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#RelationshipGoals with Joy and John Hoffman

John and Joy Podcast Banner - Relationship Goals

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I wanted to incorporate some love, light, and laughter into the show. And I couldn’t think of a better duo to do that with than Joy and John Hoffman.

Dr. Joy Hoffman is a consultant and trainer with a focus on advancing equitable, inclusive, and socially-just practices. She previously served in higher education for 24 years, and now works full-time as a consultant.

Dr. John Hoffman is the president of Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College. John previously served in a variety of academic and student affairs roles.

Together truly represent the very best in role modeling, mentorship, and coaching for literally hundreds of others, including me.

Josie sits down with the Hoffmans in this cheerful episode to chat about Joy’s move to consulting work, John’s recent transition to President of Bemidji State College, how partners & spouses of Presidents can support them in that role, the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education, celebrating boundaries, and more about how this couple is just total #RelationshipGoals.

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Notes from this Episode:

More About Dr. Joy Hoffman

Dr. Joy Hoffman is a consultant and trainer with a focus on advancing equitable, inclusive, and socially-just practices. She previously served in higher education for 24 years. Her transition to full-time consulting has allowed her the opportunity to guide institutions, companies, and non-profit organizations in their DEI goals, strategies, and efforts to advance inclusive practices, organizational change, and equity-minded leadership.

Connect with Dr. Joy Hoffman
More About Dr. John Hoffman

Dr. John Hoffman is the president of Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College. John previously served in a variety of academic and student affairs roles. Signature accomplishments included implementing multi-faceted student success programs credited with increasing student retention and graduation rates, and reducing first-year retention rate disparities between BIPOC and white students.

Connect with Dr. John Hoffman

[00:00:00] Josie: A quick thank you to our sponsor and partner, Alumni FM. They are a podcast agency specializing in working with educational institutions to make informative and entertaining podcasts. I can attest how easy it is to work with them. And if you’re wondering of the quality they produce, you can look to this very show.

Today, we are chatting with a president and their partner. And with Alumni FM being experts in higher ed communications, their team are able to produce podcasts with presidents and other campus leaders. This includes talent-coaching, supporting staff, managing logistics, and editing to make everything sound great. If you’re thinking about a podcast for yourself, for your team, I highly recommend connecting with them. Send a message to Robert at alumni.fm or visit www.alumni.fm.

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

All right, let’s get to know today’s featured guests. Y’all, there is so much love and laughter in this episode, featuring not just one, but two heart-centered humans who are very much in love, Joy and John Hoffman.

Dr. Joy Hoffman is a consultant and trainer with a focus on advancing equitable, inclusive, and socially just practices. She previously served in higher education for 24 years. Her transition to full-time consulting has allowed her the opportunity to guide institutions, companies, and nonprofit organizations in their DEI goals, strategies, and efforts to advance inclusive practices, organizational change, and equity-minded leadership. 

Dr. John Hoffman is a president of Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College. John previously served in a variety of academic and student affairs roles. Signature accomplishments included implementing multifaceted student success programs, credited with increasing student retention and graduation, and reducing first-year retention rate disparities between BIPOC and white students.

As this episode is coming out around Valentine’s Day, I hope you’ll be able to soak up the light, love, and laughter. As a warning, we start out immediately giggling. We’ll talk about the relationship, the path as a family to the presidency, and taking care of, not just your own mental health, but prioritizing the people that you are called to serve and support.

You can follow all of us on all the good old socials. It’s all in the show notes. Find the podcast at Twitter, @josieatpodcast. I’m @josieahlquist. John is @john_l_hoffman. And Joy is @joy_hoffman. Everything we talked about — resources, people, posts, all the good stuff — is on my website, josieahlquist.com/podcast. Enjoy.

I am so darn excited for this conversation. Sometimes, it takes a podcast episode to get some people together, but John is, like, making faces at me. Joy is like that. Okay, this… I warned the podcast production team, this is going to be probably an oranary episode. In all the best ways, I am so excited to be joined by Joy and John Hoffman. Are we going to have to, like, mute you two? Like, all the giggles right now, [inaudible 00:04:37]? Y’all are adorable. Welcome to the podcast, Hoffman family.

[00:04:43] Joy: Yay.

[00:04:45] Josie: You don’t see this, but they are matching with Bemidji State gear.

[00:04:51] John: Gree and white.

[00:04:51] Josie: The beavers. That is actually a really cute sweatshirt, by the way. There’s a hockey game later. Wish we could be there. So, welcome to the podcast. To kick us off, I’ve already read all of your glorious accolades as individuals. I haven’t had two people on the podcast for a little while at the same time, especially of y’all’s sassiness. So, this is going to be fun. Okay. So, I kick us off with a question about your bios. You give a lot of goodies in your bios from Twitter and Instagram. And because I know we’re going to be tight on time, y’all get to react to just one thing in your bio to tell me a little bit more. So, John, on Twitter, yours says, your two campuses that you’re a president at. We’ll need to talk through that later. #HigherEd, #SAPro advancing holistic student success, centered on equity and inclusion. Husband of @Joy_Hoffman. He/him/his. Let us know about one of those things and why you include it.

[00:05:59] John: Well, I am the husband of @Joy_Hoffman. Usually, I just say, I’m the husband of Joy Hoffman, or Dr. Hoffman, or the Dr. Hoffman. Now, it’s fun to be doing this together because I just… I’m so in love with this woman and she helps me to be a better man.

[00:06:15] Josie: I wore this heart sweater just for this episode, which again, listeners can’t see because this is a podcast. Okay, Joy, On Instagram, you write diversity and equity consultant, trainer, and facilitator, 50-something, mom, having fun with photos, food, family fitness. Oh, and #JacksonDiaries.

