Author Archives: campusperspective

About campusperspective

I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was curious and passionate about a whole hosts of topics and interests. How would I combine everything I loved to do in one job? Then I stumbled into a career in higher education. Student Services pieced together my curiosity, creativity, passion for people, and thirst to learn. As I continue working in this exciting field I hope to share some questions, insights, and lessons learned. Enjoy! :)

The Reality of Student Financial Stress

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I work in Financial Aid, which basically means I see a lot of stressed out students.

If you work with college or university students, there is no doubt that you see it too. There is a good reason for the panic stricken faces I see – reports of increases in tuition run rampant across Canada and the US. In just the past two years public universities have increased tuition by almost 10%. The number and size of student loans is also increasing. Researchers have found that financial stress can be impede academic performance and can be a trigger for mental health problems including depression and anxiety.

The stakes are high, that’s what makes this is interesting:

A study done in the UK, and replicated again at the University of Toronto found that there was no correlation for student debt and financial stress. It was the perception of debt that caused stress. Students who report worrying about future debt, or overestimated their debt upon graduation were more likely to experience the adverse effects of financial stress.

Why is this important?

If you can impact a student’s perception of his or her debt, you can impact his or her stress levels as well. If you are working with college or university students and notice increased stress or hear students talk about financial pressure, it may be a good idea to sit down with them and do some financial planning. Students who know exactly how much debt they have, and understand the steps they need to take to eliminate that debt report being less stressed, and perform at their best.

I have been doing research on student stress and thought that this was too important not to share. Have you noticed student stress due to finances?

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Christmas Spirit

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The Christmas party for residence students was coming up, and I figured I would have to bring my A game.

So Sunday night I thought, “Enough of the laziness! Why do I always buy store bought goods for student events! Baking! I must do some baking!” So I headed to the heartland of baking inspiration: Pinterest. (Where I learn all mediocre bakers either thrive or suffer .. you’ll see where I end up.) So I found a recipe for chocolate chip cookie dough truffles, a lovely recipe that is following the trend of putting chocolate covered ooey gooey deliciousness at the end of a stick. The recipe proclaimed, “It’s so easy! Best snack ever! Takes less time than tying your shoes!”

So here I go through the process:

Step 1: Make batter and roll into nice little balls.

Step 2: Realize I forgot to add salt, which would explain the explosion of sickly sweetness that happens in my mouth when I sneak a bit of the dough

Step 3: Coax the batter back into the mixer, add salt, repeat step one. Next, I stab each cookie dough ball with wooden skewer (great tension reliever!)

Step 4: Place the bakers chocolate in the microwave on high for two minutes as packaging suggests. Leave kitchen.

Step 5: Return to kitchen 2 minutes later to see a microwave emitting plumes of rancid smoke.

Step 6: Yell at unsuspecting fiance for help as I desperately try to open doors and windows, as not to suffocate, and die.

Step 7: Cry a little.

Step 8: Melt new chocolate with paranoid supervsion.

Step 9: Dip each freaking cookie dough ball in chocolate. Then try to clean up all the chocolate I spilled off the counters, floors, walls, face, hands, and neck.

Step 10: Marvel at the beautiful masterpiece I created.

Baking!

In the end the Christmas All-Rez was a huge success. We had a fantastic costume contest full of lumberjacks, video game characters, Mrs. Claus, and even an adult sized baby Jesus. We had a festive photo booth, hot chocolate bar, and snacks everywhere. Best part of the night? A compliment on my stress inducing, yet somehow stress relieving chocolate chip cookie dough truffles. 😀 Hooray!

What I thought I would have to do is plan the best event to make the students happy, in the end I realized that the students are hilarious, spontaneous, and fun loving all on their own. I can leave my stress at the door and just enjoy their company and laugh with them. And that’s what I did. What a great night it was!

To close, check out the amazing photo I ended up getting with some of my favourite people ever, my RA crew!

Ebc Christmas all-rez 032

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Half the challenge of working through the disciplinary process is getting to the heart of the issue and determinng the truth. Right now that is the weekly quote posted in the Student Life Office. It makes me pause and think about how perceptions can get in the way of the reality we are working with. I hope you enjoy this quote as much as I do! Enjoy!

A lie gets half way around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.

Big Event Ideas!

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Every month the entire residence meets together for some roudy madness after night class. Because of that I’ve gained some ideas for some pretty awesome events for a large group of people. 🙂 For anyone else who plans events for a large group of people – for elementary school, youth group, high school, college, university, grandma’s birthday party … this is for you!

Here are some big event ideas:

Intro Night

I just hosted this in September. If there are rules that need to be followed, one way to portray them is to get your leaders to create a funny video. Just a five minute intro video establishes who the leaders are, what is expected of the larger group, and gets everyone laughing.

Separate into groups – we called them “All Rez Groups” and have them come up with their team name and a creative way to introduce the members of their group to everyone else. Give them twenty minutes and when you come back, sit back and enjoy!

Food! – I had doughnuts for everyone. It’s an easy thing to portion control, not too much clean up, and a pretty cheap per person snack!

Carnival Night

Rent a popcorn machine or cotton candy machine (often for just 80 bucks!) – hang some cute triangle streamers and create your own old fashioned photo booth. Then have DIY games set up around the room and end the night with a “strange talent” contest where students can show off any bizarre abilities!

 Luau in Feburary! 

