Mentorship: What Doc Emmett Brown & Mr. Miyagi Have Taught Me

All of you higher education professionals out there… have you ever found yourself sitting down and talking to a student about something REALLY important and offering up advice that you should PROBABLY be taking in your own life, but aren’t?  If you said no – congrats … maybe one day I’ll get there, but today – this post is dedicated specifically to just that.

Last week, I found myself doing just that.

Funny enough, I also came across this quote by the great Steven Spielberg, “The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves”.

I found myself questioning my mentor skills because I was offering advice that I wasn’t (at the moment) taking myself.  It wasn’t until I saw the Spielberg quote that someone posted that I started talking myself down from my self-proclaimed hypocritical head-spin.

Amidst the head-spin, I found myself questioning what it was to be a mentor.

Looking around today’s world there are so many ways we can mentor those around us. To use examples most people can relate to I’ll use some popular movie character mentor references (who doesn’t love movie references?).

  • Mr. Miyagi mentored the Karat Kid by using the “I say, you do” method.
  • “God” from Bruce Almighty uses the “I’m going to teach you a lesson you’ll never forget” mentor method.
  • Can’t forget the Dewey Finn (School of Rock) mentor style, which basically informs people to “fight the man” and get angry.
  • On the opposite end of the spectrum, we’ve got X-Men’s Charles Xavier  who uses the “we can be the better men to improve the world” mentor style.
  • …And what about Batman’s Alfred, using the “we fail so that we learn to succeed” mentor method?
  • The incredible John Keating (Dead Poets Society) mentor method of “seize he day and make your lives extraordinary” can never be forgotten.
  • For those Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans out there, Splinter teaches us with his mentor style to use our minds, not our bodies, to succeed.
  • Lastly, we’ve got Doc Emmett Brown, who showed us in Back to the Future that you can be totally MAD and still make a difference and mentor a kid.


What’s my point in all of this, you ask?

(Maybe you don’t- but, I’m going to tell you anyway)

There is NO SPECIFIC WAY to be a good mentor.  There is no handbook to follow and no directions to follow.  I know using movies and characters as examples can seem a little far fetched to some people – but, think about it.  Just like every movie listed above is different and every character is totally different, every student you deal with is different.  Each student learns a different way.  Each student has experienced different things in their lives, and therefor no two students learn the exact same way.

The more I thought about it, the less guilty I felt for offering the student advice that I wasn’t taking in my own life.  Why?  At the time, she needed to hear it, she was benefiting from it and she wasn’t asking what I WAS DOING, she was asking what SHE SHOULD DO.

A good mentor is honest, up front and encouraging.  The delivery method – where, when and how, will always vary.  I look back at all of the people I consider to be mentors in my life and no two were the same, no two spoke to me the same way – and yet, their teachings stay with me.  As long as you know that you are doing everything in your power to help that student grow and get to a better place, you are doing all you can do.

I have only been a professional in higher education for about 3 months, but I have learned more about myself (and students) than I thought possible in that amount of time – and I can’t wait to learn more.  I may not be a Doc Emmett Brown  or a Mr. Miyagi – but, I am determined to make a difference in student’s lives the way my mentors have in mine.

This is my life …  In Progress. 


Anyone Can Make An Impact On Anyone

Every morning I wake up to two quotes from different apps – one from “yoga quotes” and the other from “quote of the day”.  Sometimes I feel like they have nothing to do with my life, and probably never will.  Today’s, however, fit in perfectly with a recent occurrence in my life – which inspired me to write about it.

The quote: 

“Not only can you not plan the impact you’re going to have, you often won’t recognize it when you’re having it.”

