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Tapping into Joy with Myla Edmond

Life changes, choosing joy, and expanding beyond the cells higher ed marketers are put in – this episode of Josie and the Podcast is full of inspiring and insightful conversation with my dear friend, Myla Edmond.

Myla is an innovative collaborator with over 15 years of experience in marketing and communications in higher education. She builds teams of leaders and strategic partners by focusing on disruptive thinking, emotional intelligence, active inclusion, and comprehensive integration. Myla currently leads communications and marketing at California State University, Dominguez Hills.

In this episode, we dive into Myla’s recent life transition to Los Angeles, discussing the challenges and excitements of relocation. Myla shares insights on prioritizing joy, drawing on her experiences spending two Semesters at Sea, where she navigated the seas and leaned into her emotions through poetry.

But that’s not all. Myla shares a candid perspective on the challenges marketers face in higher education. She emphasizes the limitations imposed when marketers are confined to narrow roles, restricted by predetermined narratives and programs. Myla emphasizes the need to adapt to societal expectations, particularly in diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Join us as we explore the intersections of life changes, joy, leadership, and the imperative work of creating more inclusive spaces within higher education marketing. Get ready for an episode that sparks inspiration and encourages us all to embrace the transformative power of change!

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Element451 is a proud sponsor of Josie and the Podcast. Element451 is an AI-powered, all-in-one student engagement platform, helping institutions create meaningful, personalized, and engaging interactions with students. Our platform harnesses the power of Artificial Intelligence to seamlessly tailor content for each individual, bridging the gap between broad outreach and personal touchpoints. Fueled by intelligent automation and deep data insights, teams are free to focus on what matters most — building real connections with students. Learn more at Element451.com. 

Notes from this Episode:

More About Myla Edmond

Myla Edmond is an innovative collaborator with more than 15 years of higher education marketing and communications experience. She has a deep understanding of departmental interdependence having created and led marketing strategy for academic affairs, alumni relations, and international education. 

She builds teams of leaders and strategic partners by focusing on disruptive thinking, emotional intelligence, active inclusion, and comprehensive integration. Myla currently leads the communications and marketing strategy at California State University, Dominguez Hills. She resides in Southern California and loves traveling, reading fiction, and writing short stories, novels, and essays.

Connect with Myla Edmond

[00:00:00] Josie: Josie and the Podcast is produced by the fantastic team at University FM. They are the higher ed podcast agency and help communicators build community, share research, and inspire thoughtful discussions with podcasts that resonate. Strategy, production, audience growth, they help you do it all, including me. Go to university.fm or click the link in the show notes to get started today.

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

Our first of season six, Myla Edmond is an innovative collaborator with more than 15 years of higher ed marketing and communications experience. She has a deep understanding of departmental interdependence, having created and led marketing strategy for academic affairs, alumni relations, and international education. She builds teams of leaders and strategic partners by focusing on disruptive thinking, emotional intelligence, active inclusion, and comprehensive integration.

Myla currently leads a communication marketing strategy at California State University Dominguez Hills. As you’ll hear in our conversation, we get talking about Southern California, about how she travels, maybe even reading, and poetry, novels, and all of the things. As I’m sure the title of the episode peeks at, Myla is full of joy and life.

This will be a great episode to tune into when you might need a little boost of that, but also know that we dig into the good stuff as we think about inclusion and equity in marketing and why it’s so important to commit the time to your own network and looking into volunteer opportunities with professional associations. By the time this episode comes out, Myla and I will have already seen each other at a conference. Maybe I will have seen you at one, too.

In the meantime, you can follow both of us on all the socials in the show notes. The podcast is on Instagram, Threads, and X. And I’m on all the things @JosieAhlquist. You can find Myla @MylaDenise. Everything we talk about, resources, people, posts, is found on my website, josieahlquist.com\podcast. Enjoy.

Myla, I am so darn excited to get you on the podcast. I feel like I’m dusting the cobwebs off a little bit from taking a break over the summer. So, I was like, “Who do I just want to kick this episode off with and just have a yummy and spicy conversation with?” And it’s like, “Duh, Myla is that person for me.”

[00:05:13] Myla: I’m so glad to be here. And I’ve been looking forward to chatting with you.

[00:05:18] Josie: So, I always kick the podcast off with getting to know you, not just in your, you know, like, fancy bio, but your Instagram bio. And your bio reads writer, survivor, world traveler, encourager, smile giver, I love that one, life lover, and I’m going to need help with this pronunciation, and I do all of this with…

[00:05:42] Myla: Vitiligo.

[00:05:43] Josie: What is that?

[00:05:45] Myla: Vitiligo is a skin condition where I lose the pigment in my skin. And I put that in there just because if there are other people who have vitiligo and just need some inspiration, I’m there for that, too.

[00:06:00] Josie: I do find, like, being able to share those tidbits in our bios are such a nice welcome mat to say, “Oh, me too,” whether that’s about being also a writer or a world traveler, which we’re going to get into because you do all the things. You’re, like, my get-out-of-your-house inspiration, even we live in… Sometimes, it actually means we get to go and meet up because we live-

[00:06:29] Myla: Yes.

