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Steering Through Chaos with a Wellness Compass

Real Issues, Real Solutions.

Let’s face it: April in higher education is pure chaos. Deadlines dance in our heads, inboxes are overflowing, back-to-back events are scheduled, student and community crises loom, and summer just can’t come quick enough.

But what if, instead of just surviving through the academic year —  we lean into this work with humanity intact? 

Join us for our inaugural Real Talk Higher Ed Series discussion, Steering Through Chaos With A Wellness Compass, where we’ll have open and honest conversations about burnout, professional loneliness, and the ever-present question, “Will summer be enough to recover?”

This event isn’t just about commiserating. Our experienced and caring panel will equip you with practical tools and tactics while discussing how the issues must be faced before breakdown. 

Access the recording, and prepare to steer through the chaos and chart a course with wellness in mind. 

Meet the Panelists

Click on a their photo to read their bio!

Kevin McClure

Murphy Distinguished Scholar of Education and Associate Professor of Higher Education, University of North Carolina Wilmington

Teresa Valerio Parrot

Principal,
TVP Communications 

Gourjoine M. Wade

Vice President for Student Affairs, Texas Lutheran University

03:07 Josie Ahlquist: All right, welcome. Welcome. I just couldn't help myself. And I know there are some strong opinions about pro, for, neutral - neutrality about Taylor Swift. But what better way to kick us off and I did find out some of our panelists fall into those different categories.

Welcome to Real Talk higher ed, a think tank transformation series. We're going to talk real, both in issues and challenges. And each month I'm going to be joined by some amazing humans that have heart, that have things to say and resources to share, and hosted by myself. Dr. Josie Ahlquist. I use she her pronouns. I'm based in Los Angeles, which means my home office is situated on the shoe marsh and Tongva people. I also, what I do to help higher education is to help humanize our work, especially on tools like social media.

And today we are talking about two very wide topics that hopefully work will converge how right now April 25, we steer your chaos with a wellness compass. I want to know in the chat and y'all are already introducing yourselves like really great higher ed pros. What would be a word, words or emojis to best describe how you are navigating higher ed. Right now this will be fun.

While I do that, I'm going to introduce our panelists with just a very short intro. I'm joined by Dr. Kevin McClure. He's a distinguished scholar, Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina, North Carolina Wilmington specializing in college leadership organizational change with the bright Geller features that we will talk about In the Chronicle of Higher Ed, his pandemic related insights on morale and leadership have good insight and a lot of traction. He's currently authoring the caring University for John Hopkins University Press. And he's obviously very passionate about the topic. He says I want a better higher education workplace for myself and the people I care about. Next Teresa Valario Parrot principal at TV communications is deeply rooted in higher ed, combining honesty with optimism to offer transparent leadership counsel, she's got nearly a decade experience previously at the University of Colorado and senior roles and communications firms. Her expertise is in helping executives communicate excellence and navigating crisis we have a few of those authentically. She also tends to be a runner each year I am here for this and spends her time traveling with her family. And last but not least, Dr. Gourjoine M. Wade, Vice President for Student Affairs at Texas Lutheran University brings over two decades of higher ed experience fostering student success and leading diverse teams. A first gen college graduate he's dedicated to expanding access to higher ed, particularly for underrepresented students. G is constantly finding ways to love life, whether that's going to a theme park on a cruise, or finding more Funko pops to add to the collection.

Okay, panelists, it's your turn. What are the words or words to best describe how you are navigating higher ed and work right now. And Taylor Swift lyrics are also welcome.

06:45 Teresa Valerio Parrot: Who wants to start?

06:47 Kevin McClure: You just started.

06:48 Teresa Valerio Parrot: Okay, there we go. I feel like I am that smiley face that's kind of melting kind of on its side and melting. That's right. And then this semester, and you asked us to talk about how we're thinking about where higher education is through music. So I've two eras, I'm gonna go two eras, Josie. I feel like we're stuck in between reputation and 1989. So there's a little bit of consternation, and maybe a question every day is, are we out of the woods? 

07:17 Josie Ahlquist: gosh, go how much I was gonna need this. But here we go. Thank you.

07:26 Kevin McClure: I resonated very strongly with the person whose emoji was like a staircase, because there is definitely by the time I reached to this, this moment in the academic season in April, I am really probably just focused on one foot in front of the next and not not probably looking too far ahead of things because we've got enough that's right on the plate for you know, the the moment that I'm in. And so right now, I'm just in this moment. So we're gonna stick with this moment for right now. And then I can't even tell you what's going to happen at two o'clock today. But we'll, we'll get to that at some point.

08:03 Josie Ahlquist: I have a feeling a lot of people can resonate with that. Alright G come in swinging.

08:09 Gourjoine Wade: I don't know about swinging. I'm just surviving right now. I think it's just as everybody said, you know, it's that time of the year where I think for me, it's more or less trying to make sure students are okay. Right. You know, and I think that replicates to us as higher ed professionals as well. But it's just making sure they're good. I just had a student left my office trying to graduate stressing about what life is next in life, life be life-ing and all that stuff, and just trying to calm them down. I think for me, it's just the fulfillment of preparing for what's next overall, but also trying to make sure they're good. So it helps me to stay on task. As Kevin said, I don't know what's going to happen within the next hour or two o'clock, but it's just we're trying to stay afloat trying to make sure our students are good. Make sure our teams are well. And I think that all aligns will be good for the rest of the semester. So yeah.

