Ease your student supervision speed bumps.

The Students’ VP with Gourjoine M. Wade

Gourjoine M. Wade featured image podcast

“Dr. G” believes it is imperative campus leaders keep students in mind at all times. As he says, “that you aren’t just suited and booted – disconnected from students.” So this VP is advocating and centering students no matter where he is, physically or digitally. But as much as G is the Student’s VP, he is the Staff’s VP too, pushing how we recruit, retain and take care of all the humans in our care.

Gourjoine M. Wade is the Vice President of Student Affairs at Texas Lutheran University. A Louisiana native, Grambling State University and Walden University Alumnus, Dr. Wade is a high impact, outcomes-driven, social media connected student affairs thought leader, as well as a Funko Pop connoisseur.

A first-generation graduate, G has dedicated his 18-year professional career towards finding ways to expand higher education attainment for those who desire it. Dr. Wade continues to foster a sincere passion to serve students, especially first gen, HBCU, HSI, and students of color. 

In this episode, we chat authentic ways to connect with students and staff, why he is okay ruffling some feathers and causing good trouble in order to push higher ed beyond it’s “crawl” to change, how he’s recruiting staff differently in the face of hiring challenges, and all the tools in his self care toolkit. 

Josie and the Podcast is a production of Dr. Josie Ahlquist and is produced by University FM.

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Notes from this Episode:

More About Gourjoine M. Wade

Dr. Gourjoine M. Wade is the Vice President of Student Affairs at Texas Lutheran University. A Louisiana native, Grambling State University and Walden University Alumnus, Dr. Wade is a high impact, outcomes-driven, social media connected student affairs thought leader. 

A first generation graduate, Dr. Wade has dedicated his 18-year professional career towards finding ways to expand higher education attainment for those who desire it. Dr. Wade continues to foster a sincere passion to serve students, especially first gen, HBCU, HSI, and students of color. 

A husband and father, Dr. Wade practices self care by way of keeping up with technology trends, following politics, taking cruises, going to the movies and funko pop collecting.

Heads up our technology get’s a little squirly here and there, but I just had to get this out there cuz it’s got lots of goodness!

You can follow both of us on all the socials, found in the show notes. Find the pod account on Twitter @josieatpodcast, or I’m at @josieahlquist and Dr. Wade is at @DrGWadeSpeaks. Everything we talked about, from resources, people and posts is found on my website, josieahlquist.com/thepodcast.

Enjoy!

Connect with Gourjoine M. Wade

[00:00:00] Josie: Are you looking for a way to share authentic stories from your community? Thinking about podcasting but don’t know where to start? Or, you don’t have time to do it consistently? Check out our podcast sponsor, University FM. They are the only podcast agency dedicated to helping educational institutions make shows that are worthy of people’s attention. Alumni podcasts, research podcasts, podcasts with presidents, they do it all. And they keep the process simple. If you’re wondering about quality they produce, look to Josie and the Podcast.

University FM’s mission is to elevate the voices of your institution. So, go visit them at university.fm or message robert@university.fm to find a time to chat. Links are in the show notes.

Hello, and welcome to Josie and the Podcast. I’m Josie. What does it mean to lead in the digital space with heart and humanity? On my podcast, Josie and the Podcast, I spend time answering this question with heart, soul, and lots of substance. My goal is to share conversations that encourage you, empower you, and entertain you to rethink digital strategy for yourself and the organizations you support.

All right, let’s get to know today’s featured guest. Gourjoine M. Wade is the Vice President of Student Affairs at Texas Lutheran University. A Louisiana Native, Grambling State, and Walden University alumnus, Dr. Wade is a high-impact, outcomes-driven, and social media-connected student affairs thought leader. A first-gen graduate, Dr. Wade has dedicated his 18-year professional career toward finding ways to expand higher ed attainment for those who desire it. He continues to foster a sincere — and when I say, “sincere,” you’re going to hear it in this episode — passion to serve students, especially first-gen, HBCU, HSI, and students of color.

You can also find him, especially on social, showcasing his life behind the scenes as a husband and a father. And he is practicing all kinds of ways for self-care, whether if it’s keeping up with technology trends, politics, taking cruises, going to the movies, and Funko Pop collecting. You can follow us both on all the socials found in the show notes. Find the podcast, @JosieATPodcast on Twitter, or Instagram. And I’m @josieahlquist. G is @DrGWadeSpeaks. Everything we talk about, from resources, people, and post is found on my website, josieahlquist.com/podcast. Enjoy.

I’m so excited to be joined today by Gourjoine Wade, and we’ve got so much to talk about. I feel like this is almost, like, you know, like those YouTube reactors that just, like, react to videos and stuff. Like, I just want to react to all your content and, like, ask you all the things.

[00:03:38] Gourjoine: Oh, my goodness.

[00:03:40] Josie: Maybe that’s what this podcast is turning into.

[00:03:43] Gourjoine: I love it, either way. It’s great.

[00:03:45] Josie: Welcome, welcome.

[00:03:47] Gourjoine: Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate it.

[00:03:48] Josie: The first question I always ask guests is to react to their own bio. And I thought we’d start with Instagram, which is similar to some other ones you’ve got. Give us some insights on just a couple things, because you’ve got a lot. It says, “Vice President of Student Affairs at TLU, husband, girl dad, higher-ed pro, movie lover, Funko Pop collector, #GramFam, Louisiana boy.”

[00:04:18] Gourjoine: That’s me, that’s me.

[00:04:20] Josie: Give us some detail on a couple of those to get to know you more.

