Sunday, December 28, 2014

[GUEST POST] Student Affairs is Validation: #SAReflects

Hello everyone!!

As most of my consistent readers know, this has been a fun, active, and invigorating year of growth for me! I am so thankful for 2014 being a year that I desperately needed for my personal and professional growth.

The great people at the Student Affairs Collective asked me to write a reflection blog post about my year. So I did!

I decided to write about how the year 2014 was full of validation for me, which has made me feel so at home in this field. I could not have asked for a better field to enter.

As usual with my guest posts, I want to spread the love to the original posters, so make sure to head over the the Student Affairs Collective website to view the FULL ARTICLE!

Here are some of my favorite pieces from the bog post I wrote, called, "Student Affairs is Validation."

Hope you enjoy!

"Many individuals pursue a career to reinvigorate an industry.
Many individuals pursue a career that influences the lives of the current or next generation.
Many individuals pursue a career that does both of those things, while making the individual feel validated that their work and purpose is important."

"Becoming a leading voice in this online community has been such a brilliant form of validation because I feel that many grad students now have a space to call their own each week. I am glad that I was given the opportunity to create this space. I am glad that each week my colleagues are able to validate each other’s experiences and share something new about themselves and their life as budding student affairs professionals."

"I never knew how validating having a partner in student affairs would be for me—until I had one.

Since we come from very similar backgrounds—white, low-SES, first-gen—we are able to have some very empowering conversations of how we hope to work together to support students from similar backgrounds. We are able to validate each other’s experiences and feel as though we are not alone in this field."

"The recognition I speak of is when I won the NASPA Region 1 Richard F. Stevens Award for Outstanding Grad Student in the state of Massachusetts. When I heard my name read, all I felt was validation. A year of hard work, dedication, and late nights had paid off in this form of recognition. I was completely honored and blown away by the support I received through winning this award."

"So validate your co-workers, your colleagues, your partners, your friends, and your students!
Make people feel like their work is important and be grateful for the effort people in your office put into their daily lives. One small “thank you,” or “good job,” or “you’re doing great” can change any one’s day!"

Again, Click here for the full article!

I will see you all again very soon as I prepare to write about my top albums of 2014! January is definitely fulled with music posts, so get ready for that fun stuff!

Be well and enjoy the new year!


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Home is Where the Hard Conversation Lives...

Discussing Racism, Privilege, and the (White) Elephant in the Room Regarding the Ferguson/Eric Garner Discussion—Challenging & Supporting White Students

So, I started three other ideas for blog posts before deciding that I needed to write something about the current state of student affairs work in the post-Ferguson/Eric Garner grand jury decision discussions.

This topic has permeated our work as student affairs professionals because many of our campuses are now serving as beacons for discussion, activism, and demonstrations.

Even many of our student affairs colleagues have written about this topic and how it shapes our work and the ways in which we can support our students of color on campus. And that’s awesome. I think this is a powerful time for our field to step up like this and become leading voices in the conversation on racial injustices in our country.

And yet, there is one facet of this conversation that I want to focus on: Challenging and supporting our white, socially just students that simply want to show their support, but have difficult (i.e. uneducated and/or racist) home lives that challenge them from moving forward in their journey of social justice education.

I am going to share a personal experience, talk about getting to TA this semester through the model of Challenge & Support, and then explain my philosophy of how to support white students during this time.

(Note: This post is IN NO WAY meant to discredit the other very real racial work happening on our campuses and in society today. If you read it with that lens, I challenge you to read this again. At no point is that my intention. This post is merely meant as an extension of the larger conversation. One that I think some of our students need to hear/can relate to.) 

Ferguson is quite the taboo topic right now.
As is an discussion white students as well.
How do we support them?
IMAGE: Michael Ramirez (Investors Business Daily)


I was adopted into a white, low-SES, uneducated, and slightly racially ignorant home life.

Having just turned 27, my closest sibling is NINE years older than me—with my oldest sibling being 50 years old. I am the only person in my family to attend college, let alone graduate from college and/or even understand the concept of graduate school. Therefore, as the youngest person in my family, I am the only one with any understanding of how the academy works. And, by extension, how privilege works.