[00:06:38] John: But wait a minute, there’s nothing about me.

[00:06:42] Josie: Oh, gosh. Oh, boy.

[00:06:43] John: See where I rank, after the family, after the dog.

[00:06:46] Joy: Well, and I also thought my Instagram had my pronouns, so I’m going to have to go back and fix that. I’m going to choose 50-something mom, because I feel like that, especially in the season that I’m in, I have just gotten to focus so much more on my kids. But I think being a 50-something mom, also, there’s all kinds of seasons that go with that as well in terms of empty nesting, but then also having kids that reach out for random things in the middle of the day, if I’m working or John’s working and, like, what are you doing? It’s like, “Ah, working.” They still don’t understand that we have a job. But at the same time, they’re both… I mean, Juan’s almost out of college and the other one is in the Marines and staying super busy with her first job. So, it’s just a very different season in my life, but I’m really enjoying it.

[00:07:32] Josie: Oh, I love that. Well, and this episode is coming out around Valentine’s Day, so I love that we are talking about love and family and relationships, and we will get into all that. But let’s talk about little Joy and John, before you met each other. What was your earliest memory of using technology in your life?

[00:07:54] Joy: Oh, my gosh.

[00:07:56] John: Earliest memory of using technology.

[00:08:00] Joy: Does Atari count?

[00:08:03] Josie: Yeah, that’s been mentioned often.

[00:08:05] Joy: I had an Atari.

[00:08:07] Josie: You had one? Oh, my gosh.

[00:08:09] Joy: I had an Atari. We were so excited. And a VCR. Oh, and I was very excited when my family got our first ever microwave. I don’t know if that counts, either, but that’s not really tech. Well, I guess it’s technology, but, yeah.

[00:08:27] Josie: That’s awesome. John?

[00:08:29] John: I have no memory of technology.

[00:08:31] Joy: Oh, my gosh.

[00:08:32] John: Oh, I remember, I think, working, you know, with those old Apple IIe, the green screen with the dots and all that kind of stuff. I think we played video games on those in school when we were supposed to be studying math or something like that.

[00:08:49] Joy: I took a computer class and we were supposed to do the… I don’t know what you even call it, the language that, then, it follows the directions and does whatever you tell it to do. So, I don’t know. I don’t even remember what it was called. And my teacher was so disappointed in me because all I did was made the computer write U2, the band, but it wasn’t even three-dimensional language. That’s cute. He just looked at me like, “Really, that’s all you did?” She was like, that’s all I know how to do.

[00:09:22] John: Josie, we have got to find a way to get your face out there right now on this podcast because your face says it all that everything that the folks can’t hear.

[00:09:33] Josie: Listen, this is something I’m trying to work on, is, it’s all on my face.

[00:09:37] Joy: Oh, and Josie, because you’re such a digital leader, you’re going to laugh at me, because when I started working in higher ed, I had to have a student teach me how to, like, how do I open Word? How do I use this? I had never used a computer. I taught first and second grade, and I didn’t not know how to use a desktop and I did not know how to use Word, Microsoft Word. So, a student had to instruct me, “This is how you open the document. This is how you start writing on the document. This is how you save the document.” And I wrote it all down. And when I wrote all down, I memorized it. So, then I was, like, I was so excited because I knew how to use a Word document.

[00:10:13] Josie: Well, you were, you were coached. We all need coached, whether if it’s Twitter or now Mastodon. I don’t know what the heck I’m doing in there. I’m asking for advice. So, will you all know that I’m here to help, if it’s a Word doc, or this podcasting platform, Riverside.

So, the two of you, I don’t know the exact date of when we all met, but it was through NASPA and our involvement there. And you both have made such an impact in my life that we’re always either getting each other back or paying it forward. John, specifically, is responsible for this monstrosity of my dissertation, which is over 300 pages, because someone thought I should do a mixed method study.

[00:11:03] John: But it’s something that you can sit on when you can’t reach up to the table.

[00:11:06] Josie: Well, it’s true because Joy and I are both fun-sized and we…

[00:11:11] Joy: Yes.

[00:11:12] Josie: Right now, this desk is elevated.

[00:11:15] John: It’s a booster seat.

[00:11:18] Joy: Hush. Stop.

[00:11:19] Josie: Joy and I get a lot of fun behind the scenes now, both as consultants, well, which I’d love to dig into right now. So, you’ve got a few titles, just like I do, and you also went a little bit rogue, like myself, from campus roles. We’re both Cal Lutheran grads from the doc program. I know John is bitter about that because I didn’t go to Fullerton. But I get asked a ton about being a consultant, just choosing this kind of life path. So, what have you learned? What guidance might you give from where you are today?

[00:11:54] Joy: Oh, wow. One of the things I actually tell people when they’re, “How do I get started,” is that know that just pathways are different, right? So, even if I say, well, this is how I got started and, you know, etc., etc., it’s not even fair or even equitable advice because how I got started is very different, or why I got started is very different, and I had different circumstances. And so, I will just put out there that I was really privileged, because when we moved to Minnesota four years ago and I was, kind of, forced to go into consulting because there just weren’t a whole lot of jobs available, I actually had the luxury to figure out. You know, I had the time to figure out, okay, what exactly do I want to focus on? What do I want to do? I didn’t have to start right away. And not everybody has that luxury. And so, I always put that out there, too, is that, you know, we have a dual income. John was a vice president, yada, yada, yada. And so, that created a little cushion for me.

And then, I just tell them, too, that you don’t have to be like everyone else, because I was constantly looking at what everybody else was doing, whether it was online, how productive they were, how many jobs, clients, products they had. And I thought, oh, my gosh, I don’t even know if I want that many projects. And then, how do I get there? And so, I think I always tell people, you know, you don’t have to be like everyone else.

