White Women in Leadership: A call to action!


This topic is complicated and the following is simply a tiny drip in a vast body of water and is by no means complete. There is no short answer or quick fix. Only time spent in honest dialogue with one another to continue our growth as leaders.

Nearly 5 years ago I was sitting in a diversity training workshop where the facilitator, a white woman whose name I can not longer remember, proclaimed that it is the white woman in middle management that people of color dislike. Jaws of white women dropped. Heads of people of color nodded in agreement.

She went on to say that, we, as white women, are not allowed to ask people of color about this, if it is true? why? what can we do? Rather, we must sit with one another to unpack our privilege, unlearn racism, and do be better in the middle.

I have had a number of interactions recently that have caused me to reflect back on that training 5 years ago. My fellow white women, we must do better! While we still have a way to go to catch up to our male counterparts who hold senior level positions, our numbers are growing in middle management. Our voice can grow stronger as we gain more and more access to decision making tables. With this growth comes our responsibility to do as the diversity facilitator said; sit with one another to unpack our privilege, unlearn racism, and do better in the middle.

As I continue my journey of learning to improve my leadership, I have come across the following tips and associated resources that might help others on their journey as well:

  1. Unpack Mainstream Feminism and understand why it is racist.
  2. Understand the complexities of the wage gap and how it differs for women of color.
  3. Learn the history of the Pro-Choice Movement and its impact on women of color.
  4. Do your own self work to unlearn racism – do not ask a person of color to teach you.
  5. Understand how encouraging people of color to report incidents to police can be traumatizing.
  6. Examine the history of feminism.
  7. Critically examine the reality of systemic racism and the role it place in the workplace.

These are not in any since of the word a complete list of actions or resources. However, these should get you going down the path to self discovery and ultimately to strong leadership.

We have a responsibility to educate ourselves so that we can do better for all. People of color, and women, struggle in the work place. By taking the time, owning the discomfort of self discovery and learning, maybe we can help make the workplace a bit better for women and other underrepresented groups. We must use our voice at the tables we have access to as middle managers. We must also continue to educate ourselves and think critically about what it really means to lead in an increasingly diverse workplace.

Let’s continue to learn and grow together!

Is your resume ready for the mid-level search? 

The mid-level job search is hard. And that’s a huge understatement. During the entry level search there many jobs available and it is easy to land multiple interviews – lots of attention for the applicants, especially at placement exchanges. The mid-level search can take a year or more to land a job! There are drastically fewer positions available and the competition is much more fierce. As a result, an entry level pro looking to jump up to the mid-level, needs to showcase how much they are on top of their game and it starts with the resume (and cover letter, but today we are going to focus on the resume).

In the last year I have lead three searches for mid-level positions. Below are a few tips I have noticed that could improve the chances of me calling someone for a first round interview!

Entry level humans, please, utilize the many, many resources out there to help you have a resume that shines. If you don’t want to search for other resources, then please, follow the tips below.

  • No body uses objectives any more – get rid of them!

This includes personal narratives as well. These take up valuable real-estate on your resume and don’t exactly tell the reviewer what you have accomplished, which is most important.

  • Education goes at the top of a resume.

I have seen so many resumes that burry education in the middle or end, stop it! Why? Placing your education anywhere other than the top of your resume makes it hard for the reviewer to know (quickly) if you meet the first level screening criteria. This screening could mean revising hundreds of resumes and simply looking for education and years of experience. Don’t get thrown out because you hide your education.

  • Format your resume!

A resume that is difficult to read is not helpful to the reviewer. Save your resume as a PDF before you upload to a job listing to ensure your formatting remains in tact for the reviewer.

  • Make it easy for the reviewer to find the preferred qualifications in your resume.

If the job asks for crisis management experience, list your related experience near the top. If the job asks for assessment experience, list your assessment experience near the top…and so on.

  • Chronological order is king!
  • If chronological order is king then bulleted lists of accomplishments are queen!

Paragraphs make it hard for a reviewer to efficiently identify your fit for the position. On a related note, do not regurgitate your job description on your resume. Rather, tell the reviewer the scope of your responsibilities(amount of budget, number of direct reports, number of students in area of on-call responsibility and so on)  and the accomplishments you have had during your time in each position.

  • APA formatting.

Presentations and publications are to be listed in APA format.

  • General section headers to be listed on your resume include:
    • Education
    • Professional Experience
    • University Service
    • Professional Development – this section is best if it includes experiences beyond conference attendance, which is quite passive.
    • Awards and Honors
    • Certifications
    • Selected Presentations
    • Publications
  • REVIEW before submitting!

One of the single most important things to do with your resume is to have it reviewed…more than once! It can be scary to put yourself out there like that however the alternative is that you submit a resume with a typo or other errors. I am happy to review your resume! I will make it bleed for you so that you can work toward developing your best resume for this point in your career (Anne.R.Stark@gmail.com).

There are many more resources out there. Please use them! Make the reviewer excited to schedule you for an interview after looking at your materials! Look like a badass right out of the gate!

