Taking the Fall Semester Off? 25 Tips from a Student Affairs Pro/Mom

It is official. The Fall semester is here and you will not be teaching, prepping, or running from one project to another. The sabbatical, the maternity leave, the Break you have been waiting for is here. Now what. Before the idea of not having a routine creeps in, or not seeing students or even the thought you are letting your co-workers down, check out these helpful tips I found useful.


Wow Yourself After You Transfer

Transfer Student Interview. Past Community College AS President becomes University WOW Orientation leader.
Meet Sandra Robles, a community college student from Canada College in Redwood City, who went on to transfer to Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, CA. While at Canada, she first started with biology thinking that she would go down the pre-med route. However, she soon found out that it wasn’t the right major for her.


Student Affairs Reaching out to Mothers

This is a great Student Affairs in Action find! It is short, not too expensive, inspiring, and connects with an outside community group we might not even thought of: a mother’s group.

If you live in the North Bay area or are willing to drive over a bridge, then come check out the new 21st Century Leadership: Find Your Future at the Summer Career Institute hosted by College of Marin’s Community Education department.


Top 10 Things that Will Always Happen at Commencement


If you ask any student affairs professional right now what they are up to, they probably have one word that sums up their day, COMMENCEMENT! They either have their own campus graduation ceremony coming up in weeks or days and they are busy proof reading programs, double checking students names and majors; as well as, making sure the caterer knows the correct time to drop off the cakes.

Or Commencement is done, and they took a much needed day off. Yay! Where ever you are, I hear ya! As a floor manager of 9 commencement ceremonies and the co-chair of two commencement ceremonies, life right now is ALL about commencement.

If this is your first time running commencement or your 15th, know there will always be something that comes up and we all know you are doing your best to keep up. To make it fun, here are my top 10 to help you stay one step ahead but also to remember, that sometimes there will always be something that happens.

10) There will always be a student who forgets their gown.

9) There will always be a student running in late to find a seat.

8) There will always be a student who decides at the last minute they want to walk.

7) There will always be something-for example the cakes are late, there are not enough programs or not enough ushers. It’s okay. The show will go on.

6) There will always be a speaker who doesn’t speak loud enough.

5) There will always be a speaker who will speak too long.

4) There will always be a student who does something funny on stage.

3) There will always be a student who walks the wrong way.

2) There will always be a faculty member who arrives without their gown expecting you to have extra, including the color for their degree.

1) There will always be a student who walked, who’s name did not end up in the program, and a mom wanting to know why.

Whatever it maybe, the important thing is another commencement happen and one more student earned their degree.

Congratulations to the class of 2014!!



Leadership Time Management Lesson

Of all the leadership skills college student leaders students learn right off the bat, time management has to be in the top 5. The time management lesson I teach students is to take their left or right hand and count off the top 5 things they have to take care; either at that moment or that week. If they have more than five then they know they are doing too much, and need to let go of something. I probably look pretty funny when I show them, but I always pull out on my left hand when the conversation starts to turn towards feeling overwhelmed.

I encourage you to try it and see how you feel.

I’ll give you an example:
Right now, my Top Five things are:
1) Take care of myself: drink water when I can and walk when I can.
2)Take the kids on an adventure
3) Support my husband by checking in.
4) Follow up from my twin club’s garage sale planning from last night.
5) Fold two loads of laundry.

5 things on your list for now. That’s all you need to do.


The TED Talk Phenomenon-I am in Awe

I recently started reading Dr. Brene Brown Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. I’m only in the first chapter, but I was struck how she described TED Talks. Look at this for a moment.

“TED- a nonprofit addressing the worlds of Technology, Entertainment, and Design that is devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading.” TED and TEDx organizers bring together ‘the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers’ and challenge them to give the talk of their life in eighteen minutes or less.” -Page 13 (on my Kindle)

Let me highlight that again: and challenge them to give the talk of their life in eighteen minutes or less.

My Student Affairs Student Programming side of myself is going crazy with ideas! Imagine if we organized an event where our students or our faculty or even staff volunteered to give the “Talk of their Life in Eighteen Minutes or less” can you imagine what they would say? Can you imagine what kind of day that would be like in their college experience, let alone the campus community. I imagine it has already started. I hope one day to be part of such a day. I’m looking forward to the day they have TEDCollege or TEDStudent links. I bet companies could even join the band wagon and have TEDWorks.

