Sunday, April 7, 2013

A new page, a new start

If anyone has been following this blog (thank you!), you've probably noticed that it has become overrun by book reviews and not so many blog posts. Rather than trying to untangle these posts and try to find a way to force myself to become more disciplined in my posting, I have decided to start from scratch.

To follow my posts about life, work, etc. please see

If you're more interested in the books that I am reading, you can find those at

Cheers :)


Sunday, March 31, 2013

Book Review #17: We're losing our minds

I ordered the book We're losing our minds: Rethinking American Higher Education written by Richard P. Keeling and Richard H. Hersch in 2012 after reading a review by @joesabado on Goodreads.

The main premise behind this book is that American institutions of Higher Education have shifted their focus away from being places of 'learning' towards a place of higher rating than its neighbours. Although the arguments themselves made a lot of sense (and I certainly couldn't argue with many of the points made), the book itself was a bit winded and made for a slow read.

I definitely took my time getting through this one (2 weeks is a long time for me to take to read a book), but it was worth reading just for the fact that it offered some strong arguments, as well as a few suggestions of discussion points to encourage change.  Not quite a page-turner, but an interesting read nonetheless.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Book Review #16: Hacking Your Education

Mind = Blown

That is the best statement I can say in relation to the book Hacking your Education: Ditch the lectures, save tens of thousands, and learn more than your peers ever will by Dale J. Stephens and published this year. I found out about the book from @joesabado's Goodreads list and am glad I did!

Stephens begins the book by recounting his own experience dropping out of school in the fifth grade, and then out of college in his freshman year, to become an unschooler.  This book is not in fact a call to action, asking everyone to drop out of school.  Instead, the author encourages readers to create their own intentional learning opportunities, whether within the post-secondary system or not.

Stephens offers several suggestions for those looking to 'hack' their education, from broadening social networks, to taking out books from the library, and hopping on a place across the globe.

I think that working with students, we often hear them complain that they don't really know what they want to do, and are only in schools because that's what is expected of them.  This book encourages those students to take some time to figure out why they are in school, and determining whether that is the best way to achieve the goals they have in that moment.

I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone, as we all know that learning is a lifelong process, and it's never to late to start!

Book Review #15: Outliers

After four years, I have finally gotten around to reading Outliers: The Story of Success, written by Malcolm Gladwell in 2008. As much as I have kept telling myself over the years that I needed to get to it, I'd be lying if I didn't say that the reason I finally picked it up is that I ran out of books to read (I ordered a dozen in January and have made it through all of them - thankfully my most recent order arrived on Friday).

This book was very similar in style to Gladwell's other works (Tipping Point and Blink), in that it begins with a fairly simple concept, and then consists of several examples supporting it.  The premise for Outliers, is that one cannot just assume that the 'world's greatests' were simply born with an innate talent or gift, but actually reached this exceptional status through timing and circumstance (essentially being at the right place at the right time).

An example in the book is of Bill Gates, who happened to be entering his teenage years when a fundraising group purchased a computer for his school. After using up countless hours of computer time, he found a company needing work completed, a university computer lab with available time in the middle of the night, etc.  All these conditions resulted in Gates working up to 10,000 hours on programming, before he finally dropped out of Harvard after his sophomore year to start Microsoft. Now had Bill Gates not been born in 1955, had Lakeside not received a computer, had C-cubed not been willing to allow teenagers to check code on weekends, had ISI not needed someone to work on its payroll software, had the University of Washington not have open computer time from 3-6am, etc., Microsoft might not exist today.

This book definitely provides some food for thought, and truly makes readers appreciate the various circumstances which can come together to 'make or break' someone.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Book Review #14: Blink

I picked up Blink: The power of thinking without thinking (written by Malcolm Gladwell in 2005), four or five years ago, along with The Tipping Point and Outliers by the same author.

I read the Tipping Point shortly after buying the books, and loved it.  I then began reading Blink, and I guess life must have gotten in the way, because when I picked it up again last week the bookmark was still sitting somewhere around the middle of the book.  Seeing as I didn't really remember what the book was about, I decided to start from the beginning, and have enjoyed reading it this past week.

The main premise behind Blink is that some of the best decisions we make in  life, and some of our greatest insights, are those made in split second 'slices' where our conscious mind reacts to a 'signal' from our subconscious.  One example in the book is that of art experts glancing at a sculpture which science has indicated to be an original piece, several hundred years old, and feeling immediate repulsion. Later analysis was able to determine that the piece was only a few decades old.  The experts were not able to state how they knew the piece was fake, only that their first instinct was to feel that there was something wrong.

