Friday, December 14, 2012

"You are awesome!" Communicating appreciation on the job

Show your appreciation
There are many times in the busiest of days where we just forget how much work others are doing. We may become focused on our own goals, our stress, and our agendas. On such days, we are likely to see lips pressed thinly with apprehension, eyebrows furrowed, and fixed stares as we look at our distant goals and fixate on our own tasks.

Too often, we allow this tunnel-vision to interrupt our collegial relationships and can lead to us taking advantage of our peers and taking our staff for granted.

There are easy ways to step outside of your own congested mind to say a few kind words of appreciation. Here are some general tips to help communicate the appreciation that can, sometimes, become buried under our task lists.

Tell others about their strengths. Just hearing, "you're really good with the students." Or, "It is clear you love advising--and you're very clear with the advisees." Small things like, "Fixing the copier saved the day, thanks!" can go a long way when someone is having a stressful or busy day. 

Say "thank you" every single time something gets done. No exceptions. No matter how trivial, work this phrase into your every day jargon. Your administrative assistant returns pressing phone calls (saving you valuable time), then simply thank him or her. Don't brush it off. Show him/her that it means something to you. The "thank you" culture will catch on and appreciation becomes easier to show.

Break down large projects into small tasks. No one likes to be overwhelmed (and as faculty or administrators, we know how it feels to be overwhelmed!). Avoid dumping huge projects on those around you. Instead, reach out with clear plans, consistent vision, and manageable tasks to ease the burden of a huge project.

Check in often. Ask "what do you like about the work we've been doing?" Or, "what could we improve?" Put your ego in check and LISTEN when others are commenting on their work day -- what may seem like a small detail (a parking space, for example) for someone can easily make every day start out in the "crummy" column. My mantra: "Ask. Listen. Consider. Communicate. Act."

Go beyond work conversation. You do not have to be Besties with everyone at work, but a simple conversation about a colleague's family or a follow up on their on-going car problems can show that you care and value them beyond the work they are doing. 
Easy steps to being thankful: Keep cards on hand

Keep cards on hand. These little thank you notes can make someone smile -- and are particularly poignant when big projects are completed. My desk drawer always has notes and little items to help make a rough day easier or to help show others I appreciate what they do.

Post a quote. Instead of a sticky note of tasks for someone, leave a powerful quote or a kind word in a highly visible color. They won't expect that little note and some encouragement can kick-start our days.

If you feed them...Yes, bring in a little food, sweets, or fun. It might be a new flavored coffee or a simple donuts run, but sharing food breaks down walls, opens communication lines, and can perk up someone wilting under pressure.

Send an email. It is easy to threaten to write a note when services are terrible--but how often do we write a note when services are fabulous? I did this the other day and received amazing feedback from the supervisor of the staff member who effusively thanked me for going out of my way to comment on an employee who was doing good work.
A note of appreciation sent this week

Thank those who help in front of others. Recognize them. Show how you value them beyond your own office or department.

With moments a day, you can create a culture that values appreciation and shares recognition.

What steps do you take to communicate appreciation in your workplace? 

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Position openings! Tenure-track in communication

Readers, here are two great openings to consider. Please pass them on! 

Assistant Professor of Communication Studies  

Teach Computer Mediated Communication, Communication Research methods. Must be willing to teach a combination of Communication Theory, Survey of Communication Research, Seminar in Organizational Communication, Seminar in New Communication Technology, Seminar in Communication Ethics, Seminar in Applied Social Media, Seminar in Computer-mediated Communication. Primarily responsible for the teaching/learning process and will also participate in the necessary operations of the institution. Minimum requirements include: Ph.D. in Communication Studies or related field. Must have at least two years of full-time experience teaching college/university courses in some combination of communication theory, communication ethics, new communication technologies, applied social media, computer-mediated communication, research methods, survey of communication, organizational communication. Must have evidence of strong, ongoing, collaborative research agenda with secured external funding. This position requires teaching and in the classroom Tarleton's Southwest Metroplex campus in Ft. Worth. Preferred requirements:Three years teaching experience with online and graduate courses. Ideal candidate will communicate effectively and relate well with others (including evidence of collegiality with colleagues, as well as undergraduate and graduate students), hold membership in and present to professional communication organizations, be experienced in advance research methodologies applied specifically to communication research, possess demonstrated leadership and teamwork skills, provide evidence of facilitating experience-based student learning and of coordinating graduate student research.

