student affairs

9 Surefire Methods to TOTALLY Get People to Read your Student Affairs Blog!

Student affairs blogging is a popular hobby/side hustle/personal reflection tool/academic writing method. There is so much freedom on the internet that anyone can publish a blog post, thus there are a plethora of student affairs blogs out there. So how to make sure people read yours? Enjoy these helpful tips (that are especially helpful for more seasoned SA pros)!

  1. Trick them into clicking the link by using a sassy title that sounds like it came from a Buzzfeed intern.
  2. “Neg” the reader. Not only is “negging” a method that pick-up artists (PUAs, aka P-U they are gross) use, but so can you! Negging would be where the writer emotionally manipulates the reader by insulting them or being sarcastically mean in order to keep them reading.
  3. Perpetuate systems of oppression that seep into our everyday lives, like commenting how people shake hands without realizing you’re being ableist or complaining about how angry people sound when you’re white and hetero and ‘they’ include people of color, LGBTQ+ folks, and QTPOC.
  4. When people call you on how oppression is trickling through your blog post like a busted septic tank trickles into a basement, ignore them. Just keep drinking your craft beer.
  5. If you choose to get into the comments of your post (because more comments = increased reader traffic, woohoo!), conjure your internal politician or Hollywood executive, and tell the commenters that you are sorry they feel that way. This way, you say the words “sorry” while resting the blame squarely on them for not understanding your brilliance. Silly peasants, mwahaha!
  6. If the comments become too much for you, just delete them. Keep the comments that agree with you tho, because its the victors that write history, amirite?
  7. When someone greatly respected in the field disagrees with you, make sure someone (a friend, or perhaps a boss?) with more identity privileges than the dissenter sees their post, and then writes a pedantic letter to the dissenter.
  8. If all else fails, delete the blog post and pretend that nothing ever happened! You’re still a Student Affairs Darling! Go book your next speech.
  9. If you didn’t delete the blog post, be sure to repost it every year and run through steps 5 and 6 again. Constantly refresh your blog’s traffic page while petting a fluffy white cat and chuckling darkly.

This blog post was brought to you by the letter S for “satire” and the concept of “punching up and not down”.

sarcastic - youre welcome


A Day Without A Woman…in Student Affairs

Today is “A Day Without a Woman“, which is a national social-political campaign created by the same individuals/group that organized the Women’s March on Washington. This strike is in solidarity with the International Women’s Strike that is taking place in 30 countries. It is also International Women’s Day, which is “is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.”

Today women are called on to strike from work if they can, as well as wear red in solidarity and don’t shop, unless it is at women-owned and minority businesses. Some folks have already complained about the “privilege” of taking off work but they have not read past a headline; the organizers are very clear that not all women can take off work and that’s why there are multiple opportunities to participate. Read this article to better understand: When Did Solidarity Among Working Women Become a ‘Privilege’?by  Tithi Bhattacharya and Cinzia Arruzza.

Moving on…to Student Affairs.

Can you imagine if women in student affairs had all done a collective strike? There’d be barely any employees except the folks making six-figures.

laughing or cyring

To share: Personally, I am working today. I manage alternative breaks at my institution and 8 trips depart on Sunday – I don’t have an option because this is one of my busiest weeks of the year. But I cannot help but think of the gender inequality within the Student Affairs profession.

In 2013 I wrote the post “I’m shivering – Either winter is coming or there’s a ‘chilly climate’ in Student Affairs” Not much, unfortunately, has changed. We still are trapped by institutional sexism.At my institution and all others, I see it is a majority of men in upper-level positions while the coordinator level is mostly women.

There is a lack of research that analyzes the lack of female representation in SSAO positions, according to Yakaboski & Donahoo (2011), but here is a starting list of possible explanations (note: if there is more recent research, please share it with me!).

  • Institutional Sexism: According to Acker (1990) organizational hierarchies are male dominated and the institutional structure demands conformity to male norms. Simply put, men are more likely to be seen as best representative of university leadership and women are not seen ‘as a good fit’ for leadership because they do not fit into those male norms; if anything women must assimilate in order to get promoted (Dale, 2007) – or get put into a ‘binder full of women’.
  • Retention: Dissatisfaction due to sex discrimination and racial discrimination causes women to want to leave their positions (Blackhurst, 2000)
  • Female Socialization: girls are taught to be nice and take care of another person’s needs over their own and not ask for things for themselves. This results in women not asking (or even realizing they can ask) for raises and promotion (Babcock & Laschever, 2007).
  • Not on the ‘Right’ Track: Women, through their own volition or due to the institution, tend to work in roles that do not lead to SSAO positions. For example, studies show that Black women are concentrated in student affairs roles that are directly responsible for promoting diversity initiatives (Howard-Hamilton & Williams, 1996; Konrad & Pfeffer, 1991;Moses, 1997, cited in Belk 2006)
  • Fewer Mentors: With few women SSAO, there are fewer women to mentor other women, creating a full-circle affect (Sagaria, & Rychener, 2002, as cited in Stimpson, 2009)


