Is the “Traditional Career Path” to the Chief Housing Officer Position Changing?

 

This post was originally posted on the ACUHO-I Online Community 

Is the “traditional career path” to the Chief Housing Officer position in our field changing?

When I refer to “the traditional career path” I am referring to an observation (on my part) that most Chief Housing Officers come from pedigree residential education backgrounds. However, for the past several years, I have noticed a change in the language that is included in many CHO position postings. Things like “Doctorate or MBA is preferred” and “strong financial acumen is necessary” seem to be included more often these days.  I am also noticing an increase in language that talks about a candidate’s ability to address deferred maintenance, generate additional sources of revenue, forecasting, experience with public / private partnerships, etc.

This isn’t to say that one can’t get these experiences while working in the residential education side of the house but it does seem to allude hiring committees are hoping to bring in people with a certain level of expertise in these areas when determining who they want in the Chief Housing Officer role.

I’m not sure if this is a response to shrinking budgets and decreasing state support. However, I do wonder if in the coming years we will see more Chief Housing Officers ascend to those positions from the Assignments, Occupancy Management and Facilities side of the house.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you also noticed this as a trend in the Residential Life and Housing Field?

Flipping the Switch: In Search of Answers Related to Involvement in Professional Associations

 

What kind of impact would you want to leave on the field as a result of your professional involvement in higher education associations?

That is the question I asked myself as I sat in a presentation that Dr. Alvin Sturdivant, Dr. Yetty Marquez-Santana, Charles Holmes-Hope and David Jones conducted at the 2015 ACUHO-I Annual Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, Florida. The session was titled “Pathways to Success” and the goal of the session was simple, to bring professionals together to speak about how we can increase the number of professionals of color in high ranking positions within the field and within the association.  The session was co-hosted by the ACUHO-I Multicultural Network and by Dr. Sturdivant in his role as Director for the Pathways to Success Initiative within ACUHO-I executive board.

For years I have struggled with determining what impact I would like to leave on the field as a result of my professional involvement in higher education associations. In full disclosure, my reasons for being involved leading up until that point in my career have been rather selfish. I have participated in professional organizations because I have wanted to build my resume.  I have joined organizations because I wanted to build a network of professionals that I can count on for advice, mentorship and friendship. Finally, I have joined professional organizations because I wanted to further my professional development.

In essence, I have participated in professional organizations primarily because of the benefit I would derive from those experiences – not because of what I could give back to the field as a result of those experiences. 

Although giving back to the field is something that I have always valued, I now realize that those opportunities to give back were peripheral outcomes that resulted from my desire to derive as much development as I could from these volunteer opportunities.  In the middle of the presentation, it became clear that up until this point in my career my involvement in professional associations were based on what professional associations could do for me – not about what I could do for the association or the field.

The questions that were brought up by the presenters and other participants during the session were substantive, relevant, and critically important to the overall development of our field. Are professionals of color ascending to high level leadership positions at a rate that we as a field could be proud of? Does the diversity in the highest levels of our professional organizations (and our own departments) align with the levels of diversity amongst our professional staff members and student bodies?  Can we be doing more to retain professionals of color within residential life and housing?

As with most exceptional conference presentations, I walked away after the session with more questions than answers. I spent the next couple of months dissecting the questions that were brought up during the presentation and came to one beautifully simple and inevitable conclusion. In spite of the fact that I still had no answers to any of these questions, I was willing to put in the time to try tofind the answers. I thought about the ways that I have been mentored, supported and sponsored and couldn’t help but think about how I could begin to pay it forward in a more intentional and substantive way.  It was then that I decided to express my interest in joining the ACUHO-I Multicultural Network.

I joined the network because I feel that now, more than ever, there is a need for us to bring issues of multiculturalism and inclusion within our offices, departments, campuses and associations into the forefront. I joined because I have a vested interest in ensuring that our leadership within our organizations — and associations — is representative of the diversity we find in our student bodies. I joined because I believed that I could make a positive impact on our field that I could be proud of in the years to come.  I still don’t have all the right answers, but at least I can say that I am working toward solving some of the questions that matter most to me and to others in the field.

What are your reasons for being involved in professional associations? What have you learned as a result of those experiences?

Wimer Alberto is a higher education professional, educator and aspiring legal scholar. He currently serves as the Assistant Director for Guest and Conference Services for the Department of University Housing at Arizona State University. In addition to his professional role, Wimer is also a Master of Legal Studies candidate at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. He currently serves as the Director for Communications for the ACUHO-I Multicultural Network Leadership Team. Follow him on Twitter (@wimeralberto) to learn more.