I am at awe that we live in a world today that TED Talks exists and there is this amazing platform for people to share who they are, what they know, and to truly be vulnerable, if they chose :). I bet the vulnerable just comes to you when you stand up there, your are looking out at the audience and realize, this is it. This is my TED Talk.

We all have a TED talk in us. I know it.

Good work people!


My Student Affairs Highlights from 2013

2013 was a great year for the simple moments in Student Affairs. Here are my top three that stood out the most:

June- Making it to my Redwood City/Belmont/San Carlos Chamber of Commerce Class of 2013 Leadership Graduation. I was pregnant with twins the whole time I was part of the class and I learned so much about how cities and counties work on the Fridays I made it. I especially appreciated economic development and learning how it truly is the backbone to everything we need to keep our cities and local colleges thriving. It inspired me to be a leader in my own community and start applying to be part of my local City Council Community Boards.

August- C0-leading the Transfer Hike at the Dish on the Stanford University campus. I was in my final weeks of living in Redwood City, and from my apartment I could see the satellite dish tower. For the last three years, I had heard about this “Dish” hike and driven by it many times. I knew it was something I had to do before I moved. Then one day the idea came to team up with a fellow student government officer, Lexie, who was transferring to UC Davis and to organize a Transfer Hike for student leaders who were transferring that fall and those student leaders continuing at the community college with plans to transfer the following year. We booked the Saturday before the fall semester started. Even though we only ended up with 2 other students it was worth it. I think Lexie and I planted a seed for future Transfer Hikes and for each other. I’m looking forward to being there as her transfer advisor and checking in as she finishes up each quarter. As much as I was there to help her transfer, I now want to be there when she earns her university degree.

October- My Student Life Department Highlighted in my college’s Accreditation Visit. The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) came to Canada College during the month of October. As many of you know who work at CA Community Colleges, there is a lot of hard work that goes into preparing for their visit. Even though I was on maternity leave during their actual visit, I had finished my program review before I left including assessment of my student learning outcomes and the final edit for the accreditation chapter that I was in charge of.

On that Thursday afternoon the Visiting Team Chair Dr. Pam Luster (President of San Diego Mesa College) shared both commendations and recommendations in her exit presentation. As she presented the top four Commendation for Canada College, my department of student life was number two!

Commendation for Canada College

  1. The college has an inclusive environment with broad participation and collegiality in decision-making.
  2. There is a high level of student engagement in the campus and student life and its leadership promotes many activities.
  3. Excellent collaboration among faculty, students, and Classified Professionals to conduct great student support programs such as STEM, Beating the Odds Peer Mentoring, and Student Ambassador programs.
  4. CIETL provides excellent opportunities for faculty to have dialogue to support student learning.

My Year Off

4 1/2 months into my year off as a stay at home mom with twin girls

How do you really take a year off?

If someone offered you a year off from your job, would you take it? What do you think you would need in your life to really take a year off? Lose a job? Earned some extra money? For me, it was having twin girls and my husband and I deciding not to send them to daycare. I’m 4 1/2 months into my year off and I’m discovering a whole lot about myself. As part of my professional and personal blog, I would like to share this journey with you. I am hoping with writing about it, it will help me to stay present and learn something new about myself and help you too.

The last time I took a year off was my junior year of college when I went on National Student Exchange. Even though I was still in college, if felt like a year off from my regular school life. I attended Rhode Island College and as I look back at my life today, all I can say is thank God I had that experience. So many familiar feelings are coming back. When I decided to take a year off from work to be home with my twin girls, I thought, I can do this! I’ve been working in student life for 13 years. In higher ed, faculty can apply for sabbaticals and on some campuses, so can student affairs professionals. For my district, the one chance I was going to have was taking a 1 year maternity leave.