This is quite challenging—as you could imagine.

However, it is never more challenging than when the holidays come around. I basically have no support when it comes to virtually any conversation whatsoever. And the scapegoat that my family ALWAYS retreats to is the fact that I’m young(er than them). I mean, I’m 27. I feel I’ve been an adult for a while now.

Now, I assume there are many white students, and white student affairs professionals, that have to go home during the holidays and listened to their “old fashioned” relatives explain why Obama is Hitler, how the liberals are destroying the economy, and how the gays are killing the sanctity of marriage—yes, ALL of these are conversations I have recently had with my relatives.

And it’s hard to listen to your family members say these things, or often worse things. Because when we are in the early stages of development—diffusion, as Marcia might explain it—we don’t question these things. We just accept them.

However, for those of us who develop into free-thinkers—those of us with a little bit of social justice education—we don’t like to keep out mouths shut. So we argue, or we get frustrated and things get tense during the holidays.

It’s always like this for me at home.
And I live over 3,000 miles from home, which makes it even more difficult for me to make the trip. Regardless, each visit goes something like this:

- Relative says something racist/homophobic.
- I get frustrated and challenge them.
- Relative says something equally alarming while trying to explain they aren’t racist/homophobic.
- I get frustrated at their explanation and explain how it is racist/homophobic.
- Relative calls me young and/or pretentious and that my education is a waste of time.
- I realize this conversation is a lost cause and leave to play with my nieces or nephews because they don’t talk about political stuff.

Essentially, going home is hard for me.
And the thing is—I know I am NOT alone in this experience.

Many students experience this!
Many of my colleagues experience this!

My partner and I have been talking about this for weeks!

So what do we do for our white students that still don’t have the tools to question their relatives or even engage in meaningful conversations with their peers?

Image: Steve Breen (U-T San Diego)


With seemingly everyone in the nation discussing the Ferguson/Eric Garner grand jury decisions, we, as educators, are in a difficult situation because many of our students are looking to us for answers/guidance.

This semester was my reentry into teaching, as I stepped back into the classroom (I taught High school in a past life) to TA for UMass Amherst’s Education 115 course, Embracing Diversity—which is essentially a Social Justice 101 course, as you can hear some of our students explain in a video I’ve linked at the end of this post. (Note: This classroom context is simply an example of how I practice my approach to educating and supporting white students on these issues. I have many other examples I could use to discuss how I do this with the students I advise as well.)

In being able to TA for this course, I was given the opportunity to educate students on social justice topics like race, class/socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender, privilege, white privilege, oppression, Ray Rice and sexual assault, and even the Ferguson/Eric Garner cases.

The catch of all of this was that I was the only white male TA (of five TAs) teaching the whitest and most male-populated discussion section for the course—88 percent of my classroom was white, over 60 percent were men. I had four Asian students (all women) and one Latina student in my class. The other 35 were white.

I had a classroom full of students from all over New England—two from New York, and one lone student from Georgia. All of these students brought vastly different perspectives on many of the topics we discussed.

However, what I ultimately found was not shocking, but it is something we might take for granted since we have social justice conversations almost every day.
I will try my best to be as clear as possible:


Campuses have always been incredible landscapes for activism.

We cannot assume all of our students are in the same place developmentally OR that they will agree with or absorb everything you teach them. That’s not how learning and/or development works. 

You aren’t going to change a student, who was raised in a racist home, that racism is bad by simply telling them that racism is bad. They’re just going to go home—where racism is practiced—and not think about racism being bad anymore.

These topics MUST be broken down carefully over time.

That being said, I made it my purpose for the semester to teach my 40 students about the realities of the world around them. I constantly told them, “you’re already ahead of me by being in this class,” because I didn’t have my first privilege conversation until I was 23. I wanted my students to understand that white privilege is not something to feel guilty about—it’s out of their control—what they need to do is understand how their privilege functions in society so they can become better allies/advocates for change.

