Monday, October 8, 2012

And YOU get a free point, and YOU get a free point...EVERYBODY GETS FREE POINTS!

Okay, that first post where I was freaking out about schoolwork? Things have gotten better as I've grown more accustomed to grading and reading and writing all academic-like.

Yup. I'm getting all intelligent like up here in grad school...more or less!

So I'm getting on top of things and went to Oncourse to check to see the participation assignment for one of my classes next week.

And then I saw...

Group work on your functional area wiki Everyone gets a point! Enjoy your fall break as well!

Ahhhhhhh YAY!!!!
This is my professor, basically. (and why yes I did create this. Ahh, Photoshop, how I love thee.)

I think my cohort members and I are all pretty pleased with this.

Survey results show...yes.

Although...I know that our professor really only did that because this is the month of Hell-tober where we all must work simultaneously on 7-ish group projects and begin researching our term papers.

My life for the next 8 weeks.

But you know what? Whatevs. I'll take what I can get. Thanks!

"Aw, gee, thanks!"

Saturday, October 6, 2012

IU Homecoming: "In Loco Parentis" is Over, Clean up Your Cups!

The HESA student organization hosted a tailgating tent today for IU’s Homecoming. As a student at BGSU I never went tailgating (it was never really a ‘thing’) so I decided to head out today. I figured “Hey, a Big 10 school must have some interesting traditions.”

If by “interesting” you mean unadulterated chaos.

I honestly believe I saw this facial expression at least twice.

 So my brother and I are there at the HESA tent hanging out when someone asks if we had seen the student section of the tailgate area.

“No,” said I.   

Their lips curled into a mischievous smile and they told me to walk past the alumni center to check it out.

So, cool. My brother and I are walking over, amused by how many people are still walking around and it is 20 minutes until game time. We check behind the alumni center but just see mostly families tailgating. “Ahh, it must be on the other side of the alumni center". So we continued onwards…and then a dim buzzing noise filled our ears.

Have we finally found this magical land of student tailgating?

The buzzing grew louder with each step, like an nest of angry, drunk hornets. Finally the field came into view as we stepped over the hill.

The student tailgating area made me think of the epic battles in 300: a sea of writhing people and the deafening sound of voices, except instead of bodies, the field was littered with the corpses of empty beer cans and Solo Cups.

Oh, and basically this:

 My first thought (only because the nearby students were blasting Don Omar and dang do I need some reggaeton in my life here) was:
Technically this is the "I can see Russia from my house!" dance.

 Then I realized I am old. (Basically.)

Plus…my inner environmentalist cried many sad tears at the sight of all the beer cans & Solo Cups.

Exhibit A:
A graveyard of Solo Cups. Don't weep for me, IU.

And that made me all:


We are not your mothers!! Throw away those cups!!!!

And then I realized:
No. Big 10 undergrad tailgates are not for me.

So yeah, ugh. This was all toooooo much for me. I prefer my undergraduate time of Homecoming celebrations at BGSU – in a giant bird suit.

What? Wearing a bird suit is a totally valid lifestyle!

Oh well. Every college has a culture. If anything, I am just smirking on the inside on how everyone will feel tomorrow:

Being hungover sucks - good luck tomorrow, dear IU students ;)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Are We Serving Students with Disabilities the Way We Should?

Hello Dearest Readers!
Just a word of warning - this blog will not only cover my graduate school experiences but will also include miscellaneous thoughts pertaining to higher education

And gifs. Claro.

Lately I've been thinking about the services we offer students with disabilities at institutions of higher education. This is a topic that is of personal interest to me and one that I don’t think is addressed often enough.

I'll preface this piece with the statement that I am just beginning my studies in higher education so I have yet to learn about how colleges support students with disabilities, outside of my lived experiences. But it is something that I have questions about.

I do question the commitment that universities may have to students with disabilities....but before we get into that, let's go over the basics:

That's right, get comfy. I'm bout to drop some knowledge on y'all

American with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 provides federal guidelines for increasing accessibility with people with disabilities

What is a Disability (as defined by the ADA)?
  1. A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of the individual;
  2. A record of such an impairment; or
  3. Being regarded as having such an impairment

What Types of Disabilities Are There?
According to Southern New Hampshire University, the following is a brief list of people affected by the ADA:

All conditions which entitled a student to receive special education while attending grade school (e.g., mental retardation, learning disabilities, serious emotional disturbances), AIDS, cancer, alcohol or drug addiction (so long as the student is not a current user of unlawful drugs), environmental illness, attention deficit disorder, diabetes, asthma, physical disabilities, behavior disorders, etc., so long as the condition substantially limits a major life activity.

