Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reflections of 2009

Well, like most people I am reflecting on this past year. Many say they are glad the year is almost over and I'm not immune to that sentiment. I'm actually very grateful to see this year pass for many reasons. Most too personal to publicly present here but I'm not one to present a facade so people think I live a perfect, rosy life. Certainly, I can't complain too much, but as it is, I have had my ups and downs. I will say though, with the utmost honesty, that the good times outweighed the bad. The bad were huge learning lessons for me. Ones that I'll take to learn and grow from.

This next year is already promising and I'm looking forward to an amazing 2010. All-in-all, as I am only three days away from my 38th year of life, I've learned many valuable lessons. So with that, my list of things I've learned or have been reminded of:
  • Through my first experience of losing a job this year, without it being my choice to leave, I'm reminded that a job and job title does not make me who I am. It is only an accompanyment to the real me and I'm okay with that. 
    • I vow to be a better employee, leader, teacher, mentor and boss (should that be in the stars for me this year).
  • I've learned that I am ever-so-fortunate to have ended up in the industry I work in and I am ever-so-grateful for the path I've gone down. 
    • I'm humbled by the opportunities available to me and vow not to take this for granted.  
  • I've been reminded (once again) that money does not make life perfect and happy. I've had times when the money is abundant and times when it's not. I'm blessed to be married to a man who keeps me grounded and helps to remind me of the most important things in life, which cannot be bought with money.
    • I vow to be a better wife and best friend.
  • I've also been reminded that family is important (this includes friends who are as close as family). I haven't been the best at being involved and in-touch.
    • I vow to be a better daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, friend.
  • I've been reminded that I must constantly work on keeping a healthy mind/body/spirit which includes a home/work-life balance. This isn't the easiest feat with the type of lifestyles we lead in the consumer-driven, capitalistic society we live in.
    • I vow to find my center and strive for balance.
  • I've also been reminded that some people come into our lives for a short season, while others remain for longer, more permanent roles in our lives. I'm okay with that and finally at the age (and EQ level) to accept that without regrets. 
    • I vow to appreciate each person I touch lives with. Hoping for mostly positive experiences, than anything else, of course.
While I still wonder the impact that social networking sites (Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, etc.) will have on our society, I am grateful for the mediums for many reasons. This year, I've used these mediums for various reason but I'm most grateful for its ability to help keep in touch with those at a distance, and even those in close proximity.

I am touched and blessed when I get a random post from individuals who at one time may have been a coworker, employee, colleague, peer or student because I now call these individuals friends. I am also grateful for the ability to keep in touch with family, especially those of my husbands family who live everywhere else but Phoenix. This year I was honored to meet the Guillen-clan who live mostly in Ecuador and happy to have found out a large majority are on Facebook. :) Ah, the benefits of technology.

I'm not one to make New Years resolutions. Quite honestly, I don't believe they least not for me. I gave that up years ago. However, I do tend to make short and long-term goals and I have a few for this coming year. I'll post those in my first 2010 blog entry, though.

Here's to the end of another year...

Happy New Year family and friends!!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

All over the place

As the holidays near, the media tells us we're to be happy and boisterous in celebration. Reminding us to appreciate and spend time with family and buy, buy, buy for them. But the fact is, this time of year should really be no different than any other time of the year. Shouldn't we always appreciate our family? Further, when I don't buy, buy, buy for people the rest of the year (unless it's something from my heart or needed), why would I cave into the pressure of buying so many gifts this time of year? Don't get me wrong, I'm no scrooge muttering 'bah humbug'...but I am taking a stand against the consumer driven society we live in that makes people feel they are less than worthy if they're unable to boost the economy with purchases to present to family and friends.

For the first time in many years, I'm baking, cooking and making things by hand. This is from my heart and takes much more creativity and personal investment than anything I could purchase at the store. Of course, I have to tell that to my niece and nephew who reminded me of how excited they were to open up all their gifts in a couple of days. Ah yes, programming of the young minds.

Sadly, yesterday I was reminded that no matter what time of year, people will still die (as some did in a horrible car pile-up on I-10 due to a dust storm). I imagine that they were going about their lives the same way we did yesterday. Having no clue of their fate. As sad as that is to share, I share it because it is a reminder that regardless of the time of year, we should live each day to its fullest. We just never know when this life is over.

On another note, I was also reminded of how blessed I am. I was asked to interview for a position at a college that I didn't even apply for. That, in itself, is something to feel pretty good about. As the Dean and two others asked me questions, I had no choice but to reflect on my life and how I reached where I am today. Looking back at the past 20 years (yes, it's been THAT long since I graduated from high school), I can certainly take some credit for the years and years of studying I've done but I cannot take credit for the path that was laid before me. It just happened to be one of those things that was meant to be (God's path for me, fate, etc.) and I was fortunate enough to follow it. Even if this position is not meant to be the next step in my career, the interview gave me an opportunity to reflect on all the positives in my life and how what I've been blessed with, must be given back in some way.