I took this one hour out of the week to do things like ask my students to Google the phrase, “race is a social construct,” and then they would report their findings and we would discuss how this affects them at a predominantly white institution. I would challenge my students to think critically about the world around them instead of simply regurgitating all of the information they’ve been fed throughout their entire lives. It caused for some awkward silences, but we pushed through it as a class.

One of the first activities I did with students was the privilege walk.
(Note: You can click link for an example of how to do the privilege walk.)

If you haven’t done the privilege walk with your students, I suggest you to do so. I make my own list of phrases for them to respond to (e.g., starting with "If you are a man, take a step forward," and later using "If you are a woman, take a step back."), with the caveat that they aren’t allowed to look back until we’re finished. When completed, this activity demonstrates to students that most, if not all, of their privileges are invisible.

Another way to do this is with an exercise called, "Step in, Step Out," in which all students create a circle and step when they can agree with the statement being read. This is often an equally apt way of demonstrating the privilege and inequalities in your group. I chose the privilege walk simply due to the massively white class that I had.

I had my four lone Asian students and the Latina student (reminder: all women) in the back of the class. When I asked one how she felt being there, she responded,

“I just stopped even trying to move forward. Because every time I did, I would have to take another step back. It made me want to give up.” 
This resonated powerfully with the rest of the class, which was all white, and demonstrated to them where they might stand in relation to the rest of the students in their institution, since UMass Amherst is a predominantly white institution. Her reaction is also another reason why some might opt to utilize the "Step in, Step out" activity instead of the privilege walk.

Moving forward with the class was a much easier task because this was the first time many of my white students had ever had to think about their privilege or their other dominant identities.

Making the effort to discuss these issues in a very approachable and intentional manner with my students made a major impact on them this semester. Many of them commented on my individual course evaluations that learning about white privilege and racial oppression were two of the major topics that challenged their thinking this semester.

Reading through my evaluations made me happy because I could tell that some serious change happened over the course of 14 weeks.

But now they are no longer my students—so I worry about where they go from here.


On Thursday, the final day of class, I addressed the upcoming holidays amid a larger conversation about Ferguson and Eric Garner. I told the students that I had a very difficult conversation with my parents about the grand jury decisions, in which I challenged my parents on their stances—which caused my mother to hang up the phone on me.

Some of my students explained that they encountered some difficult conversations with family on their recent Thanksgiving visits home.

I asked them how they handled the conversations. A number of the students said they sat there listening, trying to think about how to respond—using their knowledge from this course. Others said that they challenged their family for the first time and it felt empowering, while also scary because they were met with similar responses that I receive from my family.

On that last day, I told my students to not be silent.
I told my students that it is okay to challenge the views of their friends and family.

On that last day, I also told my students the importance of picking their battles and to recognize there is a time and place for everything. 

On that last day, I told my students to speak out against injustice and prejudiced if they ever encounter it on or off campus.

On that last day, I told my students to always question the world around them.
Be curious. Discover their own knowledge.

On that last day, I explained that since race is a learned social construct, racism is also a learned social construct. Therefore, we have the power to unlearn these constructs.

On that last day, I gave my students an example of a conversation I had with my sister—in regard to some of my father’s remarks one year.

Sister: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Me: But you can teach a dog to not be racist.

While they laughed at this example—because I’m hilarious—I made sure to bring it back to a very real feeling that what many of our white students are fed from their families can cause a lot of cognitive dissonance.

On that last day, I told my students that I struggle with these topics with my family all of the time, but that doesn’t mean I give up on my family. I love my family. I just have to separate myself from their reality in order to spend time with them, which comes with time.

On that last day, I acknowledged how some of their families might even be paying for their education, which is an even more difficult experience when picking a social justice battle with their family. Sometimes financial support can be more worth more than an argument. This is reality I had to recognize. I know that many LGBTQ youth are exiled/cut off financially for standing up for their identities, and this circumstance can possibly find a similar end result. Again, pick your battles.

On that last day, I told my students to change the subject or lay down ground rules if they don’t want some things being discussed—or to simply leave the room. I have to do this often while at home. It saves me from some tears or from shouting various obscenities. Or to simply save face.