[00:06:30] Josie: … in the same neighborhood. For those of you that aren’t connected with Myla yet please do. I will link all her socials. We are recording this a little bit before it’ll come out, but what was your most recent post on a platform that you might want to talk about? And tell us why you shared it.

[00:06:50] Myla: My most recent post was probably when I went ziplining last weekend. And I shared it because it just was such an example… First, it was a lot of fun, but it was such an example of many of my other posts, which is me living with my arms high up in the air and just taking in all the things that life has to offer and just enjoying myself. So, that’s why I shared it. It was just a reflection of so many other things in a way that I, that I try to live my life.

[00:07:28] Josie: Yeah. Life lover, I feel like, is a good description of you. And we were actually messaging between your zips. I was like, “Wait, you’re on the zipline right now?” I’m like, “Listen, A, kudos. You can multitask, but also please ignore me and my text messages.”

[00:07:50] Myla: I would never ignore you. Yeah, there’s time, there’s time in between, you know. So, I was using my phone to take pictures. I saw your text come through, so I responded.

[00:08:01] Josie: Oh, it looked fun. So, let’s scroll back to little Myla, or maybe pre-teen Myla. What was your earliest memories of using technology?

[00:08:13] Myla: Oh, pre-teen Myla had a lot more hair, but earliest memory of technology would be… there’s two things that come to mind, and one is gaming systems.

[00:08:25] Josie: Mm-hmm.

[00:08:26] Myla: So, I have a brother. He’s four years younger than I am. And we used to play games all the time.

[00:08:32] Josie: Yeah.

[00:08:32] Myla: And it was really cool because we got to engage with the TV instead of just watching it.

[00:08:38] Josie: Yep.

[00:08:39] Myla: And then we could also play together. And then when they came out with the handheld gaming systems, that was fun, too. I was loving Tetris, but that was harder because we couldn’t necessarily play together so then we had to have these little, you know, fights about who got game time. But I do. I remember games as this cool new technology where, you know, we would play outside all day, but I grew up in the Midwest.

And so, if it was not a good weather day, then we could play games all day still. And it was really cool. The other thing that I remember, and this was me a little older, was the ability to blog. That was a game changer for me. I was someone who had written since I was a kid, but it was always pen and paper. And, you know, if I wanted to share it, I would have to send someone something, or send them a letter, or, you know, just something very low-tech.

And then with a blog, you could write out whatever you wanted to share, and then distribute it however you needed to, and then you would have other people reading it that maybe you didn’t even know. And so, I remember that being mind-blowing. It wasn’t just something that what I saw as an established writer putting out. Anyone could write a blog, and anyone could share that. So, I remember being pretty impressed and intimidated by that.

[00:10:01] Josie: Was there a platform that you used?

[00:10:05] Myla: I was on Blogspot.

[00:10:07] Josie: Blogspot, okay. Blogging was also, like, a critical component of this new… No, it’s not new anymore. It’s been over 10 years, but this path that I could write about what I was doing in my doc program at the time, and that access. And I know access is a core element of the work that you do, too, but that was so critical for me. Well, okay. Those are our warm-up questions. Now, we’re going to get into your kickoff first interview of this season.

Last season, the theme was mental health and wellness, which we always need to be talking about that, but also, I’ve been thinking a lot about time and transitions. And I put out a poll. And widely, everybody wanted to talk about career and life transitions. And I came across this article at the same time about the pandemic skip. Have you heard? I sent you this article. Had you heard about it?

[00:11:07] Myla: I had not heard that term until you sent me the article. And as I was reading it, I kept nodding my head. Like, yes, yes, this is exactly… It felt like a time warp in some ways.

[00:11:19] Josie: Right.

[00:11:20] Myla: And I’ve had conversations with people about how they don’t remember how old they are because they feel like they’ve lost some years. I think part of it, too, is we’re getting older and that just happens, but it does feel like there were these years, these lost years. And I think, for me, it’s even more complex because I switched jobs and moved to a new city during the pandemic.

And so, some days, it hits me that I’ve just completely changed my life during that time. And, you know, when you recover from things, you go back to what it was before. I wasn’t going back to what it was before. And I feel that. Like, it feels very strange. But yeah, I had never heard of that term until you sent me the article.

[00:12:04] Josie: And how are you, kind of, navigating that sense of time right now, or marking time, and getting grounded?

[00:12:12] Myla: It really just reminds me, and this is how I try to live anyway, that we just have now. And so, a couple years ago, I had started thinking about whenever someone asked me to do something or consider something, I started saying, “Why not?” Now, it’s turned into, “If not now, then when?”

And so, knowing that we spent all this time just not being able to do some of the things, you know, as you mentioned at the start, I like to be out, I like to go do things, and that was not available. I like to spend time with people that was not available. I like to travel. You know, all of these things that normally brought me joy and groundedness, I couldn’t do.

And so, it just really made you dependent on some other patterns and other things that would bring you that same sense of groundedness. And for me, it wasn’t, it wasn’t that it was that difficult because some other things that make me feel grounded are very much doable in a pandemic, like reading and just writing, so that was okay, but I still missed the traveling and spending time with people.

[00:13:25] Josie: Yeah. We’re all catching up with that. And we get to do that in a couple weeks, maybe less than that. Again, time. Weird.

[00:13:34] Myla: Nine days, Josie.

