We are officially at the start of the new school year. New Student Orientation began yesterday and our first year students will be participating in convocation today. As I start another school year, I am again reminded of my 2014 theme, wellness. I direct a peer mentor program, and I expressed to them that one of my goals for them this year (as it is with all of the students that I supervise) is to emphasize the practice of balance and wellness. A student’s well-being is one of my priorities as I recognize they are juggling their academics, involvement, job(s), social life, and family life. As my colleagues are wrapping up RA training, Orientation leader training, and the on-boarding of our new staff and graduate assistants, I hope that we can continue to create a culture where the well-being of students and staff are prioritized. I know I’m not the only one in the profession that believes in this philosophy, and there is still so much work to be done in order to change this culture and dismantle the structures that are inherently limiting our well-being in student affairs.

I do NOT believe in training that is from 8 am to 8 pm and on the weekends. For students and staff, our jobs are not 100% of our lives – even if it’s only a “week or two” commitment.

I do NOT believe in training that has built in “free time” and then giving participants a task list where the only time they can accomplish it is during this so-called “free time.”

I do NOT believe in training sessions that are 3 hours long. Topics can be covered in 90 minutes or less and weave it throughout the training, rather than blocking it in to a specific time. No one can sit and pay attention for 3 hours straight, no matter how interactive the material.

I do NOT believe in meetings just to meet. Enough said on this one.

I do NOT believe in mandatory attendance at trainings and then all you provide is unhealthy food. Provide healthy options and energy-boosting snacks rather than sugary products that are draining.

I do NOT believe in a training model where students and staff “stay up all night” to accomplish tasks (especially things like skits or door decs) and it’s normal. 

I do NOT believe in systems where people who are on-call stay up until 4 or 5 am to finish writing an incident report and then have to go into work/school the next morning at 8 am and it’s normal. 

I do NOT believe in the glorification of busy and awarding people for time spent in the office.

I am being critical, and not just for the sake of complaining and pointing out everything that is wrong in our profession but because I want to be part of the solution. I want to contribute to the change in student affairs where we don’t have students and staff burn out, where we don’t have staff leave the profession, and where we don’t have students and staff sacrifice other parts of their well-being just for their jobs.

I DO BELIEVE that wellness and balance* are achievable. (*I use the term balance loosely since I know that looks differently for everybody).

I DO BELIEVE that the well-being of students and staff matter. Our lives matter and we matter.

I DO BELIEVE that we can create structures that support the wellness of students and staff.

I DO BELIEVE that we can provide trainings that are stimulating, impactful, informational, and one where everyone feels well-rested and ready to engage.

I DO BELIEVE in rewarding productivity and creating a results-only work environment.

I DO BELIEVE that we can change the culture in our profession towards wellness.

I DO BELIEVE that we can be and do better.

I know I’m not alone, and I hope to find other professionals who buy into this philosophy and who also BELIEVE. Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts with me: @jessikachi or jessika.chi@gmail.com!

#SAFailsForward – From a Multicultural Affairs Perspective


As many people have pointed out in the #SAFailsForward initiative, we need to reframe our concept of failure. It’s OK to fail. Truly. It’s through failing that we learn, grow, and develop. Yet, the fear of failure continues to hold people back. One area in which I see this consistently is the lack of engagement with diversity and cultural competency education – because people fear that they have or will “fail” in these conversations.

Working in multicultural affairs, I see time and time again a hesitancy to engage in the dialogue because people are too afraid of doing and/or saying the “wrong” things. I often hear “I don’t know what to say” or “I don’t want to make a mistake.” It’s OK to make mistakes! It’s OK to “fail.” It’s actually part of the process. We all make mistakes – I know I do! We all sometimes do and say the wrong things, even diversity and social justice educators. We are in the profession of education because at our core, we are life-long learners and we value learning. So, we shouldn’t hide, duck, ignore, or brush off these opportunities to learn. We need to take RISKS and ENGAGE in the conversation because to not engage in diversity and cultural competency education is not an option. If we are afraid to fail, we will keep failing forever.

