Sunday, April 21

We Are All Vibrators

I follow Marie Forleo because she's hilarious and shares great advice for people interested in becoming entrepreneurs and basically rocking out an awesome life. She hosts Q&A Tuesday's on Marie TV and every week she tackles a pertinent topic and/or question from her subscribers. I had fallen behind in watching her weekly videos but today I watched a few to catch up. Turns out that she recently posted on a topic related to the fact that our new McNair scholars will be presenting in just a few days - overcoming fear and shyness.

Click HERE to check out the short video. Scroll down to hit play.

Now, I realize that not everyone might feel as if they are shy, but I would venture to guess that most people (myself included) feel a bit of anxiety (or fear) before speaking in front of others. You have another practice session tomorrow - I invite you to check out this video by Marie to gather up three tips that just might help you reframe how you feel about presenting. The goal: be your best no matter what you are feeling.

Here's the gist:
  • You are a vibrator. Your body is a mass of atoms. Stop associating your feelings (like nervousness or anxiety) with something bad. Just recognize that we all vibrate with different feelings and emotions - it's not good and it's not bad. By just experiencing what we are experiencing - without putting a label on it - we can simply experience it and move on. Easy peasy.
  • Nickname your vibes. This one cracks me up but I think it can work. Instead of putting a name to your feelings like "I'm nervous" or "I'm scared" - call it something else - something light and funny. Josh uses the example of "shushi" - "I'm feeling shushi" - that's it! It reduces any negativity that might be associated with it and simply accepts that we are vibrating and feeling a bit of shushi at the moment. What name will you come up with?
  • Ride it, don't hide it. Take any vibrations you might be experiencing when it comes to presenting and just see it as creative fuel - it's something that's going to propel you into action. Let that energy empower you instead of trying to downplay it. Try to speak authentically from whatever place you are finding yourself. Both Marie and Josh stress that if you allow yourself to feel whatever it is that you are feeling fully, it usually only lasts for seven to twelve seconds. That's all.
The bottom line - reframes can be really powerful in our lives.

Here's the challenge that Marie poses:
  1. Tell us the sensation/emotion, that you struggle with most, that you would like to "overcome."
  2. Describe the emotion in terms of vibrating atoms. What does it feel like?
  3. Nickname your vibes and commit to riding it and not hiding it.
>>>>Be sure to click on this week's ACTIONABLE to complete the challenge.

Try this out when you practice your presentation this week and put it to use on Thursday at the symposium!

Monday, April 15

"The Helpers"

I am the President of the Student Social Work Association. Annually, we pick a location, drive there, and volunteer. This year, I chose Washington DC. I rented a 15 passenger van, 3 hotel rooms, and drove 11 social work majors down to volunteer. We hopped in the van on Thursday morning and drove 12 hours.

On Friday, we departed the hotel at 9:00am and went to work with an organization I came into contact with via email, called Friendship Place. This program does a variety of things, but mostly it is a non-profit organization with a grant from the VA to provide homeless veterans with housing. Half of our group cleaned an apartment for a veteran with some hoarding issues. The other half of us were expected to move a homeless veteran into a new apartment. Friendship Place provides intensive services for 3 months. The first month, they pay the veteran's rent. The second month, they pay half. By the third month, they expect the veteran to be self-sufficient because of the budgeting and other skills they have been provided (but Friendship Place is there for backup).

We were on our way to meet the veteran when the landlord called us and told the coordinator that he was misled and no longer wanted the veteran in the apartment because the rent was not guaranteed to be paid after 3 months. It was literally SO sad. We had to give the homeless veteran the bad news. Instead of reacting negatively, he still wanted to meet us (the student volunteers). He kept saying "I want to meet the helpers". The veteran had the best attitude and was so grateful that we wanted to help him. He was sweet, kind and yet...homeless. It was a true social work experience that I am grateful, yet sad, about having. Because we could not move him into the apartment, we went to the drop-in center that Friendship Place runs. At the drop-in center, homeless people can come Monday-Friday for food, showers and clothing. We sorted clothing donations and talked with clients for the remainder of our time. Once again, we meet people in awe of our service and were so thankful. I could not believe that after all of their troubles, these people took the time to thank us and wanted to hear about our lives. One man is trying to prepare for his daughter's wedding; she is returning from the Peace Corps.

Our next project on Friday was with an organization called New Communities for Children. It is an after school program that runs Mon-Fri 3:30pm-7:00pm. It is completely free and it helps children succeed both by providing school help, child care and a place for children to go after school to stay out of trouble. There were kids from kindergarten to high school. Friday was a fun day, so we got to play games with the children, take them to the park, and play basketball. Our goal was to promote positive peer interactions. The response was overwhelming. The children clung to us, took our pictures, cried when we left, and left a mark on my heart. I always thought I wanted to be a rural social worker, but these urban kids really tugged at my heart strings and I could see myself working in a similar area.

