic answers. As a result, a connection is made and networking flourishes between the student and the professionals with whom they have met.

Engaging with employers need not be an awkward or hurried venture that happens once a semester. When students are provided multiple opportunities for directed networking, relationships can unfold in an enriching manner for our students and our employers!



Career Advising for Introverts: Should It Be Different?

Janet LongJanet R. Long
Founder, Integrity Search Inc.
career counselor, Widener University
Blog: http://inyourownvoice.wordpress.com/
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/janetrlong/
Twitter: @IntegritySearch
Blogs from Janet Long.

NACE blog team member Chris Carlson wrote eloquently about networking for introverts earlier this year. His piece inspired me to think more deeply about the role of introversion in higher education career services. As both an introvert and the career liaison for the liberal arts student population at my university, I recently began to include material on introversion and extroversion in the semester-length career exploration series I facilitate, The Seekers. To my surprise, student feedback about these sessions has been nothing short of profound. For many students, there is a powerful sense of self-recognition accompanied by relief that they don’t need to reinvent themselves to enter and thrive in the world of work. I began to consider the implications for career advising overall, given that up to 50 percent of the general population describe themselves as introverts.

It often helps to start by defining terms. It can be easy to take for granted my Myers-Briggs training and decades to make peace with my own introversion. In informal polling I have found that most students still associate introversion with shyness or social awkwardness rather than with primary energy source. More disturbingly, they may view introversion as a flaw or deficit that warrants correction.

I like to start with basic MBTI definitions and then pose a classic question that can help students differentiate their preferred style. For example, “If you had an unexpectedly free weekend, would you rather attend several parties or catch up with a couple of friends individually?” I like this question because it challenges the false dichotomy of alone versus with people. Introverts may also prefer to spend time alone (as do extroverts at times). The difference lies in where they gain their main source of energy and how they prefer to recharge.

Our career services office, like many others, offers career fairs, speed networking events, and practice interviews for jobs or internships. With the best of intentions, we teach students to “put themselves out there,” to navigate cocktail/mocktail conversation, to develop compelling 30-second elevator talks, and to formulate responses to both hardball and softball interview questions. This is all helpful and necessary. But the nagging question remains, are there different and potentially more effective ways to broach these topics with students who identify as introverts? Do I as a counselor—albeit an introverted one—jump too quickly to tactics without first acknowledging and exploring how students feel about these processes and their perceptions of what society expects of them? I think that too often we treat introversion as something to be overcome rather than celebrated for its potential contributions.

As one example, last semester in The Seekers, I conducted a mock interview clinic in which we practiced responses in five common question areas. Halfway through the session, one brave student interjected that while she appreciated the tactical advice, none of it helped with trembling hands during actual interviews. Another student, who projected as poised and self-assured throughout the semester, jumped in and offered that the responses made her feel phony. Their comments led to a lively and connected conversation during which the students listened to and coached each other about how to reconcile internal feelings with external expectations. While their concerns were perhaps not unique to introverts, they created an important “aha” for me: that I needed to create more space within the group to be reflective and introspective about professional skills development.

I have recently started to draw on Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution research on introversion, showing excerpts from her TED talk on The Power of Introverts where she laments external pressures to “pass” as an extrovert and helpfully differentiates introversion from shyness. One of my favorite lines is that “the key to maximizing our talents is to put ourselves in the settings that are right for us,” an exhortation to consider work environment and career choices through the lens of temperament as well as talent.

Ms. Cain’s poise and presence in a public speaking situation tends to surprise students and can start conversations about how introverts not only function but thrive in visible and influential positions. Similarly, Wharton professor Adam Grant’s research on effective leadership, The Hidden Advantages of Quiet Bosses, includes the finding that introverted leaders are more likely to engage their teams by encouraging individuals to develop their own ideas. I have found it useful to offer examples of well-recognized role models from all walks of life, from sports to business, who describe themselves as introverts, from Bill Gates, Mahatma Gandhi, and Rosa Parks, to Michael Jordan, Christine Aguilera, and Julia Roberts .

