To my Younger Self:
Looking back on my professional career, I am writing to share some recommendations of things I would have done differently and some affirmations of things I found to be particularly beneficial in my professional journey as a scholar, professor, and servant leader. I have now served in academia since 1996 after attaining my doctoral degree in educational administration from the University of Texas at Austin. My university work built upon my previous professional experiences as a teacher in elementary, middle, and high school; as a high school counselor; as an assistant elementary principal; as a middle school principal; and as an educational consultant for a regional education center. At the university level, I served as a principal program coordinator for three years and as a department chair and doctoral program director for ten years in Texas before retiring and moving to California where I now serve again as department chair and doctoral program director as a tenured professor at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.
When I consider things that I would tell my younger self to do differently, I would say, “Always, turn every conference paper presentation into a publication.” Too often, I was guilty of completing the conference paper presentation and then moving to the next project instead of following up with sending the paper for publication. I particularly recall two times that I sent papers for publication and received only minor changes and encouragement to revise and resubmit, but I had moved to new projects and didn’t resubmit with the minor revisions. It is important to share our work through publications to contribute to the national, regional, and state dialogue concerning educational leadership, and too often, I didn’t engage in that next step of publication. I remember hearing a presenter at a conference once share that as a district leader, they were more interested in doing than in publishing. I think I was often guilty of this mantra, and in looking back, I would encourage my younger self to remember the value of publishing in sharing lessons learned, to be sure to submit those conference papers for publication, and to follow-up if comments of revise and resubmit were received.
In terms of things that I would affirm as highly influential in my professional career, I would encourage my younger self to devote my attention to projects and goals wherein I feel a commitment and passion to make a positive difference. I feel that I did this through my work in partnership with local districts to implement grants for strengthening a college-going culture for traditionally underserved students, for engaging in the redesign and implementation of quality educational leadership preparation programs, and for seeking to meet the local contextual needs that arose such as increasing cultural proficiency and knowledge and skills in meeting the needs of English learners. Working with the many partnership grants that we were awarded was immensely gratifying, and I would encourage this work again.
I would also encourage my younger self to become involved with research networks and professional organizations, such as serving on the Executive Board of the National Council of Professors of Educational Administration, now International Council of Professors of Educational Leadership. These experiences were invaluable to my growth and provided the opportunity to engage in ongoing learning with other scholars who shared a common interest in improving the educational opportunities for all students. I would encourage my younger self to savor the wonderful relationships with colleagues that were formed as we worked together toward achieving a common goal. I would also encourage my younger self to love your students and colleagues. They will enrich your life. Finally, I would encourage my younger self to also take time to “smell the flowers”, to engage in those quiet moments of reflection, and to ever keep growing.
Letter to my younger self:
After 20 years as a teacher and administrator in K-12, it’s 1999 and I’m driving to my first Higher Ed assignment – a regional university in East Texas. Just before I enter the town, it begins to rain, and, there it is – a huge beautiful rainbow! What an affirmation that the risk I am taking is one of promise and hope. So, what should I do to let that rainbow of promise lead to a life of purpose? What can I do to affirm this foundation of potential?
Step 1: Engage: Build respectful relationships with others - engage with a diverse group of others with same and different beliefs and experiences. Engaging with the world around me contributes to growth. Always look for a bridge to our shared humanity.
Step 2: Enhance: Participate in every opportunity that comes my way. . . committees, conferences, publishing. Participating in a multitude of opportunities will broaden my reach beyond Texas and, more importantly, beyond myself to enhance my life professionally (example: research, teaching agenda) and personally. Always approach life expectantly.
Step 3: Enable: Enable others to reach their potential through mentoring and supporting their success. Always look for ways to support others.
Step 4: Enrich: Commit to life-long learning through being fully present as I listen and learn from others. There are no experiences that I will have that cannot enrich my life through deep reflection. Always seek the promise.
Step 5: Entrust: Be willing to entrust my future to the wisdom and guidance of a Higher Power. Always use the talents with which I’ve been entrusted wisely and with humility. Acknowledge, affirm, and activate these skills /abilities which have been entrusted to me to make the World a kinder, gentler place.
Step 6: Enjoy: Seek joy in the journey. . . Every step of the way.
I must remember to... Engage, Enhance, Enable, Enrich, Entrust, and Enjoy.
(Dr. Sandra Harris)
By: Brian Uriegas, EdD
Stephen F. Austin State University
“Start with the end in mind.”- Stephen Covey
Navigating through the world of higher education can seem like a daunting task for many new faculty members. Along the way many obstacles present themselves, especially as it pertains to time management. Whether it is an assistant professor trying to make associate and tenure, or an associate professor trying to make full, effectively dedicating the appropriate time to service, teaching, and scholarship can often include navigating potholes on the road to success.
Covey’s quote is applicable because when we take a trip we usually chart our course prior to leaving. Sure, potholes often show up when we are not expecting them, but having a destination allows us to properly navigate those potholes and adjust our course as needed. We seldom just get in the car and drive without knowing our route or destination.