08:59 Josie Ahlquist: life be life-ing. Yes. Now on a t shirt. Well, so stated the industry just by the headlines, but also not to stick in the doom and gloom, but hopefully the bloom as those joining us, I hope in an hour or so that you're feeling some more hope by the end of this. But Kevin, we need to talk about some of your articles. Okay, so, first one, your pay is terrible. Thank you, news there. we’re underpaid. Salaries haven't kept pace with living expenses. The next one's workers are being ignored the hollowing out of higher education. There, there's others and there's others that aren't just written by you, because that's why we're doing dialogues like this. There are things real things that we need to talk about and especially you as a faculty sometimes you get to be in that place the point Point to the fire, or Teresa. You are also wrangling with presidents and boards to help realize how big the fire is. Or Gee, I'm, I'm going to wait to tell you the new phrase I have for you. But I also had to pull this quote, you all have to follow Gourjoine immediately on LinkedIn. You also say there is a why we're here, right? And why we are staying or why we're not and you say, “I really enjoy working higher ed, honestly, it doesn't feel like work. It really is a calling ministry work my vocation. I know many people don't feel that way. But I'm out here changing lives and making a difference that matters to me. I am who I am today, because of higher ed and the people who took time to pour into me I'm determined to reciprocate that.” So where the heck do we start? We've got staircase emojis, we've got melting face emojis, and life be lifing. Where do we start?

11:00 Kevin McClure: Alright, so I'll start with a little doom and gloom, not because it's like my preferred space to be in. However, I do want to recognize there is a lot of power in validating, realistically and honestly, where we're at individually, but also where we are at as a sector. And so I will say, in doing this work for the last couple of years, it has actually left me incredibly hopeful. But some of that hope comes from people who are taking an honest look about at where we're at, and making those realistic assessments and being willing to validate where those problems exist, because I think we're actually in a much more challenging space, when we are just trying to evade those hard conversations, we're not willing to kind of take a hard look in the mirror. And so I think actually, in certain ways, the route to the Bloom is first getting a good handle on the doom and gloom. And so for as much time that I have spent in the gloominess, it's through that kind of process where I have really started to see people and institutions and units within institutions bloom. So that's one one little thing that that insight that I've kind of pulled as I've been walking through some of this work.

12:37 Teresa Valerio Parrot: And I just want to say, I think what has always drawn me to Kevin's work is that I knew of him before the pandemic. And he definitely gained an audience talking about where we are in putting that in an academic space. So that in some ways, I could share that with leaders who needed to hear it from an academic voice. It wasn't enough that they were hearing it from their own staff, it wasn't enough that they were hearing it from their own faculty, they needed something to grab onto that suggested it was more than just the moment during the pandemic. And I love that the way that he's framing this, and he's couching this is that it's not just pandemic based, this goes back years decades. And we need to be thinking more structurally about how it is that we are supporting people, how it is that we are promoting peopl,  how it is that we're retaining people. And it has been nice to have a source that I can share that for some of my presidents resonates differently, because of the title and the position that he has. And I think that's important for all of us to think about is that we may need to find additional ways to tell this story. It may be personal stories, it may be through an academic lens, it may be through datasets, whatever it is that's going to resonate, to start to move the needle on prioritizing people. I think that's what we need to do.

14:04 Gourjoine Wade: Yeah, I would agree. You know, I think it's in talking to colleagues who are administrators on campuses, I think Kevin has a voice that a lot of us within reason don't have, right, that we think and see and hear and feel a lot of the things that he's able to articulate what they sense the freedom because of being a faculty partner that I think administrators are like, I get that, but can't really say it that way. So how can I say it, Kevin is a voice there. So I think there is great value in having partners in this work from the other side of the spectrum who are connected to the work, look and be able to articulate that and people like okay, I get it. And I think a lot of leaders on campus who would also wave the flag and say we agree with that. And I think there's a helpful space for that, especially now, as higher ed is stuck in the weeds and we need to figure out how do we you know, how do we get out of the weeds is what I talked to my team about, you know, We are at such, we're so stuck on pulling the weeds, but we don't treat the underlying issue. And I think Kevin adds voice to the underlying issue that we're not talking about enough. And I think that's a good thing.

15:10 Kevin McClure: By the way, I got goosebumps when you just said, faculty partner, I've never heard that language before. But I love that. So, um, I think we should start using that more often. Um, you know, to the extent that I'm able to be a faculty partner, that's like, the highest compliment that I can ever get. 

15:25 Gourjoine Wade: It's real, it's real.

15:26 Teresa Valerio Parrot: Kevin, do you think part of your perspective comes from having been an administrator yourself? So you're one of those people who has been on both sides of this? Right. And your academic area is higher education? So you have this interesting vantage point? And I can hear it in your pieces.

