Inclusive Assessment

Last summer, while collaborating with a colleague to write an assessment report, she started to talk to me about concepts she was learning in her Ph.D program. As we are both on this journey, we often share our successes and struggles in this area. This time was different. This time, she was teaching me. Specifically, she was teaching me about Critical Theory. As we worked on the report and I listened to her talk, she paused for a moment and said, “You know, you really do this well in your assessment practice”. Really? What do you mean by that?

This colleague challenged me to think about the approaches I took to make assessment work more inclusive. Creating spaces for participant agency, taking collaborative approaches to assessment work, employing diverse methodological approaches and considering my own positionality and subjectivity in this work are all approaches supported by the core ideas in Critical Theory.

This was one of those moments as a practitioner where I just needed to go home, have a glass of wine, and reflect on the knowledge this incredible person had just shared with me.

We gave a presentation on Critical Approaches to Assessment at the North Carolina Independent Colleges & Universities conference and, although it went well, it fell flat. This was so much more than just dis-aggregating the data. As I started to dig more into this topic a colleague shared this fantastic post about Inclusive Assessment and recently, the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment shared an occasional paper called Equity and Assessment: Moving Towards Culturally Responsive Assessment. Months after the initial presentation and a lot of reflection later, I am so excited to share that Joe Levy and I will be presenting at NASPA as one of two Assessment, Evaluation, and Research Sponsored Programs on: Using Critical Theory to Inform Assessment Practice for Equitable Outcomes.

How do you weave new ideas into your practice? In what was do you work towards equitable outcomes for the populations you serve?

Join us at NASPA and stay tuned for an upcoming series of posts on inclusive assessment.


Finding Calm

Today I am home from work to get our new (tank-less) water heater installed and to pay the man who is coming to power wash our house (which is white…in the south… with all this pollen… so now technically it’s a weird shade of yellow/greenish I guess, but not for long!). As I await the arrival of company, I started drafting a list of “things I could do today”. Slowly, my list got longer, single lines were being used for multiple “to-do” items, I could feel my breathing get shallower, my stomach starting to tighten, and my calmness and stillness start to seep away and be replaced by a sense of anxiety. Oh my God, can I get all this done?!? While this was happening, a small voice in the back of my mind said, “pause”… and I listened. I stopped and thought to myself, my time and energy are precious, finite, and valuable and I get to choose how I use them. Pushing the list aside, I pulled out my journal and started to write down what I was thinking and feeling, trying to capture the sense of calm, anxiety, and awareness happening simultaneously. Already, my calm is coming back and my stomach is starting to relax.

Currently, I am reading The Gifts of Imperfection Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown. In the present chapter, she talks about being anxiety-aware and owning that anxiety can be a reality, but it doesn’t have to be a lifestyle, which leads me to ask, how do you find your way back to calm?This morning was a breakthrough for me in that, rather than getting wrapped up in the productivity whirlwind, I paused and gave myself some space to think about the emotional and physical things I was feeling. This allowed me to find my way back to calm.

One lesson I have learned is that to find calm, we have to value calm. For me, valuing calm looks like this…

  • Get some perspective. Does this really matter? As Brene Brown states, “Do we even have all the information we need to make a decision or form a response?” Someone outside my head and outside my immediate context can often provide valuable and much needed perspective.
  • Breathe first. When someone comes to me with something difficult, or says something challenging, my first reaction needs to be to take a deep breath. After this, get the facts, process, and then form a response or make a decision.
  • Don’t waste time reacting to what I can’t control. The reality of life is that some people are blessings and some people just act shitty. I can’t control people, but I can control who I build lasting relationships with, which opinions and voices I value, and who I trust.
  • Practice calm before the storm hits. For me, this looks like yoga, meditation, deep breathing, and practicing awareness through reflection and dialogue with others who are on their own whole-hearted journey. It involves not being a chronic multitasker, focusing on one thing at a time, and creating quiet space for myself (specifically, on the way home from work). Having a collection of images, sounds, songs, and quotes centered on the theme of calm may also be something I try in the near future, starting with this picture…


How do you cultivate and find calm before, during, and after difficult situations? Do you have a mantra you use to remain calm? Are their quotes, songs, sounds, or images that bring you back to a sense of calm? 