[00:13:35] Josie: Nine days, yeah. You…

[00:13:36] Myla: Nine days.

[00:13:37] Josie: Well, we’ll talk about AMA in a minute. You are literally running the conference. So-

[00:13:42] Myla: With a lot of help.

[00:13:43] Josie: … I’m not surprised that you have a countdown. So, you talked about a little bit of one of those career transitions and life transitions moving to LA, starting a new job. But as you think about even beyond that, or we can talk about that one in that particular transition, how did you navigate not just the functions, like, “Okay, I need to find an apartment and, like, whatever, whatever,” but the feelings, the mental health piece? And what did you learn about yourself in whatever that transition was that listeners might be able to apply?

[00:14:21] Myla: You know, I think moving in general is just one of the worst things ever. You know, trying to pack up your life, pack up your things, put it in a truck, and then unpack all of those things, it just feels like, I don’t know, with all the technology out there, there’s got to be another way to do this.

[00:14:43] Josie: Oh, my gosh, right? Talk about an opportunity for anyone.

[00:14:47] Myla: So, it was already going to be challenging, but I think what made it more challenging is it was in the middle of a pandemic. And so, I felt like I had to do that by myself. And that was difficult because I am someone, while I am recharged when I get to come home to a quiet place, I also need to be around people.

And here I am, doing one of the hardest things ever. And I’m having to do that solo. And I felt it. And so, it wasn’t just packing up the place, but even unpacking when I got to my new place. That was hard.

[00:15:29] Josie: Yeah.

[00:15:30] Myla: I felt alone. And I felt alone because I was also in a new city. I didn’t have people to call and say, “Hey, I’ve got my new place. Come over and have pizza with me. We’re sitting on the floor because my furniture’s not here.” You know, it was just… I did. I felt very much alone in that moment. But, you know, I think I’m somebody who keeps it moving. I find ways to tap back into joy when I need to. And so, that’s what I did.

And I also tapped into the excitement of starting a new position, being at a new institution, and the possibility of broadening my community, essentially. I’ve had a good time getting to know Long Beach, Los Angeles. You know, I get to hang out with you now. And so, that’s all been fun. And it, it worked out, but it was difficult, you know. I don’t want to downplay the fact that it was hard, and I did feel that loneliness creep up when I first moved.

[00:16:26] Josie: Right. Yeah. That consideration whether, you know, you have a family you’re moving with or alone, like, what your community is going to be like when you move in that career transition. We are also at this age where even when you do have friends, like, we can’t ask help with moving anymore.

Like, we’ve transitioned out of… You can’t offer pizza and beer. Even the nicest wine, they’d be like, “How about we contribute to your movers? Like, we have backs to protect. Listen. It’s, it’s for our health. We’ll meet you after.”

[00:17:00] Myla: Right. We can’t sneeze without risking our health. And so, no. You know, I did hire movers. It wasn’t that I, I wanted friends to help me move, but yeah, remember. You get into a new space, and you want to show people where you live or just have them come over and share that this is my first week in my new place, or this is my first meal in my new place, and-

[00:17:23] Josie: Yeah.

[00:17:24] Myla: … you’re doing that by yourself. And again, I think I’m better positioned to handle those situations, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have feelings about it.

[00:17:33] Josie: Yeah. Well, I really appreciate you sharing the feelings because any, like, leaders on LinkedIn making this transition, you think it’s just all this pomp and circumstance and perfection. And at the end of the day, we’re just humans, so.

[00:17:50] Myla: Oh, absolutely. And, and again, you’re excited about what’s coming, but I don’t think decisions like taking a new job and moving to a new city are left without some sense of loss for what you had before. And I definitely experienced that. You know, I, I left a beautiful city. I had a great community in Santa Barbara. And so, it wasn’t easy. Even though I knew it was the right thing to do professionally, personally, it just felt very difficult.

[00:18:18] Josie: I can’t help but be a little distracted from all of your beautiful photos behind you. I’m assuming you took those.

[00:18:29] Myla: I did.

[00:18:30] Josie: This is a podcast so you all can’t see it, but I’m like, yeah, I’m pretending I’m on this beach or in this mountain. I’m pretty sure in the texts that we were sending back and forth while Myla was literally on a zipline, you maybe sent me this in your, like, response when I do, like, little intake forms before about joy. And you’re a joy seeker. And I was like, “Yes, that is the encapsulation.” And then I also said, “You’re just fun, fun, fun.”

You’re like, “Josie, you’re fun.” I was like, “No, I know, but you’re like, fun, fun, fun.” Even despite challenges, or just how you fit that into your life, how do you prioritize that? Because I know for me, I’m like, the couch also looks pretty fun, but, like, then I’m like, “Man, I got to get out of my house. I need to…” How have you, kind of, built that joy-seeking into your values in life?

[00:19:22] Myla: I think of two things. One, it’s really taking advantage of the little things. So, one of the pictures behind me, and I’m sorry that those who are listening can’t see it, but, Josie, this picture here, I was walking on the beach, and I saw this toy boat. I was walking with one of my friends. And it just cracked me up because I’m like, “Oh, a shipwreck, right?” And it’s a little toy. And so, I took a picture of it because it made me laugh.