15:47 Kevin McClure: Yeah, you know, I think there's definitely a piece of it that, that that's the case. I think there's the possibility that the way that we arrive at a better place in higher education is to start seeing the ways in which all of our work connects. And we have, unfortunately, established these really rigid hierarchies and, you know, status kind of positions within our organizations that aren't serving us well. You know, like, we have to, I think this this, this is like an individual thing, but also an organizational thing, we have to be willing to kind of stop and say, you know, that approach, that narrative isn't serving us well. Maybe it served us well, in the past. I'm not really sure. But it's definitely not serving us well now. And if there were ever a moment that it's like, we are facing a common set of challenges, and the way that we approach those challenges is not to say, this group of people is more important than that group of people, or this group should have a voice in it. And they shouldn't. This ain't it. I mean, we, we, I think our ability, I think, to come out of the moment that we're in, intact and stronger is really premised on us coming together as a collective. And it is informed by the fact that yes, I grew up, starting as a staff member, some of my closest friends are continued to be staff members, higher ed leaders on the administrative side of the house. So I know they're brilliant. I know that they're well trained. I know that they're experts. I know that they have ideas that faculty do not. And I've now been in the faculty side of things enough to be like that guy over there, that woman over that person over there is is brilliant, but also they don't have any idea of how this university works. And so we need other people too. So we've all got kind of our own spots that we don't really see. And so I rely so so heavily all of us do, we all rely really, really heavily on these networks that we've built to make sure that we've got that holistic view. Because as much as I may try to capture what's going on across the whole sector, I am one person with one set of eyes at one institution. And the biggest challenge in kind of undertaking this work is to be able to kind of set aside my personal stuff to the extent that it's possible and say, What is going on out there that I can try to amplify.

18:38 Josie Ahlquist: As we give voice to what some of that chaos might be that has been documented or spoken in conference room, ballroom corners. Is there anything that you find G, you mentioned getting out of the weeds, we're also not sure what we're going to do in two hours or how we're going to get there. But what is on your mind right now, in something that does absolutely need to be addressed.

19:12 Gourjoine Wade: As I always try to say, I think that we are so stuck in, you know, my grandmother will always say, you know, you're stuck in your ways, and you get older and you know how to do things, but you always want to do it that one kind of way. I think even through COVID Higher Ed has been still stuck in our ways. And using that how that stuck in the weeds example is we, we pull a weed, right, you know, and it takes care of the problem for now, whether it be from the standpoint of Oh folks won't remote work, we'll pull that weed and then it'll be no more for a little while. Or you know, first of all fair compensation, which should not be a thing but they'll pull that we and they'll come back because we've not addressed the root issue. And that's because we don't talk about it enough. We are very content in our spaces  unfortunately, with status quo, we are okay with folks being overworked, and burnt out and underpaid and addressing emails at nine o'clock at night, because we've created this very toxic culture in higher ed that there are not enough leaders who are willing to call that out and really lean into the moment of trying to address it and treating the underlying issue of why we got the weeds in the backyard in the first place. And until that really happens, we're gonna continue to see this, this, this cycle of weeds popping up and back and forth in our yard, because we're not addressing the underlying issue. And the underlying issue is really easy to solve. If you instead of pinpointing I think I hear a lot of folks talking about millennial leaders in our workspace now, instead of talking about the millennial leaders, we really need very well connected, seeing your team, your leaders on our campuses to connect with those younger folks. So how do we fix this? How do we treat this weed problem we’ve got in higher ed. And that's not happening, because for multiple reasons that I don't have a good answer for but we're not talking enough about solving long term issues in our practice right now. And until that happens, we're going to lose our healthy pipeline of individuals who love this work, who grew up as RAs and student leaders on our campuses who want to continue to come down the road of supporting higher ed until we fix the bigger issue, they're not going to do it. And that's because we don't talk about it in a way where we're trying to solve it, we just keep acknowledging it. But we're not trying to fix it. And I don't really have an answer to why that is the case. I’ve got thoughts, but I don’t have an answer. So that's where I think we've got to try to fix some things. And when we do that, I think we will, in turn, our students will be better, it will see better outcomes. As you know, education is the economic engine that drives people to have better lives. But that's not going to happen that people are sitting in parking lots on our campuses, afraid to go into the buildings, because life be lifing and jobs be stressing. So that's gonna take, that's gonna take leaders to really try to figure out if they want to fix it, or they're just gonna just pulled away. So

22:13 Teresa Valerio Parrot: I think so I don't have a solution either G, but I have some thoughts too. And I think that there is this umbrella that we love. And Josie, I know, this is something that is near and dear to your heart. And I first heard of this phrase in 2020. And this is something that Josie was gonna bring into the conversation. So I'm gonna jump the shark. I read this article in 2020. And it just spoke to my heart about how we have this mission based gaslighting. And I would say the related toxicity that comes from it. So we have this umbrella over us that it's okay that we're like this. Because of our missions. It's okay that we don't pay people enough because we're nonprofits, and this is what we do. And it's okay, that opportunity isn't given equally to all because opportunity is at the core of what we do. And it's okay that we behave in these ways, because we're here for freedom of speech. And it's all of the ways in which we think about our mission, instead of being what is a guiding source for us, has, instead become an excuse for how we are stuck, and why we continue to be stuck. And that's where I think we really need to have this Wake Up Call is that at some point, that umbrella gets so waterlogged, that it starts, the water starts coming through. And that's where we are. And that mission based gaslighting and the related toxicity to that also is impacting people's perceptions of themselves. And that's where I think that this gets so dangerous. And I want us to be refocusing so that this isn't how we're seeing and promoting ourselves.

