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@SAFirstYears Post: Connectors

My sixth @SAFirstYears blog post – published date of 2/29/2012:

Last Wednesday I went to the weekly SWE (Society of Women Engineers) lunch meeting.  I regularly attend to support these women who are paving the way for more women to be engineers.   This meeting happened to feature a guest speaker, Shari Caudron, who spoke about reaching your “highest goal.”  Apparently, research has shown people who aim for their highest goal are most happy.  Someone’s highest goal is what s/he ultimately aims to do.  This could be building the tallest building, curing AIDS, or simply loving.  These things do not happen in one day.  But as long as you are working continuously towards your highest goal, you are more likely to be happy.  She didn’t give a specific reason why, but it made sense that if you have determined your purpose in life and each day you learn more about how to achieve, and work towards achieving, that purpose, you will be more personally fulfilled.

This got me thinking about my daily work.  What is my “highest goal”?  Am I working towards that every day?   After much thought, I determined that I currently do not have a “highest goal,” such as what I want to be or where I want to end up.  And, after more thought, I am alright with this.  I have so many friends that are determined to be SHO/CHOs (Senior/Chief Housing Officer) or VPSAs (Vice President of Student Affairs) or Deans, which is great.  I have said those exact positions are my end goals at many points in my Student Affairs career.  These are fantastic goals to strife towards, and perhaps one day I will arrive there.  However, I would like to pose the following questions:

Are your goals derived from the logical path?  Or do you really want to do it?  I liked being a Resident Assistant, and didn’t particularly see an immediate future with my chosen major, so I decided (and was shoulder-tapped) to go to graduate school for Student Affairs.  After going to graduate school, one generally gets a job in the chosen field.  So I did.  It was a logical move.  It was what I have been told and coached to do since I got to graduate school.  This is not to say I am not driven.  Those of you who know me personally, know I am.  And I LOVE my job.  I really enjoy it a lot.  I would not change what I am doing for the world right now.  I am just saying, that I do not want to map out my entire life when I have so much more to explore.

However, what I realized during this talk was I like teaching and mentoring others.  Shari asked us to describe our most significant, impactful, or enjoyable activity of the past week. My two significant activities of the past week were hanging out with my little sister (BBBS) and teaching my step class at the Mines Student Recreation Center.  As long as I can teach or mentor, I am most happy.  Futhermore, it’s not just teaching and mentoring, it’s connecting.  I like being a connector.

Let me elaborate.   I did not realize the importance of the ‘connector’ piece until Friday, as I was on the plane to Orlando, Florida for the coveted Disney Princess Half Marathon.  I was reading The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.  He posits ideas are transferred and become big because of three types of people

  • Connectors: bring people together.  To the outside observer, they span different worlds and their social circles are wide and varying, but connecting to others is the central world of a connector and they don’t view it as different worlds.
  • Mavens: are knowledge holders, who have charisma to spread what they know.  They spread it because they truly care about others and want to share what they have discovered. (Which makes me think of “input”.  StrengthsQuest, anyone?)
  • Salesmen (which I, of course, changed to Salesperson): are persuaders.  They can convince you to buy or adopt anything, including ideas.

I find myself to fit best into the Connector category.  I have a multitude of connections, colleagues, friends, and acquaintances, and nothing gives me more pleasure than to connect with these people through a common idea or activity, especially when I have the opportunity to help them through teaching or mentoring.  This is my true calling.  I may not have a solidified final job goal.  But that’s alright.  At this point, I am going to focus on connecting.



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@SAFirstYears Post: Connect with More People More Often

My fifth @SAFirstYears blog post – published date of 2/22/2012:


My Happiness Project*

I started reading “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin a few months back, and finished it over winter break.  The concept of happiness is something I think of often.  I have always been a ‘happy’ person.  However, I began to question the roots of my happiness when others inquired about the reasons.  It was always difficult for me to articulate why, beyond, “I just am.”  After reading “The Happiness Project” and having some of the same “my-life-is-full-but-am-I-the-happiest-I-can-be?” sentiments as Gretchen, I determined I would start my own Happiness project, along with another SA First Year blogger, Katie Ericson.  It’s good to have a friend to bounce ideas off of and keep you accountable. Each month we have determined to have a new focus that will keep us striving toward the ultimate goal of being happier.