And then I decided to print it and put it on the wall. And, and I think that’s a really good example of I pay attention to everything. And I think it’s because I’m a writer. I’m, I’m, I’m very observant. So, I pay attention to everything. And then the things that bring me joy, make me laugh, or make me feel, you know, connected to someone, I want to make sure that I capture that. And so, I don’t just take for granted that this thing happened.

And it’s just a silly little toy boat on a beach, but it brought me so much joy. So, I think it’s paying attention to the little things and not taking that for granted. And then even, you know, what you just said about the couch is fun, too. I recognize that there are days when I do just need to rest. And I find joy in that, too. I think it’s hard.

And I know people listening outside of California are probably going to roll their eyes, but sometimes we take for granted the weather that we have. And it makes it even easier to stay on the couch, right, because you know that if you don’t go out today, it’s going to be like this tomorrow, and two weeks from now, and two months from now.

And so, I do try to say, “Okay, you know what? Last weekend, you didn’t, you didn’t go outside, so you need to go outside this weekend.” It’s hard, but also you just have to recognize what you need at the time. And sometimes, what you need is rest.

[00:21:20] Josie: Yeah.

[00:21:21] Myla: And sometimes, what you need is to go ziplining.

[00:21:24] Josie: So, you said earlier, you’re originally from the Midwest. I also didn’t grow up here, from Wyoming. And so, I know those moments of, like, “Oh, it’s 50. We’re going to wear shorts, like, or 45 or whatever.” And yeah, that is interesting when it’s always nice. So, I am assuming probably at least, well, maybe, one of those, or maybe not, is from your adventures at Semester at Sea.

And for those listening that don’t know what that is, you were a staff on one of them. Tell us about it. I think Student Affairs actually knows about Semester at Sea a lot, but I don’t hear it talked a lot about in marketing. And people may not realize, like, they could head to a ship for a minute and have quite the adventure for work.

[00:22:11] Myla: So, the first exposure to Semester at Sea was as a student, actually. So, I, I sailed with them in 1999. I just dated myself as a student. And it was so incredible. I always knew I wanted to study abroad. I just didn’t know where. I couldn’t finalize a location. And, you know, this is typical of my behavior because I don’t like to make choices. I say I live an AM lifestyle.

And so, as soon as I saw this option where you could go to nine countries in a semester, I thought, “That’s perfect because now I don’t have to choose.” And so, I sailed with them as a student. And I was involved. I was, you know, on the alumni board and wanted to make sure that I stayed connected. And once I started working at higher ed, that was, kind of, sought after because that’s what they do. And I’m an alum. So, I was asked to sail as a staff member.

As an alumni and development coordinator, you were working with the students to help them understand that they would become alums. A lot of the job was actually communications, though. That’s how I got to sail again as a professional. Changed my life. I didn’t think that the second time I would sail, it would be as influential as it was because you, you know, it’s, like, the second time I’ve done this, but it was.

And I met some incredible people who are my friends still to this day that I still talk to. And I loved it. And, you know, seeing the world, it’s just I can’t express enough how much I love just traveling to other places and experiencing things like the grocery store and walking around the neighborhoods and not just doing the touristy things.

[00:24:01] Josie: Yeah.

[00:24:01] Myla: Going to the movies in India, I will never forget. That’s one of the things that brings me joy, too, is, is finding myself in new places and experiencing them and meeting the people, and eating the food.

[00:24:13] Josie: Yeah. Sounds like it’s very transformative.

[00:24:15] Myla: It was, for sure.

[00:24:17] Josie: Yeah. So, you mentioned earlier about your writing, but you also shared some of your poetry on social media. Is that something, like, you’ve always, kind of, integrated throughout your life, or, kind of, where did that come love come from and…

[00:24:35] Myla: Yeah. I, I think even as a, as a kid, I wrote a lot. And it started because I needed to express things that I wouldn’t audibly say. And I just felt safer saying it on paper. And whether it was a journal entry or a play or a poem, I just felt like this is a safe space for me to say what I need to.

And as I got older, that’s when I really started to see that I could play with rhythms and alliterations and word choice in a way that it wasn’t just urgently getting out feelings I needed to get out. And that’s when I started to love it is because then I could influence, I could influence it in a different way and not just express something. So, it grew from a need to something that I came to respect and love.

[00:25:29] Josie: That’s awesome. We’ll link to some that you have shared publicly. Do you, like, go to poetry readings or, like, a bit more on the hobby side?

[00:25:40] Myla: I don’t go to poetry readings. What I love writing more than anything are stories. And so, poems, for me, are more urgent. They’re just like, I need to say this thing. I need to express this feeling. And then it’s done.

[00:25:57] Josie: Yeah.

[00:25:58] Myla: It’s strange because I wouldn’t say that I necessarily enjoy writing poems because sometimes, they’re hard. And so, that’s just an, an expression of something I needed to say and get out, and then I’m done with it. But I enjoy writing stories more.

[00:26:17] Josie: Yeah. It’s interesting. I feel like I’ve gotten lots of little signs from the universe of, like, needing to get off of tech to just be writing. I mean, I don’t know how you write your poems, but, yeah, because sometimes, we just need to get it out of our bodies. Like, a, a spinning class isn’t enough.

[00:26:33] Myla: Right.

