5 Years of Blogging

Happy Birthday to my blog! I claimed my little corner of the internet 5 years ago today because I wanted to share my summer adventure of interning at EOU in Oregon. Since this birthday was a major milestone for the blog, I took some time to reflect about whole experience.

Columbia River Gorge

What I’ve learned by blogging the past 5 years:

  • Having a space to process and share my experiences (both work and non-work related) has helped me to actually take the time to do that processing.
  • The community of bloggers is huge. So huge, that there are many communities. I’ve met some really cool people and been introduced to so many new ideas
  • Honing my blogging skills on my own blog first, helped me to have the confidence to introduce the idea of starting a blog at my office. We’ve now had the blog going for two years! It’s given so many of the students who work for us, the space to share their stories and hone their voices. I have felt so proud to help guide them through the whole process of writing for a blog.
  • I like having a space to call my own.
  • Having the blog helps with other documentation. I’m still working on scrapbooking my Summer 2010 experience in Oregon (the adventure that started this whole blogging business). Those books are so rich with detail about my experiences because I’m able to print off the blog posts I wrote while I was in Oregon. There’s no way I’d be able to include that same level of detail if I was trying to recall those details now, 5 years later.

Canal Park Sunrise

5 Favorite Blogs to Read (I have many more blogs in my reader. These are at the top of my to-read list everyday.)

Ultimately, I just want to say thank you for reading. I know that I haven’t had all that many blog posts over the past year or so, so thanks for sticking around. Here’s to many more years of giving my story a voice and having a place to share it.


Social Media Strategy

Social media. I think it’s a beautiful thing. This way of communicating has come onto the scene with hurricane-like force and has impacted most, if not all, industries. In higher education, it has allowed professionals, like myself, to partake in professional development for little to no cost, to learn directly from the movers & shakers in the field, and to find friends, colleagues, and mentors from all over the country. Also in higher education, social media has allowed us to have a new avenue through which to connect with our students. Students who may, or may not, ever step foot into our physical space of an office. My social media skills were the something extra that helped me secure my current position. I don’t claim to know everything about social media, because that is seriously impossible. However, I know a decent amount. I know that to do social media well from an office standpoint on a college campus, you’re better off to have a plan. A strategy.

I spoke to this very idea in my first ever solo conference presentation in April at the Minnesota Career Development Association Spring Conference. I know I already talked about giving the presentation, but I didn’t really give you any details about what I said. I wanted my attendees to think about the different types of social media, social media’s importance to the field of higher education, why having a strategy is important, questions that need to be answered to start forming a strategy, and lastly I shared some examples of different social media platforms.

Having a strategy is important because according to Tanya Joosten in her book Social Media for Educators, an implementation is never effective unless users know WHY they are using technology. Eventually, they’ll probably end up floundering or stopping their social media presence. Knowing how using social media fits with the mission of your office, division, and/or university can help you make your case for implementing social media. The strategy also helps to justify human and financial resources that are to be invested. Having the strategy can also show how you can better connect with and serve your “customer.”

From my experience, having some sort of plan helps. You can always tweak the plan once you get going with your social media implementation. Having the plan ahead of time can help the decision makers decide that implementing social media for your office is a good thing. They aren’t always going to go along with “trust me, this will work” type of thinking without any proof. In an era of higher education where every penny counts, human resources are stretched thinly, serving the student should be number one, and everything needs to be assessed, implementing something new will probably need some evidence for why it should happen in the first place.

I’ve been in offices where the plan happens first and where it happens once the social media implementation has already happened. If you’ve already got social media accounts happening for your office, great! Don’t have an official plan? That’s fine. The office I’m currently in, had the accounts come first and the plan come second. Having the plan has allowed us to strengthen work we were already doing and to actually grow our social media presence onto other platforms. Here are a couple questions to get you started for putting together a social media strategy plan.

  • What is your goal/purpose/intended outcome?
  • What is already happening on your campus or in related offices?
  • Who is your intended audience and what platforms are they using already?
  • Is there someone, or group of people, who can dedicate time learning the platform(s) and using it on a daily basis?
  • What are you already doing and are you doing it well?
  • How will you assess if you’ve achieved your goal(s)?

