Dear Hillary,

They put me in the lowest-level reading group in first grade. The next year, during a summer reading competition, I read 138 books - 101 more than 2nd place. I refused to let someone’s assessment of my abilities hold me back. My mom beamed proudly.

In the 4th grade, during Catholic school, I wrote a letter of support demanding that girls have the same right to be alter "boys", which was later granted at our church. My grandmother celebrated this victory by baking my favorite cake.  

I got detention in 7th grade for challenging a priest in class when I openly disagreed with his pro-life stance.  My female homeroom teacher slyly gave me a wink and smile while she was forced to document my “disobedience.” 

In 8th grade, when male peers encouraged me to run for secretary positions, it was always the strong women in my life who whispered “or maybe the presidency?”

As an adult, it has always been women pushing and propelling me forward. They are the ones telling me to remove the words “I’m not ready” from my vocabulary. They have been the ones to email, call, or fly across the country to encourage, support, and inspire me to dare to the do the things I am the most scared to do.

Hillary, I share these anecdotes because throughout my life I have felt connected to you and your journey. I’ve read your books and followed your career.  I loved you through the headbands and pantsuits. My heart ached for you though the Monica years. I saw how you managed the challenging double-bind of female leadership (too soft vs. too bitchy), decade after decade.

I am the same age as your daughter. I am aware that you have fought the good fight so that women of our generation do not have to manage the same battles that you and your generation did. 

You are flawed like we all are and you have been publicly critiqued for every misstep. More significantly, you have been harshly criticized much more than any man would be simply because people are turned off by the audacity of your insistence that you belong in each and every space where men said you should not be.          

You talk a lot about the importance of dreams and goals and you encourage people to unapologetically go after their dreams. I too have big plans for my future and you have provided the blueprint for how to get there - work hard, do your homework, over prepare, and exhibit grace when you win and when you lose. As the old saying goes, “fall seven times, get up eight.” 

So my heart broke this week. For you, for me, for the women who have come before you and the ones that will follow. You have the lit the torch and carried it further than any other woman and you were stopped an inch before the finish line. What I can promise you is that the women of your daughter’s generation will take the torch that you have kept burning for decades and we will carry on your legacy of advocacy and relentless fight. We will not be deterred. We will be stronger together because you have shown us that grace wins over cruelty and we all win when we band together to lift and support each other in achieving our goals.

Your presidential run is over. But the race continues. Thank you for your leadership and legacy. Now we have the baton and will commit to shattering that last shred of the glass ceiling. I promise to work tirelessly on behalf of women and encourage women to find their greatness so that I may also whisper, or shout, to those women “or maybe the presidency?”

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AuthorAnn Marie
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Urban dictionary defines a “Boss Lady” as “THE woman who is in control. People see her and instantly feel the need to respect her and do. Runs the show, is cool, and collected and gets the job done. Confident, never looks down. Demands respect and gets it.”

I love the term Boss Lady because I think women have a unique way of navigating the workplace and while I am comfortable being known as simply the “Boss” I understand (and celebrate!) that my femininity (and how I opt to express it) impacts my communication style and leadership.

I enjoy being around other Boss Ladies, and I have found that they are some of the most resilient, creative and determined people I have ever met.  They are juggling multiple roles within their work and professional lives and often share (with humor and grace) their strategies for living life like a boss while sometimes owning that they walk out of the door with two different shoes, or with baby spit-up in their hair.  They are not easily rattled and often inspire the people around them to find the bright spot in even the darkest time. 

I have a history of bringing together fantastic women whether it be through my work with the NASPA Women’s Student Affairs (WISA) Knowledge Community, as President of the DePaul Women’s Network, or by coordinating many, many, “ladies lunches” in various cities where I have lived all around the country.   

I didn’t know any Boss Ladies when I first moved to NYC, but it didn’t take long to meet them.  When my friend (and total Boss Lady) Sumi Pendakur introduced me via email to her fabulous colleague Adriana di Bartolo, who was leaving California to move to New York to be the new Dean of Students at Vassar College, I found myself thinking about what a blessing it is to be surrounded by powerful, positive, women—and how hard it is to be new.  I decided to create a small dinner to welcome her and introduce her to a couple of like-minded women.

