Wednesday, April 30, 2008

SOO Advisors Institute

Monday night I gave a presentation to the Advisor's Institute, as organized by the Student Organization Office (SOO) of UW–Madison. In preparation, I met with Barb, Eric and Mark of SOO a couple of weeks ago, and after that hour and a half, had enough ideas to create a one- or two-day workshop. And they needed a 45-minute presentation. : ) They asked me to speak on When Your Word Becomes Law, which is one of the Successful Living Seminars offered by the Center for Creative Learning. I fashioned the presentation around concerns that student organization advisors have with students surrounding integrity and accountability.

The institute was held in Gordon Commons, which is the first time I've been in the building since I went to school myself. I checked the status of the deconstruction of Ogg Hall next door--they haven't yet gotten down to 6th Floor West, where I lived as a freshman. One day soon the physical signs of that part of my life will be gone.

I had a great time. At Table 3, I went to the buffet table to get my dinner (in order to eat quickly to present in a few minutes), and discovered upon my return that my water glass had spilled. I first thought I had done it myself, and discovered I hadn't. I shared how spilling of milk, etc., at the dinner table was a big sin when I was a kid, and we laughed at the thought now. I got to know the others at my table as we talked about birth order, and where we all fit.

The presentation itself was also very enjoyable. Despite cramming a lot of information into 45 minutes, I followed the minute markings on my outline and finished right on time--not bad considering I love to talk and could have spent several hours! A memory came up while I was giving an example of breaking something when I was a kid that I hadn't thought of in years; the spontaneity was fun.

After the presentation I encouraged the group to break into smaller groups to practice some role-plays of an advisor holding a student accountable. About a third actually did the role-plays, and the rest had valuable discussion about the issues. I shared my wondering with the group whether those who didn't practice the role-play did so as a way of avoiding holding others accountable, which can be uncomfortable. It also occurred to me that if folks didn't know each other well enough, there may not have been enough emotional safety or comfort to do that type of activity. I'm still curious to find out more about that. : )

During the debrief and Q&A, we had great discussion: folks raised some challenging questions about holding students accountable. I answered some questions, and turned others back to the group, which led to the sharing of wisdom that I knew to be in the room.

Evaluations were positive--people enjoyed the information (new and reminders), the playfulness and energy, and meeting with other advisors and sharing ideas.

I'm very excited for the progress that SOO is making. They will soon be creating a listserve/email list that advisors can use to connect more and share some of this wisdom and experience between group members. And they are doing this during a hiring freeze! They get lots done.

My thanks, once again, to everyone who attended, and to Barb, Eric, Mark and Renee for inviting me to present! I look forward to hearing how the organization continues to develop, and support the students and their organizations into the future.

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