January was my month for energy.  My mini goals were to eat healthier, push myself to work out, and pick up clutter a little at a time.  These were all things that make me feel better once I have completed them.  I have more energy when I eat natural and healthy food.  I have more energy when I work out regularly.  And I have more energy (and feel less stressed) when my home has less ‘stuff’ just lying around.  Overall, I did decent.  Some days were strong in a few areas, and others were strong in all areas.  However, I did not keep a chart about my successes or faults each day to show my progress.  But I didn’t want to because it seemed like it would become a chore, and I thought that would be counterproductive to this happiness project.  Following January, I determined each month would have a new focus.


February Reflection

February’s focus has been connecting with more people, more often.  I always find great enjoyment in talking with others and sharing stories from our personal and work lives.  However, I am not good with initiating these conversations with friends or family whom I do not see on a day-to-day basis.  I have made so many great connections with people through my past experiences, but I have also moved frequently and at times, communicating with those I care about often because it seems burdensome.  Not because I don’t like talking with each of them, but there are just SO many of them.  It seems Student Affairs folks have some of the longest “connections” lists: our family, and our close friends from High School, College, Graduate School, internships, first jobs, and maybe even summer camp.  I just get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people who have made me, and my life, better.

This post is not necessarily about my happiness project, but more so about the need to reach out to others for whom we care.  While it’s not my first instinct to call people I haven’t seen in a while, I am trying hard to reach out more.  I have yet to make an incredible amount of phone calls, but I have reached out to friends in the area to get together more frequently, asked colleagues to lunch I never see, and sent cards to my best friends from my childhood.  I even wrote a letter to a friend completing her mission in South America, and attended events hosted by others even when I felt exhausted.  After each of these interactions, I gained more energy and more desire to continue to stay connected. 

I also think part of the reason why I struggle to maintain communication with people I care for is, simply, time.  Often our student affairs jobs have us working long hours.  Part of that time is used to reach out our students to ensure they have the resources they need to be successful, healthy, and involved in their educational experience.   This definitely keeps us busy (and happy)!  I have also seen amazing outreach within our field at the professional level.

As February is coming to a close, I think this is a good reminder for me to continue reaching out to my friends in the Student Affairs field, and making the effort to connect with those I care about from other various stages in my life.  I hope this encourages you to reach out and connect with others as well!



*For more information about ‘The Happiness Project,” visit:

You can read about the book, learn tips about happiness from the author, and even sign-up to start your own Happiness Project. 

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@SAFirstYears Post: Steel Structures

My forth @SAFirstYears blog post – published date of 2/15/2012:

Last Friday I attended Steel Structures class with a group of my student staff members.  We learned about flexual and local buckling with regards to elasticity or inelasticity of the column.  There was also an abundance of formulas and charts.  I’m sure you can imagine my facial expressions through the 50-minute class  – interest, concentration, and awe.  I also took notes, so I wouldn’t stick out excessively, (although I think my bright colored skirt and shoes had no problem making that happen).  The undergraduate Hall Directors I supervise got a kick out of watching my engagement in the course.  (They thought I was writing down equations, but I was actually taking notes for this post.)

I bet you are wondering why I decided to spend an hour of my Friday morning attending Steel Structures.  It boils down to this: even though I am deep in the trenches each day, I still feel removed from the Mines student experience.  This is understandable.  Mines is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) institution.  The only science class I took in undergrad was Geology.  Every day I ask my students how their classes are going, but beyond calculus and physics, I only remotely understand the concepts of what they are learning.  In addition to working at a specialized institution, being a professional means I am not currently in the classroom. (Ph.D or Ed.D = TBD.)  Students work off homework deadlines and upcoming test dates; I work off an hourly calendar and departmental goals.

And while I feel removed, I can also relate to these students. The majority of the dudes in my family – cousins, uncles, father, brother, and grandpas – are engineers.  Ever since I can remember, math, physics, and science have been common dinner conversations.  I am also quite the nerd.  I obtained a math minor in college ‘for kicks’ and prefer watching Star Wars movies (only the originals) over any movie, any time.  This has been beneficial to my ability to connect with my students and help them in the best way I know.

Ultimately, my goal in attending the class was to understand my students’ experience.  A 50-minute class period definitely does not encompass the daily grind for them, but I have a greater appreciation for the expectations regarding academic performance.  Sometimes it is good to go back to the basics to remember the true experience of the students we are serving.

Also, in flexual buckling the buckle will occur in whichever axis (x or y) has a greater (Ke)/r.  Obviously, right?


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@SAFirstYears Post: Becoming Interesting

My third @SAFirstYears blog post – published date of 2/8/2012:

We all have fears.  Perhaps yours is ‘failure’ or disappointing someone.  Maybe it is making a really big mistake or having hideous bulletin boards around your halls. Possibly it is not challenging your students as much as you are supporting them, or vice versa.