How Does the ADA Affect Higher Ed?
Section 504 states:

No otherwise qualified individual with disabilities in the United States...shall, solely by reason of his/her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance...

In essence, an institution of higher education must provide reasonable accommodations. These could include: class notes, extended test taking time, tutoring, books in braile or audio, and other accommodations. And believe me, I know that there are many professionals in higher education that are working to make sure students feel comfortable in their new academic environment.

But I question the lack of critical thinking about how and where we are providing those services.

A Brief Critique (because I do not have time for an in-depth analysis - I got papers and reading and grad work, oh my!)

I know two universities that place their Office of Disability Services on the 3rd or 4th floor of a building. Bowling Green State University, my alma mater, has its office on the 4th floor of South Hall, one of the oldest buildings on campus with an elevator that has seen better days (about two decades ago). My current institution, Indiana University, hosts its office on the 4th floor of the H B Wells library.

Why yes, there are elevators in each of these buildings, but...really? That just feels rather insensitive to me. It is an additional stress to students with physical disabilities and increases difficulty in the case of exiting for an emergency.

Not completely accurate, granted. But in case of a fire…I mean, really?

It seems surprising that these universities would not consider our students with physical disabilities when it comes to designating their space on campus. Especially when it seems that the term "disability" is immediately equated to a physical disability, in the minds of many people - which isn't fair to students at all. Which leads me to the idea that I feel like many people - students, faculty, staff, etc - forget that there are other impairing disabilities.
Conditions that I am especially aware of, due to personal experiences with family/friends, include learning disabilities/cognitive disorders and psychiatric disorders.

Anecdotal evidence points to the fact that many staff and faculty members do not understand the full extent of limitations and possibilities associated with these conditions. This is understandable - there are a plethora of conditions under these two main headings (autism spectrum disorder, attention deficient disorder, depression, schizophrenia, etc). But we're doing a disservice to our students by not attaining a full grasp of these issues. After all, how can we properly counsel or teach students if we’re unaware of the connection between their disability and completing college? 

There is still a stigma in society concerning these conditions and I wonder at the acceptance level that exists - mind you, I'm not saying that faculty and staff do not care about these issues, but I do think there are cases where they do not "get it". These "invisible disabilities" are sometimes met with skepticism and I know personally of cases where professors don't really think that the student has a 'disability' and are less than accommodating.

Of course, the response to these critiques is to a)move disability services to a ground floor office and b)make sure more training is provided for understanding the various conditions that affect students. I understand that the former issue may require funds for renovations or the political pieces of 'taking' a different department's office. The latter would result from more funds (to invest in training) and time (spent training instead of daily tasks - because great training on disabilities requires more than just a 2 hour seminar). Additionally the trainings become very expensive when you begin adding up all the administrative staff and faculty members on a campus. But I challenge my peers in higher education to review these issues and take action on their campuses.  Show your commitment to diversity and accessibility through action, not words.

If we are truly focused, as a community, on helping students succeed, we need to make sure we are helping all students succeed.

Quick Facts:
  • In 1988, 16% of students reported having a learning disability. In 2001 this number more than doubled to 40.1%. (Southern New Hampshire University
  • The proportion of full-time freshmen who reported having one or more disabilities increased from 2.6% in 1978 to a high of 8.2% in 1994, and most recently, 6.0% in 2000 (Henderson, 2001
  • At postsecondary educational institutions, enrollment of students with a psychiatric disability has grown from an estimated 2.6% in 1978 to more than 9.0% in 1998 (Collins, 2000).
  • While services at postsecondary institutions are in place to effectively meet the educational needs of students with physical disabilities, the educational needs of students with mental disabilities have met with limited success (Collins & Mowbray, 2005b; Loewen, 1993; Mowbray et al., 2006). 
  • Approximately 86% of students who have a psychological disorder withdraw from college prior to completing their degree (Collins & Mowbray, 2005a)

What Do You Think?
Are we doing enough in higher education to meet the needs of our students with disabilities? What more could be done? What universities out there are doing a great job of addressing these diverse and intricate needs?

