An Unabashed Fan.

Several years ago at our annual National Association of Student Personnel Administrators conference, I was invited with an inaugural group of presenters to launch NASPA SA Speaks. This format is similar to the popular TED talks. www.ted.com   Presenters had an opportunity to explore a topic of their choosing, and had a 10-12 minute time limit. When I arrived in the room, the crowd milled about, and it was hard to tell if it would be a full house. Within minutes of the program starting, all seats were full; folks lined the walls and sat on the floor.  As every public speaker knows, this is when your mouth goes suddenly and completely dry.

I started the program showing this amazing YouTube video “The Human Spirit.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiZ-hF9d9Rw  

It was a powerful opening, and I knew that it would energize the NASPA crowd. Oh, how I wish it had worked that way! The hotel Wi-Fi was so poor; the video immediately started buffering. After two attempts at a failed connection, it was show time, and no great opener! Life happens.

Discovering spirituality in leadership and bringing our whole selves to work was my 12-minute focus. I cautioned listeners that the “spirit talk” wasn’t going to be the soft, feel-good message.  This was not just about authenticity.  In large measure, my message called for a deliberate dose of respect for one another. I do not believe you can go to work and separate your mind, body, soul. In other words, you do not leave your soul at home on the way to the office! Your spirit (however defined) comes with you regardless of what work you do. By definition, spirit is the inner quality or nature of person. You cannot escape having spirit; you can decide how you want it defined.

Folks often define spirit in terms of a belief system, and in fact those that are agnostic or atheist actually have a belief system as well. In some ways, owning your belief system is the last “coming out” story. For a time it seemed if you mentioned you were Christian in the academy, there was a connotation of being anti-intellectual. So at NASPA I came out. I am an unabashed fan of Jesus. As I said this, looking around the room, I could tell by the crowd’s reactions they were already making assumptions about me.

Therefore, I took it a bit further and shared, I work at a Jesuit, Catholic college, raised Episcopal, have an eclectic spirituality, and a Muslim stepmother. I questioned the group: hearing this, how do you begin reframing your assumptions about my “spirit?” We need to be freer and bring our whole selves to work. Practicing a leadership that is inclusive of mind, body and spirit only makes sense, especially in higher education. It doesn’t make sense that our moral thinking and ethical decision-making can be separate from our inward life, from spirit. 

Leadership includes the qualities of power, influence and execution. It also includes and offers opportunities for service and grace. In leadership roles, we should invite members of the academy to share and live their spiritual truths without judgment. A university is stronger when interfaith dialogue enhances the mind, body, and spirit among us. 

NASPA: Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

“In times when people are so afraid, the only way through is to listen.”  -Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court Justice of the United States

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The student affairs “blog” is due.  My very able assistant, Audrey Jones, says, “Cissy, what inspired you at NASPA last week?”  I thought for a moment, and the answer was so easy:  Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Sotomayor was the keynote for the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators last week in Philadelphia. Over 7,000 professionals attended the conference and even a spring Nor’easter or two could not keep the over-flowing crowd from this event! 

I had the good fortune to meet, listen and cheer many famous (and not so famous) enthralling speakers.  That said, I have never witnessed a speaker engage with an audience the way Justice Sotomayor did.  She graciously sat down, allowing a colleague to ask a few warm-up questions.  She answered eloquently, with humor, and spoke in complete and grammatically correct paragraphs!  All of a sudden she stood up and changed the nature of the entire interview. 

I was sitting in the third row center. She walked to the front of the stage, looked left and right, and said something like, “Boy, is this going to make my Secret Service detail nervous!”  With that, she began to climb down the stairs, to a thunderous standing ovation, shaking hands and making eye contact with folks.  Without missing a beat, the interviewer asked questions while Justice Sotomayor calmly answered, and continued acknowledging each and everyone’s presence.  At one point, she said, “Don’t jump up and hug me; it makes my team very nervous,” and then again the audience applauded, enjoying her “everyday presence.” Justice Sotomayor reminded us what matters most is recognizing each other’s humanity, listening intently, and understanding that compromise is not about losing - it is about living together in a world that only we can make better.

