Dr. Jason Pina Addresses Division of Student Affairs

If you missed the Professional Development Opportunity on 1/10/12, you missed a great session.  Below is a recap of Dr. Jason Pina’s address to the group:  Stay tuned for reflections from Michael Miller’s session at a later date!

Theme of Culture

When I began thinking about speaking to all of you today, a theme immediately came to mind—CULTURE. Almost daily, someone on campus will ask me how I was transitioning and finding BSU. It has been a wonderful five months here and really appreciated the warmth and acceptance I experienced. I want to share three types of culture that I believe will shape our work this semester and beyond. The cultures of gratitude, change and evidence have and will continue to shape our work. If you imagine the complexity and diversity of our students, each of you has a role in helping them be successful. Although some of us may be identified more closely with the physical or emotional development of our students, students only experience one BSU and are less inclined to simply subdivide our work into distinct monolithic benefits and departments. A successful Student Affairs culture is one that honors and respects the interplay of our specialized work and realize that our job is to work as our students learn at BSU within one University environment not one based on departments, job titles, or lists of responsibilities.

When you think about CULTURE, you should reflect on what are our shared values and how do they contribute to our students’ success. It may be easier for me to see the commonality among all of you because of my position but I believe many of our most successful students take fuller advantage of our work than other students. Unfortunately, scaling the experience of these students and knowing that work is successful is difficult to achieve. I joined you in this work because I believed that you make real inroads on this approach. Nothing has occurred since August 13th to change that belief.

Together, we will continue to further fine tune and improve our practice for our students!

Culture of Gratitude

I was at the Student Government earlier this semester and a student asked me what I liked most about BSU. I enjoy many aspects of our University but they asked me to choose one. I told them the Summer Street Entrance of the RCC was one of my favorite parts of BSU. After more than a few strange looks, I shared that almost without exception students thank me for holding the door. It may seem like a small gesture but it is a mannerism that is lost on many folks especially on MANY other campuses. If I am walking with someone and we enter the RCCC on Summer Street, they can be assured that we will be delayed from our final destination.

I share that anecdote as one piece of evidence that BSU has a unique Culture of Gratitude. Whether it is how we advise, coach, and lead in our respective areas, the cleanliness and safety of our residence halls or the responsibility we have to spend tuition and fee dollars responsibly, students appreciate the BSU education.

In an article I read in November, author Liz Jazweic outlined six ways to create a culture of gratitude. I want to share them with you and ask that you consider the existence of each one in your professional life. I believe our Division employs all six and hope you will help me further their existence on campus and in the minds of our students and colleagues.

  1. Say Thanks
  2. Adopt an “It’s the thought that counts” attitude.
  3. Communicate openly and honestly
  4. Be prepared for some kind words
  5. Thank those you serve
  6. Know that gratitude encourages repeat performances

Recognition and thanks of staff

  • Mrs. Rosa
  • Maribeth Johnson Flakes
  • Dan Rezendes
  • Doris Murray

Culture of Change

I need to thank many of you in this room because you have humored me at every turn during the fall semester when I would offer the comment that very little has changed with my arrival. I at least had enough sense to ask some folks about my approach and what they observed was positive and negative for our students and Division. I thought it would be helpful to reiterate and expand on my hopes for our improved practice.

The longer I reflect on the direction of our Division and many of our Departments I have focused on a three part approach to guide change. First, we must know the most informed practices in our respective specialties. Whether you call them best, standard or emerging practices, our Division needs to know where our profession is heading. Second, we must critically examine and deconstruct the BSU environment. Knowing and deconstructing the uniqueness of our community will better inform the direction of potential change. Third, we must dare to dream. Incremental change and improvement will always be part of the workforce. This process and the potential for innovation come out of a daring goal of creativity and transformation.

I do not share these feelings for all of us to leave this room to innovate and transform all that we do. What I ask is that we begin to ask a few questions. Why do we do our work this way? How do we know it is the best use of resources and has the highest benefit for students? I will speak more about these questions relative to the Culture of Evidence but I believe these questions will drive our best change efforts.

One of the changes made this fall have been the Divisional committees. Although I could fill the morning with their accomplishments, I want to just mention some outcomes. First, Lee Forest has led a group that developed a grant like process for Student Affairs’ $20,000 Diversity Fund. The process and funded initiatives will go a long way in achieving social justice goals. This morning is just one example of the work of Professional and divisional Development committee led by Cindy Kane. Looking on our growth from a strategic standpoint will go a long way in determining the best approach to approving skill sets for students’ benefits. Cathy Holbrook has continued the good work of the Divisional Assessment committee. Their charge has expanded to include developing a process to harness the potential of the Student Support Fee. Although in its infancy, Ed Cabellon’s work on Technology has brought our Division closer to IT and I look forward to more outcomes and increasing the number of us involved in Divisional technology efforts. Beth Moriarty will be setting the groundwork for our strategic work with Alumni and Development. 2013 will be an important year for developing this plan.