[00:04:23] Gourjoine: Let’s see. I’ll start with the Louisiana boy part, right? “Laissez les bons temps rouler.” Let the good times roll. You know, Louisiana is a part of who I am and always try to represent that. So, without a doubt, happy to be able to highlight that point.

Girl dad, I’ll talk about the girls, my 15-year-old is my theater kid. She just wrapped up a showcase last night, actually. And I always ask her if I can post some things, and she told me, “No, not yet.” My nine-year-old, on the other hand, the gymnast, you’ll probably see more content from her than my 15-year-old, because she’s, like, “Yeah, take a picture, let me pose.” And she’s always gained to be on social. So, girl dad, a fun-loving husband, love my wife, we’ve been together since we were an undergrad. She’s still around, so I guess, she’s going to stick with me for a little while. So, happy to have her in my life, she’s amazing.

And most importantly, you know, I think, outside of the family component, just being able to be present and accountable to my Funko Pop collectors, because that’s my health and well-being, as far as just trying to have something to disconnect away from work. So, I just gifted my campus pastor a phone call. He was trying to track down. So, he was very excited, just made his day. So, it’s all good. We’re having fun, doing lots of good things, and more importantly, happy to have a chit-chat today with my fave, Josie. So happy for the invitation to join you today.

[00:05:41] Josie: I didn’t bring this out. It’s always out on my desk. And so, this lady sits next to me, this is the one I have, I’m holding up Wonder Woman.

[00:05:53] Gourjoine: You got an OG Wonder Woman. Wow, look at that.

[00:05:58] Josie: Is it OG?

[00:05:59] Gourjoine: Yeah, that’s an OG.

[00:06:00] Josie: Yeah. I think I’ve got a Superman over there, too.

[00:06:04] Gourjoine: Yeah. You should keep that.

[00:06:05] Josie: Look at you. You really are like…

[00:06:08] Gourjoine: Absolutely. You can always tell by the design. You should keep the box. Make sure you got the box somewhere.

[00:06:13] Josie: Okay.

[00:06:14] Gourjoine: Oh, Josie, did you throw away the box?

[00:06:16] Josie: Is this like Beanie Babies?

[00:06:18] Gourjoine: Yeah, it is. Absolutely, you have got to keep the boxes.

[00:06:23] Josie: I don’t have the box.

[00:06:25] Gourjoine: You have got to keep the boxes, I tell people all the time because, you know, I’m a combination out-of-box, in-box collector. I never throw away boxes. I have a box filled with boxes for those who are… that I collect out of box. You have got to save the boxes.

[00:06:37] Josie: Okay, noted. Well, I see a super-size Superman one behind you. I didn’t even know they come in, like, even larger sizes.

[00:06:46] Gourjoine: Yeah. The biggest ones, they’ll come in 18 inches. Those are the largest ones.

[00:06:49] Josie: We’ll talk more about how you also use those to engage with students.

[00:06:55] Gourjoine: Yeah, absolutely.

[00:06:57] Josie: Thank you for that insight, girl dad, love for the wife. Hey, did you ever get a dog? I saw you post about it. Is a dog coming? Is there a change of plans?

[00:07:09] Gourjoine: So, we did not get a dog. This is the funny part. So, we went to the shelter. And the girls, they were looking, and they were playing with puppies. And then, the puppy did what puppies do. So, he had a little pee, a little-poo accident. And the girls were, like, “Nope, we don’t want a dog, we want a cat.” So, we left with a kitty, and his name is Lito. And he actually had a birthday a couple days ago. He is now six-months-old, so he has become a part of the Wade family. So Lito Papadopoulos Wade, that’s his name. He’s a great member of the family. We’re happy to have him.

[00:07:38] Josie: Oh, well, and we love a good-rescue story and, yeah, sometimes you don’t realize until you get there, what you’re in store for.

[00:07:46] Gourjoine: Yeah, I wasn’t surprised. My kids are great, but I knew they were going to want something that was low maintenance.

[00:07:50] Josie: Well, let’s talk about before the kids, before the wife, before Grambling or TLU, when you think about growing up, what was your earliest memories of technology, like, a tool?

[00:08:04] Gourjoine: Wow. I would probably have to say from a standpoint of… I can remember my mom bringing home a Sega Genesis. And before that, we played, you know, Nintendo. Neighbors had Nintendo and just regular old-school Sega. But she got me a Sega Genesis for Christmas, and I was just like, “Man, this is amazing. Look at the graphics,” like, “this is the future. This has nothing on the Jetsons.” like, “This is great.” I just remember how fascinated I was with just a Sega Genesis, right? And then, I keep one still to this day. I pull it out from time to time and play it with students, just because, I think, it’s another connecting opportunity to bridge the gap between having conversation and trying to find some commonalities with our students. But more importantly, it’s just nostalgic. So, I would say that Sega is probably the one thing that pops in my mind.

[00:08:56] Josie: Awesome. Well, you’re quite the collector, it sounds like, of some geeky culture.

[00:09:02] Gourjoine: I do, I like things. That’s probably why I got too… I’m like a tinkerer and a collector of things.

[00:09:08] Josie: So, you have described yourself as the students’ VP, which I really love, how does it show up in your digital strategy? And how do you try to show up as the students’ vice president?

[00:09:25] Gourjoine: I love that question. I get it very often. I think it’s important to always be mindful that, when I’m in spaces and places that students are not in — board meetings, cabinet meetings, meetings with donors, alums, business stakeholders — that I’m not forgetting why I’m in that space and why I’m in the room. And part of that is because I have an obligation, I believe, to be able to do what’s not just in the best interest of the institution and my president, but also what’s going to look and feel good for our students and making sure that they are not left out of the conversation.