I have included the website of Dahlia Lithwick’s article, “The Elmo Antidote,” a fuller account of Justice Sotomayor’s speech at NASPA. Well worth the read! https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/03/sonia-sotomayors-message-of-empathy-listening-and-compromise-is-what-we-need.html

I left the Justice Sotomayor keynote of a #fangirl!

ONLY IN NOLA

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In New Orleans, the shortest month of the year has amazing moments!  How many places in the country does work stop for an entire week of revelry?  A week dedicated purely to returning to childlikeness.  I know of absolutely nowhere that you get away with wearing a tutu and a hot pink wig to work; not that I do this, but many of my friends do.

It’s an interesting cultural phenomenon called Mardi Gras.  I love being a part of the “Mystic Krewe of NYX” and Carnival season is an important part of my NOLA experience.  As much as I try to resist bead clamoring, I go home many evenings wondering why my back hurts.  Is it the jumping up and down screaming, me, me, me…or more likely that I am wearing every big bead thrown in my direction?  To the dismay of friends and nearby children, I can snatch beads out of thin air!  To haul in a purse, a shoe, a coconut, medallion or doubloon, one has to be incredibly strategic as you follow the floats along St. Charles.   As a Gallup Strengths Based campus, I feel a responsibility to encourage you to use your “strengths” along the parade route!  Here is how I practice my top five strengths:

  • Strategic: Sidewalk or Neutral Ground? Always looking for alternative routes while snaking through the crowd.
  • Maximizer: Who can help me get the best beads?  Make sure to share the bounty!
  • Activator: Keep up with the ACTION, which means hydrate often; enlist assistance with guarding your stake along the route!
  • Ideation:  Remain fascinated by folks sharing in the Mardi Gras tradition. Pay careful attention not to jostle a ladder.
  • Connectedness:   Every event has a reason and Mardi Gras is a celebration of all that is distinctively NOLA.

Once again another season of Carnival is upon us, and too, we can begin to look forward to spring renewal.  For every Fat Tuesday, there is a welcomed Ash Wednesday.  This is a time for reflection on the gifts we have been given and the gifts we can give to one another.  I do not think of this as so much a time of sacrifice, but a time of cleansing mind, body and spirit.  May your Mardi Gras be festive and your Lenten season be a time of reflection, thanksgiving and love.

A Simple Question

If I were called upon to state in a few words the essence of everything I was trying to say both as a novelist and as a preacher, it would be something like this:  Listen to your life.  See it for the fathomless mystery that it is.  In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness:  touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis, all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.” Frederick Buechner

On the way to the Loyola parking garage, a colleague asked me, “What was the best moment of your day?”  The question took me by surprise; instinctively I went into “work” mode.  Surely, the best moment of my day was clearing all my emails, but maybe it was meeting with the Student Affairs directors to ideate about new ways of having our meetings, or was it surprising an early bird student in the Starbucks line with free coffee? Indeed, all these moments were satisfying; how could I identify just one that was the best?

The word “best” implies superiority over simply other good moments.  Even though I felt a bit paralyzed in my attempt at an answer, her simple question highlighted the importance of mindfulness.  Each moment has the potential to be the “best” if we give our full attention to it.  We so rarely stay “in the moment.”  We are eager to get on to the next best thing that captures our attention and imagination.  Staying in the moment requires us to pay attention to the “here and now,” rather than to simply respond to an event or get lost in the noise around us.

Jon Kabat-Zinn writes about mindfulness and reminds us “in the Asian languages, the word for mind and the word for heart are the same word.  So when we hear the word mindfulness, we have to inwardly also hear heart fullness in order to grasp it as a concept, and especially as a way of being.”  What would our lives be like if in this new year we became both more mindful and held our hearts full?

College Students Home for the Holidays

Finals are almost underway. Grades will be posted soon. Residence Halls will all close. The high energy and stress of the semester is almost behind us. Students love holidays! No surprise, faculty and staff love holidays too. Everyone who makes a campus "buzz" loves the break time. It's a great time to catch up reading for fun, writing for pleasure, and re-connecting with friends from afar. And while all of this energy is good, there still is a certain amount of stress with "going home."

