Category Archives: About Me

Identity is In the Eye of the Beholder

identityIdentity is relative based on perspectives. I’ve come to recognize that how I view myself, all the different components of my identity, may not be the same as how others view me. I view my racial identity as an Asian-American to be the most salient part of my identities.  In my mind, my experience in the United States, through the marginalization and the struggles I’ve faced since my family and I immigrated to this country have been shaped because of my racial identity and my physical features. While I have primarily defined my identity as one who belongs to a historically marginalized group, what I have come to realize is that others may not see me as that. In fact, I’ve been reminded that as a male in the position I hold at the university, I am seen as a person of privilege. For others, I’m seen through the lens of gender, organizational position, etc. beyond race and these lenses are relative to the other person’s perspectives.

I ‘ve been thinking about this notion that while I may feel oppressed in some ways, I also carry privileges because of certain aspects of my identity. I was reminded by a student recently of the privileges I/we carry as university staff (and even students) relative to those who live in their hometown (inner city). This student reminded me that while we do have our own struggles we are fighting for, sometimes we live in a bubble and forget the struggles of folks like those who live beyond the confines of the university must go through. This student reminded me that their family is currently homeless and they must move from time to time depending on which friends and families are willing and able to house them.

Taking the time to understand other folks’ perspectives and their struggles is one of the efforts I’ve always tried to do since I can remember but at times, I fall into the trap of just thinking about the issues I face without realizing that while in some ways I have been marginalized, I also carry privileges I must be conscious of.

Can you relate with my experience? How do you define your identity and how do you think others view you?

image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/identity-mask-disguise-mindset-510866/

My StrengthsFinder Signature Themes

I’d rather focus on my strengths than dwell on my weaknesses. It’s this personal trait/attitude I find personality assessments like StrengthsFinder appealing when it comes to learning more about myself. Recently, I took the survey as part of my organization’s effort to strengthen our abilities to collaborate and towards a better working community. Here are my top 5 signature themes.

Achiever. Your Achiever theme helps explain your drive. Achiever describes a constant need for achievement. You feel as if every day starts at zero. By the end of the day you must achieve something tangible in order to feel good about yourself. And by “every day” you mean every single day—workdays, weekends, vacations. No matter how much you may feel you deserve a day of rest, if the day passes without some form of achievement, no matter how small, you will feel dissatisfied. You have an internal fire burning inside you. It pushes you to do more, to achieve more. After each accomplishment is reached, the fire dwindles for a moment, but very soon it rekindles itself, forcing you toward the next accomplishment. Your relentless need for achievement might not be logical. It might not even be focused. But it will always be with you. As an Achiever you must learn to live with this whisper of discontent. It does have its benefits. It brings you the energy you need to work long hours without burning out. It is the jolt you can always count on to get you started on new tasks, new challenges. It is the power supply that causes you to set the pace and define the levels of productivity for your work group. It is the theme that keeps you moving.

Maximizer. Excellence, not average, is your measure. Taking something from below average to slightly above average takes a great deal of effort and in your opinion is not very rewarding. Transforming something strong into something superb takes just as much effort but is much more thrilling. Strengths, whether yours or someone else’s, fascinate you. Like a diver after pearls, you search them out, watching for the telltale signs of a strength. A glimpse of untutored excellence, rapid learning, a skill mastered without recourse to steps—all these are clues that a strength may be in play. And having found a strength, you feel compelled to nurture it, refine it, and stretch it toward excellence. You polish the pearl until it shines. This natural sorting of strengths means that others see you as discriminating. You choose to spend time with people who appreciate your particular strengths. Likewise, you are attracted to others who seem to have found and cultivated their own strengths. You tend to avoid those who want to fix you and make you well rounded. You don’t want to spend your life bemoaning what you lack. Rather, you want to capitalize on the gifts with which you are blessed. It’s more fun. It’s more productive. And, counter intuitively, it is more demanding.

Activator. “When can we start?” This is a recurring question in your life. You are impatient for action. You may concede that analysis has its uses or that debate and discussion can occasionally yield some valuable insights, but deep down you know that only action is real. Only action can make things happen. Only action leads to performance. Once a decision is made, you cannot not act. Others may worry that “there are still some things we don’t know,” but this doesn’t seem to slow you. If the decision has been made to go across town, you know that the fastest way to get there is to go stoplight to stoplight. You are not going to sit around waiting until all the lights have turned green. Besides, in your view, action and thinking are not opposites. In fact, guided by your Activator theme, you believe that action is the best device for learning. You make a decision, you take action, you look at the result, and you learn. This learning informs your next action and your next. How can you grow if you have nothing to react to? Well, you believe you can’t. You must put yourself out there. You must take the next step. It is the only way to keep your thinking fresh and informed. The bottom line is this: You know you will be judged not by what you say, not by what you think, but by what you get done. This does not frighten you. It pleases you.

