Category Archives: Higher Ed

The Evolution of the Business Card

The Blog

Business cards, or some form or them, have been around since 15th century China when royals used them as a way to announce a visit to a town’s residents.

Around the 17th century, the use of “calling cards” spread to the masses, mainly as a way for a person to show that he or she had stopped by for a visit. But there were other uses for them too and the rules governing the size and shape of the calling card, when to leave it and when to send it followed a strict code.

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Students of Concern Committee- The Good, The Bad, The “What The Hell”

Part of my role on campus is to be a member of our university “Students of Concern” committee.  Going into this role I was unsure of the dynamics at play.  Would there be aggression, frustration, story-telling?  Is the majority of discussion going to revolve around the sharing of information on students who recently got themselves into trouble, and how to effectively mitigate that future behavior?

The Good

Although discussion surrounding the mitigation of bad behavior does occur, I was extremely gratified to see that this committee is one that works from the guise of student support. Every conversation we have revolves around what we can do to support our students.  After being in this role for quite some time, I have seen the evolution of a committee that’s strength lies in it’s humility.  This is not a committee where title and/or politics come into play.  There is a level of comfort where anyone can throw out ideas.  We can debate possible next steps. We look at all parties involved and try to help them all.  Sure some will end up with university consequences.  Some with legal consequences.  But we look beyond that.  No one is written off.  We do what what we can to help them through it all.

The Bad

Frustration comes not from the lack of institutional support for the students, but from some of the student’s lack of interest in receiving such support.  Although rare, it is emotionally maddening to offer up a ready made path for success and it not be taken advantage of.  We build bridges for hurdles and distribute life vests for support, but we can’t force the issue.  We suggest, we nudge, we sometimes push, and occasionally drag, but at the end of the day the student has to be the one to take the first step.

The “What The Hell”

Obviously I cannot share intimate details about situations that we have or will be discussing.  Let’s just say that there are always interesting topics to be discussed and that sometimes we have to think out side the box.  WAAAAAYYYYY outside the box.  To best describe what we do, imagine mixing MacGyver with Chuck Norris.  There are times when we want to bend people to our will and there are others when we need to fix a problem with a paperclip, a chocolate bar, and duct tape.  Either way, we do what we need to do to get the job done.

macgyver vs norrisA Perk

You know how they say laughter is the best medicine?  If that is true folks on this committee will never get sick again.  This is such a great group of colleagues, and dare I say friends, where we are able to share information about our own lives and just enjoy each others company.  We joke, we poke fun (usually at ourselves), we just have a good time.  When we need to get down to business we definitely do, but this is not at all what I thought I would be walking into.  I love this group.  They motivate me to go above and beyond, not because that is an expectation but because we don’t want to let each other down.  Yes the students reap the benefits of our hard work, but so do we.

Scott’s Holiday Movie Breakdown

Tis the season.

Well not really unless you are in retail, but since we are getting closer and there are those signs of the Holiday season all around us I felt that the Blog-iverse could benefit from my love of all things cinematic.  Basically, I am a movie nerd.  I have seen, and unfortunately own, more movies than most would guess.  Some people smoke, some drink, some hike (which I have an appreciation for, but don’t necessarily understand), but I watch movies.  I know that new movies come out each Tuesday, although there are some special release dates that I follow.  The people in the movie section at Target recognize me.

Yes….I am THAT guy.

In reviewing my list of holiday favorites, I understand that there are classics out there that may not make my list.  There are movies that may not have come out during the holiday season but have scenes that make me reminisce.  Feel free to judge.  Feel free to post comments and add to the list.  If I haven’t seen it and you suggest it I will watch it.

Honorable Mentions

A Christmas Story (1983) 

A Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Eastern Promises (2007)

It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

The Top 20 Countdown

#20: Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)

#19: Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

#18: Bad Santa (2003)

#17: Mixed Nuts (1994)

#16: Scrooged (1988)

#15: Ghostbusters (1984)

#14: The Ref (1994)

#13: How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

#12: Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer (1964)

#11: Home Alone (1990)

#10: Elf (2003)

#9: White Christmas (1954)

#8: The Santa Clause 2 (2002)

#7: Die Hard (1988)

#6: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

#5: The Polar Express (2004)

#4: The Santa Clause (1994)

#3: Love Actually (2003)

#2: Lethal Weapon (1987)

#1: You’ve Got Mail (1998)

I hope y’all enjoy the show.  Happy Holidays

It’s Elementary

In honor of Halloween and seeing so many students dressed up in costumes I wanted to take a trip down memory lane and reflect upon my time as an elementary school teacher. As a teacher I developed certain skills that I use daily in my current role as a university administrator within residential life.  Ya know…”Transferable Skills”

I wanted to take today’s post and share some of what I have seen and done in the classroom and let you create the connections for yourself.  Some may be obvious, some subtle, but all true.  I will say that as a disclaimer, I have not taught in a traditional elementary school classroom since 2000-01.  I am sure things have changed, even if just this “new math” that drives me to drink alone at night.

