Thursday, January 16, 2014

The International On Campus Living Experience



The opening of the residence halls in January is an exciting time for staff and students. While most of our students arrive back at campus a few days before classes, there is one group of students who often arrive a few weeks before most students, specifically our international students. Working with students other nations can present some challenges; however, after more than ten years working with international students, I am confident any challenges are far outweighed by the opportunity having a strong and diverse population of international students brings to our residence halls.

The nations in red on the world map reflect all the nations of the world
World map by res hall students
where a student currently living in our residence hall identifies as their home country. As you can see the diversity of students covers all, but one of the continents (does anyone really call Antarctica their home?). In total each year we have approximately 150 students from other nations living in our residence halls. It is impossible to list all the interactions that occur between students in a residential community and I am thankful we have students from across the globe that enriches the residential experience at Southeast Missouri State University.

I am a strong supporter of the central role the classroom experience for all college or university students. While I believe the classroom and role of faculty are the center of the educational experience, I also am a strong believer that the outside the classroom experience has significant educational benefits for students. As our world grows increasingly smaller, the ability to remain apart from it grows more difficult. The first-hand experience of socializing, working, and living with people different from you can be uncomfortable, but it is also critical to be fully able to interact in our global community. 

The approximately 3,000 students who live on campus are (IMHO) among the most engaged students at Southeast. I believe the on campus experience is only enriched by the diverse and strong presence of students from other communities, both domestic and international. These types of interactions with others are one of the things that makes college different from high school. Their experiences are also part of what helps move you from a college student to a professional with a college degree.
 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Thank You for Keeping us Fed



The past few days have been a somewhat unique time on the Southeast campus. For most students it is the first time they have seen the University close for a “snow day.” The last time the campus saw this kind of winter weather impact the campus was in 2009. In fact, “Thursday and Friday's winter storm event was the fourth largest in Cape Girardeau on record since the blizzard of 1979 in terms of snowfall, according to Southeast Missourian archives.” During that time the campus ended up housing and helping feed recovery workers who were trying to clear roads, restore power, and check on people in the region south of Cape Girardeau. Of course with the snow day has come the major task of digging out all the sidewalks, parking lots, and steps that make up the Southeast campus. 

I want to use this opportunity to send a special thank you to the staff of Chartwells at Southeast for their work during the time the University was closed the weekend that followed. Chartwells provides a critical service for our campus and with nearly 3,000 people on campus during this time, Chartwells was able to do more than just keep a few food service venues up and running, they were able to keep all the main campus venues open and even were able to have the various retail venues including Subway, Olives, and Rowdy’s open to provide students and staff with dining options.  

There is one story that, while the Chartwells staff member would not want to have shared, I think showcases this commitment to our students better than anything I’ve heard in many years. Very early on Friday morning, the Director for Chartwells was contacted by a local utility provider asking if Chartwells could provide breakfast for the utility crews as they headed out into the ongoing winter weather that Friday. Mary, the Sous Chef for Chartwells, walked to campus early that morning (and by early I mean before 3:00am) to begin prepping for breakfast for both the utility crews and for our students and staff living on campus. Other Chartwells team members arranged for carpools with other Chartwells team members to help those who did not have a vehicle that could make it to campus on Friday.

Trying to provide nearly 10,000 meals on a typical day is no easy task, but trying to do this on a day when most of the City of Cape Girardeau was covered in a mix of snow and ice was a monumental task. I am very thankful for the work of the Chartwells team and their ability to work through one of the worst winter storms our area has seen in about 35 years.  At a time when everyone was being advised to avoid travel except when absolutely needed, the Chartwells team made their way to campus and honored their commitment to providing a quality dining program for our students.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Questions parents of Southeast Greeks should ask their son/daughter



I was reminded today, while reading an article by CampusTalkBlog “Is It Really Like AnimalHouse’? What to Do When Your Kid Joins the Greek Life” about some recent conversations I had during the University’s Family Weekend. I was fortunate to get to talk with parents about a variety of things, including Greek Life at Southeast Missouri State University. I always enjoy talking about Greek Life, even though some of the issues are not pleasant.  As I reflect on these conversations, I am struck by the two types of parents I most often speak with. 

