Field Notes: Adopting a growth mindset about 2020

June 29, 2020
  • AACRAO Leadership and Governance
  • Professional Well-Being
  • covid-19
  • field notes
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"Field Notes" is a regular Connect column covering practical and philosophical issues facing admissions and registrar professionals. The columns are authored by various AACRAO members. If you have an idea for a column and would like to contribute, please send an email to the editor at

by Tiffany Robinson, Assistant Vice Provost/University Registrar,  The University of Kansas

Picture it: Higher Education 2020.  Colleges and Universities are closed, ALL education is switched to online learning, commencements are cancelled, academic calendars are redone and then the unthinkable: the fall schedule has to be redone -- while registration is in progress. 

I am sure a few of you read this in your Sophia Petrillo voice.  (And for those of you that did, thank you for being a friend.)

Last week, many of us would have attended the annual AACRAO Leadership meeting and Hill Day in Washington, D.C. If you’re like me, and document most things with photos, your Facebook timeline was probably flooded with some great memories of Leadership and Hill Days past. 

It’s a mix of emotions, first happy as you see all of the great memories you’ve made, and then sad once you realize you won’t get to make those memories this year… or at least not the same way.  

As I started to write this, I thought to myself… Self, how will you remember 2020?  Will you focus on the negative (I’m sure you just had about 10 things run through your head) or choose to focus on all that we have accomplished in a short amount of time?

In the last few months we have reviewed, revised, changed, tested and implemented practices, policies and procedures in order to adapt to the ever changing landscape of Higher Education.  During this time, we looked toward leadership for the plan and path forward.  Where do we go from here, and how are we going to get there?  

As I sat in front of the laptop I began to change my mindset around 2020.  Yes, it has been the worst episode of the Twilight Zone yet, and no matter how many times we collectively yell JUMANJI!, 2020 has remained the champ. But we can change that.  Rather than focus on the negative, I decided to reflect on last year’s Leadership meeting and the lessons I learned and can apply now during these tough times.

Last year's leadership lessons that apply right now

Leadership meetings are packed with knowledge, and you leave feeling like you can take on the world with the knowledge you have obtained.  Last year’s meeting was no different. For me, the highlight was the Leadership discussion lead by Dr. Tammy Aagard and Stan DeMerritt.

Prior to the meeting we were all given a copy of a book called The Sink, Radical Transformation With One Small Change (By Walter Nusbaum and Daren Martin, PhD.) It’s a quick read and I would highly recommend picking it up.  I keep a copy on my desk and realized as I was writing this article just how much I refer back to the words in the book, and the discussion from leadership in 2019.

One of the final activities was to write a letter to yourself. (I am sure a few of us thought at the time, this is a little weird, but OK, here it goes.)  Now, I can’t speak to what others have written, but for me, I wanted to remind myself that change is inevitable, to stay committed to my goals, but also be prepared to adapt and adjust as needed.  Change will happen, sometimes we can prepare for it, and other times it knocks us off course. Remember, we all get knocked down, what matters is that you get back up. As I look at those words now, I see how they apply not only to my work life, but personal as well. We sealed our letters in envelopes with our addresses on the outside to be sent to us at a later date. 

November rolls around and I get a letter in the mail from AACRAO….in my hand writing. I am slightly confused, and then it hit me: the letter from leadership. I opened it, read it, read it again, and smiled.  The words I had written to myself in June were exactly what I needed in November.  Who knew that the simple act of writing yourself a letter could be so powerful?  

A conversation with the universe

There are a few of you thinking to yourself right now…. Where is my letter?  For those of you that attended last year, get your letter out and read it. To those of you reading this now, take some time today and write yourself a letter.  As you read your letter today, or begin to write one, remember this:

Change your mindset, and be mindful of your self-talk, it is a conversation with the universe.  Appreciate your current place in the journey; no one ever told us we were all going to make it at the same time to the same destination.  Everybody has their own path, and their time to shine.  Be Kind, Do Good. REPEAT OFTEN.

 So, until we meet again, whether we travel down the road and back again, thank you for being a friend!


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