Who says you can’t celebrate tropical favourites in the winter? Provide leis, plenty of tropical fruit and smoothies, and decorate your heart out! This event can be great for a couple reasons:

1) It stops the overwhelming Valentines theme from taking over every event the students participate in

2) Is a great time to talk about summer programs, hold a job fair, review applications. For some students the ability to return to school in the fall is dependant on summer employment – give them the tools early so that they can find great summer positions!

Whose Banquet Is it Anyway?

The students came up with this event. After a formal banquet students love some entertainment, but if a dance isn’t your thing, or is over done, an improv night might be perfect for you! Set up tables, provide tons of dessert and get one of your outgoing leaders to prepare some “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” games. It’s a ton of fun for those who love participating in improv, but also tons of fun for those who just want to sit back and watch!

(R)evolution of Gaming

This is a fun event that draws in a huge demographic. It’s as easy as getting card and board games Twister, Settlers of Catan, RISK, Monopoly, Dutch Blitz, but also setting up Super Nintendo, Wii, Halo, Rockband and getting everyone together. You may want to introduce a Euchre tournament or a Round Robin for some of the games to get people competitve and meeting other people.

I will be adding more to the list of Big Event Ideas later on! Do you have any events that you’ve loved in the past? Leave a comment and let me know!

 

Move In Day

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Confessions From a Residence Director on Move-In Day

How is it possible that the day has arrived? Move in day. When every parent feels anxious, every student feels both nauseous and invigorated and the Residence Director, Lord have mercy, is about to pee her pants.

Oh and I have been there. (Quick clarification, no, there hasn’t been any literal pants -wetting yet in my career). I absolutely love having students on campus, and feeling the energy that they bring, but it is the day I’ve been working toward all summer.. it can feel like jumping off a forty foot cliff into water below. You know it’s going to happen, but as you work up the courage to face the challenge you suddenly feel like screaming like a small child.

If you are an event planner, teacher, construction worker, florist … you name it … I am sure there is some aspect of your job that allows you to relate.

So I have assembled a list that in my experience, helps me in the crunch time:

  • Breathe and smile – both activities remind you to do what your body already wants you to. Just relax and little bit and remember to see the joy in what you are doing. Sometimes the stress can overshadow the fact that I absolutely love what I do. Smiling through it is key.
  • Communicate: With your team? Your boss? The students? Sure – but what I am actually referring to is communication with the dear ol’ parents. After an entire week of never answering a phone call due to your brain almost imploding, right during move in is right when they’d call to make sure you’re still alive.
  • Watch a hilarious viral youtube video the day before: Strange? Well, today I found that constantly quoting, “Ain’t nobody got time for that” over and over with my students was the best way to beat the stress. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Watch this with student leaders – the remix will get stuck in your head guaranteed. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udS-OcNtSWo
  • Don’t assign someone to live in a kitchen: Yup it happens to the best of us .. and by that I mean .. it happened to me last year. I have my excuses, but in the end a student was led to the kitchen by a helpful RA, and immediately escorted that student back to me. I’m sure later on he realized that living in the kitchen might have been great for all nighters, but he was okay that I assigned him somewhere else last minute instead.
  •  Surround yourself with awesome people: Amazing student leaders, student services staff, and fantastic students and parents made everything run really smoothly. What would I have done without them?

So that is my list of how to get through the epic work days.

What are the ways you cope through the “that day is TODAY?” kind of days?

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Community is a group of individuals who have learned how to communicate honestly with each other, whose relationships go deeper than their masks of composure, and who have developed some significant commitment to ‘rejoice together, mourn together, and to delight in each other, and make other’s conditions their own’.

I absolutely love this quote by Scott Peck on community. What a great way to look at residence!

Community is a group of i…

Seven Steps to Conflict Resolution

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It’s not if, it’s when. Conflict happens to all of us. The key is what to do with the conflict once it happens. The right steps could mean the difference between a learning experience and a scarring experience.

As I prepare the Resident Advisor Training for September, I found my favourite conflict resolution guide, and I thought I would share. This comes from Nesseibeh (2003) and was passed on to me by my colleague at work. This can work as a part of a one on one guide to conflict resolution, or can be used as a tool in mediated discussion.

So here are the seven steps to resolving a conflict:

1) Define the problem in terms of needs – Ask what I/you/we need; what needs are not being met.

2) Agree on a working definition of the problem – Ask how others see the problem, agree on what the actual problem is in terms of needs

3) Brainstorm possibile solutions – list as many ideas as possible, no matter how crazy they may seem. (This can actually cause those in conflict to relax and enjoy the ridiculousness of each others ideas)

4) Evaluate solutions – Discuss why they may or may not work; how will they meet needs

5) Choose possible solution – Collectively agree on a solution to try

6) Impliment solution – Plan how you are going to impliment the selected solution; do it!

7) Evaluate implimentation – Get together and discuss how/if it is working, what could be done differently etc.

For my RA training I hope to get the leaders into groups and have them role play this mediated discussion. Two people could be in conflict about a noise complaint and the mediator practices going through these steps. When the steps are verbalized they become more natural and understandable. The more it’s practiced, the easier it will be for the leaders to use these steps in an actual conflict.

This has been proven helpful in the standard noise violations, dirty dishes, dirty rooms and more. It also has helped more complicated issues involving needs in a relationship.

Everyone has been created differently, and when you get a bunch of different people together there can be tension. But let’s save the fist fights, facebook slander, and name calling for another day, and work on practicing steps towards healthy communication instead!

Did you find this helpful? Do you know any different ideas? Share your comments below!