Well, that small dinner because a full-scale party for 12, complete with a seating chart and gift bags!  Boss Ladies wanted to invite other Boss Ladies to the table because they recognize that they need each other—and that being around other amazing women is SO good for their soul.   

When I was doing my dissertation research on ten female college presidents a common theme emerged about the loneliness of leadership.  “At the end of the day, it’s just you, alone in a room, having to make the tough, sometimes life-altering decision, “one president said.  Moments like that necessitate support and community which is so critical to taking care of yourself.  If I have a bad day at work, who can I really talk to?  I supervise everyone!  Therefore, it is necessary to have a strong community of leaders who can not only sympathize, but empathize with your challenges, be a thoughtful listening ear, and help you create strategies for moving forward.

 Shout out to all the Boss Ladies out there! Who will accept this challenge and organize a Boss Lady dinner?  Send me pictures from your event!

Shout out to all the Boss Ladies out there! Who will accept this challenge and organize a Boss Lady dinner?  Send me pictures from your event!

Our first #BossLady dinner in NYC was a complete success!  Thanks so much to the amazing women who made time in their day to come to dinner, spent hours connecting, laughing, and eating—it was truly a special night!  We are all set for our #BossLady 2.0 dinner on October 21st and I hope that if you are reading this, you will consider organizing a dinner in your geographic area either on that day or sometime this fall.  When we posted pictures of our dinner, so many people were supportive and echoed the sentiment that they would love to have something like this in their community.

Who could benefit by bringing communities of women together?  The answer?  Everyone.  Everyone wins.  One look on the faces of these women confirms that.

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AuthorAnn Marie

My heart got broken tonight.

Not by a significant other, friend, or Donald Trump (that’s a daily occurrence). I was in a coaching session with a client when it happened.

“I just don’t want to come off as being too driven or ambitious.  I don’t want to be seen as greedy or disloyal to the institution for wanting to find a higher-level job.”

Did you hear that?  That was the sound of my heart breaking.

This isn’t the first time I heard similar sentiments.  So many people struggle with owning their career aspirations because they are concerned that a) they don’t deserve to move up, b) they worry about being seen as disloyal by their supervisor, c) they fear that their peers will negatively react to their ambition.

That fear can be real. I’m not saying that ambition is consequence-free, but rather it’s about framing your aspirations in such a way that it can be a win for all involved.   Below are some things that I inherently believe about ambition and opportunity: 

1) Every time a talented colleague gets an award, promotion or a great opportunity it’s a win for the department, the university and our students. 

2) If you are good, you get to stay in your job.  If you are great, you get to move on.  Loyalty to the firm no longer exists.  Instead, it’s about loyalty to the cause—student success.  Sometimes this means moving functional areas, jobs, and/or relocating.  

3) We need to stop valuing stability of our units over individual success.  It doesn’t have to be an either/or situation.  Strong supervisors know that they need to do both—create a vision and team that will strengthen the department and also individually developing each person in a way that is supportive of their future goals and aspirations.

If an employee gets a great new opportunity, let’s celebrate them! Our departments will always be okay.  We will find another strong candidate to replace the great employee who left us.

When I meet with new employees on their first day, we have a frank discussion about the potential for growth in role and I will often say something like “I see this being a 2-4 year job for you based on your previous experiences.  Let me know what opportunities you are looking for to prepare you for next role so I can help you get them during your time here.  When you are ready to start looking for your next job, keep me in the loop so I can support you in that process.”  This takes away the potential awkwardness of when an employee wants to start the job search process because we have already laid the foundation for transparency.  

4)  Good supervisors look for ways to enhance individual ambition: A supervisor once took me out to dinner and said “What do you need to stay here longer?”  I was surprised at the initial question, as I was not currently job searching.  But in retrospect, it was a very smart question.  My supervisor knew that I was more likely to stay when I am given more opportunities.  He was feeding my ambition, and it was a win for him and for me.   

As you assess your own ambition there are a few things to consider about how you navigate your work, develop your goals and articulate your hopes and dreams

1)  Consider how you frame your language. Make sure you can demonstrate how your ambition is not just “me-centered,” it’s “we-centered.” Team-focused aspiration is a critical part of your larger, individual, ambition.  No one creates success by themselves.  Whenever I express my ambition I am able to share how it is a win for the university and our students. 