One thing to point out – all the research I used is on the gender binary of women and men – and that’s all I could find when reading on gender in student affairs. We who identify as women or men need to acknowledge that in talks of sexism, often our genderqueer, non-binary, trans colleagues are left out of the conversation.

It strikes me as peculiar that a profession that embraces (to some degree) social justice can still allow sexism to play out. Granted, it is difficult to move out of institutionalized oppression. Men don’t want to give up power – either consciously or unconscionably. As sociology research demonstrates, people prefer mentoring people that look like them and have shared experiences. So of course men in power are more likely to resonate with other men and thus (consciously or unconsciously) mentor them and show them preference.

Well. That’s some bullshit.

Men – do better. I need our male university presidents, male senior student affairs officers, male dean of students, male directors, male associate directors, and male assistant directors to do better. I need our male coordinators and graduate students to recognize sexism in the workplace and call it out + redirect attention to their female colleagues who are also doing excellent work.

For example:

  • Don’t just recognize your male employees for good work but not women (if you are a male recognized publicly for something your female colleagues are also doing, speak out and redirect attention to them)
  • When women speak in a meeting, listen. There’s a documented tendency that women’s ideas don’t get heard until a man says them – don’t do that.
  • When hiring for mid-level and upper-level positions, actively seek out women (especially women of color, disabled women, queer women, trans women, and women from other marginalized backgrounds). Spend some time/money on digital flyers, get some inforgraphics, encourage women in your organization to apply, share out in different networks.

And everybody always better look out for their trans colleagues – call out transphobia and exclusionary practices, recognize their work, and actively recruit folks for mid-level positions and beyond.

And women…we all know institutionalized sexism lives within us and that we, too, have been socialized to believe inequitable things about our own gender. Actively push against this socialization. Bring other women up with you in the organization – we have to look out for one another.

Whether you are taking today off or not, everyone needs to get to work (or continue working) on women’s equality.

Share your thoughts in the comment section or tweet me at @NikiMessmore.

resist to exist

The Hamilton Guide to Quality Community Service! (Part I)

Hamilton _titlefor blog post.jpg

I’m a bit late to the party, but in advance of my vacation I downloaded the Hamilton soundtrack from Amazon Prime (yay #Amazon) and have been listening to it nonstop for almost 2 weeks. After presenting at the Indiana Campus Compact Networking meeting, I couldn’t help but take notice of all the different ways we can link the Hamilton musical to service-learning! While my perspective comes from someone who works professionally in higher education service-learning, this can apply to anyone who is planning to volunteer/plan service projects!

The “Hamilton Guide to Quality Community Service” will be a short series of several blog posts. This is the first one. Be sure to check the end for recommended readings based on concepts mentioned!

Let’s get to it:

1. “Talk less, smile more” – from the song “Aaron Burr, Sir”

Concept link: community voice; relationship building

As the nervous and young Alexander Hamilton approaches Aaron Burr to discuss his university education (and “punching the bursar, sir” – something I’m sure we have all imagined as students but really would be uncool in reality because the bursar is just working for their paycheck!). As Hamilton rambles more than Willow in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Burr offers some free advice: “Talk less, smile more”.

Burr’s words have a different intention in the musical, but I urge staff, faculty, and students engaged in service-learning to talk less. Historically, S-L programs tend to focus more-so on the needs of universities rather than communities. We have these ‘educated’ folks who come into communities and tell the community members what they will do ‘for you’.

This is where the value of ‘community voice’ enters the planning process. We must work with community members/organizations to ask what their community needs are, and then establish service projects that fit these needs. For example, if your group wants to do a food drive they must contact a food pantry first to make sure that the pantry wants/needs donations and, if so, what types of donations they need. It wouldn’t be helpful if the students collected 200 cans of green beans when the pantry does not have the space to store these items and/or have zero need for more green beans.

As for the smiling? That’s about being friendly and working to establish + build relationships with community members and organizations. Listen to their stories, learn about the daily lives of the community members, and work to develop an authentic relationship.