The department requires a cover letter, resume and transcripts for this position. If you are not able to attach the documents when applying, please mail the requested documents to:

Dr. Charles Howard
Tarleton State University
Department of Communication Studies
Box T-0230
Stephenville, TX 76402

If mailing, please make sure you reference the Requisition Number and title of this position.

Assistant Professor of Communication Studies  

Teach a variety of communications courses centered on interpersonal, intercultural and basic speech. The individual will conduct research in area of specialization; serve on University committees; advise students; and participate in appropriate professional activities.  Ideal candidate will communicate effectively and relate well with others (including evidence of collegiality with colleagues, as well as undergraduate and graduate students), hold membership in and present to professional communication organizations, be experienced in advance research methodologies applied specifically to communication research, possess demonstrated leadership and teamwork skills, provide evidence of facilitating experience-based student learning and of coordinating graduate student research. Minimum requirements include: Ph.D. in Communication Studies or closely related field. Must have evidence of strong ongoing, collaborative research agenda with secured external funding. Must have 2 years' experience teaching basic college speech courses along with some combination of interpersonal, organizational, small group, and persuasion.

Dr. Charles Howard
Tarleton State University
Department of Communication Studies
Box T-0230
Stephenville, TX 76402

If mailing, please make sure you reference the Requisition Number and title of this position.

Monday, December 10, 2012

CALL for Proposals: International Society for Educational Biography

Call for Papers
The Thirtieth Annual Conference
San Antonio, Texas   April 4-6, 2013
Submission deadline is February 4, 2013 

I.S.E.B. invites academics, teachers, graduate students, researchers and anyone who engages aspects of biography in their writing, teaching, research, or other professional endeavors to submit proposals for our annual conference. Previous papers have come from a variety of disciplines including history, education, English, religion, and many more. We encourage submissions from graduate students.

Possible topics include: Collective biographies, Role of biography in the history of education, biography and fiction, general biography, plot structures of biographies, biographic criticism, publishing biographies, feminist approaches to life writing, oral history, experimental approaches, ethical issues, methodology, and the use of biography in classroom instruction.

Proposal Information: The refereed conference invites individual papers, panel discussions; and other  presentation formats. Generally, the conference schedule allows 30 minutes for individual papers (includes discussion time), and 60-75 minutes for panel sand other kinds of presentations.

Proposals should be sent as attachments and include:
1) A title page which includes title, name of author(s), address, telephone #, and e-mail.
2) A 250-350 word abstract describing the importance of the topic, the approach taken & the need for any technology.
3) A statement with any time and day that you cannot present.
Send proposals by surface mail, or e-mail attachment to
Dr.Raji Swaminathan,  Director, Urban Education Doctoral Program 
Department of Educational Policy & Community Studies
515 Enderis Hall, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee,WI 53211   
Phone: 414-229-5752   Fax: 414-229-3700

ALL persons presenting papers MUST be current in ISEB dues. The Conference Registration fee is a separate fee from membership dues.
Membership - regular - (includes ISEB's journal, Vitae Scholasticae) $75
Membership - retired - (includes conference registration, does not include lunch or journal) $50
Membership - student -(includes conference registration, does not include lunch or journal) $30
Conference registration (before April 1. Includes lunch) $170
Conference registration (after April 1. Includes lunch) $190
Additional lunch (optional) $45/each
Student subscription to Vitae Scholasticae $40

*Please complete the membership/conference form at Then follow the link at the end of the membership survey to pay via PayPal or mail dues and registration to: 
 Lora Helvie-Mason, Tarleton State University , PO Box T-0490, Stephenville, TX 76042,,, 254-968-9488

Conference Hotel: MENGER HOTEL 204 Alamo Plaza, San Antonio, TX; 800/345-9285. The Menger Hotel is an historic hotel located across the street from the Alamo and about a block from the River Walk.  
The rate is $132 US single or double; $20.00/night roll away bed.  Committed guest rooms will only be held until March 3 so please reserve early. Reservations received after the cut-off date will be accepted on the basis of availability.  If more persons reserve early than are in the guaranteed room block, the rooms could be taken prior to the cut-off date. (Some rooms have been reserved for those who come early and for those who plan to stay over the weekend).


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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Return of the Gadget Girl: Apple to Android

After over a year on an Apple product (iPad) supplied by an institutional initiative, I found myself exploring options for a new tablet. My primary question: should I go with another Apple item?