And finally, what are you doing to help address these needs?

Want to learn more?
Northern Illinois University has a great basic breakdown of the different types of disabilities as well as some statistical data: . Also, be sure to check out the references – I found some great articles.

Collins, K. D. (2000). Coordination of rehabilitation services in higher education for students with psychiatric disabilities. Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counseling, 31(4), 36-39.

Collins, M. E., & Mowbray, C. T. (2005a). Higher education and psychiatric disabilities: National survey of campus disability services. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 75, 304-315.

Collins, M. E., & Mowbray, C. T. (2005b). Understanding the policy context for supporting students with psychiatric disabilities in higher education. Community Mental Health Journal, 41, 431-450.

Henderson, C. (2001) College freshmen with disabilities: a biennial statistical profile. Washington, D.C.: American Council on Education.

Kiuhara, S., & Huefner, D. (2008). Students with psychiatric disabilities in higher education settings: the Americans With Disabilities Act and beyond. Journal Of Disability Policy Studies, 19(2), 103-113.

Northern Illinois University. Enhancing Success for Students with Disabilities. Retrieved on October 3, 2012 from

Southern New Hampshire University. Rights and Responsibilities of Students in Higher Education (ADA). Retrieved on October 3, 2012 from

Wilhelm, S. (2003). Accommodating Mental Disabilities in Higher Education: A Practical Guide to ADA Requirements. Journal Of Law & Education, 32(2), 217-237.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Confessions of a HESA Nerd: Enrollment Management

Like most first year grad students, I have various academic interests. Due to my previous collegiate and professional work experiences, I’ve become interested in service-learning, institutional advancement, first generation students, college accessibility for undocumented students, civic engagement, cross-cultural experiences, and study abroad.

And Buffy. Always Buffy. Which, let’s be honest, can totally be classified as an academic interest.

But here’s the thing about graduate school – it leads you down the most unexpected paths. (And I’m only in the second month!)

Case in point: I have discovered a deep fascination with enrollment management.

This is me studying Enrollment Management for the first time, and being all “…this is…intriguing”

You see, in our HESA program we are required to take 2 classes the first semester (Student Development Theory & Research and Intro to College and University Administration) and then we get one elective. There were a ton of interesting classes to choose from involving international education, gender, philosophy of education, and more.

But then I saw Enrollment Management and thought “HMMMM”. I mean, I thought Admissions was interesting and it was going to be taught by Don Hossler (an expert on this subject). Plus, if you know the trends in higher ed, then you know that enrollment management is the “sexy & exciting” functional area of the decade, with institutional advancement right underneath it (remember: the power players in any organization are the ones who bring in revenue). So I decided to take the class.

Enrollment Management: Sexy & exciting, indeed…Hmm, sadly this was the most exciting EM image the internet could find. My mission is clear: I must create as sexy & exciting image for EM...

“Numfar, do the dance of Enrollment Management!”


Our professor’s breadth of knowledge is fascinating and leads us through the most interesting discussions. Our T.A. is fantastic, bringing his small private college admissions experience into the classroom (I admit, I know little about private institutions so it’s great to learn from him) and I loved his lecture on Affirmative Action (I have a much better understanding of it now). My peers include both first and second year HESA cohort members, which helps to give our discussions different layers, plus it’s a nice change to socialize with the second years. The readings are great. I certainly did not realize, prior to our class, just how much EM encompassed and how the priorities are changing as the student population changes in America.

Even better, this week we had John Lawlor of the Lawlor Group, a well-known firm that specializes in small private university enrollment management consultation, speak to our class. (He even declined a video interview for our class and flew here on his own just to teach us for a couple hours. That is the kind of amazing program I am in at IU.) I took 15 pages of notes during his speech – it was fantastic to hear examples from different institutions and national trends.

Plus, when I said my interest was in policy and our professor stated that only the doctoral class would cover that topic, I asked if I could attend the doctoral class on the day they discussed policy. He said yes and I did (this also included a great talk on the walk home with an international doc student who explained higher ed policy in her country). So yeah, you know I must really love the topic if I was excited to attend an extra 3 hour class and do extra readings for said class…

Or I’m just crazy.