Focus on the problem, not the degree.

 

December 2015 marks the end of my first year in law school at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. I am currently enrolled in the Master of Legal Studies program at the law school, which is a law program specifically designed for non-lawyers who would like to gain a better understanding of how the law affects their current profession.  My decision to enroll in a law program has unequivocally been one of the best career-related decisions that I have taken.  I am often asked by peers, family members and colleagues why I decided to enroll in law school as opposed to pursuing a Ph.D or Ed.D in education. Though I have always been firm in my conviction to attend law school, I have struggled with fully articulating why it was the right move for me.

Eventually, I found some assistance in the form of a screenshot that was taken at a professional conference and has circulated its way through social media.

Casap

Casap’s quote encapsulated a philosophy that has shaped my career for some time now. In order to solve the problems I want to solve within higher education — and in order to make the impact I want to make on the field – I knew I needed an alternative form of educational training that falls outside of the scope of what most higher education professionals would consider as “traditional”. Perhaps more importantly, I also knew that I needed to divorce myself from the general notion that all things that are “traditional” are automatically the best alternatives for us a society and as a field.

121 years ago, tradition indicated that African-American people should still be considered property.

96 years ago, tradition indicated that women should still be unable to vote.

12 months ago, tradition indicated that only some of us should have the right to marry the people we love.

As we look the history of the United States, we can name many instances where following tradition for tradition’s sake has led us down the wrong path.

To be clear, I have very high regard for people who choose to pursue doctorates in philosophy or education and I have seen many of them add a great value to our field in ways that I admire. However, I often wonder about how much we stifle creativity and progress in our field when we sub-consciously promote a doctorate in philosophy or education as the only terminal degree option that will pay dividends for higher education professionals who want to continue their education and remain in the field.

If one’s goal is to make scholarly contributions to the field or to become a scholar-practitioner, then perhaps a doctorate is the better option for them.  If one’s goal is to use formalized legal training to disrupt how higher education professionals negotiate the legal aspects of their work, then perhaps law school might be the better option for them. If one’s goal does not include pursuing advanced education at all, then that’s a fine option as well.

Only you can make this choice. However, if and when you do make this choice, I would ask that you base your decision on what problem you want to solve in the field, as opposed to following tradition for tradition’s sake and enrolling into a program because you believe that it’s the only option available to you.

I can’t help but think about what our field would look like if we make more intentional efforts to diversify the types of educational training our professionals receive.  We need more MBAs, MPAs, JDs at the table when it comes time to make important decisions that affect the student experience. When we are at the hiring table, we also need to be willing to take a chance on professionals from other fields who want to change careers and enter higher education. Most of all, we need to conduct a mental shift with respect to how we mentor professionals in our field who would like to continue their education.

Rather than asking professionals what type of education they would like to have, we should ask them what problems they want to solve.

 

Lessons Learned as the Internal Candidate

 

Cross posted on http://www.WimerAlberto.com

Two weeks ago I announced that I accepted a position as the Assistant Director of Guest and Conference Services for the Department of University Housing at Arizona State University. In this role, I will be directing both the guest housing operations and the conference housing operations at the largest institution of higher education in the United States. I currently work for the Department of University Housing at Arizona State University. As a result, I was an internal candidate in the search process for this position. My experience as an internal candidate has taught me a number of valuable lessons that I wanted to share broadly with all of you.

Don’t assume you know everything. The worst mistake one can do as an internal candidate is to assume they know everything about the position prior to actually serving in it. Serving in another role in the department or institution – even a role that has regular interaction with the role you are interviewing for – does not make you a subject matter expert in the position you are applying for.  Approach the job interview process as an external candidate would. Ask questions. Listen to what people on the committee are saying (and what they are not saying) during your conversations with them. Show the committee that you have something to offer. Perhaps most importantly, show the committee you have something to learn.

Ditch the cover letter and write a pain letter instead.  Internal candidates are typically held to higher scrutiny when it comes to demonstrating whether they have an understanding of what the pain points of an organization are. Hiring committees want to see that internal candidates have an understanding of the challenges encountered by several units in an organization. They also want to see whether the internal candidate can leverage the professional skills and institutional context that they have acquired over time to solve these challenges in other areas that currently fall outside of the scope of what the internal candidate is currently responsible for.

