GenX women in higher ed from around the globe

Conversations: Resolutions and Action Plans

In Conversations on 2010/01/28 at 20:36

MARY In December, Meg and I committed to starting this blog and realized that a January first launch date was a stretch. After a flurry of Facebook and Twitter posts to Harvard Business Review links on developing action plans and new year’s resolutions for 2010, I think I had sufficiently guilt-tripped myself and others into making resolutions and developing a theme or WORD for 2010. One of my resolutions was launching this blog in January 2010. So, here we go – a soft launch of January 29, 2010.

MEG Mary always inspires me, and so I decided to choose a word that would be my theme for 2010.  I chose ACTION.  I tend to sit back, have faith and let life take me where it will.  However, I am discovering that unless I act and take some control and responsibility over the direction of my life, it actually goes nowhere.  I am trying to set goals, make plans, and do one thing every day that brings me closer to who I want to be.  My actions so far have included going to the gym, signing up for overdraft protection, being more attentive to my friends and learning to cook one new thing each week.  I am trying to make conscious choices, and actually work to be the kind of woman that I always hoped to be.

MARY As always, Meg is too kind! I do try to inspire people but I never really know if it’s happening. My word of the year is actually two words hyphenated — RISK-TAKING. Being a wordy academic, I have yet another word – Intentionality. But back to risk-taking – I found that as I got into my 40s, I was taking fewer risks. I had the husband, the house, the PhD, the kid – I didn’t really feel like risk-taking was part of the equation. Then I became aware of the fact that I was feeling stuck and little bored and VERY uncreative and realized that my definition of risk-taking probably needed to change – maybe it no longer involved tattoos and wild, all-night parties. Maybe that wasn’t really risk-taking; maybe it was more like wild and crazy behavior. I started to think of risk-taking in a different way. Maybe it involved learning new languages, meeting new people, getting outside of my comfort zone, taking an African dance class, and getting back into making art. So, this year is about doing things that make me uncomfortable – like starting this blog – having public discussions that will definitely involve conflict and critique– putting myself out there and making mistakes. The second piece is intentionality – I want to do things in an intentional way, rather than randomly. So, I have set some high goals for myself and I am plotting my way there.

MEG I like the concept of having a word for the year rather than a resolution.  A resolution is hard to keep; it is very black and white.  A word or a theme, however, is something that you can keep coming back to.  Even if I fail one day, I can come back and try again.  My theme will guide me at every turn throughout the year, and I think I will be free from failure at the end of the year.

MARY So, Meg and I have just given you a peek into our thinking processes and a flavor of our conversations. We have also indirectly brought up the issue of personal branding – kind of what do we want to be known for. One of the goals of this blog is to harness the energy and amazing power of social networking to bring multiple voices together around higher education. An important piece of social networking is personal branding – and that gets us back to intentionality – if everything is random – your brand is chaos – hard for your readers/followers/students/co-workers to stick with you.

MEG It is strange how I spend so much time at work developing strategic goals, quality assessment, and 6 month to five-year plans, but I have never done this for myself, outside of work.  Developing my personal brand, strategic goals, and quality assurance plan is a goal for 2010, part of my ACTION.

So, the next step is expanding this conversation. We’ve started by inviting some of our best friends/colleagues to join us in our inaugural editorial collective for the University of Venus. Our initial group includes members who are living and working in the USA, Sweden, Turkey, Egypt, and the Philippines. We are going to share our insights on current issues in higher education from our perspectives and we are counting on you to join in and add your voice to the mix.

See you back here on Monday. In the meantime, start following us on Twitter (UVenus), become our fan on Facebook (University of Venus), and subscribe to our blog and by all means, say hello in the comments below.

Join in the conversation and let us know what you think! Let us know if you have a resolution or word for the year and we will try to give you weekly updates on our success in keeping to our themes.

Thanks for taking the time to read.

Mary Churchill and Meg Palladino

Co-Founders, University of Venus blog

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  1. My word is Illuminate. I want to concentrate on slowing down enough to examine the world through multiple lenses and from different angles. To find the poetry in the sunlight on the snow covered branches and not see them as a white blur in my periphery as I speed to and from work on the highway. I want to resist the push to see my students as test scores and skill sets and continue to see them as individuals and to listen to their voices even when their words do not match the standardized curriculum. I want to resist the darkness of pessimism in a state and a vocation where depression and powerlessness seem to invade every news story. I want to focus on the glow of the moon and not the shadows.