When I think about it, my interest in EM really should not be surprising. It involves high-level strategy over an entire organization, has multiple layers, includes marketing and policy, and carries with it a sense of competition (with other institutions). I have experience in all of these areas, and have always enjoyed my work with them. I like to think about the Big Picture but also enjoy considering the small details that take us there. My political science background and work with BGSU's Governmental Affairs office has inspired my love for higher ed policy. Also, I’m reminded of when I served as Director for Teen Central and managed all the functional areas, including marketing and strategic planning. The teen center was one of my best jobs and I would love to return to a challenging position like that again.

Luckily my Enrollment Management course is providing a great foundation of knowledge if this is the path I’m meant for. I guess we'll see what the rest of my two years brings.

Thanks, college. You know, sometimes you’re alright!

 References (Student Affairs for non-SA folks & Pop Culture References for Everyone!)
*Enrollment Management's mission at an institution is to enroll new students, retain current students - all the while ensuring there is enough net revenue for the institution's operating expenses, carrying out social justice by working to diversify the student body, obeying mandates issued by policy makers, following public policy funding changes, and more.
*Buffy the Vampire Slayer: As in, my favorite show since I was in the 7th grade. And there actually are/have been collegiate courses on Buffy, so it is also, like, totally an academic interest ;)
*Sexy & exciting – a phrase to describe anything trend-a-riffic. (Usually not used literally.)
*Numfar: Cameo appearance by series creator Joss Whedon in Angel whose (S2,ep21 “Through the Looking Glass”).  A running joke in the fandom is having Numfar expand on his “Dance of Joy” to become the dance of whatever the viewer wishes.  YouTube reference:
*The Lawlor Group:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Grad School Just Got Real - Week 6

Books, and articles, and APA, OH MY!

My syllabi say I’m in week 6 of my first semester of grad school. My brain still thinks its August. And my soul is weary, and feels like a bajillion zillion years have passed.

Okay, one of those statements is a slight exaggeration. But that’s beside the point.

The point? Grad school just got real.

At first it was all fun and games – literally. Icebreakers had us juggling random objects in a circle and making fun alliteration-y nicknames for ourselves (Hi, I’m Nefarious Niki…). We had about 20 people in the cohort to be our ‘instant friends’. Everything was all shiny and new as we explored campus (OMG TREES EVERYWHERE.H B WELLS BENCH. FRO YO ON CAMPUS). Myers-Briggs taught us to refer to each other by letters, like how robots are identified by serial codes (ENTJ here, in case you were wondering). HESA Second Years planned beginning of year social events to make us feel like “heeyyyyy I found a friend!” It was some good times!

This is my memory of how the juggling game went. This may or may not be accurate.

Sure, we had readings and they were intense (maybe 600 pages for 3 classes per week?) but at least it was interesting. We all want to be here, after all. It was fun to toss in Student Affairs buzzwords into our conversations (“Why yesss, I reached self-authorship, have you?” or  “I’m going to challenge you to eat all these cookies and support you in that process by eating some cookies also”)

Then Week 6 happened.

Suddenly, guess what, those dates that looked farrrrrrrr away on the syllabus (Oct 1, I’m talking to you!) suddenly aren’t so far away anymore. They are next week.

Apparently this was me for the last 6 weeks

……..So yeah. Just a half dozen group projects. Some 20-ish page research papers. Oh, and weekly assignments. And, ya know, the 20+ hours assistantship. My volunteer duties. Plus, family responsibilities. And this concept of mental health and a social life.

See? Snape feels my pain.

Thank Bob I have a Res Life meal plan so I don’t have to waste my spare time cooking.'

Yeah, basically this is my life. Except sadly Callie's hospital basement apt is more stylish than my grad student housing

It’s funny to me that everyone in HESA (Higher Education & Student Affairs) is 
studying higher ed while trying to survive it.

Here’s hoping I survive the next 2 years and graduate to become a HESA Hero, ready to help college students everywhere on their path to self-authorship.

Regardless of my survival, there’s bound to be some good stories out of this experience.

Although I doubt anything can top the tale of ‘Niki & the Rusty Metal Wire’
…but that’s a story for a different time