I think, it’s very important at my level that they have an advocate there who can relate to the things that they are struggling with, who can be mindful of the difficulties that they have and the challenges that they are working to overcome, and how the institution plays a part in supporting that, and breaking down those barriers and those obstacles for their success.

And I think, it’s important that I be able to articulate that in those different spaces. And social media has allowed me to be able to hear directly from them in more ways than, one, than what I previously would’ve been able to do, I think before being actively engaged in social spaces.

[00:10:34] Josie: And logistically, so you asked a lot, like, “Okay, I see G being super active on LinkedIn and Twitter.” And how do you do it, though? Is it between meetings? Is it when you’re winding down, you’re getting up in the morning? Logistically, how are you making it happen?

[00:10:51] Gourjoine: Yeah, it’s all of the above, actually. You know, I can be sitting in a meeting, and I’ll have a thought, and I will type that thought out in a tweet, or a LinkedIn post. I use Hootsuite. I started doing that, it’s been a year now. So, when I have all these random thoughts, I can use Hootsuite to, kind of, set that up to come out later. And that way, it’s very well-timed. Also being mindful of, you know, reading the rooms, so knowing what’s going on and not scheduling or tweeting or posting things that are not appropriate for what’s happening. So, those are important as well.

It just depends, you know. I had a tweet or a post on Instagram just before we jumped on, because I was irritated at the fact that some places don’t give me sweet tea. And then, you offer me un-sweet tea with sugar. That’s just like a violation of the G code. So, don’t do that. So, it just depends. It’s mostly random, though. It’s literally just, like, my mind working in a million different ways, and like, “Oh, let’s talk about sweet tea today.” It’s just depends.

[00:11:51] Josie: I think that’s a great example, though, of like there are others that get just as riled up about sweet tea and are going to respond to that post, and they maybe wouldn’t do anything else. Or, you may not like LA because I don’t think there’s a lot of sweet tea options.

[00:12:08] Gourjoine: So, I’ve heard, all mercy, I’ve heard, that’s why I’m going to stay in the South.

[00:12:12] Josie: Preparing for this interview…. and all my guests, I go digging. I didn’t dig  too deep, don’t worry. We’re not, like, going to reveal something, you know, scandalous, but I’m always watching your stuff. And from LinkedIn to Twitter, you’re putting out something like really interesting thoughts, in addition to the sweet-tea content.

[00:12:34] Gourjoine: Yeah.

[00:12:34] Josie: But, whether if it is, you know, like, documenting something that your students and you were doing. But I also find, what I really appreciate, you’re doing the good work within digital leadership of, as an executive, you’re continuing to point to why this work is important. So, there was a tweet that you posted about you like to go under other institutions’ websites and social media feeds to get ideas, but also to realize some institutions got it, and some, as you noted, have a lot of work to do. But also, kind of, your final comment was, it does communicate how or if or not they’re being student-centered.

So, I’m just curious. My researcher brain is, like, “What have you found by popping?” Or, not to say we have to name any institutions, but by doing that research, yourself, how has that helped you in your own practices and even at Texas Lutheran in what you’re trying to do?

[00:13:38] Gourjoine: Yeah. That particular tweet got a lot of traction in my DMs, from some other colleagues who were like, “Hey, are you talking about us without talking about us?” And I get that a lot, honestly. I’m a little surprised at how often I’ll get those messages from colleagues and say, “Hey, you know, you shouldn’t say this.” or, “Who are you talking about?” And, you know, I feel like in our roles as senior leaders on campuses, we have an obligation to push the needle, right? To shake the table. And we don’t do that enough. And I think that conversations that we have in our digital spaces allows us to do that.

So, when I go out and I’m looking at other people’s socials and I’m like… and I’m super impressed on so many different campuses, especially some of our community colleges. So, that’s another conversation. But then, some institutions, they are just, like, social dark. But I wonder how, in 2023, that’s even a thing. Like, how are you not actively engaged in these spaces? Even if it’s just something as simple as saying, “Hey, good morning to the community. Have a great day.” But then, you have some websites that also are reflective of just that hard-to-navigate, can’t find information, don’t know who to contact, chatbox-not-on type of thing, where it’s like, why are we doing that? And wondering why we have disconnect with students. Why are we not making a very conscious effort to create this type of digital spaces where we’re really connecting and helping our students to be better on campus and off?

It’s complex. I mean, I just don’t understand it. So, I do that not to, kind of, call other colleagues or other campuses out. I do that to find out, what can we do better on my campus to be able to be forward-facing and supporting students? Because we’ve got some work to do as well, which is why I go back to cabinet, and I say, “Hey, why don’t we have bios and pictures of cabinet members on our website, so other people can see themselves in us? Potential employees, potential students, potential families and parents, why can’t they see what the institutional leadership look like?”

So, that’s something that we’re working on now very intentionally, because of my social media snooping and going out there and saying, “You know, we should be better about these things.” So, it’s not to call anybody out, at least not in full mode, it’s to try to find out how can we be better here at my institution in trying to support our students. And if other colleagues, kind of, take away from that, then that’s a good thing. But I think, we’ve got some work to do in our digital spaces, and I don’t know why we’re not doing better in those places.

[00:16:02] Josie: Yeah. It’s interesting how people can quickly go to the defensive.

[00:16:07] Gourjoine: Absolutely.

[00:16:08] Josie: But I also find it just so informative, because it is good to look outside of industry, but to also get some ideas and inspiration, to have some kind of benchmark can be nice, too, formally or informally.