On that last day, I told my students that they might get conflicting information or confusing articles thrown their way, and that’s natural. There is always going to be doubt with every major issue that happens in our country.

That doesn’t mean we can’t question everything.

I'm not sure what will come of this, but I do know that we cannot do nothing.


I hope this post demonstrated some ways in which you can support white, socially just students that just want to be allies/advocates on their campuses. Keep in mind that many of these students might come from homes that either aren’t very socially just, or just aren’t open to discussing these bigger topics.

Also remember that my classroom context might be somewhat of an anomaly, but with as much student leadership training that happens on a college campus, I can assure you that there is somewhere to fit in my suggestions.

Naturally there are going to be many white students that will come to you looking for some sort of guidance when they possibly fear going home (like I often do) or simply supporting their fellow students of color on their campus. I suggest giving them space to talk just as you would any student. There is bound to be a lot of confusion, frustration, and probably anger toward their home situation. Be there for all of your students, regardless of race.

I don't want the work we do educating white students to be for nothing. And you shouldn't either. We need to support our white advocates so that they can educate their families and possibly inspire new tricks in some old dogs.

If we are able to affect and educate today’s white college students that come from historically racist backgrounds, we can potentially alter the course of history. If we can educate on the realities of prejudice, oppression, and injustice in this country as early as possible, who knows what sort of impact we can have as student affairs professionals?

In order to support these students, we need to consider our entire student populations when moving forward in how to approach these large racial issues.

I recognize that my approach/philosophy will not resonate or even work for all students and/or professionals. I don’t expect it to do so. However, I do expect that we can support all of our students as valued members of society and recognize that they all come from varying backgrounds that may require us to read and flex according to the needs of each individual.

Thank you for reading.

I hope this helped in some way.


Here is the video that three of my classmates and I put together with the support of our EDUC115 students in response to their learning throughout this year. Check it out!

Monday, November 17, 2014

[GUEST POST] Men, music & mental health: #MenInSA

Hi everyone!

I was asked by the folks at The Student Affairs Collective to write a quick blog post about an aspect of masculinity for their November #MenInSA series!

I decided to write about a topic that I love: music.

I expand upon my views of how mainstream music and its messages perpetuate harmful masculinities for men who may need something deeper in their music. So I explore the beauty and necessity of emotional music.

Click here to access the full blog!

Here is a quick preview:

"When I was in high school—and didn’t have the wherewithal to discuss my depression issues—I turned to music. I would ugly cry into the darkness of my parent’s bathroom mirror while listening to The Weak’s End, by Emery because they made my emotions and my feelings make sense.

Music made sure I didn’t feel alone.

Instead of trying to discuss my “struggles” with my parents or friends—seeing as I felt couldn’t because I didn’t want them to think any less of me—I retreated to music because I was afraid to share my emotions with people.

Music didn’t judge me for having feelings."


"I find that these mainstream radio messages also stifle male development. Naturally, men are always at different stages of development. But men aren’t taught how to question these messages.

So where is the space for men to question these messages?
Where can men go when they don’t want this lifestyle?
I say we create this space on our campuses.

Messages of mainstream music are just distractions so that men are kept from discussing the actual issues that may trouble them—possible depression, anxiety, suicidal ideations, and/or the loss of a loved one. So, instead of seeking support or intervention for their possible mental health issues, we have an allegiance of men repressing themselves further into oblivion."

See you all next time!


Monday, October 27, 2014

17 Things You Shouldn’t Include on Your Resume

A comprehensive list of that which you need not include

Tis the season for folks applying to graduate school and folks in their second year of grad school to fine tune their resume in time for their respective searches.

With this, I wanted to supply some fun suggestions for elements you may not want to include.

I know, I know—some of the things on this list are going to be quite tempting.

But you must resist.

[NOTE: I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will anyway—THIS IS SATIRE! I would never suggest you place any of these things on your resume. I’m just having some fun.]

1. Years of Experience Watching Netflix

Binge watching Netflix could be a full-time job.
However, Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, and the Walking Dead won’t get your foot in the door with employers.