Input. You are inquisitive. You collect things. You might collect information—words, facts, books, and quotations—or you might collect tangible objects such as butterflies, baseball cards, porcelain dolls, or sepia photographs. Whatever you collect, you collect it because it interests you. And yours is the kind of mind that finds so many things interesting. The world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and complexity. If you read a great deal, it is not necessarily to refine your theories but, rather, to add more information to your archives. If you like to travel, it is because each new location offers novel artifacts and facts. These can be acquired and then stored away. Why are they worth storing? At the time of storing it is often hard to say exactly when or why you might need them, but who knows when they might become useful? With all those possible uses in mind, you really don’t feel comfortable throwing anything away. So you keep acquiring and compiling and filing stuff away. It’s interesting. It keeps your mind fresh. And perhaps one day some of it will prove valuable.

Ideation. You are fascinated by ideas. What is an idea? An idea is a concept, the best explanation of the most events. You are delighted when you discover beneath the complex surface an elegantly simple concept to explain why things are the way they are. An idea is a connection. Yours is the kind of mind that is always looking for connections, and so you are intrigued when seemingly disparate phenomena can be linked by an obscure connection. An idea is a new perspective on familiar challenges. You revel in taking the world we all know and turning it around so we can view it from a strange but strangely enlightening angle. You love all these ideas because they are profound, because they are novel, because they are clarifying, because they are contrary, because they are bizarre. For all these reasons you derive a jolt of energy whenever a new idea occurs to you. Others may label you creative or original or conceptual or even smart. Perhaps you are all of these. Who can be sure? What you are sure of is that ideas are thrilling. And on most days this is enough.

If you’ve ever worked with me, are they accurate? What are yours?

 

 

My Professional Vision as Higher Education IT Leader (DRAFT)

How often, or have you thought about your core ideologies and your future as a professional? I personally haven’t myself but as I lead my organization through a strategic planning process and as I learn more about how to develop successful organizations, I began to think about how I could apply that process for me personally. Using ideas from a book by Jim Collins called “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies”, I came up with some initial thoughts below. It’s a work in progress and they’re a product of quick brainstorming tonight so I know they’ll evolve as I have more opportunity to reflect deeper about my purpose and aspirations. I’m also revealing some of my honest (and maybe flawed) thinking at this point in my life. Nevertheless, I’m choosing to share them with you with the hope of encouraging you to also think about your vision.

CORE IDEOLOGY:

Core Values:

  • Trust, respect, and value diversity and inclusion of ideas.
  • Deep value of community in the workplace.
  • Question status quo.
  • Lead through trust and collaboration.
  • Committed to helping and making other people’s lives better.
  • Treat people with dignity and respect.
  • Committed to life-long and continuous learning.
  • Find the goodness in others and help them fulfill their potential.

Purpose: To contribute to the betterment of the society by promoting student success in higher education through technology and mentorship. Student success means students develop as “whole person” while they’re at the university and to prepare them for their next steps which could include attending grad school, getting a job, or following their passions.

ENVISIONED FUTURE:

BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals):

To become one of the most recognized practitioner/scholar experts in the field of higher education as a result of successful and proven leadership/implementation of transformative practices involving technology leading to dramatic improvement of student success in higher education.

Vivid Descriptions

  • Together with researchers and scholars, will develop new theories or advance existing theories that reflect the current and future needs/interests of the diverse and changing higher education student demographics.
  • Together with researchers/scholars/practitioners/vendors/students/technology professionals, will design and develop common standards and shared services n higher education that will enable information systems across institutions the ability to easily interface with each other,  easy to implement, easy to use, and are learner-centered.

What are your core ideologies and envisioned future?

Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG)

dream_bigSetting big dreams is fun, isn’t it? My wife and I commute to work together and there are days when we talk about all the possibilities ahead of us. We figure it doesn’t cost us anything and if we’re going to dream anyway, we’ll dream big beyond our imaginations and beyond our realities as we see them now.

Personally, thee last few months have proven to be fruitful so far. Some of what I consider Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG) have come/or in the process of becoming realities. BHAG is a term I came across from the book called “Built To Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” by Jim Collins. The idea behind BHAG in this book is that visionary companies used bold and daunting missions to stimulate progress. I just recently read the book so I didn’t know this term even existed but it seems the goals I had set for myself would qualify as BHAGs. They may not be audacious goals for other folks, but these goals certainly are for me.

These personal BHAGs may not have been in the form I originally envisioned them to be, but nevertheless, they’re close to what I had in mind. In addition, some of these goals are personally scary for me. I figured I will just have to conquer my fears as I come across them. Another important note – these goals needed the help of other folks to make them happen! Without folks who believed in me and the ideas themselves, they would have never happened.

Here are some of my BHAGs that have become realities:

SA_Exec_TeamA seat at the Senior Student Affairs Officers (SSAO) table in my role as IT Director.  I became a member of my campus’ Student Affairs Executive Team in December. In this blog post, Case for Technology Leadership at the SSAO Table, I wrote about the values of having someone in a senior technology management role at the table who can bring technical expertise and perspective as strategic decisions are made.