Many students have been on their own for months and sometimes years. Going home represents falling back into "family patterns." Whether you are 18 or 48, you still are the 'oldest, middle, youngest' in a family system. Parents and siblings have a hard time letting go of family roles; we all do. I am the youngest in my family. Until my mother died (when I was 32), every Christmas the gifts were not put under the tree until I went to bed! Yes, even in my 30's...I was still the youngest. When my older sister (she hates when I say that) and I were both home for the holidays she always drove the car. It is hard to bust out of family roles!

My sister and I are 3 years apart. When we went away to college, coming home had its joys and stresses. I would promise myself each year, no matter what, we wouldn't have any disagreements, rolling of the eyes, or other sisterly scenes. We managed to be civil for at least the first 3 days! Thank goodness we've had years to grow our relationship and discover that we can be both friends and siblings.

So how can we reduce stress during the holidays? Here are a few tips that have worked for me and I hope they work for you.

Make sure that you communicate to your family, both parents and siblings, the ways in which you've changed being at school. Often parents, in particular, can't believe you are "growing up and away." It’s an adjustment for both of you! It’s best to talk about your independence, and what expectations they might have for you. It's likely you may hear "in my house, you'll obey my rules."

This is a perfect time for parents and students to sit down and address expectations. While life at college may not have begun until after 11:00 pm, your folks will not appreciate the return at 3:00 am. Remember they have a schedule that they have become used to as well!

Remember your parents are real people. Ask them how they are doing in their work, home and family life. Often students begin to see changes in their families that make them uneasy -parent divorcing or single parents re-partnering, or the recent loss in your parent's family of origin. Parents having job changes, or moving from the "family" home can all create stress. These topics aren't off limits for you to discuss with your parents. They may appreciate your sensitivity, and be aware that you know the world no longer revolves just around you.

Take time for yourself! Relax, and enjoy. Don't spend all your time on Snapchat or Facebook, or with your iPhone. See your friends at home from other colleges. Be grateful for time to re-connect. Exercise and get some sleep!

Let's remember the greatest gift we can give is our love and care for our families and friends. When things get "tight," and you know they will, hold on to the following words: Compromise, Accommodate, Be Grateful, Be Lovingly Honest, Respectful, Communicate, and Celebrate.

Have a terrific holiday with all those you love and who love you. 

All Kinds of Student Successes

At a meeting today, the Interim Provost, Dr. David Borosky, remarked that he was surprised so few faculty and staff members support student events.  Now to be clear, he was not pointing any fingers, simply giving an opinion based on his visits to a few athletic events and music/theater events.  His remarks are not a target at faculty and staff working with students to put on events, or those working with students participating in events.  Just as students expect faculty to show up in their classrooms and staff members to keep office hours, students invested in performing in multiple ways get so much joy at seeing us show up.  Showing up is one of the best ways of acknowledging student success!  Interestingly, someone in the meeting immediately said this should be a part of the Magis health initiative.  We are learning that if we put it in writing and follow up with one another, it is likely to have a very positive outcome.  When making his comments, David said not so loudly, but very clearly, “You do not have to do everything, but choose something.”  Make a commitment to see our students stretching the limits of their learning outside of the classroom. 

Richard J. Light, Professor of the Graduate School of Education and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, wrote the book, Making the Most of College, Students Speak Their Minds.  Light interviewed over 400 undergraduate students with the desire to understand the breadth and depth of the undergraduate student experience. Light posits, “Course choices, advising and decisions about residential living are not done in isolation.”  He realized that campus life for so many undergraduates is a part of a connected system. It is clear in Light’s work that much of what he learned from students was expected, but several “insights” were surprising.  I am including one paragraph, in particular, belonging to Dr. Light, which hints at what David shared at the meeting this morning.

