Ease your student supervision speed bumps.

Campus Leaders as Digital Storytellers

I’ve been connecting with campus leaders who, even before COVID-19, have embraced social media and a variety of other digital communication tools in my Leading Online webinar series. In this episode (recorded the first week of June 2020), four Vice Presidents for Student Affairs provide insight on how digital storytelling can connect and transform communities. Mayra Olivares-Urueta, Mordecai I. Brownlee, Mary Jo Gonzales, and Tim Miller are actively engaging on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. In times of crisis, they warn against being performative to instead take real action for change. 

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Notes from this Episode:

Additional Resources from Josie

Twitter Lists

Panelists

Mayra Olivares-Urueta, Vice President for Student Affairs, Tarrant Community College

Mayra Olivares-Urueta, Ph.D., serves as vice president for student development services at Tarrant County College’s Northeast Campus in Texas. Her work as an educational administrator is framed by awareness of community cultural wealth, funds of knowledge, and critical race theories. She works to create an environment in which students feel safe, cared for, and at-opportunity (rather than at-risk). Dr. Olivares-Urueta’s research focuses on the success of Latinx students and on infusing anti-deficit narratives into higher education about all minoritized students.

Dr. Olivares-Urueta has served as a recruiter, student life coordinator, academic instructor, registrar, researcher, and executive administrator. Additionally, she has held administrative roles for research projects through the University of North Texas’s Latino Family College Access Program and nationally through the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. Dr. Olivares-Urueta is an active member of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, the National Community College Hispanic Council, the American Association of Community Colleges, and the Texas Association of Chicanos in Higher Education. Mayra holds bachelor’s degrees in European studies and Spanish and a master’s degree in human relations from the University of Oklahoma. In 2013, she earned her doctor of philosophy degree in higher education from the University of North Texas. She lives in Arlington, TX with Alejandro, her husband of 10 years, and their daughters, Isabel (6) and Olivia (4). She enjoys spending time with her family, singing along to all the songs her daughters love, and traveling.

Mordecai I. Brownlee, Vice President for Student Affairs, St. Phillip’s College

Dr. Mordecai I. Brownlee currently serves as the Vice President for Student Success at St. Philip’s College in San Antonio, Texas. In addition, he serves as an adjunct faculty member in the School of Business & Leadership at the University of Charleston and the Masters in Community College Leadership Program at Morgan State University. As the Vice President for Student Success, Dr. Mordecai has led St. Philip’s College to record enrollment over 13,800 students and three consecutive years of record student completion in degrees and certificates. Previously, Dr. Mordecai served as the Dean of Students & Chief Student Affairs Officer at the University of Charleston. Mordecai received his Ed.D in Educational Leadership from Lamar University, where he earned the Outstanding Doctoral Student Award for his research regarding Texas House Bill 5 and the future of higher education. Mordecai also holds a M.S. in Human Resource Management and B.A. in Mass Communication & Political Science degrees from Houston Baptist University, his A.A. in Liberal Arts degree from Kingwood College, and an Advanced Graduate Certificate in Community College Leadership Program at Dallas Baptist University. Dr. Mordecai I. Brownlee currently resides in San Antonio, Texas with his wife of 13 years, Daphne Brownlee, their son, Mordecai Jr. and their daughter, Lauren Machelle.

Mary Jo Gonzales, Vice President for Student Affairs, Washington State University

As a low-income, first-generation college student, Latina, and single mother, Mary Jo Gonzales has dedicated her life to leading efforts with energy and enthusiasm which help individuals achieve their academic, personal, and professional goals. In fact, she is known for leading groups through singing the Cougar fight song at meetings or yelling “Go Cougs!” to students passing her in the hallway.

Gonzales oversees 22 departments on the Pullman campus whose services encompass four major areas pertaining to campus health and safety; facilities and essential services; student leadership and engagement; and community, equity, and inclusive excellence. She also leads the University’s Campus Culture and Climate initiative to create a more inclusive and welcoming community at WSU campuses statewide and works in collaboration with President Kirk Schulz on the Drive to 25 initiative. Gonzales is respected across the nation as a student affairs professional. She received one of the profession’s highest honors in 2018 when The Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) Foundation selected her for a “Pillar of the Profession” Award based on her outstanding contributions to the field.

Tim Miller, Vice President for Student Affairs, James Madison University

Dr. Tim. Miller is the Vice President for Student Affairs at James Madison University and has served in this role since June 1, 2018. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Criminal Justice in 1996 and his Master’s Degree in College Student Personnel Administration in 2002 from James Madison University. He earned his Doctorate in Executive Leadership from the George Washington University and his research focused on the decision-making of University Presidents. He has served at James Madison University, the University of South Carolina, and the George Washington University during his over 20-year career and has spoken at a range of conferences and appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered, as well as in pieces in the Washington Post and Richmond Magazine. He has also written for both the NACA Programming Magazine and the College Student Affairs Journal. Dr. Miller has served as a faculty member at the George Washington University, Georgetown University, and James Madison University. Dr. Miller is an active musician and enjoyed playing with a cover band in Northern VA for 12 years before moving to JMU where he leads a band of faculty and staff members affectionately known as, Staff Infection.

About Josie

Dr. Josie Ahlquist

Dr. Josie Ahlquist is a digital engagement and leadership researcher, speaker, and consultant. She teaches teens, young adults, education professionals, and campus executives how to humanize technology tools and prioritize building online community.

She also serves as a research associate and instructor at Florida State University, creating curriculum to build digital literacy and leadership skills for undergraduates up to doctorate level students. She is extensively published and maintains an active blog and podcast (Josie & The Podcast), which have received accolades from EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. Her book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education: Purposeful Social Media in a Connected World, comes out in September 2020.

Josie received her doctorate from California Lutheran University in Higher Education Leadership, Masters in Education from Northern Arizona University. She majored in sociology and human development at South Dakota State University.

About Josie and The Podcast

In each episode, Dr. Josie Ahlquist – digital leadership author, researcher, and speaker – connects tech and leadership in education. This podcast will bring you leaders on-campus and online.

From Senior Vice Presidents on Snapchat, YouTubers receiving billions of views and new media professionals. All through the lens of social media and leadership. Josie hopes you will not only learn from these digital leaders but also laugh as we all explore how to be our best selves online and off.

Thanks for listening! Please subscribe to receive the latest episodes, share widely and let me know you’d checked it out!

Josie Ahlquist:

Hello and welcome to Josie and The Podcast. This is Josie and I have a special episode for you today. This podcast features leaders who share everything from their latest tweet to their leadership philosophy. My goal is to connect tech and leadership with heart, soul, and lots of substance. Josie and The Podcast is proudly sponsored by Campus Sonar, which means we’ve got to talk about social listening. You can stay on the pulse of the latest in social listening in higher education with Campus Sonar’s Brain Waves newsletter.