And one of the ways I rebelled on this was my website, was, at first, I didn’t even have a website because I decided I’m not going to do one just because everyone else does one. And then, I decided to do one because I really enjoyed sharing my friends’ websites with people when I was referring and things like that. So, I thought, oh, if they refer me, it might be easier for them if I had a website. So, I built one, but I built one on my terms. I didn’t put things on there just because everybody else does it. So, when someone who was helping me build said, “Well, what do you want to put ‘keynote speaking’ on there?” I’m like, “No.” “You don’t?” I was like, “No, I don’t even really enjoy doing it. Sometimes, I’m asked to do it and I’ll do it, but I don’t want to put it on my website because that’s not something that gives me joy.” So, I created a website that was for me and that made me happy. And if people look… I just decided, if people looked at it and said, “Well, this is not what we want,” I was like, that’s fine. There are tons of other consultants out there. I want to do what I want to do and what helps me feel like, you know, that’s something that’s meaningful for me. And I think that’s the last bit of advice, is that I always tell them, busy does not equate meaningful, and workload does not equate to purpose.

So, I feel like I have found much more purpose and meaning by deliberately choosing my projects and clients, the people I want to work with. And I’m not even working full-time and I don’t even work half the hours I used to when I had a traditional job. And I feel like I have so much more meaning and purpose in my life and more control of my life. And that’s been everything to me.

[00:14:39] Josie: That’s awesome. I love that. And John, the paint is still drying on how new your presidency is. Tell us a little bit about your winding path that got you through both leadership roles and faculty and what it looks like today.

[00:14:55] John: Oh, thanks for asking that, Josie. You know, I’m a student affairs professional. That is my core identity. It’s where I started my career. I never really wanted to be faculty. In hindsight, I’m so glad that I spent the time teaching folks and educating future student affairs educators and others in higher ed. I learned a lot about faculty. And so, now, as I find myself as this SA Pro president, that I have a deeper understanding of faculty, it just gives me so much more breadth in the work that I do.

[00:15:27] Josie: One, we get to be on a panel together at NASPA annual conference in the spring with some other student affairs presidents.

[00:15:36] John: Yeah.

[00:15:37] Josie: Well, what the heck does it mean that you’re not just one president of a campus, but you have two? Is this, like, a new trend? Like, how does that work?

[00:15:45] John: No, I think this is, kind of, a one-of-a-kind thing, especially since it’s a two-year technical college and a four-year comprehensive university in an alignment. NTC, the technical college, is all about access, trades programs. It’s got a great nursing program. All the great things you see out of two-year innovation that we’re working on is really exciting space to see. Bemidji State is small enough to be personal, big enough to give students everything that they need, located on a lake, located in the heart of Minnesota’s three largest indigenous nations, just close connections with the Bemidji community. I’m speaking right now from the Mayflower Building. We’ve got an office here in the Mayflower Building that is home to the Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Greater Bemidji and our launchpad for young entrepreneurs. Between the two, it’s just a regionally comprehensive experience for students. And I just love being a part of both.

[00:16:48] Josie: Seems like there’s lots of partnerships that offer a lot of great pathways.

[00:16:53] John: Yeah.

[00:16:54] Josie: And it is a gorgeous area that I have told Joy numerous times, we may roll up in our RV in your parking lot and just… and stay in the summer, not right now.

[00:17:05] John: Absolutely. Four hundred lakes surrounding Bemidji. It’s a beautiful place. And in the wintertime, we’ll take you ice-fishing. We know how to winter up here.

[00:17:15] Josie: Do you have those, like, heating gloves and shoes and stuff?

[00:17:19] John: Yep, of course.

[00:17:19] Josie: Like, built-in heating pads, though. That’s what I’ll do.

[00:17:23] John: We’re not into being cold. We’re into enjoying life in the cold, which means staying warm in the cold.

[00:17:30] Josie: Yeah.

[00:17:31] John: So, we know how to do it.

[00:17:32] Josie: And maybe a, maybe a good beverage.

[00:17:34] John: Oh, yes.

[00:17:35] Josie: So, let’s talk about the pathway to the president. As a family, what did it look like? What was considered, from the consideration process when you’re applying, when it’s announced, like, what does that look like as a family behind the scenes?

[00:17:49] John: Joy, you tell the story, you know, some of this so well, about, you know, the considerations moving to Minnesota and then getting here.

[00:17:56] Joy: Yeah. I think one of the things that I… And it’s funny because John gives this advice to professionals, too, and I just remember telling him, don’t run away from something, run to something. So, you know, if you’re ready to move on, that’s great; but don’t just go to any university just because it’s a presidency. Make sure that it’s someplace you want to work and someone you want to work for and with. John just loves his chancellor. And so, that was one of the selling points, was his chancellor has a… just a huge commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice work. And I think John was really excited about staying at a regional university, staying in Minnesota, specifically, Northwest Minnesota.

And we love Bemidji. So, when people would visit us, we would sometimes bring them up here for fun for the day. We would go to Mississippi Headwaters and stuff. So, we loved Bemidji, to begin with. It’s where we went ice-fishing and did fun stuff. And so, the idea of living here was a really fun idea. But we also wanted to make sure that it was going to be a right fit in terms of institutions for John, especially, he was going to be empowered to do what he wanted to do, especially, around equity and inclusion and justice work, because he wanted to be able to be a president who could make these things happen and not have a chancellor or someone else at the system level saying, “No, you can’t do that,” right? And so, that was a big part of it.

The stars aligned. And I still remember when John was offered the job, I was actually in Florida with his mom, and he was in Minnesota. And I remember he said, “I think I’m going to be getting offered this job.” And so, then, you know, I said, “Okay, we’ve talked through that. You know, how do you feel about that?” Then, you know, flash-forward, he gets offered the job. And he calls me, and he’s like a little distraught. And I’ve never heard him distraught about accepting or turning down a job or anything, right? And so, I, kind of, teased him, and I said, “Do you have imposter syndrome?” I was like, “Welcome to my world, buddy.”