“First, I assumed that most important and memorable academic learning goes on inside the classroom, while outside activities provide a useful but modest supplement.  The evidence shows that the opposite is true:  learning outside of classes, especially in residential settings and extracurricular activities such as the arts, is vital.  When we asked students to think of a specific, critical incident or moment that had changed them profoundly, four-fifths of them chose a situation or event outside of the classroom.”

This morning’s gentle challenge from David is to support the successes of our students; after all, it is our Jesuit heritage of educating mind, body, and spirit, inside and outside the classroom.

Mission Matters

What makes for a sustained career in student affairs? My answer to that question: Do not commit to one area of the student affairs field, and do not focus on a specific title or job. Do not pick your career, but understand your calling.

The word vocation comes to mind. At one time, having a vocation was noble. At some point, the word lost luster, and vocation or vo-tech became a synonym for a job, not a career or calling. The word career resonates with a seriousness of purpose and longevity. At the end of a career, you retire, and a token watch or chair may be involved.

Vocation as Life Work

Vocation is defined as life work based on skills, talents, and strengths. You know you are in the midst of career well-being when you are able to bring your gifts to work and back home again. You recognize the great responsibility of using and sharing your strengths daily to impact the lives of others, not just between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. In our profession, it is a 24/7 commitment.

I am not a big fan of all the talk around work-life balance. I am a fan of using strengths at work and at home to continuously engage in a higher quality of living. Using the gifts you’ve been given, being grateful and reflective, and having agency over the decisions and choices you make are spot-on indicators of career well-being. A sustained career in student affairs demands that you understand your values, your mission, and the contributions that you alone can make. It requires that you recognize those opportunities that match the talents you possess.

Parker Palmer, the founder of the Center for Courage and Renewal and a recognized writer, speaker, and activist, believes that one must “listen for the voice of vocation.” Exuding energy, engagement, and enthusiasm for your life’s work is a clear signal that you have been called. Have confidence about what you love doing and the curiosity to know your authentic self. Have the courage to live your strength and the agency to calibrate when necessary. Calibration of strength represents an act of compassion, reflects an awareness of others, and is critical to your well-being and the well-being of those around you.

Palmer poses the hardest question we must all answer: Is the life you are living the same as the life that wants to live in you? The answer: Before telling your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you the truths that you embody and the values you represent. Trust your strengths, and practice listening to your deepest truths.

Finally, Frederick Buechner, writer and theologian wrote, “To find your mission is to discover the intersection between your heart’s deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger.” Your mission is ultimately the key to a sustained career in the student affairs field.

On Giving Advice

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During Orientation, one of the best questions came from a parent.  She said, “What advice would you give my son on how to be successful in college?”  While my response was “off the cuff,” it caused, me to consider all the families whose children have chosen Loyola, and are hopeful for their student’s success. 

The reality is student success is a commitment between the university and the student; both must do their parts well.  So I have thought about that mom in the last couple weeks and because of that question, here is what I would share:

Dear Successful Student:

Your family is extremely proud right now and they have expressed their hopes to us that you prosper in your classes and have meaningful relationships with faculty, staff and your fellow students.  Your family wants you to be happy, and they want you to feel discomfort! They do not mean “pain” but the kind of discomfort that comes from learning new ideas, principles and figuring out how this fits with your values.  Your family has expectations of you. They told us in meetings and at move-in that they expect you “to do the right thing.”  They want you to make good decisions about your personal life and your college career.  Your parents have sacrificed for you to be a part of the PACK, and as another dad said, “I want her to knock it out of the park.”  Your family is cheering you on, so make yourself proud!

How to Make the Most of YOUR Loyola Experience

1.  Remember:  You chose Loyola and Loyola chose you.  You belong here.  You have a contribution to make to Loyola University New Orleans that is yours alone.  You will have many faculty, staff and students who will help you make lasting connections.  Join SGA, BSU, LUCAP or 97 other student organizations, participate in intramurals, go listen to a speaker, music or theater event on campus. Try new things and meet new people.  After all, you chose Loyola and Loyola chose you.  There is no breaking up!  This is a lifetime relationship.  You are now part of the PACK.