So, you also have a significant focus and advocacy for first-gen. In your bio, it reads, “Dr. Wade is a student advocate who continues to foster a sincere passion to serve students, especially first-gen HBCU students, HSI students, and students of color.” And you see this in your content, too, whether if it’s some kind of advocacy. I think, you just about mentioned it, when we were talking about social and website, being able to advocate or see yourself in some of that content. But you also shared a video on LinkedIn. It was an event. And it was this ginormous pizza, which I can’t believe didn’t break the world record. You said it didn’t.

And it’s so cool that you’re doing video on even a platform like LinkedIn, but that you’re doing strategic events for first-gen. So, I just wanted to get a little insight about that and even, like, how in your day in, day out, you’re, like, capturing video and keeping in mind, your bio says, “You’re actually doing the work.” You’re advocating for first-gen, so you’re posting about them, too. I just wanted to make that connection.

[00:17:32] Gourjoine: Yeah, the pizza thing was fun. We did that for first-gen celebration. And it’s funny because we actually did it again a couple days ago for our… the Bulldog Bound event, which is sponsored to our admissions team. And it was really good the second time around, too. But I’ll beat this dead horse religiously. I think it’s very important for newer and young professionals in student affairs to see that it’s safe once you get to a certain level in our profession, that you don’t have to be suited and booted consistently in meetings and disconnected from students, that you have the flexibility and the opportunity to still be about around campus — you know, going to rest-hall events and hanging out with students in the ALC, which is our student center, just to connect with them and say, “Hey, what’s going on?” That you still have the ability to… when you have those type of marquee programs on campus to show up and be present.

Because I think students need to see us there. I think colleagues need to see us there. And I think parents and family members need to see us there, because they want to know, “Who are these people who have…” you know, “been entrusted with, you know my kid, right?” “So, who are the VP of Academics and the provost? Who’s the person over IT? Oh, look, they’re the VP for student affairs. He’s out there, too.” I think that’s important to show an authentic and genuine campus experience for our students and family members.

So, if that means I can just take a few minutes to snap a little video or record a little video, take a couple of pictures to show that I’m present and I’m in this space, I think that’s important to do, because I don’t ever want to be in a position where I can’t still be out, front, engaged with the campus community and never forget, why I do work in the first place? So, I think that’s important.

[00:19:09] Josie: Well, then going back to first-gen, knowing that you did that event again, if a student was, like, “What was that all about,” they actually could see it. And then, they, kind of, know what to expect to going in, “I don’t eat pizza, but that looked pretty cool.”

[00:19:21] Gourjoine: Yeah. It was, kind of, cool. And, you know, and just, kind of, talking to the guy who was making the pizza and hearing his story, you know, he was, like, “I do five or six piece a week.” And, you know, how he started a small business. He’s a veteran. Him and his wife, they do this work, and they go all around Texas and wherever else they can get to, to make these tremendously large pizzas for people. They can put your face on it. They can make the pepperonis into any design that you want. It’s amazing. And that’s the other thing, is how do we work with small businesses to also get them the opportunities to support our students as well. So, it’s really fun to be able to do those things.

[00:19:55] Josie: Well, as we, kind of, wrap up talking about you as the VP, the students’ VP, and you already brought it up with Funkos, which I know I need to hold onto those boxes, you do Funko Fridays, you give one away on Instagram. Recently, you gave away a LeBron James. So, is this, like, built into your budget? What’s, like, a story of giving these away? Like, does every student have one now? How does it go?

[00:20:22] Gourjoine: So, that’s a very funny question that I get very often, “Where are you getting these? Do you have, like, some type of secret stash of extra Funkos?” which I do. And it’s funny. During the peak of COVID, I was spending time looking at stuff and it’s, like, maybe I’m going to expand my collection, and I’ll try this, and maybe I’ll try that.

So, I start buying a lot of extra Funko Pops that I didn’t get rid of, so I just, kind of, kept them, right? So, it’s like, “What can I do with these?” It’s a lot to try to sell them, so I could just give them to students. And then, it came to a point where it was like, “Oh, this is, kind of, fun. Maybe I should start trying to do some themes.” So, Black History Month, we do some black Funko Pops and Hispanic heritage, you know.

So, it’s became a thing, another way to connect with students in the community, another way to, kind of, meet students in the community. And I enjoy it. You know, students look forward to it. They stop me and they say, “Dr. Wade, what’s the Funko for this Friday?” And I was like, “Oh, you have got to wait and see. I’m not going to tell you.” I get faculty and staff and former students are like, “You know, we want to participate, too.” So, it’s another way to, kind of, share my passion with folks and find collectors in the process and find new collectors in the process. So, now, I’ve got students who start their own little collections, like, “We started with your first Funko Pop on Friday.” So, it’s like, “Okay, great.” I just enjoyed rhythm, like, it’s just fun.

[00:21:33] Josie: That’s awesome. And as we define or deconstruct the word, “authenticity,” I think you hit it right on the head. It’s like it connects to your passion just so naturally, that you can see… like, if someone else did that, another vice president at another institution, who, like, really didn’t collect that, like, it just wouldn’t connect, right? And so, there could be something else that person could do. Maybe, they like take walks all the time or hiking and they form a walking group or something, like, not to say you don’t walk, but…

[00:22:07] Gourjoine: Yeah, I do, but not like I should. But, I think, you’re right on the money, though. It’s like find your passion, your authentic best self, and share that, so you humanize the role, which I think this is what it comes back to — how do I show people that I’m just a normal person with kids and a wife who likes to go to the movies and likes to connect Funko Pops, and that it’s okay to come in here and we connect and talk about your issues, and I find way to help you?