Josie Ahlquist:

Campus Sonar is a higher ed social listening agency on a mission to help campuses find online conversations that give higher ed professionals the insights they need to support their institution’s goals, and with their newsletter, you’ll get insights on current events from founder and CEO, Liz Gross also a previous guest on this very podcast. You’ll get access to questions and answers from the Campus Sonar team of experts and awareness of what the team is paying attention to. I know it’s not common to say that you can actually love getting emails, but y’all this one from Campus Sonar is a gem. Subscribe today at info.campussonar.com\subscribe.

Josie Ahlquist:

All right, now I can share why today’s episode is so special. Usually I bring you one featured guest, or you get to hear me gab to myself in shorty episodes, but today we have a panel of four digital leaders. They joined me for a leading online series I launched during the “earlier days” of COVID-19. You’re going to hear from Mayra Olivares-Urueta, the vice president of student development services at Tarrant County College. Mordecai Brownlee, vice president of student success at St. Philip’s College. Mary Jo Gonzalez, vice president of student affairs at Washington State University and Tim Miller, vice president for student affairs at James Madison University.

Josie Ahlquist:

The theme of our conversation is about the power of digital storytelling to educate, empower, and especially build empathy with students, staff, families, and more. They also spoke candidly about racial injustices, as this recording took place in the very first week of June, a week after the killing of George Floyd. Each of these leaders is showing up and communicating their values in videos, blogs, Twitter threads, and so on. While months have passed since our conversation, they continue to share their values beyond a single meaningful message.

Josie Ahlquist:

All these vice presidents in student affairs are willing to situate their personhood into their position and are there for helping redefine the role of leadership in digital spaces. They’re transforming into core communicators for their campus, voices to be trusted in times of crisis as well as in times of celebration. One topic of conversation that was repeatedly addressed, focused on the difference between being performative online and taking real action, even when it’s not public. I want you to think, as you take in this episode, when you think about your own online presence and purpose, are you jumping on a trending movement or topic or actually sharing causes that matter to you most and you’re backing it up with action.

Josie Ahlquist:

Take a beat to think about when you reshare. That quick reshared Instagram story sure is easy or that Twitter retweet, but how are you again, backing it up with action and consistency. In the months that followed this panel discussion, I’ve continued to watch these leaders bring to life the practices we discussed on their social media platforms. Mayra has advocated for mental health and is keeping up with her blog, Mamis on the Move.

Josie Ahlquist:

Mordecai emphasizes lives over politics in making decisions for our students as he continues to show up in video form, and Tim is still going live on Tuesday nights with his students as a facilitator and not necessarily always the face of some of these digital messages. Mary Jo asks on Twitter, for example, encouraging us to think and talk about race and then how that makes us feel. A quick note as you listen in. As all technology does these days, well, we always know it’s not perfect and there’s going to be hiccups. About halfway through the recording, you’re going to notice some internet issues and I will disappear.

Josie Ahlquist:

Thank you too Tim for graciously keeping the conversation going until I was able to rejoin the meeting, which was completely then through my iPhone. Note to self, you can join Zoom recordings through your iPhone. Apologies for any audio hiccups, which just goes to show technology issues are kind of part of our life and we’re all kind of rolling with it. Doesn’t need to be perfect and that is what it takes to lead online, but again, this conversation was so important. I thought to share even months ago, and technology hiccups aside, you can follow all of us on all the socials. All those are listed in the show notes, find the podcasts on Twitter, JosieATPodcast and I’m @josieahlquist.

Josie Ahlquist:

Remember everything we talk about from resources, people, and posts can be found on my website, josieahlquist.com\thepodcast. Let’s dig into our Campus Leaders as Digital Storytellers panel. Enjoy.

Josie Ahlquist:

Welcome to the Leading Online series featuring campus leaders who even before COVID-19 have embraced social media and a variety of other digital communication tools to make a very real impact. This week, you’re going to learn from a panel of vice presidents for student affairs, who are actively engaged in digital spaces using storytelling to communicate, connect, and transform what it means to be a leader in higher education. My name’s Josie Ahlquist, and since 2013 I’ve been researching, publishing, and speaking about digital engagement and leadership in higher ed.

Josie Ahlquist:

A major through line of my research is the impact of how higher ed leaders are integrating social media intentionally, which comes down to values and vulnerability. This includes stepping forward to tell our stories, using platforms to influence and lift up others and in no other time, do we need this action from campus leaders to call out injustices, such as ongoing racism. At this time I am excited to introduce each of our panelists. I’ll give a little bit of background to them and then we’ll get going in our conversation.

Josie Ahlquist:

Let’s start with Mordecai Brownlee. He’s coming to us as the vice president for student affairs or student success at St. Philip’s College in San Antonio, Texas. He has led St. Philip’s College to record enrollment in three consecutive years of record numbers in completion in degrees and certificates. Previously, Mordecai served as the dean of students and chief student affairs officer at the University of Charleston and you can find him on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. He is everywhere. Hello Mordecai. Thanks for joining.

Mordecai I. Brownlee:

Hey everybody. Thank you so much for having me Josie.

Josie Ahlquist:

Next up, Mary Joe Gonzales. As a low-income, first-generation college student, Latina, single mother, Mary Jo has dedicated her life to leading efforts with energy and enthusiasm, which help individuals achieve their academic personal and professional goals. She oversees 22 departments at the Pullman campus. She also leads the university campus culture and climate initiative to create a more inclusive and welcoming community at Washington State University campuses statewide. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn. Welcome Mary Jo.

Mary Jo Gonzales:

Hey everybody, looking forward to having a conversation today.

Josie Ahlquist:

All right. Next, Mayra Olivares-Urueta serves as the vice president for student development services at Tarrant County College’s Northeastern campus in Texas. Her work as an educational administrator is framed by awareness of community culture wealth, funds of knowledge and critical race theories. She works to create an environment in which students feel safe, cared for, and at opportunity rather than at risk.

Josie Ahlquist:

You can find this VP on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and also blogging, so great to have you.

Mayra Olivares-Urueta:

Thank you so much for having me.

Josie Ahlquist:

And last is Dr. Tim Miller, who is the vice president for student affairs at James Madison University. His doctorate research interestingly at the George Washington University focused on decision making of university presidents. Tim is also an active musician where he leads a band of faculty and staff members known as Staff Infection, which we can talk about that as a form of storytelling. Tim is found on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Okay. Again, an impressive group and heart-centered leaders as well as we think about using our platforms to tell stories, amplify voices, and more.

Josie Ahlquist:

As a warm up before we get to some more deeper reflections is, you are all on a variety of different platforms. I’m curious right now, what platform do you find yourself gravitating to the most in either public or maybe more private methods like through direct message or other digital communication ways that has helped your leadership as a vice president at this time. Whoever unmutes themselves first wins the prize of going first.