First are parents who are Greek; they often assume the Greek Life of 2013 is similar to their Greek experiences, which in many cases are three decades old.  For these parents, I am always thankful to get to share the changes that have taken place in Greek Life over the past three decades, including significantly higher grades, stronger integration of philanthropies, and stronger policies in place related to risk management. 

The second group of parents I speak with are those who have either no previous Greek background or one limited to just what they see in popular culture. Often these parents have a mix of concern for their student and a desire to let their student make their own decision. Conversations with these parents regularly involve trying to explain the basics behind why someone would join Greek (see my previous posting for my thoughts on this) and how safe their student will be. 

For both sets of parents I would offer these thoughts about Greek Life at Southeast:
  1. Please ask your student questions! Someone joining a fraternity or sorority is joining something more than a club. Ask them why they want to join a specific group, what is it about that group that makes them a better fit than others, what the people in the fraternity or sorority are like, and lastly, ask them if they know what financial commitment is expected of them. 
  2. Any chapter your son or daughter joins should have details for parents on their website, either local or national, and they should be hosting events throughout the year designed for parents to participate in.
  3. Encourage (DEMAND) that if they are experiencing hazing or some other kind of abuse they report it. All our new Greek students are educated through programs and other events on hazing, including the multiple ways to report this.
  4. Find out who the fraternity or sorority advisers are—your son or daughter should be able to share this tidbit without even thinking about it. Each chapter selects advisers that are in most cases not University employees. In many cases, they are alumni of the chapter and play a critical role in the operation of the fraternity or sorority. 
  5. Greek Life at Southeast is not “Animal House.” Your son or daughter is joining an organization that has expectations of them in terms of grades, community service, financial, attendance, and a variety of other commitments. These expectations are important, but not more important than their education. There is no Greek Life “major” and, on occasion, some students need to be reminded that you are a student first and a member of the Greek Life community second.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Politically Astute CHO



A few weeks ago at ACUHOI, I was talking to an old residence life friend about the politics of being a Chief Housing Officer. My friend is looking to make the jump from an Associate Director position to the Director position and her only concern is the politics of being a Director.  As I thought about this more on my flight back home and made a few notes, I think I have six things I would say about being a Politically Astute CHO.

I must confess up front I do enjoy this part of my job and therefore my six thoughts will differ from others. In fact some may argue against one or more of my six suggestions. Remember, that at its heart, politics is simply about relationships. While politics carries a negative connotation in many places, the ability to influence others, to impact the decision making process, and to advance your agenda are all political elements no matter what you call them. 

1.       Know who the players are
Not all people, even if their titles are the same, carry the same political capital on a campus. Titles matter, but people matter far more and knowing the person behind the title is critical. You should make it a point to know something about the person and not just their job/title.  

2.       Your success depends on telling your story
Don’t expect anyone to tell your story (or the story of your department/area). You are more than the Director; you are the head cheerleader and storyteller for your office. People confuse this with being arrogant, but there is a major difference. It is only arrogant if it is not true. If you do something for your students better than anyone else on campus does it, don’t be afraid to tell that story. As people learn more about your successes, you are more likely to be given more responsibility, more autonomy, and more opportunities to be part of the decision making across campus. I once had a supervisor who told me her best advice for moving into a Director role was to stay off the radar. Of course I think she meant this in terms of not being associated with anything negative; however, if you adopt this approach you begin to shy away from risk and this I think this is a mistake. If you are not on the radar, then no one looking at you and the things we don’t see, we often forget about.  

3.       Take risks
Higher education can be slow to change and because of our structures, there is an inherent incentive to be risk averse. This is a factor one has to weigh concerning each person’s campus, but the ability of our communication systems to provide 24/7 access to “those in charge” has not helped prepare people for the ability to make a decision and to deal with the consequences. As Director you will not always have complete information, but people still look to you for a decision. Three principles I think are helpful for any Director are:
a.       It is better to ask forgiveness than ask permission.
b.      The best decision is the correct one, the next best decision is the wrong one, but the worst decision is not making one.
c.       Don’t fall into paralysis by analysis; this often comes in the form of let’s get a committee together and then decide.
 
4.       Don’t neglect managing up
Certainly hiring the right people is key to the success of any Director, but so too is making sure you manage up. Make an effort to know what the agenda and priority items are for your supervisor/Vice President/President. You should use this information to connect the work of your department to the issues that are already on the minds of the leaders of your campus. Speak to them in language that supports and helps them accomplish what they are working on. This is more than just good politics; it is also a great way to open the door to help tell your story (see item #2). 