2. Using Exes as References

Sure—they are probably the most likely to provide an honest answer about your character. However, it is probably in your best interest to list former supervisors or anyone else you haven’t slept with/may want revenge for breaking up with them unexpectedly. Just a thought.

3. Results to EVERY Buzzfeed Quiz You’ve Ever Taken

No employer is interested in knowing that you are a cheese pizza, or that the 90’s song you exemplify is “Wonderwall,” by Oasis, or that you are 97% Midwestern.
Only list the relevant Buzzfeed Quiz results—like which One Direction member you are.
I'm the tall one—Phineas, or whatever.
I don't care.

4. List of Previous Novels Read for Fun

HAHAHAHA! You think we read for fun anymore?
But seriously—I read “War all the Time,” by Charles Bukowski.
Because I dig drifter poetry. HIRE ME!

5. Relevant Professional Affiliations do not include Sports Organizations/Teams

I'm sure my New England friends would disagree with this one. But trust me! I want to list all of the relevant professional wrestling factions I follow—WWE, WCW, ECW, TNA, CZW, PWG, CHIKARA, ROH—but I will reluctantly refrain.

6. List of Celebrities You Would Want To Portray You in an Autobiographical Biopic

Spot. On.
Kevin Bacon—no, wait!
Jim Carrey—yes!
Nailed it.

7. Ability to Cook the Best Top Ramen is NOT a Relevant Skill

Trust me—employers will more than likely assume this…
After all, grad students are often gods of three-minute meals.

8. Ability to eat two dozen hot wings is also not a relevant skill

Unless you did it on the Blazin’ level at Buffalo Wild Wings.
Maybe then you could include it.
Because that’s an accomplishment.

9. PRs at the Gym

Unless you're the Rock. If so, always list your PRs.
Sure, some job descriptions may list that you must be able to occasionally lift 25lbs or so—this does not mean you have free reign to list your weight room accomplishments, BRO!

10. Your Fastest Mile Time

Sure, you will probably have to run some errands, run to meetings, and run to catch the train. However, unless your time beats my fastest mile (5:53), you should probably just skip placing this on your resume. And if you’d like to challenge me to a foot race, BRING IT ON!


11. Section for a Catalogued List of your (impressive) Record Collection

This essentially qualifies as Erotica for me.
I mean, I might include this in size 8 font because employers MUST want to know I have a second press of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” No? Dang…

12. List of your known allergies/dietary restrictions.

File this under: Things that can come up during an on-campus interview.

13. Coke or Pepsi Preference

Because a good employer will automatically know that Coke is far superior.
Sorry, CM Punk—but you're wrong.

14. Social Security Number

Of all the numbers that should appear on your resume, this is NOT one of them.

15. Amazon Wish List

You can learn a lot about a person about what is on their Amazon Wish list—but a resume is no time share these private matters. Note: My list is purely comprised of vinyl records and student affairs books.

16. Pictures of your pets.

At the very least, a link to your instagram account will suffice.
Note: My cat, Tux (pictured), can be found @CrigBididman.

17. Unless you intend for your resume to trend, disregard hashtags

#SAGrad #SAChat #SASearch #SAPro #teamtwopages #studentaffairs #highereducation #SAHE #HireMe


End of list.

---- BONUS! ----

Do Not Use Comic Sans, Ever!

Just don't do it.

Hope this list was helpful or at least entertaining!

See you next time!

In the mean time, join the dialogue: @CrigBididman

Monday, October 13, 2014

So, You Want to be a Student Affairs Grad Student?

Advice on applying to grad school


I know that folks are currently on the #SAGradHunt.

This means countless hours researching, contemplating, and deciding which programs to apply for and I figured I would chime in with some words of advice during this process!

First, take a deep breath.

This is a tough time in your life.
Trust me, I was there two years ago.

I know this is a nerve-racking time of your life.
So, be patient.

I have seen many folks commenting on Facebook groups about the programs they’re considering with the questions they have during this application process and I’ve been quite active in responding to many people. This is great; it is proactive. And yet, there is more that I feel I need to say.

So, without further rambling, here are a few suggestions for those of you taking the time to be proactive in applying to student affairs/higher education graduate programs!