For those reasons, I chose to ditch the traditional cover letter format and chose to go with a pain letter instead. I thought about areas of growth within the unit I would be leading. I thought about how I could deliver measurable, productive outcomes in those areas. Finally, I came up with a list of four goals that I think are reasonable given what I know about the position, what I know about the unit, what I know about the department, what I know about the institution and what I know about my own capabilities, skills and attributes.

My four goals, as taken verbatim from the cover letter I used to apply for the position, are as follows:

  • To continue to forge and fortify stronger working relationships between Guest & Conference Services and campus partners, internal departmental colleagues, external stakeholders, third party partners and clients.
  • To continue the upward trajectory with respect to the revenue generated by the program.
  • To provide a greater sense of transparency to the rest of the department by using data to delineate how Guest and Conference Services is contributing to the larger mission of student success at Arizona State University.
  • To elevate the recognition and status of the Guest and Conference Services program at the state, regional and national levels, such that our organization will be a recognized by peers as a leader within this area.

Search committees will look to see if you have a vision in place for what you want to achieve in this new role. At minimum, you should have an understanding of what you what to achieve and why you want to achieve it while serving in this new role. It’s fine for those goals to change over time. However, without a vision, it is going to be difficult to articulate why are you are the best candidate for the role.

Accomplishments are only a piece of the puzzle. A well-organized resume will illustrate job responsibilities (what you were hired to do) and accomplishments (what you achieved after you were hired). However, well written resume will only take you far when it comes to demonstrating whether you have the competencies necessary to be successful in this new role. As an internal candidate, it is critically important for you to know what those competencies are prior to the interview, as they will help you process though the interview questions more effectively.

While reflecting on previous experiences and preparing for this interview, I asked myself the following questions:

  • What did I accomplish in previous positions?
  • What roadblocks did I encounter while trying to accomplish these things? How did I work with other people to overcome those roadblocks?
  • What lesson did I learn from those situations?
  • How would I apply these lessons within the context of this new role that I am interviewing for?
  • How does the use of these examples illustrate that I have gained a competency that I will need in order to excel as an Assistant Director for Guest and Conference Services?

Being an internal candidate is not easy but it is an experience that has taught me a number of valuable professional lessons. Have you ever been an internal candidate for a position that has been posted in your department? What lessons have you learned as a result of the experience?

The Student Affairs Spectacular Podcast: Episode Number 81 with Dustin Ramsdell and Wimer Alberto

SASP_WimerAlberto

Hello all,

I had a great conversation with my colleague Dustin Ramsdell for the Student Affairs Collective’s Student Affairs Spectacular Podcast. We talked about the importance that occupancy management and housing operations have on the mission of ensuring student success.  The full conversation can be found on the embedded link.

-Alberto

Six Reasons to Join the New ACUHO-I Online Community

iphone-4-closeup (1)

A trusted colleague who was interested in the new ACUHO-I Online Community asked me some questions about how the online community differs from other forms of communication, such as list servs, Facebook groups related to residential life and housing, Twitter, etc. My response to her can be found below. I thought I would share it with all of you as well.

The 2015 ACUHO-I Strategic Plan is the guiding document that serves as our “road map” as an association. The plan outlines four strategic goals, which are defined as: 1) Education, 2) Knowledge Resources, 3) Community, and 4) Influential Leadership and Advocacy. The plan describes the second strategic goal (our responsibility to our community) as follows:

Community:  The campus housing profession will benefit from expanded opportunities of engagement and connection that transcend practice, affinity, geography, career levels, and roles.

Goal Objectives:

  • To enhance the intentional communication message of who ACUHO-I is for members
  • To increase visibility of ACUHO-I and campus housing professionals
  • To expand ACUHO-I’s reach, influence, and accessibility.
  • To improve the connection between ACUHO-I and other regional and international housing associations.
  • To expand opportunities for individual engagement around practice, affinity, geography, and career level or role.

With this additional context as a backdrop, it comes as no surprise that the new ACUHO-I Online Community is a tool through which to further develop, enhance and engage with our own “real life” community.  The advantages that the new online community provides over social media platforms are many:

  • In addition to the large open forum conversation, the ACUHO-I Online Community allows for members to join tailored conversations within affinity groups that interest them. Whereas social media platforms like Facebook groups tend to only have a consortium of threads that are related to various different topics, the ACUHO-I Online Community allows for the best of both worlds – granular conversations around different knowledge domains and a large open discussion that is designed everyone. Members can join and leave affinity groups based on their changing needs and interests. Members can also set notifications (e-mail digests) to be sent on a daily or weekly basis depending on their personal preference.
  • As opposed to micro-blogging sites like Twitter, community posts aren’t limited to a short number of characters. In turn, this allows for members to have in depth conversations around subjects that interest them.
  • Members also have the option of responding to conversations directly via their email in addition to having the option of responding via the platform itself.
  • As opposed to list-serv emails, the community is also fully searchable by subject. This is an advantage for those in our profession, where transitioning to new institutions is a common practice. Transitioning to new institutions no longer implies losing out valuable professional resources because one no longer has access to previous email accounts where listserv conversations are often stored.
  • The platform for allows members to upload and download documents directly to and from the platform. Room change documents, marketing materials, spreadsheets, license agreements and other valuable documents are only a click away and can now be found in a centralized place for the entire global membership to take advantage of.
  • Finally, the community allows members to build profiles that allow members to associate a name to a face. I have already called, emailed and have video chatted with a number of new members on the community. I even plan on meeting some of them in real life at upcoming conferences. Being able to associate a name to face is a great advantage over a list-serv, where some conversations can sometimes feel impersonal.

In the end, the new ACUHO-I Online Community is a tool that will help us fortify the professional community that we know and care about.  Will it replace the value of having face-to face conversations with other members? No, nothing will. However, as outlined in the ACUHO-I’s strategic objectives, it will help us continue to build community on a global scale regardless of one’s practice, affinity, geography, and career level or role. Personally, that seems like a goal worth working toward.

Interested in continuing this conversation? Don’t know where to start when it comes to joining the community? I am here to help. Feel free to email me directly at wimer.alberto@gmail.com.

#FollowFriday: That’s Not How Any of This Works

 

Today is Friday. You know what that means, it’s time for #FollowFriday! #FollowFriday (#FF) was created as a way for people in the Twitter community to make recommendations to their audience (i.e. make recommendations to their own Twitter followers) as to who they should follow. At it’s core, #FollowFriday was — and in some ways still is — a vehicle through which people try to facilitate engagement under the basis that following the person being mentioned will add value to one’s timeline and overall experience. What is has become, at least according to me, is a popularity contest where people are more interested in giving and receiving praise (endorsements) than they are with facilitating engagement between people in their social and professional circles.

ozI-that-s-not-how-any-of-this-works-that-s-not-how-it-works

#FollowFriday shouldn’t be about endorsements; it should be about facilitating engagement.

I kept reverting back to a recent conversation I had with Jason Meriwether over the phone in which we were discussing what it means to be a man of color within the field higher education. During our conversation, Jason realized that there was value in connecting me with one of his friends and colleagues, Fernando Diaz; the Director of the Latino Resource Center at Chicago State University. Jason proceeded to email Fernando after our conversation. His email stated the following:

Friends,

I am writing to connect the two of you.  Fernando and I go back a long way, and Alberto and I began our relationship earlier this year.  Aside from being Latino, you two share similar values, goals, talents, and work ethic.  These common facets of your life and experiences are the basis for making this connection.  It will be my mission to get you both in the same room, but it is my hope that you two volley emails and speak soon.   – Jason

Jason’s email, though short, is one that I remember vividly. This isn’t necessarily because of the content, but because of the approach.  Jason took the time to identify why he thought there would be value in Fernando and I engaging in a conversation — because we have similar values, goals, talents and work ethic. Though he didn’t necessarily outline what our common values were (he left it up to us to figure that part out), he was intentional behind explaining why there was value in us engaging with one another. My conversation with Fernando was a phenomenal one and only served as further justification that we have work to do with respect to how  we facilitate engagement between (and within) our social and professional circles.

What if, instead of flooding everyone’s timelines with a laundry list of Twitter endorsements, we each made a commitment to identify common values and facets between people who wouldn’t necessarily engage otherwise? What if we moved away from making large, overarching blanket statements about the online presence of others and move towards a model where we connect people based on what we know about both parties, as opposed to advertising what we want the world to know about one party?  What if, on a weekly basis, we made a commitment to connect those that have meaningful stories to share with those that could benefit from hearing those stories? Isn’t that was facilitating engagement is about? Isn’t that a great way to end the week?

Why Change?

Why

“If everything you’ve ever done has resulted in you getting everything you have ever wanted, why would you change?”

That’s the question he posed as we drank our coffee and looked out of the window facing campus. Our conversation had reached an impasse. We knew that neither of us had an answer to the question. Our ongoing conversations about implementing change in higher education had always fascinated me; in large part because they challenged me to look at the concept of change as something that can be willingly applied by anyone, at any point, in any situation. However, at that moment I realized that I had neglected to think about how one’s own motivations affect the process of creating change in higher education in the first place.