A Year Focused on Practicing Kindness

We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.” – Brené BrownThe Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

If you can be anything be kind

Often times, I am so internally driven to be better, do better, work harder, aim higher. This year, I have so many opportunities and adventures planned. Some are more widely known than others. We are traveling to Greece for three weeks this January. In January, I also find out if I am admitted to a joint M.S./Ph.D program. April will bring the joy of a niece.  We will travel around the country again. After becoming more resilient and taking the Brene Brown class, I understand the love I am capable of giving and the love I deserve and I can’t wait to give and get more of each.  I’ve also learned how to be kinder and more compassionate towards myself. A lesson I badly needed to learn. The year 2013, introduced me to my30th year of life and was an excellent teacher on love, family, resilience, and culture. Life is really, really good.

Rather than focusing on the usual, internal motivations, in 2014, I want to focus externally through being kind. I will share kindness,

26 Acts of Kindness doacts of kindness, and recognize kindness when it happens. Similar to Becca’s joy jar, I want to keep a jar and journal of the acts of kindness I see or contribute this year. Kind/kindness will be my #oneword2014. Choosing this word was very difficult. I ruminated on bold, kind, move (so much traveling & running planned this year), adventure, joy, wholehearted, dream, connect, and grow. So many great words to describe how I want to be at the end of 2014, but many of them were internal. Life has been good, and I want to give back. I am not an unkind person, but the last time I checked, the world and everyone in it could benefit from more kindness. Kindness is free. Kindness is always the right thing to do. Kindness is something we are all capable of giving.

One thing that really draws me to this word is that there are endless ways to be kind to ourselves and to others. As I travel down this path of being kind and sharing kindness, I will share my experiences here with you and I would love to hear about your experiences with kindness too!

No Act of Kindness is Ever Too Small

Becoming Resilient in 2013

Twelve months ago, rather than a list of resolutions, I picked one word to describe how I would be at the end of 2013. My one word for this year was resilient. I set the course and knew what I wanted. At the time, I had no idea how far I would come and my road map was blurry. As I approached the year, I was intentional about where I wanted to go, but open to how I arrived at destination resilience. The truth is that, much like life and happiness, becoming resilient will be a life long process. I’m happy to say I have taken more than a few steps in the right direction on this journey. A few people and experiences were instrumental along my path to learning to be more resilient and I’ve taken some time to capture them here.

Running. Setting goals for myself and growing, stretching, and reaching these goals consistently reminded me what I am capable of physically. Getting sick when being within arms length of a big running goal physically and emotionally set me back. Knowing that I am able to bounce back the second my sneakers hit the pavement, has been a significant contributor to my ability to be more resilient. Running has been a great teacher. I recently read a book on the life-long lessons of running (thanks Amy!); resilience has been my most powerful and valuable lesson.

Open, honest, driven, and courageous people. Melissa gave me the courage to be honest with myself and the courage to reach realistic goals. Lisa taught me that not reaching the goals is not the same as failure. Amy taught me to be realistic with myself while still reaching for the stars and setting the bar high. Evan reminded me in tough situations to ask, “How can I be resilient in this situation?” The women from WLI reminded me dream big and work doggedly towards these dreams. My dogs taught me that some playtime and genuine love and kindness can help me bounce back from even the crummiest of days. Hallie taught me to ask for help, trust in the goodness of others, and the importance of staying centered during the commotion of life. Amber challenged me to believe in my skill set, give self doubt the boot, and know what is important to me professionally. It was one of these same individuals that encouraged me to participate in the next significant experience of cultivating resilience.

We don't meet people by accident they cross our paths for a reason

The Gifts of Imperfection Oprah Life Course with Brene Brown had a profound impact. An entire section of this creative and reflective course was dedicated to cultivating resilience. The course focused on being kind and compassionate to myself and others. So many of the creative exercises in this class allowed me to reflect and develop a resilient mindset.

Courage Compassion and Connection will be my constant companions.

Resilience has meant crawling out of the hole when I feel miserable and bouncing back rather than laying flat. Resilience has meant knowing I’m never in this life alone. I can withstand cruelty, bullying, and hatefulness and still love and thrive. It means continuing to run, trusting my abilities, nurturing and cultivating amazing relationships, being kind, and dreaming big. Running, connecting, and growing have been instrumental in becoming my one word 2013.

