Saturday, June 9, 2012

On The Streets

I'm in Tampa for a student affairs assessment conference.

I came to Tampa from Chicago, where I spent four days with an amazing group of students and professionals at Be The Person. Throughout this experience, I witnessed the best of humanity. My fellow participants engaged in true acts of selflessness and generosity, from simple things like brightening someone's day to spending time listening to the stories of homeless people over a hot meal.

I go out for dinner and drinks with a couple of colleagues tonight. We go to a great local Greek restaurant. The atmosphere is lively. The food is good. The service is amazing. I spend a lot of money on dinner and drinks. A lot. But we have a great time.

We're walking back to our hotel, and pass a homeless man on the way. I want to stop and offer help, but I don't. I keep walking. We get to the hotel, exchange goodnights, and I go to my room. I start thinking about my experience at Be The Person. I begin to feel guilty.

I decide, at the very least, I should get this man some food. I'm certain the CVS near the hotel will be open, so I put my shoes back on, head downstairs, and depart the hotel. On the way to CVS, I pass another homeless man asleep on a bench. I feel sick to my stomach. I just spent all this money on a night of pure fun and pleasure -- completely unnecessary -- while these two men are spending the night outside in the rain. Something is wrong with this picture. I can pretend that I've earned my place in life, but I know that's not true. I was born into privilege. I am ashamed.

I get to the CVS, and it is closed. I am frustrated, but remember that a Publix is about five blocks away. I keep going. I arrive at Publix, and it is closed as well. Now I'm really frustrated, but even more committed to finding some food for these men. I head back toward my hotel.

I stop at a bar along the way to find out where the nearest gas station is located. It's not within walking distance. I'm losing hope. The bar is still serving food, so I decide that's my best option at this point. I get four orders of chicken tenders to go.

I walk back toward my hotel. I deliver two orders to the first homeless man. I try to engage in a conversation with him, but he doesn't want to talk. That's okay. I keep walking. I head past the hotel to the second man. He's asleep. I wake him up to tell him I have some food for him. He's grateful, but clearly tired. I tell him I'm leaving the food under the bench he's sleeping on. He thanks me and I leave.

I am sickened. I am sad. There are a million thoughts running through my head right now. One is that I'm so freaking privileged and I take it for granted every day. I whine and complain about the dumbest s**t while people live in the streets.

Another is that I work in higher education, a field with great power and resources. We talk a lot about social justice and social change, but in reality, we do very little about it. We pay a lot of lip service. I own this for myself and for my profession. We like to talk, but only occasionally walk.

We have a problem. A systemic problem. This is not news to me, nor likely is it news to you. But because of my experiences over the past several days, I have a hightened awareness of it. I feel slighlty better about giving these men some food, but only slightly. It's a band-aid where surgery is needed. I am still upset.

There are members of my own family who I hope do not read this, because their reaction to my reaction toward this great inequality would probably upset me more. But I must react. To not do so is inhumane.

This is a real-time, stream-of-consciousness post, so I have no solutions. I have no answers. All I know at this point is that I have received a wake-up call. I intend to answer it.

Stay tuned.

Let me know if you want to answer it with me.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Fail Blog

To my students (and all students):

You are too afraid of failure. Some of you are absolutely terrified of the prospect of it. You strive to avoid it at all cost. You worry about it. You worry about what others might think about it. You let the very idea of it stress you out. Sometimes that stress affects your mental and emotional well-being.

It's not worth it. You are going to fail. You will screw up. You will make mistakes. What you shouldn't do is let it define you. You shouldn't dwell on it.

In fact, you should embrace it. Hell, from time to time, celebrate it. Then learn from it. Strive to do better in the future. But for heaven's sake, don't let it anchor you in the present (or the past). You are better than even your best failure.

Failure doesn't define you. Your response to it does. Your response to the fear of it does.

So the question is, What aren't you doing...?

Jason

Thursday, February 23, 2012

It’s Not WHAT This Campaign Is About. It’s WHO.

Okay, this may be cheating, but I'm actually going to redirect you to a guest blog post I wrote for the Every|Day Hero Campaign. After you read it, be sure to check out the website, learn about this campaign, and take the Every|Day Hero Pledge!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Don't 1-UP, 7UP

Nobody likes a 1-up-er.

The 1-up-ers are people who always have better ideas, more extravagant stories, a more expensive this, a cooler that. Their game is one of constant comparison to others. They keep score. And they earn their points by taking away yours.