Mordecai I. Brownlee:

All right. I think we’re all being nice so I’ll go ahead and unmute first. There we go. Thank you again, Josie for having us and to all of my colleagues on the call, thank you for everybody joining us. I would say that Instagram for me has continued to be a great tool for interacting with our first time in college students. Instagram has continued to be very responsive, direct messaging. I mean, certainly that’s something from a setting standpoint that colleagues, if they’re considering doing that, using that tool, that they need to make the adjustments, especially if they don’t already have a connection with that individual, but to make themselves available through Instagram, Facebook… actually, I don’t know if that’s a resurgence due to COVID-19, but I have received a lot of messages through Facebook assisting students and being of service to them and their parents, as well as high school counselors as well, had a [inaudible 00:12:23] interactions on Twitter.

Mordecai I. Brownlee:

I don’t know, Facebook has really made a resurgence here just more recently.

Josie Ahlquist:

I’ve also heard that message often both in public communication platforms, but direct messaging. Thank you. Tim.

Tim Miller:

I’ll just add on to that. I think I’ve often said that Instagram is where I connect with students. Twitter is where I connect with alumni and Facebook is where I connect with parents. That’s sort of been how things have played out, but interestingly enough I’ve recently started getting… I think I’ve probably had 150 requests on Facebook from students to be friends on my personal Facebook account. A year ago I would have said no, but actually in Josie’s group that she runs to talk about this, one of our colleagues sort of challenged that and said… he just says yes to everybody. I’ve now said yes to everybody.

Tim Miller:

I’ve been having a lot more student interaction on Facebook really, probably in the last six months now that I think about it, where they’ve found me there and it came from some of the messages I’ve put out around COVID-19. A lot more student interaction on there and a lot more students asking to be my friends. I’m doing that now. I’ve sort of now blended my business page and my personal Facebook page together in many ways.

Josie Ahlquist:

And that’s a great designation. Tim has, like I said, a business page that you can like, and then his own profile, which a lot of times we called those personal pages, and you’re also very active within different Facebook groups. Like you would share with the Connected Exec group, but more for your campus, like your parent groups that you’ve been jumping in often on. Great. Thank you.

Mary Jo Gonzales:

I think I would say Josie, all of my profiles are public. I have one page that represents Mary Jo Gonzales since I opened it. I think what I’ve been finding lately is alumni are also connecting with me there wanting to know what’s happening with the university, where’s the space and so we have a pretty vibrant community on Facebook, but I would also say I’ve done more work. I’ve always been one who sends private messages or direct messages. I am doing more and more of that work now and partly it’s because students are reaching out, parents reaching out. They don’t want to post information publicly about what they’re experiencing and so I’m hearing a lot of those stories in pretty big detail and it’s helping me connect those student’s staff, even faculty who are saying, I don’t know what to do with this particular situation. How do I navigate it?

Mary Jo Gonzales:

I think that’s been really valuable, is having that back channel that I think people don’t understand. It truly is like a text message and that is how everyone is seeing it. I’m enjoying the communication that’s happening there, although it doesn’t mean I’m always posting, it means I’m pretty active. People just don’t see that side of the work that we do.

Josie Ahlquist:

Absolutely. That’s a theme that’s come out in a lot of these panels, is what’s not being seen in front of the screen, but I’ve also heard a lot of executives very concerned about the concept of going into a DM or direct message or messenger and so I hope we’re hearing it over and over that it is really a solid tool to tap into. Thank you. Mayra.

Mayra Olivares-Urueta:

And I’ll be quick. I mean, we have kind of a different stance at TCC that’s, we’re a little bit more controlled in that communication in all the different media platforms, social media platforms but I would say for me, LinkedIn continues to be, I think, where I get more access to students. Students will connect with me on LinkedIn, which is an interesting double edged sword because, and now I have… We started this blog, Dr. Taryn Ozuna Allen and I started this blog and I’m just like pouring my entire heart out there, but a lot of what I share in my communication with students has particularly been on LinkedIn.

Mayra Olivares-Urueta:

I haven’t gone out yet to let everybody into my Facebook yet, but I just got added to the group so I need to go back and look at all the different chats y’all have had about doing that.

Josie Ahlquist:

Fantastic. Thank you for giving a little bit of context, although I think it’s really nice and some questions that are coming from the chat to kind of assess and at the end of the day, it really is a personal choice but to kind of explore into new waters, I think is important for us to explore. Again, what I’m kind of finding all in my research, but in these panels is we’re kind of redefining and it’s been needing to be redefined, leadership and higher ed and student affairs of what’s professional, or what’s not and what’s just needed.

Josie Ahlquist:

Considering that as we think about this next question. The core concept for this panel originally was about digital storytelling, all of you are showing up in lots of different ways from doing videos to blogs to Twitter threads and so on. You’re communicating your values in almost a longer form type of way. Some of those values that we believe in and stand behind are speaking out against racism, hate, and injustices and we can see now, especially as the days have gone on, more and more leaders in cabinets and universities are putting out public messages that are speaking out of these injustices. The killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others.

Josie Ahlquist:

Beyond public announcements though, those are important. What do you plan to do or even if we were to think what we hope will come as we see the immediate and long-term of these messages, not just one-time posts on websites or social media platforms.

Mordecai I. Brownlee:

Okay. I’ll jump back in there, Josie and I’ll say that digital engagement, social media in my personal opinion has made the world much smaller. I think that I would say 10 years ago, it’s very possible that the momentum that has been created, and I’m just using this as an example due to its relevance in the matter just occurring with George Floyd, that we wouldn’t have had this kind of momentum worldwide, certainly not nationally if it was not for digital social media engagement.

Mordecai I. Brownlee:

Just use this as an example. As we talk about the universities and our colleges, public entities that have now come out and made statements against violence, made statements against injustice, it is quite possible as we look historically, some of these entities may not have released a statement in such a manner unless that momentum was created within the core of that institution. If something happened at that college, if students began to rise at that college, perhaps we would not have seen the kind of proactive responses that we’ve seen from presidents and administration.

Mordecai I. Brownlee:

I think that social media has played a big role in making the world smaller and creating more momentum throughout our nation, throughout the world that students and colleges and universities can relate to and need to respond very quickly to.

Mayra Olivares-Urueta:

Yeah, I agree. 100%. I think there’s institutions, and I’ve seen even just in recent events. We don’t speak up about every event. I think the critical mass of events that have… it’s not like it hasn’t been happening, but that we have seen in broad daylight, if you will now, I think have prompted voices to come out and speak against this violence and just racism in general in ways that we hadn’t before.

Mayra Olivares-Urueta:

I’m an alum of the University of Oklahoma, have seen my fair share of racist incidents. I think even following the movements of students and the way the students have been pressing for our institutions to be held accountable is great, but as far as like what I’m going to do, the things I put on my blog, go find my blog. I posted it yesterday. We have to call stuff out. It’s uncomfortable, but you have to do it and listen to the Brené Brown podcast from today because she tells you… there’s a really great analogy about how we are. We don’t realize… like the fish, right? You don’t realize you’re in the racism and a racist like adding to that until someone hands you an umbrella, and shows you how to protect yourself from the racist rain that we’re all drenched in.