The bulk of my presentation revolved around these questions. If you have follow-up questions or strategy ideas that have worked for you, feel free to share in the comments.

Edit it add: Here are a few of the research articles & resources I used while prepping for this presentation.

  • Digital Identity: How social media are influencing student learning & development in college, by J. Dalton & P. Crosby from the Journal of College & Character
  • Social media for educators: Strategies & best practices, by Tanya Joosten
  • Guiding social media at our institutions, by T. Joosten, L. Pasquini, & L. Harness in the journal Planning for Higher Education
  • The new normal: Social networking & student affairs, by K. Kruger in the Journal of College & Character
  • Student affairs strategic communications, webinar by Eric Stoller
  • Our shared future: Social media, leadership, vulnerability, and digital identity, by Eric Stoller in the Journal of College & Character
  • A student affairs social media plan, by Ed Cabellon found here

The Power of 3s

Tomorrow, March 4th, my little slice of the internet turns 3. That’s right, Student Affairs Explorer is 3 years old! I feel like I just started this blog yesterday, and yet, I feel like I’ve been writing on it forever.

If you’re newer to the blog, here’s a little reminder of where it all started. I got a summer internship in Oregon in 2010. I was embarking on an adventure and I wanted to share it. I wanted to reflect on the experience. Since that fateful March day when I signed up for a WordPress account, a lot has happened. I interned in Oregon, I interned at UW-Madison, I graduated with my Master’s degree from UW-Whitewater, I found a job, I moved to northern Minnesota, I started my job, I’ve traveled, I’ve gone to conferences, I have had great spurts of writing/sharing activity, and I have had times of quietness. And it’s all chronicled on the blog.

Me with one of my favs (my Canon Rebel)

Me with one of my favs (my Canon Rebel)

I have felt privileged to be able to write on here for the past 3 years. I am also grateful that each of you take the time to read, to like, to comment, to share, etc. I thought I’d take a moment to share what I’ve learned from the past 3 years of blogging.

You don’t always have to stick to a schedule.

I’m a fairly confident J on the MBTI. I’m a planner. I like schedules. I love a good list. I love, even more, crossing things off that list. What I’ve learned from blogging is that no matter how much I think I want to keep some sort of an editorial schedule for the blog, I don’t. I’ve tried. It doesn’t always work. What I’ve come to realize is that for me, a structured schedule doesn’t really matter. I don’t depend on my blog for income like some of the blogs that I follow. I use it as a space for me, to reflect, to share. If I don’t feel like reflecting or sharing, why should I force it? I like following the schedule of: I’m inspired to write about X topic, so I will. It’s my creative side rebelling against my structured side. I like it. 🙂


My blog is my voice.

After attending the ACPA National Convention last year in Louisville, I wrote about what I wanted my voice at the table to be. What do I want to say, where do I want to say it, and when do I want to say it? While that post was about my voice in my profession, I think of my blog as my voice in life. I have written about everything from the anniversary of 9/11 to reflecting about conferences to career lessons from The Hunger Games to my career goals. I write about what inspires me, what captures my attention. Sometimes that is a book, seeing sunrise and capturing that moment, or chronicling what my day is like. I love that I have my voice and that I share it. That’s really the important part, right? Sharing what you think. Overall, I think I’m just better at taking time to reflect and deciding on what I want to say – both professionally and outside of my job. Having the blog has helped me improve that skill.

Me at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore

Me at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore

It’s fun.

What it all comes down to is that blogging, for me, is fun. I wouldn’t keep writing if it wasn’t. I love that am inspired by my profession and the world around me, and that in turn fuels my inspiration to write. I like to chronicle things, ideas, events, etc. I’m a scrapbooker, so in my mind having a blog is a very natural thing to do. Instead of using paper and embellishments, I use words, photos, and the power of the internet.

Pacific Ocean at Olympic National Park

Pacific Ocean at Olympic National Park

Well, it’s been 3 great years of blogging. Here’s to many more!