Listen to Benedict.
He knows everything.
 1. Do your research! Know what you want!

Some programs specialize in counseling, others in higher education administration, others in social justice, others in student affairs, student development and theory to practice.

Most of these go by vastly different names and titles; yet, they are generally the same.

Figure out what you might want from a program and go for it!

Reach out to the faculty contact and strike up a conversation with current members of the graduate programs. This is a great way to get a candid account of the program from someone currently experiencing it.

Ask for support on Facebook groups—I know many folks are already doing this; but if you aren’t, do it! There are many of us out here willing to support you!

2. Narrow your choices wisely.

You cannot and should not apply everywhere.
This is for myriad of reasons.

Applications are expensive—as I cover in point #7.
So don’t expect to apply to more programs than you can afford.

Also, applying to multiple programs takes SO MUCH TIME!

So you need to make sure you will actually have time to apply to all of the programs you choose. I genuinely felt applying to grad school was like a full time job.

So, I suggest that a good number of applications to send out is between 4 – 6.
Don’t panic—those numbers might seem low; however, it is important that you take into account your needs and recognize where you truly find yourself being happy studying for two years.

Don’t just apply to a bunch of programs because you think you should.
Apply where you know that you will be able to become a better leader and a better practitioner.

3. Revise your personal statement.
And then revise it again.

And again.
And again.
And again.
And again.

And when you think it’s done, make sure at least five other sets of eyes have seen your personal statement.

It’s important to make sure that you aren’t the only person reading your statement. You will miss things. Other eyes can give you better feedback because they can catch things you don’t see.

4. Take the personal statement seriously.

I mean it when I say take the personal statement seriously.
It is easily the most important aspect of your application.

Some programs limit your word count to as little as 250 words—which is bullshit, because that is impossible.

However, the majority of programs will suggest that you fit your statement on one page single-spaced. I suggest that 700 words can do the trick.

And with this, I also STRONGLY suggest that you do not—under any circumstances—just regurgitate your resume. The admissions committee will read your resume, but what they want is to see that you are an interesting, engaging, motivated human being with potential to take charge of this field.

This does not mean saying that you are “passionate” 100 times in your statement.

In fact, if I had my way, people would only be allowed ONE “passion” in their statement. Maybe that’s the English major in me, but I have read through many personal statements and I promise that you are using an empty word. Pull out the thesaurus and show the admissions committee that you can actually conceptualize your experience!

If you’d like me to look over your personal statement, let me know!

5. Round up your letters of recommendation early.

This is just common courtesy.
Know who you want to write your personal statements and, if you haven’t already, ask them to do it now! Many professional folks are very busy and need plenty of advance notice to write a proper recommendation for you.

Don’t wait until the last second to do this because it will only stress you out.
And make sure you are asking people who can truly speak to your experiences and abilities. Don’t just ask any three or four folks. Get people that know you well and know how to express who you are as a person as well.

NOTE: it is proper etiquette to give a thank you card/gift to those who take the time to write letters for you.

6. Don’t worry about the GRE.

Honestly, I didn’t take the GRE. I don’t suggest that anyone should ever take it.
As a former teacher, I recognize that standardized tests are garbage.

The GRE proves nothing and is often only a simple gateway to admission into an institution’s Graduate school. I only applied to programs that did not require the GRE because I took that as a strong sign that the institution shared my hatred for atrocious standardized tests.

I’ve chatted with many higher education faculty members and the consensus is that the GRE is for appearances only. There is no true correlation to the test and your ability to lead a program board, a resident hall, or a leadership program.

Therefore, take the exam. Do your best. And don’t sweat it breaking your chances of getting into a student affairs program.

7. Save your pennies.

This relates to point #2.
Applications are expensive—they range from $40 - $75+

NOTE: A fun way to raise funds for applications is to create a service that you can provide for others. EXAMPLE: I made paintings for my friends when I was applying for graduate school and was able to fully fund my four applications through simply making and selling paintings!

Also, when you need to travel to campuses for visit days, you will need to pay for flights, or gas, or train—or however else you plan to travel to the institutions that have accepted you! Some programs can offer you reimbursement, but not all of them. So save up!