Mayra Olivares-Urueta:

Yeah, just calling it out myself and speaking up and going out on faith and hoping that it doesn’t… well, just praying and doing good work. That’s it.

Mary Jo Gonzales:

Yeah and I would add, this is where the caution around storytelling is, is that it can’t be performative. I think that has been a lot of colleagues and friends who put, for example, the Blackout Tuesday and had never ever posted even the words black lives matter whatsoever. We put black lives matter in our campus announcement and people were shocked and I’m like, but black lives do matter. If we’re not going to state it pretty publicly and be there with our students in this… and by the way, shouldn’t be my voice that’s being amplified. It shouldn’t be my feelings that are being amplified. This is not the time for me to come out with what I am feeling about it. It is, this is what our black and African American faculty staff, students, communities, alumni have been experiencing for years and it’s frankly disheartening that it took nine minutes of a video for us to recognize that this is a problem that is historical.

Mary Jo Gonzales:

I want to add a piece to this though, one of the things that I have really tried to do and push our institution for is, I posted on MLK Day, a video that Martin Luther King had just called out the land and grant structure and selects were pushing for land and property. The federal government just gave away hundreds of acres, by the way that had been stolen from our native brothers and sisters, right? And it really spurred a conversation. To me, if you’re going to do this work and you’re going to post those things, it has to be a part of everyday of your life and it can’t be just when these things happen.

Mary Jo Gonzales:

We have to live it and walk it and talk it. I just need to say that as a… that’s my caution. It’s really easy to step into the performative because you feel good and you want to erase that guilt that you have because you’re occupying a place of privilege.

Tim Miller:

Mary Jo, I appreciate you saying that. I think that as a white person of considerable privilege, I’ve really struggled with figuring out what to say. We’re not saying what spaces to step into and what point am I taking space from others. It’s been an interesting week or so for me. I was actually on vacation last week. I’ll put that in quotes, on vacation last week because it wasn’t, but I was at the beach. I go back to one of the things Mordecai said, I didn’t turn on the TV for the whole week and I knew everything that was going on in the world, and I didn’t need the TV to know that.

Tim Miller:

It has become small and I think we have to think about, as we’re telling a story, are you telling the story to get credit for the story you’re telling or are you telling the story because it’s true for you and it’s authentic to you. Are you telling the story and are you taking someone else’s story? I’ve honestly struggled with figuring that out. I had a really hard conversation on Monday with my multicultural center staff because we didn’t tell our story the best we could have. Our letter wasn’t what they had hoped it should be and I think we missed the mark in some of it and that was hard because I pushed for the letter, and it’s hard when you try your best and you still have some people that feel like you missed it, and then it’s interesting because then you have other people who say, why did you even say anything?

Tim Miller:

It’s a very interesting world to live in. The pull of that, two different sides of… it’s not two sides, it’s like 400 sides. Anyway, I think it’s interesting that we used to have a policy of, we don’t comment unless it’s within our community or directly a part of our community. I really appreciate consistency with things like dry cleaning and getting my oil changed. I’m not sure that consistency is the most important value I need when we’re dealing with the lives of college students and recognizing their needs and how to advocate for them and serve them.

Josie Ahlquist:

The 400 side analogies, quite the visual of the layers, complexities that one panel discussion cannot even hold nor one public announcement. Again, I just appreciate all of you holding space to even process out loud with me as we as individuals in our own identities are doing the unpacking with our families as well as within our positions and sharing even examples of how maybe missteps, what can be learned through those as we move forward.

Josie Ahlquist:

At this point I’d like to… well, I called them hot seats before, but they’re also showcases of each of the work that you’re doing and it’s aligned both with things that you shared this last week that I think are important to give as examples. Again, there’s no one way to do this thing called digital leadership or enacting your platforms for the intent to make an impact, but there’s examples that you can learn from and be inspired from especially now. Mayra, let’s start with you. I found you through LinkedIn. You’ve always been very, very active there and so it’s fun to be able to feature you just showing up on when we were on campus at events, doing articles, and then also creating your blog that you shared with us a little earlier.

Josie Ahlquist:

You shared a couple of pieces recently. One piece called, No, really, I’m ok and other COVID-19 lies I tell myself, and some really telling, you could call it authentic, vulnerable, revealing reflections in there about how you’re processing and then this latest with your co-author. You wrote Racism: An Old Pandemic in a New Year, and that you both penned together. A couple of different questions to maybe get to know your use of social and choices especially with LinkedIn and blogging.

Josie Ahlquist:

Tell us what has happened because of your activity on LinkedIn consistently, and then why are writing these pieces that even on a university website or just blogging period, why that’s so important for a campus leader to be doing and almost outwardly processing.

Mayra Olivares-Urueta:

Well, thank you, and I appreciate the questions because they make me process what I do in a different way. LinkedIn, because just like some professional panels I’ve participated in, I was going to say performed, they feel like performances, right? LinkedIn can be such… I only want to show you the good things in case you want to hire me or in case you want to work with me. These are the very curated things I want you to see.

Mayra Olivares-Urueta:

Part of my reason for choosing LinkedIn is because I think it’s where I have my widest professional network and I’m very intentional in wanting to kind of pull back the curtain on what it means to be a Latina, a mother, a spouse, working in leadership because so many of us that don’t necessarily have to fit into those identities just don’t think these are jobs that are for us because it’s not what we’ve seen.

Mayra Olivares-Urueta:

Here’s the ugly of it or the pretty of it and here’s what you get when you get with me, right? Like this is what you’re going to experience, what it’s rendered as far as like outcomes from doing all this here. Certainly a lot of connections with younger professionals and even there’s some chancellors in there and some presidents in there. It’s been really interesting to see the network that I’ve been able to create, partly because also in conferences I make sure to connect with folks and not just to speak, to be heard and to be seen, but to be intentional in the things that I say.

Mayra Olivares-Urueta:

At work and everywhere else, I’ll be the one to ask about our undocumented students and what we’re doing for them and how we’re… populations that again are seldom, our American Indian, native American populations, but again, I’ve been intentional about doing it on LinkedIn because I want to help other women, other mothers or other minoritized people see that these are spaces for us, that I cry and I have anxiety and all these other things happen, but you get through it, and it actually humanizes you to your students and to your colleagues. We’re not these sticks just trying to do all this stuff. There’s a lot of heart and that’s what I want to show.

Josie Ahlquist:

I really appreciate that visual and a couple of the quotes from your blogs, the COVID working from home stress is real, grant yourself grace, this is hard. Just allowing people to be in agreement that this is hard and then from your most recent posts about Racism: An Old Pandemic in a New Year, as you had shared about revealing about your anxiety, but even how you have cried, revealing some of those pieces calls folks in to see themselves in you. Thank you.