And we also found out that we’re also from Louisiana. You find those connections with Funko Pops are just a key. I listened to a podcast other day and some of them talking about they connected with students over Diet Coke or they connected with students over hunting or fishing or sports.

So, I think it’s all about bringing your best authentic self to the table. And students can read through that. If you are legit or if you’re not, they’re going to tell you. And that’ll spread, and other students will stay away from you really quick. So, it’s important to, kind of, show up and be yourself.

And I think, the more we do that, the easier our work can be. Because we have broken down some barriers to where students feel comfortable to come and, kind of, engage with us, which I think is very important.

[00:23:18] Josie: Josie and the Podcast is sponsored by Campus Sonar, who partners with higher ed campuses and associations that value marketing and communications as a strategic ally. Together, they empower leaders with insights from online conversation and social listening data to develop and align their strategies with the goals of the institutions they serve.

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I’d like to transition from student advocacy to being also staff-centered, too. I definitely see you as your staff’s VP and not just who’s writing the checks.

[00:24:18] Gourjoine: Yeah, I love my team.

[00:24:20] Josie: I see posts, whether it’s industry-wide or celebrating your staff that, I think, people are so hungry for. So, this is where again, like, people just need to follow you on LinkedIn because this is such a good content. So, this is like the YouTube reaction portion of this.

You wrote student-centered means improving everything that impacts our students. This includes taking care of faculty and staff who support and pour into our students.

So, what does this look like for you as a daily practice, but also, as you… we are trying to move that needle industry-wide that we need to care for our people, too, who are on the org chart?

[00:25:04] Gourjoine: Yeah, that’s a new tweet. You’re pretty good. That’s pretty good. So, I often think that the only way higher ed is truly going to change is if the right leaders talk about the change and talk about the issues. And, you know, we are a very traditional group of folk, student affairs higher-ed people, you know. We’re living in how things have been. There’s very little movement of change, you know. We talk a lot about it, but it’s a crawl. There’s not a lot of systematic movement towards changing processes, people, practices. It just doesn’t happen.

So, I’ve gotten to a space and a place where I feel like if I can talk about some of these things a little bit more frequently, and use the platform to raise these thoughts and ideas in people’s minds, then they go back and they say, “Well, maybe we should see and do something that I saw and heard on LinkedIn or Twitter.” And if that gets the thing moving just a little, then I think that’s a common good. I’m happy to continue to try to push that needle.

Now, I will be honest, it makes a lot of people mad. I’m a little surprised, but I guess, I shouldn’t be, that people are, like, “You’re calling us out.” But I think that everything I’m saying, I think I’m living in it. I think they live it, too. It’s just that people don’t want to talk about it. And that’s the problem is that we know that we are struggling to hire and retain talent. So, why are we not trying to collaboratively talk about that and figure out a way to fix it?

I don’t get that. It’s not calling anybody out. It’s like it’s an SOS red flag, you all. We have got to fix this. Why are we not fixing it? And I’m hopeful that, incrementally, little tweets and DMs and messages here and there will start to get people to really think about change doesn’t have to start with a bunch of us, it just takes a few of us. And if that happens, then we can really solve some of our issues that are impacting student success.

If I have to go much without hiring a counselor and people are in their feelings because I’m talking about that in a way that they don’t like on social media, then that’s a problem. And that’s not helping students graduate. And we’ve got to really let that go. We have got to let that stigma go. And the more we can do that, the better we are in serving students.

That’s what we do the work for, if I’m not mistaken. So, I don’t understand why people are in a hissy fit about what we’re saying on social media. Why don’t we just come together and try to figure out how to fix it? If we do that, everything will be fine. So, if I can continue to ruffle some feathers and raise conversation around some of these issues and it helps, then I’m okay with that.

Now, I will say that, you know, I have had a couple of people that will reach out and say, “You’ll never be a college president if you don’t stop talking like this on social media,” or, “You’ll be stuck here in Texas,” or something like that. And this stuff happens often, believe it or not. And I’m, kind of, at peace with that.

I told my wife that, you know, I’ve never been afraid of doing hard work. So, if it means that one day I’ll be working at IHOP, it’s cool. I’ll still be tweeting about it. So, it’s okay. But we have got to do stuff that moves the needle to help our students and to move our campuses forward. And that’s not going to happen by doing what we’ve been doing for the past six or 70 years. It’s just not going to happen. We have too many tools at our disposal to just be stay.

[00:28:21] Josie: I appreciate you talking so openly. And what I see is maybe causing some good trouble or ruffling feathers or…

[00:28:29] Gourjoine: Good trouble, there it is.

[00:28:30] Josie: Yeah. And also, though, like, a little fire in me of, like, some don’t want things to change.

[00:28:37] Gourjoine: No, they don’t.

[00:28:38] Josie: They’re trying to keep us in our places that, “No, that’s not what this role that I signed up to be, out of fear, out of what not…” And just kudos to you for, basically, saying, “Bless your heart. Thanks. No, thanks. Moving forward, I’m going to keep doing this thing.”

[00:28:59] Gourjoine: Yeah, pretty much. Yeah. Thanks. No, thanks. We’re good. Yeah.

[00:29:02] Josie: Yeah. I do get campus leaders nervous to speak out, whether if it’s advocacy or more social justice inequity issues, because they’re fearful of the conflict, whether if it’s going to be in the feed or in their DMs. And that’s the reality of leadership, too. But it’s aligned back to your values and your truth.