I found myself at a unique point in my gadget driven life, I had none. My institutional change led to most of my tech items sticking with the previous institution and my work at home being driven by a clunky, much forgotten laptop with, get this, Vista. 

I really missed having a tablet.

After exploring a few options, I made one of my famous pro/con lists. My family may mock me for their continued use, but it is something that remains helpful to me especially as I face bigger decisions.

The apps are strong, the resources for the classroom are excellent, and I was already familiar with the iPad. However, I never had an iPhone and had lived in the Blackberry world since smartphones came on the scene, but my phone was on its last leg. All signs were pointing to a change--but did I want to make a full commitment and dive into a life of Apple products or was it time for a shift?

As I explored what I loved about the iPad and what I wanted, I realized I wanted something that could produce a bit more work--the only way I could do that, would be to focus on storage and accessibility. I could continue working with the cloud or consider items that might allow me to connect beyond the cloud. Were there tablets that could serve the same function as my trusty, and returned to my previous institution, netbook? Is it possible to kill two birds with one stone?

As much as I love the iPad, it simply pushed me deeper than I wanted to go into the Apple world to maximize its use. I did not want an iPhone. What was a gadget-girl to do?

I looked at several options, including Lenovo IdeaTab, iPad, the Microsoft Surface, and kept returning to the Asus Transformer. It had removable storage options - a HUGE pro on my pro/con list. It also allowed a connection through USB and SDcards along with a focus on very similar capabilities as the iPad. The Transformer is an Android device and most of the apps available from Apple are easily available through Android.

In the end, I determined that I would take a risk and make a change -- I went all out into the Android world! I got the Galaxy sIII and the Asus Transformer tf700T and it has been a transition where I learn the processes of another system.

Granted, I miss a few items, including my favorite app for class, The Attendance App, which is not yet available for Android and some of my nephew's favorite games, but I found the transition very easy overall. 

Some of my favorite things about the transition to the Asus Transformer tablet include:
  • Connecting everything with my Google account.
  • Attaching my huge 500 Gig hard drive and taking EVERYTHING with me wherever I go.
  • Most of the apps that I love are available, including YouSeeU, my favorite social media options, the amazing Astrid, and my news sources.
  • Just swapping out the SD card to share pictures, videos, and files with other devices makes me smile. So easy!
  • Though I loved the iPad, I must admit the keyboard option is much better with the Transformer than with the iPad. I had a great blue-tooth keyboard from Brookstone for the iPad, but the Transformer's easy click into place keyboard is amazing and it pushes my battery life to amazing levels.

Apple to Android can be a slight challenge, but overall, I am excited by this change and look forward to exploring more opportunities. What are your thoughts? Have you had to transition systems? Share!

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Social Media Research Conference

What's trending? Social media research!

Explore the continual growth and increasingly innovative uses of social media within higher education, business, and organizations by attending the Texas Social Media Research Institute's annual conference.

To find out more: or see their many access points via their pages on social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterist.

You can review the call for papers at and consider submitting your latest work on social media as it pertains to your field of interest. You can also plan on attending to absorb the changes in social media use in the classroom.

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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Transitions into the "split" academic appointment

Split Appointments (Image Created by CommHigherEd blog)
Not only are we transitioning as faculty into the new Fall term after our summers (summers that those outside of academia typically assume we spent in frivolity enjoying the "vacation" and being "so lucky" we "don't have to work"). This blog is also enjoying a transition as I explore a new administrative/faculty position at a new institution. With this transition comes a whole new (rather wide-eyed-with-awe) respect for those who juggle the "split positions" of faculty/administrative appointments.

Though balance has always intrigued me when it comes to work, hours, effort, and life outside of the job, I have a new fascination based on the duties of this exciting change.

There are a lot of things to consider with the split appointment. When on earth do I tackle that line of research? Why don't I have a cloning machine?  Each day is new and different in a really positive way.

There are a few basic lessons that I have discovered over the last few weeks to help accomplish tasks on both the faculty and administrative tasks.