But I just said, “You know, John, like, you’ve been preparing for this for a very long time, and you’ve got these amazing mentors who’s been really involved in SQ and has just had some amazing mentors in that organization who have been pouring into him and many mentors of color who are really, really invested in helping him understand at very deep levels of what equity work looks like.” I was like, “You’re ready for this. And you can call on these mentors, and you have all these people in the field who love you and have invested you over time. They will continue investing in you.” So, it was just an odd place to be in because I have not found myself in many times where he’s just got… One of his strengths is self-assurance. And so, it’s been very rare that I’ve had to convince him that he’s ready for something. And so, that was a very odd place to be in for me, but it was also very genuine and an authentic moment with him. And this sense of humility, too, was that I fell in love with him even more because I thought, just the fact that you aren’t sure that you’re ready for this but you’re excited about it at the same time and your humility in this space, like, this makes me love you even more.

[00:21:08] John: I’ll just add that, you know, part of what Joy did in that moment is help me see that, I just… I wasn’t feeling spiritually grounded in that part of the process. And so, it was connecting with some mentors to have those types of conversations: Lori Edeta, Jerry Coleman, even John Wilson, someone who I’d met through ASCU, that just had that spiritual space to them. And that’s… that was what helped get grounded. And obviously, shoutout to that. The chancellor is Devinder Malhotra. And same type of grounding that he has that just made it so much easier to go into the work. So, I just love that we’re doing it together.

[00:21:49] Josie: Well, in the presidency, president, chancellor, it’s not a solo process, even if you’re not partnered. So, I appreciate you talking about mentors and the process behind that, and even the deeper meaning of the spiritual connection. This podcast is all about making connections between things that we may not have unpacked before. But it is interesting to look at the dynamics when there is a partner with a president, what they call themselves, what their personality is, whether if it’s online or on campus. And I mean, John, I was… I’m sure you didn’t hear me, I was cheering over here to see you, like, on video and doing all this stuff with social, obviously, because that’s what I do. But Joy, I was also seeing you show up in the feed. But what does a dynamic look like? Like, have you made some conscious choice, like, this is our, like, you know, president… and you refer to yourself as first partner? Do you have a strategy there? I know you’ve also been going to different conferences and there’s discussions about what the first partner person human, kind of, looks like. I’d be so curious to open the curtain on that.

[00:22:58] Joy: So, one of the sessions I went to for partners of presidents, or they called it spouse… presidents’ spouse sessions, whatever, they were talking about the things, maybe, that we don’t talk about. And they said, one of them on a panel said that the things that make or break a presidency are the house and the spouse. And I was like, “Oh, I don’t want to be that spouse.” And, you know, and I know I’m not going to be, right? But it was just, kind of, eye-opening that that’s what breaks the presidency is so often not what the president does, but what that… something to do with the house and something to do with something the spouse did, right?

So, we’re very, actually, happy that we don’t… Bemidji State doesn’t actually have a president’s home. And so, we got to buy our own home. So, we don’t have to worry about the house thing in terms of spending university money or state money on anything or any expenditures there or what the perception is. “Oh, they’re living in a house owned by the university, and look what they’re doing, you know.” So, we don’t have to worry about that.

One of the things I’ve realized is I’m so much more in a fishbowl. I thought that, when we moved to Crookston, because he was a vice chancellor, and it was only a town of 8,000, that, oh, I’m going to be a fishbowl here. It really wasn’t. People didn’t… I mean, they didn’t care. They’re like… I’d go into a grocery store or whatever, people didn’t know me. I walk around here sometimes and, “Aren’t you Joy? Oh, I saw you in the newspaper.” Or, they know John. They’ll just walk up to the table while we’re eating on a Friday night. “Aren’t you the president of BSU?” And I’m like… I remember the first time it happened. I was like, “Ah, crap.” My life is no longer private. Zero privacy.

And the funny part of that, the other side of that, is it’s fun because I like connecting with people. And because of it, I’ve been invited to be involved in the community. So, I’ve been involved in the Boys and Girls Club, and I got invited to something with United Way and I got to prepare, you know, holiday meals with United Way in a local restaurant, been asked to serve on a DEI task force. And these are all things I want to do, but I don’t know that I would’ve, you know, known how to seek them out, I guess. So, in many ways, we’ve only been here five, six months and I’ve already gotten really, really significantly connected in the community. Because people know that I’m the spouse or the partner of the president, they want me involved in things, and they’re enjoying that I do things with John. I’m very careful about how involved I get. Like, I don’t, I don’t do any university business with John in terms of, like, I don’t try to tell his staff what to do, or anything like that. But I go to events with him, and we do those things together. And then, I ask him if this is an event that I should be at or not. And if it’s not, I don’t go, you know.

And so… and I like that. I like being able to do it with him. And I think he enjoys it, too, because it doesn’t feel as much like work. It feels like a date to him. Although I have told him, I was like, “You can’t just count all of our work events as dates. You got to do… You got to be better, John Hoffman.”

[00:26:00] Josie: Let it be known.

[00:26:01] Joy: I want real dates.

[00:26:02] Josie: Well, I mean, obviously, it was a huge get to get John as a president, but I mean, Joy, you are quite the catch for those two campuses to have as part of their campus community.

[00:26:16] John: Here and here.

[00:26:17] Joy: That’s sweet.

[00:26:18] John: Absolutely.

