Several years ago as a graduate student, I walked into one of my mentors offices and saw a huge sign with the Confederate battle flag on it – and the words above it said “Heritage or Hate?” I had a visceral negative reaction to it then, but Winston Jones challenged me to think about the why behind my reaction.

At the time, at age 22, I knew it was a symbol of hate. I just did not fully grasp how insidious it was. I ran through all the arguments, with Winston challenging me to think about each one. In the end – and over several heated discussions – my feelings remained the same but I could now verbalize my reasonings. My belief in this symbol as a powerful image of hate, fear, danger and terror to so many was solidified, and I finally understood why.

This flag represents not only hate and racism, but the terror so many brought (and still bring) to innocent people. This symbol represents all of the systemic oppressive policies, statements, practices and systems in the United States. This “heritage” is one of slavery, of violence, of hate and brutal oppression, and this flag continues to be used by terrorists in our country to cultivate more violence bred from fear and hate.

This symbol needs to go. So I beg you, South Carolina, #TakeItDown. Put it in a museum so all can learn from the mistakes of the past; don’t fly it in front of your capitol and continue the hate. Tell all citizens of your state and this nation that this symbol does not represent an inclusive and safe South Carolina.

And while we’re at it, Mississippi, please change your flag. You are the remaining state in the U.S. that still uses the Confederate battle flag as part of your official state flag. 

Just take it down so we can finally begin the difficult process of healing.



Social Media Reframe and ACPA

So evidently I freaked some people out.

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the ACPA Convention in Tampa, FL.  As part of the digital technology task force, I was excited to reconnect with this team face to face and draft out our formal recommendations based on almost 9 months worth of research, work and meetings.  I was also looking forward to attending different sessions, reconnecting with friends and colleagues, and diving into thought-provoking conversations.

Generally, while at conferences I’m a crazy social media person.  I’m all over Twitter and Facebook – posting images, thoughts, quotes, etc.  I live my conference life out loud and on-line.

Except this time – I didn’t.  I did my work as an ACPA social media influencer at the larger sessions, and I volunteered at the Social Media Command Center, but I made a very conscious effort to not broadcast all that I did on social media.  I realized that conferences for me had turned into a sort of social media arms race.  How quickly can I tweet out that nugget of information?  Quick – I’d better take a picture and post it on Instagram and Facebook to capture the moment! Oops – I didn’t remind people about my presentation – better do that.  And I’d better take a picture of the food (well, I still do that.  Food pics are my kryptonite).

Now before I cause a second wave freak out, know that I do not fault those who live their lives out loud at conferences on social media, nor would I ever discourage someone from sharing something that truly excites them about their work, their interactions or their friends/colleagues.  Be proud of what you do and share what you love.  But social media had become laborious and somewhat anxiety producing; it was not adding value to my conference experience in the way I had come to use it. I was more focused on getting messages out to the world than on what I was engaging in.  I was not in the moment. Rather, I was rushing to broadcast the moment for other people to see, and by doing so, I completely missed it.

Some may consider this change in activity disingenuous, or that it undermines my social media brand.  I do not.  I simply decided to do things differently. I sat down before ACPA Convention and asked myself three questions:

  1. What do you want to get out of this experience?
  2. Who do you want/need to connect with and for what purpose?
  3. What are you missing out on by focusing so much on sharing and less on engaging?

One of the biggest realizations I came to is that by being so focused on social media, I was not allowing space for either in depth conversations or learning to occur.  I was also not being present for the people with which I wanted to connect, nor was I able to embrace the random moments of connection and conversation that only face to face conferences provide.

I am proud to say my choices this time made a difference.  I did share some information online, but no where near as much as I normally do. However, by focusing less on social media during convention, I was able to connect in more meaningful ways with colleagues and friends, and engage fully in the learning that happens in these spaces. While I didn’t get to connect with everyone, and I still hate that we never seem to have enough time, I was able to have a far more genuine and fulfilling experience even though I had to cut it short and head back home.  The deep and meaningful learning I experienced and connections I made at this ACPA convention were fundamentally stronger than what I’d experienced before, so much so that I look forward to following a similar path at NASPA later this month.