[00:29:27] Gourjoine: I agree. And it is difficult, and I’m not trying to be some type of higher-ed mortar or anything of that nature, as far as what we’re doing and what we’re saying. But I think it needs to be said. And again, if we are in the business of supporting students, right? If we’re in the business of graduating students, then we should be okay having conversations about what impacts students. And that transcends a large gamut of an institution’s operation.

[00:29:56] Josie: Related back to staff and hiring, you mentioned that it’s hard hiring. You’ve put out a few posts about this. But I even thought you had a creative measure and strategy. You did a video job announcement on LinkedIn where it’s just you facing the camera, your… I think, it’s inaugural director of first-year experience.

So, what did you learn in… Obviously, you’ve got the official HR posts and, like, all the stuff we normally do. But what have you learned in recruiting? Are you going to continue to use these videos, as you think about trying to find good people?

[00:30:37] Gourjoine: That’s a great question, Josie. See, this is why you’re so amazing, because you asked us great questions. So, the video was an opportunity to be very open and honest with potential candidates about what we were looking for, what we can do as far as compensation and benefits, and to create some genuineness about our process.

I thought that was important because I hear and see a lot on social and just talking to people about, you know, people go through these long, drawn-out, multi-day visits. And they get to the end, and the salary is XYZ dollars, and they’ve wasted time, effort. And it’s not a good fit.

I didn’t want to put my team through that. I didn’t want to put myself through that. I didn’t want to put potential candidates and colleagues through that. Because I believed in not burning bridges, right? So, I didn’t want to take anybody through a process and get to the end and they’re like, “G is trying to pay me $35,000. Why do he do that?”

Now, it’s not the institution’s practice. So, I did kind of give my cabinet colleagues and the president of a heads-up that this is what I wanted to do. Because salary, of course, is a very sensitive topic. And I also needed to have a conversation with my existing team, so they would also know and see that, “Well, this is the salary for this job. This may or may not be what I’m making.” So, there was some conversation behind that before we went forward facing with it. But I felt it’s important to start a good relationship with potential candidates before they get here.

And I got, I was a little surprised, actually, a lot of feedback from colleagues across the spectrum saying, “Hey, we appreciate that type of authenticity. It helped me to know what I’m looking for in my search, or it helped me to have a conversation with my president, or it helped me to really consider how we’re going to move forward and do some things on my campus.” So, I think that was a good conversation-starter. And I did that with little to no effort as far as, you know, just recording video and trying to be my best genuine self, for potential candidates, which I think is important.

But it does raise a lot of questions about salary equity on campuses, which is why a lot of places don’t talk about salary. They don’t want you to know what they pay, or they’re concerned about what existing employees will think. So, it’s a very delicate subject, very unique balancing act, so to speak. But it did help us to get a very robust pool for that particular position. And, you know, that particular candidate that we hired, he’ll be here in a couple weeks. So, it did do what we intended for it to do. So, I’m excited about that.

[00:32:58] Josie: Well, congratulations. That’s fantastic. And good to know, too, the lead up, that it wasn’t just like, “Oh, I have this idea, I’m going to talk about this position.” The cabinet was involved. The president was involved.

[00:33:12] Gourjoine: Yeah, it’s important because, you know, I know my colleagues, that the cabinet are not necessarily in the social media spaces, advertising about positions they’re trying to hire for. What I do can impact them, and what they may feel pressured to do or like thereof. So, I try to be mindful of that, whenever I’m posting things on social, they’re not on social like that. But my action can have impact on them. You know, I’ve got board members that will send me DMs and say, “Oh, hey, Dr. Wayne saw that tweet, or saw that message.” And, you know, that happened just at our board meeting last week. I had a couple of regents that say, “Oh, I like your content on LinkedIn.” I’m like, “Oh, snap. I’m about to get fired.” But they were cool.

And I think it’s important to be able to, you know, they see that I’m just being authentic. I’m genuine. I very rarely talk about my specific institution. And if I do, I’m going to be very honest about what I say. I just think that’s important.

[00:34:03] Josie: Well, to shift gears again, a throughline of this season of Josie and the Podcast is about wellness and mental health. And, again, your bio already, like, answers the question for me. Because, I’m asking my guests, like how are you doing right now? What does it look like to take care of yourselves, as well as your teams? And you, in your bio, it says, Dr. Wade practices self-care by way of keeping up with technology trends, following politics, taking cruises, going to the movies, Funko Pop collecting. And he’s a fan of Game of Thrones. So, is that really the ticket? Is there anything else that you do for your self-care?

[00:34:44] Gourjoine: That is exactly the ticket. Probably, what I didn’t add was trying out new spots for breakfast tacos, which is another pastime that I probably shouldn’t have, but it’s fun. But I’m just trying to be very intentional. I had an epiphany, I guess, so to speak, when Christmas break, this past Christmas break, that my kids are getting older. And it was, kind of, scary, because, you know, it’s like one day, they’re bouncing around on your knee and on your shoulder, and the next thing they’re going to prom. And it was very important for me to start to reflect on what I needed to do as a father, to spend more intimate time with them. So, you know, we’re doing date nights, and we’re just kind of hanging out. And I enjoy dropping them off at school and being able to pick them up on most days. And just trying to enjoy those little things.

So, when I think about self-care and health and wellness, it’s a reflection of making sure that I am in a good space, mentally, physically, emotionally, to be able to support them and to watch them grow and to watch them mature and to beautiful young women. And that’s important motivation for me to be better for myself.

And I think that’s important motivation to be better at work. So, I know we talk about work-life balance, but at the core of why we’re working is to support our families. You know, that’s what we’re doing. And that means doing the work that we do and doing it well. And I try to always keep that in the forefront of my mind.