  • The administrative tasks will easily seep into the faculty "time" -- Consider blocking time, teaching-specific days (such as only MWF or only TR) to help stay focused on which role you are working within on which day/time block.
  • There will not be enough hours in the day -- Prioritize. A lot. 
  • Be prepared to put every organizational muscle you have to work -- Wrestle each day into a structure with goals, mini-goals, and back-up plans.
  • Pull people together to help enact the visions you have -- Share your enthusiasm, show your excitement, and spread the word to help meet your mission.
  • Assessment and evidence -- Track everything. Organization here helps! Create files, labels, and e-files where you can easily map out your efforts on both sides of your duties. Keep track of everything you do and measure those outcomes. 
  • Create bleed-over -- Perhaps not the nicest sounding lesson, but ideally you can find in-roads between your research and your administrative appointment that allows you to maximize your time and write about what you are doing or implement the research outcomes that you uncovered in your every day efforts. 
  • Journal it -- No surprise for long-time readers of this blog, but I believe that reflective writing and a few moments of documenting and exploring your thoughts can help you manage the day ahead.
  • Find down time -- It may just be a few hours a week, but embrace some time that is just for YOU. My music helps me with this, a book on CD while you drive to work would serve the same purpose.
  • Squeeze time in for mental breaks and restful moments so you can stay energized and rock that split appointment!
As we transition to the new semester, read back over your notes from the past semesters or even your journals from your time as a student. Remember, reflect, explore. No matter how divided you feel, there is an inherent value to the split appointment that can create an amazing holistic perspective of your academic world. Embrace it!

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Finding energy

There are many times in academia where we can find ourselves slowly overwhelmed and overrun by our seemingly endless to-do lists. At times, we need to reclaim our lost energy. One of the best resources for reclaiming lost energy comes from our students. Watching a spark of an idea transform to a completed project throughout a semester always gets me re-energized. Seeing students' progress as a term draws to a close allows me to leap the hurdle of fatigue to sprint to the finish of another semester. Are you looking for your lost energy -- especially if you have spent the past eight weeks teaching a frantic summer? Try a few of these ideas and share your own!

Image created by CommHigherEd blog
  • Look for the rewards. As noted often in this blog, higher education is full of delayed gratification. Seek out rewards - if you are in an especially satisfied mood, examine the day, reflect, see what led to that mood. Then seek out those circumstances. For example, a chat with a colleague may help you emotionally arm yourself for a tough week. You might not realize it unless you reflect back on the day/week. Schedule a chat as often as you can and protect that time in your day planner.
  • Borrow emotional victories. Use the success of those around you. This is how I discovered my students' successes makes me feel really energized. When they were excited, I allowed myself to see experiences through their eyes and "borrow" their excitement, energy, and eagerness. Additionally, when a new colleague got a grant, I absorbed the excitement that the funding would mean for our department and allowed myself to wallow in and benefit from her success by thinking of all of the great opportunities our students and faculty would get from the funding.  
  • Write for FUN. Wait, we used to LIKE writing? Yes! Many academics, once upon a time, loved to write. It is only when faced with extreme deadlines and little time that we find the task becomes more onerous. Try to write something that is just for you or that is silly. For me, the journal is an endless resource. I also like to write letters and share with my family. This type of writing is a nice release and grounds me for other, more academic tasks. 
  • Read for FUN. Similar to our writing, too often our reading becomes so centralized around our research that we groan at the thought of reading at the end of the day. My rule is basic, no work-based reading before bed. Instead, I can read much loved biographies, science fiction, and mysteries that I adore. I protect that rule after years of falling asleep over my laptop in bed. Those moments right before sleep are now mine and if I only read two pages before drifting off then at least they were pages that did not lead me to tally up my to-do lists or projects right before dreaming. My sleep is more restful when I adhere to this easy policy.
  • Take a time out. Sometimes you need distance from a project or activity that is causing burnout/stress. Table it for a little while. Work on something completely unrelated, if possible, then dive back in. 
What re-energizes you? Is it a good science fiction novel? A day away from campus? The really bad poetry that you try to write in the margins of your journal? Time with family? A road trip with friends? A quiet afternoon in the garden? A walk at the park or a trip to the museum? Share what works!

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Monday, July 9, 2012

Class discussion: research and references

After just concluding a massive week of student research, speeches, and papers, I spend time with students reviewing their choice of references. We discuss what they used, what worked, what didn't and why. I want students to understand why they select a reference, to consider what purpose it serves, to analyze source credibility, and to consider the fit for the source with their research. I find our digital age can sometimes lead to less-than-careful consumers of knowledge.

Treading the digital domains for research can be somewhat tricky for students and professors alike. Some of us have to bridge a generational or technological gap to even communicate with one another about our sources.

