Ease your student supervision speed bumps.

A Doer like Robin Fontana is taking Karma to the Next Level

In this series, I base the majority of my questions around the same 20.  Conversations around Karma, reincarnation and spiritual journeys came up organically.  I followed up with Robin through email after our interview to inquiry more about her thoughts on the unique topics.  She responded with a story when she was around ten.
Her mother took her to get their astrological charts made.  Something, she laughed in the 60’s wasn’t looked at as kooky.  Robin was told she was a very old soul, that it was likely this was the last time on earth.  She wrote, “Who knows how much of an impact that may have had on me?  Did I decide then, at ten, that if I wasn’t coming back again I’d better see and do all I could?  It would certainly explain my wanderlust and my need to reinvent myself every few years.  Restless spirit.”
Robin made reference to the religion Buddhism, where there are entities called bodhisattvas.  She explained they are, “someone who has achieved buddhahood, but refuses to move on until all have achieved a similar state.  So, the bodhisattva continues to work on earth to help others find the right path.  Maybe, if the mystic was right, I can finish my own journey soon and then come back and help others with theirs.  If not, I’d be good with the whole crow thing.”  Buddism refers to rebirth as the process where beings go through many lifetimes.  It is dependant and determined by the laws of cause and effect or in other words karma.
photo copy 2Could it be that this very Doer is a potential bodhisattva?  I searched further what it means to reach this state.
Defined as an enlightened being, directed by great compassion, and of course who takes a vow that promises to work their current and future lives to bring enlightenment to all beings by teaching: giving, discipline, forbearance, effort, meditation, and transcendent wisdom.
A famous saying by the 8th-century Indian Buddhist scholar-saint Shantideva, which the Dalai Lama often cites as his favourite verse, summarizes the Bodhisattva’s intention (Bodhicitta) as follows:

For as long as space endures, and for as long as living beings remain, until then may I too abide to dispel the misery of the world.

This potential bodhisattva is taking karma to the next level and willingly embraces changes.  For many people, change and especially professional evolution can be overwhelming or even threatening.  Not for this doer.  Possibilities are endless and exciting. Even the idea of becoming a crow is stimulating.
Life in all forms is an adventure to pursue.
“I was just promoted to assistant principal, so doors are opening.  I’m excited, where a lot of people my age are stuck or stagnating in careers.  I’m like, what!?  I’m in college; I have all these things I can do.  I’m like an 18-year-old kid again, just a lot of years down the road.”
Among many options after her terminal degree education will remain her primary focus.  If she could have her way, she said she would continue teaching at least another 20 years.  It is the love for what she does that keeps her teaching.
One of my favorite questions I get to ask Doers is, ‘What do you want to be remembered for?”  In other words what is their legacy?  It usually takes interviewees a few moments to fully take in the question and, so far, all have taken a substantial breath before answering.
I understand, this not a simple or easy question.  It is at the center of our being; who we are, coupled with what we want our lives to mean.  It is at the heart of this series, shining light to women who I see are fabulous examples for us all.  Not just the work/career part.  The magic of their human spirit, that is relatable and teachable to others.  Robin began her answer, like any good comedian proclaiming, “I want to live forever.”
1015224_549239411784493_737945978_oShe went on with a few hopes for her life, “I want to be remembered for my smile.  I want to be remembered by the people who talk to me, that I was open, I was able to listen, and that I had a caring word to say back to them.  That would matter more to me than anything else.”
I could have used a teacher like Robin in my life in seventh grade.  All students at that age are stumbling through life, grasping for meaning, mentorship, making sense of the world and wanting to matter.  So, from my 12-year-old previous self, I thank Robin for pursuing her legacy and letting Karma do its job.  Smiling, being approachable, intently listening and responding with care.  She may not hear back from all of her previous students with thanks, but I’m confident she has made them matter.  They just might be the luckiest girls in the world to have had her.
Her reach as a teacher is expanding globally.  Robin has traveled to China twice this year based on her role as Assistant Principle,  spearheading the international program.  She travels to market the school and interview candidates.  This fall her school will have nine Chinese girls joining the school.  Robin asks us to send these girls and there families good thoughts and that the program she is working on to support their needs.

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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Rebekah Tilley

Assistant Vice President, University of Iowa Center for Advancement

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

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