While I also share these fears, being boring frightens me.  I know I am not good with telling impromptu stories or pulling interesting facts out at a moment’s whim.  When I talk with someone, I need to share from a personal and genuine level based on my experiences.

As I entered into my second year of graduate school, I realized I had been involved with so many student affairs jobs/roles/positions/initiatives for my entire college and graduate school careers, I did not have much beyond those experiences and knowledge to share about myself.  Sure, I had other interests, but I had not developed them or put effort into discovering new information or talents which inspired me.  My student affairs specific knowledge always makes for great conversations with family and friends who don’t quite understand why I live in a residence hall after seven years.  (Sarcasm.)  These involvements kept me motivated throughout my undergraduate years.  I was constantly busy, and even having a unique major and minors (Merchandising and Business/Math) provided an opportunity to connect with new people. Once I started graduate school, it became more focused.  I decided I needed to branch out and spend time developing my interests.

As my second year of graduate school thickened with ‘thesising’ and job searching, I knew my ability to further my interests outside of my chosen career and class work was diminishing, simply based on lack of time.  But I still resolved to become more interesting.  I was also concerned with what I planned to do with my time upon graduation.  What the heck was I going to do when I did not have to go to class, write multiple multiple-page papers, do research, and read thirty books a semester?   The fear wasn’t only about being boring, but more about being bored.

So I made a list on an excel document.  It’s titled Hobbiesand is still saved on my desktop.

While I may not have grown in every area I outlined over a year ago, I am happy to say awareness of what my first year would look like without academic commitments made a difference as I job searched and arrived to Colorado.  I am now involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters; I have started learning how to sew; I attend classes weekly at a local Pilates studio; I am training for a half marathon; I teach Step classes at the Student Recreation Center, and most recently, I got certified to be a personal fitness trainer.  Not only have I explored personal interests, I have also expanded mywork interests in the Student Affairs realm by being on an AIMHO (Association of Inter-Mountain Housing Officers) committee, connecting to other SA pros via twitter, and am writing for this blog.

Someone once told me, “It is always good to have a few stories in your back pocket for cocktail parties.”  (As my cocktailattire doesn’t have back pockets, I’ll keep my stories in my dress pocket.  Dresses with built in pockets are officially the most epic dresses.)  And whether or not you attend cocktail parties, (casually carrying both your personal and duty phones), I think this actually pertains to life: as human beings, we are multi-faceted individuals who have the capacity for a variety of interests, passions, and skills.  Sharing who we are and what we do is imperative to connecting with other people.

In an attempt to ensure I became more interesting, my growing interests have definitely helped me connect with both students and professionals beyond the day-to-day work, which has actually made me a better SA professional.  And I, by no means, am bored.

Katie Schmalzel

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@SAFirstYears Post: Running a Half Marathon

My second @SAFirstYears blog post – published date of 2/1/2012:

Sometimes our job is like running a marathon.
Not every mile is awesome, but in the end it’s always amazing.

I will be running my third half marathon in less than a month.   For the past two years I have traveled with a few friends from graduate school down to Orlando, Florida and participated in the Disney Princess Half Marathon.  I know.  Cool, right?  You can dress up like a Disney character (Princess) and wear a tiara.   Anyways, running a half marathon takes a bit of stamina.  By all means, it does not require near the training and mental energy as a full marathon.  But 13.1 miles isn’t a measly hop, skip, and a jump, either.

Just for the record, everyone should know running has not come naturally to me.  My athletic ability was limited to volleyball throughout high school, and running was not required by my coach.  When I got to college and received the coveted “Congratulations, you’re an RA!” letter my fresh(wo)man year at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona, I was told the building I would be working in had the most intense staff on campus: we did PT with the Army ROTC.  This required signing up for a class MWF from 6:00 – 7:30 am.  Of course, I did not have to do this, but wanted to hang out with my staffies, so I did.  The first half of the workout was push-ups and sit-ups, and the second half was running.  Three miles every morning.  Excuse me, what?  I don’t think I had ever run three miles at once, at least not at 7,000 feet.

I “ran” with the Army crew for the first time during the summer prior to starting my RA career.  We jogged/shuffled two miles and I have never sucked so much wind in my life.  It was tough, but I managed to make it through the semester without missing a single class.  Since then, I have been a dedicated runner, running about three to four miles a few times a week.