These are some additional strategies that I have found effective in provoking both reflection and discussion:

  • Combining personalized career assessments to give students more self-insight. I have found that StrengthsQuest and MBTI play well together. For example, a student who shows a preference for introversion on the MBTI may also hold “individualization” as a top strength. Integrating a “strengths” perspective into an introversion/extroversion discussion encourages students to move away from a deficit mindset.
  • Designing more intimate networking forums. This semester our office will pilot a home-based gathering for a limited number of students and alumni in selected fields to interact over a leisurely meal. Our hope is that such forums can complement the larger speed-networking formats and that each will each hold appeal for different types of students.
  • Scheduling one-on-one follow-up appointments. While this may sound like a no-brainer, students are typically more inclined to make appointments keyed to specific deliverables rather than more open-ended discussion about areas of discomfort. While not every student needs or wants this type of support, I think it is important to remind students that the suite of career counseling tools available to them goes beyond resume tweaks.

NACE career advisers, are you having these conversations in your offices? It would be interesting to learn more about employer perspectives as well.


Building a Strong Foundation Through Comprehensive Training

Sarah SteenrodSarah Steenrod, Director, Undergraduate Career Consultation and Programs, Fisher College of Business, The Ohio State University
Twitter: @SarahSteenrod
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahsteenrod

“I really want to build a strong foundation for my students much in the same way you all did for me.”

Recently, I was contacted by a former graduate assistant (GA) who is now a career services professional at another university. She asked if I would be willing to talk with her about our training process since she will be developing a training program for her office’s peer advisers. After my head shrank back to its original size, I spent some time thinking about our training process and why I think it’s so effective in setting a strong foundation for our GAs.

Build a Team

A significant amount of our seven-day training is dedicated to getting to know each other, which helps build relationships and trust. Don’t cringe when I tell you we do at least one icebreaker a day. I must be a genius, right? Here’s the kicker, I think the main reason people dread icebreakers is because they feel put “on the spot.” To avoid this, I let everyone know in advance what the icebreakers will be throughout training, with some even requiring a little advanced preparation. For example, on the first day of training, everyone shares “What I did this summer,” so people share pictures from vacations or talk about their internships. They can think about what they want to say and feel more comfortable when getting to know strangers.

Feed Them

There’s something to be said for sharing a good meal together, and our office definitely appreciates a fine potluck. While we have a very minimal food budget for training, such as a continental breakfast on the first day, we plan lunch outings to places like Chipotle and everyone pays for themselves. On the walk to Chipotle, we give the GAs a campus tour.

Set Expectations

I am a firm believer that setting clear expectations makes life much easier. Whether we are talking about the scheduling process and work-hour requirements or the importance of keeping the recruiter breakroom tidy, I am confident that our GAs know what is expected of them from the very start.

Involve People

I try to involve as many of my colleagues as possible in training because the least effective thing I think I can do is talk too much. I’m not trying to bore these people to death and I have no interest in looking around the room and seeing everyone trying to be polite by not letting out a huge “yaaaaaaawn.” So, for example, when we talk about on-campus recruiting, I bring in our recruiting coordinator to talk about how she works with employers. In addition, my fellow undergraduate full-time staff members are heavily involved with and attend most of the training, so they take the lead on various training topics. Also, our second year GAs play a huge role in serving as mentors for our incoming GAs and they gain a lot of credibility by leading various parts of training and participating in discussions.

Flip the Classroom

A few years ago, I learned about the concept of “flipping the classroom.” According to Wikipedia, “Flipped classroom is an instructional strategy and a type of blended learning that reverses the traditional educational arrangement by delivering instructional content, often online, outside of the classroom and moves activities, including those that may have traditionally been considered homework, into the classroom. In a flipped classroom model, students watch online lectures, collaborate in online discussions, or carry out research at home and engage in concepts in the classroom with the guidance of the instructor.”

I now use Carmen, our course management system, to deliver training materials that I would like the GAs to read in advance (e.g., PowerPoint presentation about resume writing) so we can do more hands-on activities during training, (e.g., more resume critiques and discussions about resumes).

Our GAs begin meeting with students on the first day of school. In order for them to feel confident and get enough experience, we do a lot of hands-on activities during training. One example is preparing them to conduct mock interviews for our Qualified Undergraduate Interview Candidate (QUIC) program. We have developed a training model where we first educate the GAs about the QUIC program and process, and then we give them the opportunity to shadow, co-facilitate, and conduct the mock interviews on their own while being observed by a staff member. This process enables them to build their skills in evaluating students in mock interviews and delivering constructive feedback and they gain confidence in their abilities.