Did you become or work towards your one word? How?

10 Days and Counting!

In 10 days (and counting) I will turn 30.  This is the fastest year I can remember living. With less than two weeks to go to finish my goals, I’ve come a long way. Life has brought some surprises and adventures and it is time reevaluate my goals and explore what can be accomplished in the next few days. Few things remain on my list, which is really exciting, some goals I have compromised on, and others will just not happen.

Traveling around the state, the country, and internationally has definitely been a theme this year. I’ve traveled to France andTravel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer Italy, spoken and read the languages in each country, hiked Pilot Mountain, and had the most amazing chocolate and sangria in Ashville, North Carolina. I also said farewell, and I love you, to someone I love and have lost.

Nurturing, health, and creativity have also been key aspects of life this year. The back yard of our home was filled all summer with fresh herbs, hydrangeas, and a Myer Lemon tree that I adore. Tapping into creativity through crafting, painting, and drawing has reminded me to laugh and play more.  Making delicious and creative homemade ice creams (port and plum was my favorite) and homemade pasta that would make the Italians proud were highlights of the summer and fall. Physically, I ran a 10K in January and took boxing lessons. I also recently tried hot yoga!

Along these same lines, becoming more resilient and not being so hard on myself will be a lifelong journey, and another blog post all together, but this is the one goal I am the most proud of working toward.

I am enough

Professionally, I attended NASPA for the first time and found a home in a professional association and the heartwarming and intelligent people who represent it. Last week, I leaned fully into the experience of the Women’s Leadership Institute, which led to memories and connections that will last a lifetime. This year was also a very successful year for publications. The goal was to publish one article; I authored or co-authored three instead. I’ve helped to make the world a better place and helped to make someone’s wish/goal come true.

Along the way this year, I’ve needed to compromise on some goals. With #52in52, audio books have been a great investment, but they are not necessarily the books I truly enjoy. Recently, I topped 39 books and am still hopeful I will come close to, or reach, 52 books. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to time off at the holiday. Each book read is reviewed on Goodreads. I did not go white water rafting, but I did work towards conquering my fear of water by jumping off a boat into a lake (terrifying) and swimming around the boat. Evan was my champion during this experience. His giant smile and outstretched hands made me want to stay in the water as long as I could without letting my fear get the best of me. This was huge and I’m really proud of myself for doing this. Maybe, in a few years, I will work up the courage to water ski. Financially, we did save a good deal of money; however, I was given the opportunity to travel to Greece for three weeks in January, so I will be spending my money on that instead! So instead of investing the money, I am learning about investing through reading web articles, setting up a mock portfolio in Google Finance, and, of course, talking to Evan.

Finally, some goals are just not going to happen.  One goal I had this year was to answer the question of weather or not I wanted to pursue a Ph.D. The answer is yes, and as fate would have it, I found an excellent program right down the road The reader lives a thousand livesthree weeks ago. The deadline for application is December 15th. This is one of the reasons I need to comprise some of my goals. Reading 52 books in 52 weeks may not happen, because for the last three weeks the only thing I have been reading is the GRE prep book (I took the test today). Journaling, reflecting, and blogging may not be reached (although I think I will be very close) because I will be writing a letter of interest, editing a writing sample, and updating my resume. I will not be blogging my way through Empowering Women in Higher Education and Student Affairs, but am half way through reading it. I hit the seven mile mark in training for a half marathon and got an upper respiratory infection that stopped me in my tracks for about three weeks. On Thanksgiving, I ran for the first time in weeks and it went well, but I will not run 13.1 miles this year. I will run it next year and am investigating several half marathons to sign up for!

Looking back on this post, I can’t help but smile at the spatial comparison of what I have accomplished this year and what goals will not be reached, or are still in progress.  One of my favorite parts of this journey, and my story of 2013, are the people I connected with and kept with me along the way. There have been countless words of wisdom, uplifting “you’ve got this” moments, and discussions around goals, life, and work with some of the most amazing people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing.  I am proud of myself for the goals reached this year and the experience has been so much more enriched by the people along the way. If 29 is this damn good, I welcome 30 with open arms, a giant smile, and anticipation of new adventures, dreams, relationships and reads.