Gladwell then spends the rest of the book listing off other examples of similar thoughts/judgments, which can seem a bit tedious at times, but still provides considerable food for thought.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Book Review #13: The Audacity of Hope

The book The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream written by Barack Obama in 2006 was recommended to me during a session at the College Student Alliance's Transition Conference in 2009. I purchased the book immediately following the conference, put it in my desk drawer, and completely forgot about it, until last week.

I found this book extremely refreshing, especially when considering it was written when Obama was a US Senator, not one of the most powerful men in the world. Obama writes this book partly as a memoir of his own personal experiences, as well as several suggestions for improving quality of life not only in the US, but around the world.  Reading it now, as Obama begins his second term in the White House, one can truly appreciate the fact that he has remained true to his own principles, and taken steps to meet some of the challenges he himself set out to American politicians.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Book Review #12: Drive

This book has been recommended to by so many people in the #SAchat community, and I just never got around to ordering it until last month. Drive, written by Daniel H. Pink in 2009 explores new motivational techniques aimed at increasing results in twenty-first century workplaces.

Pink's work is based on three elements of motivation: Autonomy, over task, time, team, and technique; Mastery, becoming better at something that matters; and Purpose, making a contribution and supporting a cause greater than oneself.

One of Pink's concepts that particularly resonates with me is that of the 'carrot and stick' approach to rewards. By using an 'if, than' approach to rewards, we are reducing creativity, productivity, and ensuring that we will not see desired results without offering a reward in exchange.  The author uses the example of giving a child allowance for performing chores.  If children know that they can get paid to perform household tasks, it will become almost impossible to get them to help out around the house for free.  On the flip side, if one offers 'now that' rewards to randomly recognize good or hard work, it will boost morale and thus increase productivity.

I would recommend this book to just about anyone, as it offers some great insight into not only how to obtain better results from employees, but also how to create more motivating situations within our own lives.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Book Review #11: Pursuing Higher Education in Canada

I've just finished reading Pursuing Higher Education in Canada: Economic, Social, and Policy Dimensions, edited in 2010 by Ross Finnie, Marc Frenette, Richard E. Mueller, and Arthur Sweetman, the accompanying volume to the book I reviewed this morning.

Like it's predecessor, this work is a compilation of a series of research articles and studies conducted based on Statistics Canada data (yes, this weekend has been a bit of a statistics overload).  Though the first volume was focused more on what factors (financial, parental education, etc) could increase or decrease likelihood of pursuing post-secondary (PS) education, this one focuses more on the transition from high school to college or university, how the general economy impacts PS enrollment, ethnic differences in educational attainment, and the impact of family background on PS aspirations and attendance.

This volume is very data-heavy, and causes a bit of an information overload when read at once (especially with the first volume added); however the information contained in both volumes is extremely valuable in understanding the students currently enrolled (or enrolling) in our institutions.

Book Review #10: Who goes? Who Stays? What Matters?

In a previous post, I wrote how Canadian higher education resources are relatively hard to come by.  As the field is still behind its American counterpart, most of our research and data is based on US numbers.  

A book I reviewed recently provided historical information and background on the field of Student Affairs in Canada. This new volume, Who Goes? Who Stays? What Matters? Accessing and Persisting in Post-Secondary Education in Canada, edited by Ross Finnie, Richard E. Mueller, Arthur Sweetman, and Alex Usher in 2008, provides statistical analysis of post-secondary attendance and persistence in Canada.

The book is by no means a thrilling narrative; however it is quite informative (and I imagine I will be using it as a resource when I pursue advanced degrees).  Much of the articles in this volume are based on the data compiled with Statistics Canada's Youth in Transition Survey, a longitudinal analysis of students from age 15-21 (to date) as they make their decisions to (or not) pursue higher education in Canada.

The volume is divided into a number of sections regarding Access, Persistence, and Financial Issues.  The works attempt to determine which factors are more likely to determine whether a student chooses to attend college, university, or neither: high school gpa, friends intent to pursue PSE, parental income, parental education level, part time jobs, etc. 