For those who are afraid to fail in this area:

1) Have confidence in your ability to engage in cultural conversations. Identity and culture play a critical role in the work that we do with students. We all have intersecting identities – so let’s talk about them! Speak from your experience and tell your truths and be willing to listen, understand, and learn from the experiences of others. What’s there to be afraid of? You can’t fail at BEING YOU.

2) It’s a process – give yourself, and others, grace. I meant it when I said that failure is part of the process, and the process is all that matters. There aren’t any “right” outcomes or answers. So know that we are all learning together and committed to supporting each other through this journey.

3) Cultural competency doesn’t just build overnight. You don’t get competent by just attending one training so continue to engage in on-going opportunities. Your competency, confidence, and capacity will continue to build up over time.

And a couple thoughts for my fellow diversity and social justice educators that encounter this issue:

1) Part of the reason why people are afraid to say or do the “wrong” thing is because some people approach this work by policing others and letting them know what they just said or did was offensive without explaining why. If you approach this work from an elitist or expert model, it will shut people down and make them not want to even engage in the conversation. This work is not about policing people’s actions or words; instead, it’s about getting people to understand the issues and how they can be a part of the change.

2) Invite everyone to the conversation. Sometimes we don’t know who our allies will be or sometimes we’ve already made up our minds on who is or isn’t an ally. Don’t assume and pre-judge people – risk asking. You never know. Your invite can go a long way in making those who might hesitate out of fear of failing feel included and valued in the conversation.

3) Engage with all students about issues of diversity. As Gwen Dungy said at the NASPA Multicultural Institute, “we are failing our students, all of our students, if we are just letting students of Color hide out in multicultural affairs offices.” Lee Mun Wah also emphasizes that we are failing our White students when we only focus our efforts on our students of Color without educating all students about issues of diversity and social justice. Everyone should have the opportunity to build their cultural competency.

4) Continue to share with others moments where you have “failed.” Part of the beauty of #SAFailsForward is to show that we all at some point have “failed” and it’s how we bounce back and learn from that experience that matters. This is especially true in diversity education work. It puts people at ease if you are willing to be vulnerable too and share moments where you’ve said or done the wrong things and how you responded to those situations.

People might say it’s uncomfortable to talk about issues like racism, sexism, heterosexism, etc. on campus. Well, I say, it’s more uncomfortable to live with it and have it go unaddressed. We must keep moving forward in the areas of social justice. We must keep failing forward – don’t let the fear of failure paralyze us. Who’s in?

Connect with me and share your thoughts @jessikachi

I’m a Professional Badass & Professional Down Time Taker


As the academic year is wrapping up and we are in the throws of what student affairs professionals know to be as “April,” it’s hard to find any down time. Yes, work-life balance or rhythm or whatever you want to call it is a larger issue within our profession. We can recognize it, discuss it, or even complain about it all we want but until we seriously start putting structures into place that supports balance, we will always continue to struggle with this.

Recently, I attended the Oregon Women in Higher Education conference and in the WISE WOMEN panel, Robin H. Holmes, Vice President at the University of Oregon talked about being a professional badass and a professional down time taker. There is nothing wrong with being great at your job or putting your 110% into your work – if it’s not also at the expense of your wellness.

We have such a hard time rewarding ourselves or even allowing ourselves to take some down time. Even when we aren’t at work, we are thinking about work. It’s understandable why – we care about our students and our students don’t just need us 9 to 5. And during “peak” times (see: April, October) when responsibilities start to pile up, it’s hard to find down time. Therefore, I strongly believe that we need to create structures and habits that allow us to be both a professional badass and a professional down time taker.