[00:36:08] Josie: I think I caught one of your posts. One of your daughters got a dress for a dance, and that was maybe a difficult moment for dad.

[00:36:19] Gourjoine: Yeah, it was very difficult. Yeah, it was very difficult. Dad was not well. I was not well. I am a cancer by nature. So, you know, cancers were very emotional. I will cry in a heartbeat. And the kids, they’re just these sweet girls. I really am lucky, I hear people tell horror stories about their kids, and I just can’t relate. I got really good kids. They are, “Yes, sir. No, sir. Yes, ma’am. No, ma’am. I cleaned my room. I did my homework unprompted.” So, we really got some good kids. So, that really adds a level of no extra stress in my life. So, I appreciate that quite a bit.

[00:36:56] Josie: Well, they’ve got a pretty good dad, too, that help them a lot.

[00:37:02] Gourjoine: Oh, shucks, Josie, thanks so much. They got a pretty amazing podcast auntie, too. So, you’re great,too.

[00:37:08] Josie: Ah, um, going to meet them sometime. So, as we start to wrap up, I’ve got a few questions I always ask guests. And, of course, we’ve talked a lot about LinkedIn and Twitter, but where else on the interwebs can people find you to connect, other than your home address?

[00:37:25] Gourjoine: I try to stay simple. So, I try to stay in the Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn worlds. I almost downloaded TikTok, but I just, I’m trying to be very strategic, and I’m just not ready to add that one yet and do it intentionally like it needs to be done. Because it’s a lot that’s involved with TikTok. And if I’m going to do it, I want to do it right. So, I’m not there yet. Maybe one day, but not yet. But yeah, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, you could find me, @DrGWadeSpeaks. I’m there saying something that’s making somebody mad. So, come along for the ride.

[00:37:55] Josie: It’s good trouble. That’s why you’re here,

[00:37:58] Gourjoine: Good trouble. That’s it.

[00:37:59] Josie: So, if you knew your last LinkedIn post or tweet was going to be the last one on the platform, what would you want it to be about?

[00:38:09] Gourjoine: I would want it to be about, take care of yourself no matter what. I know that’s kind of simple, nothing prophetic or grand, but it’s just, you know, take care of yourself. That has a lot of different meanings. And I think if we were better to ourselves, we’ll be in better situations, whether it be from love or work or just life experiences. So, taking care and being better for ourselves, I think, is very, very important. So, that’s what I would go with.

[00:38:37] Josie: Got to prioritize it. Appreciate that. Well, right now, you are giving away Funko Pops and being girl dad, and doing all the things. How do you hope, based on what you’re putting out there, that your digital presence is impacting the world? So, basically like what’s your why for why you lead online?

[00:39:00] Gourjoine: That’s a fun question, and I have a very simple answer. My why is trying to meet students where they are, so we can get them where they need to be. And that means that all of my content, all the things that I share, kind of, ties back into that premise, whether that be fellow VP picks up on something and they take it back and they institute something new on their campus, or it’s a colleague who takes something away and they find a new opportunity that has changed their lives, and now they can pull back into their students.

I’m really just focused on students. And that’s really just a simple answer. I think if we all go into this doing that, it supports us personally, it supports us professionally, and it keeps us centered on why we do the work. I’m not leaving higher ed. I know we have a lot of colleagues who are left. I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying right here, because I feel like this is where my ministry is. This is where I can do my best work and be my best self doing it. And I’m trying to help the G Wade from 25 years ago. So, if I can continue to do that, then I feel like I’m making a difference. And I’m getting students across the stage, whether it be on my campus or somebody else’s campus.

[00:40:09] Josie: I feel so thankful and lucky to have you in my digital and physical world. I get to showcase you all the time, whether you know it or not.

[00:40:18] Gourjoine: Oh, likewise. You’re amazing. you’re the digital godmother, and you’re doing such great work. And I’m always just enamored by everything that you do.

[00:40:27] Josie: Oh, wow. Like, an auntie godmother, I’ll take it.

[00:40:31] Gourjoine: Yeah, I appreciate it very much. And love to kick off to the season this year. That was so appropriate. So, I appreciate everything that you do in our spaces.

[00:40:39] Josie: Yeah. You and I shared space in a gathering with our colleague, Adam. So, that was a tough one. And I mean, we get so close with our colleagues, too, on our campuses and globally. So, it’s real.

[00:40:55] Gourjoine: Absolutely.

[00:40:56] Josie: Well, I’m here for President Gourjoine Wade. When that happens, I will be waiting for my invitation to your inauguration. Hater’s going to hate.

[00:41:10] Gourjoine: I don’t know. It may be, IHOP before the presidency. So, stay soon.

[00:41:14] Josie: No, you’ll be at IHOP. Just enjoy the pancakes. Unless, you know, maybe that’s in your heart what you really want to do. My brother, when he retires, he wants to just mow lawns. That’s his love language.

[00:41:29] Gourjoine: That’s very soothing. I would probably be a traveling pit master. So, you would see me in your nick of the woods. Probably not with RV, but I would be traveling smoking barbecued meats for homeless vets. That’s what I’d be doing.

[00:41:40] Josie: Aw, I love that. Well, thank you so much for your time. It’s so great to connect and chat. And I can’t wait to get this one out to get some inspiration and some fires burning. Hopefully, it’ll be good DMs rolling into your feed.

[00:41:55] Gourjoine: Absolutely, we’ll see. It might be a combination of all the above, but it’s going to be fun, no matter what.

[00:42:06] Josie: It is certain that G is an advocate for students, being the students’ VP. But I could not help but highlight how much he is advocating for staff, as the staff’s VP, too. So, many times we can find leaders doing the good work, getting out there for students, but maybe not even giving some basic human care connections with the humans behind our institutions from staff and faculty.

