Susie's Column

sd feb 2012 hatWelcome to the “The View from this Desk a monthly blog about work and life issues of general interest.  This blog is written by Susie Dunn, SCC’s Access/Equity Specialist. Susie has been an SCC employee since October 1992. Known in some circles as “The Hat Lady,” she has indeed worn many “hats” over the course of her working life and once considered printing her resume on paper patterned with hats in the background to emphasize that fact.

Described by her father as too independent for her own good, she is owned by four cats, adored by a black Lab, affectionately protected by a handsome but aging German Shepherd/Siberian Husky mix and humored by her spouse.  A collector of quotes, she remains fascinated by the power of the (well) written word.

Written with staff in mind, the The View from this Desk is intended to be brief musing about staff workplace interests and/or challenges.  Whether serious, thoughtful or (sometimes) tongue-in-cheek, these monthly posts are intended to inform, encourage or amuse readers. Most of all, I hope these monthly ruminations will spark conversation with and among readers.

Susie



Beginnings of Women's History Month PDF Print E-mail
Written by Susie Dunn   

The study of women's intelligence and personality has had broadly the same history as the one we record for Negroes ... in drawing a parallel between the position of, and feeling toward, women and Negroes, we are uncovering a fundamental basis of our culture.

- Gunnar Myrdal

A glance at the Chase Calendar of Events or the Diversity Resource Center * calendar and it isn’t difficult to see that humans love to celebrate and engage in commemorative events.  One of the more well-known commemorations in March is “Women’s History Month.”

Since 1910, March 8 has been observed as International Women's Day around the world. That is why March was chosen to be National Women's History Month in the United States, declared as such by a biennial Joint Resolution of the U.S. Congress beginning in 1987.  The idea of creating such a celebration did not originate with its Congressional sponsors. Research to collect women's stories began on college campuses in the early 1970s.

In 1978, the founders of the National Women's History Project began asking the question, "But, what were the women doing?" Traditionally, history has focused on political, military, and economic leaders and events.  Asking the question, “What were the women doing?” adds an additional perspectives about what is historically significant. In addition to exploring the contributions of leaders in the public sphere, women's history also examines women's activities in the private sphere, and women's experiences at the crossroads where the two spheres intersect.

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It's Not Change that Does You In PDF Print E-mail
Written by Susie Dunn   

It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions,”

Will Bridges

Change vs. Transition

With the four presidential search forums in early December, I was reminded of a short essay I read some time ago discussing the difference between change and transition. Re-reading it, the piece seemed to be relevant for SCC.

Change is not the same as transition.  According to consultant Will Bridges, “Change is situational: the change in, or loss of a job, the new site, the new job or boss, the new team roles, the new procedure or policy.”  “Transition,” Bridges says, “is the psychological process people go through to come to terms with the new situation. Change is external, transition is internal.” We mentally work through a period of transition before the change can work. How are we to do that?

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The Night Before Corn Picking PDF Print E-mail
Written by Susie Dunn   

“He that hath a good harvest may be content with some thistles.”

- John Ray, English Proverb

Autumn is my favorite season of the year for its riot of color and the sound of crunching through fallen leaves - on the sidewalk, driveway – and everywhere else!  Fall even has its own scents – crisp sharp cold air, the occasional whiff of smoke from a fireplace chimney, the odd hot and musty smell of the furnace firing up for the first time in the season, and many more interesting seasonal smells. 

I miss the smell of burning leaves, an activity of my childhood, long since banned in towns and cities. There is no other smell quite like it. When the yard is large and covered with the leaves of a HUGE nearly century old cottonwood tree and numerous hackberry trees, there are lots of leaves to rake!

Fall also means harvest. As a boy and young man, Dad was the fastest in the neighborhood when it came to hand husking corn.  Few could keep up with him.  My father also knew how to form a tight, proud, rain-proof corn shock and although he and the occasional seasonal hired hands quit shocking corn about the time I started kindergarten, corn shocks soon became part of a church tradition.  Dad and/or a neighbor would leave some corn unpicked - enough stalks to build two corn shocks.  Once built, the two shocks became the focal point of the thanksgiving display. 

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Disability is a matter of perception. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Susie Dunn   

Disability is a matter of perception.

If you can do just one thing well, you're needed by someone.

Martina Navratilova

October is Disability Employment Awareness Month.  With that in mind, I have been doing some research on the employment of individuals with disabilities for an issue of Special Topics in Disability Service (STN). One of the best resources for facts and figures is the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy website. However, [d]ue to suspension of Federal government services, this website is not being regularly updated.”  Stay tuned. The issue may not come out in October.

A Matter of Perception

Navratilova’s quote struck me rather forcefully as being dead-on. Everyone non-disabled and disabled, needs to be needed, to believe we contribute something.  Employment and the dignity afforded by same, is but one way to contribute.  That said we human beings tend to tie a considerable piece of our self-identity and self-worth to our professional/employment role. In new social settings, one of the first questions asked is “Where do you work?/What do you do for a living?”   Lose our jobs or have some other significant role we fill (e.g. spouse, social position held) change and we feel like we have lost our identity, our personal moorings.

