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!

Blank Pages

It is always surprising to me how the various areas of my life converge. Not surprised in a “Oh my gosh, how did THAT ever happen?” way but, more of a sheepish, “I shouldn’t be surprised, because of course that is how life is!” way. Lately, I have been wanting to write more. Professionally about my dissertation research and my own journey as a mid-career mom. I have also been wanting to write about our journey through childhood cancer and how it is has impacted our marriage, our family, our faith, and our future.

Yet, excuses always stop me.

I don’t have time (not true).

Who am I to pretend to know about these things (well, I am someone who has lived them).

No one wants to hear what I have to say (if true, who cares?)

Two things recently happened within weeks of each other that have finally pushed me to sit here and write.

First, I was invited (thank you godesses!) to a meeting about how to write for publication. In that meeting, the Dean of my college asked me, “so Monica, when are you going to publish your dissertation?” Later in that meeting a colleague whom I deeply respect and admire said about her own research, “well, it’s not research if it’s not disseminated. I owe it to my participants.”

Gut check.

Isn’t this why I landed on my own topic as well? To learn something from my amazing participants and then, have the profession learn from their experiences as well?

Second, a young cancer warrior named Zach Sobiech died on Monday morning. Many people the world over know Zach because of his beautiful, soulful song, “Clouds.” We “know” Zach because he is a student in my sister-in-law’s youth group in Stillwater, MN. I am friends with his mom on Facebook and have occasionally written to each other as the moms of cancer warrior sons. Laura has documented Zach’s journey on his Caringbridge site. Her words, Zach’s life are awe-some, in the truest sense of that word. Laura recently wrote:

“Blank pages can be very frustrating and intimidating.  Where do I start? What words do I settle on this blank page when there are so many words clattering around in my head?  Sometimes it’s just easier to walk away and leave it blank. But, it’s our story.  It’s Zach’s story.  And I need to reign in these words and lay them out for today and for tomorrow.”

Gut check 2.

So, with that, no more blank pages on this blog that I started almost 2 years ago. I now have 2 goals for Summer 2013:

1. End the summer with a submittable journal article about my dissertation research. Submit to peer reviewed journal by August 31, 2013.

2. Blog, about whatever I want/feel, once a week.

The ten amazing women who were participants in my dissertation research have a story. I should help them tell it. I have a story. My son has a story. Maybe he will want to have these words to go back to someday. Maybe not. That’s okay. Either way, I have a voice. I want to write. I am going to try harder to do more of it. I appreciate your cheering along the way. Thank you.