[00:26:19] Josie: Josie and the Podcast is also sponsored by Campus Sonar, who offers unmatched insights and industry expertise to build client capabilities, helping you transform campus goals into reality. Partnerships support your team with community, learning, and networking, ensuring your campus stays focused on what really matters: your audience and strategic vision. Campus Sonar recently hosted a webinar on audience-centric strategies to increase brand cohesion. Visit campussonar.com to catch the recording and learn more from Dr. Liz Gross and Rebecca Stapley.

Can we scroll it back, because we haven’t talked about it yet? How did y’all meet? John, I’d like to hear a little bit from you.

[00:27:17] John: I will say this much. Okay. So, when I first met Joy, she was seven, eight months pregnant. So, I was interviewing to be her boss. Let me just tell everybody that we did have a couple of years there where I was her boss. Things go so much better when she is my boss, which is the way things work now. We worked for a couple of years together. Then, you know, after she had her divorce, we stayed connected, connected with a few friends. And after she turned me down time, time, time and time again, she finally wore down and said, yes, and…

[00:27:56] Joy: You’re not ever going to get over that, are you?

[00:27:58] John: That was the beginning of something special.

[00:28:01] Joy: I would like to say I said “yes” to a date that I didn’t know was a date. He tricked me.

[00:28:08] Josie: This is, like, my dissertation. I didn’t know, putting him on my committee, I would end up with a booster seat.

[00:28:15] John: That’s a great study, Josie.

[00:28:17] Joy: Right, right.

[00:28:19] John: It is.

[00:28:20] Josie: Thank you. Back to your love story.

[00:28:22] Joy: He asked me to go to a friend’s wedding and he said, “Do you want to drive together to the wedding?” So, I thought we were carpooling. And then, I realized, I think it was during the wedding, there was dancing and everything, and then all of a sudden there was a slow song. And he asked me to dance with him. And I was like, wait. I was like, what is going on right now?

[00:28:46] John: Right on, yep.

[00:28:48] Joy: So, yes, he tricked me into a date.

[00:28:50] Josie: How many years have you been married and together?

[00:28:54] Joy: Twenty years last May.

[00:28:55] Josie: Well, congratulations.

[00:28:57] Joy: Yes. And it’s been a fun adventure.

[00:29:00] John: Great years, yes.

[00:29:02] Josie: Well, on the internet, y’all are called #RelationshipGoals. And I was texting with Joy about, like, you know, like, what we can talk about or ideas. And I really did share, I feel like y’all are such phenomenal role models for relationships and marriage, whether if it’s this industry or not. Like, I know marriage is hard. Relationships are challenging. It takes a ton of work. It takes lots of date nights that don’t have to do with Bemidji State.

And so, the other reason I wanted to have you on, not just because, you know, you’re president and Joy Hoffman, but again, like, you’re an example for the field, sometimes, in some leaders, we don’t always have that, or we don’t see behind the scenes. So, I know there’s no secret recipe, but have there been some key ingredients to your marriage and relationship?

[00:29:57] John: Yep, I got this. And just so that everybody out there in podcast land knows, everybody in podcast land knows, we did not check our notes on this or plan these, so… but I’ve got to say, the number one key to Joy’s laughter here, you know, the number one key to our marriage, every fight we have ever had, I was wrong.

[00:30:23] Josie: Oh.

[00:30:26] John: And I’m, kind of, serious about that because, you know, when a disagreement turns into a fight, it’s like there was a better way to handle this. And so, I was wrong. I’m not saying that Joy was right, but, yeah, when I let it devolve into a fight, I was wrong. But in a more serious way, I’ll also say that Joy knows, perhaps, better than me, the man and the leader that I aspire to be. And she helps me and pushes me, sometimes shoves me, to become that person. It’s just so… I’m so grateful to be doing the journey with her, because she helps me to be a better man.

[00:31:01] Joy: That’s very sweet. I would say, too, that… So, early on in our marriage, that was when I was really pursuing and being asked to be involved in leadership opportunities, whether it was with NASPA or growing in my career and taking on new opportunities and challenges. And John was just so 100% in my corner, to the point where he took faculty positions so that he could be home with CJ when CJ was getting therapies around. Our youngest is autistic. And so, early on, especially needed to have in-home therapists that would meet at the house at a certain time in the afternoon. And I was working full-time. And so, John had a flexible schedule and chose that flexible schedule in that season to make sure that I could pursue the jobs I wanted, pursue my doctorate, all of those different things.

And I remember when he decided he wanted to be, maybe, go back into student affairs because he had been in faculty for a long time. And he’s like, “You know, I really miss student affairs.” CJ was going into college, and I said, “You know our youngest is going to college now. What if it was your turn now? What if we decide to move away from California? Because home is going to be wherever the kids come to visit during the summer because they’re mostly in school. And, you know, we figure this out. And, you know, it’s your season now.”

And John just corrected me. He said, “No, it’s our season. So, even if I do decide to do this, we do it together. You don’t owe me anything. This is not, like, oh I, you know, we did… “I did this for you, so now you have to do it for me.” It’s like, is this something you want to do?”

And so, then that started conversations of what we are looking for. And I am not kidding you, I told him he could look anywhere but Minnesota. So, how we ended up here is just, kind of, funny. But I remember he showed me the job description, and it was just such a perfect job description. I was like, “This is great.” And then, he showed me where it was. I’m like, where the heck is Crookston? But that’s how we ended up in Minnesota. I was like, even though I said I didn’t want to go to Minnesota, and now I love Minnesota. So, it’s like, you know, see how that works.

But yeah, we… it’s just been our seasons, and that’s something that’s been really important, that, even if it benefits one or the other more, it’s still our season. And if they… we don’t see it as our season during that time, then it’s not going to work, because it is going to feel like someone’s getting more out of it or whatever, so. And this has been fun for me, like, with the consulting and being able to have the time to support John in his presidency and go to things and be present with him, I’ve had a blast. And I love being here. Bemidji is a great place to be.

