Josie: What’s up? Josie and The Podcast listeners and welcome. If this is your first time checking out the show, a big old warm welcome to you especially. My name is Dr. Jose Ahlquist, and I’m your host each and every episode. Our show features leaders who share everything from their latest tweets to their leadership philosophy. My goal is to connect tech and leadership with heart, soul, and lots of substance.
This podcast though would not be possible without a sponsor, and that sponsor is Campus Sonar. I am such a huge fan of their work that they do for higher ed and social listening, and I’m super excited to share a project that we are working on together. You see, the digital presence of campus executives like the guest I have on today says a lot about a university.
The more socially engaged campus leaders are, the more emotional connections and relationships your campus will build with your community. So I partnered with Campus Sonar to determine how good leadership impacts your institution. Campus Sonar analyzed research, listen to the digital presence of 194 higher ed presidents and vice presidents over six months with the goal of improving higher ed’s understanding of digital leadership trends and providing recommendations of effective executive digital presence. This stuff, y’all, is so exciting.
You can request a copy of this study tuning in higher ed executives online at info.campussonar.com/higheredexecs.
Josie and The Podcast is also part of a pretty cool higher ed podcasting network called Connect EDU. Learn more about us and our shows at connectedu.network.
All right, let’s dig into our amazing featured guest for today.
Jennielle Strother is currently the Associate Vice President of enrollment services at Concordia University Texas located in Austin. A natural born connector. Jennielle founded two organizations, Emchat and TXwHEART, as a way to help connect higher ed professionals with others who have common interests, strengths, and goals. Jennielle is a first generation college student, former college athlete, recovering coach, and full-time higher education change agent, aka enrollment manager. Jennielle holds a bachelors in education, a master’s in enrollment management, and is earning her doctorate in organizational leadership from Northeastern University in Boston. Jennielle role models include her fearless husband, her caring daughter, and her hilarious son.
Now, as you’ll hear in the episode, she really has this natural connector born into her, and so when she has pulled in social media into the integration of all of her identities, the industry has felt it. She really is also driven by a particular leadership theory and framework and philosophy, which comes up at the end of the episode, which I love, to be able to connect and wrap around. And you’ll find, even with the show title, that’s about show authentic leadership as a way of being, and you’ll see why we titled the episode Authenticity is Your Superpower.
Things also get personal as Jennielle will share her story as a first generation student, emerging scholar, Latina, professor, and doc candidate. You’ll hear me state it a couple times I declare that I get goosebumps.
So, let Jennielle and I know that you are joining us today. Find the podcast on Twitter @JosieATpodcast. I’m @JosieAhlquist and Jennielle is @emjennielle. Everything we talk about from the resources people and post are all found on these show notes on my website JosieAhlquist.com/podcast.
Josie: Okay, Jennielle, we did it. We are recording. We got this scheduled. I was committed to getting on this podcast. There’s lots of cool things happening with you and the way you use social and the way you show up on campus and in life. So this is going to be a super fun convo.
Jennielle: Well, thanks for hanging tough with me.
Josie: I love it. Well, I love to do introductions a little bit differently using what you include on one of your social media bios, and you’ve got a lot of goodies in your Twitter bio.
Jennielle: Oh, great.
Josie: So I’m going to read it and then you just give us any additional like insights, explanations, stories that you would like from it.
Josie: So your Twitter bio is AVP Enrollment at Concordia, Texas. So it’s @concordiaTX #FirstGen #ProudLatina Org Leadership Prof Scholar #HigherEd #HSIs. I know, it’s weird to read out loud, right? Founder #EMchat, and then an organization that we’re going to talk about I’m sure later about this Texas Heart, TXwHeart, and then doc candidate at Northeastern. Whoa.
Jennielle: It’s a lot, right?
Josie: Tell us all the things.
Jennielle: Twitter’s probably my fav of all the social medias, and when I fill out my profile pic, I’m like, “Okay, I want to make sure everybody knows all the things I’m super passionate about and what they can expect to see in my feed.” And so I’m what they call, they have a term here at Concordia called the retread. I was here 10 years ago, and I just recently came back about two. And so that’s special to me and it’s a great job and love working here. Christian. Proud Latina is who I am deep down and how I approach my work every day. So that’s kind of the story behind those two hashtags. And then the HSI hashtag is really my passion and my research that I’m doing with my dissertation. So I followed that feed a ton. So that’s why you find that in my profile.