2. “Why do you assume that you’re the smartest in your room? Soon that attitude may be your doom” – from the song “Non-Stop”

Concept link: cultural humility, open-mindedness

Before, during, and after a service project there can be an issue of ego on behalf of service participants.

Prior to a service project, students (and staff + faculty!!) may assume they know everything about this issue. This may be because they have obtained an academic education on the topic. For example, if the service project supports an after-school program in a low-income neighborhood, perhaps the student is an education major who knows a good deal about children and education issues. Or a student took a sociology class and believes they understand a lot about poverty. But, academic knowledge is not the same as experiential knowledge. It’s important that students humble themselves before entering service to understand that they still have a lot to learn.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are students who may consider themselves an expert on the social issue(s) of the project because they personally experienced the issue. They certainly have a degree of insight, but must embrace humility as well. For example, as a person who grew up in poverty I once assumed I understood poverty. But the experiences of poverty differ according to region (urban, rural), race and ethnicity, immigrant status, sexuality, disability, and other intersecting identities that complicate the experience of poverty. Even if I, as a rural impoverished person, went to a different part of the country on an alternative break to support people experiencing rural poverty, my experience will never be just like someone else’s experience.

Following the service project, some students may consider themselves “the smartest person in the room” on the topic of the social issue at hand. Yet, they have only gained a brief insight into that one social issue in that one specific community. Coupled with the always complicated issues of social issues, there is always so much more to learn. The self-education of social issues and quality community service is a lifelong process.

Recommended readings:

Cruz, N. I., & Giles, D. E. (2000). Where’s the community in service-learning research. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 7(1), 28-34.

Miron, D., & Moely, B. E. (2006). Community agency voice and benefit in service-learning. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 12(2).

Nduna, N. J. (2007). The community voice on service-learning: A good practice guide for higher education. Education as Change, 11(3), 69-78.
Sandy, M., & Holland, B. A. (2006). Different worlds and common ground: Community partner perspectives on campus-community partnerships. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 13(1).

[marginalized folks are] Always Educators in Student Affairs

The “Student Affairs Professionals” (SAP) Facebook group is a strange little beast. At 21,000+ members, it contains both the best and worst of the profession.

That’s harsh. And…not quite true.

The SAP Facebook group demonstrates the best and worst of the profession. There are incidents where folks share resources and best practices, support one another’s highs and lows…sometimes it is excellent.

Other times? Not so much.This blog post will address one of the “SAP Problematic Concepts” (a term I’ve coined for now to describe the incidents/statements we see regularly) titled “But we’re all educators!!”

But We're All Educators

Discussion of social justice concepts and navigating privileged experiences with the realities of marginalized (in regards to race, the term used often is ‘minoritized’ but I chose /marginalized/ since it is a more commonly understood term) experiences in our society is necessary to advance ourselves professionally and personally. Of course, it can be tricky to have a fruitful discussion online and often with people you’ve never interacted with before – and even likelier it was never face-to-face.

Some argue that it is pointless to have SJ discussions in the SAP group or any other online venue. I disagree, but I do agree that there’s a series of regular incidents that tend to occur with these talks. The primary one? When a person with one or more privileged identities gets frustrated and pushes on someone with one or more marginalized identities to explain that marginalized experience.

Their belief? That the person with the marginalized belief owes it to the person with the privileged identity to “educate them”. Of course the person in question should do it/should want to do it “because we’re all educators” and “we’re all learning”.

eye roll - B Apt 13

That’s not cute. It’s bullying. It’s entitlement. It’s exerting your privileged status on someone. The term “check your privilege” has become trite but for real, you should do just that. It’s a better use of your time then carrying out acts of oppression.

Just because someone works as a student affairs professional, as an educator, does not mean they owe it to all the folks in the world to do unpaid labor to teach 24/7. Not to mention, the more marginalized identities a person holds, the more likely it is that systemic oppression affects them and they are paid less than your average person with a greater number of privileged identities.

When a person spends their work day getting paid to educate, they are also likely doing it outside of work in different sectors. That’s tiring. Folks with marginalized identities – especially people of color – are forced to educate far more often than privileged – especially white – folks.

And let’s name it: I see this SAP Problematic Concept most often when fellow white professionals bully people of color to “educate them” on different social justice perspectives related to race and racism.

Franky, that is bullshit.