At NYIT, we are seeking to enhance our name recognition and brand.  Every time I am granted permission to present on a topic outside of my institution I (hopefully!) am a credit to the university and can enhance the profile of the NYIT.  My goal is to increase the value of the NYIT degree so that when our students apply for jobs, employees will want to hire them based on what they have heard about the university.  Does this benefit me?  Yes.  But does it benefit our university and students as well?  Without a doubt.  I can share the stories of how our students have gotten internships, jobs and other opportunities because of an employers’ experience with seeing the talent of our staff and faculty outside of the university.     

2)  Who do you trust to share your hopes and dreams?  Who are your people, your cheerleaders, the people who can speak to your work and open doors for you? Let them know about your aspirations so they can help you get there.  I have been supported, advocated for, and sponsored throughout my career when I dared to share my professional hopes and aspirations.  This can be scary.  But as one of my favorite university presidents often says “Being risk-averse offers no reward.”  Take the plunge!

3) There is no substitution for excellence: A mentor told me today, “Ambition cannot take the place of skill.”  Doing your job excellently every day will always remain the number one priority.  Becoming excellent is a non-negotiable factor in developing your ambition and attaining your goals.   

But back to the initial conversation:

Me: “I understand that you have these concerns.  Tell me, what would you say if one of your students came to you and shared that they had big hopes and dreams for their own career?”

Client: “I would encourage them to go after it and do all they can to make it happen.”

Indeed.  As my former boss once told me, we teach best what we need to learn most.

As for my own heart?  It’s not right, but it’s OK. #ThanksWhitney

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AuthorAnn Marie
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When my supervisor asked if I would chair the search for the Dean of Campus Life position on our Long Island campus, I was thrilled to do so but had a few ideas about how this search was going to operate. First and foremost, this search definitely was not going to look like typical job search processes in our field.  

The first question that the search committee asked each on-campus finalist was “What is one thing that the student affairs field does not do well and what would you do to improve it?”  If I were to answer this question, I would have said that we are awful at recruitment and hiring processes.  Interviews are much too long, boring, and often repetitive. 

Furthermore, we are also poor at communicating with candidates in our processes and tend to unnecessarily draw out searches—why would it take 8 months (or longer) to run a search for any position?   I decided that NYIT was going to be part of the solution and provide the following framework for us to consider how we might improve the job search experience for employers and candidates.

At the beginning, I reflected on our goals for the search and my brain immediately went to three words that were ultimately our guiding principles throughout the process: innovation, relevance, and fast. 

 

Innovative

I looked at books and articles that discussed how the corporate world constructs interviews.  I chatted with colleagues and peers about creative ideas they had seen in other searches.  I thought about what would generate buzz regarding the position and focused on attracting a large, diverse, and talented pool. 

Informational Memo: We widely distributed a publication that contained information about the position the day after we received the letter of resignation from the previous dean.  We knew that it would take a couple of weeks to get approval to post the position, so we shared information about the role and the institution as a sort of a “Save the Date” to generate discussion about the opportunity.  This provided us a couple of weeks to have conversations with interested candidates before the position formally posted.  It also allowed us to shorten the timeframe from when we posted the job to when we started the interview process.

Promotional Video: We hired a student to create a commercial to promote the position that generated over 2,000 views!  It was a humorous attempt to showcase our division, our values, and our divisional culture.  Whenever people talk about why a job didn’t work out, they often mention “fit” as a key reason.  We wanted to highlight our culture which focuses on innovation, trying new things, and having fun!  Honestly, if you don’t have a good sense of humor (and perhaps a thick skin) this environment might not suit you. 

Our goal was for potential applicants to see the video and either say “Uh, no thanks, not for me,” or “Hell yes, I’m applying today!” The video allowed others to see who we really are. As a result, the quality and potential fit of candidates were high.  This idea allowed candidates to catch a glimpse of our personalities and to think about if they would want to be a part of our division.         