I would recommend this volume to any professional in Canada looking to examine educational trends, as it not only answers some questions, but opens the door for new studies.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Review #9: Ask for It

On Sunday I wrote a review of the book Women Don't Ask (WDA) by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever.  In this blog, I said how I planned to use the book as a starting point to help me get more of what I want out of life. When I had ordered WDA from Amazon, I got the recommendation for a second book by the same authors, Ask for It: How women can use the power of negotiation to get what they really want, published in 2008, so I purchased it at the same time.

Well, if I thought the first book was a good starting point, then the second one is the how-to guide.  The same real-life scenarios are included in this new work, but the book itself is broken down into a series of steps which should be taken in order to increase negotiation power. One chapter even includes a six-week 'workout' in negotiating, which is supposed to make the reader more comfortable with the process as a whole.  From asking for little things you're likely to receive, to requesting a 'bulk discount' on gasoline (yes, I immediately thought of the commercial as well), the exercises are designed to create habit in asking for more, as well as reduce the sting of hearing 'no'.

What I really liked about this book is that although it was still mostly aimed at women, the strategies discussed could easily be applied by a man or woman looking to get 'more' out of life.

On a personal note, I've already started working on outlining some of my own goals, and am planning to begin asking for them soon :)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Book Review #8: Women don't ask

When I first joined the twitterverse, a few individuals recommended that I read Women Don't Ask:The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiations - and Positive Strategies for Change, written by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever in 2003.  I was trying to go back in my tweet history to see exactly who it was that made the recommendations so I could thank them, but I can't see back that far :(.  Instead, I'm just going to send a huge thank you out into the universe and hope that they receive it!

As a new professional, I have often found myself unsure of how much is reasonable for me to ask in terms of salary, benefits, development opportunities, etc.  This book not only tells me that I am not alone in these feelings, but that I am in fact like the majority of women out there. One would think that there is comfort in knowing that there are others like me, but instead it makes me feel even more frustrated. Simply by being female, I am not only more likely to earn significantly less than my male counterparts, but can actually be looked down upon by asking for equal treatment, benefit, and compensation.

This book was a bit of an eye opener for me, in that it not only taught me the value of introducing negotiation in my daily life, but that it pointed out the drastic financial losses I could face by not doing so:

By neglecting to negotiate her starting salary for her first job, a woman may sacrifice over half a million dollars in lost earnings by the end of her career...
I hope to use this book as a starting point to setting specific goals for myself, both personal and professional, and determining what steps I need to take in order to achieve them.  Most importantly, I hope that I will find the strength to ask for not only what I want, but what I deserve.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Book Review #7: Demonstrating Student Success

The Student Learning Imperative (ACPA, 1994) states:
Knowledge and understanding are critical to student success and institutional improvement.
Whereas Alexander Astin (1991) says that:
Assessment practices should further the basic aims and purposes of our higher education institutions. 
These two statements are in many ways the basis for Demonstrating Student Success: A Practical Guide to Outcomes-Based Assessment of Learning and Development in Student Affairs, written by Marilee J. Bresciani, Megan Moore Gardner, and Jessica Hickmott in 2009.

This book serves as a 'how-to' guide on designing, implementing and reporting on assessment of student services and programs in higher education.

In the first section, the authors provide a historical overview of assessment theories in higher education, followed by an explanation of and rationale for outcome-based assessment.

The body of the work includes a listing of the main components of an outcome-based assessment plan, as well as an explanation of various assessment methods, analysis and reporting of results; and implementation of recommendations based on those results.

Finally, the book concludes by exploring some of the challenges in assessment, collaboration, and funding requirements.

As I came into my current position in late October, many of the current processes were already in place before I arrived.  One thing I am looking forward to doing this summer in preparation for a new influx of students is examining some of our existing programs and creating an outcome-based learning model moving forward. I plan to use this book as a starting point, and am sure that I will take advantage of the various resources listed within it to help guide my work.

Book Review #6: Connected

How can your colleague's sister's husband make you fat? If you want the answer to this question (and many others), you must read Connected: How your Friends' Friends' Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think, and Do, written by Nicholas A. Christiakis, MD, PhD and James H Fowler, PhD in 2009.

This book explores how the people we are connected with (up to the 3rd degree of separation) can truly impact our lives in ways we never imagined possible. The authors examine numerous sociological and psychological theories and experiments and come to surprising conclusions about how profoundly we are impacted by our social networks, both actual and virtual.