So I’m sorry if the #SoMe silence freaked some folks out – I’ll make sure to give people a bit of a heads up next time.  I do appreciate the “are you okay?” texts and messages. For me, it reinforces that these on-line connections are truly personal, and I want to honor those by being fully present when we do connect IRL.

How will you approach social media use at conferences? 

Never Quit


This has been my mantra for the past 12 months.

Many of you know that I’ve been on a quest to regain my status as a long-distance runner.  I started really running again on April 15, 2013 while in Portland, Oregon. This was the first time I’d dedicated myself to running in 8 years. Afterwords, I felt like a walking sore muscle the next day and couldn’t run for two days.

But I ran.  

I found the C25K app and began to put it to use.  As I ran through April and May, I battled IT band issues, finding the right shoes, the right bra (ugh), lower back pain (and it going out on me again….and again…and again….), sore feet, and an assortment of aches and pains that my body certainly didn’t recall when I was 8 years younger.

But I ran.

In June, I ran my first 5K in 8 years, with my ACUHO-I family cheering me on (and my GLACUHO brother, Jody Stone, by my side).  I was tired, hot, exhausted, but elated with my accomplishment.

And I ran.

Within 4 months – with the help of some intentional restraint (my Activator hated that) and the support of many friends along the way – I ran.  I made it through a 4 mile run with my Northwestern University colleagues. I battled foot injuries and major inflammation – but found ways through training, stretching and that AWFUL foam roller to make it through.

And I kept running.

I hit the 7 mile mark – elated that it had been 8 years since I’d run this far.  I felt strong, confident and sure of myself. I signed up for a 1/2 Marathon in September. I kept to my schedule and extended my long runs on the weekends.  First 7.5 miles, then 8, then 9….

…and then I got injured.  I developed a slight tear in my calf muscle.  I was frustrated, but made the decision to do what was right.  I rehabbed it and got back out there, strong enough to run the 10K instead of the 1/2 marathon with two dear friends in September.

And I ran.

And I kept running, until two weeks later, another injury sidelined me for over a month – a lower back problem coupled with the same calf problem and foot pain.  I backed off and rehabbed again by using a bike and elliptical.

And I kept rehabbing.  I tried running again in November and December, only to hurt my thigh muscle.  Tried again, and the balls of my feet were in so much pain that walking on my left foot became almost unbearable for two days.  I stopped running in December, determined to heal myself.  After some rest, I started up again in January and tried one more time – this time through the hills of Texas once I was cleared by my doctor – and aggravated my IT band again.

I hit one or two short runs after that, and some run-walks along the way, and during conference travel season for Student Affairs, I used the gyms in the hotels relentlessly – trying to rehab myself. I ran in March in Baltimore (at NASPA) and pulled another muscle.

And so in March and April – I stopped.  I needed to just refocus, calm down, and let my body lead me. Sure, I was frustrated, angry, and I initially felt like a failure, until I stopped beating myself up and faced a very simple fact.

Just because I stopped to regroup didn’t mean I was quitting. I wasn’t quitting. Quitting is letting go of and giving up on a dream, and I wasn’t letting go of my desire to get back to true long-distance running. This wasn’t quitting – it was starting over.  

Sometimes in life we have to let go of one path to find another.  I know there is another way – and by starting over, I have the time to figure out what that path may be. Researchers, programmers, designers, artists, business owners, and even athletes do this regularly.  To learn, we have to give ourselves the space to both unlearn poor patterns and learn from mistakes made along the way.

We all end up in a spot like this  – maybe it’s with a relationship, or a job, or a project or even with our health. But owning when that moment arrives, sitting back, and letting your body/mind/spirit talk to you is the only way to regain your composure and discover your true course.  This approach lets you reset your compass so you can chart a new path – and to do that you have to be still.  And listen.