If you’ve graduated from a masters’ or doctoral program, go back to your assigned readings.If you didn’t, then the internet and your local library are wonderful resources. Check out some recommended books. Ask other privileged folks to educate you – for you to educate one another. And above all, please use Google (and GoogleScholar). Here, I started you off with a search for “systemic racism in higher education“.

Systemic Racism in Higher Ed-let me google that for you

And don’t forget – when you have a privilege identity it is your responsibility to call in your peers when they are saying something problematic. Race, mental health, gender identity, sexuality, first language…there are a lot of identities and experiences to learn about. We’re always going make mistakes and learn new things. Help one another out with that. Do it online and offline (as I’m sure this attitude is common in the ‘real world’ as well).

Bystander intervention is a cool thing. It’s unfair to let folks with marginalized identities fend off pushy entitled privileged folks.Let’s support each other in doing better. Which sometimes means tough love, and that’s okay.


Those are my thoughts. It’s been a while since I’ve written a critical blog post but I just can’t take seeing these patterns over and over. I took a long break (with only minimal check-ins) from student affairs’ social media spaces for the specific reason of how draining and demoralizing they can be. There’s some good stuff, for sure! But there’s also a lot of folks with advanced degrees who need to engage better with their peers and learn how to Google.




Niki’s Guide to Indy: Dining at #NASPA16

Hello folks! I’m excited for my first ever NASPA Conference (after 3 years, I had to miss ACPA this year due to alternative break conflicts) and I’m thrilled that it’s in Indianapolis! After working in NW Ohio for five years, I moved to Indiana almost four years ago for my graduate program and have been working in Indianapolis since June 2014. It’s a great city and I’d love to share some local tips!

Today’s focus: Food! At preferably inexpensive and local restaurants! Or if it requires two money signs ($$) or more, I’ll recommend your mid-level/SSAO-type mentor take you here! (and if you, Gentle Reader, are a mid-level/SSAO-type and are looking to feed mentor a nice new-ish #SApro, please say hello!).

new girl - eating - winston

As a Yelp Elite I’m quite the foodie and love to give my opinion! 🙂 The list will be ordered from closet to the Convention Center (100 S. Capital St) to farthest; it will likely be raining during most of #NASPA *womp*womp* Note that distances is in minutes walked; I use this term because I can’t think of a better term although I know not all folks are able to walk/walk at the speed GoogleMaps uses, and may move across distances in other ways.

Downtown Restaurants (Less than 1 Mile from Convention/20 minutes walking/traveling via sidewalk)

  • Giorgio’s Pizza: Dudes. You have to go here. Only 11 minute walk and it’s right off of Monument Circle (aka the most beautiful part of downtown Indy), it’s been open for 26 years, and more than likely Giorgio is working (and singing in Italian). Get slices of pizza (try the stuffed pizza!), the AMAZING MARINA SAUCE, and get a cannoli. Then, if it’s not raining, I want you to walk the two minutes to the Monument and (if you’re able) go up the steps, sit down, snack, and revel in the city sights around you.
  • Ali Baba’s Cafe: First, the food is GOOD and inexpensive. Second, go here because during a #BlackLivesMatter march (in the wake of Ferguson) from Monument Circle to the Capital, the employees cheered on the protesters, Now my friend and I always hit them up when we’re around. #solidarity #solidaritywithhummus #butforrealyouneedtogetthishummus
  • Indianapolis City Market: Walk north 15 minutes to Market/Deleware to find a larger building with at least two dozen different shops inside. A meal is generally around $10; less if you are just getting a couple items. There’s Three Carrots for my veg friends, Spice Box if you want some quick Indian, and many other places. See a map of shops on their website.
  • Subito: A 12-minute walk NE is a fairly new sub/soup spot open 10am-3pm. Already pretty popular. There are $8 sandwiches and fairly cheap add-ons like soup and salad on the menu.
  • Pearings Cafe & Frozen Yogurt: One of my favorite places! At only 8 minutes away, this is a great destination for froyo, CREPES, and tasty paninis. Most of the paninis use meat from a local place and they are only $6 – a bit small but tend to make for happy tummies. There’s also ice water set up by the door if you need many refills from all the walking! The froyo is expensive, but what do you expect downtown and across from the mall?
  • BARcelona: Are you feelin’ fancy? This Spanish restaurant is two money signs ($$) and 16-minutes away, but can be a fun adventure with friends (small plates = try all the things). Check out the drink specials, eat some of the goat cheese in marina, and pretend you’re an SSAO for a day!
  • Bangkok Restaurant & Jazz Bar: Same with BARcelona – GREAT food but two money signs ($$). Perfect place for your mid-level/SSAO mentor to take you! Plus, jazz! Only a 17-minute walk!
  • The center city mall is also nearby and a swell of chain and local restaurants. There are plenty of options – the ones above are just some of my favs!