Last Tuesday, I received a Facebook message from a student who worked at the Rec Center at Rowan University.  Although I was a G.A at the Student Center, I taught Zumba at the Rec Center and worked out there fairly often.  I met so many awesome, driven, inspiring and motivating students, GAs, and professional staff there.  I was lucky to be surrounded by such awesome people throughout Rowan.

image This one student in particular was a huge motivator for me.  CONFESSION: I was a cardio addict –  teaching Zumba 5-6 times a week, running on occasion, obsessed with the elliptical … that was me.  I barely touched weights and hardly dabbled in strength training.  Truth be told – I was afraid of the weight room.  I didn’t know how most of the stuff worked and I was terrified to try to use it all.  This student was a trainer, and was CONSTANTLY motivating her clients … I would see her at the gym almost every morning between 6-7 am working with all different types of people … so I decided to reach out.  Her personality was fun-loving, bubbly, inspiring and that of an all around driven trainer.  She immediately offered to help me, and within weeks had me in the weight room, comfortable with majority of the machines and had a full program set up for me.  Eventually, I wasn’t afraid to walk in the weight room on my own, and spend my entire workout strength training with the exception of a 5-10 minute warm-up.  She was a student, she was younger than me and SHE HAD A HUGE IMPACT ON ME AND THE WAY I LIVED MY LIFE.  This student went on to be offered and accept a Graduate Assistantship (which she is going to ROCK at).

I digress …

Last Tuesday, I received a FB a Facebook message from this student – part of which stated, “I know we didn’t get the chance to see each other before you or I had left, but I wanted to say thanks for everything. You’ve really been an inspiration to me. You’ve made me want to be a health advocate, GA, and positive person like you. The little things you do every day has made an impact on me and many others as well. I will continue to follow you on your journey and I hope that we can stay in touch!”

Needless to say, I was speechless (for those of you who know me, you know that doesn’t happen often).  Here I was, so grateful for the inspiration, motivation and courage this student supplied me with – and there she was thanking ME for inspiring her.  Never, in a million years, did I expect to be someone who made an impact on her.  I was so focused on my gratitude for what she taught me that I didn’t pay attention to what my words or actions did for her.

Needless to say, this has all taught me a REALLY important life lesson.  You have NO IDEA who you’re making an impact on (positive OR negative … lucky for me, this was positive).  At any given point, no matter where your head is – other people are thinking about and focusing on something completely different.  You may think that you’re walking through your day, without anyone noticing – but, in reality, you are leaving footprints wherever you go.  It’s up to YOU if those footprints will be remembered positively or negatively – and regardless of what you think, someone WILL remember something.

One of the reasons I am looking forward to being a professional in higher education is because the people surrounding you, students especially, can teach YOU just as much as you can teach THEM – and this further proved that for me.  Once again, this student has taught me an important lesson – and I could not be more grateful.

This is my life …  In Progress. 

Knowing the Difference: Want vs. Need

Recently, I had a Skype interview for a job that posed a really interesting and thought-provoking question.  I answered the question to the best of my ability and later on thought about all of the other answers I could have given (everyone does that, right?).  The question was a great one posed for higher education, but also got me thinking about certain things in life… and, who doesn’t love thought-provoking questions that encourage you to think about multiple things?

So- I figured … why not share?

The question:  Please provide us with something you feel that college students want, but don’t need and also with something college students need, but don’t necessarily want.  

During my interview I replied with an answer directed more towards Res Life, because that was the type of position I was interviewing for.  I spoke on the fact that students show up to college, often, with unrealistic thoughts of what it is like to live on a college campus because of the views that TV shows and movies provide.  Students want freedom, they want to feel like they’re able to do whatever they want, whenever they want and that they’re ready to take on the world.  In reality, I feel that students need someone there to help them transition into a new phase of their lives.  They don’t need a babysitter, or someone acting as a “helicopter” so to speak – but, people who are willing to mentor them, and help them on their way in casewantneed the get lost on the  brand new path they’re traveling – even if they don’t always want it.

Spark Notes Version:

  • Want, but don’t need = Complete freedom with no supervision
  • Need, but don’t (always) want =  Someone there to help them transition into a new phase of their lives

There are so many topics that can be brought to the table in regards to this question, in the realm of higher education.  At Rowan, one of the biggest topics of discussion when the new President was sworn in last year was that of making the campus even more focused on “Student Centeredness” than it already was.  By focusing on the students and all different types of student learners, Rowan (and all other institutions) would be giving the students what they need in order to develop skills so that they are able to have successful lives during and post-college.   By focusing on this question of want vs need in higher education, it really helps bring focus to student growth.

It was definitely an interesting question … and one I pose to the higher education community – both students and professionals.  What do you feel students want but don’t necessarily need – and vice versa?


