AACRAO President Tina Falkner challenges members to 'pay it forward' at #AACRAO18

April 24, 2018
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Incoming AACRAO President Tina Falkner shared these below remarks during the opening general session at the 2018 AACRAO Annual Meeting Business Session. View her presentation here. 

"Thank you Jim [Bouse] for your leadership this past year, thank you fellow Board members for your dedication to our organization and your willingness to look differently at how AACRAO accomplishes its mission, and most importantly, thank you fellow AACRAO members for the opportunity to serve you in a role I never anticipated holding. I am truly honored and humbled to help lead this organization that has been an essential part of the fabric of my professional life for nearly 20 years. Although there is still lots of the conference yet to come, I do hope you have already learned something new, reconnected with long-time friends, made some new friends and been reinvigorated about the work we do - I know I have.

"At least three of the last four presidents have mentioned the language in the script that says “brief remarks” - with the help of a creative and wise friend, who know that as an introvert, public speaking is one of my least is favorite things - my remarks first consisted of:

"'We are going to kill it this year...hold on tight...we have an exciting year on the horizon. Peace out!!' (and then a mic drop) But I thought better of just doing that as I did want to share some of my thoughts with you.

"Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said 'The function of education is to teach one to think intensely and think critically...Intelligence plus character, that is the goal of true education.' Although somewhat different, I believe these words also describe why we hold these kinds of meetings. Specifically, we are doing what we want our students to do - expand our minds, look at problems in new and unique ways and share our knowledge with others. We all hope and expect our campuses to do the same thing. A recent closing speaker at my state and regional called it ‘putting new jelly in our donut’ - not sure I quite get the analogy but I do think these meetings keep us fresh.

"In the book The Road to Character by author David Brooks, he explores the concepts of resume virtues and eulogy virtues. To quote him: 'The resume virtues are the ones you list on your resume, the skills that you bring to the job market and that contribute to external success. The eulogy virtues are deeper. They’re the virtues that get talked about at your funeral, the ones that exist at the core of your being - whether you are kind, brave, honest or faithful; what kind of relationships you formed.'

"Most of us would say that the 'eulogy virtues' are more important than the resume virtues, but I confess for long stretches of my life I’ve spent more time thinking about the latter than the former. Our education system is certainly oriented more around the resume virtues than the eulogy ones. I can relate to David Brooks’ comments.

"Sometimes eulogy virtues are also referred to as 'soft skills' or, as Daniel Goleman coined it, having ‘emotional intelligence.’ Having soft skills does not mean being weak, unmotivated, or passive - rather it means either an innate or developed ability to tap into understanding how your own feelings can inform and direct your interactions with others, thinking before acting, and working to identify with the needs of others around you. In short, intentionally working to be in community with those whom you direct and serve.

"You may not agree with the author that the eulogy virtues are more important than resume virtues, and I could buy that argument. You need them both. Resume virtues are a necessary part of what we do and provide the underpinning for being the professionals that we are. Without an understanding of FERPA (which is certainly a resume virtue), we could wind up in quite litigious situations. I see them part and parcel of our professional development, focusing on one while ignoring the other can lead us to be stunted or unidimensional. To help illustrate what I mean, I’m going to use a gardening example - for those of you who don’t know, I am a Master Gardener, a program offered in many if not all of the states through the extension office of the land grant university. From a plant perspective if you only apply fertilizer without ensuring that the plants have good soil, they might shoot up quickly and grow very tall but for optimal growth and health, plants need proper soil, nutrients, soil structure for air and water flow and beneficial soil microbes. Our professional selves benefit from both too. Adding compost is an excellent way to augment the achieve good soil substrate. As we learn from and share with each other, we are helping to build our professional substrate.

"AACRAO offers many ways to develop both resume skills or virtues and eulogy or emotional intelligence virtues. With the development of our professional competencies, AACRAO is focusing additional resources on providing tools, education and training so our members have the skills to meet the ever-changing world in which we work. These are being, and will continue to be developed, by and with our membership - you.

"The staff in the AACRAO office are second to none - and I hope they know I mean that from the bottom of my heart - but they don’t do our work; they need your experience and proficiencies to deliver sound professional development for all of us. Not just here at the annual meeting or at our other meetings, but in ways that reach more of our members. That’s where the eulogy virtue comes in - give of your time, talents, and expertise to help others in the profession. Encourage those around you to do the same. Say 'yes' to sharing and helping.

"I am a cautious person by nature. I drive the speed limit, much to the frustration of those around me and sometimes those in my car. I stop at stop signs when riding my bike. I actually read much if not all of the terms and conditions for software, hotel rooms, credit cards, etc. before signing them. I make lists for what I am going to accomplish on the weekend, including a rough timeline of when I need to get up and be to the various locations to minimize wasted time - sometimes I even add things to the list that I have already accomplished so I can cross them off!

"I tell you this not to make you think, 'Wow, I’m glad I’m not her or married to her,' but to underscore how differently I approach professional and personal development. There is no right time or place to embark on growing and developing professionally or personally. There is always one more thing to do, to learn, to finish, to accomplish, to read, to practice before jumping in. If I waited until I was completely sure and completely ready I would never take the leap. Say yes - take the chance. You won’t be alone, there are people who can and will help you.

"For the past few years the Board of Directors has been working on identifying and codifying measurable deliverables for the AACRAO strategic plan. As a board we are committed to having the strategic plan guide where and how AACRAO expends resources - be those financial, human capital or otherwise. We continue to make strides forward in our diversity, access and inclusion efforts. As many of you know this kind of work is not a ‘one and done’ effort, it will be and needs to be ongoing; as always, we will look to you for your suggestions and ideas. Several concurrent workgroups are drawing upon the collective wisdom and expertise of the membership to address pressing topics associated with the strategic plan for example, here are three current examples of our work groups: one addressing issues of student identity; one examining student success; and one focusing on successful running of a state or state and regional association. I am confident that we will continue to form additional workgroups to address pressing issues: if the call goes out to participate and you have the the knowledge and skills to contribute please submit your application. We need all of the varying voices and experiences that make up the AACRAO membership.

"I will be challenging the Board and the AACRAO office to continue to build on the foundation established by this and former Boards. We need to continually seek new ways to engage our members and provide them tools to excel in their work; the exact shape of these tools may evolve but you have spoken and we have heard - you need this.

"Both Jim and Paul mentioned in their opening remarks the long lasting impact of those who have supported their own professional growth and evolution. Many of us in this room have benefited from the generous spirit of other AACRAO members, and I ask you now to ‘pay it forward’ to others new to the profession or even new to the AACRAO family. ‘Paying it forward’ can take many different forms but all are important and can have profound impacts on those around you; you can fundamentally shape people’s career paths, their approach to work and those they work with, and what they believe they are capable of doing. Don’t underestimate your role in shaping the future of our professions and this association.

"Thank you for your faith in me and the other members of the Board of Directors. We are here to serve you. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with your concerns, hopes, dreams, or ideas for AACRAO. Remember, as A.A. Milne, the creator of Winnie the Pooh, wrote: 'You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.'"