5.       Keep your enemies in your tent, not outside
I know we don’t have enemies in higher education, but the principle is what matters. Whether the issue is money, facilities, staff, access to students, etc. There will be some things as Director that requires you to make decisions that upset others. In these cases you are better served to engage these “enemies” more and not less. Don’t let the disagreement, even if there are some hurt feelings or frustrations involved, keep you from engaging the other person/department. If you really think there is someone or a department that is not helpful in terms of your department’s efforts to serve students, then better to have them close, meaning in your tent where you can keep an eye on them, than outside your tent where you don’t know what they are saying or doing.

6.       Speak in terms of opportunity costs
This might be the easiest, but I think it is often overlooked. When speaking/arguing/debating about things, try and make the issue directly relevant to students. If your department is cut $10,000, how many pieces of lounge furniture does that cost you? If you have to raise a rate a certain percentage, how many Starbucks coffees is this over the course of a year? People hear percentages and large numbers all the time, but when you talk about how a 1% cut will mean 12 lounges won’t get renovated you have structured the discussion differently. In order to do this, you have to know your numbers and budget. This could easily be a separate item, but the difference here is that knowing your numbers is one thing, but being able to use this information to influence others and the decision making process is what makes this political.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Wow… what a year in Greek Life at Southeast



This has been a year of transition for Greek Life and year marked with multiple examples of the very best of what being Greek means. Some of the most notable accomplishments this year include implementation of the Greek Chapter Accreditation program, formation of Interfraternity and Panhellenic Council judicial boards, hosting the first off-campus overnight retreat for new chapter presidents and council officers in several years, reaching the highest number of new sorority women in many years, and welcoming a back Phi Delta Theta, the 19th Greek chapter to the Southeast campus.

These accomplishment are in addition to the work by the Greek community in upholding our many traditions and successful programs such as Greek Week, participation in Homecoming, NPHC Homecoming Step Show, National Hazing Prevention Week activities, Greek Foundations (for new Greek members), and sending 19 students representing all 3 governing councils to receive leadership training at the Association of Fraternal Leadership and Values in Indianapolis.   
Chapter
End of Year Membership
Alpha Chi Omega
92
Alpha Delta Pi
107
Alpha Phi Alpha
7
Alpha Xi Delta
96
Delta Chi
55
Delta Delta Delta
92
Delta Sigma Theta
9
Gamma Phi Beta
96
Lambda Chi Alpha
54
Omega Psi Phi
6
Phi Beta Sigma
11
Pi Kappa Alpha
63
Sigma Chi
75
Sigma Nu
62
Sigma Phi Epsilon
74
Sigma Sigma Sigma
64
Sigma Tau Gamma
61
Theta Xi
40

Membership Information
The Greek community at Southeast has maintained a steady 10% of the total undergraduate population for the past 4 semesters, with a total of 1,069 Greek-affiliated students at the end of the spring 2013 semester.  This May, 136 members of fraternities and sororities graduated from Southeast.  Recruitment plans are well underway for the fall semester, with plans to increase the number of students joining fraternities and sororities through a new initiative being supported by the governing councils.  This “Greek Campaign” is designed to give incoming students more information about the benefits and expectations of fraternity and sorority membership, through outreach events and increased publicity.


Greek Scholastic Information
The All-Greek GPA in Fall 2012 averaged 3.029, and in Spring 2013 averaged 2.974, which is similar to previous semesters.  Scholarship programs and initiatives have been area of increased attention in the 2012-2013 academic year, and will continue to be carefully monitored so that Greek-affiliated students can continue to achieve academic success. 

Fall 2011
Spring 2012
Fall 2012
Spring 2013
Overall Greek GPA
3.01
3.13
3.029
2.97
Average IFC GPA
2.90
3.01
2.865
2.94
Average NPHC GPA
2.53
2.66
2.499
2.59
Average Panhellenic GPA
3.15
3.29
3.199
3.28







Philanthropy and Service
Fraternity and sorority members completed an impressive 17,049 hours of community service in the 2012-2013 academic year, with 8,289 completed in the fall semester, and 8,760 completed in the spring semester.  Agencies served include the SEMO Food Bank, the Women’s Safe House, the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri, The American Red Cross, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Special Olympics, and many more. 