[00:26:34] Josie: Sometimes, I need to, to get all this out of me. So, well, I know we’ve spent a good amount of time, honestly, not really talking about higher ed yet, I mean, sort of, here and there, but I just find it so important in these, kind of, storytelling opportunities to dig a little bit deeper what we might not see on the screen. But again, I am so excited to get to see you in real life in Chicago.

By the time this comes out, it will have already have come and gone. And we’ll link to some, I’m sure, wonderful photos and things. But you shared with me your professional involvement has also, and volunteering, has also heavily influenced your career and your life. And so, the AMA Symposium for higher ed, you’re the about-to-be outgoing chair.

[00:27:27] Myla: Yes, I am.

[00:27:29] Josie: How has it, that experience, but overall being involved in professional associations, influenced your career and life?

[00:27:38] Myla: I can’t say enough about the benefits of volunteering with a professional organization. In addition to just being connected with people who do what you do, you’re at the forefront of what’s coming up. It’s always requiring you to think about how you can take what you’re hearing and learning from your colleagues back to, you know, your home campus.

And I think it’s just added such value even in the relationships that I’ve built with the people who I’ve met along the way. I have been working with AMA for the last five years. And I’ve just met some really incredible people who have become friends of mine. And I am rotating off this year. And I think what I feel best about is I’m rotating off, but I get to keep those friends.

And so, I can’t stress enough for somebody either starting their career or, you know, who’s been in their career for a while and have never volunteered to consider volunteering. Again, I’ve learned so many things from just being in the same space with people as they’re talking to me about what’s going on on their campus. And it’s not just, you know, you take what they say and plop it onto your campus.

We all have different communities, and our student base are a little bit unique, but it just makes you think differently. And I think it’s made me more thoughtful and more intentional about the work that I do on my campus, just hearing how some of their struggles have gone, some of the things that they’ve tried out, and hearing about their successes as well. It just expands your professional career, but it also expands how you think about the work that you do.

[00:29:29] Josie: Right. I think that’s what is one of my favorite things with the work I do is it, it is expanding, like, getting a sense. It’s literally you’re so focused on the campus that you are at it’s hard to see beyond the clouds. So, I, I find a lot of those conferences, too, or finding, like, oh, it’s not just me that’s experiencing this or that. You find those colleagues that become friends.

I’m curious, because you’ve been involved for five years, so you see how the sausage is made and you’re even, you know, like, coming up with some of the recipes from keynote speakers to themes and locations. And this will start to, kind of, move us into the meat and potatoes of our chat today about DEI.

What do you see the role of associations in leading higher ed on that macro level? You know, not just innovation and education, professional development, but there’s a lot of role modeling or lack thereof of, you know, like, access, inclusion, critical conversations, again, at a more macro level.

[00:30:42] Myla: One of the things that I’ve been focused on as co-chair is, you know, for AMA, I’ve been asking questions, and I started this even before I was co-chair, you know, how can we make it so that this process of rotating on the committee is more transparent and open and very clear so that if I don’t know someone on the committee, I could put my hat in the running and let you know that I’m interested.

And the reason that was important is I care about diversity, equity, and inclusion. And so, I think even as you talk about leading that in the forefront, that, for me, was important as a member of a community that is leading higher education marketing that is providing resources for higher education marketers. And, you know, living that out in that space was important. And AMA has been certainly on board with making that process better.

They let the volunteers lead that, of course, but what it does is challenge us to be who we say we are, which is what we do at work, right, and what we’re supposed to do at work. Even looking at the makeup of these committees and making sure that they are reflective of the makeup of higher education marketers is important.

Also, just making sure that when we have representation in terms of who’s coming as keynote speakers, who’s leading sessions, all of that has to be considered. And we have a little bit more influence on that, leading a professional organization as a volunteer, than sometimes we do on our campuses. And so, this group has just been really great about being intentional with our speakers.

And our session leads on, you know, are we getting voices from this type of campus? Are we getting content that’s related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and other things that maybe we want to talk about, but are not always able to? And that’s been great because we don’t have that same level on our campuses sometimes. You know, we don’t necessarily have influence over the programming on our campuses. We don’t have influence over curriculum development on our campuses, but in this space, we do.

[00:33:07] Josie: Yeah. This leads so much into the conversation about marketing as a whole and the, gosh, the sandwich that marketers are placed into. I mean, that’s maybe, maybe I’m hungry. We’re talking about food. Both of us are eating next, hopefully. To ask the question of not just why DE&I is important in marketing, but then how do you even accomplish that in higher ed?

I mean, that’s not just a dissertation. That’s just, like, a very critical question that also shouldn’t be answered in just one podcast. But what do you find is a place to start for those that are trying to do better in educating themselves and implementing more authentic practices from what you’ve learned over time?

[00:34:01] Myla: You are opening a big box here. Yes, you are. So, I think of two things. One is that as marketers, we’ve always been put in this cell in terms of this is what you influence, and that’s it. And the people that I’ve worked with, my colleagues, certainly those that I’ve talked to as volunteers on AMA, we know that our work extends far beyond any cell that campuses can try to put us in.

And the sad part is it’s often our colleagues at the leadership table that put us in the cell. And you realize, you know, you want to almost scream out. Like, we’re on the same team and we’re trying to be helpful, but if you put me in this cell, I can’t be as effective, and certainly, our campus can’t go as far as it needs to because you actually need me at this table, and you need me to sit at the adult seat, and not at the kids table. Like, you need me here.