I suggest investing in teleportation.

8. Assistantship(s).

As most folks entering this field understand: our experiences are EVERYTHING.

Therefore, it is fair to assume that most programs offer assistantships.

They do. They are out there. And yes, it does depend on what experience you want to fuel your career, so applying for and obtaining an assistantship is important, but it is not the end of the world.

Honestly, you will enter the field with an IDEA of what you want to do with this Master’s degree. Then, as you progress, you are more than likely going to redefine your needs and desires—which means you may want to change assistantships!

This is common.

In fact, I currently hold three 10 hour assistantships—two are within the same office, which is nice—yet, I have held five so far during my graduate school experience. I am developing multiple skills in multiple arenas. Don’t be afraid to change trajectories. Don’t be afraid to try something new.

There are two important reasons to have assistantships beyond the experience alone.

a. Getting paid.
We gotta survive, so make sure you are getting paid if you are performing any assistantship.

b. Tuition waivers. (NOTE: See Next point)

I think this is from the Daily 49er from CSU-Long Beach.
I like it.
9. Tuition waivers.

In tandem with point #1—research also means seeking out programs that offer tuition waivers. Even SOME form of a waiver is better than none.

I suggest finding programs that offer FULL tuition waivers—yes, they are out there—e.g. UMass Amherst (where I am, hint hint)—and if these programs interest you, place them atop your list!

I mean, why wouldn’t they interest you?

There is no reason why you should add more debt to your plate in pursuing a Master’s in student affairs and/or higher education! We are doing a public service to our field by being graduate students, so be smart when applying to programs because yes, you can attend for free if you find the right program.

10. Will you be unionized?

Here at UMass Amherst, we are unionized as graduate students.
We have health and dental benefits and we have the highest paying graduate assistantships in the country ($22.76 per hour—public information).

When applying to a program, make sure you check into whether the institution has a grad union that protects you with grievance protection, insurance, and all sorts of campus reimbursements. Not all institutions have them, and they can be a bit of a catch-22 at times; yet, they are incredibly helpful in the long run.

Especially when you begin to feel overworked and underpaid—because you will—they are there to support you with legal support.


11. Apply to UMass Amherst!

Because I’m here and I am king.
Also, we have an incredible focus on social justice and college access and equity.
Feel free to contact me if you’d like more information on our program!

End of list.

Follow me on Twitter @CrigBididman & @SAGradMOD!
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Friday, September 26, 2014

On Writing a Masters Thesis, pt. 001: Introduction

An introduction to my graduate thesis work on social media identity development


The school year is well underway and seeing as I am in my second year of #SAGrad, I am turning a lot of my focus on two things: my integrative thesis paper, and my eventual job search. However, for now, I must focus on creating my thesis! And I figured, what the hell?
Why not blog my progress! Note: Much of this first post is very preliminary—sort of a collection of thoughts, angles, potential. I am still working through many aspects of what this final paper will look like, I simply wanted to offer a working progress report on how this thesis writing process will take place for me.

The analytics from #NASPA14 were very impressive!

 Mission/Purpose: Let's talk about what I hope to accomplish with this thesis. In my heart, I have faith that institutions can engage with its students in a congenial, jovial manner—a manner in which students WANT to see what their institution is up to on social media. I have faith that institutions can establish policies of developing stronger relationships with their students through social media, which could influence retention, campus climate, and campus involvement. Sure, I can have faith I these things, but how do I go about proving or even discussing these things in a thesis. Social media are still relatively unproven in the eyes of the public, let alone in the scholarly world. So it would seem as though I have an uphill climb in some regards in trying to establish a Masters thesis about social media. However, I am determined. I know that our students are on social media.
I engage with our students on social media.
There is active learning and development happening on social media. Sure, some engage differently than others—I attribute this to the fact that students are constantly in different stages of identity development than others. Thus, since students are at such different stages, institutions and student affairs professionals must recognize that some students will not respond to certain modes of communication. If institutions/professionals don't make an effort to meet students halfway on social media, there will always be a disconnect. I currently work and study at an institution (UMass Amherst) that has a massive disconnect with social media and its student population. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because I would argue that the vast majority of institutions are terrible at engaging students through social media. So, UMass is not alone in this. Yet, there is hope! Many administrators at UMass have placed trust in me to go forward in this research in hopes that it can influence and educate how we approach engaging students online, as well as how we develop policies around social media! Therefore, I am quite thankful that I have faith from my institution. Yet, it is also kind of intimidating. But here we go!