Mayra Olivares-Urueta:

Sure. Thanks.

Josie Ahlquist:

Mordecai, you have been a long time video producer in a variety of different platforms. These short videos, Leadership In Education, can be found on LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter. They have ranged in topics that are timely from digital literacy, self-care and more, and they’re definitely an audience to educators. You even address in tweets about like signaling to educators to read. Why is it important for a vice president to even put in that time to do those types of video creation in digital spaces, and then what have you learned maybe from putting your voice out there to do that?

Mordecai I. Brownlee:

Yeah Josie, I think that everyone that’s on this call would say that the reason why they’re doing what they’re doing is because they feel called to do this work, right? There’s other ways to spend your time and make sacrifices, but being an educator is in my opinion one of the most important sacrifices that one can make, I mean… so it’s our responsibility to advance society. It’s our responsibility to advance our communities, to create this idea of active citizenship and productivity, and to help to remove poverty or the mindset of poverty as well as the practices of poverty within the various communities.

Mordecai I. Brownlee:

It’s with that idea in mind that my sole focus has been when it comes to a lot of these projects that I’ve been blessed to participate in, is to encourage fellow educators because each and every one of us on the front lines in different communities, in different ways, serving different student populations, and we are also… because of our platforms are coming in touch with people that others may not in different venues.

Mordecai I. Brownlee:

As an educator, folks have a sense of vulnerability in the classroom. We’re in these learning settings because they’re seeking knowledge, right? They may wrestle with the knowledge, but they’re seeking something and that’s the reason why they’re there, so then I think that’s even more impactful behind the responsibility that we have to the students in the communities that we serve, to advance those communities, even within its prejudices, if you will, and an array of ways. Right.

Mordecai I. Brownlee:

Going back to what Mayra was even mentioning is that we have the ability to make a strong impact across the board. That’s why it’s been my focus to have those engagements and encourage fellow educators.

Mary Jo Gonzales:

I think we might have lost our fearless leader. Josie, when you get back let us know. By the way, this is the awesome part of managing in this world as a part of digital storytelling. It’s okay when we screw up and it’s okay, when things go bad.

Mordecai I. Brownlee:

That’s right.

Mary Jo Gonzales:

It’s a part of the world that we live in now, when everything is so virtual and so digital. Zoom at its finest. Absolutely.

Mordecai I. Brownlee:

Zoom at its finest.

Tim Miller:

Right. I think Josie was back and then is gone again. Josie you back again?

Mary Jo Gonzales:

Yeah. You keep freezing. It’s all good. Hey Josie, if you need us to, we can step in. We’re all vice presidents. We know how to manage the call.

Mordecai I. Brownlee:

That’s it. That’s it. We’ll take over the program.

Josie Ahlquist:

Can you at least hear me because I can mute my screen.

Mordecai I. Brownlee:

Yes.

Mary Jo Gonzales:

Now I can hear you now. Now we got you.

Josie Ahlquist:

Okay. Oh my Lordy. I apologize. This is the first time this has happened. I was hard wired in. You just can’t, you just don’t know. Okay. Let me bring that back to Mordecai. At least there was some good giggles in there. I did hear them. I appreciate that. You were laughing with me. I know. We were chatting behind the scenes a little bit about how you purposely paused your production to really ground yourself to move forward in thinking about the content that you’d be putting out going forward, thinking about like the killing of George Floyd. That really is important to think about that moment of pause and purpose, but what has that decision taught you about why slowing down about what we do post and produce is important for campus leaders?

Mordecai I. Brownlee:

Yeah, Josie. I would say that it’s so important for those that are watching this. There needs to be a strong sense of intentionality behind what we put out to the world, what we put out to our students. My mother who… There’s parts of my family that there’s African Americans and then based on our family history, there’s also some native Americans in there.

Mordecai I. Brownlee:

I bring this up because there was this concept that was taught to us as children called scattered feathers, and the whole concept is that you never necessarily know based on that particular situation that you’re facing, it’s so important to put your best foot forward because the chances of being able to recall and undo what have been the wrongs that… you never may get that momentum back, those people back, those interactions back so it’s so important that there’s a strong sense of intentionality, not just in how you conduct yourself in social media, but how you live your life.

Mordecai I. Brownlee:

Perhaps that concept helps someone today, but I think that that’s the importance behind intentionality and also in every student that we touch. You never know what that young man, that young woman, that person is dealing with and so you can be that ray of sunshine for them. It’s just so important. That’s our work as educators.

Tim Miller:

Mary Jo, how about I do your introduction. Mary Jo, from my observation of you and online, you truly embody the spirit of Washington State. To no surprise, you posted a video on Facebook called Fight Song Friday and cheered the school song. You also wrote in the post, how you challenged other campus leadership, like the dean of students, athletic coaches, and even the president, first lady, many of whom were also active online. How has your expression of #GoCougs spirit called your community together online?

Mary Jo Gonzales:

Many of you may not know this, but I had a life threatening illness in the fall and it took me out of work for four months and that was completely homebound, couldn’t go anywhere. I was at risk every day of survival. I had just started to emerge from this cocoon of safety in December and January. By the way I am… can you tell, I like Coug gear. I forgot to add my Disney Coug ears, right? I love Cougar country. I’ve always had this idea that we need to support the campus that we’re in.

Mary Jo Gonzales:

When I was in North Dakota, I was the Blue Hawk. When I was at Iowa State, I was the Cyclone and at University of Rhode Island, I was supporting Rhody the Ram. I combined, as I was coming out of this cocoon and really recovering from this major illness, I realized that I had not sang the fight song in about eight months. For me that’s like not breathing. What I chose to do is post a video about Fight Song Friday and about… and I talked about how hard COVID was and about how difficult it was to be away from everybody and that I just needed a pick me up and I was going to use The Fight Song to sing it.

Mary Jo Gonzales:

I did challenge a lot of folks and I put it in our alumni and alumni were singing it as well and so people started posting videos. The one that I was so proud of though was the fact that our access center, which manages the support for our students with disabilities, they did the fight song in ASL, and that went more viral than mine, which I was really excited about because then people started posting the fight song in ASL, and so we really approached it from we’re going to support all of our Cougs no matter where they are and we’re going to definitely meet them from a universal design perspective.

Mary Jo Gonzales:

That’s kind of the perspective that I took about what does it mean to be a part of our Cougar community and really also, because I had just recovered from this major illness I could identify with students being homebound because I got homebound again and we’ll be homebound for quite some time, compared to my colleagues and our students. That’s really thinking through what that looks like and feels like, and their experience which was pretty difficult at the time. Unfortunately or fortunately I have very active president, vice presidents, ADs, athletic director, regents who are active on social media and so we’ve been… this is what you all may know.