23:54 Kevin McClure: That way, there are a couple of common threads that I have found while researching some of these topics. Okay, so let's say just for the sake of the exercise, like I've been looking at 12 Different forms of chaos in the hybrid workplace. And one of the threads that can kind of connect a bunch of those is the issue of trust. And chaos just feeds on mistrust. And I think for too long we have we have assumed trust, instead of thinking about what does it look like to earn trust, so that that happens at the level of the institution and the type of trust that we build or don't build with communities and with folks really across the country but but really kind of at the micro level at the level of of our institutions as well. It happens in terms of institutions not trusting their employees, or managers not trusting employees, leaders that are not taking trust building seriously enough before they start kind of moving forward with ideas. And so I think, again, to the extent that we've got this moment of chaos is definitely that's true. But there's also at least in the identification of that thread, the opportunity to think about how we can reduce the chaos a little bit by really putting a lot of thought into trust. And so, again, there's an opportunity here, each of us in our own practice to to think about what does this look like for me to build trusting relationships with colleagues to show through my consistency, what trust looks like with students. And for those of us that are in leadership positions, I mean, every day is a trust building opportunity. And I can't tell you how many times I see things fall apart, because that opportunity got missed. And we're trying to do things in the absence of that trust really being established.

25:58 Teresa Valerio Parrot: So I have a question for all three of you. And that is, in order to build trust, you have to be vulnerable as a leader. And part of what we take out of so many of our leaders is the vulnerability because there's this perception that if you are a vulnerable leader, you won't go as far. So how do we start to add back in the willingness for leaders to be vulnerable, so that they can actually build the trust that they need to be successful, and our communities need to be healthy?

26:35 Gourjoine Wade: That's, that's deep. I don't know. That's, that's a good one. I think showing up as our best authentic self is the first start. And I think, you know, I'm sitting here in my office with a Dobby Is A Free elf shirt on. Alright. And I went to a meeting earlier today with my faculty colleagues at their faculty association meeting. I navigate these spaces in multiple ways, but one singular way is you're gonna get who I am, regardless of the setting. And I think that we have created again, chaos in our environments, in our cultures on our campuses, don't welcome or value, that type of authenticity. We're in spaces to where we're giving people jean passes for Fridays, and silly stuff like that, but not empowering folks to show up as themselves. So they don't lead as themselves because of that, it as to why we have these walls and the silos of mistrust, because we don't know what we're getting all the time. So I think if leaders are going to truly lean into this, this mantra of team atmosphere and team collegiality, you get to inspire people to be themselves. Now, is that the full solve of answer? No, but I think it has a lot to do with it. And, you know, until that really happens, I don't know if we're really going to get the full, true meaning of why we have folks acting the way they are showing up how they are, they're not showing up as themselves. So I think that's the other piece of this, how do you change that because higher ed has trained us that a leader, a president, a VP, a Dean looks, acts, and moves in a certain way. And because of that, that's why we're getting some of the things that we get, at least from from my vantage point.

28:18 Kevin McClure: I'm gonna answer Teresa's question with the answer that she once gave me when I asked her a similar question. There is a certain dimension of this, where, you know, vulnerability, I think, requires a level of proximity. And we've got so many layers of distance, that that come into play. And I'm not just talking about physical distancing. I mean, I saw on some of the chats there, again, this idea of the boxes that we kind of build around ourselves, the kind of ways in which we stick to our own, you know, groups that we're most comfortable with, but certainly with leaders, there are those spaces that that can emerge. And one of the interesting things throughout this work is I've now been able to talk with so so many leaders and actually find a surprising number of them to be authentic, and to be vulnerable. The problem is that so few of us get to have those conversations with them. And so we've got to really think about how do we ourselves, enter into those conversations? How do we make ourselves kind of open to the possibility of meeting some of those folks and meeting them in a way that they can be vulnerable? Because I think that we don't always create licence for people to do that. There are plenty of leaders that have attended vulnerability and have been burned for it. Also, obviously, tracks also, you know, based on identities. So that's one dimension of it. But we also have to think about like how do we create spaces where people are able to come together? And so this is there is this is an organizational challenge, which means that we also need some leaders who are thinking about how do we bring together groups of people from across different departments on problems of shared purpose and and, you know, common problems. There are a couple of institutions that I've seen do this, well, smaller institutions, I will say, but they can be really powerful. And the idea that we've got kind of pockets of staff, but just staff working on certain questions and pockets of faculty, but just faculty working on certain problems to kind of go back to what I was saying previously, I think we need to even be questioning some of that type of practice as well. Okay, so I think I think we've got a couple questions about folks that are in the middle. And, yeah, I think we should we should tackle some of those questions about what does it look like to advocate and push for change? When you feel like you're hitting a wall from above, and still be getting pushed hard by folks from below, potentially, or you're getting squeezed on both sides? So I'd love to open that up and see what thoughts we might have across the group. Yep.

31:06 Josie Ahlquist: squeezes room.

31:12 Teresa Valerio Parrot: G, I'll let you take this one first. Do you like that sidestep?