An easy way to explain their theory is to look at how couples meet. A study conducted in Chicago in 1992 showed that:
Roughly 68 percent of the people in the study met their spouses after being introduced by someone they knew, while only 32 percent met via "self-introduction." Even for short-term partners like one-night stands, 53 percent were introduced by someone else. 
In this work, the authors use everything from primate behaviour to a virtual epidemic on World of Warcraft to illustrate how truly interconnected we are, and to predict how we will act within our own social networks.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Book Review #5: Five Seconds at a Time

I mentioned in my last post that I have recently joined the #sareads group through Goodreads (which, by the way is an awesome way to track readings and receive recommendations for new books). The first book for this group is Five Seconds at a Time, written by Denis Shackel (with Tara Bradacs) in 2010.

Shackel begins this book with a tragic personal experience, and how he survived almost insurmountable odds by breaking the challenge down into manageable bites, five seconds at a time. The author then continues by applying the techniques which helped him survive to a basic leadership model.
The Five Seconds at a Time Technique:
Breathe and pause to reflect on the goal, how you feel and whether you are still headed in the right direction. 
Prioritize what's most important
Break down top priorities into manageable intervals or tasks with specific timelines assigned to each
Acknowledge when tasks along the way have been accomplished and reward yourself when they have
A nice part of this book is that at the end of every section, Shackel encourages readers to 'take five seconds' with points to ponder, quotes to remember, and questions to consider.

All in all, the tools and techniques outlined in this book are simple enough for anyone to begin incorporating into their daily life. The only complaint I have is that much of the narrative is faith-based, and although I respect that faith played an enormous role in allowing the author to survive his ordeal, I'm not convinced that every element of leadership also directly linked to a reader's faith.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Book Review #4 - Motivating the Middle

You know how they say 'good things come in small packages'? Well the book Motivating the Middle: Fighting Apathy in College Student Organizations, written by T.J. Sullivan in 2012 definitely fits that description!

This is an extremely quick read (6o-ish pages which can be read in under 30 minutes), but offers some real gems for anyone working with student organizations.

The target audience for this book is the top third of all student organizations, those over-involved, crazy over the top students who want to be everything to everyone and put the needs of their organizations over their academics and most everything else in their lives (I was definitely guilty of this as a student). Rather than focus on the bottom third of the organization, those bare-minimum, often complaining and unreliable members of the group, Sullivan emphasizes the need to work at connecting with the mid-range group. These individuals may not be as completely devoted as the top tier, but are still much more committed and willing to participate than the bottom tier. 

Sullivan offers a list of thirteen strategies for the superstars of the group to better engage the 'middle', thus strengthening the group as a whole:
  1. Ask their opinion, but don't ask them to do anything else
  2. Ask "what one thing do you think we could be doing that we aren't that would make this group stronger?
  3. Start and end your meetings on time
  4. Invite the significant others
  5. Give them more choices and the ability to skip the things they don't enjoy
  6. Minimize the conflict in your group to the greatest extent possible
  7. Let the middle member lead on the thing he likes most
  8. Thank them for participating
  9. Offer to assist with other stressful areas
  10. Give them a meaningful supporting role
  11. Ask for help on one specific, limited-time task
  12. Take some personal time with them
  13. Slow down on the decisions 
In reading the given descriptions, I found a few errors that I myself make with the groups I advise, and am looking forward to applying some of these ideas. I am also strongly considering purchasing a few extra copies of the book to hand out to my Senior Resident Assistants and Residence Council President in hopes that it will help them in their work with student leaders. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Book Review #3 - Achieving Student Success

I've just finished reading my third (not for pleasure, but still quite pleasurable) book of 2013, Achieving Student Success: Effective student services in Canadian higher education, edited by Donna Hardy Cox and C. Carney Strange, and published in 2010.

This book came up on my 'recommended reads' list on Amazon, and I immediately ordered it (along with about 10 other books last month - thank you Amazon Prime free trial!). What attracted me to this one, was that it is CANADIAN, unlike so many other Student Services references books out there. Although it can be expected that student services aren't very different between the US and Canada, our histories are still different, as are our practices. This book is a compilation of chapters written by Canadian #sapros (or pros in the US who began their careers in Canada), and divided into sections: 
  •  Historical, Philosophical, and Theoretical Foundations of Student Services
  •  Forms, Functions, and Practices: Structuring Services for Student Success
    • Matriculation
    • Accommodations, engagement, and involvement
    • Support and adjustment
  • Institutional Mission and Context
  • Achieving Student Success: Conclusion
What I enjoyed about this book is that although it had the expected 'textbook' feel, it offered an analysis (and sometimes critique) of student services as they currently stand in Canada. Most notably was the observation that so few graduate/doctoral programs are offered to individuals interested in student services as a career. As I am currently in the process of researching Master's programs (with hopes of a 2014 start), I have noticed this void myself, and am hoping that I will be able to build a more specialized program through the ones already available. 