What was your biggest success this year? What goals are you the most proud of? Who supported, affirmed, lifted, or helped to transformed you (#wlsalt) along the way? 

Women’s Leadership Institute Reflections from Day 1

Yesterday’s travel is a blur at this point. My flight from was Charlotte was delayed and I was the one who reserved a shuttle for a bunch of people I’ve never met before…(points for connecting before even getting to the conference!) who were now waiting on me to get to Jacksonville so we could get to WLI. Although I’ve known Randi Purvis and Anne Stark for less than 2 days, I’m grateful for the them and that they waited for me. Haley, thank you too! So lesson one of WLI started well before the conference and although I knew the women I would meet would be rock stars, now, I had conformation.

After arriving, we quickly got ready and headed to the opening reception. This is where I had my first epiphany. While working my way from table to table getting freshly made pasta, olives, and ordering wine, I noticed something. I kept stepping out of the way of the employees who were diligently ensuring that everything was running smoothly. Each time I did this, the employee would look pointedly, but nicely, at me and wait for me to pass. The message hit me like a ton of bricks: This is your experience and we are here to make sure it is flawless. You go. Even as I write this, I feel like I’m not adequately capturing the sensation. I realized that I am constantly compensating for others. Allowing them a turn without taking my own. IWhat it is okay to compromise do this at home as well by contorting myself around the kitchen to not trip on the dogs or run into my partner with a pot of boiling water. I don’t own the space I occupy. I give my space up and few examples come to mine. When I don’t have time to “visit” but a colleague wants to talk. When I don’t actually want to give someone a hug, but they hug me anyway. When I need a few minutes to myself to breathe, but my mom or a friend or my partner or my dogs, really want my attention. I give up my space. I compromise my space and my needs.

Brene Brown talks about setting boundaries as one of the healthiest and bravest things we can do. Think about it, it’s hard work. Will you reject me or be angry if I say no? If I don’t hug you? If I say I can’t talk right now because I’m swimming in amazing data? Am I being selfish if I ask for space from my family and friends? Setting boundaries (and saying no) is difficult, but I need to do it to create balance and reclaim my space.

Dont compromise yourselfNow that I have realized this about myself, that I compromise and sacrifice my space, a couple of things need to happen.

First, thank you to the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island employee team for teaching me this remarkable and life-long lesson.

Second, I need to catch myself doing this, and stop. So, to the women at #WLI13, if you catch me, call me out. Please do it with love though, I’m a work in progress.

Third, if you do this, or have suggestions for how to stop, I would love to hear from you.

Goals for attending the 2013 Women’s Leadership Institute

In eight short days, I finally have the opportunity to participate in an experience I’ve been waiting to engage in since 2009. I’m attending the 2013 Women’s Leadership Institute in Amelia Island, Florida. So many remarkable women have shared their experiences and reflections on this institute and I will be joining the list of participants just shy of my 30th birthday! To make the most of this experience, I’m mapping some goals for the experience.

  1. Connect: This is, without a doubt, the most important part of this experience to me, the opportunity to connect with other women. Building relationships across the table and the country. I cannot wait to see familiar and new faces and develop relationships.

We don't meet people by accident they cross our paths for a reason

  1. Say yes to everything/Go with it: I don’t need to know the plan. I don’t need to worry about anything. Say yes to each opportunity, and go with it.
  2. Think towards the future: There are multiple opportunities to talk about career navigation and  mapping. These conversations mimic  discussions with my family, spouse, supervisor, and mentors. Talking to women who are thinking about their future experiences, have traveled down their own paths, and are willing to share their experiences  will be invaluable to me as I consider future career options, Ph.D programs, and expanding family.
  3. Have a plan for following up with people I meet before I get there. Writing thank you cards, sharing articles related to different interest, and following up at one, three, and six months intervals are a part of this plan.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit scared. Investing and focusing on myself (holistically) is a challenge and one of the reasons I am attending this institute. This experience calls on women to dig deep, share, and bring their authentic selves to the table. This is part of the attraction. I can’t wait.