When my friend asked me to run the half marathon with her for the first time in 2010, I doubted my endurance, strength, and abilities.  Eventually, she convinced me to sign up.  We vowed to start training a few months in advance to be adequately prepared.  Well, graduate student life got the best of us, and we were only able to complete one eight-mile run about three weeks prior to the race.  As this was the extent of our training, my self-doubt increased.  But it also put a fire in my soul: I had to prove to myself I could reach the finish line.  By some miracle, we ended up running the entire 13.1 miles.  Granted not every mile was easy, but when the five of us crossed that finish line, holding hands, an enormous amount of exhilarated energy flew throughout my body!

After crossing the finish line after my first half marathon in 2010:


As this third half marathon is quickly approaching, I know moments of the run are going to be difficult, and others will be motivating.

After crossing the finish line after my first half marathon in 2011:


Some days we go to bed on a high from having many wonderful conversations with our students, colleagues, or mentors.  And some days are taxing and trying.  But we end every year seeing our students grow and learn, and the warm-fuzzies settle into our hearts.

Not every mile is awesome, but in the end it’s always amazing.

Follow my training journey: #DisneyPrincessHalfMarathon

Pictures from the third half marathon coming soon!

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Happiness Project – January Reflections & February Musings

My January goal was Energy.  Upon refinement, I understood energy to be all encompassing.  Some mini goals were:

to maintain a regular and rigorious workout schedule.
This was pretty solid.  I continue to go to sessions at my local Pilates studio, teach Step classes at the campus rec center, and have amped up my running to prepare for the half marathon coming up!  I could probably amp the training up more, but I have about 3.5 weeks left, so it will get there!

to eat more healthy.
Meh.  Main meals, yes.  But I have gone through an exorbitant amount of chocolate chips just from snacking. Really, a ridiculous amount.  Some might even call it impressive. 

to sleep more and go to bed earlier.
About halfsies.  Not including tonight… 

to keep energy up while talking with students/staff.
I have worked really hard to be intentional with my staff and students – go to more events/programs, and focus more on 1:1s.  I think it has paid off.  Today especially, I had 3 solid 1:1s.  Good chats with my HDs, and then went to a IM Floor Hockey game and cheered on the ResLife team.  And two #cookiemonday’s already this semester! 🙂 It’s been a lot of fun.  

I feel like I have more energy.  I also know I have taken on more this semester, mostly outside of work: in addition to hanging out with my BBBS little sister and teaching Step classes, I have added Golden Young Professionals and writing for the @SAFirstYears blog.

So it’s now February.  
My new focus: “Stay in Touch”: Reach out to more people more often.  I am horrible with staying in contact with people.  This includes random texts, phone calls, etc.  I’m going to do my best to call the dozens of people I have been meaning to send some love their way.  Heck, I even keep a list on my iPhone, under notes: “people to call” – Legit.  Obvs that I need to actually act on it.  Not only does this mean contact people I may not live near anymore, but also work to develop stronger relationships with the friends I have nearby, and get to know the people I work with on a deeper level.  Such great thoughts for February!  Woo!

And just because it’s February, doesn’t mean January goes away.  The focus of energy will stay with me!  Alright, it is definitely bed time so I can keep up my energy to hang out with my Little Sister tomorrow night!  

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Keeping a Journal

I am not a writer.  I think from a logical standpoint.  I prefer to do math and work with numbers than to write my feelings down.  I have tried to keep journals for many years.  They always start strong but end abruptly about a week later.  I have a multitude of them, sitting in a drawer, each about 95% blank.  After a while I stopped trying because it was not natural for me to maintain the process of writing to a book.  Then this whole blog epidemic started a few years back.  Remember livejournal?  Oh yes, I totally had one of those.  I think it mattered more to me because of the possible interactions it could incur from my friends.  I consider it a less advanced, old school twitter.

Anyways, keeping and maintaining a blog is a fun challenge for me.  I like my quiet reflection time, but the transition of pulling my quickly moving thoughts and putting them into words, on the screen, for the whole world to see isn’t always inspiring to me, sometimes it is even taxing.  But I know it is helping me become more articulate.   And I have set a goal to write my thoughts down more regularly.

Recently, a friend asked me to join a group of new Student Affairs Professionals on a joint blogging venture.  You may have heard of it?:
We are each responsible for producing one blog post a week that will be featured on different days.  (I’m Wednesday!)

I have blogged before in the past.  Some weeks I would write two or three times, other times I would go two or three months without writing.  So this is a good challenge.  A challenge I must continue to meet and produce quality work.  (We had over 1000 hits in the first week!) With that being said I will post my entries on my personal site following their release on the official website.