Mass Ave Restaurants (1-1.8 miles away/20-38 minutes away) – check out one of Indy’s popular cultural districts! This is where the Indy Pride Parade starts every year and after RFRA the businesses all had rainbow flags in their windows. It’s a bit bougie (all two money signs here, folks) and definitely is popular with the ‘young professional/hipster crowd that loves pay $10 for trendy tacos’ crowd. If that’s you, woohoo! If not, (like me!) there are lots of other cool spots.

  • Forty-Five Degrees: Do you love half-off sushi? Come here anytime on Sundays! Or, no matter what day you come, the sushi is good, the drinks are strong, and their salad dressing is
  • Bazbeaux Pizza: First, it sounds like a French word (even tho it’s not) so you could eat here to quell the jealousy in your heart from folks kicking it at #ACPA16 in Montreal. Second, the pizza is really, really good. Don’t get a boring pizza (like pepperoni – simple pies aren’t great here). I recommend the Mediterranean. It’s so good your tastebuds will do a dance of joy.
  • Sub-Zero Ice Cream: Do you like ice cream, SCIENCE, and an ability to have dairy-free ice cream treats? This place has all of that! Pick your ingredients and they Hogwarts it together to make your own specialized ice cream. And by Hogwarts, I mean liquid nitrogen. #science
  • AVOID: Bakersfield (‘street tacos’) and The Eagle (‘soul food/southern’). I’m not a fan of any places own by White mini-restaurant moguls who use the recipes of other cultures to make a profit (#somanymoneysigns), especially when we already got kickass latino (so.many.places!) and soul food (Kountry Kitchen!!) restaurants.
  • DO: Visit non-food places like Global Gifts (fair trade from around the world!), Silver in the City (always vote the #1 local shop!), the Small Mall, Midland Arts & Antiques Market (I bought a gavel there once. Just because), Indy Reads Bookstore (it’s a nonprofit and funds literacy programs!), and many other local shops!

Interested in a long walk and/or driving to a destination?

  • Panorama Grill: Want some awesome Dominican food? Or maybe middle eastern food? Have both! Only 1.3 miles away (26 minute walk) and right across the street from our amazing central library is this food fusion place. I wasn’t a huge fan of the hummus but the DR food is on point. The mofongo provides a party in my mouth!
  • Kountry Kitchen Soulfood Place: PRESIDENT OBAMA WAS HERE. And for $10 you can eat your little heart out on the finest fried chicken in the city + sweet tea, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, etc. Go here. You will thank me. It is only 3 miles away  on 19th/N College- 9 minute drive or 51 minute walk (actually – you might want the walk leading up to this meal!)
  • Mama Irma’s: Either a 15-minute bike ride or fairly quick drive to Fountain Square, and you can eat some AMAZING PERUVIAN FOOD. Plus owner Hilda Cano is always around and so friendly. If you’re in this area, walk around to the many other restaurants, bars, and shops, including some of my faves: comics and geekery at Hero House Comics (this is where my paychecks go!), play board games at Game Paradise, coffee and art at Funkyard, and so much more!!
  • You have to drive 20 minutes to the International Market District aka Lafayette Square area. Ethiopian, Cuban, Afro-Caribbean, Indian, Pakistani, Middle Eastern, Mexican, Peruvian,Chinese, Greek, Vietnamese, etc. Check out the website or scan the Yelp results for this area.

Like what you read? Have a suggestion? Tweet me at @NikiMessmore! I may write up a few more recommendation lists (coffee, drinks, breakfast, outdoors, etc), so surely feel free to propose a topic.

Hope to see you at #NASPA16!


For more guides on Indy, check out these NASPA-related blogs + Indy resources

The Fear Mongering of “Student Affairs is a Small World”

Dear Student Affairs family,

I love you. I do. Granted, it’s not as much as I love The Lord of the Rings but it is more than I love Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (geek translator: still oodles and bunches of love).

But we’ve got to recognize something, especially with conference season kicking into gear: There is a culture of fear within student affairs, perpetuated by the term “Student Affairs is a small world”.

Here’s the thing: that phrase is fairly accurate. Just last night at an ACPA SCGSNP social I found myself in a group of folks knew via one degree of separation. Our field is relatively small and due to graduate school, people moving around to different institutions, professional organization work, and more, we essentially have fewer degrees of separation than Kevin Bacon (and collectively, not counting SSAO folks, we make his monthly salary).

