Words of Wisdom (for my first year grad school self)

After two years in Iowa, Student Affairs, and trying to be an adult, I think I’ve learned a few things. While I am not now nor ever perfect, I think it both responsible and important to pass on a few life lessons I’ve learned. To anyone reading that may be starting their Grad journey, these are not an ends to a means. To someone struggling to be themselves, you are your own author. To the person rolling their eyes, bye.

It is ok to not be happy. Not everything will go according to plan. You may not like a professor, a class, a work assignment. It is ok to feel like the odd one out, stressed, and hopeless. Make your journey full of dissonance. Rejoice in the small things and don’t stress the big things.

You won’t be friends with everyone. The cohort (and program) is small in comparison to the rest of the University. You won’t get along with everyone. In fact, you can go your whole 2 years being able to count the social time you’ve spent with your classmates on two hands. THAT IS OK. Your cohort is not everything and don’t buy those happy-go-lucky fantasy stories that may be sold to you.

You have to speak up and advocate for what you want. Looking back, there is so much I should have asked to do. I was both worried about speaking up and was lazy thinking opportunities would fall in my lap. You have to watch out for yourself, advocate for unique experiences, and build that resume.

Do a practicum/internship outside of the University. Your University is great, but you will learn SO much more if you do a practicum/internship. I made my practicum visits a day-long event and did not worry about time. I was able to multi task by getting off my campus, building outside networks of support, and doing some real meaning making.

Find your social and support networks outside of your program and assistantship. Per the fact you won’t be friends with everyone, you need to find a friend and support group outside of well, your graduate experience. Connect with people in the law school. Find a student org. DO SOMETHING. If you spend all your time in HESA you will quickly limit your experiences.

Dedicate time for you to get away from Iowa City. There is so many cool things in and around your state. Check out websites like onlyinyourstate.com or just google search things. That randomly “wold’s only/largest xyz”, yea go check that out. That town with a cool name, go explore.

Actually read for class. You may either roll your eyes or think duh, but you will understand that reading is essential. However, you will have a temptation to not read, skim, or pretend you read. Don’t. Take the time to invest in yourself. Read, take notes, and make real meaning with your experiences.

Try to get a week or two ahead in your assignments. I discovered that when I got ahead in my assignments, getting away for a weekend was easier. Also life happens and you never know when something will come up that will prevent you from working on your classwork for a few days. If nothing else, for sure do this in the Spring semester of year two, you will thank me when the job search happens.

Don’t stress about comps. Period.

Start saving now for the job search. I know that is so long for now, but invest in yourself and save. Plane tickets, U-hauls, baggage checks, and airport food quickly adds up.

Don’t compare your journey to others. You do you and make sure you don’t get competitive. The program will say grades don’t matter, but if they matter to you then work hard for them, just don’t get caught up that XYZ got an A and you got a B+. Also when you do fail that first writing assignment, chill, it will work out and you will get better.

Reflect. Journal. Love yourself. Repeat.

TFM: it needs to stop

Well, two posts in one day. You can tell I’m sure fired up today.

Total Frat Move, something that requires little to no introduction in this day and age. TFM is full of bigotry, ignorance, and a slew of other things I can’t even begin to write about them all. But what I am going to write about is simple: we need to stop it. Who is we? First it is those of us decent in the fraternity world that know better than to let this shit continue. It is also our job to educate our fellow brothers that aren’t so knowledgeable about the awfulness that is this organization and movement. Second it is…well everyone should.

TFM perpetuates systems of rape culture. TFM perpetuates system of patriarchy. TFM perpetuates images of partying hard, disrespecting women (and everyone quite frankly), and being total shit heads. Now I’m not saying EVERYONE is a shit head who follows this organization, but everyone is a shit head. 

TFM is doing way more damage that it is good. It is an organization that knows not what it is doing and is setting up awful images for future leaders to model themselves after. I would be a liar if I said I’ve never thought TFM was cool. But then I grew up and slowly becoming more aware of my privileges as a fraternity man.

I assure you this rant COULD GO ON FOR HOURS. But for the sake my time I will keep it short and challenge all who read this, regardless if you are in a fraternity or sorority, and think about what TFM does. THINK about what all this organization (and I’m sure TSM as well) does to our culture. If we truly want to make a systematic change, we need to start with ourselves with with what the future leaders look up to. I’m sure as hell tired of having my reputation as a fraternity man tarnished because of TFM, aren’t you?