I had some recent success the past few years by embracing a discussion with my students to help us all communicate our expectations before (and often instead of) noting something is "off limits" for their research. Instead of outright banning a type of reference (i.e. no Internet sources or no Wikipedia), we dialogue about research together. We reach the conclusion (again, together) that a variety of references from a variety of source types creates the strongest argument. I show the institutional library page, we do Google and Wikipedia searches, we dissect sources, we really engage with issues of accuracy, objectivity, and authority. While we explore all of this, we discuss and analyze. Different classes come to different conclusions about wikis and blogs, but the (often lively) discussions allow students to consider and explore digital references in a way that is open without simply banning some source with an off-handed comment. I found students did not know why professors banned certain sources or types of references. Many of our students today have only and always found sources on the Internet. We might need to reach out and explore together a variety of considerations with online sources while introducing and exploring a variety of research avenues with our students.

The class time it takes to do this is certainly repaid in the quality of research received in the projects the students submit.

When you introduce that big project or the term research paper, consider a few simple tactics. Ask your students what they use, why, and begin a discussion while introducing concepts about research, credibility, and audience. Open the door to discuss by avoiding an initial ban. Of course, you can always ban a single type of source at the end of the discussion if you so desire, but at least the students will understand why you are doing it and have other options and better research skills because of the discussion.

You might be surprised by what can happen when you listen to the students when exploring research, I know I have been.

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Digital hoarder

My path as a rigidly organized person is well documented in this blog. From the label maker to my color-coded filing system, everything has a place. This is true of my digital files as well. I have clearly labeled folders that lead directly to sub-folders (and sub-sub-etc.-folders). Everything is easily accessible in my office.
Screen shot of my digital files. No random documents, everything has a place.

The point of clear labels and purposeful organization is easy: it saves my sanity. Having everything in a digital "home" keeps me from a cluttered desktop, avoids random files getting lost, and maintains accessible files (which helps productivity!). I can find and place items with ease. My various email accounts all have the labels, folders, and sub-folders applied. I like my organized world. It gives me comfort.

Beware of this comfort, however! It is important to realize just how much you are saving--especially in those pesky email accounts. Readers, how many email accounts do you have? If you have over ten (I'm not saying I have over ten, but I'm not denying it, either), then you may want to take some time to check up on your digital files. Some of us may slowly become digital hoarders. Now, I'm not admitting to full on hoarder status with my digital files, I will own the fact that I have a tendency (okay, a STRONG tendency) to collect and hold on to many (okay, MOST) files.

I am the type that saves the various rough drafts and edited versions of each article, I have my data files in various stages, I can easily locate-in under 30 seconds or less-a teaching, research, or personal file. I have a bit of a reputation for this in my department. Folks stop by to say, "Can you forward me the minutes from that departmental meeting last fall where we did XYZ?" They know I kept the minutes that were emailed to us diligently by our Chair months ago. I'm just like that. Better to be safe and keep something than sorry you don't have it later. This is ONLY true in my digital world. I am incredibly streamlined and avoid saving excessive items that may clutter up my physical world.

But all of that well-intentioned organization can get in the way if you don't have a filter. Recently, my filter has become weak and I've begun unintentionally stockpiling one specific type of digital item: emails. 

My proud file trees made it so easy to just drag and drop an email into the appropriate space. This resulted in a tiny feeling of accomplishment that my inbox was once again returned to a manageable number. Over time, I apparently started to skip the important filtering of the keep/trash options and just filed the emails. After searching for an important email for nearly 15 minutes, a previously unknown process, I had to manage the sense of panic and discomfort before finding the email nestled in the wrong sub-sub folder. I realized just how quickly digital files can become digital junk. My nice collection had become a hoard. Important emails shared space with conversation threads about a meeting changing times or a conversation thread with a student. This set off a half-day email cleaning marathon that resulted in removing many sub-sub folders and shaking my head in wonder while I mentally groaned, "why on earth did I save that?"

If I were the type to have over 10 email accounts, I might have also spent that time grooming those accounts and even removing several that are out-dated resulting in another sense of accomplishment. Now, I (er, I mean that hypothetical person with more than 10 email accounts) would benefit from stopping the backlog of emails that can pile up in accounts that are not often utilized.

Don't wait for an intervention. Check yourself. Check your files. Check your in-boxes. Are YOU on your way to becoming a digital hoarder?

See additional organizational topics in previous blogs, including: 
Prepping for RTP - September 2011
When Sticky Notes Attack - June 2011
Working through Deadline Distress - May 2012
The Black Sharpie - January 2011

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