    • Kathy – as always, you inspire me! When I was thinking of the word Intentionality, I was also thinking about the old Ram Dass Be Here Now saying. There is a lot of buzz on the web about being present and aware and being intentional and in the moment. Your word – Illuminate – reminds me of those discussions. Only I would say that illuminate is so much more – adds a positive/human/emotional element. When we spend our days dealing with ideas and knowledge and thoughts, we often forget that we are also dealing with humans and emotions. I also think that teachers/instructors/professors are the creative types of the 21st century knowledge-based economy. Those of us who are passionate about inspiring our students are like actors/poets/performance artists and the creativity and passion that we bring to our classes needs constant re-fueling. We need a system of peers and mentors who acknowledge and reward this emotional labor. All of the talk in the press right now about ‘bad teachers’ is really making me angry. Bad teachers don’t usually start out bad. After being in a bad system for 10 to 20 years, it starts to take its toll. Thank you! Our kids need you!

    • Kathy – It is very important to take time to stop and see and smell the roses and appreciate the promise and beauty of today. Illuminate is such a thoughtful, positive theme!

  2. Bravo!! My word is “create”. My objective is to get outside the box. The term “artist” has kept me in a constant state of study for years, and now i want to express. To evolve as an “artist” of multiple interests, the title “artisan” seems more open to the ideas of my focus. I want to be able to “create” (bring to life) whatever comes to mind.

    • I love this. This reminds me of a blog post I read recently on Rajesh Setty’s Life Beyond Code – very techie, very business but really makes sense here. The post was on “boxing” and on being “boxed”. The idea is that when people first meet one another, they quickly attempt to gather enough information to box people – to put them in a box and give them a label – as ENGINEER, STUDENT, FACULTY, ADMINISTRATOR, STAFF, CORPORATE TYPE or in your case – ARTIST. Every box or stereotype/archetype has so much baggage that goes along with it. Setty recommends we try to make it difficult for people to immediately box us.

      I love artisan and all the connotations that go with it – particularly the focus on craft. There is a section in my book on what makes art “art” – hot hot hot debate and I won’t get into it right now. Back to artisan and create — CREATE is excellent because it is so focused – it reminds me of Meg’s word – ACTION — something you can focus on every day and actually accomplish on a daily basis. Thanks!

    • Tim – CREATE is a brave choice. It is similar to action, but even riskier! Bravo and best of luck.

  3. It’s 10 PM as I type this, and having just finished running an event at the university at which I work – the first program in a three day long series of events – I came back to my office and jumped on my computer long enough to find that my dear niece and Mary’s friend Sarah Frye Valencius sent me a link to this site via Facebook. After reading your brave, searching, strong sentiments, I had to thank you for sharing so much insight and inspiration. At a moment where for a lot of reasons, I find myself a little out of gas, psychically speaking, I had a moment with you – a moment which has filled me with admiration and good example and energy. While a Gen Xer in attitude if not exactly in age (I am cuspy baby boomer), I have a feeling I will get alot of your future posts, and I will encourage the ragtag army of warrior women I have collected in a 20+ year career in academia to check you out too. I am going to have to think about my word for 2010 some more, but I can give you tonight’s word after reading this – ENERGY. I look forward to continuing the journey with you.

    • Rosemary – when I woke up at 4 this morning and dragged myself downstairs for a cup of coffee…I turned on the computer and your words rocked my world! Thank you! You are a mentor extraordinaire and it shows. I am honored to have you commenting on our first post and I look forward to “meeting” your warrior women! See you back here on Monday.

  4. If I were to choose a verb, mine would be “to understand” and its respective noun, “understanding”. It has to do with my unyielding curiosity. Curiosity killed the cat, I know, but I am powerless in the face of the question “why”. Especially in the form “why do people say/ do/ act that way?”. And while I am very well aware that the aspiration for knowledge is bound to be limited, I am forever drawn to look at and ask questions about the (social) world.
    One world also about “understanding”. It is a nice word,I should say, because it means (at least to me), not only comprehension (that light bulb that suddenly turns on in one’s mind), but also acceptance or agreement(like in the common phrase “we have an understanding, right?”). It reflects my aspiration that, through a quest for knowledge one can also come to terms with a world that otherwise is hard to grasp.

    • this is a tough one – I think I could spend the rest of my life working on UNDERSTANDING people and still end up with a quizzical look on my face at the end of the day. Like you, I LOVE PEOPLE and I love the fact that trying to understand one another is like trying to solve a mystery. however, unlike the mystery novel, people are constantly changing. identity is an ongoing project. (editors note here – both Anamaria and I study identity and are completely fascinated with the ways in which we as people are constantly creating and recreating ourselves — and most of the time we are completely unaware of it.) Anamaria will be writing Tuesday’s University of Venus post – come back and check it out.

      • Trying to understand and to be understood by others is a constant challenge, given the almost reflexive tendency to “box” those we encounter. In the Philippines, my being an academic with a foreign surname in a male-dominated line of business (research on the military) almost always generate question marks. In my domicile, I straddle two cultures, code-switch across multiple languages in a manner bordering schizoprenia. Managing identities (plural) perhaps better describes my experience; it is also “relational” and “intentional.” Hubby detects shifts across my varied identities.