2Remember:  You came to learn something and you came to teach something.  We all have gifts to share with one another. One of the most beautiful things about Loyola is the commitment to curiosity and discovery about self and others. Stay open, listen well and share yourself.  Go to class and sit in a different place each time.  Do not be afraid to speak up in class, add to the conversation and ask questions.  Your professors will remember you and so will your classmates. 

3. Remember:  Call home wherever that may be and whomever might answer!  You will miss your family and your family will miss you.  Whether an immediate family, extended family or your family of friends, stay connected with those you love and who love you.  All of us have moments of doubt, sadness, fear, and it can make us anxious.  Reach out to others; we are so much more alike than different.  Call the counseling center whenever you want to share something confidentially.  Reaching out is a sign of strength; transitions are not easy and you are not alone!

4.  Remember:  Take care of yourself.  As important as your class schedule is, equally as important is the schedule you make for “you” time.  Eat healthy.  Do not skimp on sleep.  Get some exercise every day, even if it’s a walk in Audubon Park (your extended front yard!). Do not wait until the last minute to write a paper, read those four chapters, or study for a quiz when it is all due the next day. Use good judgement when going off campus with friends, know your surroundings, and do not walk home alone. Use the buddy system; the PACK stays together!

Now that you have a few tools to thrive at Loyola, we look forward to supporting you to be your best self.  Keep this list handy, refer to it often, check-in with yourself about your progress, and share how you achieved success with your loved ones.  Who knows, in the future you could be the parent asking that question about your son or daughter’s success when they chose Loyola!   

The Sustainable Past And Fruitful Future

It is early May, the sun is shining brightly, there will be no students lying on the grass or sitting in the Adirondack chairs sprinkled around the campus lawn.  A glorious graduation will come and go: no longer students; they will be off to new and distant challenges.  Endings of all kinds are often bittersweet.  Endings present opportunities for a poignant look back and the anticipatory joy of what tomorrow might bring.

It is hard to believe that after 36 years of loving Loyola University New Orleans, Mr. Robert Reed, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, will be saying goodbye. Robbie’s last day in the office is June 30, 2017.  It is undoubtedly true that he has been shaped by the values of the University and the University has, by equal measure, benefitted from his God-given talents, loyalty, and faithfulness.   

When folks share what they love about Robbie, many mention the way he likes to linger on about stories that are decades old and capture the imagination of his listeners.  He knows where all the proverbial bodies are buried!   When he isn’t talking to himself as he walks down the hall (his way of committing things to memory), he can often be found in a colleague’s office discussing why the Saints can’t seem to beat the Falcons.  People also admire and respect Robbie’s consistency. He does what he says he will do.  He is a man of his word. One of Robbie’s greatest strengths is context.  He sees more clearly than others how the past shapes the future.  It’s like glancing in the rear view mirror every now and then to make sense of the current direction.  His deep understanding of context as it relates to “all things Loyola” prevented me, new staff and students from making mistakes.

Robert “Robbie” Reed, came to Loyola from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania.  After earning his B.S. and M.Ed., he served at Slippery Rock for six years in a variety of capacities, including Coordinator of International Student Affairs, Assistant Director of Residential Life and Coordinator of Residence Hall Programs.   From 1981-2009, he served as Director of Residential Life at Loyola University New Orleans.  As the director, Robbie developed and implemented major construction, renovation, and remediation of residence halls; created the Loyola Student Cable Network; and initiated and developed the first card access security system which incorporated dining, facility access, bookstore, vending and laundry services for students.  

In 2010, Robbie was appointed as the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs.  He developed the Department of Student Conduct, which included maintaining and updating the student code of conduct, providing extensive training for judicial hearing boards, investigating Title IX cases, attending to student/parent responses to conduct issues and managing emergencies.  He was the leader for emergency hurricane preparedness, evacuation team training and overall procedures.  Robbie has achieved much for the Loyola community; he personifies “other duties as assigned.”  More than this, Robbie has loved and has been loved by countless colleagues, students, parents, and co-workers.  His spirit is genuine, true, steadfast, and compassionate.