Josie: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, there’s just so many resources just built right in there. It’s almost like a roadmap to explore different Twitter tools and things about you and it’s a super fun bio.
Jennielle: Yeah, thank you.
Josie: Where are you in your dissertation process?
Jennielle: What they tell you, what Northeastern people say all the time is no matter what I’m doing, I should be writing. That’s how I feel constantly. I’m ABD and I’m still in the chapters one through three process. I did everything my faculty told me not to do, which was get a new job right when you become ABD. But I’m back on track. I have the best advisor in the world, and I’m hoping to get completed in the next year.
Josie: Well, we are cheering for you. I totally have empathy going through that doctoral process but also just like with my book process the last couple years, that weight that you feel, just the concert of mind, “Yeah, I should be writing and then editing.”
Josie: Well, let’s shake off that dissertation heaviness.
Jennielle: Right. I’m happy to.
Josie: Yeah, get into some social fun. So you use all the platforms and a little bit differently on each, which I love, which we can talk about. But I want to hear do you have a platform you pick? What was you most recent post, and if you could maybe just describe it, why you posted it, anything behind it?
Jennielle: Absolutely. So one of the hashtags in my profile is #EMchat. EM stands for enrollment management, the work I’ve been doing for the last 20 years in higher ed, and about eight years ago, we came together and we have a weekly chat on Thursday nights, which chats and discuss all things enrollment management. Last night was just kind of an off the cuff chat. I had a conversation here on campus about the good old days of admissions, back 20 years ago. So I thought it would be fun to host a kind of a more social oriented EMchat, and we did that last night where we brought veterans to the table and some newbies, and what I did, I thought it would be fun is to compare the first year we all started in admissions and then compare it to kind of the current state of affairs in admissions. And we had people from all over the map of representation.
I started in the ’90s, and I kind of represented that decade. And then one of my staff people were a part of the conversation and he just started eight months ago. And just hearing the comparison of how things were back then and how there are a lot of things that are still the same. It kind of broke down the barrier between what you would consider a VP or executive level in this profession to folks who’ve been in it just about eight months or less, and to see that we have a lot more in common, it was fun. It was fun to hear the old, cool stories.
Josie: That’s great. I think breaking down those barriers and all on Twitter. How fantastic, right?
Josie: So you are one of the original creators of that hashtag and Twitter chat EMchat.
Josie: Can you give us just a little quick back story?
Jennielle: Sure. I was scrolling through Twitter and saw that student affairs had their own feed and financial aid had their own feed, but I was really looking for something that was super specific to enrollment management. I had met someone else on Twitter. He was looking for something similar. So I reached out to him. I said why don’t we start something, and three days later, we said okay, let’s do it on Thursday night, which is tomorrow night. And we did it. And since then, we have posted over, we lost count, but we were at 150, 175 chats.
Jennielle: Ranging in topics from, “Yeah, just first gen. Balancing travel,” to like last night just this social type of networking chat. I’ve really built a lot of friendship and mentorship through that experience, but then I hope that it provides other people with that same level of service. It gets lonely out there working in our position, and so I have lifelong friends from that experience now.
Josie: And when does that chat happen weekly?
Jennielle: Yeah. So you can find us in the feed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But the organized chat happens Thursday nights at eight central.
Josie: and there was also an external website as well that’s starting to be built out with resources and archives.
Jennielle: Yes. That’s www.Emchat.uf.
Josie: Perfect. I’ll include that in the notes to the show so people can quickly find it.
Jennielle: Okay. Thanks.
Josie: And that is interesting. Like you mentioned eight years ago student affairs had one, and that’s honestly where I really discovered Twitter was jumping on the SA Chat hashtag, which those chats have really kind of slowed I find. So it’s interesting Emchat I feel like, if anything, it’s grown and stayed consistent in quality. So kudos for that leadership because it also seems, not to compare divisions, but y’all do, you had mentioned it could be lonely. Like you’ve got counselors on the road. Maybe, I don’t know if you’d say it’s a higher turnover but maybe certain positions you tend to always need to be bringing on and orientating.