Mary Jo Gonzales:

We do coordinate behind the scenes about who’s going to post what, about what information should come from the WSU Pullman point of view or the WSU system, which as I’m the system vice president, which one needs to come from Mary Jo, which needs to come from the vice president of finance and admin or our vice president of marketing communication or a dean of students, and so having those background conversations… I didn’t tell anybody I was challenging them to Fight Song Friday. They just got it because I wasn’t planning on coordinating. It just went in its own way.

Tim Miller:

Well, and Mary Jo, I appreciate you sharing the personal aspect of this and how that sort of came about for you and I think it’s interesting maybe for all of us is, so many times when we do this we’re planting seeds that we have no idea if they’re going to grow. Like you had no idea that ASL thing was going to come up and it did and made such an impact. I wonder how many more students felt welcomed in your space and at your university because they saw that and how that sort of meant things to students in so many different ways than anything you had intended.

Mary Jo Gonzales:

Exactly. Exactly, and our alumni were just as onboard. They were starting to practice it. In fact, some of the videos came up and they weren’t getting it right because even the mountains, right? I get that… You could put three instead of two. We spell out our letters, so W-A-S-H-I-N-G-T. You know the letters, and I’m talking to someone who’s wearing purple by the way that’s like our rival school, University of Washington. I’m chuckling that he’s asking me the questions in purple. That’s what the crimson and gray, it’s who we are. I was really excited to be able to talk about that from a branding perspective because this school is an alum. That’s the other part.

Mary Jo Gonzales:

I’m an alum of WSU, so it makes a huge… I was able to support all of the other campuses I’ve been at, but now I’m able to talk like real life about what these two degrees that I got here, the kind of impact it happened on my life and my daughter’s life. Those are some pretty cool things.

Tim Miller:

Yeah. I’m an alum, two-time alum at my current institution too so I understand that there’s something about being home, no offense to the other institutions where I work, but there is something about being home. Josie, I just sort of kept us moving. I hope that’s okay.

Josie Ahlquist:

Oh Lord. I am on my phone right now. Our internet has constantly gone out, so thank you.

Tim Miller:

Do you want me to finish up Mary Jo’s and hand it back to you or…

Josie Ahlquist:

Sure. That sounds great.

Tim Miller:

Mary Jo, as you saw the… On Twitter you shared an article, Maintaining Professionalism in the Age of Black Death is A Lot, and you added the note that it’s not just ‘your’ but ‘our’ remaining a quote from the article to read and do you want to read the quotes since you’re the one who put it out here?

Mary Jo Gonzales:

Sure. It was a great article on what black employees are experiencing. In the article itself, it said your, and I really thought about it and Mordecai, this goes to your intentionality comment that you made earlier, is that it really isn’t your employees. I had to go, no, this is our employees and so what I wrote was not your, as in someone out there, it is our black employees are exhausted. Our black employees are scared. Our black employees are crying in between meetings. Our black employees have mentally checked out. Our black employees are putting on a performance.

Mary Jo Gonzales:

I thought it was really important to not make it about me and not make it about the learning for me, but to own that and to accept my responsibility in that, and I did some things afterwards that frankly, I’m not going to talk about publicly because that’s the part of the public performative. I don’t need to be patting myself on the back. I’ve done this in other spaces when things happened. I do what I need to do, and I think that’s the other piece of this work, is that not just around equity and inclusion, but frankly who I am and ownership of my experience and knowing that I have contributed and I’m complicit even as a non-black POC, I own some of this, especially at the vice presidential chair and if I’m not signaling this and I’m not saying it, I am absolutely not being the person who I aspire to be.

Mary Jo Gonzales:

We’ve talked a lot. I’ve raised my daughter since I was a young… when she was very young as a single mom. I said every time you point the finger at somebody else, three of those fingers are coming right back at you. Having to go, okay, this is happening out there, and it meant that I also needed to talk to our cabinet and have a conversation with my president and say we’ve said some really important things. Today is not the day we’re going to do that again. We’re going to say what we have to say. It is racism that is the problem. COVID-19 has laid bare a lot of the inequities that have existed.

Mary Jo Gonzales:

Now, people are just becoming aware of it, but we have to own that and to own even what our own WSU police, how we are complicit in that too and so part of that is for me, the process of navigating that as a leader and again, a lot of that has to happen behind the scenes, but for me, it was important for us to own that it’s not somebody else employees’, it’s my employees that are feeling that way too.

Josie Ahlquist:

I am so thankful this conversation has been able to continue. My fears was that the whole feed would be lost. You can hear why hearing a message from the… I just was able to jump in from Mary Jo. We just have to get these types of real stories, whether they’re public or not out there. Thank you for your patience and your willingness to facilitate and to especially share and show up.

Josie Ahlquist:

Tim, did you go yet? Are you ready? I’ll ask Tim a couple of questions and then we’ll open it up to a little bit of Q&A. Tim, again, you’ve used a variety of different storytelling platforms over time. Immediately when your campus closed, you were jumping into videos to offer messages and showing up around campus from giving live tours of the rec center to the library because you were surprised actually students wanted to see those spaces, and so you were literally the tour guide to do so.

Josie Ahlquist:

You also wrote on your Facebook business page the last day of the semester this longer form message about turn the page, which I’ll link to afterwards in this, but the one thing that I want to talk about in light recently was last night you went live. I think it was on your individual Facebook page, but may have been streamed elsewhere as well called Tuesday Night Live, which from what I could take away was three JMU students that were discussing race and the parts that they were processing publicly as students to call in, other students to dialogue with them about identity.

Josie Ahlquist:

Can you tell us a little bit about this program and why it was so important for the vice president of student affairs to be the facilitator and the producer of that conversation, but also how you were able to step out of that centeredness of yourself so then the students could just show up and be the center.

Tim Miller:

Sure. I appreciate it. When COVID-19 started and we went home essentially and sent our students home, we were trying to figure out ways to stay connected with them. Some of my staff immediately did a couple of chats, really quick chats with our students and thought, “Hey, this has actually been pretty important for our students just to have a place to share.” Then I proposed, hey, how about we just do a show every Tuesday? I have this thing I’ve done before called 10 topics where I just… something’s on my mind, and then one of them said, “Oh my gosh.” And they’re very alliterative. They’re like Tuesday topics with Tim. That’s our show. We got it.

Tim Miller:

Then every Tuesday during the rest of the semester, we did this show where we just… whatever was on our mind we talked about it. We had guests, we had a student host, we had guests that came in and we just talked about the news of the day or whatever else was going on and then when the… In general I was uncomfortable with my name being in the title, because in general I would prefer to just be behind the scenes if possible. Just hilarious to be a vice president when you feel that way.

Tim Miller:

When the semester was ending, we thought this has actually worked really well for some students. They’ve liked it, so we created Tuesday Night Live. We’re just waiting to get sued by Saturday Night Live once we get popular enough, I guess, and it’s an hour-long show. We have one staff member who does a section about did you know? And then we have trivia. We do a number of different things. We have a musical guest.