Too often, from our campus to national settings, there are whispers of warnings about the concept of “professionalism” and a nicely-wrapped statement that boils down to: “Be professional. If you screw up, student affairs is a small world and you will never, ever get a job”.

It’s like there is a Student Affairs Santa making his/her/their list and checking it twice.

santa bot list

Student Affairs Santa Robots, taking note of that time you had 3 drinks at a conference social.

I know – some of you may be mentally protesting already. “Well Niki, it’s true. If someone doesn’t dress professional or drinks too much or acts in a certain manner or is all hooking up at a conference, people will indeed judge them (as people do) and that could negatively affect their career. It’s important we warn folks – especially graduate students and new professionals – of this so that they will be on their best behavior. We can’t control how other folks react so it’s good to play it safe.”

And I get it.

It’s like how I know student affairs systemically discriminates against minoritized folks (ex: majority of SSAOs are white men with other privileged identities) and I will, for example, inform my fellow women of this bias and help them navigate professional ventures with taking this systemic issue into account. I’m not fear mongering, I am real talking so they can advance as safely as possible in this field.

It’s difficult, however, to see the issue of student affairs’ culture of fear in regards to professional conduct in the same light.

Problematic Aspects of “SA is a Small World (after all)”

  1. Creates a “morality police”: Often the statement is meant to dissuade folks from drinking alcohol or acting in an unbecoming manner. I’m not saying “yes, let’s promote dangerous behavior, such as binge drinking” but I also think that folks are too judgmental on how they view other folks. So I see people acting like they are going to hook up after a social! Cool, dudes. Enjoy your lives – your actions do not affect me.
  2. Promotes a climate of judgement: We are human beings, and human beings often judge others, either consciously (shade!) or unconsciously (secret shade!). It’s going to happen. But by perpetuating this statement, we are making a statement that it is okay to judge someone’s behavior and let that interaction/moment affect their professional livelihood.
  3. Strikes down the concept that we, like our students are continuously developing: It’s unfair to judge someone by their actions from a past moment and assume they have not grown. So someone made an ignorant comment once or even twice – don’t act like you have been (and are) so enlightened.
  4. Perpetuates a white supremacist patriarchal heteronormative culture: Wait! Please don’t stop reading. I know these words scare a lot of folks. They are ‘mean’ and ‘student affairs isn’t mean’! But every time we talk about “Be professional” what we are really supporting is a concept of how folks should dress, act, and speak that was created in our country by wealthy white men and these professional norms still support that same group of people. Imagine, for example, that someone who you perceived to be a man was wearing high heels to a conference session. Would the thought of “that’s so unprofessional” cross your mind? Yet gender norms are unfair daily oppressions and we should allow folks to express their gender as they desire.  However, we have been taught to interpret that the word “professional” is that of a mild-mannered white man in a suit, and we judge negatively folks who live outside that image.
  5. Roots itself in hypocrisy: I think what is darkly humorous about all the “Student Affairs professionalism codes” is that we know there are definitely some senior student affairs officers (SSAOs) indulge in heavy drinking behavior. And that’s cool! You do you. We all engage in different forms of socialization/stress relief. But why do we (collectively it happens a lot, even if not within every region/campus) say things perpetuating fear of drinking to newer professionals lest someone thinks ill of them?
judging people

Just say no to judging people!

So how do I do my own work to subvert this culture of fear? When I see someone take action or look outside the norm of professionalism that I personally live, I try to remember a few things:

  1. Recognize one or a few or even multiple interactions with a human being does not define them. Humans are multifaceted awesome creatures who are continuously developing. Just because they said or did something that I disagree with does not mean I have immediate insight into their mind and spirit.
  2. Remember I’ve certainly done things that were disagreeable to others. Let’s not share secrets in a blog post, but I am not perfect. I have made and will continue to make mistakes. Judge not lest ye be judged, as one religious text summarizes.
  3. Understand that people are going to make different choices than me (dress, drinking, sex, speech, etc) and that, within reason (aka no Dexter-level or Joker-level behavior), is perfectly acceptable.

Bill and Ted have an excellent idea for a model of behavior.

I understand that we have to operate within the systems that exist. I understand that there are real consequences for folks who do not engage in the professional conduct codes. I understand that some aspects of these codes are needed for the profession.