Jennielle: Yeah, absolutely. We always talk about how, especially for those of us veterans of EMchat and enrollment management, we talk about the importance of raising up the next generation because there is such a high turnover, and if we can be some sort of light at the end of the tunnel for some of the newbies because it is a grind. You have to really find the good in what we do because it’s stressful but it’s also a position that you have a lot of latitude to be creative, to really serve students at the beginning of their journey into higher ed. There’s all kinds of avenues, data oriented or people oriented. It’s kind of my thing that I tell people all the time. I’m like, “If you get into a conversation with me about enrollment management, I will have you completely convinced this is the best job in the world because I truly believe it,” and I feel like if you go to that feed, you’ll see that as well.
Josie: That’s so great to hear. I mean refreshing on this cold February day. I mean, I know you’re in Texas.
Josie: Because this work can, like you say, get hard and my campus experience was in student affairs, and now being more a macro level speaker/consultant, just realizing this whole beautiful role of enrollment that I feel like I was kept from.
Josie: Because we all got to do our own jobs, right? But I think having a bigger understanding of where my colleagues in enrollment are going through, what they bring to the table or vice versa. So having this podcast, being able to hear those types of stories, I think is really cool.
Josie: What is it that you love about your work in enrollment and admission? What brings you back to it year after year?
Jennielle: Well, there are days when I ask myself that question, and then there’s other days when I’m like-
Josie: What am I doing?
Jennielle: Yeah. But most of the time, so I came up through coaching. I was the collegiate volleyball coach for a decade or so before I moved into admissions and enrollment management work. And the thing that I think motivates me and the thing that I’m just wired for is the competitive numbers/benchmarking aspect, statistics. Kind of like in coaching, I was always looking at those sorts of things. And the other piece that I love about it is that it’s the hardest piece for young pros. I know when I was a young pro, it was hardest for me to reconcile is that you work hard all term or all year, and then September 1, we’re back at zero.
Josie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jennielle: And you have to do the whole grind all over again, but I will tell you that that’s the reason why I love it so much is that you have an opportunity to celebrate or learn, celebrate and learn from the year prior. And get to start, again, September 1, and the creativity aspect of it too. We can dream up initiatives and put them into play immediately, and you can see an immediate impact. That’s a good and a bad thing. If it’s not working, you got to pull the plug and start something else. You can’t put your eggs all in one basket. But I think overall kind of the broad answer is that I like the creative aspect, I like the business aspect of very revenue driven, very numbers driven, data oriented. Then it’s also establishing the business as families and people on a day to day basis and relationship building. So it’s the best of all worlds.
Josie: Yeah. The need to be nimble and evolve, and I love how much data is talked about. I mean, as a research of course.
Josie: The critical need of it, and you’re starting to see positions or maybe they’ve always existed that they’re just being hired to really geek out and tell that story through the data to start over again every single year.
Jennielle: Yeah. It’s also I think the data piece is probably the most intimidating piece in a job in admissions for new pros and for old pros that we need. There’s intimidating aspects of the data piece every day that I deal with. But I think because my self confidence is different than it was when I was a first year admissions counselor, I want to bridge that gap for the younger generation and the new generation of admissions leaders to not be afraid of the data and learn.
Josie: So what’s one resource that you might suggest people that are feeling a bit more intimidate about data?
Jennielle: Yeah. That’s a great question. So there’s two: John [inaudible 00:17:35], and he runs the Data Higher Ed Stories blog posts. He’s brilliant. He is a genius as far as data is concerned, and he just knows how to use or present the data in a way for everybody to use it; and then I would also mention the podcast The Weight List and wait is spelled W-E-I-G-H-T. That is by the Capture Team. They bring a different aspect and a different frame of reference to data. They don’t just talk about higher ed, but they are a higher ed organization. But they bring guests to the table who are just data geniuses, and so I learn every time I listen to one of their podcasts. So that would be the two data resources.
Josie: Awesome. I will note those and go look at them.
Jennielle: Yeah. For sure.
Josie: So talking about starting over every year, data numbers in your work at Concordia, you recently celebrated a new designation of being a Hispanic serving institution.
Jennielle: Thank you for bringing that up.
Josie: Of course. For those that aren’t familiar with what that means, how you got it, and now what’s next, please share.
Jennielle: Yeah. So this is what the research I do for my dissertation is focused on HSI and when I got here at Concordia, it was one of those projects that I gladly took on the challenge. And we basically … So the federal government has a designation for institutions designated as the Hispanic serving. The most common benchmark, they’re actually three quantitative benchmarks, but the most common is when your undergraduate enrollment, which is 25% of students who identify as Hispanic.