31:17 Gourjoine Wade: Listen, I don't think we can be successful if we don't have empowerment from our middle. You know, there's something about that middle talent, terminology, that it's just wonky for me, but I get it. Me, it's an I know, here I go again, but it's like, think about winning teams, right winning cultures, there is buy in from multiple parts of the organization. You know, I saw Andy reed in the interview, and they were talking about what does he think one of his keys to winning was, and he said, you know, he trusts his team. And he trusts his quarterback. And I think that also trickles down into, you know, take Pat mahomes, and put him in the locker room with the offense and the offensive line and unpacking the different layers within a team dynamic. And that also comes with empowerment and advocacy. And again, I think the theme is going to be at least for me, is how aid is stuck in a certain kind of way. And that's going to take certain type of leaders to be able to ship that that doesn't happen overnight. It's a very scary space for some folks to be in. And I think institution identity speaks a lot to that. And I have a very good working relationship with my president. She knows that G advocates that my folks don’t have meetings on Fridays, we don't send emails after hours, that is not replicated around the Cabinet table. Because some folks have different philosophies. Where am I going with this I'm going with it really takes, again, certain leaders to kind of step up. And that can be uncomfortable in spaces without a doubt. But that step it up also means that openness to be able to hear the thoughts and ideas, vision and passion from folks who are not in senior leadership or that are in middle talent spaces. And I have been surprised in my work and talking to colleagues that that's not the norm. For me, I thought it was I thought folks always listen to area coordinators and assistant directors to say, Hey, what's going on in your world, but that doesn't happen as often as we would think. So until again, folks kind of come out there after layer to start engaging with folks throughout their organization that are going to be oblivious to what's going on. For me, I try to leave from a space and a place and encouragement to folks to say you got to navigate spaces. There's elephants and there's hippos, right? You know, you got the elephant, they both take up space in the room. So when a leader walks in a space to like take up their space, or they take it up as an elephant or a hippo elephants have these huge ears and they could hear from miles away. And they'd get small mouths. So they're good at listening. The hippos they got big mouth, they talk a lot, we're gonna say that and they take up the same space, but they have they have the smaller ear so they don't listen. Well. I think leaders have to navigate spaces, elephants, they have to be able to listen more and talk less. And until that happens, they're not going to really be in tune or connected to what's happening throughout the organization at all levels. You can't just take it from that one level of directors who have information feeding up, I think of Harriet is going to really shift and leaders at all levels have to be and that the whole coffee with the president stuff is really got to be intentional. Right? It's got to be intentional. I don't think so people want that. Because they don't really want to hear what's going on. So if you take the opposite perspective of folks being in spaces who want to truly hear what's happening within our organizations, then you'll see a shift. So here's how.

34:34 Kevin McClure: I was gonna say my my little piece of advice for folks that are in the middle. I've been thinking about this a lot. So I have I have multiple ways of thinking about this. But here's the most recent thing I'm thinking about. I am a I'm a mid career faculty leader at my institution, so I'm in the middle in certain ways. In the fall, I felt the extreme heaviness around feeling responsible for fixing things Because I knew, or at least I felt like I had an understanding of the issues I was hearing from my newer colleagues about their experiences. And I felt like I was in a position that I was the one that needed to take on these things. And it has taken me a while to come around to the idea that I cannot, as an individual fix many of these things. And there are a significant number of them are that are not my sole responsibility, I had to figure out what is my zone of action here. Where is the pocket of change over which I have some control, some control and a reasonable amount of responsibility, and I'm pushing there, and that's where I'm letting folks know that I'm pushing. And it's small, and there may be folks for whom it is not enough. But it is not the job of of our mid level leaders and our mid level managers to be the fixers of all of these problems. And so that would be the one thing that has brought me at least a little bit of purpose and direction, because otherwise I was like, I had the whole landscape I'm trying to somehow grapple with and it was too much, it was just too much. And so that's that's one small thing that that you all might be able to think about a little bit is, what's my zone of action, that that's reasonable for me to feel some responsibility over. And I'm going to work on that and do it in collaboration with my team. You

36:33 Josie Ahlquist: can be the Obi wan to my, your Maya, your higher ed's

36:38 Teresa Valerio Parrot: hope, or the rose to our jack, right, the door may only fit one, although I think it could have fit to but in some worlds, it will only fit one, right? So I'm thinking about this a little bit differently, because I have access to different people. And this is where I think those who have access to presidents into leaders, we need to be advocating and saying something. And I'm advocating for feedback loops, and real feedback loops. I am advocating for voice for those who are in the middle. And for those who are aren't in the middle. And the reason that I'm doing that is because most often we get feedback to leaders in two ways, while maybe three, one is a game of telephone, where it goes up the chain of command up to the president in details are lost, and we lose some of the humanity in the stories in the realities when we have that as our approach. The second are the surveys that we do have our Is this a great place to work those hours, you can get a banner, congratulations. But what does that mean? And how are we actually living if this is a great place to work. So that's number two. And the third that we have is when we have votes of no confidence in some of those bigger pieces that the relationships have already been so fractured, that we're at an ultimatum. And I am advocating for providing voice and looking for feedback loops, so that we don't get to that last stage. And we aren't only collecting feedback and information so that we can compare ourselves to our peers, but then not do anything with that data to make people's lives different or better.

38:23 Josie Ahlquist: Like, oh, you got cosign. We've got a lot of things in the chat people are resonating. For sure. One of my questions was has higher ed become accustomed to chaos? Do we require it to do this work? Is it you know, the guilty pleasure or it is the cost of this industry? Versus what have we actually put in place to make things more rigid, ensure our leaders aren't as accessible? I feel like we've already started to kind of bridge into those discussions, but there is a cost to chaos, plenty of research and articles out there. Both presidents having panic attacks to social media managers melting into emojis, to Student Affairs coming into whatever you want to describe those that are chosen to serve and Student Affairs roles that extreme but every from faculty, it's not we could pick anyone across campus, the cost of these positions. What is something that we can do as individuals right now, Kevin, I really appreciate your reflection that you can do a lot of things but you can't do everything for the industry. You're you have many other responsibilities and roles in your life. You are a human, whole and imperfect as well. I think if we can start to move towards any kind of baby step, like call them Josie steps now because I'm so on what might that be?