Today, I ran for the first time in 16 days.  I have done no impact exercise of any kind before today.  The run was difficult – but I did it. And my path involved truly starting over.  I dusted off the C25K app, and I forced myself to start again from square one.  It felt easy and hard at the same time – easy because the distance was so short – hard because my body was waking up from over two weeks of recovery and slumber. I ended the run with a short walk, and yoga in complete silence.  And I listened.

I started over.  I found a new path. And I will not quit.

Pay It Forward – #JPKBday Style

Another birthday has come and gone. And I have to say – it was a great one!

Yes, I had a cold all weekend.  Yes, the weather took a turn for the worse.  And yes, I spent most of the time in my house and in and around the campus.  Most people might not call this the most exciting day – but I loved every second of it.  After a whirlwind of traveling to professional conferences and presentations, this weekend at home was perfect (not to mention, good for my cold!).

But what made this birthday even more special were the many moments of kindness shown to me during a 24 hour time period. Oftentimes we take for granted the quick “HBD!” posts on Facebook, or the quick “Hope you had a great b-day!” texts from friends. If you find yourself doing this – stop.  In our fast-paced world, remember that someone took a moment, thought of you, and cared enough to reach out and show that they care.  Maybe they sent you a quick video, or left you a voice mail singing “Happy Birthday”, or better yet – sent you a link to a Weird Al Yankovic version of the song (you know who you are).  Still others took additional time to send you photos of fun times you had together, a personal message, an e-card, or posted a superhero graphic representation of how amazing they think you are.  Still others found personal and meaningful quotes to share with you about something that reminded them of you.  In our social media world – these are the cards, these are the phone calls, and these are the personal ways that others reach out and connect with you.

As I read through the kindness I received yesterday, in addition to my “thank you” posts and “likes”, I decided to pay it forward in a different way.  I counted the number of “Happy Birthday!” posts, tweets, phone calls, songs, videos, links, and verbal greetings I received, and donated $1.00 for each one of them to The Representation Project, and organization that “uses film and media content to expose injustices created by gender stereotypes and to shift people’s consciousness toward change”.  And yes – repeats counted individually! 🙂

To me, this blends my passion for gender equity with the action of paying things forward. This also translates your kindness into the best gift I could receive – that of making a difference in the lives of women and girls worldwide. So thank you to everyone for your kindness, and know that every one of you helped to make not only my day, but hopefully the coming days for women and girls, something amazing and special, too.

With gratitude,


Day 23: Stone Cold Crazy

Authors Note:  This is the 23rd and final entry in a 23 part series – my reactions to each item on the post 23 Things Every Woman Should Stop Doing.  Please join the conversation.

I think that most of you who know me even a little bit could have called that this would be the one I addressed last in the series.  Here’s the entry:

14. Fearing the label “crazy.” There is no easier way to discredit a woman’s opinion or feelings than to accuse her of being overly emotional. “I don’t think this idea that women are ‘crazy,’ is based in some sort of massive conspiracy,” wrote author Yashar Ali in a blog for The Huffington Post in 2011. “Rather, I believe it’s connected to the slow and steady drumbeat of women being undermined and dismissed, on a daily basis.” Being scared of the label only encourages women to silence themselves. Plus, everyone has a little bit of crazy inside of them — regardless of gender.

You know we’ve all faced that moment.  You are passionate about a subject.  In fact, it’s one that you truly champion and feel is part of your value system.  And then, you’re in a debate where you have to defend your opinion about the subject.  You become either direct or animated in your respond, and then – you hear this:

“Geez.  Calm down.  You don’t have to freak out about it.  You know I’m just teasing you.  No need to get crazy.”

In that one moment – you have been devalued, belittled and dismissed.  I don’t care what that person says – they are shutting you down.  You’ve been labeled as crazy.

No matter how you slice it, the term “crazy” is never used in a positive light.  Even if you’re talking about someone who is the life of the party and you say, “Wow, that Sarah, she’s just crazy!”, you’re still expressing concern or confusion about Sarah’s antics and/or behavior.  Take this into the professional realm, and when others in a meeting or on a project team call your ideas “crazy”, they’re labeling you as well.