Jennielle: So as an institution, we’ve been working. I pulled together a task force a little over a year ago to think intentionally about what this means for our institution not only just enrollment wise but as we marry our identity as a private space based institution in the Lutheran Church now who is self serving, significant population of Hispanic students. And it has really been a great experience and once we received it, there was three goals I gave to the task force. I said, “Okay, one is it’s a grassroots movement internally. Make sure everybody on campus understands what it means to become an HSI.” The second goal was to actually receive designation, and when we reached that before we thought and we had a huge celebration, and then it really warmed my heart as a first generation Latina student. This just has been everything. I’m told a mentor of the Latino people work their entire lives to have kind of like this moment in their career, and I was really, really proud to be a part of it here at Concordia.
Josie: Oh, well, again, congratulations.
Jennielle: Thank you.
Josie: And it sounds like it’s a personal part of your work.
Jennielle: Totally. For me as a professional and my personality, I bring my personal self to everything I do, to my leadership, to my social, and if I couldn’t do that, I wouldn’t be happy in my profession. And I’m really thankful and grateful that I work for an institution where I can do that. And so it was a pretty big deal for me.
Josie: Well, the little flashback to Jennielle as a middle schooler/high school student and then first gen college student, I can’t help but ask. Obviously we didn’t have Twitter back then.
Josie: But we did have some types of tech. Did you have tech in your life? What was your first experiences with tech, or even like inclinings that you wanted to go to college or your path into higher ed? Anything that kind of sparks a memory I think could be fun to talk about.
Jennielle: Yeah. So you do not even want to know when my super tech started to … I was much older than most of the audience I’m sure. So my first memory, this is the best question, I immediately thought of my dad. He was an entrepreneur. And when I was in elementary school, he and a friend of his started a business and it was a technology business. So remember, this is back in the ’80s, and I remember they worked out of their apartment. And I remember spending the time at my dad’s in the summer, and being there because they were just starting a business. So my brother and I would go with him ‘to work’ and to see him be creative, it was a business where they came up with the … Now it seems so, “Oh, yeah. Of course we have that.” But back then, when you got put on hold, you heard music in the background. Well, they created a business based off of, “Look, we can.” Because they were marketing messages about your business because that was really where they started. And I just remember sitting and seeing the creative process at a very young age, it impacted me.
It hasn’t been until just recently where I reflected on that, and I told my dad, I told him, I said, “Dad,” because he barely just got an iPhone. I told him the other day, I said, “Dad, you were such a big influence on me about technology and being an early adopter because of all of the things. I can’t believe you don’t have an iPhone.” So immediately I got him an iPhone and did all of the things. It wasn’t until that [inaudible 00:23:09] impact me, and I did see a creative process that also worked in a business model.
Josie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jennielle: That would be my earliest experience with technology.
Josie: Well, and that, what your dad passed onto you, seeing that gap, that opportunity like they did when you were on hold. You saw that same thing on Twitter for enrollment professionals.
Jennielle: Yeah. It took me a minute to connect the dots, but, again, I think it’s important for you to reflect on. And when I sat down and reflected, I was able to connect those dots.
Josie: So going back to Twitter and just your use of social media today, being active in these places, building communities, now you’re on Instagram. I am in love with this gratitude practice that you’re doing both on Twitter and in Instagram Stories.
Josie: I’ll include a couple examples, but tell us what it’s about, where the idea came from, how long you’re going to do it for, and what’s happened now that you’re doing these things daily.
Jennielle: And thank you so much for saying that. I’m always trying to figure out the best way to keep centered. Again, I’ve mentioned that when you work in this industry, you try to be everything to everybody. So a wife and a mother and at a higher ed institution, balancing those things tend to be stressful. So I was like, “Okay. How do I do this? What’s my comfort zone?” My comfort zone is definitely social, and I said, “Okay. I’m going to try to do a thing about gratitude journals and how to stay centered and how it’s good for your soul.” I will tell you it has really given me discipline to think about the day, to reflect on the day, and to focus on the good. And so I try to create a structure in the gratitude journal where I at least pick on that’s family oriented, one that’s work oriented, and then one that’s just a fun. My third one is just kind of I love Rocky Road ice cream, you know? And it has helped me stay centered, to stay positive. It’s very easy to get into kind of this real negative space when you’re trying to reach goals and in my day to day work, I plan on doing it every day for the next year.