God bless you leader, colleague, and friend, we will miss you. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11 

Good Enough?

This month I signed up for a short writing course offered at my church. The title of the three-week program was "Learning to Write a Lenten Devotion."  I was intrigued and looked forward to our first meeting. At the first meeting, all of us received a copy of the Upper Room, a devotional with a handout that provides guidelines for writing a meditation. The best clues that I gleaned, from the course and the Upper Room reading, are as follows:  find a scripture that means something to you and connect it with your daily life. It seemed so darn simple, until I started to write.

I struggled over which scripture would adequately capture the power of my thoughts and support my experience. I wrote and deleted so many paragraphs on my way to a 250-word devotional limit. I loved the quote in the Upper Room guidelines, "think snapshot, not movie," which was appropriate as I wrote and rewrote the piece. All I wanted was to be authentic and find the right way to express my spiritual truth. This is still in edit mode, and yet, as we move towards Lent I want to share this "draft" with you.

Gracious Goodness                        

I opened the envelope holding my employee evaluation. I glanced down and read compliments about myself and my work. Then, I read two points about improving my communication; I needed to slow down and clarify expectations. All of the compliments about being a good leader went out the window and were completely overshadowed by those two points. I read those two items over and over again thinking, "Am I good enough?"

Isn’t this the way our minds work? Haven’t we at one moment or another wondered if we are good enough? Likely, we have had questions in our relationships … am I a good enough parent, a good enough friend, partner, sibling, employee? What does it mean to be good enough and who decides? Many times the decision is made by a tiny voice reverberating in our minds. The whispers, often self-inflicted, hint to doubts of self-worth.

The question posed in Micah is short and to the point. What is good?

What is Good? And what does the Lord require of you? But to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

God is clear about what is good enough. His expectations are to be men and women with and for others, and good enough is to be completely who God made us to be. It’s that simple and clear.

Gracious Lord, forgive us for not remembering that we are made in your image. Give us the grace to forgive ourselves and others when we miss the mark. Gently remind us being good enough simply means being fair, kind and faithful in our walk with you.

Give it a try; connect your thoughts about your spiritual life and the real events of your daily life. What would your first draft look like?  The most important element is that it becomes an "honest statement of personal faith." Put the pen to paper. I look forward to being encouraged by you. 

Clean Slate

When I was young, I loved going from window to window to watch the falling snow.  It was beautiful as it fell, layer upon layer.  When morning dawned, the scene was spectacular!  The snow, more than a foot deep, sparkled like a field of diamonds.  I would eagerly get ready to go outside and yet would hesitate to take the first step into that clean field of snow.

It was almost too beautiful to mar with my boots, too beautiful to pull a sled through its purity.  I did not want my dad to let the dog outside.  I did not want his paw pads tearing across the landscape of the fresh fallen snow.  I liked the clean slate.  The yard full of fresh snow presented so much promise.  That said, eventually I would venture out and I’d shovel a path.  I made my family walk the path so that the snow would stay gleaming and pure for as long as possible.    

New Year’s Eve represents a bit of the magic of freshly fallen snow.  As the seconds tick toward a new year, I feel that same familiar anticipatory tug:  a clean slate is almost here. I treasure the transition from one year to the next; I value the notion that it’s indeed a new beginning.  Like the path through the fresh snow, the New Year brings an opportunity to chart a fresh start. 

What does a clean slate signify and how is it important?

There are many times in life when we wish we could press a reset button.  All of us have said things we cannot take back.  We have, each of us, done things that we are embarrassed about and wish we’d made a different decision.  We momentarily, or all together, have lost faith, sense of self, and trust of others.  These are the dark moments when the snow is muddied and we cannot remember the peace of the first wintery blanket. 

And then the ball drops, the confetti falls, glasses clink and a New Year begins.  We forgive ourselves and others for being less than perfect and realize in that moment that anything is possible.  The gift of the New Year is the gift of a clean slate, a fresh beginning!  What hopes and dreams do you have for 2017?  What promises will you keep?  Who will you positively impact this year? 

