Category Archives: Free Handouts

What is Your Programming GPA? (***free handout***)

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Planning and attending programs and activities is typically the most fun part of a student affairs professional’s year. Successful programming is not only a skill, but an art. However, we need to be able to teach our programming standards to our full-time and student staffers so they understand what is and what is NOT an excellent program. Unfortunately programming expectations can be very nebulous, subjective, and many times concentrate on quantity rather than quality.

In order to better define the standards programming for my own student staff, I developed a simple, one-page Programming Rubric. Simply stated, a rubric is a written set of criteria for which a task is measured against. Rubrics are typically used by K-12 teacher and professors in the classroom in order to set the standards for how an essay, research paper, presentation, or other assignment will be graded.

The rubric includes a rating of Excellent, Good, Average, and Poor for five areas, including Pre-Planning, Marketing, Finances, Evaluation, and Overall Assessment. There is also a section for comments specific to the actual program being evaluated. Each rating has a numerical value attached to it so you can evaluate a program by creating a programming grade point average (GPA). Given there are five areas of evaluation, including the overall assessment, the points will range from a minimum of five to a maximum of 20. After adding each area together, you divide by five in order to get the program GPA. A programming GPA is a great standard for students because they can relate to it very easily, is easy for them to conceptualize, and offers you the opportunity to discuss results during one-on-one’s and semesterly and / or annual evaluations.

As a specific example, imagine you have a resident assistant who plans a resume writing workshop in which she invites an employee from career services to speak and offer tips. The RA discusses the program with you ahead of time and gets the proper consent as well as advice on how to improve the program. She advertises only using Facebook and spends $75.00 on pizza. Unfortunately, only five students attend the program, and there is little follow up of regarding student feedback and / or learning outcomes assessment. Using the rubic, you give a grading of “Good” (3.0) for Pre-Planning, “Poor” (1.0) for Marketing, “Average” (2.0) for Finances, “Average” (2.0) for Evaluation, and “Average” (2.0) for Overall Assessment. Adding these together, you get a score of 10 points. Divide that by five (for the five areas of assessment), and she earns an “Average” (2.0) GPA for the program.

Download the free Programming Rubric handout to help assess your programming. Feel free to utilize the rubric as a template that you can edit in order to create an appropriate tool for your own department and staffing needs.

11 RA Staff Development Activities (free resources)

The aspect of leadership I most enjoy is being able to create development opportunities for my staff. Staff in-service opprtunities can include anything from skills building activities, trips, discussions, and games. Here are 10 different staff development / in-service activities you can prepare for your staff:

1. Show-and-Tell – We all like talking about our personal stories and things that hold special meaning in our lives. Have each of your RA staffers bring something to your staff development meeting to share with the group. I’ve had RA’s bring special awards, mementos from family members, and other items that hold special sentimental value. The activity allows staffers to learn things about one another that they may not have known before. This is a no-cost activity that usually sparks great discussion.

2. Teamwork Field Trips –  Take your staff on a local field trip to meet with leaders who manage a team in a business or non-profit organization. I previously wrote a post on how I took my staff on a trip of the USAirways command center and aircraft maintenance facilities. I connected with a friend who manages mechanic safety, and he was able to get us a tour where he and his team spoke about the crucial importance of communication and teamwork. You could plan a similar trip by contacting leaders of organizations in your local area. Businesses typically like to show off their work and accomplishments so you should have luck setting something like this up. The worst they can say is “no.”

3. Article & Book Discussions – I am a big advocate of reading and recommending those resources to my staff and colleagues. If your budget allows, purchase a particular book for your staff. They can read the book prior to your having an in-service meeting to discuss the book and how you can apply its content to your own organization. You can even prepare “discussion prompt” worksheets so they can jot down ideas prior to the meeting. To simplify things, assign a particular chapter or even a small journal or magazine article for the discussion.

4. Games & Simulations – I enjoy creating and leading games and simulation activities for my staff. Games and simulations should be centered around learning specific aspects of their RA position, including teamwork, basic counseling skills, and communication. I also highly recommend Barnga: A Simulation Game on Cultural Clashes by Thiagi.