Additional resources:

  1. Dr. Patrick Love offers many great resources on his blog and his book.
  2. HigherEd Jobs provides guidance on resumes and cover letters on their website.
  3. A blog recent blog post from the Student Affairs Collective provides insight: Mid-Level Job Search – When you don’t get the job.


Making the most of your grad experience!

Today’s post comes from Laura Valle. Laura has just completed her first year as a Graduate Residence Coordinator at the University of Central Florida.  Laura shares her advice to new grads about making the most of their first year!

Making the most of your grad experience

“I wish that I could somehow tell the new graduate students coming in that everything will be okay.

As simple as an answer as that sounds, I have found that those words are the most comforting as a first year. Everyone will tell you how hard graduate school is going to be and everyone will tell you some horror story of an experience that they had throughout their assistantship. It is way too easy to let everyone’s negative experiences from graduate school paint a picture in your mind.

Packing up and moving my life across the east coast is already a scary process, but having those negative experiences in my mind was only adding to my anxiety.

Yes, graduate school is challenging. And yes, your assistantship will have interesting stories sometimes. But overall, being a first year graduate student is beautiful.

The amount of learning and development that will happen is something that can’t prepare for…it just happens. Let your experience as a graduate student be your own and don’t let it be shaped by the stereotypes of the position or the experiences of others.

Everything will be okay.”

Laura Valle

Laura’s career goal is to be a dean of students. When she is not at work or studying, she spends her free time enjoying the Orlando area and eating ice cream. You can connect with Laura via email or Facebook!

Transition Advice for Grads and Beyond

Today’s post comes from the one and only Alexandra Garney. Alexandra has served a Graduate Residence Coordinator at the University of Central Florida for 2 years.

As an outgoing grad, Alexandra shares her advice to incoming grad. Although she wrote this for incoming grads, all professionals will benefit from reading what she has to say as her lessons learned are salient to transition at all levels!

Transition Advice for Grads and Beyond…

“Ask anyone I have worked with and they will tell you I love questions. I love learning and questions are my vehicle. In the beginning, I asked questions to combat the confusion of starting a new role. I asked how to schedule my supervisee’s shifts. I asked how to submit maintenance requests. I asked how to fill out my timesheet. I learned the ins and outs of my new role. The nuances became more clear each day.

The answers to my questions helped quiet the voices in my head that said I didn’t know what I was doing. Still though, some of these voices remained. For all of the questions I asked, many questions stayed silent. Am I enough? Can I do this role? Are they sure they hired the right person? What if I mess up?

I’m not sure why I never told anyone I was scared or confused. Part of me thinks it was because I thought I was the only one that felt that way. I was afraid that if I admitted I had no idea what I was doing, then maybe someone would agree.

Time has passed since I felt lost. These days, I know how to complete my timesheet and submit maintenance requests. Completing my timesheet and submitting work orders are not the greatest lessons I have learned though. Starting your first graduate student affairs role is about more than learning the skills included on your position description. You will learn these skills. This will take time.

You must learn how to present your authentic, mistake-making, confused self. I have some great people in my life now that I have been able to talk to about feeling this way. In these relationships, I have learned I am not the only one that starts at a new place and is overwhelmed with feeling like not enough. So find great mentors. Admit that you are still learning. Sometimes the hardest part is saying that you are struggling. Once you share your experience, you can connect with other people who can support you through this new role, share their experiences, and help you feel like you are not alone.”


You can connect with Alexandra via email.

5 Leadership Lessons of a Ragnar

In mid-April, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to run my first Ragnar race. What’s a Ragnar you ask? It’s a 200-ish mile race run by you and 11 of your closest friends…or strangers who become your closest friends by the end of the two days you spend traversing the course in two vans! Seriously!

I am typically a solo runner. I enjoy getting out there, putting in my earbuds and losing myself in my thoughts and cadence. I was nervous about joining the Ragnar team. I knew only 2 runners in my van and 2 runners in the other van…none of them well enough to be totally comfortable sharing my stanky butt in the close quarters of a van for two days! On top it that, as an introvert, when/how would I find alone time to recharge?

The race delivered! This was a fantastic experience !

As I look back on our time together, I am reminded of the following lessons in leadership:

You can’t do it alone. Well, you can, but it will be lonely and painful!

Running with a team is a great experience! The same is true in leadership. You can try to lead alone but just like running alone, it won’t be near as much fun, it will hurt more than it needs to, and you’ll miss out on feeling part of something bigger than yourself!


“When you need me, call me! I’ll be there!”

My third leg of the race started long before sunrise. I had run in the dark before and was not too worried about it. However, this leg was 8.9 miles of hard terrain completely alone. I saw maybe 3 runners pass me the whole time I was out there. During the second mile, I was on a small one lane road with tall trees on either side and not a single light (street, house or car) in site. I was scared! I called my husband to have him talk to me for a while. That lasted for a mile. Our son needed his attention back home. A few miles later, I texted my van-mates to share how far along I was and how $%*&%# scary it was out there. A few miles more and there is my van! My team came to cheer me along! I was so grateful to see them! They helped pick up my spirits and my pace!


Leadership is similar in it’s dark scary moments. I learned I can not only count on family but also my teammates to get me through! All I have to do is call (or text), and they will be there!