And sometimes, they just, kind of, put you in the cell and say, “We just want you to promote our programs in the way that we tell you to promote our programs.” That is just incredibly limiting from what we’re able to do and what we’re able to influence. I think about that when we think about, you know, what kind of programs we should be developing, but also what kind of programs we should be sunsetting.

And I really do think that as a marketer, our role is to help establish congruence between who we say we are and who we actually are. And we have to start looking at that mission, vision, and values and what that looks like in 2023, because if you think about higher ed as a system, it was never designed for some of the stuff that we talk about when it pertains to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Higher education wasn’t designed to be that.

I’m certainly glad that we’re having these discussions, and we recognize that we have to become that, but that’s not how we started. And we’re not going back to that intent and saying how do we reshape who we’ve become based on where we started to make it applicable to 2023? So, I think that’s part of the issue that we run up against. And then in terms of how we can be helpful, I think, most of the time, the first thing we think of is our output, right?

So, we think about the stories we tell, the photos we show. And they do need to be reflective because representation matters. We also think about language. We want to make sure that our language is inclusive, that we’re using people first language, and we’re not excluding people by using binaries, like, brothers and sisters in our, you know, statements and, and when we’re addressing our student body. But then I think about not just our output, but our input, how we come to make decisions.

And that has to be in partnership with… You know, a lot of campuses are hiring or have hired diversity, equity and inclusion officers. I think marketing and those diversity, equity, and inclusion officers have a really strong and powerful partnership if they choose to make it that. That, to me, is thinking about decisions we make, the actions we take, and again, establishing that congruence between who we say we are and who we actually are.

[00:37:35] Josie: So, some of that can be aspirational versus actual. How do you grapple with that in not being performative, but also wanting to have best practices in place?

[00:37:52] Myla: Yeah, I mean, I think, ironically, it’s an education-

[00:37:55] Josie: Yeah.

[00:37:55] Myla: … you know, making sure that people understand what, what do we mean when we say something’s performative? And we can’t get offended because we can’t fix what we don’t face when somebody’s challenging us in that way.

And so, when you’re at a space where the best you can do is release a statement about everybody’s welcome here, you know, if you don’t take the time to challenge that and say, “What does that look like on our campus and how can we do that better? And how can we do more than make a statement?” People want to actually see this in action-

[00:38:33] Josie: Right.

[00:38:34] Myla: … and they also want to feel it.

[00:38:36] Josie: Yep.

[00:38:37] Myla: And they’re not going to see it in action and feel it by words. So, what are we doing to showcase diversity, equity, inclusion, and action instead of just saying, “You’re welcome here.”? How do you make them feel welcome? How are you changing your processes for what they feel like as alums?

[00:38:57] Josie: Right.

[00:38:57] Myla: So, it’s, it’s really in the actions. And again, we can’t be offended when people challenge us or ask us questions or share their lived experience with us because even if it’s not necessarily our intention, that doesn’t mean that we haven’t left people feeling like they weren’t a welcomed member of our community.

[00:39:17] Josie: Right. Well, because also marketing and communications might be the first responders on social or are listening to know something’s brewing or some feedback, whether that’s from a campaign or just life on campus. I think we are needing a shift in seeing marketers, again, like, you called it, a cell, which is just so sad. We need to break out of these cell because also the impact that you can have on student engagement and retention.

So, I want to go back to you talking about having being seen as that, but also having access, like, a seat at the table. So, what are some things that have helped you, and especially knowing you made that transition to a new campus, or even previously, what you were able to do to get others, especially in the C suite, to see you and your team in that light more holistically?

[00:40:21] Myla: Well, I think, first, marketers are, kind of, the ones who bring people together. We’re the collaborators on campus. And it can be tiring because we’re almost the drivers of collaboration where most of the time, we love silos on campus.

And I think the way that we’re structured, our infrastructure, can be so limiting and just enable us to… you know, we have our little jobs, and we do what we do over here in this corner without consideration of how what you do impacts what I do. And I’m really grateful my first job in higher ed, actually, I was doing the marketing and communications for alumni relations.

And because of that, I fully understand how what happens at the front end impacts the back end because I was working in alumni relations. And so, you can’t ask them to come back to reunions, or donate money, or become a mentor to students if they didn’t feel welcomed and appreciated and, like, they had a space as a student. It’s just not going to work.

And so, having that start really ingrained me into understanding the interdependence of our units. And so, I’ve always appreciated that. But what I’ll say is bringing people together has been our job from the start. That’s what we do. And so, just really just trying to come to people. And it’s frustrating because it feels like it’s always us coming to people and saying, “I can help us do this better.”

You’re trying to reach out to students on this to promote your event? I can help you promote your event, but also can we talk about your programming, and also can we talk about, you know, all the other things? And sometimes, that’s not welcomed. You know, sometimes, people think that you’re extending beyond what you should be doing.

And here comes the cell again, where they’re like, “No, we just need you to promote our event.” And that’s hard. So, I think putting yourself in a space to say, “How can I be helpful to you?” is usually a good start because who doesn’t want help? But then sometimes, they almost feel like you’re overstepping, so you have to do that very carefully.