But what I don’t understand is why we cannot have a nuanced and real dialogue of this “Student Affairs is a small world” ideology – stating it exists but also stating that it is not okay and discussing how to subvert this culture.

There are real consequences of this fear mongering – folks feeling they have to be inauthentic in behavior or dress, folks feeling like it is okay to judge others and let those perceptions limit future opportunities, and folks not engaging for fear of being judged (seen often in SA ethics or social justice discussions).

With #ACPA15 happening right now, this blog post has been on my mind as I keep hearing/reading tips on professionalism because student affairs is a small world. I’d rather we only discuss how small the world is when we are discussing networking and connecting to advance our personal selves, our students, and our field.

What are your thoughts? Send a tweet to @NikiMessmore. I’d love to hear them! I promise that I won’t judge you, either 🙂

The 40 People You Meet at Higher Education Conferences, Part I

I’ve had the good fortune to attend three national student affairs/higher education conferences as well as small regional conferences. After a while I picked up on a pattern of different ‘types’ of folks who attended conferences. Between my experiences and the contributions of my hilarious and observant SA friends, we put together this list. The categorized types in this list are not to bash or shame, because I even embody a couple of them (well, there is some side-eye at least for a few of these…), but it’s just for laughs.

 The 40 People You Meet at Higher Education Conferences (Part I of III):

The Live Tweeter: The people who are so connected they can become unconnected to folks in the physical vicinity. They’re walking around with 3 portable cell phone battery chargers because every minute is spent with fingers tapping away on their screen. And hashtags, ALL THE HASHTAGS. #butreallytho #thisisme #soexcitedtousemy2batterychargersatACPA

parks and rec - donna - live tweet this bitch

The Self-Important Ribbon Collector: Not everyone falls into this mindset, but for some each ribbon on their nametag makes them feel so fancy and important.

Conference Ribbons Futurama - yay pay att to me

Incorporates Personal Agenda, Regardless of Relevance: No matter where they are , this person talks or tweets out their own personal goals or professional achievements, while only barely linking it to the original subject matter. They just really love sharing/bragging.

buffy - spike - bragg

The Over-Your-Shoulder Looker: They’re nodding their head, inserting some energetic “yeah, totally” while you talk, but all the while they’re looking for someone more important that they can connect with.


The Student Affairs Celebrity: Palms get sweaty in their presence. Like the sun, people seem to gravitate towards them. Whether they are Research Gods or Twitter Royalty, people know them.

Interview with the vampire

The Published Braggart: The Ron Burgandy of higher education – don’t you know that having their name in print makes them totes important?

Anchorman  Kind of a big deal

The Pretentious Grad Student: They drop student affairs theories and theorist names like it’s some kind of SA drinking game. Meanwhile professional staff/academics are silently thinking “Yeah, bro, learned this when I was in grad school too…”

30 ROck - grad student are the worst

The Conference Clique: Love em’, hate ’em, or be ambivalent about them – every conference/association has a clique of hyper-involved folks that can bar access (intentionally or not) to others.

mean girls - cant sit-bw

The Awkward Networker: They really really really just want to be your new best friend and literally tell you all the things.

SPN - Cas - let me tell you my story

Student Affairs All-Stars Bingo: The person looking to complete their Bingo card of all the SA celebrities they’ve met in real life. Don’t be surprised if they take a few selfies with the All Star conveniently in the background and frame it for their office desk.


The Hungover: This group of individuals will never be found at a conference session before 11am.

Turnt Up-miley

The Introvert Desperately Seeking Alone Time: No matter where that takes them…

mean girls - introvert


That Person Who Has No Idea What Your Name Is: It’s all “Hey…you!” and insertions of words like “buddy”, “pal”, “dude”, “lady” etc in place of your actual name until they have a chance to glance down and read your nametag. Curses to people who forget to wear their nametags and increase the awkwardness!

looking downwards

To continue, click onwards!

[Part II]


The following individuals contributed a name, description, or otherwise idea/inspiration for the different types of people you meet at conferences. A few people gave ideas for multiple ones and a few people inspired various types with their comments to me; overall definitely more than half this list. Thank you, friends! ❤

  1. Kristen Abell
  2. Chad Ahren
  3. Eric Crumrine
  4. Ashley Dorris
  5. Mika Karikari
  6. Annabel Feider
  7. Alberto Gonzalez
  8. Michael Goodman
  9. Amanda Khampa
  10. Kathryn Magura
  11. Kristen Marshall
  12. Vanessa Pacheco
  13.  Kaitlyn Owens Yoder

25 Ways You Know You Are Dating a Student Affairs Professional*

*This includes graduate students as well. Don’t get it twisted – your assistantship is 20 hours a week and you’re doing student affairs work with real, live students; hence you are a professional in my opinion.