Jennielle: On day 31, you’d be surprised, you don’t realize how many people read your stuff. I’m putting it out there for myself and to encourage anybody else to think positively about their day. But I’ve heard I have some folks here on campus that I’m connected to via Instagram, and they have actually stopped me and said, “Hey, I really appreciate reading your gratitude journal,” which I’m like I had no idea they were reading it, right? So that has been a huge eye-opener for me that social media for social good is really something that I believe in.
Josie: It just comes across so authentic and I think that’s a big theme for you both in your values but just in how you show up. Like you said, it’s simple, and the intent wasn’t like, “Oh, I want to get all these people to like and share this.” This is really for me.
Josie: And I think it really is modeling the way and just bringing that extra little sparkle, twinkle of positivity that we might need. But it is funny that yesterday’s was about ice cream because I always had ice cream today.
Jennielle: I know. I was like, “Oh yes.” I know. It’s so great.
Josie: So yeah, you basically, I’ll include ane example, I love how you’re repurposing them in case someone might not follow you on Twitter or might not catch it or they’re just on Instagram. You take a screenshot of the Tweet and then you are uploading that into your Instagram Story, and that’s just another fun way to connect with potentially a different audience or just a different way that I’m trying to teach others. Like you can recreate or take existing content other places and put it other places, and it’s still I’m not looking at it and being, “Oh, she’s being so lazy. Why didn’t she originally post this on Instagram.” It’s actually like it feels even more genuine.
Jennielle: Yeah. Thank you. Thanks. Yeah, I mean, I knew I wanted … And this is really was about, for me, because I thought, “Okay. I have 365 days to figure this out.” I post it to the stories, and then I archive it or highlight it on my main page. I’d like to try to figure out how to then get a book of the pictures for me to be able to go back and review and share with the kids one day because a lot of it is about my kids and how they bring light to my life.
Josie: Mm-hmm (affirmative). That’s great. Well, one thing more about Instagram is recently you posted a photo of speaker Nancy Pelosi with your daughter.
Josie: Tell us more. It looked like you were in your home kitchen or some kitchen.
Jennielle: Some kitchen, right? Yeah. So my husband, that is the industry he works in.
Jennielle: And we have always been very intentional about one, working in an industry that welcomes our kids, right? So we’re intentional about bringing our kids to work, and he often takes the kids with him to events or anything. So there was an event last year, late last year, and he knew Pelosi was going to be there. And he took our daughter, and she was able to meet Speaker Pelosi and had this real intimate exchange with her. Colin, my husband, was there taking pictures. It was so special. I wasn’t able to be there because I was at work, but to hear the story. She really impacted my daughter in a really positive way. The Speaker spoke to the audience and during her speech, she brought my daughter up to the stage and said that, “Here’s Ava, and she’s the future of this country.” Of course I hear the story and I burst into tears because I think it’s the best.
Jennielle: But I always wonder how did it impact my nine year old, and it really did impact her. Anytime she speaks now she’s doing great work for our country. So that’s where that post came from was celebrating women leaders who are really doing the work of raising up the next generation of women leaders, and that’s really where that picture came from, celebrating that.
Josie: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Oh, gives me chills.
Jennielle: Me too. I cannot cry whenever I think about it.
Josie: Yeah. Note for your husband, record that. Put his phone on recorder, please.
Jennielle: I will let him know.
Josie: Who knows, maybe that would’ve pulled people out of the moment. It’s nice to just let moments happen too.
Josie: That is such a perfect transition to my next question about this movement and organization and experience that you have also helped birth, the Texas Women in Higher Ed: Acting, Reflecting, Transforming Unconference.
Josie: So tell us all the things about this magical experience.
Jennielle: Yeah. So that is I think we’re on year six. I think this is our seventh ‘anniversary’ or birthday. So about seven years ago, came together with two other amazing leaders in higher ed, and said, “I really want to think intentionally about raising up the next generation of women leaders in higher education. What should we do?” And the unconference model was really hot back then. It was just becoming a new … Especially in the student affairs circle. So we kind of meshed that unconference model and made it hyper focused on women in higher ed, and that’s where TXwHEART started. So every year, at the end of May, we post up here at Concordia, and it is a place for women to come together. They drive the topics, they drive the conversations. There are no speakers assigned to sessions. We sit in a circle and you engage. We have just been so surprised. We’ve seen women who were in their first year of entry level position, straight out of their graduate programs, rise up to the next leadership level and recommend the next entry person to attend this conference.