Life is not perfect, it never will be, but it is blessed. And I will work hard to remind myself of this on a daily basis. I realize I'm all over the place on this post, but I'm feeling rather all over the place so my writing reflects that.

Merry Christmas family and friends!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

E-books: The Read of the Future

Many of us in higher ed have been utilizing e-books in our nontraditional online classrooms for years. Some institutions, University of Phoenix (UOP) specifically, have done a fantastic job at integrating technology and learning, with e-books being a logical step in the process. Why not provide students with course materials that will be available to them at the click of a mouse? It would save time and money in the long run, while at the same time stretching the use of technology in a different direction.

I recall the transition of going from hard copy books to e-books while working as a director for the South Florida campus of University of Phoenix. If I can recall correct, this was somewhere around 2002 or 2003 (don't hold me to that, though). A small campus in comparison to many of the older, established campuses in the Western part of the country, our campus director thought it would be a good idea for the department heads to split up the groups, which met four out of five evenings per week, and do personal announcements of this very important transition. Well, let me just say that the reception was not well taken.

Overall, students were not happy with the decision the university had made. Certainly understandable when, traditionally speaking, textbooks always came in hard copy format. This change would not give them an option, without additional expense on their part. There was an uproar of disgruntled students with many valid concerns and some valid complaints. As the director over the student services department, I knew that the phone calls and emails would most likely hit my desk first. And, the phone did ring and emails did arrive. But, we got through that transition and looking back, the benefits far outweighed the valid concerns and complaints.

Although I can't say that UOP was the only school introducing e-books to their student body, I'm confident it was the largest, for-profit, nontraditional educational institution doing it at the time. As the years have passed, UOP has not only transitioned all of their courses from hard copy texts to e-books, but they have created a course materials 'package' for each course accessible to students via their student website. I must admit that after teaching for a few different schools, theirs is by far the most comprehensive, well-developed package of resources for each course. And amazingly, the cost to the student is minuscule in comparison to the cost of hard copy text books and course materials at most institutions.

These days, the big issue these days is which e-book reader to choose for personal reading. E-books are now the rage and you'll find more novels, memoirs, reference books, etc. available in this format. There are several e-book readers on the market these days and I imagine that more will pop-up as we move forward and more books become available electronically.

In the article The Future of E-books presented in The Chronicle of Higher Ed a few days ago, the author discusses the devices that are available to consumers now and what to expect. I found this article interesting because I'm in an industry that has managed to gain access to textbooks in electronic format long before these devices hit the market. This seems to be the next logical step in reading; for educational and personal purposes. What are your thoughts?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Kudos for nontraditional higher ed institutions!!!

Empowering words from a high official with the Department of Education for nontraditional higher ed institutions. Twenty years ago this would have never happened. The changes in higher education in our country are summed up by the last paragraph in this article...

"Two-thirds of the students who are underrepresented in higher education enter through community colleges and your colleges," she said. "It's time people understood that nearly half of all students in the country are already in community colleges and career colleges, and the rest are in institutions that are in many ways becoming nontraditional." (Blumenstyk, 2009, Dec. 11).

Take a moment to read the article.

Kudos to educators and administrators in nontraditional higher ed!!!

Blumenstyk, G. (2009, Dec. 11) The Chronicle of Higher Education. High Official in Education Department Has Warm Words for For-Profit Colleges. Retrieved December 11, 2009 from

Monday, December 7, 2009

What keeps you balanced?

It's barely going to be 6pm and it's already dark out. A sure sign that winter is approaching. For those who live in states where winter has been present for the past month or so, winter in the desert is nothing in comparison. Waking up to snow on the ground here in Phoenix will most likely never happen. Salt on the sidewalks to make them less slippery will never be required. And surely, a snow plow will not be used. 52 degrees, dark clouds and rain is COLD for a desert rat.

As of this writing a third cup of hot tea is being consumed - skipping coffee today for some reason - on a quest to stay warm on the inside, while the house heater works on keeping me warm on the outside. Two beautiful doggies, Lumpy and Widdle, draped on me in the office chair. Lumpy, wrapped around my shoulders like a mink shawl. Widdle curled up on my lap. Not the most ideal sitting position for me but they sure are helping in keeping me warm.

Having started the day with work, the afternoon has found me toggling back and forth between making Christmas trees out of magazines (which requires folding each page several times), writing for my Higher Ed blog, contemplating whether or not I have time to write in this blog, making dinner, feeding the dogs and cats, making mental notes of the painting technique I'll try later, and, watching national news (which has been on in the background all day). There are so many things on my "want-to-do" list that I can't seem to concentrate on one for too long before getting started on another.