40:15 Teresa Valerio Parrot: Um, can I go back to one of the things that you mentioned Josie because I can tell a backstory to that. There is a head of school former president of a college named Renard Kington that I was able to work with him on an op ed that he wrote, where he talked about his own mental health struggles and having panic attacks as a president. And when he first approached me and said, I think I want to tell this story. I always ask why you why now. And he said, because nobody else is talking about this. And we need to normalize for others on campus, that we are people. And also, we aren't immune to mental health struggles. And we need to be thinking about how to reframe and position these so that we are having conversations about resources, we are having conversations about balance we are having, we are demystifying help that might be out there. And if I am willing to say that as a, as a president, I think that that could be really important for others with where they are. And the reality is a piece like that, first of all, we worked on it for months and months, because it's such a personal piece, you have to have the right moment where you feel comfortable to share it. And we needed to make sure that he had his board's approval and support to do so. Because if you think about that he is making himself vulnerable so that others can hear of his experience. He's also making himself vulnerable to his bosses. And I still give him all of the credit in the world for talking about that, because he felt so strongly that this needs to be a conversation that we're having. And I think there's been a piece very recently in the Koran where faculty members were talking about mental health. And we need to be thinking about how, as a community, are we talking about our mental health, our supports, and in how we can be helping each other? And I think that's important. Yeah, I think

42:20 Kevin McClure: I, again, I like to play around with this idea of there's a lot of things that happened at the individual that also scale up to the organizational and the piece of this that I've been reflecting on a lot recently, is, I take the last week, for example, which has been chaotic. In the world of higher ed, my brain is spinning, as I read headlines, I'm getting anxious about it. I'm teach I'm teaching legal issues in the fall in higher ed. And so I'm already starting to like, get a little panicky about how I'm going to teach about all of this stuff. And so this is going to sound a little bit corny, but it's the truth, there is a point pre pandemic, where I was burned out. And a piece of my burnout was because the chaos pushed me in 12 different directions. And I didn't have my own anchoring, in what my own purpose was in this work. And I was fortunate that I was able to get clarity. And in fact, doing a lot of this work on the workplace has been that anchoring for me to say this is what my purpose is. And when when I figured that out, some things lined up. And it has meant that amidst the chaos of April, when we've got deadlines, and students are sprinting to the finish line, and we've got political attacks on our employees and our institutions, I know when I wake up what the work is, and it gives direction to it and allows there to be a bit of a calming effect for some of the rest of it. And so for some of the institutions, similarly that I see weathering this moment, well, they've got an anchoring of purpose that has been articulated and the folks across the institution have a handle on it and it has a similar ability to doesn't make the cast go away. But it has a different way of kind of allowing you to see the direction that you're you're headed through that chaos.

44:32 Josie Ahlquist: I mean, in such a visual I feel like even when you describe that, like my shoulders, realists like the feeling and maybe it's a daily practice that we wake up and we reground ourselves in our bodies in our wise the work that we do, and not in a limiting way like well this is your lane, but in in resolution GE I am now referring to you as the LinkedIn whisperer trust that you're the president whisperer, but I'm saying y'all like, you know, I think you give hope to a lot of people, even if it's with memes, I am here for it. And you can tell, I think there is an angle for leaders and mid level that sometimes it can be so simple, there doesn't need to be this, you know, rocking in row, you know, like honoree article in the Chronicle or Inside Higher Ed, it can just be the daily, or the conversations with your staff or students behind the scenes. And I just, I just find that so refreshing. So I don't know if you could just speak to that, because also from a digital strategist point of view your posts get wildly engaged with, and I bet we don't even see half of it from those that reach out to you maybe privately, about the advocacy that you're doing. You're on mute print.

46:10 Gourjoine Wade: Right? It was once upon a time where I was, I was like, I'm gonna post every day, that's just too much. It's just too much. But this is what happened. I had a, a newer professional in our craft that reached out and said, you know, your post was timely for me because I was about to walk down the hall and I was about to quit today. And it recenter me to think about why I started doing the work in the first place. This is real life story. And then just the feedback that will come into my inbox are just folks who sort of ticks. And I think for me, this work is hard, right? We take the weight of the students and their problems, no matter how we try to separate it. It goes with us in multiple ways. And I think sometimes we need a very subtle reminder, whether it's just an image or a few words, that we're doing this for a reason. And it gets hard. I mean, it is it is we take these thoughts in these ideas, and these dreams of these students, and I'm gonna go with, it may seem corny, but people are not doing this just because of compensation. We know that for a fact, they're doing this because they see the outcome when the students walk across these stages. And they've got that golden ticket of being able to change lives for the better. That's why we do this work. So if it's a mean, a couple of words that help us to stay centered on the why of us doing this work, then I'm good with that, because I need the reminders as well, you know, so when I post those things, it's to make sure I know that I can lean into why I do this work as a reminder. And I think people need that because the sad part about it is we don't get it enough. That's the problem is and we're not getting it from the right sources. So it shouldn't take a guy in Texas having to post stuff to keep us motivated, encourages when we get people in the same spaces at the same buildings, we're not doing it. And that goes back to that chaos in higher ed that we got to figure out how to fix, we got to be nicer to people, especially folks who are on the front lines of trying to save the students that come to us whether they have privilege or not, we are responsible for them. And as leaders, we need to be better to each other, and to our people. And if we do that, I think it solves a lot of problems we have in higher ed. But we're just not there yet. And I struggle with trying to figure out why. Which is why Elena and some of the writings that Kevin puts out, which I think is great to help us to figure out what are we not getting? Right? Why are we not fixing this. And we got a lot of work to do a lot of work to do.