I kept reverting back to my childhood memories of creating sand castles on the shores of Cape Cod and Coney Island. I remember proudly calling my mom over so that she can take a look at the sand castles I created. I wanted her and everyone else to see what I had built. I was proud of what I had built, though I knew the “success” was only temporary. I had come to terms with the fact that my sand castles, however great, would only last for so long. I also understood that, upon leaving the beach, other children had the right to build upon my castle, make changes to it or demolish it altogether and start from scratch.

It takes a great amount of professional maturity and self-confidence to walk away from, modify, or even destroy the “sand castles” we figuratively build at our institutions of higher education. However, I would argue that this is one of the most important skills we lack in our field. It’s in our nature to want to protect our achievements the way that a young child would want to protect their castle against the crashing waves of the ocean. However, in order to push our field forward, we have to adopt a mindset wherein we are inviting others to take part in the innovation process — regardless of that fact that the innovation process challenges the foundation under which our own personal success has been founded on.

Isn’t that what we should expect from each other?

The Case for Higher Education SharkTanks

 

We are in desperate need of shark tanks in higher education. No, not the kind you find in aquariums; the kind that allow for investing in innovative and dynamic ideas that will push higher education forward.

Shark Tank, a television show which airs regularly on CNBC, features a panel of potential investors, called “sharks”. The sharks consider offers from aspiring entrepreneurs seeking investments in their business or product. The entrepreneurs must first outline how much of an investment they seek from the sharks and must then present their idea to the sharks in order to create buy-in. Afterwards, the sharks ask the aspiring entrepreneurs various questions about their business model and the product or service in question. The sharks often find weaknesses and faults in an entrepreneur’s concept, product, or business model. Successful pitches often result in the sharks making various counter-offers against other sharks – and against the entrepreneurs – in an attempt to strike a deal. The entrepreneurs can make a deal on the show if a shark is interested. However, if all of the sharks opt out, the entrepreneurs leave empty handed. The sharks invest into the businesses with their own hard earned money and it is up to the entrepreneur to ensure that he/she is well prepared to enter the “Shark tank”.

Shark-Tank

What if we could apply this model to higher education? Imagine if a grounds-person, Ph.D student, resident director, janitor, academic counselor or teaching assistant can present a new and innovate idea to the highest levels of university leadership and a mixture of private  investors. What would result of these interactions? What if we could effectively re-invent our spaces and turn them from think tanks to “Shark tanks”?

There is certainly value in adopting this kind of model in higher education. However, before we do so, we need to consider a few factors that have made this approach effective in the private sector:

1) Private entrepreneurs are willing to take risks on behalf of their idea before they ask others to. We should as too.

The entrepreneurs that appear on the show often share stories of what they have risked in order to push their idea forward. They do so because they believe in their idea and they take those risks with the understanding that there are no guarantees in the business world.  How many times have we, as higher education professionals, asked others to take a risk and buy into our ideas when we haven’t done so ourselves? How can we expect others to invest in our own ideas if we are unwilling to take the first step and invest in those ideas prior to asking others to do so?

2) Our ideas need to improve the human condition.

The most successful pitches on the show are presented by entrepreneurs that can unequivocally prove that their product / service improves the human condition in a way this unique from other ideas that are already on the market.  If this model were to be adopted within the sphere of higher education, then we as “entrepreneurs”, must be able to articulate the value added that our ideas bring to the table. It’s not enough for us to present ideas that sound good on paper and look good on PowerPoint slides; we have to prove that our ideas bring value to the mission of the institution in a way that is unique from other initiatives that already exist.

3) The private sector understands the importance of creating shared ownership over the success of a business / product.

The sharks on the show make offers and deals with their own money. In turn, the sharks have a vested interest in making sure the businesses they invest in succeed. The sharks often highlight that they not only invest the capital necessary to make the businesses grow; they also invest their personal brand, time, effort, political capital and expertise into the businesses as well. The sharks on the show have a firm understanding that throwing money at an idea will not make it successful; in order to develop the business you have to develop the people in charge of executing the shared vision on behalf of the business. This holds true in the private sector as much as it holds true in higher education.

If we, as institutions of higher education, are as innovate as we claim to be, then we need to open up spaces where innovation can flourish.  It’s time for institutions of higher education to evolve form just think-tanks to Shark tanks.