Weighted Rubric Scale: We evaluated each candidate on 13 different areas.  Instead of looking at the basic skills and experiences that a candidate should have, the highest weighted category was termed “Evidence of Overall Leadership” which was measured in the following way: “Candidate displays a professional history of innovation and supporting evidence of moving a unit/department forward.  Demonstrates creative problem-solving abilities.  Higher marks should be given to candidates who demonstrate employing creative methods to solve problems or provide a new service/resource to students/staff to minimize any service gaps.” 

This allowed us to consider the candidate as a whole person and evaluate their potential for success, not just check off the professional experiences (or penalize them for the ones they do not yet have) in their career. 

 

Relevance

Skype Questions: From a deep and talented pool of over 150 applicants, we offered Skype interviews to 17 qualified candidates. We attracted a diverse and talented pool.  Over 65% of our Skype interviews were people of color and over 90% had a terminal degree.

It was extremely important to not ask traditional questions to these semi-finalists.  After all, how many times can we ask “Tell us a little about yourself and why you are interested in NYIT?”  Shouldn’t the cover letter have already told us all of that?  We wanted to focus on finding out information that was relevant to assessing the skills and fit of each candidate.

We focused our questions on things that allowed us to understand how they think—of their place in the field, their leadership style, and how they view students.  A few of my favorite questions included:

(Opening question) Tell us two things about yourself that we wouldn’t know by looking at your resume about the kind of leader you are.

What are you really, really good at?  In other words, what is something that you do better than most people at work?   

What is one piece of critical feedback that you have repeatedly been given during your career that you continue to work on?

What is one major contribution you have made to the field of higher education that you are most proud of? (Outside of the job. Can be in association work, writing, presenting, leadership roles, etc.)  

These questions allowed us to learn more about the candidate’s experiences and how they view their work.  We received overwhelmingly positive feedback that these questions made them reflect and process and the search committee enjoyed the variety of answers shared.

The On-Campus Interview: I was adamant that we were not going to have a candidate sit in a conference room all day in front of ten different groups of stakeholders answering the same questions ten times.  Again, we wanted to focus on creating an interview experience that was relevant and applicable to the job they were seeking. A few interesting opportunities each candidate experienced during their on-campus interview at NYIT included:

1) Ted Talk: Each candidate was asked to deliver a 15-20 minute Ted Talk in an area of their own professional expertise.  We asked for high-quality visuals and encouraged them to view it as a true presentation and performance.   In senior-level leadership roles, strong verbal communication and presentation skills are a must.  This dynamic opportunity allowed campus partners to learn more about the experiences and talents of each finalist.  

2) Experiential Exercise:  Crises situations often arise in Student Affairs and we are asked to craft a strategy and response quickly.  Each candidate was given a scenario and an hour to think about and craft a 1-2 page response.  We gave them a private office and laptop and they worked on this exercise as a part of their interview day. This helped us to evaluate their critical thinking skills and helped us to understand how they address issues when they are not given much time to make decisions and enact strategies to move forward.  

3) Vision presentation:  Each candidate was asked to prepare a 10-15 minute vision presentation that shares their goals for the role and what they hope to achieve in the first year. Members of the campus community were invited to ask questions regarding their experiences and ideas for working with students, faculty, and staff at NYIT.  By having two presentations as a part of the interview, it allowed for more people to see and assess each candidate throughout the day.  We were pleased by the turnout at each session including staff and faculty from general counsel, security, academic deans, and the registrar among others.

 

Fast

Delegation: One key factor in the in the success of this process was having a highly capable search committee.  We set clear expectations for prioritizing the work of the search committee, honoring due dates, and checking in frequently. We divided up the work of the committee by creating review teams of 3-4 people to assess each candidate as well as doing the reference checks (prior to the on-campus interviews) within those teams.   Each person had the opportunity to host a candidate during their visit, recruit students, staff, and faculty to the different presentations, and assist with the marketing and social media promotion of the job posting.  This committee moved swiftly because everyone was committed to maintaining an ethical process that also met all of its deadlines. 