48:53 Teresa Valerio Parrot: And I think this is a great time to give a shout out to Josie because the reality is you may or may not get it from your campus. And there are ways to think about community beyond your campus. And Josie is such a great person who brings community together and gee, it sounds like your posts do the same in there are some realities that we may need to look for community beyond our campuses and with others who are in similar positions. And sometimes we lift them up and sometimes they lift us up. And so thinking about where else we can help each other and help ourselves I think is also key. Absolutely.

49:33 Gourjoine Wade: I agree. And I appreciate the shout out to Josie who's amazing and you know, community has to feel like it. You know, I hear some people say you know we want community on our campus, but you walk in spaces, it doesn't feel like that for everybody. You know, and the new hot word is belonging, a sense of belonging. But that just shouldn't start with students right folks who put in eight 910 hours at these institutions every single day, weekends and holidays even when they're not on call. All, they should feel like their space belongs to them. And I think leaders have a responsibility to fix that. And that should be one of the bullet points is that how do you create a community for folks who work in these campuses and give you all the guy? Right? You know, and I just don't, I don't understand why that is a thing. It shouldn't be a thing. A winning Super Bowl team is one that has the best facilities, they got star player, they're not all played on rookie contracts. So we shouldn't have folks on rookie contracts, still, play it in the worst facilities and give it all to get on the field. That's why we got to fix this theme. And it's not gonna change until people start talking about it openly. And just stop being okay with it. That's my issue with hiring is we're just okay with too much. And they were surprised when we still get the same outcomes. Absolutely crazy. I'm going on mute now, because it makes me upset. Oh, no, if you

51:03 Josie Ahlquist: don't put yourself on mute. Yeah, don't

51:06 Kevin McClure: I agree 100%. You know, the other piece of this that I think is really important for us to just surfaces, there's a significant amount of being able to weather the chaos, to bloom, that is structural. Yes. And it doesn't matter what kind of affirmations I have for myself in the morning, or how much water I'm drinking. I mean, yes, those things probably help as well, for sure. But for those of you that are still in a space, where you're like, This is so hard, and I am struggling. And I have a clear sense of what my purpose is, I want you to know that I hear that as well. In my one of my key messages that I'm working on with leaders is to be thinking structurally about solutions to some of these challenges, and that doing so actually has outcomes for all of the things that we want to accomplish. You know, we want creativity, and we want innovation, we want change, we want students success, these things are a function of how we do the work. And we need structural elements in place to enable that my own blooming in the last couple of years has benefited from structural change in the nature of my job. And so that has been a key insight throughout some of this is wellness conversations in the absence of thinking about structure, like true material changes to like how we organize work, and how we prepare people, how we train managers, how we think about compensation, rewards, appreciation, these are, you know, the real deal of our work sometimes, you know, we have to give attention to those elements as well.

52:55 Teresa Valerio Parrot: And I think there's also this reality that it's not just this is how it's always been. But it's the mimicry of what everybody else is doing. And where I'm seeing that work, Kevin, really being done best are at those institutions that are saying, Okay, we need to stop looking at what everybody else is doing and say, what does our community need? What do we need so that our students graduate? What do we need so that we're retaining our faculty and our staff? What do we need for this institution to look like to bloom? And when leaders are willing to look inward, instead of looking out and potentially up, right, that I see that kind of change happening, and I see what we can be as institutions.

53:41 Josie Ahlquist: So as we start to round the corner here, when I reached out to Tressa, she's like, what is it going to be all doom and gloom and hot food? Because we, but we also don't want to go toxic positivity, right? Like, oh, and you just implement these practices, and it's gonna, you know, like, go get a massage and bite their gun, and you should buy there, because I'm just saying, everybody shove it to Oregon. Yeah. Oh, good. Early on, in the pandemic, I discovered the work of critical hope. And Kevin, I know, you've integrated it into your work too, as we think about practical and even, you know, theoretical as we continue to work, and it's an out of chaos. And you've described it and, you know, like summarize it a little bit about being realistic about the complexity and messiness of problems, while being remaining optimistic about their resolution. And so I my last question would be what gives you hope in higher ed, how do you see how we could use even just the effervescence of critical hope in the midst of chaos to move us forward?

55:00 Kevin McClure: Well, so I'll mention a couple things quickly and then pass things on to my brilliant friends. One is what gives me hope is, I have been very fortunate now as part of this inquiry process to be in conversation with a lot, a lot of people who are working on these things, and the change isn't happening immediately. But we have a lot of folks that are tuned in, that are trying things they're experimenting. And I love it. I mean, I can't tell you how many conversations I've been in with people where I say, this person has a super good understanding of this problem, they're trying out something that I think is going to make a big difference. So that piece of it gives me a lot of hope. And then the second piece of it is, you know, it's been also incredibly humbling. And I'll pick up on something that I think Tom mentioned, being surrounded by really, really thoughtful people and caring people. So as you think about where your position right now, and what it looks like to kind of fill your fill, fill up your cup for the rest of the semester, think about the company that you keep, whether that's in person or online, and find the builders and surround yourself with the builders. And I think that can conserve you. Well, a

56:22 Josie Ahlquist: lot of tweetable is here, if we still tweeted, I know I wish, I wish.

