By Kelly Addington
Working in the world of higher education we are faced with many challenges. We hear countless stories and are often familiar with the intimate details of student's lives. Whether we like it or not, students are seeking guidance and approval from us not only in an academic sense but also to help empower them to make good choices in their personal lives. Campus professionals sometimes get stuck in crisis management mode, on top of that, the "to do" lists are endless and the weekly hours often go way beyond the standard 40. Some days it may not seem like it but your actions are changing student's lives. You are mentors, mediators, educators and role models. By the way, please allow me to insert a giant thank you here.
My work as an anti-violence activist, campus professional and experience in working with survivors of sexual assault as well as their family, friends and partners has lead me to focus on what I believe to be one of the biggest issues facing students today— learning how to best communicate with those around us. By adapting our voices to speak the language of empowerment we can be both positive and honest when dealing with a student's needs and helping to create a culture that is preventative versus reactive. When it comes to speaking this language I have found a few quick tips that help me in my pursuit of supermodel status.
Create opportunities of enlightenment.
Take a moment that's average and turn it into something more. If a student mentions they're stressed about their current relationship, let them know they can talk to you. Taking a few minutes to really listen and help them find resolution can make a world of difference.
Respect yourself and others.
Respect is an essential part of any relationship, but sometimes we forget that it starts with respecting yourself. Respect and confidence can be contagious! Be confident in who you are and what you stand for and encourage your students to do the same.
A lesson of honesty and accountability.
Communicate openly and truthfully. It's okay to acknowledge questionable behavior as long as it is done without judgment. Sometimes individuals need to be reminded that they have control over their actions as well as their reactions.
Contribute to a campus and community free of violence.
Be a positive non-violent role model for students by using language and actions that support healthy and loving relationships. Provide a safe and comfortable environment in which students can express themselves and make healthy choices.
Encourage students to create their own solution.
This can be anything from better lighting and safety on campus to adding kosher and vegan food choices in the dining hall. Empowering students to be the change agent is teaching them to be a good citizen and a great leader.
Let students know they are not alone.
You are fun, honest, experienced and non-judgmental, so of course students feel close to you and are likely to come to you first with an issue. Please remind them that there are professional resources available on campus such as the counseling or health center and encourage students to take advantage them.
Our leaders of tomorrow are being shaped by you today. As a role model who works it like a supermodel you are sharing your wisdom strength, time, and talents to make the world of higher education a place where students can exceed their own expectations. It is a full circle moment when we realize that we have become to someone else what our mentors are to us. There is a reason you chose to devote your lives to working in higher education, perhaps it was a role model of your own?
For more information about communicating with students in regards to sexual violence, healthy relationships and everything in between you can contact Kelly or Becca at firstname.lastname@example.org.