On Saturday, we completed our last volunteer project. We went to the community swimming pool and worked with an organization called KEEN. The children served are developmentally or cognitively impaired. The organization attempts to keep these kids healthy through exercise. Two CMU students were assigned to each kid and we were instructed to play with them in the pool and just have fun with them. I was assigned to a 10 year old boy with autism. We played in the pool for two hours with the kids. Not only does this community engagement benefit the children, but the parents receive a well-deserved break as well.

Our group of 12 students took off for DC with nothing more than emails from organizations accepting our plea to let us volunteer. We took initiative and gave back. We put our lives on hold to help others. But as much as the children and veterans benefited, we benefited as well. We learned what it was like to be "helpers". We brought empowerment to these individuals. We showed DC the skills we spent years learning at CMU.

I got back to handfuls of emails and assignments I need to complete. I need to register for MSW/PhD classes tomorrow and I have no idea how. I need to accept my Dean's Fellowship still. I need to find an apartment. I need to email my adviser..... But none of my needs are as great as those whom I was able to serve this weekend.

Sunday, April 14

Tell Us About Your Research

This time of year can get a bit stressful for new scholars as they get ready to present their research proposals to their faculty research mentors. They've been working on this all semester so it's a real milestone and accomplishment along their McNair journeys. What's great is that they have an awesome "trio of support" in the form of Dr. Brooke Harrison, Dr. Shelly Hinck and Ms. Maureen Harke. These tremendous women have the scholars' best interests in hand and are ready to help formulate, massage and fine-tune the inner workings of their research presentations. They are also here to grow confidence. I personally love seeing our scholars evolve in their presentation abilities and styles between now and the fall when they present their actual research findings.

Here are some thoughts and recommendations that I would like to offer:
  • Take full advantage by being prepared to practice your stuff.
  • Let yourself shine!  We want to see your excitement - tell us why your work is important.
  • Be sure to hit on the three most important points about your work - (1) give us context, (2) tell us what you are going to do and (3) what you are hoping to find.
  • Less is more - don't overload the audience with content - stick to major points.
  • Be professional but try to be relaxed too.
  • Your audience is typically rooting for you and wants to hear what you have to say.
  • Bust it out and put forward your best effort, but realize that this is PRACTICE and that in the end it really doesn't matter. Does that seem counter intuitive? Should I not be saying things like this?! Perhaps. But, it's my personal philosophy that you've probably heard before - we want all of you to do a great job and you will. This is just another step in the process. Outcomes don't matter that much as long as you know that you made your best effort.  Presenting can make people a little crazy (some actually stop breathing) - but the stress really isn't worth it. It's just a conversation about your work. Tell us about your research and chances are we are going to want to know more!
McNair scholars rock and you are all going to do great in your own sweet ways. Enjoy this! All of the sudden you are going to turn around and it will be time to start practicing for the fall.  :)

Sunday, April 7

Goodness Vs. Greatness

As I walked out of the newly-released Disney movie Oz: The Great and Powerful this past weekend, I was struck with how apt its core message was: aspire not to greatness, but to goodness. As a natural over-achiever, I have, as long as I can remember, wanted to achieve great things. Yet, even as I won academic scholarships and research awards, I was never content. 

Over the years, though, I have come to realize that it is when I am volunteering that I feel most at peace. Indeed, while volunteering, I feel purposeful, happy, and even inspired. Completing community service has helped me to realize that doing good in the world should not be regarded as any less of an achievement than being great. Indeed the “goodness” spread through service to others has far-reaching and lasting impacts on the individual volunteering and those they are serving: volunteering is humbling; it allows individuals to apply their knowledge, passions, and talents for the benefit of others, especially the less fortunate; it allows one to connect with others in their community; it fosters open-mindedness and acceptance of diverse populations; it allows one to “Pay It Forward”; and it can be a great way for one to gain new experiences, see new places, and be exposed to new ideas. 

McNair Scholars are truly some of the best, brightest, and most inspiring individuals I have ever met. All of you have overcome adversity of one form or another to get where you are and you have now set for yourself some very big and impressive goals. I can tell you first hand, though, how easy it is to get caught up in these goals and to (1) not make time for the seemingly "small" and non-relevant things like volunteering here and there in the community and (2) not realize that by doing good, even in small amounts here and there, we really truly are making big contributions to society and developing into the great people we want to be. :)