Note about the photos in the post: they were picked at random. All of them have been on the blog before. I didn’t pick them for any reason other than I liked them while I was scrolling through the blog’s media library. 🙂

On the Train

So it’s been a while since I’ve blogged. I suppose this stems from a couple places. First, I blog everyday during the week for my job. Granted, I’m not writing content. However, I have to make sure that the 11 writers (10 of whom are college students) get their content to me in a timely manner, read/edit content, add a corresponding photo or graphic that sums up the post’s content, and get it scheduled in WordPress. I also spend time with most the writers throughout the week brainstorming post ideas. In other words, I think about blogging A LOT during the work day and I don’t always have the motivation to do my own blogging.

Another reason for the lack of activity: I’ve been knitting up a storm. I was working on a few projects for the holidays and it has been my hobby of choice lately. It’s super relaxing and I’ve watched a lot of tv on DVD and movies. Knitting it quieting down now. What I need to do is find an easy, interesting project that I can work on during my knitting group at work.

Reason #3: I haven’t taken the time to sit down and think about content. Which I need, and more importantly want, to do. I think that throughout the life of my blog I have shared a lot about life and not necessarily and equal amount about the field I work in. I want to include more about student affairs because I’ve taken the time to think about (and formed opinions about) concepts, current events, and anything else I relate to the world of student affairs.

So, after all that, I’m here to tell you I want back on the blogging train. It hasn’t been quite a month since my last post…and I really don’t want to go that long again without putting up a new post.

Thanks for sticking around.

My Brush With Fame…YHL Style

Last night was awesome! I went to a book signing in the Twin Cities for 2 of my favorite bloggers (Sherry & John from Young House Love)!!!! They recently released a DIY project/design book (aptly named: Young House Love: 243 ways to paint, craft, update and show your home some love) and are currently on their book tour. Before they released the book tour dates, I pledged to myself that if they were coming to the TC, I would make the trip down…even if I had to take vacation time from work. Low and behold, the Twin Cities was a stop on their book tour.

Rewind to yesterday morning…I was super giddy and attempted to get some work done in the morning before making the trip from Duluth to Edina. I think some of my co-workers might have thought I was a little ridiculous because I was so excited to meet a couple of bloggers. Whatever. I LOVE Young House Love and have been reading it for the past year and a half (at least). I love Sherry & John’s style and how much gusto they have when tackling projects (from building a new deck, to editing their book, to the small projects, to raising their daughter Clara). Noon rolled around and I was out the door. I wanted to get to area early because I knew from posts about other book signings – the lines were long.

Twin Cities skyline

I arrived in the area of Edina where the West Elm store was located a little after 3pm. At that point no one was in line yet. I hopped over to the Container Store for a little shopping adventure. It was my first time ever at that store. I found a few fun things – including bicycle paperclips. I got out of the store around 3:30 and a small line had started (mind you, the book signing event started at 6pm). I actually went into the West Elm to do a little shopping there also. My main goal was to find a ceramic animal or two to have them sign along with my book. I found the most adorable owl and turtle. My thinking was – one for my apartment and one for my office. And then, I got in line. I actually wasn’t all that far back into the line.

Line in front of me

Thank goodness for the balmy weather we had yesterday. Otherwise, standing in line could have been miserable. There were some lovely ladies to chat with in line around me. We talked about YHL, how long we’ve been reading it, and about different things recently posted on the blog. We also talked about BowerPower (which is another one of my favorite blogs) as Katie, BP’s author, is BFFs with Sherry. The consensus was that we felt like we really knew John & Sherry from reading their blog and had to remind ourselves they’re just normal people. Oh, if anyone reading is planning to hit up another YHL signing – bring snacks. You’ll thank me later. I had wheat thins and a bag of almonds – life savers!

6pm rolled around and we were allowed into the store. They passed out cookies and hot chocolate. I had a delicious giant gingersnap cookie. I also scored one of the specially made YHL cookies. To be completely honest, the taste was just okay, but the design was adorable.

Adorable YHL cookie with my book

Once I finally got to have my turn I felt kind of awkward. I was trying to get the ceramic animals out of my bag, plus the book, plus talking to them. I totally forgot to introduce myself until Sherry asked if I was Ellen (she read the sticky note in the book). They were excited for signing the turtle since they were so used to signing the ceramic animals on the bottom and I wanted them to sign right on the shell of the turtle.

My signed YHL book & turtle!

Both John & Sherry were super nice and enthusiastic…just as they are on their blog. It was fun to meet them in person and definitely worth the 3 hour wait.

