Philanthropy

I’ve discovered that one of my favorite things about working for Sorority and Fraternity Life is the endless opportunities provided to support my students in pursuing their passions. Perhaps the best way that I can do this is by attending philanthropy events hosted by each chapter or auxiliary group. I am able to combine my own interests in community service/giving back and student development in one great event. Boom! Double Whammy!

Whether I am running a 5k, or filling my face at a pasta, burrito, or chili feed, I am always willing to pay a small price and to give back to something great all while seeing my students work towards something they love.

Because each national fraternity and sorority chapter is affiliated with a national philanthropy organization and USD has 12 national chapters on campus, there is an abundance of opportunity for me to support my students and support something larger than myself.

This weekend, one of our sorority chapters (Alpha Xi Delta) held a 5k run in support of their national philanthropy organization, Autism Speaks. My immediate thought was what a great event! I get to combine my passion for running with my passion for supporting my students and this amazing organization. Of course I am going to be there. This run, unfortunately, was held the day after St. Patrick’s Day-If you work on a college campus, have ever been to college, or have seen any Hollywood movie, you know that college kids celebrate every single holiday in proper alcoholic fashion-and I did not foresee it having a large attendance, which made me want to go even more.

I showed up early the morning of the event with my good friend, Lucy, paid our student fee-$15 all going to Autism Speaks. Very reasonable, even on a grad student budget-and waited for more people to show. To my surprise, at the start of the run, there were quite a few participants lined up and ready to go. I was loving this.

The race came and went…and dragged on for some (hungover) participants…but everyone was very positive about it. I mean how can you not be positive about philanthropy? Joining together to support an amazing cause-whether over a run or food or something else entirely-is magical, and we as a Greek community do it ALL THE TIME.

I have been attending chapter philanthropy events all year long, and it took this one event to make me realize the importance of fraternal organizations and their partnerships with national philanthropies. Service and brotherhood/sisterhood are just two of the values that many Greek organizations are founded on, and at every single philanthropy event hosted each academic year these values are displayed. How freaking cool is that?

17407708_1857627081162078_1934179099_o
me (the 5k winner) and the lovely ladies of Alpha Xi Delta at the finish line

It is my hope that each student sees the importance of their role in philanthropy and that they’re not just doing it because it’s another event hosted by their fraternity or sorority chapter. It may not be today, or tomorrow, but I hope that each and every chapter member is impacted by their experience with service, and that they carry it with them forever-and perhaps even more importantly, share it with others.

I am excited to finish out the year and to continue supporting each chapter and their mission to give back to the community and to their national philanthropies. I’m ending the year with high hopes for the things to come.

In love and service,

-Joel

Friendship.

img_6667
My best friend, Monica and I at Badlands National Park

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. And I will continue to say it. I’m a woo. I love the challenge of meeting new people, making friends, and winning others over. For me, meeting people and making friends is thrilling. It’s an adventure. A high.

It’s always been easy for me to make friends and it’s something I am proud of. My ability to win others over and build friendships is part of who I am. You don’t typically see me without someone by my side.

I like to think that my personality attracts others and that is why I have a tendency to make many friends and why I can jump from group to group. But I have never thought about what actually goes into making friends. Until recently.

As I continue to assess my values and the things that make me tick, I realize that the things that I value are things that I see in others-especially those closest to me. The most important aspects of my life are shared with the most important people in my life. I see my values embodied in the character traits of my friends.


I am not trying to brag or to scream about the multitude of friends that I have. The intention of this post is not that at all. I just want to explore the inner workings of friendships and how friendships evolve over time as we as individuals evolve and transform as we experience the world around us.

I believe friendship is fluid. It is something that takes work and constantly changes. We have the ability to put thought and effort into friendships and to change our minds about friends at any time. I believe that the roles that our friends play in our lives are fluid as well. People enter and exit our lives at different points for a reason. The role that they played years ago may be different from the role they currently play in your life.


I have best friends, ride or dies, close friends, acquaintances and friends-of-friends, convenient friends, and even online friends.

I have childhood friends, high school classmates, college roommates, and colleagues that I consider friends. Each one serves a different purpose in my life. Each one is wildly different from the next and is valuable to me in a vastly different way.

I believe we have relationships with different people for different reasons. Friends come and go at different times of your life. And sometimes this is hard to grasp. In fact, I really struggle with this concept. As a woo, I fight so hard to build a relationship and cultivate it so that it grows, and sometimes I feel like I put far more investment into my relationships than others. That’s fine, but it can be exhausting too.


When I moved to South Dakota, I knew no one. This was exciting. It meant there was a new challenge. A time to build new relationships and make new friends. That’s exactly how I approached this move. And I have made some amazing new friends in the short time that I have lived in Vermillion.

In reverse of this, moving far away meant long-distance relationships with all of my friends from Michigan. I didn’t think anything of this at the time. I was so excited to try something new and I felt so strongly about the relationships that I had with my friends that I didn’t think that the distance would be a big deal or that maintaining our relationships would be difficult. I was wrong.

It takes a lot of work to maintain long-distance relationships. I see why long-distance romantic relationships don’t always work out. I totally get it now.


I guess these thoughts have crossed my mind because I just spent the majority of my spring break by myself and while it was refreshing, it was also lonely. Suddenly it felt like all of my friends were gone. I realized this week how convenient college is and how you become friends with people because they literally live with you and you see them every day. This is not what it is like in the real world and I am not sure that I am emotionally ready for this absence of friends. I realized how much work I put into the relationships with those around me as well as the relationships with my friends from home.

I was reminded of this post I saw a while ago. I have followed Jedidiah Jenkins on Instagram for some time now, and I am often inspired by his words. It is people like him who reiterate my love for language, words, and the power of voice. In this post he writes about friends, and this concept of “friendlies”. I saved this post as a reminder for moments like this-when I am feeling the inconveniences of long-distance relationships and maintaining friendships as an adult.


I guess what I am trying to say in this post is that if you’re reading this, you probably know me pretty well. We have a friendship, a relationship that is special. One that is far different from any friendship that I have with anyone else. Know that I value you. I love you. And even if I don’t call, text, or write you every day-or even every month-I still consider you a friend. I know that you are here to serve a purpose and bring something of value to my life-and I yours. It may be guidance, a listening ear, laughter, advice for the future, a refined sense of adventure, or a new music selection. Whatever your role in this friendship, I appreciate it. Thank you!

Huge shout out to my supervisor, Sarah, for shedding some light on adulting and maintaining friendships. I appreciate you listening and pulling me out of my spring break funk.


Remember…find your tribe and stick with them.

Big love,

-Joel

Values.

My favorite quote reads: “The very basic core of man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun” -Christopher McCandless


This quote comes from one of my favorite books, Into the Wild, by John Krakauer. I guess I love this quote because I feel that it speaks to my soul. It resonates deep within me. I am infatuated with the willingness and ability of McCandless to just leave it all behind, walk away, and live the life he imagined for himself. He had a mission, a purpose, and values that didn’t align with the lifestyle that he was living, so he changed his course. While this decision cost him his life, he lived with intent. He lived a life of value.

I am envious of Christopher’s freedom. I aspire to be brave enough someday to walk away from the meaninglessness of this life and to live only with passion. It’s why I am so attracted to the minimalist lifestyle. I want to find value in everything I do, each relationship I build, and all material possessions. McCandless was able to strip himself of all things that did not add value to his life. That is so amazing to me.


Since making my move to Vermillion, starting graduate school, and working in Sorority and Fraternity Life, I have discovered the importance of living a values-based lifestyle and what it means for me and the community in which I am part of.

Knowing who I am at my core, what values I stand for and believe in, and integrating this into practice daily is an important part of my minimalist lifestyle and holistic wellbeing.


I host a leadership series on campus as part of my graduate assistantship. Tonight I presented on values-based leadership and values-based living. Three of the core values that I live by are adventure, authenticity, and connection.

I value risk-taking, trying new things, and experiencing diversity. I live for genuinely cultivated relationships, and intentionality. I feel spiritually connected to the people, places, and things that I encounter. I value these connections and the mark they leave on my life.

img_7276

One of the things that I love most about working for Sorority and Fraternity Life is the values-based component of this community. Each chapter has different values that they instill in their members. Each member works to practice these values daily. The global Greek community values leadership, service, and brother/sisterhood. I appreciate this lifelong devotion and commitment to values-based leadership.

When I took this position, I didn’t know anything about fraternal organizations or their values and missions. I am still no expert, but what I do know is that I am a lifelong learner and am so excited to continue digging into my core and living out my values as I work with this amazing community of young men and women.

I look forward to exploring more of what it means to live a values-based life, and to be a values-based leader. I look forward to learning more about the values of Sorority and Fraternity Life, and the students that I advise.


As you go from reading this post to whatever else you were doing, reflect on what it is that you’re passionate about, who you look up to, and why. What are your core values? Are you living them daily?

Think about it. What changes are you going to make?

Big love,

-Joel

Gentlemen.

If you go to the University of South Dakota, are an alumni, or know someone who has ever attended school  here, you probably have heard something about the Strollers show.

It’s my first year as a graduate student at USD, and I have been hearing about Strollers since before my arrival, but I haven’t understood it until now.  It is just one of those things that you have to see to totally grasp the concept of it.  I am going to try my best to explain it for the sake of this post.

Strollers show in a nutshell: a performance based comedy show that is hosted by one of the oldest student organizations on campus, Strollers.  The Strollers do small comedy bits in between shows, but the majority of the show is made up of acts that are presented by the sorority and fraternity chapters on campus.  The 12 chapters are split into four teams consisting of two fraternity chapters and one sorority chapter each.  Each team’s cast chooses a theme for the performance and works for months to build a set, choreograph a performance, write scripts, and practice their act.  The competition is the biggest weekend of the year for some of our students and the energy on campus is so high.  It’s wild.


OK, so now that outsiders sort of understand what Strollers is, I can share a few more thoughts with you from an outsider perspective.

Everyone is drunk or in some way intoxicated-while this is the biggest night of the year, it is also a very high risk weekend for our students.  People are excited.  The casts are passionate and invested in this performance because they have spent months perfecting it.  Friends and family pack the auditorium.  Fraternity and sorority members come in waves to support their brothers and sisters.  Honestly, it’s a truly fascinating event.


Strollers is meant to be a fun and friendly competition.  It is built to create community on campus between multiple student organizations and the greater student body as a whole.  It is designed to build unity and to bring members of different Greek chapters together.

Ultimately it does all of those things, and as a chapter adviser, that is really really cool to see.  It is amazing to see so many of my students passionate and invested in something that they’ve worked so hard to create.  It is great to watch them work together on stage in front of hundreds of their peers.  Honestly, I was impressed.  I am impressed.  I am proud of each and every one the students who put themselves out there last night, and were brave enough to perform and to work to build community on our campus.  But, I am even more proud of something else that happened during the show.


While the show is supposed to create unity and bring people together, the excessive drinking and emotional states of our students isn’t the best environment for doing that-especially when we are all crammed into an auditorium.  Some students get out of hand and University Police is on site, because they know how big this night is for students and how wild it can be.

I watched students get escorted out of the auditorium.  I watched a girl fall down the stairs.  I watched multiple people trip or stumble through the dimly lit room.  And I watched a student throw punches at a few other students.  I was so proud to see that the two students that this guy threw punches at were very mature about the situation.  From where I was sitting, it didn’t look like they initiated any sort of dispute, or retaliation of any kind.  They told the other guys friends to get him away from them and they left the area where I was sitting.  They didn’t throw punches back, they didn’t scream or yell or get overly upset.  They handled it maturely.

This is the behavior that we should see at an event like this.  Not punches being thrown or vulgarities being screamed.  This is the reputation that fraternity men should have, not the reputation of party animals, hazers, rapists, and scum.  They are gentlemen.  Some of the finest gentlemen that I have met are fraternity men on this campus.

I was so proud of these students for being the bigger person in this situation.  They were smart, kind, and handled things correctly.  This is the kind of student that I like to work with, and this is the growth, maturity, and development that I love to see in my students.  I am sad that it came out of poor circumstances and at a public event like this, but I am proud of these young men, nonetheless.


I guess, I am just giving a shoutout to those two brave students for their actions.  They didn’t go unseen.  Continue being leaders on this campus and in this community.  Continue portraying masculinity and maturity in positive ways such as this.  Continue being true gentlemen.

-Joel

Go Western.

For the past few months, I have been on the search for a summer internship in Student Affairs.  My search criteria was to find an institution that offered housing for the summer, allowed me to work in a professional supervisory role, and was outside of my comfort zone in some way-Y’all know how adventurous I am and how important new experiences are to me.

I applied through a national organization called ACUHO-I and have been interviewing for a few weeks with institutions across the nation.  Yesterday was Internship Offer Day and I am excited to announce that I have been offered and have accepted a position for the summer.

I will be working with Residence Life and Conference Services at Western State Colorado University and will be moving to Gunnison in May.  I couldn’t be more excited to be working in my first professional role, in a Colorado mountain town, at a small, public, liberal arts university.

Let’s just say the rest of this school year is going to drag as I anxiously await my next big adventure.

I’m headed back to the mountains…and am going to be a Mountaineer!

Onto the next big thing!

-Joel

Dialogue.

I am a conversationalist.  I love to create space in which we can talk for hours, and indulge in meaningful conversation.  This week the concept of dialogue has been brought up to me multiple times, and has had me thinking about what it means to create dialogue.


My Sociology of Adult Education course has a great emphasis on classroom discussion and participation.  For this to be effective and meaningful we must first know what it takes to create dialogue and how to engage with others correctly from a sociological standpoint.  Last week, we started with a segment dedicated to creating dialogue.  I have been thinking about it ever since.

Maybe it was already on my mind, because I had an amazing conversation with one of the students that I advise, or maybe it’s because I am a natural communicator, storyteller, and lover of words.  I am not sure, but this segment of class resonated with me.


We discussed how the three pillars of successful, effective, and meaningful dialogue are Love, Humility, and Faith.  Creating rich dialogue and conversation with others requires a great deal of these three things.  Let me break it down for you.

Love:  To engage someone in conversation-I mean conversation, not small talk…anyone can engage in small talk…and I HATE small talk.  Let’s get deep, people!-you must express love to them.

Love is a commitment to others-I am not talking physical, or sexual love, but emotional love-and being vulnerable enough to share, and discuss things of importance and meaning is an act of committing yourself to someone.  This takes shape in many situations:  first dates, job interviews, shared taxi’s, and with the person sitting next to you in class.  Think about how you met your best friend.  It probably started with small talk or a shared interest, but with more meaningful conversation, you realize that you care deeply for this person, you connect with them, you love them, and this friendship is a commitment that you’ve made.

Love is an act of bravery.  You must have the confidence and willingness to make the first move, open up, start the dialogue.  It’s the reason why we talk about weather and have awkward moments with the people we don’t know very well or care much about.  We don’t show bravery for those we don’t love.  If you’re brave enough to let your guard down and to love the people you interact with you are brave enough to engage in dialogue.

Humility: Dialogue requires more than just showing love to the person/people you’re engaging with.  It requires more than the bravery and vulnerability that it takes to open up to someone.  It requires humility.  You must truly listen to those you’re engaging with as well.  You must set yourself aside for a moment and listen to everything that they have to say.  If you are listening with arrogance or the sole purpose of responding, the dialogue will not happen.  It will be a one-sided conversation, or it will end in small talk.  You will not grow from this interaction, you will not gain meaning from it.  Dialogue requires two or more people who are willing to listen to those that they’re engaging with, and to listen-truly listen-and learn from your partner you must have humility.

Faith: The third pillar of dialogue is faith.  You can only create dialogue with someone if you have faith that it will go somewhere.  You must set aside your differences, biases, judgement, and doubts and have faith in humankind.  Dialogue requires that you have faith in creating conversation, re-creating conversation, and learning as you go.  It means making mistakes, tripping over your words, getting choked up, and still having faith that the conversation isn’t dead.  Faith is all about trusting that even when the conversation is tough or leads somewhere unexpected, that it will yield growth and maturity, that you’ll learn from this experience, and it will lead you to a closer relationship with those you’re chatting with and knowing that when it goes sour-because faith also means being critical at times-it’s OK.


These three pillars are so important to my work as a Student Affairs professional-as well as in all other fields-and in moving from small talk and casual conversation to meaningful dialogue.  They’re the reasons why I love working with students.  They allow me to get to know the students that I work with.  They help me to share my story and to encourage my students to do the same.  Love, humility, and faith are the reasons why I am able to create horizontal dialogue with my students and in turn build relationships and connections with them.  It all happens through courageous conversation aka dialogue.


Anyway, I’ve been thinking about how I engage in dialogue over the past week and really concentrating on how I converse with those around me and what I am communicating to them.  Am I building dialogue?  Am I allowing my students to feel comfortable creating dialogue with me?

Today, is Valentines Day and since love is one of the three pillars of creating dialogue, I thought I would share some of my thoughts.  It’s also the perfect day to express to the ones you care about how you feel about them.

I challenge you all to have love, humility, and faith, and tell someone you care today.  It doesn’t have to be someone you’re romantically interested in, just someone you deeply care about.  Express your love for them, and start building a world of healthy dialogue.

 

Big love to you all today,

-Joel

Simplicity.

As I mentioned in my Goals for 2017 post, I am trying to minimize and focus on living a more simple, and meaningful life.

I am wildly intrigued by minimalism and the thought of doing more with less. If you haven’t heard of The Minimalists, check them out.  Their documentary is viewable here as well as on Netflix and they have authored three books that share their journeys into minimalism (I recently purchased Everything That Remains, if anyone would like to borrow it).  I also subscribe to their podcast and I love it!  If you commute to work, prefer stories over songs when working out, or just need to change up the pace, give them a listen.

The thing that I love most about minimalism is that it’s different for everyone.  Every person has a different definition of minimizing, living simply, and what is valuable to them.  For me, being a minimalist is all about finding value in the possessions that I have.  While, I hate clutter, and don’t want to ever live in a way that allows clutter to rule my home, my journey is most importantly about building a relationship with the stuff that I do have and recycling-tossing stuff defeats the purpose of minimizing waste and impact, so donate, repurpose, etc., please-the things that don’t add value to my life.

I’ve always been a pretty simple liver, but I finally started my adventure into this minimalism thing when I was living back at my parents house over Christmas break.  Being home for almost a month gave me ample time to sort through the junk in my room at their house.  I haven’t used most of the stuff in that room for a large portion of the last five years, and I know they’re not using any of it.  My twin brother, Adam recently moved out of my parents house too, so our room now felt awkward, like somehow it was no longer ours.  It was weird to be sleeping in a room that now felt lifeless.

My door was still covered in pictures from high school cross country, and old Runners World magazine snippets that I had cut out for inspiration.  Clothes that no longer fit littered my closet floor.  Posters hung limply on the walls-with the exception of my autographed Switchfoot poster, which definitely adds value to my life, I realized these posters no longer represented the person I am today-so I tore them down and tossed them.  Cleaning my room and sorting the stuff that is no longer needed from the stuff that will be kept felt so good.  It made the space feel a little more like mine-if even only for a few more days.

Since coming back to Verm, I have tried to make conscious decisions as far as my relationships go.  Is this person, thing, or activity adding value to my life?  Am I happy with this?  Is this just taking up space-even though I have literally nothing in my apartment, it is still a thought that I have?  I love that The Minimalists define living minimally as living with only the things that you value.  To me that is the perfect definition of how I prefer to live.


I recently downloaded a book on my Kindle that is written by a worship group that I love.  I have been a big fan of Rend Collective for quite a few years now, and they just released a devotional book that supplements their latest album-I just had to download it.

What I love most about Rend Collective is that they release Campfire albums every few years.  They unplug from the world, pack up their bags and instruments, and head into the wild.  There they are able to get back to the basics and produce simplistic and meaningful music that reflects who they are as a group as well as focusing on the things that really matter to them.

The first devotional in this book is titled Simplicity (also a title of one of the songs on the album) and talks about the reason why they go into the wilderness to write music.  It talks about the beauty of nature, the wonder of the stars, and the fact that today’s society is so focused on things that distract us from simplicity-from what is really important.  There is a quote in this reading that I am absolutely in love with.  It reads:

Simplicity is the art of restoring a clear and unobstructed view of the things that really matter.

This quote struck me because it really defines the emphasis on value and relationships in the minimalism movement, and the reason that I am so intrigued in minimalism in the first place.  Removing distractions and going back to the basics-stopping to smell the roses, if you will-helps me to realize the things that are important to me and why I value them.


I am also reading a book called The Longest Race by Ed Ayres.  I chose this book because it is written by an iconic ultra-runner, and as you all know, I love running.  Ayres articulates how I feel about running and minimalism in a great passage from his book, which is actually the inspiration for this post.  It reads:

As the world gets more complicated, people become more appreciative of the things that remain simple-and few things do.  Running is in some ways the simplest of all sports.  All you have to do to run, is open the door and go out.

Ayres explains that one of the great appeals of running is it’s simplicity and I couldn’t agree more.  In fact, I am attracted to the simple sports-the ones with few rules, little to no equipment, and those that require very little coordination, competition, and grace, but lots of attitude, stamina, and heart.  It’s why I love running, swimming, and hiking…and have enjoyed dabbling in yoga recently, too.

Each of these sports requires strength of mind and character.  They are not for the faint of heart.  But they are simple, independent, and can be done by anyone who is able.  They leave minimal impact, require minimal conditioning, and can all be done at your own pace.

There are very few distractions in these sports, and because of that I am able to think, breathe, and focus.  I can focus on the things that truly matter such as spiritual growth, reconnecting with my environment, and listening to my body.

fullsizerender-11

Another huge aspect of simplicity for me is always remembering to #LiveLikeMike.  Check out this link to read his story.


I look forward to continuing this journey into minimalism and exploring what that means for my relationships with material possessions, food, activities, and people, and the value that I place on each of them.

If you have thoughts on minimalism, feel free to reach out and share.  I’d love to connect.

-Joel