[00:42:38] Josie: So, folks might anticipate some resistance, but some resiliency and the more broad approach of how can I help. There’s so much ego wrapped up into some of this.

[00:42:52] Myla: Oh, my goodness.

[00:42:53] Josie: Also, like, the word that you’ve used, cells and silos, and it’s just so sad.

[00:43:02] Myla: But it’s true. But ego is such a small word, but it is so problematic in these spaces. And I find the people that, that have been most effective have been the ones who put their ego aside and just come together. At the end of the day, we all say we’re there for our students.

[00:43:20] Josie: Yeah.

[00:43:21] Myla: And we can’t do that if we’re holding on to power structures, ego, and making sure that my unit is seen as the most important. We don’t have time for that. And at the end of the day, the students suffer when we do that.

[00:43:36] Josie: Yeah.

[00:43:36] Myla: And so, it’s really just making sure that the way we’re set up and how we approach the work that we do is really student-centered and not making sure that our structures remain as they are because I always pay attention to who benefits when things stay the same. It’s not the students.

[00:43:56] Josie: Well, I think this conversation also brings to light those leaders in marketing. That’s not just the campaigns that you become very good at the work, but it’s the behind the scenes work of being relational is definitely a critical component, you know, as you’re looking to move up, that’s needed, advocacy, education.

[00:44:20] Myla: Well, it’s, it’s the way that I’ve been able to make progress. None of this work is solo.

[00:44:27] Josie: Right.

[00:44:28] Myla: And it shouldn’t be. You know, I’m not an expert in student affairs. I’m not an expert in academic affairs. I’m not an expert in IT. I need all of those units. But we’re strongest when we all come together and develop clear decision-making programs and academic programs that are best for our students. When we do that together, they benefit. When we just approach them isolated, everyone suffers. And it’s not efficient.

[00:45:04] Josie: That could be another podcast.

[00:45:09] Myla: The inefficiency of higher education.

[00:45:11] Josie: Now, we’re getting to some I’s. Okay. So, to bring it to some resources and goodies, we’ll have all kinds of links in the notes of things we’ve talked about. And this could be about anything. Is there any, kind of, your go-to or recommended resources from books, podcasts, articles, people, fulfilling breakfast to eat before work?

[00:45:38] Myla: Yeah. You know, I find that the, the most helpful things that I can do for myself are actually reading materials that have nothing to do with higher ed marketing because so much of our work is, kind of, psychology and self-awareness. I find that reading books…

Like, one of my favorites, I read this years ago, and I’ve written notes all over this book, it’s called Lessons in Living by Susan L. Taylor. And she was the editor and chief of Essence Magazine years ago. And it just feels like a really great guidepost to how to live.

And so, I think reading materials like that is really helpful and keeps me centered and reminds me that even on my most frustrating days, this is good work, and I can only be good at it if I’m centered. And so, just reading things that have nothing to do with higher education has been helpful. And then one of the newer books I’ve read that I like is Professional Troublemaker by Luvvie Ajayi Jones.

[00:46:47] Josie: Oh, I’ve seen some of that. Yeah.

[00:46:50] Myla: Yes. That book is really good, but really, it’s finding ways to take care of myself-

[00:46:57] Josie: Yep.

[00:46:58] Myla: … that helps me be better at my work, you know, because I’m not going to do a good job if I’m feeling depleted or frustrated. And that’s not to say that you won’t ever feel those things. It’s when you’re in that constant state that it starts to become a problem.

[00:47:15] Josie: Right.

[00:47:15] Myla: And so, I find that just trying to keep it balanced and not stay there.

[00:47:21] Josie: It’s a great reminder. And where can people find you to connect? E-mail, social media, websites?

[00:47:28] Myla: I’m on LinkedIn. Myla Edmond on LinkedIn. My content on other sites is less about work. So, if you just want to see, like, some fun photos and things, I’m on Instagram as author_myladenise. So, certainly can find me there. E-mail address is myedmond@csudh.edu. So, I’m in those places pretty frequently.

[00:47:57] Josie: Awesome. So, my last two questions I always end with all my guests. And sometimes again, cells and silos and sadness. So, the first one, a little sad, and then we end with some uplifting, like, joy, which is who you are. If you knew your next post was going to be your last on X, this really was a thing for people, so what would you want it to be about?

[00:48:24] Myla: My last post would probably be something very similar to the post I did this week, just me with my arms up, embracing and welcoming all that, that life has to offer. I think that’s just a really good depiction of who I am and how I try to live. And so, I would want to go out with that.

[00:48:46] Josie: I love that. It really is a great post, too. I could feel it. We’ll link that one. Well, for now, with joy, with adventure, with intentionality, how is Myla, and your digital presence, how do you want it to impact the world? What is your why for leading online?

[00:49:05] Myla: My why is really just to encourage people to keep going even on the hard days, but also to know that you have some influence on the direction of your life. You don’t have to just let life happen to you. And I know that there are things that happen to us because that’s part of a life experience, but we don’t have to stay there. And that’s what I hope that I leave people with is you have a choice, and you always have a choice. Even when things happen to us, we don’t have to stay there.

[00:49:39] Josie: Yeah. I think people will very much appreciate that message.