Hands-on activities are also beneficial when training GAs on student appointments. Rather than just talking about the types of student appointments they might encounter, we developed about 20 student appointment scenarios that we use in an activity where we go around the room and each draw a scenario from a hat and discuss how we would handle it. This gives us the opportunity to have open discussion and makes the GAs feel more comfortable going into a situation where “you never know what you’re going to get.”

Develop a Support System

Although we finish training before the start of the semester, we conduct on-going training throughout the academic year in our weekly team meetings and bi-weekly one-on-one meetings. This enables us to discuss questions and concerns and further explore additional topic areas that are introduced in training.

In addition to on-going training, the day-to-day support of our GAs is extremely important. We have an “open door” policy where we encourage GAs to stop by and chat with us if they have any questions or concerns. Fortunately, our GAs all work in the same space, which we affectionately call “cubeland,” so they can often times pop over the wall and bounce an idea off of their teammates.

Developing a comprehensive training program can be a daunting task, but I guarantee the time and attention spent in preparation of and during training will pay off exponentially. We couldn’t do what we do without our GAs and we love watching them grow and develop as professionals in our office.


Leadership Priorities for Career Services

Chaim ShapiroChaim Shapiro, Assistant Director of Career Services at Touro College
Website: http://chaimshapiro.com/
Twitter: @chaimshapiro
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/chaimshapiro
Blogs from Chaim Shapiro.

The new school year is the time for a new beginning. For that fresh start, I wanted to share my view on the priorities for career services leaders.

Any current statement of leadership priorities in career services has to borrow extensively from two excellent articles on the future of the profession—”Thriving in the Brave New World of Career Services: 10 Essential Strategies” by Manny Contomanolis and Trudy Steinfeld and “10 Future Trends in College Career Services” by Farouk Dey and Christine Y. Cruzvergara.

Career services, as a profession, is in a state of flux. The long term stagnant economy brought the work of career services to the forefront among college administrators, parents, and other stakeholders. There has also been a significant paradigm shift within the profession. While many balked at the word “placement” just a few years ago, it is now accepted that “career outcomes is everybody’s business” (Contomanolis and Steinfeld, 2014).

Demonstrating career outcomes and career services’ role in producing those outcomes is fundamental. Collecting and producing a solid first-destinations report based on the NACE standards is a crucial means to allow career services to tell its story and, in a larger sense, demonstrate institutional success (Dey and Cruzvergara, 2014).

The role of career services must be “elevated” (Dey and Cruzvergara, 2014), so it becomes clear that career services is part and parcel of the mission of the university. Career services leaders are collaborative in attaining that goal, thus creating allies and “buy in” across the institution, especially among senior administrators (Contomanolis and Steinfeld, 2014).

Career services leaders must remain flexible, adapt to rapidly changing realities, and take “thoughtful risks” that lead to innovation and bold new initiatives (Contomanolis and Steinfeld, 2014). They embrace technology (Dey and Cruzvergara, 2014) and seek to incorporate it everywhere it can enhance their services.

Even with the radical changes in career services and the new priorities competing for a professional’s time, it is imperative that an adviser still focus on the students. Career services leaders believe that every student has infinite potential and endeavor to encourage each student to be proactive in achieving it to their fullest, both in the career services realm and beyond.

Times of change are really times of opportunity. True leaders refuse to sit on the sidelines while the career services world reinvents itself. One of the greatest ways to “elevate” career services, demonstrate its foundational value to our institutions, and provide more effective services to students is by being an active part in charting the profession’s future.

Buckle up!


1) Contomanolis, M. and Steinfeld, T. (2014) Thriving in the Brave New World of Career Services: 10 Essential Strategies. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140506212412-2872947-thriving-in-the-brave-new-world-of-career-services-10-essential-strategies (Accessed 7/28/15)

2) Dey, F. and Cruzvergara, C. Y. (2014) 10 Future Trends in College Career Services. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140715120812-11822737-10-future-trends-in-college-career-services (Accessed 7/28/15).