Me with John & Sherry!!

After the book signing, I headed to the northern suburbs of the TC area and stayed with my friend Carissa. As always, it was fantastic to see her. We had Chinese food and watched The Hills on Netflix. Great end to a wonderful day!

Special shoutout to the ladies in line around me. It was fantastic to meet & hangout with you! Check out Becky over at Ramblings from the Burbs and Ethne & Lori (plus their friend Roxanne) from Women on a Mission: Mom Edition. Super sweet!

Now it’s time to get reading my book!

Peer Into Your Career

One of my many tasks as a career counselor is to serve as leader of our office social media team. Go team! This team is comprised of two counselors and two of our student employees. Last year, our main tasks were to start working on a mission and goals for our group and to also spearhead our office’s representation at our campus-wide Tech Fest. Tech Fest is an every other year opportunity for people to showcase the different kinds of technology being used in their respective offices. For Career Services, we showcased our use of social media. At that time, our office had a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest. At that event we had great success in showing UMD staff and students our social media presence and it was rumored we had some of the best candy at our table. In Career Services, we don’t shy away from awesome food. In fact, almost every career office I’ve ever worked in has boasted awesome food selections (whether it was a snack someone brought in to share or the massive end of the semester celebration). Anyway, back to social media. At the end of the last school year, our team decided that we’d like to tackle adding a blog to our social media repertoire. Over the summer, myself and one of student employees took on the task of researching other career blogs and brainstorming how we wanted ours to be. My goal was to have our students be the authors. They’d have the choice of writing about something more personal or something more objective. I figured it was up to them how much they wanted to share. Each of the students that works in our office has such a unique experience while they are attending UMD. And so, Peer Into Your Career was born.

I volunteered to spearhead this adventure. It was my idea so I figured I should serve as it’s coordinator. 10 of the students that work in our office (+1 recent alum who also worked in our office) offer up daily doses of career related stories. So far, we’ve had posts about finding a career path, a major “choosing” the student, Googling yourself, changing a major, and what to do when an internship search plan fails. We also have a weekly feature about each of the Strengths from the assessment StrengthsQuest. It is one of our favorite assessments that is offered through our office. Personally, my goal for having the blog was to challenge each of our student employees that volunteered to be a part of this project. To have them really reflect on the career-related experiences they’ve had thus far. I want them to be able to share their stories to help other students understand that finding the right career path is hard and there will be both successes and failures along that path…and also that they are not alone with their struggles.

I also made a very pointed effort that each student who writes for the blog will have a direct way to show people (from future employers to their parents) what they have contributed. Each student has their own About page that features a professional photo of them (we had the photos specifically taken for this project…and our website, their LinkedIn profiles, and for wherever else we might use them), a short bio, and a direct link to each post they have written. They are putting so much into this project, so I want them to be able to reap benefits from it as well. We’re only about a monthish into the publishing phase of this project and already I’m amazed at what these students are writing. I’m excited to see where this project takes us! I’m so proud of them and the project.

I recommend that you check out the blog! Here’s the address: umdcareers.wordpress.com. Feel free to follow the blog. You can do so by signing up to have it emailed to you, follow through WordPress (if you already have a WordPress account), or grab the RSS feed in the top right corner and stick it in your blog reader. Thanks for reading!

A Rose by Any Other Name…

I’ve done it. I’ve gone and changed the name of my blog…again. When I first started blogging, the title was “Student Affairs Intern” (to chronicle my internship experiences), then it shifted to “Student Affairs Intern, Once-Removed” (to signify having finished interning and being within a year of that internship experience), and now I’ve moved to “Student Affairs Explorer.” The new name will hopefully be the one that sticks with the rest of the life of my blog. I fell in love with the word explore last year. I used the word as a guide for how I approached my life and my work. I think that “explore” embodies learning from the world around me to make me a better Student Affairs professional, and overall a better person. What I share on this blog is a result of me being an “explorer.”

So, I have some action steps for you. If you have been oh so kind to list me on your blogroll or links page…please update the name. If you aren’t following me formally yet, please to do so. On the right side of the page, you can find the RSS feed to add to your Reader or you can sign up to recieve an email with each new post.

As always, thanks for reading!