[00:33:43] Josie: That’s a great description of seasons. As people, we change our careers, our passions, our interests. And being able to evolve with those different chapters as a couple is, definitely, a key ingredient, for sure.

This podcast season is also going to have a layer to talk about, frankly, about wellness and mental health in higher ed. And so, I’m asking all of my guests, as an individual and for y’all as a couple, how are you taking care of yourselves, each other, as a couple, your family? And then, even for John, what does that look like as you think about supporting two campuses full of lots of humans?

[00:34:26] John: This has been overstated, but doing this with Joy is a part of my wellness. Try to make sure that I’m on the treadmill at least three mornings a week. And Joy has been helping to hold me accountable to that, because it’s important. Then, there are, you know, the elements of music and wine and other forms of alcohol.

[00:34:51] Josie: You have some good taste.

[00:34:55] John: So, yeah, it’s doing it together. I will say that, two campuses, the thing that I lean into very heavily is my leadership team, the cabinet. I’m working with an amazing group of educators. And as we make a few changes, we’ve had a few things that have come up that have led to some changes, really working to diversify that team, so that I’m surrounded by folks who can cover my blind spots, who can come in and, you know, challenge me when I’m wrong. Also, that can be the leadership of the institution, so that I can do some of those things that are unique to the position of the presidency while the broader office, the cabinet, they’re doing the work of leading the institution.

[00:35:38] Joy: And I think one of the things that John has done with his team is he talks about the president as a position, but he talks about the office of the president being more than just him, that it is his cabinet and his immediate team, and that they all represent that, and that he trusts them to do that. And I love that, because I think that’s missing right now in some leadership, where people trust their teams and they empower them to do things and empower them to push back and say, “You know what? I don’t think this is a good idea, and here’s why,” and create that space where they can do that. And John has done that, as well, in a very short amount of time, of creating this space where his team… I feel like his team feels comfortable saying, “Hey, Dr. Hoffman, I don’t… I think we should do it this way,” or, “I’m going to give you feedback on this.” And he asks for feedback, as well, and they give it to him. And so, he changes things based on their feedback. So, that’s been something that’s been fun for me to watch, too.

And his transparency, I literally overheard two open forums that he had while we were at a conference, and I was in the hotel room. And he was just so transparent with everybody. And I’m thinking, I’ve never been in an open forum like this around budget where the president has just openly said, “Here’s where we’re at. And here’s what we might be doing.” And just the transparency piece is just refreshing.

And I think that is part of taking care of your people and taking care of humans, is making sure that they don’t have anxiety about their job and worried about what’s happening and what’s this leader doing and what’s this person doing. But it’s like, that is not making the workspace toxic or a complicated place to be, so that they can actually do their jobs well. So, I think that’s all a part of wellness, too, so…

And then, I think you know, I love exercising and movement and stuff like that. So, that’s how I’m taking care of myself. And honestly, part of the way I take care of myself is I don’t take projects and jobs all the time. I really limit the amount of clients I have.

[00:37:39] Josie: I have watched your transformation and your six-pack abs, probably, at this point.

[00:37:44] John: Yep, she looks good. Mm-hmm, oh, yeah.

[00:37:49] Joy: John, stop. Edit that out. Edit that out.

[00:37:53] Josie: Keep it in.

[00:37:54] John: She does look good. You can leave that part in.

[00:37:56] Josie: Listen, marriage at 20, this is, this is role-modeling at its finest.

[00:38:03] John: Yeah.

[00:38:05] Josie: Okay, I have to get this squeezed in. And obviously, no surprise to me, but even in your social media bios, you include a number of really values-driven words and statements, whether if it’s pronouns, but also listing diversity, equity, and inclusion. And as we layer in wellness and mental health, especially for people that come from minoritized identities, BIPOC, with all the elements, what do we need to better address, or what’s on your mind? Obviously, Joy, this is a huge champion effort for you, but I feel like we need to connect those dots, too.

[00:38:42] Joy: I think one of the biggest things is we are seeing more folks from minoritized identities and different communities speak up and have boundaries. I think that’s freaking some people out, because I think, in the past, there weren’t as many boundaries because… I mean the gaslight… I mean I’m just going to put this out, the gaslighting in higher ed is just rampant. And so, we somehow… you know, we say things like, “Don’t you care about the students,” or, “Don’t you care about diversity?” Or, “You don’t do this for the paycheck,” and all those different things.

And yes, I understand that, when you are doing purpose work and passion work, that it’s not always 40 hours a week and it’s not always just for the money. And you still got to pay the bills and you still need to be getting paid what you’re worth. And you should be able to have a personal life and not feel like you’re working all the time. And that DEI is something you are just on all the time, especially, for folks doing equity work, it’s exhausting. And so, I would just say that the gaslighting in higher ed needs to stop. We need to stop guilt-tripping people into their jobs.

When people are providing boundaries, that that’s a good thing. That’s part of the mental health piece, that we need to be encouraging the boundaries and paying them more for asking them to do more and stop with the guilt-tripping around, you know, “You must not care about students if you’re not willing to do this for free.” No, I just care about my mental and physical health, too, you know.

So, I just want to put that out there because I hope that people are listening. Because if you’re the people who are doing the gaslighting, I’m talking to you. I just, I didn’t. Or, if you get mad when people provide boundaries, I’m talking to you, you know, so…

[00:40:30] Josie: I think that’s such a great… Like, we should celebrate boundaries, that people are communicating their needs.

[00:40:35] Joy: Yes.

[00:40:37] John: Absolutely.

[00:40:38] Josie: Well, as we start to wrap up, I have a few closing questions. First, where can people find all y’all, not just showing up in their RV at your front lawn?