This applies to the world of higher education in much the same manner. Without a plan we risk hitting the potholes that can consist of not understanding requirements for research and publication, being unable to say “no” when asked to take on more and more tasks, and placing the teaching aspect of our jobs lowest on our list of priorities. By properly planning for the end goal we hope to achieve-tenure, promotion, etc.-we allow ourselves to know exactly where the checkpoints to our destination are and to properly set the timelines that will be necessary to reach that destination as scheduled. Then, when and if these unforeseen potholes surface, we are able to make the necessary deviations from our charted course to avoid or address these potholes while still staying on the necessary timeline to reach our destination.
So how do we chart the course to our destination? How do we proactively work to remove the potholes before they can impede us on, or prevent us from, reaching our destination?
Here are some recommendations from fellow educational leaders:
-Organization is key. Review the job expectations and quantify what they mean, especially if there are no clear recommendations for publications. Then, backwards plan from your goals to figure out the necessary milestones to achieve those goals. –Sarah Straub, EdD, Assistant Professor, Stephen F. Austin State University
-Set semester and yearly goals that will help you make progress toward tenure/promotion. Don’t say yes to everything, choose the opportunities that mean the most to you. Starting early is the key! -
Mychelle Hadley Smith, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of North Texas at Dallas
-Follow your passion. When you are just starting out, you are making a name for yourself in your area of expertise. Don’t wait for somebody else to step up. Step up yourself and be ready to take on many different roles. Remember that you are a lifelong learner always. -Lori P. Kupczynski, EdD, Professor of Education, University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences
-We encourage tenured faculty to be as genuinely supportive as they are able to their less seasoned colleagues and share with their colleagues “the ropes” —the unspoken “rules” of the department, college, and university. -Juliann Sergi McBrayer, EdD, Assistant Professor, Georgia Southern University
As for my own recommendation?
-It is ok to use someone else’s map as a guide but chart your own specific course. You determine what is the best route to take to your destination. Only you know your specific strengths, interests, and abilities as well as how they align with reaching your career goals.
I have been fortunate to have received mentorship and advice from colleagues of all levels and backgrounds and while I value all of it, I have had to make the determination as to how to apply that advice to my specific goals, strengths, and abilities.
“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside. The enemy of the “best” is often the “good.”-Stephen Covey
By: Kryss Shane, MS, MSW, LSW, LMSW (she/her)
Columbia University & Brandman University
“I would like to be remembered as someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability." -Ruth Bader Ginsburg
At a time when many of us were already struggling with trying be our “best selves” and to live our “best lives” and to do our very best, covid-19 hit. Suddenly, not only did the world around us change, so did our daily tasks and so did our access to many of our favorite pastimes. As a result, many felt like they were drowning while others lost their beloved coping skills, including our self-care favorites.
The idea of “self-care” isn’t new; however it has long been argued that most of the media’s ideas of self-care come from a place of extreme privilege. Need some self-care? Go to a spa! Need some self-care? Give up cooking and just order meal kits from now on! In some cases, the need for self-care was really just a sign that a person was overworked, underpaid, and exhausted. No amount of self-care can fix systemic problems, right?! Certainly Ruth Bader Ginsburg taught us about how to work toward long-term changes, lessons so many of us are taking more seriously than ever during the upcoming elections when everyone finally seems to be paying attention to the sanctity of voting and to the need of choosing federal, state, and local representation who support shared interests and values. But what about right now? In the midst of a pandemic, what about self-care for today?
Here are some recommendations from fellow educational leaders:
--Be kind. Give yourself grace. Set boundaries and stick to them. - Katherine Brossard, PhD. Lummi Nation School Instructional Coach; Adjunct Professor
--It’s okay not to be okay. When you are able, concentrate on the things that may be positives like spending more time with kids and pets or whatever it is that makes your life better! -Bryant Horowitz, PhD, Assoc. Professor, East Los Angeles College
--Make a list of what you can do in 24 hours...that includes devotional, yoga, coffee/wine on back porch. -Jo Langston, PhD, Assoc. Prof of Practice, Texas Tech University
--Remind yourself that this is a marathon of unknown length, and pace yourself; manage your expectations. It’s okay to be steady, but slower than usual. -Claudia Janssen Danyi, PhD, Associate Professor and Program Director, Eastern Illinois University
--Remember those things that bring you joy and love and make them a priority in some small form every day. -Ceceilia Parnther, PhD, St. John’s University, Assistant Professor
As for my own recommendation?
--I encourage putting on the music you bopped to when you were a teen and enjoying the flashback along with the flood of lyrics that come back to you! -Kryss Shane, PhD student; Adjunct Professor, Brandman University; Teaching Associate, Columbia University
While covid-19 is certainly giving us cause to pause, to mourn, and to become more mindful of how we spend our time, it is also offering us a chance to think about the amount of effort we put into our own needs. This new opportunity for each of us to focus on self-care might not be a bad thing…
"So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune." -Ruth Bader Ginsburg
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