In the late '60s and early '70s, 7UP ran a brilliant (and very successful) advertising campaign to brand themselves as The Uncola. To be the "uncola" was to be different, unique, unconventional. The campaign "symbolized being true to yourself and challenging the status quo." It wasn't about being better than the other colas, it was about self-expression, about becoming a better version of itself.

I want to know why you are different. Why you are unique. How you've exceeded others' expectations. How you've shattered your own expectations. What you've contributed. What you care about. Why you care about it.

I don't care to know why you're simply better than the alternative.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Emergency Exit

Many leaders have trust issues. For a number of possible reasons, they struggle to delegate tasks, and more importantly, actual responsibilities, to the members they lead. I've heard so many student leaders and professionals alike say, "If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself."

I was sitting on an airplane at Palm Beach International Airport this morning listening to the flight attendants give their spiel about emergency procedures. I've heard it a thousand times before, but while listening to it this morning, something struck me: the level of trust airlines place in their passengers.

Anyone who has been on a commercial plane knows that passengers who sit in emergency exit rows are asked to take on the responsibility of assisting with an evacuation if one becomes necessary. Think about this for a moment. The airline personnel know nothing about the people sitting in those rows, and the passengers end up there by chance. Still, the airlines place full confidence in those individuals to help provide a safe and speedy exit in the event of an emergency.

Yet in organizations, leaders often don't trust their own members with responsibilities that come nowhere near the life-or-death situation in the airplane scenario.

And when you think about it further, what the flight attendants do is pretty simple. First, they explain the responsibilities of sitting in the emergency exit rows. Then, they ask the passengers if they are able and willing to fulfill the responsibilities should it be necessary. If so, trust is bestowed upon the passengers!

Here's the thing: the airlines don't have a monopoly on the trust principle. We can do the same thing in all of our organizations. Explain to people what it is you want them to do. Ask them if they feel comfortable and capable doing it. If so, let them run with it! If not, provide them with the tools and training. Then let them run with it!

Trust builds confidence, and confidence boosts performance. Trust me.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Just Too...

He/she is just too...

...dull, bubbly, sullen, nice, analytical, emotional, practical, idealistic, unorganized, meticulous, bold, timid, reactive, unresponsive, careless, careful, slow, fast, et cetera, et cetera.

Whichever quality we possess, we sometimes have a tendency to view its opposite as a weakness. Neither quality is inherently positive or negative. In the right situation, they can all be strengths.

Better to focus on harnessing people's natural strengths.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

An Open Letter to WSU Greeks

To the members of the Wichita State University fraternity and sorority community,

I recently learned that effective July 1, 2012, the Center for Student Leadership and the Activities Office will merge into one department under the leadership of Nancy Loosle, and the new (to-be-named) department will be physically merged in the Rhatigan Student Center renovation project.

I also understand that there is some resistance to this merger coming from within the fraternity/sorority community. As a WSU Greek alumnus (Sigma Alpha Epsilon), a former fraternity/sorority advisor, and an avid supporter of Greek Life, I would like to offer you my perspective on the merging of these departments and the great opportunity it provides for your community.

A few decades ago, college fraternities and sororities offered one of the premiere avenues for personal, social, and leadership development. If a student wanted to maximize his/her co-curricular educational experience, "going Greek" was the way to do it. And while it arguably remains so, a new reality has emerged. Other campus organizations are now providing outstanding leadership development experience for college goers. Students are no longer beating down our doors asking to join our chapters. Ample opportunities exist to gain the friendships, skills, and great college memories of which fraternities and sororities boast. Many students opt for these opportunities, passing up Greek life and the perceived liabilities that come with membership in our organizations. There are no doubt ongoing conversations in your chapters and councils about recruitment and community growth. I, as much as you, would love to see the WSU fraternity/sorority community grow, and I hope it does.

So toward the merger, let me offer you this: you are about to have one of the greatest opportunities in recent history placed into your lap.

Few challenges in life, if any, come with a silver-bullet solution. There is usually no one right answer, no one correct or best approach. But when it comes to membership recruitment, we come very close to a silver bullet: relationship-building. Positive relationships are the key to successful recruitment efforts. Those of you who have served as recruitment officers have undoubtedly learned this firsthand. The more positive relationships you build with other students and student groups on campus, the more recruitment power you have. The more positive relationships you build with faculty, staff, and community members, the more people you have championing and cheerleading for your organization.