Being kind actually does lead to long lasting friendships.  Seeing one student help another pick up belongings that could have dropped from a backpack or lunchbox has always created a sense of hope in me.  It makes me think of the people who return lost wallets or help the elderly get something off a shelf.  It just makes me smile.

The simple “I’m Sorry.”  When disagreements occur oftentimes youth will get frustrated and have some sort of outburst.  That is human.  They are developing.  They are learning how to manage emotions and work through stressful situations.  And don’t get me wrong, we may think that because Timmy or Alice is using a crayon that belongs to someone else is not that big a deal, but to Johnny who had his crayon “stolen” this is the worst possible thing that could have happened to them today.  They feel betrayed, frustrated, and lost as to why someone (their teacher) would assume that theft is OK.  Sometimes the only thing that can be done is to say “I’m Sorry.”  And you know what…it works.  Instead of rationalizing and trying to weasel their way out of it, a simple apology can resolve the issue.  It is not always a full solution, but it is most often a meaningful first step.  Being able to stand up and admit a mistake is humbling.  It takes a level of maturity to do that.

Encouraging children to play with others.  Having students mingle.  Ignore the socioeconomic statuses, the racial or cultural differences, and just let students play.  Have them learn that the people they want to hang out with, the people that are like them, aren’t always like them (if you know what I mean).

Children have a variety of learning styles.  From visual to tactile, olfactory to auditory, students need to experience their learning in different ways.  I have had to do everything from read books out loud, draw pictures, create models, and relate facts to information already retained by the students in hopes of creating connections that make sense to the students.  I have had students march in step back and forth to P.E., music, lunch, etc while singing songs about the lesson for the day.  I still to this day remember a student who was having difficulty remembering the different classes of people that lived in the middle ages.  I had to create a specific song to sing which included the fact that the Serfs, peasant class, were the pooper-scoopers of the community.  He really got into that part.  If everything was given to him in writing, he would not have been successful.  He needed more.

Sometimes parents are overly involved, and others are not.  I always felt like those whose parents were involved, either thru the PTA, being a classroom reader, being available to help with homework, etc, got a leg up on the rest.  This is not to take anything away from those engaged parents.  They were great…once they learned that the classroom was not focused on their student with another 20-25 students acting as “also-heres.”  My favorites were always the one who did not have significant parent involvement.  That could be because their parents had to work a lot, there were multiple siblings to oversee, or simply because they were deadbeats.  I hate saying that but it is the truth.  It is never appropriate to assume that all students have a significant level of parent involvement.  Doing that puts those without at a disadvantage.  Just because they don’t have others advocating on their behalf does not mean that their voices should not be heard.

Speaking of favorites, some say it is never right to pick favorites.  Really?  I definitely had my favorites.  And that is OK.  That’s real life.  Just don’t let is be known to the class who that is.  They should feel that everyone is equal, or at least on a level playing field.

Recess is important.  REALLY IMPORTANT.  It cannot be expected that students go from lesson to lesson to lesson without a break of some sort.  We all know about the multiple studies that have been done stating that attention spans fade at the 50 minute mark, and I have recently read that that is getting shorter.  Providing breaks and outlets for students to release pent up energy in important.  It keeps them engaged, allowing them to take in more information.  Just remember to have a rainy day plan.

And then there is the importance of individual conversations.  I felt like I did the most meaningful teaching when I could kneel down next to a student and work thru their questions with them.  Sure, I may have just explained this lesson to the entire class, but to that student they just didn’t get it.  That doesn’t make them bad, or annoying.  They just need more help.  That is why I am there.  To help.  To educate.  No matter if it is the 20th time I had gotten that question, I need to come at it with the same level of energy as I did with the first student.  Just because I have heard this question before does not mean that it is any less important to the next student.  And really, if there are a number of people who are not understanding my lesson, perhaps it is time for me to change how I deliver the message.

Lastly, if you are asking the question, “How did Scott get from seeing college students in costume to remembering his time working in an elementary school?” just take a took outside tonight.  The number of students who look like they are wearing costumes that are sized for 5th graders is astounding.  I mean really…..are you kidding…..I am getting too old.  Anyway, I hope you, your family, and friends all have a happy, healthy, and SAFE Halloween tonight.  Stay away from strangers, unless you see a bearded guy in a kilt walking around with a toddler dressed up like Sully from Monsters Inc. in upstate NY.  Say hi to that guy, because it just might be me.

Lessons Learned: Investigating Title IX Violations


20 U.S.C. §§ 1681

‘No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.’