Tim Miller:

This week we had had our former student body president, Aaliyah McLean, and another student Dion Gray. We’re going to be… Dion was the host and Aaliyah was going to be the guest, and then over the course of the weekend, there was just like, we can’t do a show with Tim doing name that tune on his guitar like I’ve done a couple times and some of these other honestly kind of sillier things that we do for fun.

Tim Miller:

When our grad student Cierra Ballinger who runs the… really runs it, she reached out and said, “I reached out to the students and they want to run it and let’s have a conversation and they just want to talk.” And we said, “Absolutely.” We gave this up. I even tried to get even offscreen and my staff was like, “Well, it’s kind of your show you, so got to be on screen.” But we wanted to give the students that space and give them the time. It’s usually from 8:00 to 9:00 PM and we went from 8:00 to 10:30 last night. We had breakout rooms, so smaller groups that maybe people that were uncomfortable talking in front of about 30 people, who could talk in a smaller group.

Tim Miller:

It was awesome and now we’ve decided we’re going to change the format for the rest of the summer. Next week on Tuesday will be another session. We’re going to add another student leader in who’s asked to be a part of it, and honestly, I think we were on for two and a half hours and I spoke for a minute and a half total the entire time because it wasn’t my place to talk. I honestly… I spoke to say, “Hey, we’re coming back next week. We’re doing this again.” And I basically said that in too long of a way of saying it, but that’s all I said and then I got out of the way. It really meant a lot to our students and I think there’s still a lot of work to do.

Tim Miller:

I’m not saying we solved anything, but I think we gave students that time and that space and we’ll keep doing it week to week until the students are saying, “Hey, can we go back to the other stuff?” And they’ll decide that, but it’s worked. It was another one of those things like Mary Jo had said. We didn’t plan that. I mean, we didn’t plan to have that, but the students needed it. We had the platform already ready to go and we also live streamed it on Facebook Live last night as well so it got more people to catch it than normally would have when it was just a Zoom call, but it worked really well and I’m glad we gave the space for students.

Josie Ahlquist:

Goodness, it’s much different to unmute yourself when you’re doing it from your iPhone. Thank you for that background and you almost had a slip of the tongue, I think something related to what we’re going to do next year. Like, what if we continue to do things like this though, like, is this transforming not only what leadership looks like, but how we do provide student engagement and dialogue, and maybe how we always should have been potentially showing up in a really quick and nimble way if this is pressing and skillsets that we needed to explore for quite some time.

Josie Ahlquist:

I encourage everyone to make sure they’re following all of these leaders in spaces that they have shared so you can like, again, I just happened to catch Tim live last night on Facebook and was even able to learn an experience from those students. It’s so valuable even beyond our institutions. I will open up right now to some questions. There is one, I believe in the chat. We should be able to get to a couple of them. Oh, maybe it was answered.

Mary Jo:

Josie-

Mordecai I. Brownlee:

[crosstalk 00:50:51] was one that came through on the question and answer. Josie, so I typed in there, but-

Josie Ahlquist:

Great.

Mordecai I. Brownlee:

It may still be open there.

Josie Ahlquist:

And Mary Jo, were you jumping in?

Mary Jo Gonzales:

Yeah. I just wanted to add something to Tim’s construct around thinking about, regardless of what happens in the fall. We just started an eSports team about a year ago. It was something right before I went out that we were working through. I watched all of their street… the roller, I can’t remember the dang game but they have a Twitch stream and they’ve actually have our Coug brand going through on the Twitch stream. I’ve actually learned a whole new way of thinking with students, and students know I’m watching. They’re actually DMing on Twitter. They were having conversations about it.

Mary Jo Gonzales:

I am learning a whole new way of language that I didn’t know and I think that’s the other piece of this, is that regardless of how long COVID goes, and it will be probably 24 months that we’re going to be impacted in a significant way. That’s the minimum, right? We also have to think about this generation that now lost their high school graduations, that lost all of their senior banquets, that lost state championships for band or for athletics and so we really need to think about what does that mean to help them kind of grieve through that process even as they come into our spaces in the fall and what that will look like for their sophomore, junior, senior, fifth year, right? Their super senior year.

Mary Jo Gonzales:

I want us to… I guess I’d like us all to really think about giving ourselves permission to explore that space in a much more intentional, thoughtful, and strategic way because our students are already telling us that this grief is driving a lot of the connection that they’re going to be needing in the fall, and it won’t… fall is not going to look normal. There’s no reality I’ve seen that that’s going to be normal. How we help them live through this pandemic and live this life and take what they’ve learned from this experience and move it into a different place. I just thought that was really important to think about it from following up on Tim’s comments about doing things differently.

Josie Ahlquist:

Yeah. Through the lens of grief and then a homework assignment if you don’t know what Twitch is. Go give it a Google. Your students are on that platform, so understanding how you could incorporate that. Not necessarily that you need to start on it, but at least know, and how that could be incorporated into your student engagement strategies. Great. Okay. I do think we have potentially a new question.

Tim Miller:

Kristin asks about performing, the concept of performing and have we challenged colleagues, especially of majority identities who might be performing or putting opinions or stories into online, or even in person spaces or taking action to get the credit. I’ll just quickly… I’ll admit, I don’t know that I’ve seen as much of that in my space. Not Myspace but in my world. No one’s using Myspace. I haven’t seen a lot of it, but I do wonder sometimes when I see people who haven’t ever said anything, I think as was said earlier, and then suddenly are out in that space saying things and I see it more honestly, not with colleagues, but more people that I’m connected to on Facebook or other places that I’m saying. You’ve never said anything like this and now you are.

Tim Miller:

The interesting thing we’re finding now and we’ve had in the last 24 hours. We’ve gotten a lot of people sending us complaints about incoming first year students and what they’ve done online and asking us to rescind admission. We’ve seen that kind of stuff, which has been interesting so more, we’re seeing that kind of a challenge out there, not with colleagues, but with our incoming class because I think there are a lot of people paying attention to that in a different way now than they maybe had in the past. But I do think that… even me as I think about what I’m posting is, am I posting this because people are going to say, I’m great for posting it or am I posting this because it’s what I believe. I like to believe I fall back on the second, that I’m posting this because this is what I believe.

Mordecai I. Brownlee:

I’ll jump in there if I can, Josie, and say, thank you, Tim. I think you really hit a nail on the head there, that people shouldn’t be shocked by our interactions online in comparison to how we would interact with them face to face, right? All of a sudden the folks are jumping on this bandwagon and posting things. You’re like, “Oh my God. I didn’t know that.” That’s a problem because there should be some genuineness. There should be some consistency in behavior that now should not be the time that individuals are discovering our views on justice, injustice, race, diversity.

Mordecai I. Brownlee:

I think folks need to take another look in the mirror, so thank you for mentioning that too.