White is White: You can’t cover up what the world sees

“In addition to specifying one’s European ancestry, and reclaiming lost family traditions, this shift (of distancing self from whiteness) can also be understood as a way to distance oneself from claims made by people of color about some imagined “standard white American,” and from political assertions that whites have “unearned” privilege or are responsible for disadvantaged position of minorities.
-Jennifer L. Eichstedt, Problematic White Identities and a Search for Racial Justice.
When the light is flashed on us white folk about our white privilege, we come up with various excuses: “oh I’m working class, I don’t get the privilege because I had to work for everything I’ve gotten” or “that’s only for straight people” or “no I’m actually Italian on my mom’s side, not white”. While it may seem impossible to put all whiteness on the same level, it is the same in this system of power and privilege where white folk win and folk of color loose. We can’t pick and choose what identity trumps our whiteness – white is visible, white wins. And this is something we need to own up to.
Us white folk also try and see persecution that happens to us as well within these excuses. “Oh I grew up as the only white kid in my neighborhood” or “Oh I was the only Jewish kid in my high school”. Simply because you were the minority in one example doesn’t mean you are THE minority that looses in a system of power and privilege. This is like saying reverse racism is a think. IT IS NOT A THING. How can white people who control it all observe pervasive and damaging racism? That would imply that people of color have power over us white folk WHEN THEY DON’T.
Now, that’s not to say you can’t be shot because you’re white or be picked last to play a pick up game because you’re white. That can happen to anyone at anytime. What the point we white folk need to understand is that we DON’T LIVE IN CONSTANT FEAR that it will happen simply because of the color of our skin. We can push people of color out of our neighborhoods or simply move. We can send our children to expensive private schools. We can simply work for another company. White people can do whatever, whenever if we really wanted to.
Why are there so many success stories of white folk “making it rich” and so many stories of people of color being “gang bangers and criminals”? Us white folk need to wake up because this is not just, this is not freedom, this is not the world I want to live in and neither should you. It will be hard because we white folk benefit from this system. Why give up something that is helping us win? I don’t have the answer to that, yet. I will grow and learn more about my whiteness and hopefully one day understand what it is to be a true ally for equality. But I do know I want to do what I can to help end this system that kills and destroys so many people.
If I had to summarize it all it would be this: It’s not “The American Dream”, it’s “The White American Dream”.

First let me introduce myself: #SAviews

13322115_10157103633525195_297510175469595778_n.jpgHey y’all,

So it has only been a few short days since my last post and only a few weeks into the summer. There are some changes going on and they are now in the works. But first, let me (re) introduce myself and all the details.

Name: Justin Kyle

Occupation: Higher Education Student Affairs

Future plans: World domination

Actual future plans: becoming an advocate of change

Desired future position: Chancellor of Ole Miss

Areas of interest: Fraternity and Sorority Life, Student Activities, Service-Learning, Housing and Residence Life, and Orientation.

Areas of interest not related to professional life but should be: craft beer, whisky, Pokemon, music (vinyls are rad), sloths, beaches, and thrift shopping.

So now that all of those things are out of the way, let’s talk about what is new.

New blog: I’ve decided that my old blog “private thoughts in a public world” was too narrow. So, after much creative thinking, I’ve decided to create a new hashtag and in the process a new blog title: #SAviews. SA meaning Student Affairs and views meaning my view of xyz. It also helps with Insta and twitter so I can stay organized. yay.

New ambitions: I’ve decided that life is too short to be narrow minded. A year ago I would have said I only want to every work at large, public institutions. After my experience at Coe College, I’ve decided that the opportunities are boundless and I can learn any and everywhere. Yay for increasing breadth of employment!

New Goals: Let’s be honest, I have no clue as to what I am doing. Instead of pretending, I want to be genuine. So with that said, I have a few basic goals and everything else just happens

  • continously learning about my priviliges, the systems of opression that impact so many, and doing what I can when I can, listening when I should, and advocating when necessary.
  • getting a MBA
  • getting a Ph.D.
  • working for my national fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi
  • have a wife, kid(s), dog, and a sloth
  • traveling the world
  • learning all I can so that I can return to Mississippi and make a difference in the backwards state I call home.

New attitude: I’ve been an ass at times (a lot). I have my set way of acting around some and that’s just not cool. From hence forth I am all in. No matter what the circumstance, I want to be fully present. No matter the task at hand, I want to do my all. No matter the amount of ice cream before me, I will eat it all. See where I’m going with this?

Now you may saying, dude what the hell are you rambling about? At that I will just default to the blank stare, smile, and wave routine. I rarely understand half the things that I do so explaining this would require a beer and a long conversation (which I am always down for).

So without further delay, I give you #SAviews – my personal hashtag, blog, journey, thoughts, feelings, emotions, attitudes, love of sloths, and oxford commas.

 

 

Grad School: On moving to a new school, new city, new state

Each learner is unique in their own way. This is evident when John Dewey believed that the learning experience should be tailored to the individual needs of the student. Lev Vygotsky believed that we learn based on our interactions with our environment and Nevitt Standford wrote about the necessary balance of challenge and support. Because of this, there is an unlimited possibility on how one can experience their graduate experience. To truly plan for everything one could experience would require omnipotent powers. Sadly, I cannot bestow such powers on anyone. However, what I can do is make my experience open for anyone to observe and learn. This is a list of possibilities one can experience during their transition to grad school. This is a list of things to watch out for, things to give caution to, and things to just completely avoid.  My experience is not yours, and neither is yours mine. However, I there are some things that have some universality. This by all means is not an exhaustive list, rather a starting point for one to reflect on their true selves and how they will react to a new environment. This list is not absolute, something you will never see. However, some things to consider:

  1. It isn’t always fun
  2. You will not always become automatic friends with your classmates
  3. You will struggle
  4. You will be overwhelmed, exhausted, bored, and even pressured
  5. Imposter Syndrome is real (look it up if you don’t now. It will be good practice for you to do your own research on topics).
  6. You have to advocate for yourself and make sure “you get yours”. Chances are, a lot will be asked of you and you will feel a lot of emotions. If you don’t take the time you need, you can and will fail.
  7. You have to get away. Get off campus, off the map, go reflect, go be you.
  8. Make friends that you don’t work with, take classes with, or do “student-affairs things” with. When you make said friends, limit or try not to talk about work and class.
  9. You know only your experiences. Period. You don’t know all, you can’t, so be cool with feeling dumb/lost.
  10. Don’t talk about your undergrad. As much as I love Ole Miss that is Ole Miss. Give your new place a chance. Be careful when you do talk about your prior experiences because you can easily offend people. Hard lesson learned.
  11. Go for a walk, listen to music, and explore.
  12. Find a mentor, someone who will call you out, someone to cry with, someone to laugh with. This can be one or multiple people.
  13. Don’t gossip. Listen when people do and make mental notes. People can be real shitty and stupid at times and you don’t want none of that toxicity in your life.
  14. Learn from other’s mistakes
  15. Learn from your mistakes
  16. “They” will tell you it is not about the grads but what you learn. True. But when you grow up in a K-12 and undergrad system that depends of pure memorization and “getting the grades”, it is about both. If you not satisfied with what you are learning or the grades, change it.
  17. “Trust the process” or don’t. Make it your own. (I’m a Rebel so I make my own way)
  18. Don’t say “I know this will probably offend someone but….” Chances are, you are going to shove your own foot so far down your mouth it will become a permanent member of your digestive system. I’ve said this, others have, and many will. Just don’t. Reflect, write down your thoughts, think about your privileges, and reflect some more.
  19. It is ok to make mistakes. It is not ok for your ignorant privilege to attack, offended, or appropriate others.
  20. Speak from your own view, do not ask someone to speak for a whole group of folks.
  21. If what you are thinking is not “good”, then don’t say it and reflect. Mistakes are ok but don’t be an ass.
  22. Journal, blog, talk to yourself, whatever you have to do to help reflect.
  23. It is ok to hate your classes, your job, your whatever. Everything can and will be ok. Reflect, make the necessary changes, and carry on.
  24. Take time to plan your schedule. Be deliberate.
  25. “Treat yo self”
  26. Say “yes” and “no”. Opportunities are all around. So take advantage and also know there are always more.
  27. Take time to talk to family (I like postcards personally), undergrad friends, and mentors. Don’t let the grass grow under you relationships.
  28. Do your own research. Look up random stuff, stuff you don’t know, stuff you think you know.
  29. Even if you think you know, you can still learn from any experience.
  30. Make your own theories. Self-author something that explains how you know what you know.
  31. Learn what words are “PC” and what isn’t. It shouldn’t be other people’s responsibility to correct you. Do your own research but don’t get caught up on every detail. Mistakes are ok but don’t be an ass.
  32. Find someone “different” than you. Make that person your friend. We learn at the intersection of discomfort and unknown. You will find out new things, both good and bad, about yourself. Embrace what you learn and do what is necessary.

This by all means is not everything that can happen. This is not what all you will experience or see. Make your own list and share with others. Know that you are not in this struggle/journey alone, but you have to respect yourself too. Learn from my mistakes, learn from others, and learn from yourself. Learning is a lifelong process so enjoy the ride because it will get intense.

Cheers.

We serve students, not Wall Street: Why the dress code?

So here I am, post undergrad life, going to grad school and trying to survive. I am expected to not only act professional (completely understandable) AND dress professional. Why? Do students dress that way? Is this a private school with a special dress code? Do you really wanna wear that collared shirt and coat in 90 degree weather or that dress when its negative 20 degrees? If you answered No to any/all of those, then you understand what I mean.

Dean of Students. LITERALLY they are here to work for the students. If so, then why do they have to look like they are ready to make a James Bond remix? I work in a residence hall. A hall in which students live. Not a hall where we have the town ball. Now the President, I can understand. The name president literally implies “I’m going to dress the way I want people to view our school, professionally successful”.

Maybe I am just too young and not yet adjusted to this life in Higher Education yet, but seriously, why do I have to dress up? It seems we have gotten to a point in society when we are so worried about a certain image rather than meeting students where they are, making them comfortable, and just having fun. But wait: its summer, students are here (or there isn’t that many) and we get to dress down. WHAT. How does that even make since. “Ok y’all, the ones we work for aren’t here, now we can let loose, unwind, and not dress like we are on the board of trustees.” This is what I imagine is said when the summer polices take place and they send the email that I can wear jeans…IN SUMMER.

All of this and more blows my mind, hence this blog post.