[00:40:49] Joy: I was going to say in Bemidji.

[00:40:51] Josie: Online.

[00:40:52] John: At the Mayflower Building in Bemidji at the university. Had most of the local restaurants on the lake.

[00:40:59] Joy: In the lake.

[00:41:01] John: Sometimes.

[00:41:02] Joy: Sometimes in the lake.

[00:41:04] John: After the football team wins, yep, the homecoming game, we’re in the lake, so…

[00:41:09] Joy: Oh, and you know, low-key John’s going to be doing a polar plunge, so there’s that.

[00:41:14] Josie: Ooh.

[00:41:15] John: There is that, yes.

[00:41:17] Josie: Get that on video. Okay. But yeah, you’re on Twitter, Instagram, like, LinkedIn, those places.

[00:41:26] John: Yes, yes, yes.

[00:41:28] Joy: Yes. I’m on Instagram, @joyhoffman67. It is a private account, but I usually let most people into that. I have email. I’m all… And I have a website, www.joyconsulting.org. So, that says a little more about me.

[00:41:44] John: If you find her, you’ll find me on social media.

[00:41:46] Josie: Well, I will link all of your stuff in the show. So, I always end these interviews with a couple of questions about life and digital and leadership. So, the first, if you knew your next post was going to be your last post on that platform, what would you want it to be about?

[00:42:07] Joy: Oh, gosh, I thought about this.

[00:42:09] John: Joy and family.

[00:42:10] Joy: I feel so bad because you center me and I’m like, that wasn’t my answer. John was not my answer.

[00:42:19] Josie: No, this is good stuff.

[00:42:20] John: Mute. This is part of how… So, I have to center you. You know, that’s, kind of, building up your self-esteem. You know that mine’s a little bit… You already said I’m self-assured and all full of myself, so you have to talk about something else, right? I got it. No, I hear you.

[00:42:38] Josie: He loves you. Joy, what’s yours going to be like?

[00:42:42] Joy: Oh, no. I just… Literally, if today was my last day on earth, I would just… and if people were going to look at my Instagram account and there was going to be one last post and one challenge, I think it would just be just to ask humans to care for other humans, and not just in the be-kind kind of way in the passive, but like just, really, can we create a more inclusive, equitable world where everyone feels like they’re part of it and they feel like a sense of belonging and value? And can everybody play a role in that? Because I think that would be my last wish, is that, if I’m leaving a world behind, that, can it, can it become what I want it to be before other people pass on?

[00:43:25] John: Love, don’t ever let that aspiration… you know, don’t ever feel bad about that. I mean, that’s who you are and stuff. That’s good.

[00:43:34] Joy: Oh, without, because I didn’t mention you?

[00:43:35] John: Yes. No, big things. Yes.

[00:43:38] Josie: Well, it’ll be a carousel and the next photo will be of John.

[00:43:42] John: Yeah.

[00:43:43] Joy: Yes. And we’ll be like, oh, and then she leaves behind John Hoffman and two children and a dog.

[00:43:51] Josie: Oh, Jackson. We had to bring him up, at least once.

[00:43:54] Joy: Oh, Jackson.

[00:43:55] John: Oh, yes.

[00:43:56] Josie: Well, I really see y’all living your values. One thing we didn’t really talk about, and I don’t know if it was just when you were in Fullerton, but you, like, literally extended your concept of family and bringing people into your home to feed them, to maybe bathe them or give them a bed. If they, like, me, I…

[00:44:17] Joy: I don’t know I bathed.

[00:44:19] Josie: No, I know, but I’m just saying, like, you extend your arms so wide for people to have belonging. When I came over to, like, try to do my statistical analysis, y’all, I almost couldn’t drive home because you were so giving of probably really good Fess Parker wine.

[00:44:38] Joy: Oh, yeah.

[00:44:40] Josie: But, yeah, it’s really good.

[00:44:44] Joy: Yeah.

[00:44:45] Josie: So, my last question is, we have all these different platforms and they come and go, but what is your hope for being on the ones that you are in the way that you want to make an impact online?

[00:44:58] John: I would just say that, you know, somewhere there’s got to be some type of intersection of ethics and equity in leadership. And Josie, I think, you know, in some of the work I’ve done with you in building that social, that digital identity as a leader, that that’s what I hope, is coming through in that space. So, thank you for the help.

[00:45:19] Joy: I definitely want to be me, that I will say that John, in the jobs that he has chosen, especially, this one that’s more visible, he said in his interview to Chancellor Devinder, “If my wife has to be less than who she is, I cannot take this job,” and told him that, “This is what she does for a living. This is what she advocates for. This is who she is. It’s her, it’s her core values. I’m not going to ask her to be less than that. So, if she has to downsize her advocacy or her activism or her social media presence around issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, to make sure that it protects my presidency or it protects the system, or whatever, because, you know, she’s being too progressive or whatever, then I can’t take this job, because I am not going to ask her to be less than who she is.”

And he, then, of course, said, “Absolutely not, that’s… we’re not going to ask her to do that.” And so, that was a big part of the decision-making, too, was that working for a chancellor who was, who was not going to get mad at me for posting something around some social justice issue, right? So, because that can happen, right? That, you know, the spouse or even a president that advocates for a social justice issue then gets dragged by the community because they’re not down with it or whatever. And then, the system takes the community side versus the president’s side. You know, all that stuff can happen, but I just feel like the folks at Bemidji State, the systems office, they knew who they were hiring when they hired John. So, they… it should not be surprising if he advocates, and it should not be surprising if my social media has any types of advocacy on it. And they know exactly who they were getting, so…

[00:46:55] Josie: Well, again, y’all were quite the get as individuals and a couple. And I’m so thankful to get you both on my podcast today. This has been so fun. We have laughed. I have just about cried. I had so many more questions to ask, which we’ll just save for a future episode. But I don’t just only appreciate and adore you both, but I really love you both, too, and what, again, role-modeling you provide for the world as individuals and as a couple. And I can’t wait to see you both in person, hopefully, very soon.