Mayra Olivares-Urueta:

And I just wanted to add really quick. I haven’t seen this either, but I’ve been intentional about calling out racism within the Latinx community because a lot of times cycle… we experience lot certainly and there’s a lot of work to be done, but we also do a lot of damage in our community and even… There’s not enough acknowledgement of Afro Latinos in all the history of colonialism and how we have erased them in history and in our home countries. There are them and indigenous people. They’re not people that are cared for and so that’s, I think where I have taken the opportunity instead of, because I haven’t seen people trying to all of a sudden become social justice person. I’m more like, “Hey, yeah, let’s look internally.”

Mayra Olivares-Urueta:

There was… I don’t know if y’all have seen. There’s a little post and it’s three different colors of Latinx babies and the one that gets the most compliments is a lighter complexion. I think that’s where I’ve been more active, is in calling it out within my community, how we don’t show up but I haven’t seen it yet so I’ll be looking for the fakes, or maybe they’re just trying and what are they doing? Maybe just tell me about this? What’s going on?

Mary Jo Gonzales:

Well, Mayra, you said something that I think is important to distinguish. Fake and performative are two fundamentally different things, right? If you believe, if you’re putting it out there right to me… we have to talk about this in the construct of how we handle and how we approach white supremacy, right? Do we believe it’s fundamentally true? If it is fundamentally true, then we have to talk about the complicity and there is a process that I think it’s important for people to go through to talk about how, oh, I have to own privilege. I have to own the power that comes with the seats even though I am the first Latina in this chair, right? I have to do all of that work as a part of it.

Mary Jo Gonzales:

Then there is the piece and I think… I don’t think that’s fake. I think that’s fair for people to talk about in terms of the narrative and their coming of age story. I think it is important because it actually models how to do that for other people. The fake part for me, and I really have a hard time judging it. It is when… you don’t have to understand, our students struggle with this. Is it truly authentic? Is it real? Are you actually doing what you say you do? If putting up a black screen yesterday made you feel better, but there’s no action attached to it. That’s where we have to challenge that, and so for me, I think fundamentally the struggle is, and I don’t want to judge because that’s the part where performance is my issue. Right? I have to think about that.

Mary Jo Gonzales:

I think all of us need to think about when you were putting, when we’re being the digital storyteller, is it performance? Is it authentic? And are we doing the real work behind it? And I think for me, that’s the place where I think we have to really contemplate who we are and what we are. I can’t separate out the racism that’s happened at WSU. I can’t. I have to acknowledge it. I have to be a part of it but the only way that I’m going to build a brand new WSU is if we talk about that history and we engage it and we say, yeah. We benefited from a lot of native land. That’s what… we sit on land grant. We sit on the Palus Nez Perce lands. It’s not just the land acknowledgement. It’s what does that mean? Because when I say it and I’m not living it and I’m not engaging it, that’s when it becomes performative.

Mary Jo Gonzales:

That’s how I would distinguish between the two for me. I’m not saying it’s… It’s just the critical race theorist coming out in me.

Tim Miller:

And Mary Jo, if I can just… one of the interesting things for me is I often tell our students, no one’s living their real life on Instagram or Twitter. That no one actually looks that good when they wake up and get out of bed and all that, but I think that we, as you said, those digital storytellers have to be authentic in that space and you can’t… I woke up this way. Like, it’s got to be who you are and really, or don’t say it. I would almost rather not say it than say something that’s not accurate and who I actually am.

Mordecai I. Brownlee:

I’m jumping there and say that we also have the power. We never know the influencers in our student’s life or our community’s life. Josie and I had this conversation weeks and weeks and weeks ago about the importance… I love to put up my family images. I love to put up certain images of positivity because I’m not doing it for performance. I’m doing it… It’s authentically me, but I also keep in mind the intentionality behind. I was raised by a single mother. Father wasn’t present and men weren’t really present and so now, as I’m seeking to be a father to my children and present husband to my wife, that folks can learn from my personal journey and begin to reflect and learn and grow in their own personal journeys, and as situations come about, whether it be the George Floyds or the [inaudible 01:00:26], or whether it be COVID-19, whether it be these other crisis and points of retrospect and interaction and social context and talks a future, that as we interact and react to these situations, people can grow and learn. Again, we’re always… are in a position to educate others.

Josie Ahlquist:

I do want to be conscious of the time, of the multiple responsibilities that each of the panelists bring in multiple roles. I feel, so I am learning. I am taking notes and appreciate how each of you have shown up today in their realness and authenticity and even notes that I hadn’t even included in that I think are some of the biggest takeaways about us unpacking a bit of the performance in the need to address and speak out, but this step is big.

Josie Ahlquist:

Elements of self-reflection that I think as Mary Jo pointed out, our students need more intentional dialogue, taking some of these questions and considerations back to your teams, back to your families. I hope this conversation could be much broader than just in your role and just to know how even something that seems so simple as social media can be quite complex and opens us up to bigger and even more important conversations than a Facebook post, right? But it is a means to get us to something much more deeper.

Josie Ahlquist:

If all of y’all would be willing to join me in a chat, thanking our panelists with all the emojis and cheers that you can muster up on your keyboard, I sure do appreciate everyone’s flexibility with my technical difficulties and the growth and learning that I have. Again, so important that this conversation happened and I will thank my lucky stars that the Zoom internet fairies kept things going at least for the panelists, and I encourage all of you to reach out to all the panelists, follow them, learn with them and grow with all of us through this process.

Josie Ahlquist:

Again, you can find me at josieahlquist.com. If you’ve got ideas for future leading online panels or anything else that I can serve as facilitator, I am here for that. Again, thank you panelists. Thank you everyone that’s joined us today and be well.

Josie Ahlquist:

Thank you so much for checking out this episode. I hope you enjoyed it. Make sure to give us a little review or a share on those podcasts platforms. Subscribing always helps too to make sure that you get every latest episode. You can join the conversation online, tweeting at me @josieahlquist or the podcast, JosieATPodcast. Remember those show notes and additional resources can be found at josieahlquist.com\thepodcast.

Josie Ahlquist:

If you are interested in learning more about my speaking and consulting work on digital engagement and leadership or about my forthcoming book, check me out at josieahlquist.com. Thank you again to our podcast sponsor Campus Sonar. Learn more about them at campussonar.com. Sending digital hugs, loves, and waves to whatever corner of the world you’re listening in from. This has been Josie and The Podcast.

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Rebekah Tilley

Assistant Vice President, University of Iowa Center for Advancement

Rebekah Tilley is the assistant vice president of communication and marketing for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement (UICA). In that role she supports fundraising and alumni engagement efforts for the university, including its CASE Gold winning Iowa Magazine, and serves UICA in a variety of strategic communication efforts.

Previously she was the director of strategic communication for the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, and the director of communication for the University of Kentucky College of Law. She is a Kentucky native and a proud alum of the University of Kentucky.

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