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Conflict in the Workplace PDF Print E-mail
Written by Susie Dunn   

“Conflict cannot survive without your participation.”

Wayne Dyer                            

Earlier this week I ran across these figures on conflict in the workplace.

◊       85% of U.S. employees experience conflict and spend 2.8 hours/week dealing with conflict.

◊       Significant loss of organizational productivity and resources – costs $359 billion in paid hours a year.

◊       31% of managers think they handle conflict effectively while 78% of employees disagree.

◊       27% of employees witnessed personal attacks.

◊       25% say avoiding conflict results in sickness/absences.

◊       75% of employees report positive outcomes from conflict that would have not been realized without the conflict.

◊       95% of those who receive training say conflict is the biggest driver for success - but nearly 60% have never received training.  (Sources: 2008 CPP Global Human Capital Report 2009 Harvard Law School Special Report on Managing Conflict)

 

 

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The Truman Commission & Community Colleges PDF Print E-mail
Written by Susie Dunn   

“Community colleges are one of America's great social inventions,

a gateway to the future for first time students looking for an affordable college education,

and for mid-career students looking to get ahead in the workplace.”

Sen. Barbara Mikulski  

With the arrival of the announcement of Ron Snyder’s retirement reception in early August, I stopped to think about all the history that Ron and other recently retired, long-term employees have seen and help make - with SCC in particular - and community colleges in Nebraska in general. 

Just as Ron is celebrating 40 years with SCC, the Nebraska Community College system is also celebrating its 40th anniversary. Dr. Huck will be talking about this milestone anniversary in his State of the College address at the All College Conference on August 30.

These two anniversaries piqued my curiosity. “How did the modern community college come to be?”  As with many other things, the modern community college system has its beginnings with the end of WWII.

 

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Accessibility Logo Gets New Look for 21st Century PDF Print E-mail
Written by Susie Dunn   

And not just the right thing; it’s profoundly the right thing to do, because the one argument for accessibility that doesn’t get made nearly often enough is how extraordinarily better it makes some people’s lives. How many opportunities do we have to dramatically improve people’s lives just by doing our job a little better?”

― Steve Krug, Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

 

Accessbility symbol

One of the most recognized symbols world-wide is the handicap symbol, officially called the International Symbol of Access (ISA). The symbol, which features a stick figure in a wheelchair with a blue-and-white color scheme, has just been given a make-over for the twenty-first century.

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Time Management and Candles PDF Print E-mail
Written by Susie Dunn   

My candle burns at both ends;

It will not last the night;

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--

It gives a lovely light! –

 

Edna St. Vincent Millay  

I have always liked this bit of verse from Millay.   The poem is contained in her 1920 collection A Few Figs From Thistles.  What I didn’t know until recently, was that Millay was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry (1923).

Recently, when my “to-do” list was particularly black with things to do, I recalled this poem and peevishly thought that sometimes, life presents you with the opportunity “to burn the candle at both ends and in the middle.”  Instead of creating a “lovely light,” one is more likely to generate a small fireball leading to burnout, if not the need to crash and simply sleep.

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It is a Skills War, Not a Talent War PDF Print E-mail
Written by Susie Dunn   

. . . In North Africa, restless youth were at the vanguard of the demonstrations that toppled governments in Egypt and Tunisia. In the United States, the still faltering economy has been so difficult on Generation Y that there is even a television show, Underemployed, about a group of 20-something college graduates forced into dead-end or unpaid jobs. It is a comedy, but of the laughter-through-tears variety. 

-Education to Employment Report.

While researching something else entirely, I stumbled across an article by Josh Bersin, a Forbes contributor, discussing a report, Education to Employment, prepared by the McKinsey Center for Government. This report studies the impact of education on employment and demonstrates the challenging mismatch between our educational system and the job skills employers need.

Key points from the report include:

Skills Shortage, High Unemployment Rates Persist

We don’t have a jobs crisis in the world, we have a skills crisis.

-      45% of US employers say lack of skills is the “main reason” for entry-level vacancies

-      Only 42% of worldwide employers believe new graduates are adequately prepared for work.

 

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The Filter Bubble PDF Print E-mail
Written by Susie Dunn   

A world constructed from the familiar is a world in which there’s nothing to learn ... (since there is) invisible autopropaganda, indoctrinating us with our own ideas.

—Eli Pariser in The Economist, 2011

Last month I wrote about The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk and why I thought what he had to say about business and social media also applied to education.   Since finishing that book, I have continued to think about technology and the impact of the Internet. A more cautionary tale about the impact of the Internet and technology is found in The Filter Bubble (Eli Pariser, Penguin Press, ©2011) 

The majority of us are at least subconsciously aware that our web experience is somewhat customized by our browsing history, social graph and other factors. What we may not know is that this sort of information-tailoring takes place on a much more sophisticated, deeper and far-reaching level than we dare suspect and has been happening since at least 2005. 

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