Culture of Evidence

I already mentioned a couple of questions that have and will drive change— Why do we do our work this way? How do we know it is the best use of resources and has the highest benefit for students? These are questions that I have asked myself increasingly the last six years. Many have asked me why I decided to go back to school and pursue my doctorate. My basic but very honest answer is that my supervisors asked my opinion on what direction to take on certain topics and they actually followed some of my advice. I began to second-guess myself. Up until that point, it was easy to share my opinion with little regard of the foundation of those opinions. It was my truth, my evidence, my stories and that was enough for me. When others actually listened to my words and acted upon them, I started to wonder if my opinion was the best informed it could be. I wondered if my anecdotes and experiences were enough evidence to drive our department and division towards an initiative that would maximize our resources for our students. I quickly concluded that it was not.

It was always easy for me to answer why I do the work I do. I want students to maximize their time as a student and graduate at a higher developmental and intellectual level than they imagined at the start of their journey. My vision is of the new student opening an unfamiliar textbook and wondering if the language within it is actually English just to master the content and be able to help others by the end of the course. On the surface, my vision is easy to grasp because many of us have had that experience in our academic or personal lives. The challenge is discerning how our work supports that vision. Anecdotes and rudimentary trends do add context and perspective to our work but it is not our work. Our work entails supporting the dreams of thousands of students and it encompasses millions of interactions both recognized and unrecognized.

The question of how do we know it works is one I know folks in this room wrestle with continually. With diminishing resources and increasing complexity the margin of error in our work has all but evaporated. The last five months have provided me time to observe how all of you have tackled these challenges and it is impressive. I asked your Directors to share just a few successes from the Fall. Let me share some of them with you.

  • Athletics has continued its success in the MASCAC. We currently lead in the Smith Cup point totals. In addition, two sports (football and women’s tennis) earned NCAA births.
  • The Children’s Center established the Bridgewater Family Circle. The group is design to present programs that will help build community within the Center.
  • Career Services had a fantastic fall semester. In the midst of being short staffed, the department was able to increase partnerships with faculty through class visits and faculty roundtables. An exciting rebranding also occurred with the use of the phrase “Student to Professional.” This notion grounded in survey results and national trends has fed into self-examination of the entire operation.
  • CMA continued many of its traditionally student-centered programs while living without a Director. I would like to thank those in the room that gave of professional and personal time to support CMA and the students.
  • Health, Counseling and Educational Outreach highlight is actually a lowlight. On November 5th, a flood displaced the staff.
  • OSIL collaborated with the Student Government Association to establish the Bridgewater Traditions Network. The group’s goal is to enhance the sense of tradition at BSU.
  • Pride Center has made some great strides in their work and community outreach. They have experienced a 17% increase in the attendance of their Queer People of Color events from last year. I’ve gone to this particular program and was blown away by the level of engagement of the students and especially how our colleagues nurtured the discussion.
  • Residence Life and Housing started the first upper class Learning Community. It is focused on social justice and residents were required to submit an application and enroll in a course together.
  • Two RCC staff members travelled with six students over 900 miles through four states and visited 7 schools. The purpose was to film various student unions and formulate a vision for the future of the RCC.
  • Student Conduct was able to recruit and train 22 new conduct board members. Now totaling 71, the conduct board both upholds University policy but also serve as advocates of our community norms in their daily activities. This group is comprised of Students, Staff and Faculty.

 

Some of you have also worked hard to measure and codify some of your practices to ensure we are doing our very best for the students. These pockets of evidence coupled with the assessment expertise within our Division provide an opportunity we must actualize. Some of our colleagues have been spending the year engaging in an Assessment Workshop series to share experiences and learn new skills. The time has come to shine a light on our assessment efforts, codify our successes and challenges, and to institutionalize how our Division will use assessment to inform our operations to be able to express how we know our work is value added for our population. The time for us to have unwavering confidence in our approach to supporting students is now.

Conclusion

  • 2013 is already looking like an exciting year of change
    • Weygand Residence Hall is on time and on budget
      • This building will bring 500 more students on campus, expanded RLH staff and a new home for Health and Counseling Services
      • RCC Revitalization Taskforce
        • $4.5 million renovation of the Entrance and Infrastructure
        • Renovation of the Game Room into a student-centered space
        • Moving out of non-student-centered administrative offices
        • Design of the building rooms, usage, and vibe
        • Learning Community Development
          • Joint committee with Academic Affairs led by Drs. Cathy Holbrook and Paula Krebs
          • Focused on residential and commuter opportunities
          • The group will partner with the new Assistant Director
          • Academic Affairs Collaboration
            • January leadership meeting
    • Thank you again for your commitment to our students and your profession. Each day you are able to bring your whole self to campus and share your abilities with the rest of the community –our students are closer to success. I will continue to work on supporting our work.
    • Checking in with my colleagues
      • Social media, email, etc.
      • 30 minute meetings—Doris will reach out
      • Open office hours
      • Lunch/ coffee
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