Timeline: From posting the job to making the offer, it took us 93 days to complete this process.  150 applications were reviewed and evaluated within three weeks.  17 Skype interviews occurred on 8 different days spanning three weeks.  5 finalists were brought to campus over the course of 12 days. It was extremely important to not have the position sit vacantly. We wanted students to know their Dean and we wanted to have a strong colleague advocating for student success throughout the university.  With careful planning and a strict timeline, we were able to move swiftly but thoughtfully.    
Assessment: We sent each on-campus finalist a four-question evaluation of their experience at NYIT.  We wanted to know if this non-traditional interview format was helpful, stressful, useful (or all of the above) and assess our communication methods with the candidates.   
Interview Day:
“It was thorough.  I believe that after this process the search committee and decision-makers will have good data to make a solid decision.  I think it served both me as a candidate and the institution well.”
“The Ted Talk challenged me as an individual to be introspective in what I have to offer to another institution.  This exercise moved beyond simply preparing me for an interview by researching an institution.  This encouraged me to really focus on the needs of the students and NYIT and showcase where I (as a candidate) may be able to support them.    
 “I thoroughly enjoyed the concept of having a host for the interview day.  This individual was available for questions and made the candidate feel welcomed throughout the process.”
“This was a creative method of interviewing.  I enjoyed each and every challenge.
Communication and Transparency:
 “NYIT was very transparent and open with the process. They provided information and answers before I even had to ask questions about the process and next steps.”
 “The support before and during the interview was great.  Communication was clear and consistent. 
“All communication was transparent and allowed for questions and feedback.”    

While I believe that recruitment and hiring processes are still an area that our field needs to work on, I am pleased with how we were able to manage this process in a way that respected the candidates (and their time) and was innovative, relevant, and fast.

There is nothing more important than recruiting top talent and putting them in positions where they ultimately serve students and support their success.  As a field, I challenge us to consider how we can tailor our search processes to 1-attract a qualified, diverse pool of professionals, 2-engage them in a recruitment process that truly evaluates their ability to be successful in the role and 3-allows campus stakeholders multiple opportunities to interact with them throughout their on-campus visit.  Each hire we make either enhances or detracts from the student experience.  We must choose thoughtfully and wisely.   

Are you implementing some creative and innovative strategies for recruitment and hiring?  I would love to hear about them! 

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AuthorAnn Marie
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This summer, thousands of young professionals will take internship opportunities working in a variety of areas in Higher Education including Housing, Orientation, Student Activities and many other departments. 

This short (often 6-12 week) opportunity is a fantastic way to build your skill set and experience another campus culture.  As current and former internship supervisors, we have seen some interns take full advantage of all the internship has to offer and we have seen others squander this time.  This blog post isn’t about how to DO the work required in the internship, rather it’s about the mindset that we hope you will consider as you enter this opportunity.  

 

1: This is Not Your Current Institution 

You may be used to a certain way of managing processes and people and it can be quite a shock to see how different institutions value, express and execute these same functions.  Fight the urge to say “Well at XYZ university, we do it this way and it works great.”  We don’t care. 

Not that we aren’t open to learning from other universities and potentially adopting some proven practices but you have to be open to consider why each university operates the way it does.  Focus on learning and doing things their way. Plus, this is a great way to demonstrate your adaptability and flexibility as their summer employee.

 

2: This is a Ten Week Interview Process

You are getting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to showcase your talent and skills for a finite amount of time.  The rewards from this can be enormous.  Think of it as a trial run.  Often, institutions will look to former interns to fill professional positions that open up in the future.  Even if it is not a perfect match, you have the opportunity to add more seasoned professionals to your reference list who will be able to join the choir singing your praises to other potential employers.

On the flip side, if you are a hot mess they will not advocate for you on your behalf.  Student Affairs is a small field.  Don’t provide them the opportunity (and obligation) to tell other people that you were not an ideal employee during this short time frame.

 

3: Know Your Cohort (PS, You are Not Going to be BFF with Your Supervisor)

We get it. Coming to a new location can be daunting. Unless you are an extreme social butterfly or have a previously established network, it’s unlikely that you will be able to create a large social community in this short amount of time. We hope your supervisors and peers are providing you with some opportunities and outlets to connect on a personal level.  But this doesn’t mean that it is their responsibility to be your entertainment director on the cruise that is your summer internship. They have lives, responsibilities, families or cats (you know who you are) that they have to prioritize as well.