I’ll admit, I kick ass at my job. It’s easy to be a professional badass when I love what I do, I believe in what I do, and I do it well. I am also surrounded by professional badasses who care about supporting student development and who still find time to create initiatives that leave a positive impact on the field of student affairs and higher education. It’s through the support of these professional badasses that I am also a professional down time taker. I have no problem taking time for myself and practicing habits that keep me balanced and well. In reflecting on how I’ve been able to manage this, I’ve come up with…

A Quick Guide to being a Professional Badass and Professional Down Time Taker

1. Be productive, not “busy.” Everyone is busy and being busy doesn’t always mean you are productive. As long as you are productive, it doesn’t matter how much time you put into it. Stop glorifying busy and reward productivity instead.

2. Give yourself and others grace. Don’t feel guilty for taking down time and don’t judge others for taking some too. It’s easy to compare your schedule to others and feel like you have to keep up or feel like you are doing “more” than everyone else – recognize that everyone’s schedules are different, and that’s OK. Burn out affects your personal wellness and your job efficacy. Don’t let the fear of others judging you for taking some personal time stop you from doing what it takes to keep you well. Conversely, don’t judge others for taking some time – we all know what a pain it is to work with someone who is burned out!

3. Add in breaks to your schedule. This is an easy structural fix. Even if the breaks are short (getting up and walking around, grabbing a snack, or a quick stretch), it’ll give you some time to breathe and step away from work related stress. Laughing helps too so chat up somebody on your way to the water fountain or read a funny buzzfeed article to get your mind off of work for a second. The work will always be there – it’s OK to step away (physically and emotionally) from it for a few minutes.

4. Create or rethink daily habits that can contribute to your wellness. An hour workout, a 30 minute run, reading for 15 minutes before going to bed, a 20 minute shower, a monthly mani-pedi, a weekly t.v. show…those are all times that can count as down time! Use it!

5. Make time for your important relationships. Invest in the people you love and care about just as much as you invest in your students. Don’t let work take away from the valuable time you could be spending with the important people in your life. These relationships will help keep you balanced because they’ll remind you that there are some things more important than work…and that is the people in your life.

Ultimately, we have to be good role models. We expect students to achieve and perform at a high level and we expect them to be balanced and stay well. We have to be willing to do that too. So, I am a Professional Badass and a Professional Down Time Taker. Are you??

Follow me at @jessikachi

2014: Wellness

"The part can never be well unless the whole is well." -Plato
“The part can never be well unless the whole is well.” -Plato

My theme for 2014 is Wellness. I’m taking (more) ownership of my wellness this year because I can’t afford not to. I only have one body, one mind, one heart, one spirit, and one soul – and I need to make sure all of these parts of me are well so that I can live my best life and help others live their best life too.

One of my resolutions for the 2014 year is to commit to blogging because it will improve my writing and my wellness. I have been blogging on and off for about 10 years now, and it’s time I committed to this platform. As Suey Park recently pointed out to me, writing IS an activist practice and a creative intervention! Blogging will strengthen my voice and give me a (digital) space to share my story and build community. It’s about time I followed through with this commitment.

Besides committing to blogging, other resolutions I’ve made to improve my wellness are:

+ Give gratitude daily. This has been easy as I’ve downloaded an app that allows me to reflect on my gratitude(s) for the day. Giving gratitude positively impacts my happiness, improves my spirit, and allows me to pay it forward.

+ Run a half marathon. This is for improving my physical wellness. Along with training for a half marathon comes eating healthier, sleeping better, being more attentive to my body’s needs, and having more energy overall to be productive and effective. Running has always been a challenge for me and it’s been inspiring to overcome the idea that I “can’t run.” Running just makes you feel better (especially as I continue to meet my goal miles)!

+ Uplift women. Period. As I’m becoming more comfortable with my feminist identity, I want to continue to empower other women. Women have a tendency to compete with each other and bring each other down. We are overly critical of successful women, and in a society where success and likeability are negatively correlated for women, we need to encourage and foster each other’s intellect, skills, and success. Their success is my success. Our liberations are intertwined.

That’s it. Here’s to a year of wellness! 4 resolutions to improve my mind, body, heart, spirit, & soul. What were your resolutions this year?

Follow me @jessikachi