Closing the Divide by Going Outside

Kelli Smith Director of University Career Services at the Fleish

Kelli K. Smith, Director of University Career Services, Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development, Binghamton University
Twitter: https://twitter.com/drkelliksmith
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/kellikapustkasmith/

Recently I read, “3 Reasons Why You Should Take Your Work Outside” by Lea McCloud just after having an outside meeting on a lovely spring day with one of our graduate assistants. We had planned to discuss her work interests for next year but had not planned for it to be outside. Why not? What I found interesting is that a staff member later confided how delighted she was to see my Tweet of this impromptu choice since apparently, for her, it represented a major culture shift for our office. Even more interesting is that this particular graduate student and I had discussed our recent culture shift of “going to the students” over the past year and her work to embrace that change.

Last year in the month I started at Binghamton University our staff had a planning retreat. One of the concepts we all agreed we should focus on was getting out of the office more to connect with students, much as is described by Trudy Steinfeld and Manny Contomanolis in “Thriving in the Brave New World of Career Services: 10 Essential Strategies” published one month earlier. Both Manny and Trudy noted the importance of meeting students in their space and to be less place dependent. More specifically, they wrote:

  1. Meet students and stakeholders in their “space”. Career services are increasingly less “place dependent”. Virtual interviews, coaching appointments and program content delivery are critical in today’s world and there are a rapidly expanding array of technical platforms and tools to support working in this way. Equally important is the need to deliver services where your clients are – in their academic buildings, residence halls, and social places. Flexibility is increasingly vital to effective services delivery.

For us it made natural sense. We knew from our survey data that we were not perceived by campus as the most welcoming, and we also had a tradition of an incredibly packed schedule of pre-planned programs throughout the year, requiring significant time and the student to “come to us” for educational assistance. At the same time, we are presented regularly with examples of talented and high achieving students that share they are (or were) too intimidated or overwhelmed to visit our office not because they see our staff as unkind or unhelpful, but because it meant they were facing reality. One might argue we enable that anxiety of such students with our new approach by not requiring them to enter our physical threshold. But like with anything new or overwhelming for us all, a professional nudge on their turf hopefully allows for a more open mindset to post-diploma thinking, and a familiar face may allow for greater confidence and willingness to visit our Center.

As a result, a few relatively small changes we made have had a significant impact. One of our staff members volunteered to host Friday afternoon office hours in a campus residential communities. It was rare that she did not have back-to-back students meeting with her. We changed our program request form to be more welcoming and “easy” for campus, while slightly and strategically lessening some our pre-planned programs with smaller attendance numbers last year. As a result, we went from 58 total requested programs last academic year to 103 this academic year with a total of 2513 “student touches” through those tailored programs. Perhaps one of my favorite outcomes is how it has truly started to become part of our culture. During a staff meeting this April Lexie – our graduate assistant with whom I recently had an outdoor meeting – announced how she had planned a “Games, S’Mores, & More” program at a residential community fire pit in partnership with one of our academic advising departments. She stated her intent was to connect with students in a casual and convenient way and to demonstrate how approachable we are. As a former campus activities staff member, I have long held the belief that programming after spring break is a serious gamble, so even I was unsure whether any students would show. To my delight, 29 students showed up and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

Late last fall our Director of Residential Life and Housing arranged a meeting with myself and several others involved with our residential communities which adopted the “Oxford Model” in the 1960s. Each of our six residential communities has a Faculty Master that offices in their assigned community. I did not know in advance the meeting was to propose “The Apartments” community, primarily made up of sophomores, juniors, and seniors, should have a Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development staff person office there rather than a traditional faculty master. To my delight what resulted is us gaining a new staff member that will truly work “where the students are” starting this June. There is no doubt in my mind that this would have happened if we as a staff had not committed last June to meeting students in their space.

Perhaps it is time for us to step outside of the comfort zone of our offices and join the students in their “space.” All across the country there are many innovative approaches to meeting our students where they are – physically and developmentally – and being flexible in our educational design. For the benefit of everyone, I encourage you join in the dialogue to share what you are doing on your campus to meet students and stakeholders in their space or be less place dependent. Successes and challenges are all welcome.