There’s nothing like a swift kick in the patoosh, or at least a friend asking you to join something and then holding you accountable for it, to getcha moving!  I’m loving it!

Remember:  !

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So close, yet so far…

I attending our home women’s and men’s basketball games this evening, just with a few of my staff members.  For the record: it was a solid night for Mines: both women’s and men’s teams won!

The women’s game was well attended, but then the crowds started pouring in for the men’s game.  What started out as a mellow student section, became a sea of Mines football players.  As (probably) the ONLY staff member in that section, I felt super-duper awkward.  1.) Because they are all at least 2 times my size.  Legit.  2.) Also, I forget how far away from the student experience I am, even though I feel so engrossed in it everyday.  3 years ago, I knew the majority of the NAU football team (because I saw three generations of them live in my hall when they were first-year students) and was good friends with most.  I still know the ones who live in my halls (nothing changes…).

I think my experience of feeling both a part and far away from the student experience is a good thing.  It means I know my students, and it means there is a level of understanding about what they go through on a daily basis (albeit, the Mines world is way different than what I have been used to), but it also means that I have recognized my responsibilities of a staff member while still maintaining approachability.

I can say with honesty that I miss the good ‘ol days as a Lumberjack (jill).  College was awesome.  (And I think most SA professionals can attest that they enjoyed their college experience – it would be difficult to find many who did not – and that’s why we are here, doing what we do.)  And awesomeness lives wonderfully in my memories (and on Facebook’s timeline…).  But I can also honestly say I have been putting as much positive energy as possible into giving my students opportunities for exceptional experience for the past 2.5 years. And that’s awesome, too.


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A few months ago I started reading “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin on my way to and from Arizona. I should really read more often. Anyways, I finished it a few weeks ago after re-picking it up, again, on my way to and from Arizona for the Holidays.

I was thinking about starting my own little Happiness Project (from now on to be referred to as HP) back in October. However, I wasn’t convinced. Until, a dear friend, also named Katie, asked if I had read it about a week ago. I was like, “Absolutely – I just finished July!” After some discussion we have determined to start our own. I will resolve to hashtag it: #thekatieshappinessproject on Twitter.

So we’re doing this. In this moment I feel a little overwhelmed by what this means for the next calendar year. I am still processing all that I read and have yet to select my foci. Foci, such a great plural word.

However, while I am still processing, I would like to provide my first few reactions:

1.) The Four Splendid Truths outlined by G-money. (Goodness, I hope Gretchen is alright with that nickname.)
– To be happy, you need to consider feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.
I think I do this. Maybe not outlined in this specific way or with such specific purpose, but it will be interesting to explore.
– One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.
Legit. This is something I forget and remember many times a week. Another snippet: “Attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?” Super cheese, but same concept.
– The days are long, but the years are short.
Oh do I know it.
– You’re not happy unless you think you’re happy.
Pondering this. Thinking about happiness was what got me questioning happiness. Maybe that’s just what happens when you grow up.

2.) The Commandments
I need to craft mine. Maybe not so much craft, but reflect, recall, and place into words what I know to be true.
I like the idea of “Be Katie.” More to come..

3.) Even though I am still working through my areas of focus for each month, I would like to start brainstorming a few:

Energy: Much like G-money, I like starting the year with energy. Workout, go to sleep earlier, eat foods that are mood boosting. I feel good about this one.
Be present: Enjoying the moments. The small things are often the things that give you happiness and what you’ll remember years down the road. I always feel hurried, so that is definitely an area for growth!
Clear clutter: I am 24 and I already have an excessive amount of stuff. And an excessive amount of stuff I surely do not need. I’ll be moving to a new apartment in April so I want to clear out before I move out. Less to move will be blissful!
Relationships: Maintain them, grow them, or eliminate them if they are creating bad stress. With friends, with family, maybe a lover (partner/dudefriend). I always wish I was better at staying in touch. May one month (and hopefully many more months after) be focused on this.

4.) Instead of the typical NYs resolutions, these will be my resolutions each month. 

5.) As a previously self-diagnosed perfectionist, I must continue to remind myself that I won’t be perfect.
And just because one day isn’t perfect, it isn’t a sign to jump off the bandwagon and throw my hands in the air in a gesture of defeat. No ma’am. I will not have it.

Seeing the clock strike 11:26 pm on my Mac means I need to wrap this puppy up so I can go to sleep earlier, as per energy.

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