This book also mentions the importance of building and maintaining relationships with alumni, not only for the financial benefits to the institution, but because individuals may only be students for a few years, but they will be alumnae for life.  

A quote I found particularly notable (especially given my positon on UOIT's brand new Alumni Association):
Student services programs can contribute expertise about how to help current students begin thinking as "alumni/ae in residence" and seeing graduation as a process of joining something for life rather than departing the institution.
I would recommend this book to any student services professional who wishes to supplement the existing resources with some Canadian information, and believe it will be a useful reference in my library.

I'm beginning to think that my 'one PD book per month' goal is going to be easier to achieve than I thought! I am especially excited about #sareads, and am looking forward to adding those books to my monthly reading list.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Book Review #2 - Quiet

I have been reading this book off and on for a few months, but finally finished it this weekend, which is why it has made its way onto my 2013 book review list.  The book in question is Quiet: The Power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking, and was written by Susan Cain in 2012. 

This book was recommended to me by a former manager at Fleming College on my 2nd day of work, when he realized that I may not actually be the glaring extrovert I appear to be on the outside (side note: an instructor at Seneca College suggested that I may in fact be an ambivert, given that I tend to fall right around the line distinguishing introverts from extroverts on the Myers-Briggs scale - the quiz on Cain's website would also see me classified as an ambivert).

In this book, Cain introduces notable introverts in history, and explains how their preference allowed them to make such significant contributions over time. She also explores how some of the 'typical' traits of introverts can be both a gift and a burden, especially in North American or European societies that so value extroversion.  Most importantly, Cain identifies some of the challenges faced by introverts and extroverts alike in the workplace, in romantic relationships, and even in parenting. 

One thing I liked about this book is that it wasn't 'extrovert bashing', in the sense that Cain didn't focus on how society is wrong for expecting all individuals to act a certain way. Instead, she explains some of the errors made by individuals of both types in certain situations and how they can meet in the middle to create/strengthen productive, supportive, and loving relationships.

As someone who can identify with both 'types', I found this book helped explain some of my own behaviours, as well as the reactions of others when I exhibit more of one than the other. Given that one third of all individuals identify as introverts, I think this book is a great read for managers who wish to support and encourage the more 'reserved' members of their teams; spouses looking to better understand their partners; parents who wish to help their children thrive without forcing them into a mould; or any individual wanting to understand the people around them.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

I guess this is growing up

Last week, I spent a week in beautiful Punta Cana in preparation for my younger sister's wedding. That week, and the group of people who joined us on the trip gave me some time to reflect on some of the relationships that carry us through life.

You have to understand, my sister had always been one of those shy, quiet people who could spend hours at a family gathering without saying more than ten words.  Through martial arts, she helped develop her confidence and became more outgoing, though still never really saying more than necessary (unless you caught her with a group of friends - or my friends - where she wouldn't stop talking).

Though my sister never really had much to say, she did surround herself with a group of people who loved her and supported her, even when she decided to pick up with her now husband and move 12 hours from home following graduation from university (she chose to study accounting because she figured she could work for our father and would never have to worry about interviewing for a job).

The guest count at my sister's wedding was close to 50, which is uncommon for a destination wedding.  These guests included our parents, as well as several aunts and uncles; our stepsister (who we've become much closer to in the past few years) with her husband and daughter; several of her friends (some of whom had traveled from all over Canada and even Belgium), as well as her former Tae Kwon Do instructor and a former training partner.

My sister is one of those people who values every relationship she builds, and that was made evident by the group of people who joined us on this trip. Some of these people, such as our family, had known her since birth.  Others she had known since kindergarten. Some were high school or university friends, and a few were colleagues and new friends she has met in the 4 years she has been living out of province.  Her Tae Kwon Do instructor cried as she walked down the aisle, and when my stepfather stated that he looked as though he was marrying off his own daughter, her coach replied that it felt as though he was.

All these people have helped to make my sister into the successful young woman she is today, and I think her fortunate to have been able to keep these relationships so strong despite the years and miles which have separated them.