Utilize meetup.com, connect with other interns or grads on your campus or in the local area, join a yoga studio, or find other ways to connect with people beyond just those in your immediate department.

 

4: Comparison is the Thief of Joy

What does this internship have to teach you?  You’ll never really know if you keep comparing your experience to others.  

It doesn’t matter how much money other interns make or what their housing accommodations look like.  Stop longing, start living.  You are in a competition with one person—yourself.  Start behaving like the (graceful, grateful, confident) winner that you are!

Make the best of your situation by being “all in” and taking advantage of everything the institution and department have to offer you.


5: Stop Talking About Your Work/Life Balance (No, Really)

I won’t hire anyone who talks about balance or self-care.  Stop talking about it, just DO it.  Build a plan for your life and work in a way that supports and prioritizes all that you have (and want) to do.

You were selected over every other applicant. You were hired to work really freaking hard.  Show them they made the right decision.  They don’t need to sell you, you need to sell THEM.

The workload only gets harder and more time-consuming from here on up.  Start building your own professional capacity by putting in the hours to build your skills through this experience so that you are ready for the next great opportunity.

 

6: Add Where You Can, But Don’t Bulldoze

You’re freaking smart. That’s why you were hired. We encourage you to offer ideas and perspectives. It keeps us on our toes and it’s OK to ask questions about why things are done the way they are.  

What’s not acceptable is coming in and telling the school what to do and how to do it. Beyond August, you won't be there to manage these programs or pick up the pieces, so don’t tell them how they should run their department.   Write down the things you like, the ways you might do some pieces differently and think about how and why it works (or doesn’t?) for that institution.  This can be an excellent case study for you to consider in terms of supervision, processes and campus culture.  Learn from it. 

 

7: Grunt Work Still Equals Learning (aka, Making Copies Never Hurt Anyone)

You know what Todd did during his summer internship so many years ago? Damage billing.  Do you know what Todd is really good at now? Damage billing. But through this, he learned how to understand complicated processes, communicate with facilities about needs and expectations, and how to calm down a lot of angry parents.

Not everything you do in your internship is going to be fun and at times you may feel like a work study student.    Suck it up buttercup.  There is a lot of value to what you can learn and what you can contribute to do the tasks necessary to help the permanent staff to excel in their positions.

No one will remember that you created a great RA training guide during your internship if you whined every day about making copies.  Demonstrate excellence with every task you are given.

 

8: This is Just a Snapshot of the Department.  Stop Judging.

Your summer internship site could be bat shit crazy.  So what?  They might like their crazy.  And every university has their own version of crazy.  Embrace it. 

This is a short experience designed to give you just a taste of their culture.  The summer semester in higher education is often not reflective of the rest of the academic year.   It can be a bit chaotic, less structured, and honestly, sometimes it is harder for the staff to be focused during the summer months. Celebrate the good, brush off the bad, consider the different and come back a more polished professional.

 

9: The Scope is Different, So Put Chickering Away (For Now.  You Can Take Him Out Later).

Summer intern tasks are often less about holistic development of students and more about creating and facilitating processes that will ultimately benefit students.  You might not get to apply theory to doing key audits, working the lunch line at Orientation or sorting name tags but ultimately these are tasks that need to get done to ensure that students have what they need to feel connected and successful. 

What would Chickering do?  I don’t know.  But I’m pretty sure he would suggest doing a great job at big and small tasks in the name of student success.

 

10: Utilize This Time to Connect with Professionals in your Area—You Never Know What Doors May Open!

There is a wealth of knowledge and experience in our field. As a grad student, you may have just been exposed to a small glimmer of it through your grad program and undergrad institution.  However, there are many professionals that really care about your future and how they can assist you on your path.

If you’re in a large city for your internship, do informational interviews with pros at other schools in the area. If you are in a smaller area, think about grabbing coffee with someone in a different functional area at your internship site. This is not only a time for you to learn about how to be a better professional, but it is also a time to network with those who can help you become this better professional. This can lead to some amazing opportunities, or at the very least, another friendly face you may encounter at a regional or national conference.

Finally, the summer internship is a time to push yourself, learn and do in a different culture and open your mind to different ways of achieving the same outcome—student success. 

What other tips do you have for summer interns?

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AuthorAnn Marie