Have you ever been on a date and realized you’ve done one of the following? Or perhaps you’ve been on a date with someone in Student Affairs and always thought something seemed off about them. Well here’s a list of the top ways you know you’re on a date with someone in SA (with special notations about #ResLife only issues)

1)    Your first date involves: Name games, free pizza, and an evaluation of what could be improved for the next time.

pizza dreams true

2)    They give you career counseling.
One minute you’re discussing your job and musing about your expectations/interests in your career, and the next they are asking you probing questions about what makes you happy, where do you see yourself in ten years, and then they proceed to advise you navigating your career.

3)    They ask what organizations you were involved with in college.
Not everyone was involved in a college student organization (or even went to college). In fact, most people were not – but try telling them this! And if you were in a student organization (student government, College Republicans, Greek, etc) as soon as you mention it a look enters their eye, they go “hmm, interesting” and you immediately know they just judged your entire personality.

loki judge

4)    They ask questions using counseling techniques like ‘probing’ and ‘reflection’.
You realized you’re doing most of the talking during the date. They skillfully navigate the conversation with relationship building skills and use counseling techniques to learn more about you, until finally you cry about some buried memory or receive an epiphany about your true purpose in life.


5)    When you answer questions about life experiences, share something insightful, and they nod sagely saying “Oh that makes total sense, and explain their understanding using various theories and catch phrases like ‘external formulas’.

6)    When you say something sexist/racist/ableist/homophobic, etc, they call you out
True story: Once I went on a date with a man who referenced his ex-girlfriend and called her a “bitch”. And I proceeded to challenge him with a “You realize you’re out with a feminist, yeah?” and ignored his mansplaining as I explained why that reference was sexist (and not okay).

new girl - fem rant

7)    They ask what your MBTI is, and if you say you don’t know they’re like “Oh, I bet you’re totally like a ___!” and proceed to conduct a personality test.

8)    When you make dinner plans they immediately write off all pizza and Subway.
When the only food your date gets is free pizza and sandwiches, then it is a terrible idea to not introduce more interesting items into their diet.
>>>#ResLife Option: On the plus side, they pay for all dinner plans. On the negative side, dinner is always at a dining hall.

treat yo2

9)    If you make the date during a break (summer, spring, winter) they are super excited to go to the bars that have emptied of college students.

10)    They have a disturbingly large supply of condoms and are more knowledgeable than most on the science of safe sex.


11)    They measure time in semesters, not years.
“So when did you visit Las Vegas?” “Oh, spring 2013 at the ACPA Convention”.

12)    They provide adequate trigger warnings and uses words like “heteronormative” and “cisgender”

13)    Good luck trying to spend time with them around the beginning or end of the school year, or any other major event.

busy potc

14)    They’re always check their phone to make sure residents didn’t burn down the building or student organizations/athletes aren’t hazing.

15)    At the end of each date they ask you to do “highs and lows” or “roses and thorns” to evaluate the experience.

16)   You can’t understand half the things they say because they speak in acronyms.


17)    When you spend the night, they have 52 free shirts that you can choose from as pajamas.

18)    Movie dates result with analyzing the film from a social justice perspective.

19)    They’re always asking odd hypothetical questions like “So, if you’re trapped in a basement after an earthquake, and have these 12 items, what would you use first?”

20)    The first time you say “I love you,” they ask you to operationalize what you mean by the word “love”.

what do you mean

21)    Your significant other’s RAs/colleagues consider you to be an honorary member of the staff.

22)    You know you should be flattered when they call you “self-authored’ but you’re unsure why.

23) They always say that you both should assess the relationship, yet never make any time to do so.

rupaul no time

24) They ask you “What does diversity mean to you?”

25) Sleepovers come with a caveat for being woken up at 3a.m. on duty nights. #ResLife


Many thanks to my lovely contributors on Facebook! They either helped inspired the list item or created it completely on their own.

1, 19-20: Eric Crumrine
8, 15, 22: Kaitlyn Yoder
10: Jason Mellen
11: Brian Dixon
12: Kelly Grab
13: Rachel Golden, James Thomas
14: Anna Dickherber
18 & 25: Lindsay Luzania
21: Jenn Paul
24: Naomi Valdez


What other suggestions would you provide? Comment or tweet me @NikiMessmore!