That is Title IX.  There are more qualifications, amendments, subsections, and exceptions, but this is Title IX.  Although this sentence, and Title IX itself, is often used as a rationale for action taken, or not taken by universities it is important to recognize that the violation that institutions could find themselves responsible for can come from other entities.  Directives from a White House Task Force, the Violence Against Women Act, the Campus SaVE Act, the Dear Colleague Letter, and so on and so forth are changing he way in which colleges and universities are addressing reports of sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, and all other violations and criminal acts based on sex and/or gender.

In response to our university being very aggressive in facilitating a top to bottom education and response plan, I have had the opportunity to work with some amazing people in developing our response protocol.  From immediate safety to adjudication, we worked hard to come up with a plan that went beyond satisfying federal mandates.  We wanted to be proactive and make a difference to all students.

Recently this meant participating in a training geared at addressing different ways in which we should be investigating all reported cases of sexual misconduct.  I wanted to share some of the lessons learned with all that are interested in hopes that as further strategies arise, there can be open dialogue about how best to get to the truth.

Lesson #1: The goal Is to find the truth.  What factually happened.  Be ok with different interpretations of the same event.  Those adjudicating the case will review the interpretations and weigh all opinions appropriately.  As we investigate, we must focus on the factual aspects of the event.  Facts do include emotions and feelings of those involved, just not yours as an investigator.

Lesson #2:  When interviewing the victim, build rapport and express empathy.  Victims should never be treated as witnesses to their own crime.  Ask what they remember and understand that the physiological impact that the trauma may have caused. They may remember things in pieces or snapshots and that is ok.  Ask open ended questions such as “What are you able to remember about the experience” and “What was that like?”  Always about what they were focused on and what they remember using each of their senses.  A smell or a sound can be as powerful a trigger to the victim as any other interaction.

Lesson #3: No matter what question you ask, once you do just sit in silence and let the victim talk.  It can be for a minute or an hour.  Let them go in whatever direction they want to go.  You can ask follow up questions later.  Allow them to share their experience as they perceive it.

Lesson #4:  When interviewing the alleged, remember that the investigation should not be an interrogation.  As we investigate it is only human to become emotionally invested in the case and those students involved with it.  That must be put aside. We should not act as though we need to prove that something did or did not happen.  Do not take sides.

Lesson #5:  Be aware of Russell Strand and his Three Personas theory.  According to Russell Strand, retired criminal investigator and leader in the investigatory field as it relates to allegations of sexual misconduct, all people have three personas.

  • Public Persona: Acting the way you want others to perceive you
  • Uninhibited Persona: What you act like when friends and family are around.  What they see in you
  • Private Persona: The skeletons in your closet.  This is where fantasies reside, where deeds people do or think about doing reside, but you don’t want anybody to know.

Lesson #5 (continued):  Try and connect to the individuals Private Persona. When speaking with the accused, you want them to disclose things to you that they wouldn’t to their closest friend or family member.

Lesson #6:  Understand that the accused may feel like a victim, so treat them like one.  Not in the sense that you dismiss or approve of the events that took place, but respect their position no matter how inappropriate you feel it may be at the time.

Lesson #7:  Approach the conversation with a sense of curiosity instead of seeming to be on a direct fact finding mission.   Avoid Yes/No questions. Instead of asking “Was it consensual sex,” ask “How it was like for you?”  Be ok asking intimate questions.  Things like “What was the most difficult part for you” or “Tell me more about that” are ways to engage the individual in the conversation.  Acknowledge their pain.  Ask about what they were thinking and feeling before, during, and after the event.

Lesson #8: Don’t write anything down at first when you talk to individuals involved.  By writing things down you are forced to not only take your eyes of the person, losing insight to their reactions to certain questions (see Lesson #9), but you also show them what details you are focusing on.  Keep eye contact and let them take the conversation wherever they want it to go and then follow up with the note taking as you ask clarifying questions.

Lesson #9:  Be aware of body language.  Now let’s be real.  Although we have all seen TV shows that talk about micro-expressions and how that may give away whether or not something is truthful, the reality is that unless you are a specially trained agent with the FBI or some other law enforcement agency we will not be able to pick up on any of these tells.  What we can do is recognize if the person is tense, hesitant, anxious, calm, etc.  We can see if they are looking at the door for a way out or if they are engaged in the conversation.  If you find a trigger, use it.  Press when you need to and back off when you need to.

Lesson #10: An interview does not conclude an investigation.  Utilize all of the resources available to you outside of the interview.  Go and visit the scene.  If possible at the same day and time of the event.  You may notice things that happen regularly at that day and time that could offer up more insight into possible witnesses and/or what happened.  Talk to people (be cognoscente of the perceived impact this may have on both parties because you do not want to make the event public).  Check out social media sites.  Look at posted events and see who replied saying they were attending.  The point being that there is information everywhere and you should never limit your information gathering to the interviews.

I am sure that there are a great many more strategies people use when investigating these, or any, type of cases.  Please feel free to add any ideas or suggestions in the comments sections below.  Let us all learn from one another.