Lessons Learned and More To Come

I’ve always been the person who says, “If you’re going to have a blog – make sure you update it regularly … keep your readers engaged!” Although offering the advice, I clearly haven’t been the person who follows that statement.  I love reading blogs, especially ones that offer great life stories and yet teach you great things at the same time (Two of my current favorites, whose posts I never miss:  Kimmi Sterner- The Fortunate Life, and Gary Baker- Between Mouth and Mind).  The two of them make me feel like I should really be updating my blog with all of my life lessons – but, I haven’t.  Until Now.

The past two years have been a total whirlwind of educational lessons, life lessons, fun and personal development – and did I mention FUN?!  I learned more about myself in these past two years of grad school, and working at a University than I have in my total 27 years of existence (okay, maybe that’s stretching it a little .. but, honestly, sometimes it feels that way).

My blog posts in the past have been fairly structured – more “here’s what happened today” instead of “here’s what I think other people could learn from my life” – which is going to change .. now.

Two and half years ago I walked into a classroom at Rowan University with the expectation that I would take some classes, earn my M.A in Higher Education Administration, find a job at a University working with students and BOOM! – life would be perfect.  In reality, that was just the base of what I was about to experience.  Life had some extra learning moments in store for me and right here, right now, I’m going to share my top 5 of those with you.  Hopefully they help someone else out!

1. Be prepared for change – ALWAYS.

I worked professionally for just about three years in the field of PR before going back to school.  When I was offered my assistantship and started working in the Student Center, I was working in the office the same way I was working in the firm.  I kept thinking things had to be short, sweet and to the point.  WRONG.  I learned as I continued on that although there are DEFINITELY deadlines in higher ed, it’s more “all about the story” than strictly PR.  Higher Ed is all about telling your story, inspiring people with your story & inspiring them to create their own story to be able to learn and grow from.  I had to work hard to change my thought process and be successful where I was working, and it wasn’t always easy – but I got there … which brings me to my second lesson.

2. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.

keep going There were so many moments over the last two and a half years that I thought I was just going to fall apart.  Returning back to school after a three-year hiatus was difficult, writing papers in APA as opposed to MLA was NOT FUN, working in a totally different field & with people who worked differently than I did proved to be a major challenge at times and it was definitely NOT always easy.  But let’s be honest here.  What in life is always easy?  Those moments that made me feel broken down, totally lost and unsure of myself made me who I am today.  The best part – none of those moments killed me! Each of those moments that made my brain feel like mush (yup, technical term) helped me learn more about myself and how to develop as a person, a student and a supervisor … and despite the momentary feeling of “lost”, I got through it all and am a better person for it.

3. For every moment that breaks you down, there are three that will build you back up. 

Just as in any job there will be days that exhaust you!  You will have had one too many meetings.  opportunityYour phone rang way too much.  People asked you the same things over and over again.  Deadlines approach way too quickly.  Departments have endless questions about events.  Someone spoke to you the wrong way and was way too rude.  Your to-do list just keeps growing.  You’re stressed out.  No one likes those days.  But something I’ve realized and will continue to focus on is that the beauty of higher ed is, if you do your job right, you’re positively impacting so many people around you.  Because of one of those repetitive questions you answered, or an event you helped plan, you made someone else’s day.  Whether it’s a parent, a student, a co-worker, a staff member, or a department head … someone else is walking away, smiling, because you helped them.  That makes it all worth it.  I’ve had some pretty crappy days, where out of nowhere I get a thank you from someone for helping make their life easier – and, honestly, it turns my day around.  Remember that when people ask for help. Just because you’re having a rough day doesn’t mean you need to make someone else miserable.   Smile, help someone out and positive karma will come back and help you out … always.

4. Show your gratitude.

I’m not talking about saying thanks when someone lets you borrow their pen (although .. you should do that too).  Hear me out.  Ogratitudever the last two years, I have come in contact with some pretty phenomenal people.  Professionals from other universities who were / are willing to help me with my resume and building my cover letter, and offering advice on staff trainings and social media strategies as well as introducing me to other connections.  I have met with and spoken with higher education professionals both at Rowan and outside of Rowan who agreed to just let me pick their brain for an hour about their journey through higher ed.  My supervisors at Rowan offered me endless advice, continuous training and amazing opportunities – all of which I was lucky to get.  What do I mean by show your gratitude?  Stay in touch with the people who were / are willing to help, let them know how grateful you are, continue to learn from them and pass on the advice you’ve been given.  The world would be a much better place if we all just showed everyone the gratitude they deserved.