[00:49:45] Myla: I certainly hope so. That’s been a message that I’ve needed to hear, and so that’s why I say it.

[00:49:51] Josie: Right. Well, I can’t wait to be in community with you and many of our other colleagues in Chicago. My only deal breaker is I’m not going outside when it’s raining or snowing, unless there’s an Uber right outside. No, I’m just kidding. I’m being so… Listen, you’re a California girl now. You understand it.

[00:50:11] Myla: I do understand. 50 degrees hits different after you’ve lived here.

[00:50:16] Josie: It really does. Oh, it’s so funny. Sometimes, inside the conference rooms are colder than actually outside, but-

[00:50:23] Myla: It’s true.

[00:50:24] Josie: … we’ll, we’ll see. I’ve been such a fan of yours for so long. I actually spoke at, well, online, at Dominguez Hills. I think it was, like, right after you joined maybe, and featured you in a number of slides, because I was speaking.

I think it was especially to women about how they could show up online with intention. And just already, kind of, featuring you. I was like, “This chick looks cool. How do I be your friend?” And so, I manifested. I’ve stalked you, Myla. And this has come full circle.

[00:50:59] Myla: I love it. And I remember this time last year, we did a talk together-

[00:51:05] Josie: Right. Oh, yeah.

[00:51:07] Myla: … in L.A. So, yeah, it was this time last year.

[00:51:11] Josie: Oh, what a anniversary.

[00:51:15] Myla: Yes, yes. So very fitting that we’re together today.

[00:51:19] Josie: Thank you so much for coming on.

[00:51:21] Myla: Thanks for inviting me. And I’m happy to chat with you anytime.

[00:51:26] Josie: Myla is a writer, world traveler, volunteer, and so much more, living with so much joy. And I love that I get to call her friend. By the way, we fully got the giggles after we  stopped recording because my stomach was growling so, so much during the recording. I hope you couldn’t hear it. What I hope you heard is all that joy and intention that Myla leads with. She pays attention to all the little things and doesn’t take life for granted.

And I think this time of year, so full of all of the things, it’s much overdue to take a beat and let the good in life sink in. I opened the discussion how marketing, no matter central office or in a division or department, is sometimes stuck like a sandwich. Myla called it a cell. She said, “We are on the same team. If you put me, marketing, comms, in a cell, I can’t be as effective.”

So, all the listeners, especially from the C-suite, please get your MarCom pros part of your convos. I just rhymed. We also got talking about the sandwich or the cell or the rock in a hard place about who we say we are and who we actually are. And Myla encouraged you to think about mission, vision, values in 2023.

Something that stood out to me, she shared, “If you think about higher ed as a system, it was never designed for some of the stuff we talk about that pertains to diversity, equity, and inclusion. And so, our task is how we reshape how we started and where we’re going.” It’s almost like that trend a while ago, how it started, how it’s going.

She encouraged you to think about people first language, no binaries, and representation in content, but she also said, “It’s not just about output, but input, how we make decisions.” She also encouraged a amazing partnership and possibilities that could be powerful between DEI officers and marketing and communications.

[00:53:57] I know you can’t see this because it’s a podcast, but I am smiling because Myla and I got to see each other in Chicago at the AMA Symposium for Marketing of Higher Education. She just finished her role as chair, so she took the stage numerous times. So, in her closing of the conference, I was inspired. And I wanted to just share a little bit of her closing words.

She says, “Take what you’ve learned back to your campus. Explore new ways to approach not only how you do your work but dig deep into what your work is. As our speakers told us, we must reclaim our narrative, facilitate community rather than try to build it.” I’m going to talk about that in another episode. It completely blew my mind.

Back to Myla. “And reframe how we think of and engage in the process of order, disorder, and reorder as change is the only constant in all of our lives.” She went on to say, “And remember, as a true seeker and true sayer, you are more than equipped to do this work. In fact, I asked you what I asked when we started this journey on day one. Who is better positioned and poised to shift and evolve your organization than you? Who is better to reshape and elevate this industry than us?”

It was a remarkable conference. This conversation with Myla was also remarkable. I’m obviously quite the fangirl. And again, I’m so thankful that I get to connect with her, and you do, too, today in this episode. Myla, thank you so much for jumping in and chatting with me today, getting to catch up, and have a deep dive on your life and leadership. 

[00:55:52] Well, we have had our first featured guest episode of season six. What did you all think? I would love to hear from you.

And of course, it helps the show so darn much if you give a little review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or any of your platforms that you listen to podcasts. Make sure you’re subscribed. And, pretty please, share it with a colleague, friends, family, all the followers. You can also join the conversation online. Find me at Josie Ahlquist, or the podcast is on Twitter, Threads, and Instagram.

Remember, the show notes and all those resources can be found at josieahlquist.com\podcast. If you’re interested in learning digital engagement skills in a small supportive group environment, be sure to check out the 2024 Digital Community Cohort, which kicks off in February. You can also grab my book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, from my website or wherever you buy books.

And lastly, the Student Social Media Academy, the one-stop shop for student strategists in higher ed, is going strong. Send those students to me and I will educate and empower them. I think your students are going to love that course. Learn all about the things I do and all the goodies at josieahlquist.com.

Want to send, of course, a shout-out to the producers of the show, University FM, and our season six sponsor, Element451. 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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