I will be honest, the first 4 1/2 months have been hard. I’m experiencing a lost of my life before the twins. Having twins is a lot for anyone to take on. The biggest challenge I have faced is identifying myself as a mom first. When I look back, it seemed I would talk more about my work, my students first. Now, I share about my girls, my son Sam, my family, and our new home we are about to move into. Then I have to stop and hope that is enough for the person I am talking with. I have to hope it is enough for me too. Some days it is. Some days I miss talking about the college experience. I miss advising my students. But then, I pick up one of my girls and she smiles and laughs and I think, I wonder what I will teach her.

So, how do you really take a year off? Here are a few lessons I’ve learned so far:

1) Stop checking your work email. I know.. I know.. I had to let my mail box go to full to really stop checking it.

2) Stop checking your Work Facebook. Especially for student affairs crew. Your students will be fine and you will advise again.

3) Move off campus. Even though I look out my apartment windows and can only see the baseball fields, I still have to drive by campus on my way out. I can’t help but think of work. Happy to share, we will be moved off campus by the end of September.

4) Pay attention to what is triggering you to think about work. For me, it has to be this new Lean In movement. Even though I am leaning into motherhood right now, I still think about what Sheryl Sandberg wrote in her book Lean In about women choosing to stay home vs sending your child to daycare. Her research showed that investing in daycare will pay off more in the long run than saving money on daycare by staying home. It’s when you are at work that people will see you and offer you more money. If they don’t see you, then they might forget about you.  I wish I could tell her that being a twin mom is hard and way different than taking care of one baby. I am no where ready to go back to work. I know because I’ve already experienced having one child who I sent to daycare at 4 1/2 months. Can I get a break for being a twin mom?

5) Do not be afraid to enjoy your new life. If you do find yourself with a year off to spend with a new baby or get to work on a new project, don’t be afraid to enjoy your new life because your life will never be the same. You are going to learn a lot! Some will be exciting and some will feel unfamiliar. You might even wonder where your old self went. Then you will have a moment when someone asks you when you will be going back to work and you will finally be proud to share you are taking a year off. After 4 1/2 months, I think I’m finally there. Let your year off be enough for you right now. Just think of how much more life experience you will bring to your students, to your campus after your year off is over. More than you ever imagined.

6) And give yourself an outlet to write or reflect on this year off.  It could be a journal. A blog. I’m amazed how taking these last 2 hours to write this post has given me the peace I needed. Thank you for reading.


Lollipop Moments happening at Canada College

While on maternity leave
To connect or not to connect. To check your work email or to not check your work email. As I take this year off, I’m curious why I tend to check my work email? What is it that leads me to take a moment out of being a “mom” to see what is happening at work. I think it comes back to my love to connect. In my field of Student Affairs and working on a college campus, a day doesn’t go by that you find yourself connecting with another person. The connection could be a piece of advice, encouragement, or teaching them something new. I imagine it happens to all of us, where ever you may spend your day. As I write this, I am encouraged even more to connect with my daughters and fellow mothers.

However, this past week was the first week of the fall semester. For me, it was the first fall semester in 13 years I wasn’t working. So there was a part of me that couldn’t let that moment of checking in on work email go by. I’m glad I did. I saw this message from the new college president Dr. Larry Buckley. He did not have to write this email but he did. He found time to remind the campus about a topic that was shared on Flex Day. It was about having an “lollipop moment”. I may not be “working” right now, but it feels good to know I’m still part of a great place. I checked out the TedTalk and college site. Nice work. Especially for teaching leadership beyond student government. I guess in a small way I had my own lollipop moment reading his email. Here is that email:

“Wed. Aug. 21, 2013, 2:18pm
Last week, at the District’s Opening Day event here at Canada, Diana Bennett shared a TedEX video that spoke to “Lollipop Moments” in which each of us become leaders whether we want to or not. Sometimes we become leaders and don’t even know we’re leading as we’re doing it!  Several people suggested that we post on our website, a Login in Your Lollipop Moment page. On such a page, you would have the opportunity to share your lollipop moments with your colleagues, students, and the whole of our community.
Take a few moments to watch the TedEX video about “Lollipop Moments” and then – if you’ve had a “lollipop moment” or two, or three – and you want to share them please do so at
Visit the page periodically to see what your colleagues are positing.
Larry G. Buckley, PhD
Canada College