365 new days.   365 new chances.

A Safe and Tolerant Campus

As we embark on the 2016 holiday season, let us take a moment to reflect on and acknowledge our Jesuit values and the commitments we have made through them. This year has proved to be a divisive time for the nation, and it is imperative that we stand together in solidarity. At Loyola we are men and women with each other, for each other. In ensuring that our campus continues to be safe and tolerant, we take incidents of harassment and/or discrimination very seriously, and Loyola takes an uncompromising stance against both. A portion of Loyola’s Discrimination and Harassment Policy is below: 

“Discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, religion, disability, status, military/veteran status, sexual orientation, genetic information, marital status, citizenship status, or any other characteristic is prohibited by a variety of federal, state, and local laws, including Title VI and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1975, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Equal Pay Act, and Louisiana statutes.

It is a violation of this policy to harass individuals in the provision of employment of educational opportunities. Harassment is defined as verbal and/or physical conduct that threatens, intimidates, coerces, and creates a hostile environment on the basis of the prohibited classifications (the person’s race, color, sex, national origin, age, religion, disability status, military/veteran status, sexual orientation, genetic information, marital status, citizenship status, or any other characteristic). 

A person found responsible for discrimination or sexual harassment may face: student disciplinary action, letter of reprimand, or suspension.” 

If you are discriminated against or harassed on or off Loyola’s campus, please know that support is available. If you would like to report the incident, please do so at https://cm.maxient.com/reportingform.php?LoyolaUnivNO&layout_id=7 

If you witness an incident, please use the same link above.  For more information about bystander intervention and Loyola’s approach, please visit http://stepupprogram.org/topics/discrimination/

Loyola University is part of an amazing and diverse community with a place for all perspectives and worldviews. Please do your part and make our campus, country, and world a respectful and peaceful place for everyone. After all, that is what the holidays are truly about.

Thank you and Happy Holidays!  

Risky Business

According to my grandmother and Emily Post (both were always right) my sister and I were admonished to never discuss three things in polite conversation:

  • Money
  • Religion
  • Politics

So here I sit, my blog is due and it is the eve of the 2016 Presidential Election.  I can hear MSNBC in the background and it all sounds like gibberish at this point. It doesn’t matter what channel you turn on, whether it’s FOX or CNN, all have declared that this election is the most fractious in history. So yes, my grandmother would be horrified to know that I am discussing this political event in polite company.

I like the sound fractious of and by that I mean how it rolls off the tongue, not the actual definition. Although the dictionary definition gives a pretty good overview on how the debates went … temperamental and cantankerous; Saturday Night Live wins with the replay of absolute ill-humor in the most hilarious way. I laughed until I felt like crying. I wonder if you have been shocked in similar ways. This is where we have landed; a political conversation with innuendos, name-calling and words that should never have been mentioned.

When there are “firsts” of any kind…first African American president, first woman president, the status quo gets shaken to its core. Major change causes folks to be fearful and with fear comes distrust.  We are smack into fear, and the first electoral vote has not yet been cast. 

My choice this year is to stay true to our process; to commit to not undermining democracy by shouting about election rigging or an FBI misstep stealing an election.  I have no idea who will win tomorrow, but I do have great respect for the Office of the Presidency. And no matter who holds the office, at the end of the day it is our democratic process, and it deserves our respect. 

 

Walking on Eggshells

“Creating environments that promote justice and healing while fostering an emerging culture of respect and belonging.”  www.world-trust.org

There is a great deal of good news to share—from a terrific family weekend with over 400 guests on campus, to the first-ever swim meet held in our  pool between Loyola and LSU.  Yes, the SEC was in the house and it was a wonderful way to launch a brand new sport!  Students are past mid-terms, and from my window I can see them studying on the quad.  It is a beautiful afternoon, with a slight cool breeze; we are well on our way through October and on to the holidays.  Amidst all of the joys of being a part of an academic community, I have had a hard time writing this month’s blog post.  In late summer, I hit “writer’s block” hard; the national news regarding race in America overwhelmed me. There was so much I wanted to say, but when the heart is full, often words seem empty.

