Own it

I recently attended the NASPA region 4E Women In Student Affairs (WISA) bi-annual drive-in conference. Before the conference, at the conference, and post-conference many of the participants were tweeting and talking about Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.

In my post-conference euphoria- you know that feeling. You go back to your job inspired and revved up to change the world- I purchased both of these books and started reading away. I drank the Kool-aid and I am so grateful I did. I read Daring Greatly while on vacation. I could not put it down. I finished Lean In about two weeks ago. I strongly suggest that anyone, woman or man, who is looking to know herself better and become an even stronger leader read both of these books. You will not regret it.

Dr. Peggy Burke of DePaul University gave an amazing and inspiring keynote presentation centered around both of these books and the idea of “owning it.” In short, women leaders often sabotage themselves by not owning their own accomplishments. We are socialized to be polite, team players who demure in the spotlight. We give credit to others for our accomplishments because taking credit is boastful or worse, bitchy.

Hearing this was like being hit upside the head with a mallet. This was more than an a-ha moment. This was an “oh my gosh, I have been doing myself a huge disservice and it explains a lot, and I need to stop doing that” moment.

Related to my own completion of my doctorate degree, I have done this for the last three years. Heck, I did it that morning at the conference! I was sitting at a table of colleagues and got chatting with the woman next to me. We shared that we are both moms, mid-career, etc. etc. She told me that is she beginning her doctoral work this fall and then she asked me, “how did you do it?” And the first words out of my mouth were, “I had help. I had an amazing partner who took on a lot…..My kids were great sleepers….I had a graduate assistantship that covered some tuition…..” All of which are completely true. And, part of the answer.

The problem is, I have let all those explanations become the answer rather than just part of it. There are many reasons for this, I am sure. I am still figuring those out. But, I am now on a personal and professional mission to claim my accomplishments, to profess them openly without boasting or bragging, and to actively encourage other women to do the same. I have a lot to contribute to whatever environment I choose to be in. And, so do you. So own it!

So, Monica. Question: “how did you finish your doctorate degree in five years, while maintaining part-time employment, have two children, shepherd one of those children through a life-threatening illness, and stay married?”


I worked my tail off.

I had a singular, laser-like focus for five years.

I established a reading, writing, and dissertating schedule that I protected as sacred.

I am a strong writer.

I love to read and be in a classroom of fellow learners.

I was never going to allow my life circumstances to become an excuse for not finishing.

I owed it to myself to finish what I started.

I am not a quitter.

Those PhD robes are classy and I wanted them.

Once earned, an education can never be taken away from you. I earned mine. I had help. Lots of it. But I went to class, I did the work, it’s my name on that diploma. So, I am owning it.

What areas of your life do you need to own? Are there other leaders in your circle who should be encouraged to do the same? I would love to share “owning it” stories with you. Let’s connect!

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