56:28 Gourjoine Wade: I take hope from knowing that there's still power in our purpose, that even in the midst of these conversations, and the doom and gloom that does arise from what we see in social, we hear from colleagues, that there are still people who are graduating from programs who want to come into this work and do it, there are still RAS who two or three years from graduation still say I want to come back and work in the res halls, I take that knowing that this work is not going to go away, and that those individuals in this time and space now are going to be the ones that are going to change. That's where I take hope from is that this is this is just a season, and that we are old and get our AARP cards and years from now we'll have this get together and we'll see a very different hiring landscape. And it'll be because people knew that their purpose was just going to shift and it's just a season. So that gives me hope.

57:27 Teresa Valerio Parrot: I just want to echo what both of you just said, you said it so much better than I could have. I do have one tidbit for all of you. And this is something that I'm doing is that I'm filling my cup by volunteering right now at FAFSA fairs. So look in your community and see if there's a way that you can be a part of helping those that were really worried about slipping between the cracks, cracks this year, this year, fill out their FAFSA so that that they have these opportunities that we're talking about. And so many communities are doing these right now call local high school, I can guarantee they would love to have somebody come in or they can tell you where they're hosting these. Because I've been enjoying and appreciating, connecting with those that really exemplify what you both just described. Awesome.

58:18 Josie Ahlquist: If y'all would join me in thanking these amazing humans for talking real for bringing to light issues. We haven't solved all of higher ed but I think just setting this tone in the space for you, I truly do hope you felt seen, maybe not heard in the way this format is. But also know I know these I'm hopefully I'm speaking for these panelists that reach out, connect, we really do want to connect and help and support and in the follow up communications from this I'll drop in some communities that whether I'm you know, kicking up dirt or it's someone else's, you know, like play space on LinkedIn or slack that you are not alone. Definitely you should not feel if whether if that's on your campus or not. But again, pls I just I haven't taken lots of notes. I'm so glad we're recording this there's a transcript, there's gonna be a whole t shirt line. And we will submit our lyrics to Taylor Swift, I'm sure in higher ed era is coming. And then know that there are going to be more real talks. The next one is the end of May where no surprise a byproduct of just our industry's growth. But sometimes people finding their new spaces means work outside of campus life. And so the next topic is called The Rise of the higher ed partner reshaping campuses from the outside in, or you're going to hear from some practitioners who are coaches, business makers and consultants and what that path could look like We actually have tres is one of those you could look to her but not on this panel again. So check that out again resources to come thank you so so very much for coming. And with that we will leave with the rest of our dear lyricist from Miss Taylor Swift

Resources

Articles and Podcasts:

Mental Health Resources:

Connections and Community:

Dr. Josie Ahlquist

Josie has over two decades working in higher education, with the last twelve focused on consulting, coaching and researching about building digital communities and purpose-driven social media strategy. She teaches organizations, executives, and education professionals how to humanize technology tools and prioritize building community online.

josie ahlquist professional photo

Kevin McClure

Murphy Distinguished Scholar of Education and Associate Professor of Higher Education, University of North Carolina Wilmington

He/Him

Dr. Kevin R. McClure is an expert on college leadership and organizational change in higher education. He is the co-editor of Regional Public Universities: Addressing Misconceptions and Analyzing Contributions and Unlocking Opportunity through Broadly Accessible Institutions.

Dr. McClure’s public scholarship covers a range of topics, and he is a regular contributor to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Throughout the pandemic he wrote viral articles on morale, burnout, disengagement, staffing, and leadership in higher education.

He is currently finishing a book under contract with Johns Hopkins University Press titled The Caring University: Reimagining the Higher Education Workplace after the Great Resignation.

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Teresa Valerio Parrot

Principal, TVP Communications

She/Her

Teresa often says that while her husband is her true love, her alma mater was her first love. Higher education is her home. She is known for honesty juxtaposed with optimism; the two combine to provide communications counsel focused on transparent leadership and relationship building.

Teresa helps higher education executives truthfully share excellence and genuinely own mistakes through their communications and actions because she knows honesty is present in all sound proactive and crisis outreach.

She is co-host of the Trusted Voices Podcast, co-editor of Call to Action for Inside Higher Ed, and has numerous bylines with national and higher education media, and is a frequent keynote speaker.

She serves on the boards of PRSA, the Colorado-based Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), and KUNC public radio and the Colorado Sound. She is a member of the Denver Ballet Guild.

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Gourjoine M. Wade

Vice President for Student Affairs, Texas Lutheran University

He/Him

Dr. Gourjoine M. Wade has almost 20 years of progressive higher education experience supporting students and leading teams at various institutions ranging from public and private to HSI and HBCU, all with a passion for inspiring colleagues to make a difference and change the world for our students.

Dr. Wade is a high-impact, outcomes-driven, social media-connected student affairs digital leader. A first-generation college graduate at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral level, Dr. Wade has dedicated his professional career to finding innovative and strategic ways to expand higher education attainment for those who desire it.

Dr. Wade is a first-gen champion and student advocate who recognizes the immense power that education has as an engine for social and economic mobility. Dr. Wade has a sincere passion to serve all students, especially first-generation HBCU students, HSI students, students of color, and those who’ve overcome obstacles in their pursuit of a college degree.

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