5. Case Studies – You can create various case studies that your staff can work on to determine various solutions. Pair up newer RA’s with your veterans so they can work together. Case studies for RA’s can range from conduct and mental health issues to diversity and teamwork challenges.

6. Community Service Projects – Arrange for your staff to participate in a local community service project. Projects can range from helping at food banks, YMCA and other youth group organizations, churches, and local municipalities.

7. Photo Scavenger Hunt – While I understand that scavenger hunts can be discouraged at some schools due to hazing policies, photo scavenger hunts can be an easy way to build team collaboration and spirit. Larger staffs can be broken up into smaller teams and sent out to get photos of various objects and situations. The team that gets the most photos of the objects listed in the time allotted wins a prize (or simply kudos). Here is a  photo scavenger hunt sheet you can print and use.

8. MOOC Courses – A “MOOC” is a massive online open course. MOOC’s are free (hence the “open”) and offered by various universities and organizations, such as Stanford, MIT, and Khan Academy. Some of the course materials would be appropriate to use for staff development activities, including business, management, and psychology lessons. RA’s could work on various lessons you assign on their own time or read the content prior to attending a staff meeting where it will be discussed.

9. Webinars – Similar to #8, webinars are online presentations that can be viewed as a group or individually. There are many webinars available online for a fee and for free. Topics range from business, marketing, and social media use, leadership, and student life-related areas. Pre-tests and post-tests tied to student life outcome efforts could be created and administered.

10. Arts & Crafts – Sometimes staff development activities can be simply for fun. The completed projects can be kept by the staff or donated to local care homes and hospitals. Craft supplies can be purchased at Walmart, Target, local craft stores, or even online at Oriental Trading.

11. Leadership Chats – Facilitating leadership-related discussions between RA’s and executive administrators at the university can prove to be very insightful and expose them to individuals they may not normally interact with. University staffers, such as the Vice President of Student Affairs, Vice President of Finance & Administration, and the Director of Housing & Residence Life can be invited to in-service meetings to discuss topics regarding career development and being a leader.

Using Twitter to Enhance Orientation and FYE Programs

 
 
Twitter is a perfect and inexpensive way to connect with new students and their parents. For those of you who may not be completely adept at using Twitter, you can reference Twitter 101 for Student Affairs Professionals to learn more about the power of using Twitter in Student Affairs.  
 
If you don’t already have one, create and advertise the orientation Twitter handle / name to parents and students and tell them that they can use this to ask any questions they have during the process. (Note: You MUST have someone monitoring this from your office constantly to give a quick response.) Armed with an orientation and / or FYE Twitter account, the sky is the limit for making new relationships with your students.
 
Here are some tactics that you can use to enhance your orientation and FYE programs at your own college or university:
  • Ask students to tweet what they are learning and experiencing during orientation or FYE-related activities.
  • Give them a hashtag to include in their tweets (e.g., #FYE2012; #NewUStudent12). Create a contest and prize for the most tweets over the orientation period (or varying categories: most creative, best advice, most retweeted, most mentioned)
  • Create Twitter scavenger hunts. As students go from area to area, they can send tweets based on a sheet you give them related to information they should be learning.
  • Ask parents to Tweet their best college advice; you would have to create a hashtag for this purpose so you can track them. Otherwise they need to mention your twitter name in the tweet. A “quality” prize (e.g., hoodie, dinner with VP or president, etc.) could be raffled at the end of the orientation period.

Here are examples of specific tweets that you can send: 

  • Show this Tweet at the bookstore during orientation to get 10% off.
  • What do you want to accomplish and how can we help you?
  • Show this tweet at check-in and get a free university lanyard.
  • Who is a new friend you can recommend to follow?
  • What has been your favorite part of orientation so far?

Take some time to search for other colleges and universities’ orientation and FYE departments from across the country and look at their tweets to see what they are doing. You can also simply tweet this question with the #studentaffairs, #orientation, #FYE, and #sachat hashtags and you’ll get responses from many individuals.

What are some other Twitter tactics that you have used to enhance your orientation and FYE programs? Please share your comments below.