  5. Rosemary – Thank you for taking the time to comment on our blog! ENERGY is a great word! My experience of working at a University has shown me that it can really sap your energy sometimes. Luckily, the work can be energizing, too. I find that office politics, endless administrative tasks and late nights exhaust me, but when I meet with students and feel like I have something of value to give them, I am recharged. I hope that our blog can continue to energize you!

  6. Add to action and risk-taking, a stubborn pursuit of what is right, fair, and GOOD, and accept no compromise unless it leads to that pursuit. I guess the word is dedication. See failure (and this is not a good word to use) as opportunity, and move forward. This works in personal life, friendships, love, classrooms, and in the workplace.

    • Phil – thanks for stopping by! Dedication is a great word, requiring a lot of hard work – perhaps more so than risk-taking. Risk-taking may make me uncomfortable but it’s easy to get into that state. Whereas DEDICATION reminds me of persistence and just a general stick-to-it-ness. It’s such big word and could really define a commitment of more than a year, maybe a decade or even a life-time. Thanks for sharing and for making me think.

    • Phil – You always apply the best of yourself to the task at hand; dedication and determination are two of your best qualities, and you inspire me. Thank you!

  7. My word for 2010 is definitely “faith”. For me, faith implies patience and acceptance. I was going to choose “trust”, whose factors also include patience and acceptance, but “trust” does not seem to include hope, whereas “faith” does.

    Patience and Acceptance (trust), plus Hope = Faith

    These are areas that I’ve really struggled with in the past and am actively trying to embrace for the new year and, hopefully, for always as a part of what makes me me.

  8. Mary, Thank you for sending me your blog. I will read it with interest. You have touched on an important issue in an important way. Marrying key concepts to a gut-instinct sense about how to handle them, is latent in your approach and something (as you know), I am interested in blogging about with friends. we are at and will link to your blog. – Jim

    • Jim – Great to see you here! I’ve been reading your blog lately and you touch on some really important issues in redefining education and the purpose of education. We hope you’ll consider being a guest blogger over here or letting us interview you on emotional intelligence and the importance/advantage of practice-oriented education.

  9. Ok, so I tried to just tell Mary my word, but she encouraged me to share. So here goes….My word resolution for 2010 is BALANCE. Seems like a somewhat overused given for a Gen X woman in higher ed, especially as someone a year away from a tenure decision with a husband and a young son. I have learned there is no such thing as work/life BALANCE, so I have moved on from that a long time ago.

    However, BALANCE this year has to be me-centric. I tend to make decisions that put me off BALANCE – yes to a committee here, supervise a thesis there, overload a section of intro on top of that on top of all that I am supposed to do and I loose focus, come a bit unhinged, struggle with the simple things, lose sight of the big picture.

    BALANCE for me this year is knowing when to say no. And meaning it. And being ok with it, which tends to be where I really struggle. Now that I write it down, it is going to be a lot harder than I thought.

    • Thanks Leanne. I think you are right about BALANCE – it’s something we try to achieve while knowing that it is an impossible goal. I do believe that keeping balance in mind does help people learn to put themselves first once in awhile – a crucial lesson to learn. Ironically I woke up at 430am this morning (early am time is my crucial “me” time), read your comment, moved on to the chronicle and insider higher ed and lo and behold, today’s Inside Higher Ed column from Kerry Ann Rockquemore – Winning Tenure Without Losing Your Soul is titled Balance is a Myth – check it out.

      and I agree – saying no is the key to keeping your focus – being intentional helps – Intentionality and trying to make decisions that help point you in one direction.

  10. It’s very hard to say “no” to opportunities that come your way because saying “no” means also closing all possible doors for future projects. But to approach things in an exponential fashion is to court mental/emotional breakdown (given the limited time one has apart from teaching). I agree with Mary’s point on intentionality. I remember being frank with my Chancellor after my return from PhD that “my talents are wasted on committee/administrative work; that I would rather edit our journal or work on curricular matters.” That set the bar for me. Over the years I have learned to be selective (present only in conferences where there’s a possibility of funding OR publication; apply only for grants where there is money set aside for conference publication AND/OR publication) and to treat my work as part-marketing/branding.

    Although I am a step away from Full Professorship, the academic demands in the Philippines are monetarily less rewarding that in the US. “Getting into the list” (of major research funding institutions in our region) distinguishes the successful from the mediocre. In my experience, it wasn’t about being BRILLIANT; it was about diligence and tenacity. It is building proposals after proposals; reading varying sets of literature; selling ideas and impressing people of the quality of your scholarship EVERY CHANCE you get.

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