A campus-wide IT leadership/management professional development program. With the support of our new CIO Matt Hall, we have begun planning for a campus-wide program to promote community-building as well as leadership/mgmt and technical training for IT professionals. Along with our CIO, we have a team consisting of IT Directors as well as HR managers that’s in the process of formulating our goals and program activities. This is an idea I had proposed on this blog post – Cohort-Based IT Leadership Program for Higher Education.

NASPA Technology Knowledge Community (TKC) Chair. This is a position that seemed out of reach for me and one that I may not be qualified for, given the significance and scope of the TKC. However, as mentioned in this post (Sharing Our Vision at #NASPA16: Updates from the TKC Chair), I think I can contribute to advancing technology in student affairs by broadening the scope of conversation and those involved in the discussions through the chair position.  With the help of an amazing team, the community members, and the current chair, Lisa Endersby, I can’t wait to see what we’ll do in the next couple of years!

A webcast on student affairs and technology. A couple of weeks ago, the opportunity to do a webcast finally happened with the webcast “What AVPS and Mid-Level Professionals Need to Know About Technology” with Eric Stoller and Stephanie Gordon. It was a challenge for me given that I am not always sure of how much I know about the topic and how I may come across on a live discussion when folks are watching from all places.

joe_before_afterLose 45 pounds in 10 months. Never in my wildest dream would I ever thought I’d accomplish this. After all, I’ve tried in the past to lose weight, but for various reasons, I just couldn’t make it happen. Here is a blog post, How I lost 20 Pounds in 3 Months, of what I found to work (written three months after I started the weight loss attempt).

 

 

As I had mentioned, my wife and I have a list of BHAGs and those shall remain a secret to us and who knows if they’ll ever come to fruition. It is fun though to work towards them and to think about the possibilities. Professionally, I see the next three years as potentially significant for me. With a mixture of luck, preparation, and with the help of many folks – I do hope they’ll happen.

What are you BHAGs?

Photo of goldfish with shark fin courtesy of: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CZwxYtFWwAIclAj.jpg

 

Blogging as a Medium of Expression for Marginalized Voices

The topic of social media and scholarship came up yesterday in the Research Institute of the NASPA Western Regional Conference in Oakland. One of the questions posed was “who defines legitimate source of knowledge?” As mentioned yesterday, when speaking with academic administration or faculty, one would probably cite academic journals and not blogs as they are not seen as scholarly publications. There are certain standards in the academy of what constitutes scholarly writing. I can accept the idea that blogs may not yet be considered as scholarly publications but what I will not accept is the idea is not blogs are not legitimate source of ideas, whether they are considered scholarly or not, especially ideas from those who have been marginalized and whose voices have not been heard.

As one who has felt marginalized throughout my life and my career, my blog offers me the voice to be heard. No one is interrupting me when I am in the middle of writing a sentence. I write when my mind is free and when I want to. I often write my posts between midnight and three AM. Dr. Larry Roper, the former Provost for Student Affairs at Oregon State said this when he spoke at UC Santa Barbara years ago, “Please do not steal my pause…the best comes after the pause.” This is a challenge I’ve faced in my life as one who needs the time to think and find myself being interrupted in mid sentence when I’m speaking.

Even worse is that when I am expressing my perspective that may not align with mainstream thinking because of my upbringing and cultural background, some of my ideas are quickly dismissed. Social media, especially blogging, has allowed me to contribute to the conversations in the field of student affairs, higher education, and technology. It has also provided me the medium to share about my shared experience as an Asian-American. I know some of the topics I write about resonate with others as I get emails from others who tell me they can relate, including this recent post on my challenge as an Asian American leader and assertiveness.

I don’t apologize for my thoughts even as they may sound ridiculous to others. Why should I? I have a perspective like everyone else. Whether they are “right” or “wrong” is in the eye of the reader but they are perspectives nevertheless. I have gotten tired of having to wait for others to allow me to speak because I may not have the three letters after my name or because I don’t sit in a high enough position at the university. I think marginalized folks can relate to the frustration of being silenced or dismissed. Blogging has provided me the opportunity to contribute my thoughts and express them in a way I want to. When I blog, I don’t always know how readers will interpret them, and I know there are consequences to what I write. However, what I write are my ideas shaped by my experience and struggles. No one is going to tell me, nor should they, that my personal truth as the way I only see them is not valid.

When I started blogging, my intention was just to share my thoughts and I considered it as a public personal reflection. One of the unexpected outcomes has been the collaborations with other student affairs and technology professionals that share common interests with me. I’ve had discussions with others about the current and the future of student affairs and how technology should play in how we serve our students. As I’ve come to find out during these collaborations, there are other folks out there like me who have ideas yet they don’t have the medium to express them. For me, my blog has allowed me to contribute to the conversations and to connect with others.

If you’ve felt marginalized and have felt your voice silenced – consider blogging. No one’s going to interrupt your thoughts while you’re writing and yes, there are consequence to what you write, but at least you’re sharing your unique ideas for others to read. Your ideas are too valuable to be kept in your head!