Duke TIP 2015

Lido Beach

Lido Beach

After the horror of last summer working with Duke Summer Session, (Duke Sucky Session more like), I was more than a little apprehensive about my position as Program Assistant for Duke TIP Field Studies in Florida. After a few flights, and having to navigate through the Atlanta International Airport, I finally landed in Sarasota. I tried not to have high expectations in terms of how enjoyable this experience would be. I told myself I could have an overbearing supervisor, gossiping coworkers, and terribly behaved students. “You’re here to work, not make friends. Do your job.” I told myself for the first few days. Fortunately, I didn’t have anything to worry about. My supervisor and coworkers turned out to be genuinely nice people, each with their own strengths and interests that served the program well. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to be a part of a functioning, albeit sometimes chaotically functioning, team who didn’t place blame on others, but worked together to solve problems. After the first week, I stopped bracing myself against the potential negative job politics and really started to make friends and figure out what on earth my position was.

Our dance theme was something about sand and beaches obviously.

My position was new and very flexible; we were basically making it up as we went along. I was used to being an administrator, making decisions, and doing everything myself. It was difficult at first to transition to being an assistant. A lot of what I did as the assistant assigned to residence life was programming and supplies runs. Even though I didn’t have a set list of tasks every day, there was always something I could do or help with. I got to go on a few really great field trips to aquariums and museums. We spotted wild dolphins and manatees and counted turtle nests. We even went for a boat ride on the Sarastota Bay and caught (then released) some puffer fish. It was amazing and I actually learned a lot. Also, DISNEY WORLD EPCOT!

I had fun captioning Renaissance art at the Ringling Museum.

at EPCOT with some staff! Man, that was a long day; my feet are still aching.

I really enjoyed attending and running programs as well. We had field day complete with an epic water balloon fight, a dance, and a kickball tournament. One of the first programs I helped with was painting, which was really fun because so many of our students are very talented artists. One student painted the Waffle House sign because “it inspired him”. I called him “waffle house” for the duration of the program. I still don’t know what his real name was. I also did some henna tattoos for students and staff, which was really fun and a great opportunity to get some practice.

Button flair is a must on your blue Duke TIP lanyard. These are painted by our very own "TIPsters"

Button flair is a must on your blue Duke TIP lanyard. These are painted by our very own “TIPsters”

fun henna tattoos!

fun henna tattoos!

I had a couple days off and had the chance to go to Siesta Key beach, which is the number one beach in the USA. It was super crowded, but the water was perfect and we had frozen daiquiris! #treatyoself2015 Such a great day.

at Siesta Key!

at Siesta Key!

On the last night after the students left, most of the staff went down to Lido Beach and had a few beers. It was so much fun hanging out and talking without any program responsibilities left. Well, I think I had one too many beers because I had the brilliant idea of skinny dipping in the ocean after it got dark. I didn’t think to bring my swimsuit, so I ran into the waves with my shorts and bra on. It was so ridiculously fun and I would do it again in a heartbeat. When I got back on shore, and finally found my shirt, I reached into the back pocket of my soaked denim jeans and found my brand new iPhone 6 chillin’ in its “life proof” case. Yeah, it has never recovered, even after two days in rice. So now I’m using my four year old iPhone 4 that has a stylish cracked screen and a whopping 8GB of zero space until I get paid later this month. #mylifeisbeck Did I mention my debt card AND my license was also lost at sea? I was seriously off the grid for a few days. I didn’t know how I was going to get on my flights back home the next day without my ID. It felt like the start of a really good urban adventure novel. If it wasn’t for my new friends asking questions and letting me borrow their phones, I probably wouldn’t have been able to get home safely.

Duke TIP family!

Duke TIP family!

I’m still waiting for my duplicate license, so I’ve been stuck at home all week and just returned to my day job at Starbucks today. Lucky for me, I have this handsome feline to keep me company all day.

Seriously, how can you not fall in love with Gigi?

How can you not fall in love with Gigi?

I’m definitely applying for Duke TIP next year.

Beck

The Final Report

I’ve kept strangely quiet about my summer job in a college after my first optimistic post. Every time I try to think over what happened, to make sense of the chaos and horror that was this summer, I come up empty. It’s almost as if I’ve repressed the memories to keep myself from going insane, but I need to write about it if I’m ever going to get over it. I’m still hurt and angry, and I’m afraid this post has an awful lot of complaining in it, but writing it all down has helped. As my sister says, writing is healing.

meme

Lessons Learned

The first thing I learned as Dean of Residence Life was that I was not ready for this job. I had just graduated, had no real job before, and was coming into an important administrative role with no prior experience to pull from. I did not know what it took to house and run a residence life program. I thought of myself as a lead RA because that’s what I understood. I did not have the skills, the attention to detail or the ability to keep up with the work load required for this job. A few days into the program, I found myself at my wits end and with nowhere to go but down. A week into the program, I made a mistake and was led to believe that all my coworkers resented me, and that I was a “whisper away from being fired”. I was quickly labeled as incompetent (even called selfish) and the majority of my responsibilities were given to other administrators for the rest of the program. They even promoted two RAs to administrators in order to “delegate more effectively”. It’s important to me that my boss and coworkers believe in me, that I can do my job and improve. Maybe this isn’t a good thing, because it makes me reliant on others for my self-assurance, but so it is. I did not feel that they had faith in me after that first week and my self-esteem suffered as a result.

The second thing I learned was that this program was poorly designed and managed. The students doubled in number this year; the admin team did not double in number this year. That is not a recipe for success. This program was extremely ill-designed and set up all its workers for failure. Is it reasonable to expect every administrator to be efficient while working 19 hour days for three or more days? This is not an exaggeration. Throughout the duration of the program, I got five hours of sleep on a good day. We had multiple administrators and RAs up until 2am or 3am dealing with residents going to the ER, getting locked in trash rooms, getting calls from peeping toms; the list goes on. Expectations from the main office were not communicated clearly or in a timely manner, so deadlines were missed, mistakes were made, and miscommunication multiplied. The most frustrating thing about this job was that no matter how many times we as an admin team tried to tell the director that things needed to change, she was unwilling to listen and make changes. If a worker is not performing well, you can respond in one of two ways. You can (1) threaten and criticize that worker in the hopes of scaring them straight, or (2) work with them to discover the root of the problem and implement strategies to improve. As a boss you also play the role of the teacher. If a teacher does not succeed in teaching her students with one method, it is expected that they try other methods in order to help that student reach his or her goal. These were not theories the director attempted to put into practice, despite having a doctorate in higher education.

The third thing I learned was that if you cannot communicate and work with your coworkers, you cannot be successful. I thought in the beginning that we were communicating well, but that quickly failed after the first weekend. We were not communicating well at all. Misinformation was abundant and when mistakes were made we blamed each other instead of changing the process. It got so bad that we had an intervention where we all sat in a meeting for three hours alternatively blaming each other and then being vulnerable and apologizing. I was the only one who cried; it was mortifying. After this, things got a bit better, but we never fully recovered. Again, our boss didn’t seem to care that we had problems responding to her communication and management style. This experience has made me realize the importance of acting quickly in the future when I have conflicts with coworkers and my boss, and to apologize early when you make mistakes.

Breaking Point

I had many breakdowns during the program, but the incident that made me go absolutely crazy happened on my last night on campus. We had two students left in the dorms and most of the RAs and admins had already left. I wanted to celebrate the end of the program with a few RAs who were also my friends. We weren’t going to do much, just go have a drink or two at a local bar. When my boss found out that this was happening, she freaked out and called me 11 times in 20 minutes, left two voice messages, and many texts asking me the same questions over and over about who was going to be in charge while I was out “partying”. I was not planning to be off campus for more than three hours and felt that she was overreacting. She gave me instructions to put two RAs on duty while I was gone and make sure the residents knew who to contact if anything happened. My RAs were not on contract, so I thought it unfair to ask them to be on duty. After I told my boss I was following directions, which I did reluctantly, I got a call from one of my RAs saying they were scared because my boss called her. My boss said she couldn’t get ahold of me and was threatening to come to campus “if things weren’t going her way”.

This is when I hit my limit.

After I unnecessarily woke up students to give them the RA on duty’s number and doing exactly as I was told, even though it was completely unnecessary, my boss called my RA and freaked her out about the whole thing. I was outraged and only saw red. I called my boss and yelled at her saying she had no right to call my RAs and scare them and make them do anything when their contract had ended. She was the one who did not think through the closing procedures and put safety measures in place. I was there voluntarily. What would she have done if I had left earlier that day and not decided to stay the night? It was fine to bother me about this stuff, but to call and freak out my RAs? They did not deserve that. I hung up after I told her never to call me again, and she didn’t. I know it was unprofessional, but my contract was over; she couldn’t touch me. I knew even before my outburst that I would not get a good reference from her anyway. It felt so good to tell her off like that, especially since it was not the first time I or the other admins had been harassed past 10pm by my boss who was most likely not sober.

I was never so happy to leave a job in my life. There were so many times that I wanted to quit this summer, because I was stretched far past my limit mentally, emotionally, and physically. But I’m glad I didn’t because I was able to finish what I started, even if I went a little crazy in the end.

Beck

My First “Grown-Up” Job

I’m writing from my dorm room on Duke University’s campus! I’m finally here starting my position as Dean of Residence Life for the Summer Session program. The past two weeks, I’ve been frantically trying to get a head start on some of the preparation. It’s amazing just how much planning needs to happen before the staff arrive, let alone the students. I still need to finish planning staff training, complete the training binders, and most importantly assign housing! I’ve never had to assign rooms to students before and it’s quite a daunting task. I’m really glad I have a friend from last year helping me as Resident Hall Director. I really like the other admin team members as well. I came into the office all last week and am beginning to get to know everyone. They are all really great and interesting people. We seem to be communicating well so far; hopefully, we keep that up!

It’s so weird having a “grown up” job. I have so much freedom to make decisions and use my own judgment. While that is liberating, since it is my first experience as a Dean of Res Life, I’m using every opportunity I can to ask for feedback from my peers. That’s another thing; I’m the youngest admin on the team, even some of my RAs older than I am, but people don’t seem to be holding that against me. I can honestly say that I’m being treated as a peer. I feel that for the first time in my life, I’m being treated as an adult, and I really like it. Although there is a lingering sense of I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing panic, I think that may be part of being an adult too, not being afraid to say you don’t know and asking for help. I really look forward to this summer because I know I’m going to grow a lot as a person and a professional. I will also get to work with friends from last year and Elon. Oh, by the way, did I mention I’m going to CHINA? Yeah, that’s happening.

Wish me luck,

Beck