Jennielle: I’m really, really proud of it. The TXwHEART is an acronym for Texas women in higher ed, acting, reflecting, and transforming. So that art, the A-R-T, of heart for us is a very easy framework for leaders to think about. We are so used to acting that we don’t take the time to reflect, and through reflection of our actions is when transformation truly happens. And that’s really what TXwHEART is all about is taking that time and reflecting with other women and sharing our commonalities. And sometimes if you’re in a bind, you have a team outside of your team on your campus to reach out to to get some help and we’re really proud of that.
Josie: And if you’re not from Texas, can you go?
Jennielle: Yes, we have had people from all over the nation come in. We are always looking for sponsors. There’s no fee to come.
Josie: Oh, wow.
Jennielle: Yeah. We feed folks, we have great sponsors like Capture Higher Ed. So other women owned businesses where in Austin who have donated their services to help make the event go. We also have group out in Washington, Washington State, that wants to do the same thing. So we’re working with them to try to host their own statewide WAwHEART.
Jennielle: Yeah. Conference. We’re continuing that and trying to figure out what this model looks like nationwide.
Josie: I feel like there’s got to be some campus partners that are like in the ed tech space that are founded by women that we got to hit up.
Josie: If you’re listening-
Jennielle: Please, reach out to me.
Josie: Sponsorship time.
Jennielle: We would love it. Because, as you know, professional development, line out of our budget, arguably is the first to go and we don’t want women to feel like they can’t develop professionally. So we want to keep it free.
Josie: And for the one in Texas and in Washington, when do those come up next?
Jennielle: Yes. So the one in Texas is always the Monday before Memorial Day. We are about to open up registration here in the next week. We just had a planning meeting last week, and then the one in Washington, the women there are just waiting for us to help lead them. We’ve been so slammed that as soon as we get TXwHEART done, we’re ready to help them. And I think they’re looking at something here in this next semester as well.
Josie: And is there a core website or Twitter handle for folks to pay attention to when those things are popping up?
Jennielle: Yes. Absolutely. Twitter handle is @TXwHEART. @T-X-W-H-E-A-R-T. And same thing on Facebook. We will be announcing and rolling out a website here soon. Because we don’t charge anything, we’re trying to do this grass roots. So that’s really kind of our next benchmark is trying to get our website going and impact a larger group because right now it’s very grass roots, all word of mouth.
Josie: Another partnership opportunity for a sponsor out there. You could get your logo on the website. Y’all would have a great website.
Jennielle: Yes. We are open to anything.
Josie: Don’t mind me.
Jennielle: Yes, please do.
Josie: Well, I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up the relevancy of you as an Associate Vice President who’s been on and active on social for quite some time. I’ve featured you a number of times both in the book that’s forthcoming and then in some lists that I make of like what I call Tweet the VP, a whole bunch of vice presidents to follow on Twitter, especially you and I. We’re on a higher ed live, which I’ll make sure to link to where we dig in a whole lot to that presence that’s important to have as campus leaders. But what is being on these platforms really provided to you in your leadership role within enrollment, within higher ed that might be that extra carrot that a listener in one of those positions might need to hear to pick up some of these practices that you do?
Jennielle: Sure. Great question. I think for me the motto or the vision that I think about for not only leadership but then putting myself out there in social media is that authenticity is your superpower. Particularly true for me when I first became a leader was I had to be one way at work and then another way at home amongst trends. And it’s exhausting. So while there’s appropriate professionalism that you have to think about, but my only rule on social media that it’s professional. I mean, anything that you read on my social media and Instagram, you’re going to see when I’m hanging out with my friends or colleagues or at work. It’s empowering to know that that’s what sets you apart from others, and it’s okay to be different or to think about things differently. And that’s what makes our industry better.
Jennielle: I’ve had conversations, especially … We’ll say at the unconference where young pros will say, “Well, I have a personal Twitter account and then a professional Twitter account,” and I’m immediately like, “When do you have time to balance both?” It’s like, “Oh my goodness, gracious.” And so I think it’s a maturity thing. There are times where I have started a draft of a Tweet, and if you have to think twice about it, don’t post. And that’s okay. We’re all human. But I think just owning who you are. You can’t lead others until you know yourself.
Jennielle: I mentioned earlier about my comfort zone thing on social. It’s just because I learned more about myself than my strengths and my weaknesses through that process.