Fraternity and sorority members also take pride in assisting non-profit organizations monetarily.  Greek students donated a total of $52,839.48 in the 2012-2013 academic year, including over $16,000 raised during the annual Greek Week.  Financial donations of the Greek community impact countless national, regional, and local non-profit organizations, such as Autism Speaks, Backstoppers, Jimmy V Foundation, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Ronald McDonald House, United Way of Southeast Missouri, and many more. 

Additionally, during Greek Week this April, Southeast Greeks were able to donate 670 units of blood, which made this blood drive one of the largest in the Southeast Missouri region, and equates to enough blood to save approximately 1,110 lives.  The students also donated 30,000 units of food to the Salvation Army throughout the week. 

Accreditation
The Greek community at Southeast began its first year of implementation of the Greek Accreditation program.  The information collected from chapters in this program was used to determine which chapters were meeting the University’s standards for Greek life, as well as to determine which chapters were excelling in multiple areas. 

The accreditation program examines information from the areas of: academic achievement, chapter operations and management, membership education and development, recruitment and sustainability, philanthropy and service, stakeholder relations, and risk management, with minimum standard criteria in each section.  Out of the 18 chapters at Southeast, 11 chapters have earned a status of accredited based on a standard of meeting 70% of the accreditation criteria.  An additional 2 chapters are provisionally accredited based on meeting 60% of the accreditation criteria.  Those chapters who have not been recognized as “accredited” will be supported over the coming year with the goal of helping all chapters to meet our performance standards.  Chapters earning a provisional or full accreditation, as well as the top five chapters in each of the seven individual areas, are outlined below: 
Chapter
Accreditation Status
Distinction Awards
Alpha Chi Omega
Accredited
Recruitment and sustainability
Stakeholder relationships
Alpha Delta Pi
Accredited
Academic achievement
Membership education and development
Recruitment and sustainability
Philanthropy and service
Risk management
Alpha Xi Delta
Provisionally Accredited
Membership education and development
Delta Chi
Accredited
Chapter operations and management
Delta Delta Delta
Accredited
Academic achievement
Membership education and development
Gamma Phi Beta
Accredited
Overall chapter excellence (highest scoring sorority)
Chapter operations and management
Membership education and development
Recruitment and sustainability
Philanthropy and service
Stakeholder relationships
Risk management
Lambda Chi Alpha
Accredited
Academic achievement
Chapter operations and management
Recruitment and sustainability
Philanthropy and service
Stakeholder relations
Risk management
Omega Psi Phi
Accredited

Sigma Chi
Accredited

Sigma Nu
Accredited
Overall chapter excellence (highest scoring fraternity)
Chapter operations and management
Membership education and development
Philanthropy and service
Stakeholder relations
Risk management
Sigma Phi Epsilon
Accredited
Academic achievement
Chapter operations and management
Stakeholder relations
Risk management
Sigma Sigma Sigma
Accredited
Recruitment and sustainability
Sigma Tau Gamma

Academic Achievement
Theta Xi
Provisionally Accredited


University Support for Greek Life
In an effort to better support the more than 1,000 Greek students, the University established and filled the first Director of Greek Life position. DeAnte’ Smith, a Greek Life professional with previous experience working in other Greek systems, is the University’s first Director of Greek Life. DeAnte’s is joined by two graduate assistants to help support the efforts of our students. You can reach DeAnte’ at dmsmith@semo.edu or at 573-651-2280

As a University we also a special thank you to Christine Loy, who served as Interim Assistant Director for Fraternities and Sororities. Christine stepped into a challenging role, while still maintaining responsibility for the Greek Housing Area and did more than just maintain the status quo, Christine helped move our Greek system forward in multiple ways.  Christine is leaving Southeast to join her national headquarters and we at Southeast wish her the very best. She is a talented and capable professional who and has a bright future in Greek Life. I also Christine a special thank you as much of the data from this end of the year summary were provided by her.

Summary
While the year was not without challenges there is much to be proud of as the Greek community at Southeast Missouri State University had a productive and impactful year. This would not be possible without the work of countless people, both students, student leaders, chapter advisers, alumni, and University staff. I am personally thankful to be working with the Greek system here at Southeast and look forward to the coming year. There are some committed and talented students and staff who are already working for next year and we should all expect some great things from them in the coming months.