Day 37 – What Would I tell Myself at Orientation – #100DaysofHigherEd

In the movie Back to the Future 2, an aging Biff visits his younger self and presents him with a sports almanac. The almanac presents all the future winners for all sports. Biff uses this information to go on and build a gambling empire and becomes the core plot of the sequel. Now, lets set aside the fact that we already know that such books are likely not published in the future since all that information would be on a Wiki or ESPN.Com but go with me on this one. What I am interested in is, if I could get into the DeLorean and kick the flux capacitor to get me back to good ol’ June 1991 what would I tell the 18-year-old version of Michael Preston? What advice at Orientation would I give that new student, from an academic and career perspective?

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Day 36 – My Favorite Higher Education Meals – #100DaysofHigherEd

Higher education has afforded me several opportunities in my career that I would not have been able to do otherwise. I have traveled the entire country, I have met friends from literally all 50 states, I have been able to connect and diversify my friendships in ways that is just not possible anywhere else. And then there is the food. I must admit, one of my favorite things about this job is the food. Be it a pizza party with students or a 5-star restaurant with friends there have been moments in my career I will treasure forever, and they begin with food. Food is one of the great connectors in life. Like music it transcends language and culture. We tend to forget differences and we often take chances with our meals. Is that a little spicy, lets give it a chance! This is a post about food.

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Day 35 – The Business Model I Would use for Higher Ed – #100DaysofHigherEd

 I have been thinking a lot about higher education and its future recently now that we are looking more and more like we are slowly inching out of the COVID crisis. In the past year, the way and how we have delivered higher education has made many of us who think and work in this space to take stock as to what do we keep and what do we cast off in this post COVID world. And I have an idea. It is controversial so I apologize in advance if I ruffle your feathers. We focus on reimagining higher education as an essentially a learning park. Think of approaching higher education in the same way that Walt Disney World approaches tourism and we work to deliver a higher education experience that is both predictive and responsive to data in a way that is almost effortless. Stick with me here.

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Day 34 – Wellness, HA! – #100DaysofHigherEd

I think it is a bit ironic that this post is supposed to be about personal wellness in higher education, and I am currently trying to rally from a bad sinus infection to be at a presentation for NASPA, and this is the second time I have done this. NASPA is my national learning conference of choice and it is usually during the month of March. I have been going to NASPA since I went to the 1997 meeting in Chicago and save a few years I rarely miss. This is even though each year it usually falls primetime during the height of allergy season for me. If I am being honest, not many bothers me except seasonal allergies. I am rarely sick, and I can tend to handle everything. But there is this small window of time each year when my sinuses decide it is time for me to take a break and keeps me in bed for a day. Unless I must be at NASPA.

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Day 33 – A Memory from my First Year as a Professional

Photo Copyright; Photography by JR,
I first began my journey as a full-time higher education professional in the summer of 1997. 1997 was quite a year for me. I graduated from the Higher Education program at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, that May I got married to my wife (we are now 24 years in), and we moved to Texas where I started my job as the Program Advisor at Stephen F. Austin State University. In April I had been hired on the spot at SFA after a great interview. It was the last interview in a series of interviews that included Notre Dame, Coker College in South Carolina, and Lyon College in Arkansas.

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Day 32 – On Being a College Parent – #100DaysofHigherEd

Unlike most other student affairs professionals, I really like working with parents. There is something eternally pure about overprotective parents dropping their kid off at orientation or residence hall sign in and the pride and fear on their faces. And I know that feeling. This past year I was that parent. This post is going to be a bit of personal privilege. I am going to recount my experience as a parent dropping our only child off for college for the first time and my experiences as a dad who had a freshman during a pandemic. I assume my authorship will not be as refined as I want it to be, but I want to write with honesty about how I felt and how it will forever change how I approach parents in the future.

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Day 31 – On Politics and the Classroom – #100DaysofHigherEd

For nearly 100 years the political views of college faculty and the potential suppression of free speech and ideas has been the subject of curiosity and criticism. The specter of the overreaching faculty member is boosted by an almost urban legend level of suspicion and recently lawmakers have shown a willingness to take this issue head on. The campus viewpoint diversity debate is heating up and no where is that more apparent than here in Florida where lawmakers have invested their time into ensuring the college classroom is safe for all students, regardless of their political or social leanings to be able to express themselves. 

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Day 30 – What I have Learned from Working with Multiple Universities – #100DaysofHigherEd

I was going to make this blog post about my observations on the politics of working at multiple universities and their commonalities and differences, but I am going to call a line of scrimmage audible for this post. I have had the pleasure to work for or with literally a dozen higher education institutions. Some have paid me for my services, and some have been opportunities for professional or educational growth. In any event I have been lucky to work with hundreds of higher education professionals from every job description and paygrade. I have worked with thousands of students from every walk of life. Students who came form privilege to students who could barely afford to eat, students who went onto Harvard Law to students who struggled to maintain a 2.0. I have had students who came to class in a full Burka and one who literally came to class in just a pair of jeans. No shirt, no shoes, just jeans. I think the oldest student I have had in class was a 70-year-old man who was going back to get his degree after working over 50 years in a factory and the youngest was a 14-year-old student who was taking classes to challenge herself.

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Day 29 – On My East Carolina Days – #100DaysofHigherEd

A couple of weeks ago an article by Pam Kelly appeared on The Assembly website and was titled “The Ill-Fated Chancellor” It was about my alma-mater East Carolina University and it has sparked a debate among alumni like myself; what is the soul or identity of a university and when should you stray from that identity? The article chronicled the university’s efforts to expand its map in terms of status and standing under the leadership of Chancellor Cecil Stanton. The piece was a real commentary on how a university is defined; by the ambitions of a Chancellor who has a personal goal or by the regional and national mission you have. Or is there room for both?

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Day 28 – College Life and Television – #100DaysofHigherEd

Pretty much everyone who knows me knows that I am a fan of how pop culture portrays college life and the politics of campus. And there is no shortage of media which focuses on college and how it is presented to the world. Today’s blog post will focus on this very interesting and wide subject. Please note, this is a massive universe so there is zero chance I will get to every show or television angle.

But let’s start at the beginning for me. The first time I was made aware of college life on TV was the show Family Ties and my personal hero Alex P. Keaton played by Michael J. Fox working to get into college and his years at college during the show. I feel like Alex was my college gateway drug. From then on, I wanted to go to college. So, when the girls from the Facts of Life went to college, I followed them too. And then game changer in the 1980s. When Denise Huxtable, played by Lisa Bonet went off to fictional Hillman College. This show hit at just the moment I too was getting ready to go to college.

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