With the impending merger of the CSL and the Activities Office, the plans to expand programs and offerings of the new department, and with the new physical space that Greek Life will share with the other department units post-renovation, you will have the opportunity to build relationships in ways you have never been able to before. You will have the opportunity to collaborate with other major players on campus. You will have the opportunity to pool resources (financial and human) to maximize the fruits of your labors. You will have the opportunity to improve the image of Greek Life, not through your words, but through your actions. The best way to dispel negative perceptions is to form real-life relationships with your would-be naysayers and let them witness you living your organization's values in your daily life. All of these opportunities can produce great dividends for you, for your chapter, for Greek Life, and for the campus community. This is the very definition of a "win-win" situation.

Of course, these possibilities can only become a reality through your efforts. You can choose to fight the merger, build a wall between the fraternity/sorority and campus communities, and tarnish relationships. Or, you can be proactive. You can begin building bridges right now with your future neighbors. You can be the group on campus that champions for one united student body. The former approach will anchor you. The latter will allow you to soar to new heights.

How this change affects the fraternity/sorority community will largely depend on you.

Fraternally,

Jason Bosch
WSU Class of 2005

Monday, December 5, 2011

Reflective Questions for Student Affairs Pros

[This post is for my friends and colleagues who work in Student Affairs. (What is Student Affairs? Check out NASPA or ACPA to learn!)]

Professional development should be an expectation and commitment for all who work in our field, and it should be a self-imposed expectation and commitment. Development is an ongoing process; it never ends. We are in the business of student development. We work tirelessly to keep students moving ever forward in their growth as individuals and intellectuals. Should we not then push ourselves in such a manner? Absolutely we should.

I must be clear that when I say professional development, I mean more than participating in the occasional webinar, attending the annual conference, or sending the intermittent listserv email to solicit best practices. Professional development is the continual pursuit of the best versions of our professional selves. It is the continual refining of our philosophies, expanding of our paradigms, and deepening of our understanding of student learning and development. It is the ceaseless quest for excellence.

Here are 13 questions we need to be asking ourselves and reflecting upon regularly. Some of them may be uncomfortable to answer at times, but they are all posed in the spirit of growth.

1. What research have I recently read that relates to my area of practice?
2. What articles and trade publications do I read in my area of practice and in the broader fields of student affairs, higher education, and learning and development theory?
3. Do I expect the same from myself that I expect from my students?
4. Am I holding myself to the same standards to which I hold them?
5. Am I giving my students the information they need to make informed decisions?
6. Am I trying to influence students to adopt my value system, or helping them to develop their own?
7. Do I collect and analyze information that helps me improve my practice and improve my approaches to impacting student learning and development?
8. Am I more concerned about my own career advancement or my students' advancement?
9. Do I make decisions based on my wants or students' needs?
10. What is my guiding philosophy? How does it guide my work?
11. What am I reading outside of my field that I can connect to my practice?
12. Do I go to work every day with the intention to make a difference?
13. What am I learning today?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Brief Thought on Audacity & Evolution

In nature, evolution is the result of genetic mutation. The weird kid in the herd outlives the others because his mutation gives him the survival advantage.

In human nature, organizations, communities, and societies evolve when their bold members propose and pursue audacious ideas. Innovative ideas. Way-the-hell-away-from-the-box ideas.

The funny looking marsupial becomes the next best version of her kind, the founder of a new generation of wombats.

The member, co-worker, or neighbor suggesting that stupid idea today will be a genius ten years from now.

Change doesn't happen quickly. Neither does evolution. But it does require people who are willing to think differently, creatively, absurdly.

Who cares what others will think of your idea? They may balk at it. They may shake their heads. They may ask you if you're feeling okay. Be bold. Be daring. Have the audacity to say it anyway. If an organization or community is going to evolve, it most certainly won't be due to everyone proposing and pursuing the same ideas.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Why I Love To Fail

The human species is sometimes just too cynical. Too judgmental. Too persnickety. I know this first hand. I am a human species, and I have spent too many unreclaimable hours of my life being too much of these things.

That's why I love to fail.

It keeps me humble. It keeps me in check. It reminds me that I'm as sinful and fallible and imperfect as the seven billion other people on this planet.

Forgive more. Judge less. Show compassion. Be understanding. Accept and appreciate people for who they are, shortcomings and all.

It's good for the heart. Literally.