5. Welcome the “learning moments”.

This was a big one for me over the last two years.  There were SO MANY learning moments.  In classes, at work, in my personal life – I’m fairly certain that the universe decided that since I decided to go back to school, I needed to learn lots of things about every aspect of my life.  Friendships became rocky, love was lost (we won’t get into that), new relationships were formed – some lasted and some didn’t, financial issues presented themselves, momentary lapses of brilliance happened in the classroom (For those of you who know me well, I know it’s tough to believe … but yes, it happened to me… HA!), supervisory skills were tested, and at times the way I reacted to situations was questioned.  I learned lots of lessons.  I learned that just because you feel a certain way about something doesn’t mean someone else has to feel the same way … and just because they don’t feel the same way, it doesn’t make them wrong.  It means you need to listen, because there’s probably something you can take away from it.  I learned that people will come into your life, some will stay and some will go … but not to worry about the ones who go, because if they were meant to be there, they’d be there – or they’ll come back in time.  I learned that just because someone is treating you poorly, it doesn’t mean you’ve necessarily done something wrong – but, instead, that they have other things going on in their life … so, to take it with a grain of salt, allow it to make you stronger, learn from it and move on.  The biggest lesson on “learning moments” that I learned is that they present themselves whenever you allow them to.  Every single moment in your life can be a learning moment, if you allow it to be – so welcome them and make the most out of them.

As I’m sitting here, typing this (taking a break from submitting endless job applications), I realize there are SO many more lessons I have learned over the last 2 years, but I figured this was a good “umbrella” list for all of them.

Spark Notes Version :

Embrace the people that surround you and the lessons they are willing to teach (or, the ones you learn from them).  You may hit some rough patches along the way, but it’s nothing you can’t get through.  Help people out and they’ll be willing to help you.  Smile, and make someone’s day – regardless of what’s going on in your own … because you CAN make a difference in someone else’s life.  Last, but certainly not least, welcome every single learning moment that presents itself in your life … without them, you won’t grow.  

Hopefully I’ll have some more sage advice for everyone in the near future :).

This is my life (and blog)…  In Progress.


Motivation Gets You Everywhere…

It’s officially been a year since I started this journey into higher education, and I have to  say, it’s been quite a ride.  Ups and downs, bumps and bruises (figuratively speaking, of course), positives and negatives (mostly positives).  I’ve learned a lot, and am still learning for sure, but something has recently become extremely apparent to me.

A little background info… school wasn’t my strongest suit as an undergrad, or previous to that, honestly.  I wasn’t a BAD student, by any means.  I was your average, care more about extra curricular activities  and having fun with friends while putting in the bare minimum for schoolwork but still getting by, type of undergrad (weren’t a lot of us?).

I was lucky. I got a job out of college, worked for about three years, and realized it was time for something new; something I truly loved to do.  I got into Grad School, landed an assistantship and currently am working with some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life.  I love my job… everything about it.  I love the classes I’m taking, the things I’m learning about and how I can easily apply it into my daily work life – it’s amazing!

Here’s the not so “happy go lucky” part.  I’M BROKE.  Every grad student, or person who has been in my shoes is laughing right now – doing the “been there, done that” dance.  I’m so lucky to have the assistantship that I have, and I am WAY better off than a lot of grad students who aren’t as lucky as I am – so I’m not complaining, so much as I’m making a blatant statement about my financial situation.

I have rent to pay, bills to pay, groceries to buy, and myself to take care of and somehow with an assistantship that gives me a bi-weekly stipend (and pays for grad school), and teaching 3 Zumba classes a week it’s still not enough.  It’s time to pick up another job.

When I came to the conclusion that I would have to pick up another job, I was slightly upset.  I kept wondering how I was going to do it all.  Today, somehow, I found some sort of clarity. Something in my head clicked, and told me exactly how I was going to do it.  Something said… the way to do it is to JUST DO IT.