As I reflect on my own relationships, I would like to recognize everyone who has helped me get to where I am today, and wish to thank each and every one of them, even if I haven't had a chance to do so in person recently. I know sometimes time and distance make it impossible to stay in touch on a regular basis, but I am a product of the relationships I have had, and would not be who I am today were it not for these exceptional people.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book Review #1 - The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

As I've promised myself as part of my #oneword2013, I will be reading at least one book per month which is either directly or indirectly related to my work in Student Affairs.

The first of these books is entitled The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, written by Patrick Lencioni and published in 2002.  Given that most teambuilding/leadership books tend to be quite dry, I wasn't really sure what to expect when reading this one, but thought it might be worth reading anyways, given that I am now responsible for a team of student leaders for the first time as a professional. I was pleasantly surprised by not only how quick this book was to read (I made it through the 224 pages during two lunch breaks and a one-hour wait for an appointment), but how interesting it was as well.

Most of the book revolves around a fictional scenario in which a new CEO attempts to 'fix' a very disconnected executive team by identifying and addressing a list of 'dysfunctions' which prevent it from being successful. The book concludes with an in-depth review of the five dysfunctions, as well as a self-evaluation meant to allow individuals and groups to assess their team dynamics.

What I found most significant in reading this book was that even though I haven't had any real problems with my own team, I was able to identify behaviours which upon further reflection, would qualify as having a negative impact on the group.  Evidently, working in a group in which I am a professional staff member supervising a group of student leaders, I am not able to apply all the techniques that could work for a company's executive team. I am however getting some ideas for how to improve the dynamics within my current group, as well as how to help form next year's Residence Assistant team.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone working with a group of individuals, as either a supervisor or a team member.

Monday, January 14, 2013

My 'Commit'ments

Well, we are now 2 weeks into the new year and I've managed to uphold some of my commitments to date:

  • My budget is looking good and I've even managed to put a decent chunk of money towards paying down some debt last week so that's making me feel pretty good
  •  I've missed a couple Tumblr posts so far, but for the most part am posting something on a daily basis
  • I've gotten my weekly blog posts in, so I'm doing well in that sense
  •  haven't gone out running as much as I should be, but I'm planning to register for a couple 10k runs in the next few days, so that should at least guarantee that I'll get out to do some training in the meantime
    1. The Sporting Life 10k in Toronto in May
    2. The 10k Zoo Run in September
  • I've gone a little Amazon-crazy and ordered 5 books that I have had on my must-read list for a while now.  My 'commitment' was to try and read one of these types of books per month (as I can read several works of fiction in a week), but it's looking as though that number may be increased slightly once I start diving into these ones
    1. Achieving Student Success: Effective Student Services in Canadian Higher Education by Donna Hardy Cox and C. Carney Strange
    2. Women don't Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever
    3. Ask for It: How Women can use the Power of Negotiation to get what they Really Want by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever
    4. Pursuing Higher Education in Canada: Economic, Social and Policy Directions by Ross Finnie et al.
    5. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick M. Lencioni
Needless to say, I'm not perfect, but I definitely think I'm making some progress towards achieving the goals I have set out for myself in 2013.  I'm looking forward to continuing on this path and hopefully adding a few book reviews to this blog in the coming weeks.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Residence Life Winter Camp

This week, my colleagues and I took our 20 residence life staff members (Residence Assistants and Senior Residence Assistants) on a Winter retreat. This was a great opportunity for all the staff to spend time together for the first time since summer training, and reconnect as a team.  In addition to engaging the group, this opportunity also allowed the staff, as individuals, to challenges their own abilities, through learning how to cross-country ski, snowshoe, as well as participate in low and high-ropes courses.

In previous years, this retreat served as a training session, with very little programming.  Though the benefits of training mid-year are no doubt evident, we chose a different approach this year by using the session more for team-building purposes, with only one official training session (behind closed doors) in order to review our expectations for certain situations.

The reasoning behind this change was that we could use our weekly staff meetings as an opportunity to engage in mini-training sessions, in order to provide on-going training, and to fulfill identified need in a timely manner.  By using this approach, we have been able to redefine expectations for incident reporting, review concerns regarding addressing a student at risk of self-harm, as well as practice clear and concise communication with students, all within a week of identifying a need or concern.

I'm looking forward to seeing how this method will continue to benefit the staff in the coming months, and whether the added team-building will ensure a renewed bond between these individuals.