It's all about student development in social media.

Theory & Identity: Much of my mission in conducting this research for my thesis is rooted in my belief that social media can and does support the identity development of students. danah boyd (2014) discusses a phenomenon known as context collapse, which can be best described as instances when generations collide—e.g. parents feeling out of touch, youth feeling as thou older folks don't understand them. These collapsing contexts are the basis for why the mainstream media constantly harps the negative aspects of social media use among my generation and younger—the so-called, digital natives, These collapses not only harm the benefits of social media, they also create barriers between generations, which can be equally harmful if we ever want our society to coexist functionally online. My hope in developing this thesis will be to prove ways in which students utilize social media platforms and online technologies throughout their development—for better or worse. In doing this, I anticipate that these data will provide administrators, professionals, and faculty with useful information on how to support their students through social media instead of approaching the subject from a place of fear and confusion. If you have suggestions for lenses and/or perspectives for me to gauge this research through, please let me know! I am all ears!

Been reading that danah boyd book under the best circumstances.

Research: You must be wondering how I hope to obtain all of these data for my thesis work.
Or you aren't, in which case, GET READY TO LEARN ANYWAY! I am currently creating a social media survey that I hope to not only spread around to students at UMass Amhest, but also on the INTERNET! So, if you would like to be data in my thesis, please take part in my survey once I post it. Trust me, you'll know when it is posted. My primary assistantship is in the Center for Health Promotion at UMass, where I work on peer health messaging. This is my beacon of social media work this year. Through this work, I will be able to collect specific data on the many platforms our offices utilize on campus. I also have access to TAing a course on Embracing Diversity, which has over 125 students for potential surveying. Pretty excited to see how this goes. I am also doing a number of smaller pieces of research collection like utilizing a few focus groups with students here at UMass, as well as tracking a number hashtags during my research. There are also some books! Oh, you bet there are books in this research! Like many who are reading higher education books, I am going through Rey Junco's new release, "Engaging Students in Social Media: Evidence-Based Practices for Use in Student Affairs," for the purposes of this research. So get ready for some posts about his work. I am also going through danah boyd's latest release, "It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens." This book takes a more qualitative approach toward how social media and technology can function to benefit the development of student identity. In addition to boyd and Junco, I am reading Erving Goffman's 1959 book, "The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life." These three books, among many other articles, will contribute to how I develop my literature review for my thesis.

Excited for a book that can teach us
so much about how to support our
students through social media!

Questions Moving Forward: I have very high expectations for this thesis. And I realize that I’ve left much to be desired in this first blog post, but I look forward to filling in some of the gaps with the next post! I am very aware that this is going to be a challenging thesis to work on. I like challenges. I like creating new conversations and developing new data in he field of higher education. Here are some of the preliminary questions that have come up during the early stages of my thesis writing process:
- How do we differentiate between the factors that necessitate social media usage--i.e. person, process, service/platform, outcome/interaction?
- How can this research influence the development of social media policy on college campuses?

- How do social media platform challenge and transcend each other?

- If people aren’t interacting with an account is is still “social” media?

- Is active interaction a basis for definition of “social” media?

- Why should institutions invest in social media if there is no profit?

- What theories support students development through social media?

- How do students prefer to interact on social media?

- How do we maintain anonymity in an arena where we don’t have privacy?

- How do we manage past versions of ourselves?
So, there is my initial brainstorm about all of the chaos I am trying to work through in order to create this thesis. I am excited to continue blogging through this thesis writing process because I feel this will be a fun, transparent way to shed light on final projects in student affairs/higher education graduate programs. Hope you are all well. Get ready for part two shortly! - Craig.