I have a year left of school – in that year the classes I have left are my internship and my thesis courses.  That’s it! Please note, I use the term “that’s it” loosely, because I’m well aware of how much work is going to have to go into both of those things.  That means one more year of working a bunch of side jobs along with classes and work, and one more year of freaking out because I have to work when I probably should be in the library.  It’s only a year.  I can do a year of that!  It’s almost like being able to see where the light at the end of the tunnel is, before you get there.

In under a year I’ll be applying for jobs, hopefully landing myself back up in North Jersey or maybe even in NYC.  Maybe I’ll end up somewhere completely different, who knows!  The excitement of where this schooling and the job I have now is taking me is so empowering that having to pick up another job isn’t even phasing me as much as it once had.  I’ve accomplished so much more than I ever thought I would in the last year, and I’m so proud to be where I am – I can only imagine where the next year is going to take me.


Sure, this post was a slight rant about my financial life and where I hope to be going .. but, sometimes you’ve got to take a step back and realize what’s motivating you instead of what’s potentially holding you back.  You have to realize that you truly are the creator if your own destiny.  This is only going to push me to work harder and be more successful – it’s my time to shine (as cheesy and cliche as that may sound) … and I cant wait for more.

This is my life…  In Progress.

Goodbye 2012 – A Year In Review

Anyone else feel like 2012 flew by with no warning?


I have learned so much about myself in the past year.  Looking at the classes I’ve taken and the material I’ve learned as well as the assistantship I currently have, and the people I work with, and for, and I can’t believe this is my life.  The person I was when I was an undergrad, compared to the person I am now … what an unbelievable change (for the better, of course).  I look at the research I’ve done, and the connections I’ve made and can’t WAIT for everything else coming my way.

I started grad school in the Spring of 2012 and was told that not many people start in the Spring.  Besides the fact that I have to be in school for an extra semester, because of how the thesis / internship program is formed here, I am so happy I started when I did.  The classes I took my first semester truly prepared me for what was to come and I’m so glad I took them when I did.

What’s next?  One more semester of full educational classes, a summer class in which I get to (hopefully) complete my lit review for my thesis, and two semesters to complete my thesis and an internship.  That’s it! (That’s it?).  When I look at how fast this year has passed, I can’t imagine how fast this next one is going to go. I’m not rushing it (okay, maybe a little bit) – but i’m excited for the next step in life to start.

In the meantime, to keep me grounded, I’m beginning to think about my thesis and what I’d like to focus on.  I’m hoping to do some research on advisement and how it aids students.  So broad.. I know.. I’m working on it.  Having connections and speaking with people in higher ed is helping me narrow down my topic, and helping me concentrate on some important aspects that I might like to write about.  Any input is welcome (seriously … anything that will help spark something – no input is bad input).

A year and a half ago I was freaking out about getting into grad school.  A year ago I was freaking out about my first semester being over and waiting on grades.  Now, I have to work on finishing with a strong GPA, a killer thesis, and some awesome experience to help formulate a great resume (which is mostly PR right now).

Recent advice given to me:  Reach out to other local colleges / universities and see if you can help out on projects and gain professional experience that way.  Every little bit helps.  I’ll definitely be working on this.

This long-winded, overdue post has been brought to you by a grad student who can’t believe she’s halfway done with grad school.  I guess what they say is right… time flies when you’re having fun!

This is my life…  In Progress.



Let The Fun Begin…

As of August 1st, my Graduate Assistantship contract picked up.  The last two weeks have been a lot of learning, a lot of laughing, a lot of excitement … and a little bit of stress – but, hey, that’s all part of the job.

I can’t begin to explain the excitement I’m feeling right now.  The building managers will be moving in (pretty much, the Resident Assistants of the Student Center) on Sunday, and going through their training this week, and the remaining staff will be moving in and going through their training the week after.  I can’t wait to meet everyone!

The Pro-Staff here prides themselves on being a big family, and I’ve felt that from the people that I’ve met thus far.  The reason I decided to get started in higher education was because I was inspired by a few assistant directors at William Paterson who made me feel like I had a family at school … and I want to, one day, be able to pass that feeling on to other students.

This assistantship is right up my alley, and I can’t wait for all of the excitement and all of the challenges about to come my way.  I’m going to be busier during the next two years than I have been in a very long time… I’m so grateful for this opportunity, and I can’t wait for it all!

This is my life…  In Progress.