Josie: What a relief, right? That it’s okay to be a little different and to show up in these spaces. I think I’ve observed also not all but a number of graduate students/new professionals that may really want to carve out some really clear separations. And I’m finding some of it might be how the messages that even us as educators and adults have given them since they were potentially on Facebook in fifth grade is like privacy, lock things down. You’re not going to get into college. You’re not going to get your job because of social media. So it’s almost like we need to bring them back out of the shadows and to show them what it looks like to then have that navigation in the field.
Josie: So you’re a great, great role model. Not just because you’re an associate vice president, just because you’re you.
Jennielle: Oh, thank you. And I will tell you I still struggle with … I go through on my Instagram in particular. I’m like, “Okay. I’m really want this to be private,” because I do post a lot of pictures of my kids, and then I open it up and then I put it back at private, and then … So I struggle with it too. Now, Twitter has always been open for me and public. But yeah, it’s something that I constantly work through, and that’s okay. I would also say that for the young pros out there that are really balancing this, you’ve got to balance your social messaging not to be 110% just about you. You have got to reach out to others and bring them along with you. Cheer other people on. Ask them about what they’re doing differently in their work. That’s how you become better and you discover more about yourself. So I think there’s that balance too. Then I think maybe that’s what I struggle with on Instagram is that it’s so focused on my family because then I’m trying to balance how do I bring my work world and others that I know. It’s a platform right now that takes an extra step to share others or to engage with others. So I’m still struggling with that, but it’s part of social, right? It’s getting better at it.
Josie: Yeah. I think that’s fairly common. The negotiation of Instagram because I think a lot of us just got on for the home life stuff, right?
Jennielle: Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Josie: The experiences, the fun stuff, or highlights. So as it evolves into how can I open this up to work, career, colleagues, there’s some negotiations there. I think the more we talk about it and to each other, “Oh, this is working for me. This doesn’t work for me.” Luckily, you can put it on public and private off and on as much as you want.
Jennielle: I know.
Josie: So a couple questions that I always ask all my guests and about life and social media and living and legacy because social media seems so simple, but as even we’ve talked about how our families show up or how our authenticities are identities, it can be quite complex. So a question, if you knew your next post on Twitter was going to be your last, what would you want it to be about?
Jennielle: Well, I thought about this, and what I would want it to be is really a love note to my kids, which also is a love note to all of the future pros and future leaders that are just trying to find their way. And it would be a post of encouragement, of just to be brave, authentic, and humble. It’s really hard to do, and I get that. It’s also kind of what my mission is for social media if I had a mission, right? It would be I’m putting all this stuff out there so that other people learn when I didn’t really have that coming up, you know? I was just finding my way. Mentorship and sponsorship is so much different now. It’s very intentional now, and we have a long way to go. But it was very different then when I was first a new pro. And so I think that’s what it would be, a love note to all of you guys doing the work and fighting the good fight.
Josie: Wow. I got chills there.
Jennielle: I’m sitting here trying to get through because I have these notes I’m trying to get through saying all of it without crying because I’m kind of sensitive. I’m like, “Okay. Just pull yourself together. It’s good. It’s good.”
Josie: Aw. Cry away. It’s okay.
Jennielle: No. Yes.
Josie: Well, you already started to answer this really the last question is that idea of having a purpose for being online. Like what your hope is by you having a Twitter and an Instagram account or any other platforms that come and go, what do you hope that impact is making to the world?
Jennielle: That it’s an impact of hope. I think we can use so much more of that, in particular in our current time, in particular in higher ed. I mean, it’s a tough gig. So that would be my purpose if there’s anybody out there who … Well, one, leadership is a lonely, lonely job. A job in higher ed can be lonely. A job in admissions can be lonely. So if there is any purpose, is that you have somebody to reach out to and just say, “Hey. What’s going on today?” Sometimes you just need that break. If you want to share a great meme, oh we love memes in the Emchat feed. Or a really good beer. I’m a very simple domestic type of beer drinking, but there’s others that are connoisseur of that, and that’s okay. It’s something that we share in order to seem … We’re all a lot more alike than we think, and so if it creates some sort of safe space for you and a community for you, I’m all about it. So join us.
Josie: Well, I’m sure those listening and this last answer to your question is that invitation to find commonalities and to connect. Where can people find you to reach out, to connect on social? We’ll include it in the notes. List any that you’re willing to find folks from.