[00:47:36] Joy: Yes.

[00:47:36] John: Oh, we love you, too.

[00:47:38] Joy: We love you, too.

[00:47:40] John: Very much.

[00:47:41] Joy: And say hi to Lloyd for us.

[00:47:43] Josie: I adore these two so freaking much. I could list dozens of ways that they’ve supported me over the years as individuals, as well as a collective. They represent the very best in role-modeling, mentorship, and coaching for, literally, hundreds of others, including me, especially, in student affairs. They don’t just give you guidance, they will make sure that you are fed and you know that they care about you.

While we didn’t get into my dissertation too much in the episode, I do want to give a little plug because John served on my dissertation committee as my methodologist. So, I want to take a true moment to credit Dr. Hoffman on setting me up, not only to have this wild mixed methods research that resulted in a record-breaking hundreds and hundreds of page dissertation, but he also set me up for success in so many other ways, from what I learned, but also what came of those results. My dissertation, “Developing Digital Student Leaders: A Mixed-Method Study of Student Leadership Identity and Decision-Making on Social Media,” whew, that title is just a warning sign of how packed in it was.

Y’all, I have heard nightmares from other grad and doc students about their committee members, especially, their methodologists or researchers. And I, kind of, won the doc student lottery with John. He’s one of the kindest and, sometimes, corniest people that I just have to say, especially here, thank you, thank you, thank you.

But y’all, Joy, Joy is fire. I mean, Joy is literally joy. I mean, could you have named this woman any more fitting? Every single time I spend with her, my heart and my mind lights up. So, no surprise, Joy had some mic-drop moments on this episode today. To think Joy started out not even knowing how to open a Microsoft Word document, we all have our first, but is now a champion for equitable inclusive practices through her consulting. And I have been so proud to watch her business grow.

[00:50:19] A few things that suck out for me what Joy said in the episode, sharing how everyone’s paths are different, whether you’re on a campus or on your own. And just like me, she gets asked often advice about how to get started and what that journey might look like, if you are looking to create something of your own. But that it’s okay if it’s different. But to remember, and this is going to sound similar to my goal-setting episode, to keep the mindset of busy doesn’t equal meaningful and workload does not equal purpose. I really love that.

We all, these two have been married for 30 years. And I hope you heard it, but also if you ever get to see them in real life, it feels like they’re in the honeymoon phase. They’re just… it’s adorable. Seriously, you had to have felt it. It’s like magical. So, no surprise, they embody a partnership to their marriage, their careers, and the pathway to the presidency. And we don’t really get to see that behind-the-scenes that often, not only with the president, but with their partner. And so, I hope you got to hear that today. And it got me thinking how I may want to feature that more on this podcast.

I also appreciate how honest and vulnerable they were as individuals, as well as in their marriage, because marriage is tough, y’all. That they have taken turns throughout their relationships to give each other different opportunities based on their career. And Michelle Obama talks about this, too, recently with her new book. Even when John got offered the job, he had some questions, and Joy was there to really empower him and remind him he was ready. But what really gave me chills is how John centered Joy on whether he would take the job, not just logistically, but to know who Joy is, what her values are, what she stands for, and what she’s going to be speaking about. He said that he let the chancellor know, “If my wife has to be less than who she is, I cannot take this job.” And y’all, that is the title of the episode, #RelationshipGoals.

So, again, we get to hear a lot from campus leaders, presidents, vice presidents, maybe provost. But again, what about their partners? What do their support systems really look like? Again, it got me thinking about how we need to have this conversation more, not just in backdoor conference rooms or conventions, as I know there’s these things that presidents and their partners get sent to, to do some of these trainings. But what about for y’all that maybe want to be a president or vice president someday? You need to start to build the foundations. And maybe, it’s just not your partner, but your family, your kids, your friends, maybe. As Joy said, the make or break of a presidency can be your partner, but we can redefine what who your partner is, not just in legal terms.

But I find their relationship so refreshing. And how important it is to have role models in our lives for different types of relationships, including ones that happen to have rings behind them? No marriage or relationship is perfect. Anyone that tells you theirs is, is lying. It takes a lot of work.

So, maybe, this is a new research topic for me. What are the ingredients for a successful partnership for presidents? The stress, the public appearances, the transitions. And how does that show up on social media? I would be very curious what y’all think, who are some partners that show up in the president’s feed who contribute just as much to the brand and the relationships that the president does for the campus?

John and Joy, I want to reach out and hug you right now, but because I can’t, I just want to give you a thank you for joining me. It’s been such a pleasure. Seriously, don’t be surprised, this summer, Lloyd and I might be rolling up to your house with our RV, or you just might find me on your porch with a bottle of wine. So, don’t be surprised.

[00:55:01] Thank you for joining me in this episode of Josie and the Podcast. Make sure to keep the conversation going. Reach out to me on any of the socials. I’m @JosieAhlquist. The podcast Twitter, @JosieATPodcast. And now, on Instagram, @josieandthepodcast. Remember, the show notes can be found at josieahlquist.com/podcast.

Make sure you’re subscribed. Share it, like it, love it. Pretty please drop a review. I would be so appreciative. And let me know when you do. If you’re interested in learning more about my speaking and consulting work on digital engagement and leadership, or my book, “Digital Leadership in Higher Education,” find me at josieahlquist.com.

Thank you, a million times, over to the podcast sponsors, Campus Sonar and Alumni FM, who produced this very show. 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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