And so, I had to bring out this quote, this post he put out on LinkedIn, where he says, “Student-centered means improving everything that impacts our students. This includes taking care of the faculty and staff who support and pour into our students.” And you’ll find posts like this all over the place. And again, we talk about it in the episode.

There was one post we didn’t get to talk about, where we talk about what’s professional or professionalism. And it was very timely and telling. He says, “Friends, this is a reminder, that braids are professional and appropriate in the workplace. Put that energy towards something that matters.” Mic drop.

And it matters for a VP to be posting things like this. But I also wanted to acknowledge how G also shared with us that he gets a lot of private messages, from those maybe in his same level or above, kind of, pushing back, asking him why he does stuff like that. He is maybe pushing too many of the boxes.

[00:43:53] So, talking about boxes, I was also reminded by him, my Wonder Woman Funko Pop over here, I don’t have the box. I actually did look around for it. But if you’re listening, make sure to keep those boxes. And this was also just another cool example of how Dr. G as being a students’ VP, getting to connect with them through his own personality, his hobbies, in a really authentic way. He really is a geek about and loves those collectibles. And it definitely connects with his students.

So, all things are on the table. I’ve heard of presidents, vice presidents, or I think there was also this like VP of HR that like, were much more like active and out there. And so, they would tell the community, “Hey, I’m going to be going for a walk at lunch. Meet me at the flagpole for whoever it would want to like take a walk with me.” There was another president in Utah, and she like ran with students in a 5K, and she’s like an avid runner. And so, of course, not all community members can do physical things. But that, again, was really authentic to who they are and things that they would just be doing in their free time.

That also relates to getting to what we talked about with wellness and self-care for leaders, and also knowing, that all things are on the table, to not discount it. So, as he said, like, “I take cruises. I collect Funko Pop. I’m a fan of Game of Thrones.” There’s some things you might think, “Well, just because I love Ted Lasso, is that wellness or self-care?”

And I guess one would say there’s a continuum, right? If that’s your only tool or if TV is the only source for your care. So, you can, even in his bio, he lists out all these different things. And I found in my research, specifically related to social media and students, they were so curious of what “adults” or “campus administrators” were doing to navigate their own social media choices. And I think us, in the ways that we can, share how we are taking care of ourselves and how we define wellness. Because a lot of stuff from the outside, whether it be on Instagram or the news, we think that wellness and self-care is only in these specific boxes. But it can really look different from a whole lot of different people.

[00:46:28] Bringing it back to the start of my conversation, where I pulled out a post from him about how, almost like a hobby, he looks at campus websites and social, to see if it’s student-centered. Because his perspective, whether he’s in the space that students are in or not, that he is here to represent students, that he is an advocate.

Having that perspective, I think that could be such a great exercise for you who are listening that might be in a campus leadership role, and/or if you are leading and managing on the marketing and web development side. When you go, like, take down your walls of your title, your experience. Go in there with a fresh perspective.

If you were an incoming student, if you were a parent who never went to college, who is looking into this campus or this student program for your student, what would that experience look like? And I would not be surprised, like his post said, that there’s going to be a lot of work to do, that the way that we communicate so much in higher ed, in digital spaces, we use our own language, that even people inside organizations don’t know what it means.

And there’s a time and place for it. I saw some thread the other day about talking about bursars, and like, why are we still using this word, or like a provost? What the heck is that? What’s the difference between a president and a chancellor?

And it’s all this hierarchy stuff. Is that actually making your campus, not only student-centered, but you’re actually attracting students to say, “Yes, this is a place where I feel seen?” Because sometimes that digital footprint of the institution can speak more loudly than you may realize.

And again, even in this post, G said that he got a lot of pushback that people were asking, “Hey, is that me? Is that my campus you’re talking about?” But he says, stay firm. “Push the needle, shake the table, convos like this need to happen, whether it’s your own exploration and pushing the conversation or your own presence online.”

[00:48:47] Finally, his statement about his why is to meet students where they are to get them where they need to be. And gosh, I know I can be a mouthful of words sometimes, but drilling it down to that, that’s really it. No matter what pocket of campus you’re coming from, listening from program, services, deliverables, we need to get our students where they need to be, whether if that is into a residence hall, into a program, into a class. Literally to get them to the right parking lot, to get them across graduation, we all are part of the different pieces of the journey. And to look at the way we use social and web and digital communications is valid.

So, go out. Do some of your own exploring. Have that outside perspective. Put on your Dr. Wade cap of being a students’ VP, and go see what you find.

Thank you again for joining me, G. You rock. Whether you are a VP until retirement or you’re on the presidential path, I am such a fan.

Yeah, I want to know, did you dig this episode? Give me a little heads-up, maybe a review on iTunes. Don’t forget, you gotta subscribe. That’s the easiest way to know when a future episode is released. And, of course, let your colleagues, friends, your followers know. I would so much appreciate it.

You can, of course, find me online, @josieahlquist. And the podcast is on Twitter and Instagram. Remember, the show notes and all kinds of resources can be found at josieahlquist.com/podcast.

If you’re interested in learning more about my speaking and consulting work on digital engagement, or my book, Digital Leadership in Higher Ed, check me out at josieahlquist.com.

Thank you again to my podcast sponsor, Campus Sonar. Learn more about them at campussonar.com. And to University FM, who produces this show and is also a sponsor. I’m sending digital hugs, loves, and waves to whatever corner of the world you’re listening in from. This has been Josie and the Podcast.

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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