More than a week ago, I invited African-American Student Affairs staff members to join me for a conversation.  I admit I felt vulnerable sending the invite out.  I hoped that my invitation was read as intended; it was a risk I needed to take, and my team needed to know they have my support.

The invitations simply said, “The news continues to unfold day by day, with one senseless African-American death after another.  I do not pretend to know how you feel, and I want to acknowledge that there are stresses that face each of you, that do not face me.  The work you are doing day-in and day-out for our Loyola community, during what seems to be a siege on African-American civil rights, is remarkable and too, must be exhausting and draining.  Thank you, on behalf of all of us in Student Affairs, for all that you are doing during these difficult times.  It has not gone unnoticed, and in part, although I have no clear answers I do want to reach out and offer a space and support.”  

We sat together, minute by minute, gaining courage to tell our truths and stories.  We acknowledged that by and large it’s hard to have authentic, difficult conversations about race. Together we acknowledged the fear of being misunderstood, later quoted out of context, and at the worst labeled. When uncomfortable conversations arise, often we walk on eggshells around issues. “Make nice”, my mom would often say at the dinner table as my dad and I talked politics, “we don’t want to break any eggs.”  When this happens, the moment to lean into understanding is lost. We need to learn to stay in the process of deep listening, reflection, and response.  We need to risk breaking eggs.

My take away from our 90-minute conversation was the goodwill shared in the room. We decided when an “eggshell” moment happened that it would be an opportunity for us to dive deeper into our stories, experiences and truths.  We agreed to keep replicating that goodwill, step by step.  There were tears, laughter, and lots of sharing -- and we made two agreements:  no more silence when we are hurting and no more walking on eggshells.

In our families and offices, in classrooms, playing fields and residence halls, we often face crucial and difficult conversations. I encourage us to recognize our own discomfort and resist the urge to smooth over what is difficult. We can draw strength from I Corinthians 16:13-14: “Be brave, be strong, and let everything you do be done in love.”  Lean in…have the conversation that matters.

A New School Year

reaching out photo.jpg

As a community, Loyola gathered on August 19, 2016 to welcome our newest members.  The Class of 2020 took their seats and the stage party processed down the aisle of Holy Name of Jesus Church; it was both an exhilarating and profound moment.  Every year, faculty, staff and University leaders meet in that inspiring space, along with first year students, to greet and challenge one another to live out our Jesuit mission.  This year, I chose to write my own prayer for First Year Convocation and this is what I shared:

Let us pause for a moment and ask God’s blessing for those affected by the devastating flood waters just 45 miles away from us. 

Let us also pray for the victims and their families who suffered the horrific tragedies that took place in Orlando, Nice, Baton Rouge, and Syria.

God of New Beginnings, we gather in this place to start anew—we gather as a community committed to the Jesuit ideal of being the people of God, with and for others.

Help open our eyes in new ways to see what that ideal means at Loyola.

God, give us the courage to Step Up when we see someone in trouble;

Give us the courage to Step In when we have the power to protect and give assistance. 

Lord, remind us:  Reaching out isn’t weak. It’s strong.

God of New Beginnings, lift up Loyola. Amen.

In this space, I want to reiterate to all who call Loyola their “home away from home,” that when in need, reach out to a friend, colleague, or family member.  The word “home” doesn’t always mean the place that you grew up.  As the daughter of an Army Colonel, my family moved almost every three years.  Home wasn’t necessarily a house, it became the places that I felt safe and secure to share my deepest thoughts, fears and successes.  Sometimes “home” was my neighbor’s kitchen table, sometimes it was with my sorority sister in a coffee house, sometimes it was at my college lifeguarding job at Florida State University.  The pool was “home” to me, and the folks that worked there took time to listen to a young girl’s dreams. 

No one is immune from needing; I thank God for so many that have given me so much, including their time and their prayers.  

Here is a reminder of where hope and help can be found when the stresses of life seem hard to handle: