5 Reasons Why I #LOVermillion

Just like that I am done with my first year of #SAGrad and I have to admit that there are many “Great Faces” and “Great Places” in South Dakota. I’ve met some amazing people, done some exploring and learned to make Vermillion my temporary home. I have a year left of grad school, but it is time for another adventure.

I am dying for my move to Colorado for the summer – everyone keeps telling me that I will fall in love and not return to South Dakota. We’ll see – but I will miss some things while I am gone. There are five “Great Places” in Vermillion that have brought great joy to my life this year and thinking about the fact that I won’t be able to frequent them when I leave actually makes me really really sad. But in just three short months, I will be back for them!


1. The Bean: I have mentioned The Bean on my blog before – and I will probably write about them again – but I wanted to give them a little more attention. I am wildly in love with The Bean. A community coffeehouse is something that Vermillion lacked when I moved here. Lucky for me a few months later, we got one. But besides being the only place I ever go to study, and the place that provides we with high quality craft coffee, The Bean offers a sense of home.

Leslie, the owner of and mind behind The Bean is one of the first people that I met in Vermillion. We met in late July or early August – before the store was open – at the Farmers Market where I purchased a cold brew – and knew in that moment that we were destined to be friends – and chatted about her dream of opening a coffee shop. I also met Shannon (one of Leslie’s amazing employees) that night. We connected over our Michigan roots – Upper Peninsula T-shirts and my GPS coordinate tattoo always start the best conversations – and the fact that we are both Northern Michigan University alumni. These two connections were all I needed to know that I was going to be just fine here. I think I became The Bean’s biggest fan that day and have been supporting them – almost every day – since. The Bean continues to be my go-to spot for meaningful conversations and a good cuppa joe.

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Left to Right: Leslie (Owner, The Bean), Stephanie, and Me!

When asked “Why a coffee shop?” Leslie will say that she was excited to create a space that offered a warm, comfortable, community feel. She’s done just that. When you walk into The Bean – whether it is Leslie, Ed, Shannon, Martin, or Jessie (owner of the Iron Rooster, which shares space with The Bean) behind the counter – you can expect a smile and the friendliest of greetings. It is this greeting – paired with a hot cup of coffee and a treat – that I look forward to so often. In fact, Leslie and I share this dream of creating a warm, comfortable, friendly space for the community to gather. I have wanted to open my own coffee shop for a long time – but always told myself it would never happen – and since meeting Leslie and falling in love with The Bean, I am even more sure that this is something that I want to do someday. Thanks so much for the love and inspiration y’all! You’ll be seeing me soon!

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But first, coffee…from The Bean. Seriously, how cute is it!?

2. Dakota Brickhouse: In addition to being a coffee snob, I am also a lover of craft beer – yes, this has contributed to people labeling me as hippie, hipster, and granola – and when I moved to Vermillion, we didn’t just lack a coffeehouse, but a brewery or taphouse as well. I am beginning to think that my presence in this small community is what is leading to all of these great businesses popping up in town – just kidding, we have some great minds that saw an untapped market for both coffee and craft beer.

With a rotating tap of craft beer, a fine wine selection, $5 sangria, homemade appetizers that put most bar food selections to shame, and a rocking new patio it is pretty obvious why Dakota Brickhouse has become a favorite of mine.

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Grand opening of the Brick House patio featuring local band The Beards

As a grad student that works for the university, and advises students, I try to avoid the bar scene – If you’re a young professional, you probably understand what I am talking about – but in a small college town it is tough. There are only so many places to go grab a cheap dinner and beer. Thank God the Brickhouse opened! With it’s classy atmosphere, and high quality menu of provisions, it is not an establishment that college students go to get drunk on Saturday nights. If I run into a few of my students there, it isn’t awkward drinking with them because I know that none of us are going to be misbehaving here. We are here for enjoyment, not a great night out. The Brickhouse has filled the absence of IPAs in my life since it’s opening, and it will continue to be my favorite place offering veggie burger and taco slider options. Between the fun and charming staff and my group of friends – also known as the Booth Crew – it’s always a good time at the Brickhouse.

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Some of the Booth Crew: Anna, Sadie, Me, Ashley, and Sam

3. That Lambda Chi porch: *Cue Kenny Chesney’s Keg in the Closet*

Most of you reading already know that my Graduate Assistant position is with Sorority and Fraternity Life. Yes, I do live in a fraternity house. No, I am not a “frat boy” – in fact, you will never hear me use the term “frat” as it is incredibly degrading to the young men that I live and work with. Being a live-in adviser is one of the most fun and challenging jobs that you could have – if you think it is awkward seeing your drunk students at the bar, try coming home to a house party…yea, that’s exactly what I mean by challenging…but also what I mean by fun!

The thing that I love most about living at Lambda is the constant interaction with my students. There is always someone around which means my opportunities to learn and grow from my students are endless…as are my opportunities to engage with them in meaningful conversations. Many of the moments that have been most magical and meaningful this year have occurred on the front porch. We have this amazing front porch and a beautiful lawn and we love to spend time out there on nice days. Whether I am drinking coffee in the morning, reading, doing homework, grilling with the guys, or just watching them attempt skateboard tricks off the edge and toss footballs around, the porch has offered me many good times this year. I can’t wait to have another year with the Lambdas, and another year on this front porch.

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Nothing beats life on the front porch

4. Spirit Mound: One of the only places to hike in Vermillion, Spirit Mound offers my escape to nature, and a view into both Iowa and Nebraska. In addition to the view the fact that Spirit Mound is a stop along the Lewis and Clark trail is so cool to me. It has history. This is more than the only hill in Vermillion but a resting place to our ancestors and a spiritual ground for the Native Americans that once inhabited this land. Honestly, I feel so incredibly spiritually awake when I am hiking Spirit Mound. It is not just the name. I can feel the presence of those around me and I feel connected to the Earth. I have always been fascinated with the Native philosophy on spirituality and practices involving ritual, nature, and giving back to the earth. I connect to that much more so than the modern way of American life. Somehow, Spirit Mound really brings me back to my center and allows me to focus on my surroundings and be aware of everything. I just really like this place, and am so happy that I found it.

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Hazy day Spirit Mound Hike
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The day I realized Winter running in South Dakota is much worse than in Michigan

5. Clay County Park: I am pretty sure that no one besides me goes to this park on a regular basis. I have been going there at least once a week for the entire year and I have only ever seen other people there twice. I love how I can be so close to town and yet feel so far away, so alone. There is a loop trail at this park that is about 4 miles in total. I love to run 2.5 miles of it in particular. I love this part of the trail because it travels along a cornfield, into the woods, and by the shore of the Missouri River. I see all of this great scenery and natural beauty in just 2.5 short miles. This is one of the only trails in Vermillion, so I am lucky that I have even this short path to run on.

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The first time I ran this trail the corn was taller than me!

As I pack up and drive away from Vermillion for the summer, and anxiously head to the Southwest, I think about these five places and the greatness that they brought to my year. I’ll see you in just three short months!

Peace out Verm!

-Joel

 

What it Means to #LiveLikeMike.

If you’re a regular to my blog, you’ve heard me speak about Mike before. If you’re new to the Adventures of Joel and have no idea who Mike is, you can read his story here.

Anywho…It’s a year after his passing and he and Monica have been on my mind a lot this week – even more so than usual. 

I thought that I would get some of my thoughts out and share them to help me talk out my feelings this week.

So here we go.


Mike was extremely connected with the natural world and appreciated everything around him. He was the true definition of someone who lived life to the fullest. Mike was a photographer, a musician, and a writer. Mike was a dreamer, a thinker, a philosopher. Mike was an explorer, an adventurer, and a wanderer. Mike loved deeply, lived intentionally, and danced always.


They say “you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone” and I believe this to be true. But this is not the case with Mike. Seeing all of the lives he touched in just 24 years, and the community of support that Monica and the Purdy family have around them proves differently.

Everyone who was a part of Mike’s life knew what they had before it was gone. To have Mike as a part of your life meant that you had inspiration, adventure, passion, drive, meaning. You knew this because Mike lived so intentionally that it was clear to everyone how great life could be if you simply watched him or engaged him in conversation. He embodied everything that one could wish for in a friend and was transparent enough to tell you everything that everyone else was too afraid to say. He lived boldly and everyone knew it. It’s what attracted so many of us to him. He had this radiant, magnetic power.

You listen to one of his songs, look at one of his photos, read one of his journal entries, take a peek at one of his tattoos, and you just know exactly what you have by being connected to Mike. You know that he was one of a kind, an original, some magical force of nature. You knew he was special. He was rooted deeper than the rest of us. He was connected to everything that shared air and space with him.

Mike didn’t live like the rest of us. He didn’t spread hate or unacceptance. He didn’t care what people thought. He wasn’t obsessed with material possessions and worldly belongings. He just sought adventure and meaning. And somehow he always seemed to find it, and spread that knowledge to the rest of us.


Now, you should know, that I didn’t really know Mike very well. I knew of him, but I feel like I can tell his story pretty accurately, because I feel like I am one of the extras in Mike’s life movie.

Monica and I have been best friends since the first day of undergrad where we met because we happened to both be in the same First Year Experience block. Five years this beautiful soul has stayed by my side. Thanks, love! Since day one, she talked to me about Mike. So over the years, I have come to know the gypsy mountain man that is Hiker Mike as a symbol of simplicity, love, and adventure. He has become someone that I aspire to be. Someone that I look up to for guidance – a sage, if you will.

Now that Mike is gone, I feel his presence stronger than ever. I am inspired daily by the strength that I see in Monica and Tim and the Purdy family. I have a greater need to be free, to get back to the good life, to enjoy simple things, and to care less about stuff. I live more intentionally, so that I may embody the way that Mike lived. I seek to get outdoors at least once a day, smile at strangers more, and bring light to this dark dark world. I strive to float, like Mike did, above the white noise of the world and above the darkness.

To me, living like mike is a journey. A transition. A transformation. It means to self-discover. To share. To connect. To inspire. To create. To breathe. To jump. And most of all to love.

It means to love everyone. Unconditionally. Wholly. And to grow in love every day. To live like Mike is to stir things up, break the mold, and make waves in the lives of those around me. It is to be unapologetically myself and to explore this beautiful world as the original being that I was created to be.


I’m not sure if this post truly captures the essence of Mike that I was hoping to, but I had to share some of Mike’s best attributes, and why this year has been so important to me as I continue to grow into the Joel that I aspire to be – the Joel that lives a little more like Mike everyday.

This week has been hard. Today has been hard. But just one year ago, I was sitting on the shore of Lake Superior in the company of some of my closest friends, sharing blankets, tears, and the warm embrace of Mike’s spirit as we all received the worst news that can be imagined. This memory is one that I will never forget.

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My favorite photo. Because I feel everything I felt that night every time I look at it.

So, to Monica, Tim, the Purdy family, Diane, Megan, and Grace – Thank you for sharing that special moment with me. Thank you for being the force of strength that we all needed to get through that dark night. I love you all.

And, to everyone else – Try to live a little lighter from now on. Try to embrace simplicity, adventure, authenticity, yourself, others, and love. When is the last time you tried something new? When is the last time you dared to live boldly? When is the last time you lived like Mike?

Big love today,

-Joel

13 Reasons Why You Need To Watch This Netflix Series

I’m sure everyone reading this already knows, but Netflix recently released an original series called 13 Reasons Why, based on the novel written by Jay Asher. Both the novel and the series are incredible. If you haven’t read the book or watched the series, I suggest you do both.

Before you start, just know…it’s real. raw. explicit.

This story captures the issues that every day real people face. It tells the stories of adolescents, young adults, and students from middle school to college. It shares the emotions felt by parents, families, and friends. It captures love, hate, fear, heartbreak, loneliness, grief, and so many other feelings that can’t even be described and that you didn’t know you could feel.

I read the book a long time ago. I would guess like 10 years ago when the novel was originally released. I would have been 13. I was in middle school. Maybe I was a freshman in high school. I don’t remember for sure, but I definitely read it when I was very young.

I don’t think that I truly grasped the concepts that were explored in this story back then, but that seems like a lifetime ago, so I don’t know for sure. It also seems like the world was a lot nicer back then. A lot simpler. A lot easier to navigate. I love how Netflix modernized the series to make things a little more relevant to issues faced today.

Anywho…without spoiling too much of the plot, I would like to share why everyone – especially if you’re an educator, work with students, or are a parent – should watch this show or read this novel or maybe even both, like I did.


  1. Drug & alcohol use is everywhere: this show depicts drug and alcohol use among teens. Many of the high school students that are in this show experiment with drug and alcohol use – as do most high school students around the world…so seeing this in mainstream media is important for visibility – and partying. In addiction to shedding light on minors consuming drugs and alcohol, this show depicts broken homes and families because of drug use. I love that this show really emphasizes the fact that you don’t know what is happening in someone else’s life and what it may be like for someone behind closed doors.
  2. Bullying and cyber-bullying happens all the time: I feel like bullying is on the rise in today’s day and age of increasing social media and technology. Bullying has always been depicted in the media for as long as I can remember – cue the cartoon character being shaken from his feet for his lunch money – and it is still an issue today. I cannot believe that the world that we live in is just now starting to engage in conversations about bullying. But this show speaks to the nature of bullying, cyber-bullying, and the way in which people’s stories get twisted as they get shared across media platforms, texted, tweeted, and snapped to the world. It’s messed up. This amazing show finally sparked some chatter about this important issue. Get out there and engage in these conversations.
  3. It’s OK to not be OK: In the field of work that I am in, we CONSTANTLY talk about the importance of mental health, raising awareness and advocating for it to be OK to not be OK. People struggle. People go through crazy traumatic experiences. People deal with emotional issues. Depression and anxiety are real. And they are no joke. This story is about a web of young people who deal with anxiety, depression, and emotional trauma. The way in which all of this is portrayed is so authentic and genuine. But it is so important. I love the fact that this show did not shy away from these big topics and that they are making these issues visible to the world of Netflix.
  4. It’s time to start talking about suicide: Alright y’all, we talk about mental health stigmas and the importance of raising awareness and getting help for the ones we love. But even with the increase of these conversations, the stigma surrounding suicide is still prevalent today. WHY? Of course suicide is a tough topic to talk about, but if we aren’t having these conversations, no one is, and those suffering from mental health issues and self harm/hate don’t have anyone to turn to if there is no one who is comfortable with and open to talking about this. Show some empathy, look for signs, and reach out to those you love, even if you don’t think anything may be wrong, you never know who needs a smile and a hug today. If some of the characters in this story – and more people in real life – had spread love instead of hate, lives could have been saved. I don’t know about all of you reading, but I have seen too many young and beautiful lives lost too soon. This has to stop. Spread love, people!
  5. Because no one seems to know what consent is: You see this in the media ALL THE TIME. It is the reason that Vice President Joe Biden worked with Its On Us to create initiatives on college campuses to combat sexual assault and relationship violence. The message given to young people today is that it is awkward to ask for consent when instead the message should be that it’s sexy to ask your partner if what you’re doing is OK. The “hook up” culture that has somehow become the norm today, has taken consent completely out of the picture. And because there is so much gray area, there is an ungodly number of sexual assaults occurring. And what is worse is that no one even knows that they’re committing this horrendous act because all the lines are blurred and no one knows what’s right anymore. It’s disgusting. It’s on us to stop sexual violence! 13 Reasons Why brings light and visibility to this important and heavy issue. It may be one of the first media showings of something of this kind and it adds so so so much to this incredible story.
  6. Love is love and should be shared: It’s 2017 and the fight for love has been long fought and unfortunately continues to be fought today. The media is bringing couples of all different variations to pages, screens, and earbuds everywhere. No longer are the days of the traditional family. In 13 Reasons Why if people were more willing to be vulnerable and express love to one another, it would have made things a lot better – same is true in real life. What is a story about high school students if there isn’t relationship drama or some sort of love twist? Nothing. But in today’s world dating and love as a high school student is complicated and confusing. This story portrays the confusion of many characters in their pursuit for love. 13 Reasons Why brings visibility to almost every possible romantic couple that you can think of, and in today’s world it is so important to be visible for others of whatever community you belong to. It’s tough to navigate this world of love, but the underlying concept is that everyone is looking for it. Who cares? Just love and never stop.
  7. Shaming (body, slut, victim, etc.) of any sort is so not cool: Yes, everyone judges. We all have our inherent biases and prejudices that we can’t control – but we can work to overcome and grow out of them. The fact that it is so easy, so common, so accepted to shame someone based upon the way they look, the people they sleep with and the acts they engage in, or for being beaten or raped is screwed up. This story shows examples of shaming and it’s honestly repulsive. But we have to see this stuff in media to see how gross it is in real life. It has to stop. Things have to change. And this is the message told in this wonderful story.
  8. Self-love is key: It is so important to love yourself and to be proud of who you are, no matter what anyone else thinks about you. You are valuable, you are beautiful, you are original and one of a kind. Love yourself for that. Love yourself for who you are. Continue to love yourself and never let anything or anyone take your love away. If Hannah, or any of the other characters in 13 Reasons Why had given themselves a little more love, other people would have given it to them too. People feed into confidence and self-worth, and it is crucial for young people to be surrounded by others who are both self loving and givers of love. Keep this in mind as you work with young people – and everyone else for that matter.
  9. It takes a Community to raise a child: It seems like everyone in this story is somehow connected. Oh wait, they are. That’s because in a community, everything and everyone is effected by the actions of others. If we remember that we are always part of something so much bigger than ourselves, maybe even when the people right next to you aren’t treating you so well, you will realize that it gets better. There is a community for everyone and it takes a community to raise an individual. You simply have to find your community. So never give up, strive to find a community that you belong to and always strive to make it better.
  10. There are two sides to every story: 13 Reasons Why does a fantastic job with this one. You hear Hannah’s view of things from her tapes. You see Clay’s view of things as he is the character that is focused on most frequently. And then of course you see the view of every other character who is in the tapes as well. Some think Hannah is lying. Some don’t know the truth. Some change things around so that they look innocent or someone else looks guiltier than they are. But the underlying issue is that there is always two sides to every story and you don’t always know both sides. Tell your version, but hear out other people’s perspectives. Everyone’s lived experience is different so their perspective is going to be slightly altered from yours. Take this into consideration whenever you encounter a conflict.
  11. The role you play as an administrator is vital: Everyone viewing this show hates the counselor, am I right? He didn’t do his job, and he told Hannah to move on from something that she didn’t have the strength to move on from at the time. She reached out for help and he didn’t do his job. He shoved her off, made her a victim – yet again – and carried on with his busy day. I’m sorry, but if you’re in a role as an administrator of any kind you are viewed as a lifeline to many. Whether you’re a teacher, a counselor, a principal, a professor, or like me an adviser to students, your actions validate the thoughts of the young people around you. So if you don’t do your job right and you brush something off as unimportant, these young minds are going to tell themselves that you’re right and that they need to move on. But what if they can’t? Then it’s on you my friend. Listen. Listen. Listen. It is so important that you truly take the time to get to know your students and listen to what they’re going through. It’s so important that you act when someone comes to you for help. You’re an administrator for a reason. You’re a role model, a mentor, someone who has been there. So just listen. And act accordingly.
  12. Teenage thought process & experience is accurately portrayed: Being a teenager, an adolescent, and even a young adult is so hard. It’s awkward. It’s confusing. And yet it’s so simple. The thought processes expressed in this show are the same thought processes that you and I went through when we were growing up. If you’re a younger reader, you may relate to these characters on some level now. That is OK. We’ve all been there. This is a pretty accurate portrayal of what it’s like to be a young person. Never think that you’re the only one who is feeling like Hannah, or Clay, or Justin, or Jessica, or anyone else. There is always someone else out there feeling the same way that you do. So hang in there pals!
  13. 13 Reasons Why is really great storytelling: Because I refuse to end this list on a negative note and a call to do better, I thought I would end with something positive. If you watch this series for none of the reasons that I listed above, watch simply because it is really great storytelling. It is exceptionally cheesy – as are all high school dramas. There is intrigue, a bit of a mystery, a handful of crimes, love and emotion, and many elements that make great stories. Give it a shot. It you don’t like it that’s fine. It’s pretty controversial, so I get it. It’s real and raw and doesn’t shy away from pretty intense things. If you don’t think you can watch it. OK. It’s all good. Just know that the buzz about this show is for good reason. If you work with young people chat with them about this series and get some conversations started. You never know where good storytelling like this can take you.

Side note: even though I loved this show and I thought that it did a very good job bringing up hot button items and issues, I do have to make note that I don’t agree with how glamorous Netflix made the act of suicide. This show presents suicide in a kind of intriguing way. Suicide should never be an act of revenge or spite like it was in this series. This series makes it seem like the message is “if you’re going to commit suicide, then go out with a bang and make it flashy” but that shouldn’t be the message that viewers receive. So if you’re watching this and that is the perception that you have…I feel you. I agree with you.


Sorry that this post was a little more intense than what they usually are. Thank you for sticking it out and reading the whole thing! I appreciate it. I just feel passionately about these issues because they are things that I see my students facing everyday. They’re topics that I talk about and read about for class. They’re headlines in college newspapers across the country. This show hits close to home for me and a lot of people in this world so keep that in mind next time you find yourself judging someone, using a derogatory phrase, sharing something on social media, or you’re out at a party.

Sending all of my love to everyone effected by any of the issues mentioned above. I am always here for you. You are not alone.

-Joel

23 Things I Fell In Love With This Year

It’s my birthweek, and unfortunately that means that I am another year older. I think I will just stop having birthdays now. It’s my 23rd rotation around the sun and I thought it would be cool to reflect on some of my favorite things from the last year.

  1. Roaster Jack coffee: after I graduated from Northern Michigan University in April, I moved back home for the summer and started working at the Blue Caribou Cafe (now Ursa Major Bistro). We get all of our coffee from this local Traverse City company…and let’s just say, the El Salvador blend is my jam. And their website and graphics are beautiful too.
  2. Serving tables: I have worked in the food service industry for over nine years and basically held every position you can imagine at a restaurant other than being a line cook. Working primarily as a cashier and host over the years, I’ve served a few tables here and there when needed, but it wasn’t until this summer that I actually was a server. It was so much fun, challenging, and the tips are great!
  3. The Fraternity & Sorority Life Podcast:  I am a little podcast obsessed and approximately half of the things I fell in love with this year are podcasts…help. Knowing that I was about to embark on a new journey working with Greek Life, I started listening to this podcast over the summer for some intro professional development. I quickly learned that the global fraternal community is super awesome.
  4. We Believe You: This book is written by Annie Clark and Andrea L. Pino. It is a collection of sexual assault survivor stories told by the survivors themselves. The premise of this book is that 1 in 4 college women and 1 in 6 college men will be sexually assaulted while on campus. As a future Student Affairs professional, I want to serve as a resource for all of my students, and it starts by listening to them and always always always believing them.
  5. Up North Michigan: This company sells apparel and other Michigan themed gear. I met the woman who founded the company, when she came in to order coffee from me at Ursa Major Bistro. The rest is history. I will always be a fan of this company and a supporter of local goods.
  6. My Chevy Impala: If you were to ask me what kind of car I would be driving when I dumped my truck, I would never have told you a grandpa car…but when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade…or something like that. It’s no Subaru Outback or Jeep Wrangler, and it’s definitely not as adventurous as I’d like my car to be, but I have a car that was available when I needed it, affordable, and reliable.
  7. Campus Podcast: Campus tells the real stories of college students’ experiences on campus. It’s real. It’s raw. It’s amazing story telling. Check it out here.
  8. Goodreads: I am a huge reader and I am always on the look out for new awesome reads. Good thing there is an app for that. This amazing site lets you connect with friends, share what you’re reading, and find the latest good reads. Try it, and connect with me!
  9. Falls Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota: Upon moving to South Dakota, and realizing there is barely any water here, I went searching for a place that would bring me that connection to water and natural beauty. I found it at Falls Park. The only thing that would make it better is if it wasn’t so packed with people all the time.
  10. Lara Bars: My first experience with a Lara Bar was at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. I was backpacking for two weeks and surviving off of trail food. One of those food items was this horrible tasting, healthy alternative to a granola bar. I stayed away from them until after college. I was obsessed with Clif Bars, but after a summer on Orientation staff and surviving solely on Clif Bars, bananas, and coffee, I needed something new. A few of my SFL coworkers love Lara Bars and I gave one a shot. Now, I will never go back. If you haven’t tried the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough flavor, stop reading and go grab one quick.
  11. Yankton Meridian Bridge: I love running and hiking and being near the water. The pedestrian bridge in Yankton connects the cities trail system to the trails just across the Nebraska border and I am madly in love with the view.
  12. Badlands National Park: I am a lover of the National Park Service and the Badlands may be one of my favorites. I spent a weekend there with my best friend Monica and I will never let those memories fade. It was by far one of the most magical places I have ever been.
  13. The I Ching: This is a book similar to a daily devotional. It is meant as a way of seeking spiritual guidance in times of change and is loosely based on Taoist principles but is meant for anyone of any religion, faith, or spirituality. Monica and I have been using this book randomly throughout our friendship, and I finally purchased a copy of the book for myself. I now consult the I Ching as a way of grounding myself and staying spiritually focused.
  14. NASPA: NASPA is one of the largest professional student affairs organizations and I was lucky enough to attend a regional conference hosted by them in St. Louis, Missouri this November. Needless to say, I’ve found a professional organization that I will stick with for the time that I am working in student affairs.
  15. Garmin ForeRunner: I have never been a watch wearer. But, I wanted a GPS watch since I have no concept of distance when I run in South Dakota, because I am still so unfamiliar with my surroundings. I got this watch for Christmas, and I now think that I am a watch person…
  16. Fernson Brewing Company: I love Michigan craft beer and moving to South Dakota, where there is an untapped market for craft beer, I struggled not having a million breweries right down the street. Good thing Sioux Falls is only an hour away and the craft beer scene is slowly trickling into this state. Fernson was my first craft beer from South Dakota and is still my favorite. If you haven’t tried their IPA, I highly suggest you do.
  17. The Lumineers: I have been loving on the Lumineers since their first album came out in 2013. I anxiously awaited their next album for the next three years. On this day (April 8) last year, Cleopatra was released and it was the best birthday gift I could have received (thanks Lumineers). I have been crushing hard on them since and I was lucky enough to go see them live in Omaha in January. Whenever one of their songs comes on now, I go paralyzed and think I am back at their concert.
  18. Gilmore Girls: Growing up, I didn’t really watch a ton of TV. I still don’t. But with the invention of Netflix, I have slowly started to watch more TV shows and movies. The Gilmore Girls revival was released this winter, and I decided I would jump on the bandwagon and see what the buzz was all about. I thought that I would hate the show. I was wrong. I fell in love with the wit of Lorelei, and the charm or Rory. I loved the constant pop culture references, and if you thought that I talked loud and fast…think again. The Gilmore girls have mastered the art of fast-talking.
  19. Gilmore Guys Podcast: If you love Gilmore Girls, then you will love Gilmore Guys. This podcast is hosted by two of the most hilarious guys I have ever listened to. They watch every episode of Gilmore Girls and then discuss, analyze, and rate each episode on the air for all of our entertainment. If this intrigues you, check it out here.
  20. Sinclairity: Sinclair is a student affairs professional that I have been connected with on Twitter for awhile now because I loved his positivity and the way in which he always encouraged the SA community online. He writes a weekly email and sends it out each Monday. It is the perfect dose of happiness, authenticity, challenge, and inspiration to cure a case of the Mondays. If you want to subscribe to this email, you can do so here.
  21. The Skimm: I try to be up to date with current events and happenings, but I hate the news because it seems to be riddled with negativity and hate. The Skimm delivers daily news to your inbox and its written in a fun, comedic way that anyone can understand and have a laugh at. Subscribe here.
  22. Good Folks Coffee Company: This local craft coffee company is located in Louisville, Kentucky and I am dying to visit someday. My good friend, Leslie owns the coffeehouse in Vermillion (you’ll be hearing a lot more about The Bean in an upcoming blog post) and she is friends with the good folks over at Good Folks and sells their product at her shop. Their Fast Track blend is Heaven in a cup. Seriously, stop by The Bean and have a cup, or get some here.
  23. Living Like Mike: #LiveLikeMike is a lifestyle and a brand given to the community impacted by the tragic loss of Mike Purdy. Mike lived a life of simplicity, beauty, and charisma. He loved everyone and everything. He was in touch with his natural surroundings and the environment around him. He was an artist, a musician, a creative, a wanderer, and a free spirit. The world lost an amazing body this year, but his spirit lives on in each of us that loved him, and since his passing, I have drastically altered my way of living and my mindset on life. I focus on the important things and learn to let go of what is not mine to carry. I’m trying to see the world through Mike’s eyes, and in doing so I have learned to love life a little more too. If you’d like to learn more about Mike, follow Monica’s blog where she shares their story and other really cool things!

My 22nd year on Earth was a wild and fun one, and it brought a lot of new things to my life. It’s crazy to think about where I was this time last year (other than jamming out to The Lumineers new album, obviously) and reflecting on the growth and change that has occurred since then.

If you’re looking to add some spice to your life, feel free to check out something from my list above, and if you ever make it to South Dakota, don’t waste your time at Mount Rushmore, check out Sioux Falls, Yankton, and the Badlands instead.

Cheers to 23 years!

-Joel

 

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?

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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.

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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.

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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