My want-to-do list is one that I've just recently begun to focus on again. Having neglected many things for too long and finally feeling free and ready to tap into my creative side. I find that this focus helps to keep me mentally and emotionally healthy, which is a balance that is so important to each of us. In these busy days and lives we lead, we can so easily get lost in the daily grind that we forget to invest the time in things that we need to help keep us balanced. For some people, it's art, music, writing. For others, it's their faith, religion, spirituality. Some people prefer reading, exercising, cooking. Whatever it might be that keeps you balanced, I encourage you to squeeze time in to focus on it. Family and work are absolutely important but we can't forget taking care of our 'self'. Finding that work/life balance. What keeps you balanced?

Proposed rule changes for enrollment...

Late last week I read an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education regarding the U.S. Department of Education's proposed changes, regarded to as 'tweaked' changes, to existing regulations that will affect for-profit institutions in higher ed. The article states that many people in higher ed are calling the proposed changes as too aggresive. Not surprisingly, it is advocates and admissions offices from traditional institutions who have "urged the department to do away with the safe harbors, arguing that the exemptions, which allow colleges to pay enrollment-based commissions under certain circumstances, encourage recruiters to sign up unqualified students" (Gonzalez, 2009).

Having never been employed in an enrollment department at a college or university, I have worked directly with enrollment and the students they recruit into degree programs from the perspective of student services, academic advising and, in the past nine years, as a faculty member. I have seen and head of aggressive and unethical practices on the part of enrollment staff and as a faculty member, have worked with students who clearly are not prepared for or qualified to be a college student.

By sharing this, I'm not knocking the enrollment/admissions department of any institution. On the contrary, colleges and universities must rely on the department, referred to as the 'bread and butter' of the institution by many, to recruit, qualify and prepare individuals for their college path. In my experience, I have also worked with many ethical, selfless, education-focused and education leaders whose primary goal is to help individuals better their lives by enrolling in college. Many of my colleagues, who I worked with in their early years in enrollment, are now managers, directors and executive leaders of many higher ed institutions - for-profit and not-for-profit.

This is where I'm torn. Unfortunately, I have seen the repercussions of ineffective enrollment staff on the back-end of a students educational experience with a university. I've heard stories of credits promised, shortened time for degree completion, recommendations for mis-use of Title IV funding, etc. While not the majority of what I've witnessed and experienced, it has been enough for me to understand and know this is an issue that does need guidelines. Although I'm not sure I would trust representatives from traditional institutions to be the driving force behind the changes of the safe harbors. It will be interesting to see how this pans out.

Article --> Officials of For-Profit Colleges See Department's Proposed Rule Changes as 'Aggressive'

Gonzalez, J. (2009, Dec. 1). Officials of For-Profit Colleges See Department's Proposed Rule Changes as 'Aggressive'. Retrieved December 6, 2009 at

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Back to Where it Began

Last night I taught a group of freshman level students in a classroom that I'm most certain I once sat in as a student. If not as a student, I most certainly attended a work meeting in this classroom. As I ponder this, I realize what a unique position I find myself. Not many people have the opportunity to return to where it all began.

The building where the classroom is located is also the same building that I once occupied as an employee on various floors throughout the years. On the first floor I worked as an Admissions Coordinator, on the second floor I worked as an Education Administrator, and on the seventh floor, I was an Academic Counselor and Reentry Counselor. In other positions I was housed in the four-story building across the courtyard. At the very beginning of my career with UOP, I worked at off-site, satellite campuses (for those of you who might recall, the Downtown and Northwest Campuses are where I worked, respectively). I worked in nearly every department within the Student Services department. At that time in my life (my early twenties), I had no clue that one day I would be a director over this department.

Fast forward to last night...walking into the seven-story building, up the stairs to the second floor, into classroom 204...I'm no longer that young girl starting her career. I'm the teacher, faculty, instructor, many titles for what I do these days. I'm no longer shy, insecure, inexperienced. I'm back to the same place where I started, yet, because of nontraditional higher education, I'm a completely different person. The experience I gained as an employee of the University of Phoenix went beyond the entry-level coordinator and administrator roles that I held in the early years. It took me from having a job, to having a career.

In his book, Rebel with a Cause, Dr. John Sperling states, " own aims always have been centered around social change, and about increasing opportunities for those born without the middle-class entitlements that our consumer culture seems to take for granted." It was his own aim, that changed the course of my life. Sent me down a path that may not have happened otherwise. I am well-rounded, cultured, open-minded, experienced and educated because of his goal to bring about change in higher education.

It was Dr. Sperling's firm stance on the need for nontraditional higher ed, that has allowed me to return to the place where it all began. Older, wiser, appreciative, and, with the goal of giving back. Thank you Dr. Sperling...I'll never take all you did for granted.