Jennielle: So Twitter is @Em and then my first name J-E-N-N-I-E-L-L-E. @EmJennielle. Same thing on Instagram @EmJennielle, and then LinkedIn is linkedin.com/em/jenniellestrother. So there’s not that many Jennielle’s out there. So you should be able to find me. So I’m open to any platform. You can find me on Facebook too /Jennielle.
Josie: Okay. I’ll list all those in the show notes. Thank you so very much for being on this podcast, being you doing all that you’ve done for the field of higher ed, for your kids, for your campus. We are lucky to have you in all those ways.
Jennielle: Oh, thank you so much. Thank you for the work that you do with social and celebrating folks. I think that’s so important, and you do such a great job at that. And I’ll tell you from doing the grind every day, it sure is nice to have a great conversation an hour about something fun like this. So thanks for having me.
Josie: Yay. Yeah, my pleasure.
Josie: All right, what were your goosebump moments with Jennielle on the show today? As you can tell, toward the end was where I was getting them. I find her authenticity really is magnified and amplified and hopefully came through your earbuds in this episode. And if there were goosebumps, there were some ideas, some really cool nuggets that I would love for you to takeaway.
This first one, the concept of using social media as a gratitude journal in the digital age where she posts three simple to significant things every day on Twitter, and then she repurposes that content simply taking a screenshot from that tweet, and then putting it into her Instagram Stories. You can do the same thing on Facebook, SnapChat, heck maybe even LinkedIn. And you can tell that sometimes maybe one of those things that she’s grateful for we don’t really understand it, but it’s really not for us. Even though that ripple effect of your gratitude is felt by her digital communities, it’s her own personal transformation experience that she’s letting us into while she does this and she’s hopefully going to keep doing it. So go and check those out. They’re inspirational. I would love to see if you are inspired by this gratitude practice and maybe how that could be remixed to make it work for your own life.
With that personalization of platforms, she also talked about this personalization of professional position, even though we really don’t use these words of personal or professional. As she took on this huge task of the Hispanic serving institution designation for Concordia University, we got to reflect back of her own identity as a first gen student, being a Latina, having her father introduce her to these concepts of technology and innovation, and I really find it quite transformational and powerful for us to think about how we can connect those dots from our history and our past when we first experience technology or who our role models were or even our own. Remove tech completely and just who we are to influence what we do today. Again, with tech, without tech, what we’re doing in our lives, and that was a really cool story of all those things coming full picture from the HSI designation, but also her dissertation, the creation of it, her own tech adoption. There were just a lot of dots to connect that was fun to come out in the episode.
And as the episode is titled Authenticity is Your Superpower, this is where Jennielle, again, she connects those dots. I feel like there could be a subtitle to this episode about social media and leadership. She really sees it. She’s able to give the connections between the two, and for example, being able to talk about the heaviness one could feel when trying to put ourselves in boxes of personal or professional and how a theory like authentic leadership and even a concept of authenticity also reminds us that leadership and social media, it’s not about you. And that in itself may relieve this pressure you have about how you show up on or offline because if you remove yourself from the equation, if it’s about others and cheering them on and celebrating and supporting them, that might feel like a better or more authentic lens for you to show up in all different types of context.
The closing was also a favorite of mine and a highlight of the episode about her message, her final tweet about a message for her kids, but then quickly followed up with all future leaders specifically, as she’s always thinking about mentorship and trying to find a way as we navigate this life. And she said, “Be brave, authentic, and humble,” and in that same breath or maybe the second breath, she knew that this was a hard call. This is hard to do, and she recognized that. But we can still aim for great things because what she brought up then was it’s fueled with mission, putting our lives, our experiences, our learning, our ability to mentor out there so others can learn. And for her, she didn’t have that maybe with social. She was having to figure out that on her own, and so even being intentional with an organization and effort like TXwHEART or Emchat, that’s where she’s gone full circle. And then her purpose of being one of hope, and it goes right back around full circle as she’s living her values and her purpose with something like her gratitude practice that she’s doing from how she’s educating her kids, involving her family, continuing this initiative of Emchat, and then all the work that she does at Concordia.
So, Jennielle, thank you so very much for sharing your superpowers with us today. It was such an honor to be able to feature you, and she is one of those that you can look forward to reading even more in my forthcoming book about digital leadership in higher ed.
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