“Crazy” means your ideas don’t matter.  “Crazy” means you are “less than” others in the group.  “Crazy” means you are too emotional, too irrational, or that someone simply doesn’t like your ideas, so you are dismissed.  “Crazy” means you are not normal.

Take this entry from Harris O’Malley’s blog entitled “On Labeling Women ‘Crazy’“:

“Crazy” Women

The association between women’s behavior and being labeled “crazy” has a long and infamous history in Western culture. The word “hysteria” — defined as “behavior exhibiting excessive or uncontrollable emotion, such as fear or panic” — is derived from the ancient Greek word “hystera,” meaning uterus. Until the early 20th century, female hysteria was the official medical diagnosis for a truly massive array of symptoms in women including but not limited to: loss of appetite, nervousness, irritability, fluid retention, emotional excitability, outbursts of negativity, excessive sexual desire and “a tendency to cause trouble.”

(Worth noting: much of the blame for “female hysteria” was placed on “wandering uterus syndrome” or other sexual “dysfunctions.” While this did eventually lead to the invention of the vibrator, one of the common cures was a clitorectomy.)

While some of the symptoms of “female hysteria” could be signs of legitimate (if misdiagnosed) mental health issues, most of it described male (as the medical field was a men-only profession up until the mid-19th century) discomfort with women’s behavior and sexuality. Calling it a medical issue meant that men didn’t have to respond to behavior that challenged male sensibilities or belief structures. Instead, labeling women as “hysterical” made it much easier to diminish women’s concerns and issues without having to pause to consider them as possibly being valid.

At it’s core, this term – “crazy” – is used to put women in our historic place – as hysterical, irrational “things” that are beneath the majority.  Men often throw this word around, as O’Malley states, without thinking about the consequences.  And women who have been socialized to internalize this type of “opinion shaming”, all too frequently dismiss the label as “no big deal”.

Well – it is a big deal.  How many of us would want our daughters/sisters/mothers/aunts/nieces/friends labeled as “crazy” simply for stating their opinions or expressing their ideas?  I know I wouldn’t, and I certainly don’t appreciate being dismissed in the fashion I describe above.  The sad thing is, that it continues to happen to this day – and it’s not simply other men that are brandishing the label.  Rather, other WOMEN are using this to describe their colleagues – largely out of insecurity and/or fear.

Stop it.

The next time you are tempted to call another woman crazy – stop.  It’s damaging, and it’s no less hurtful than calling her stupid, unworthy, or ignorant.  We cannot allow ourselves to damage each other in this way.  Men – call us out when we do it – but hold yourselves accountable, too.  If you are tempted to call a woman crazy – consider the why behind it.  Try and think of another – more accurate way – to describe the statement and/or idea.  Perhaps, “I’m not comfortable with your idea there.  Can you explain it a bit more?” is a better approach than simply saying, “You’re crazy.  You have no idea what you are talking about.”  The first approach is more inquisitive and invites debate.  The second shuts the person down, and labels them as stupid.

In the end – it’s no contest.  Kill the crazy label – end of discussion.  Use your words – but use the right ones.

Day 22: Obligation or Opportunity?

Authors Note:  This is the 22nd entry in a 23 part series – my reactions to each item on the post 23 Things Every Woman Should Stop Doing.  Please join the conversation.

ImageDuring this time of the year, chances are many of us have been traveling around to visit family, friends, and others with whom we have a chance to connect as we travel back to our childhood and/or family homes.  As we do this – and as we wind down our travel time – consider this:

21. Spending time with people out of obligation. Just because you spent every waking moment of your elementary school days with someone doesn’t mean you have anything in common with her now. There’s no need to see every old friend and third cousin who passes through your city. Be intentional about who you spend your time with and allow yourself to let some relationships fade away naturally.

This one goes hand in hand with the post relating to entry number 20 – “Day 17: Albatross or Songbird” – when we talked about cutting off/banishing toxic friendships/relationships with your life – and entry number 2 – “Day 2: Affirmative Action” – where we discuss saying “yes” to everyone even when you don’t want to do something.  However, this one goes in a little bit of a different direction – in this case, what we’re really talking about is a sense of obligation.

When was the last time you went back to visit your family, and you heard that one of your old elementary or high school friends was in town?  Or better yet – someone’s first cousin, three times removed, was visiting, and they’d really “love it if you’d stop by” (even though the last time you saw this person was in 3rd grade and you have zero contact with them now)?  Unlike saying “yes” to everything because you don’t want to – in these instances, I tend to have this feeling that goes something like this – “I really don’t want to go – but I SHOULD go – because it’s (family/friend/etc.).  If I don’t, (fill in the name of relative or other friend) will be really upset with me.”

Talk about issues colliding!  Here we have a situation in which you DON’T want to do something, that you are possibly connecting with people who add zero value to you at the present moment (or who maybe never did except when you were FIVE), and the “good girl syndrome” all blending together in an obligation casserole.  I mean – how much guilt, regret, disappointment, etc., can you handle all at once?  

Evidently – quite a bit.

These moments happen to us all.  At these times, I tend to focus on what is important to me.  Do I really need to/want to connect with this person? Maybe or maybe not.  Is this a possible relationship that I can reconnect with and really learn from? Could be.  Is this a relationship that – when I was active in it before – brought me joy and/or something more, or that I contributed positively to?  Possibly.

When I consider these things – I come back to what fulfills me and brings me joy.  But I also consider the joy of the other person as well.  I end up splitting these moments at about 50/50.  Sometimes I go and sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes – I’m just too tired to function and I know that I’d be a horrible companion/company for the evening, so I spare my grade school friend and/or relative the bear of dealing with a grumpy JPK.  Other times – I change my mindset and embrace the possible.  I’ve rekindled some amazing connections this way.  

The point of all of this rambling is simple – you have to do what is best for you at that moment.  Go if you want to – or if you feel ready to go . Don’t if you don’t want to.  Never let the lone sentiment of obligation rule your decision, for if you do, you will become a slave to it, and that will never bring you or anyone else around you joy.

How do you handle situations like this?


Day 21: All By Myself – Revisited

Authors Note:  This is the 21st entry in a 23 part series – my reactions to each item on the post 23 Things Every Woman Should Stop Doing.  Please join the conversation.

As we wind down 2013, and we start to reflect on what we want.  I challenge you to consider making a commitment to a relationship with yourself.  Consider the following:

Screen Shot 2013-12-27 at 7.38.29 PM

17. Fearing being alone. There are certain things you have control over — like trying to go on dates, and actively meeting new people — and others which you simply don’t. Finding a life partner (or even a temporary one) is one of those things. You can’t pinpoint when or where or how you’ll meet someone to spend your life with, so stop freaking yourself out over the idea that you never will. And there are far worse things than being alone. “The most profound relationship we’ll ever have is the one with ourselves,” Shirley MacLaine once said. Preach.

Consider who you are and what you want.  Take time to reflect on the moments in 2013 that you truly listened to your inner voice and followed your heart.  Recall the moments that you embraced your dreams and fought for them.  And think about the times that you really championed your values.

This is how you get to know yourself – and how you become comfortable with you.  This is step one in being okay alone.

Alone doesn’t mean lonely.  We all get lonely – and we don’t have to be by ourselves to feel incredibly lonely.  Alone means just that – you simply aren’t with anyone else at the moment.  Sometimes this comes in small doses, sometimes for long stretches of time.  At the end of the day – getting to be comfortable with you really means getting to know yourself and what you love.

However, we aren’t born with this innate ability. Humans, as we know, are social animals.  We need contact with other people or we will become withdrawn and generally not-so-nice to be around at all.  I love this article from wikiHow on “How to Enjoy Being Alone: 12 Steps (with Pictures)“.  It’s got some great, simple advice on how to enjoy the most important – and longest-lived- relationship you will EVER have – the one with yourself.

So go look in the mirror.  Stare right into the face of the person looking back at you.  Don’t be afraid of them, but ask yourself, “Do I really know them?”  Then challenge yourself to take the time to do so – because I bet you’ll find that they’re a pretty cool person.

Enjoy, and we’ll chat again tomorrow!