Sharing is caring!

Each exchange where we traded runners was filled with the excitement of welcoming the current runner in and cheering the next runner out! These races take true team work. As a runner, it is your job to stay focused on your current leg, run or walk it to the best of your ability and then hand over the reins to the teammate up in the rotation.


It’s easy when leading to think you have maintain ownership over the whole project. However, do so robs others of their opportunity to contribute to the group. Any age, any skill level, any speed (sprinter or walker) can help carry the over all load with excellence!

Everyone stinks!

I am a very stinky person when I run. I was worried about sharing this part of me with my van-mates. Not long into our first set of legs was I reminded that we all stink, but we all have our own weird little habits that get us through! I learned a few new strategies to apply to my own running routine.


No leader is perfect. We are all works in progress. When we open ourselves up to those close to us (literally in this case), we learn we are not alone in our areas of growth as well as new and effective strategies we might not have ever considered on our own.

The beauty is in the scenery!

One of the best parts of running through the foothills of Texas was the views! Our legs would be screaming out in pain, begging us to stop or slow down but just one moment to observe the surroundings could give you all the energy needed to move forward.


Sometimes, leaders can get caught up in narrow focus of the road ahead and forget to look around. To take in the view. To smell the roses. These brief pauses in focus allow us to remember how small we (and our worries) are, how beautiful our surroundings can be, and all the things we are grateful for (like being able to run out there).


I carried a few worries into the race that were dispelled quickly as we began our run together. The team of The Road Goes On Forever will forever have a special place in my heart! I am grateful for their spirit, sense of humor, support, and friendship!



When we travel the road of leadership with a team, 200-ish miles doesn’t seem so daunting! Together, we can do great things!


6 reasons you should NOT hire a leadership coach

In my previous post, 4 lessons learned from a year in the director’s chair, I referenced the book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful!” to make the point it was time to adjust my leadership approach now that I sit in the director’s chair. I took my own advice. I had never hired a leadership coach before. How would continuing to not hire a leadership coach get me to where I wanted to go? Where did I want to go? Why?

I initially struggled with the idea of hiring a leadership coach. Silly reasons like, “I can figure this out on my own…”, “What can a leadership coach tell me that mentors can’t…”, “I don’t want to pay for coaching…” and more got in the way of me making one of the best personal and professional investments in recents years.

I’ll tell you, hiring a leadership coach is not for the weak. There is hard work involved in every, single, session! There may even be times you spend nearly the whole session in tears because you have had a major break through and you are pushed to sit with the emotion – something you are not naturally good at doing! Leadership coaching is about making transformational, intentional decisions that lead to exponential pay offs. You can’t half-ass this and expect to get your money’s worth out of it.

In case you are where I was just a short while ago, creating every excuse under the sun NOT to  hire a leadership coach, here’s  a list of 6 reasons why you are making the correct choice:

  1. You enjoy the frustration of not moving forward; personally or professionally
  2. You don’t think you should have to invest your own money into your own development.
  3. There is no way you can fit in an hour a week or every two weeks to focus on you.
  4. You think the more mud in your field of view, the better! (and have no desire to become clearer in your purpose).
  5. Values, schmalues. Whose needs those!
  6. Oh! and you absolutely LOVE your inner critic. There is no way you are about to pay money to someone who can teach you how to quiet the voice of your beloved critic.

Of course I am being sarcastic with the list above. I am grateful I decided my personal and professional development mattered enough to embark on this journey.

There are several leadership coaches out there. I have chosen to work with Dr. Keith Edwards. His holistic approach challenges me to think about all aspects of my life, live true to my values and has been exactly what I needed at this point in time. I have friends who have also worked with Dr. Edwards who share in my high level of satisfaction with his work as a leadership coach.

A few things to note when choosing a coach:

  1. Fit matters! You need a coach whose style and approach work well with you and your goals.
  2. As my coach says, he is the best friend I’ll ever pay for! Meaning, I don’t have to work for the relationship. This relationship is strictly one-sided and I get to be incredibly selfish about it. After all, he and agreed this is all about me! This type of agreement is not something you get with supervisors, mentors, and/or sponsors.
  3. It. Is. Worth. Every. Penny!

Best of luck as you make the decision to invest in your development. I hope you’ll check out my coach as a potential option for you. He offers a free sample session to test the idea of leadership coaching and fit before you commit. If he’s not the one for you, I hope you find a perfect fit.

You are worth it!

4 lessons learned from a year in the director’s chair

It was just over a year ago I began my journey as a director of residence life. I have never learned so much in such a short amount of time! There is a book entitled “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful!” by M. Goldsmith and M. Reiter. The amount of truth in that title/statement, I believe, can only be understood once experienced. The skills needed to be a successful director is vastly different than those needed to be successful in earlier roles. As a director, one moves from being the human to get the work done to being the human inspiring and guiding others to get the work done. Each journey is different. Each institution is different. My hope is that readers will be able to take a few nuggets from my experience and apply them to their own journey.

Patience, young Padawan, your Jedi powers will come with time

As a new director, it is easy to get caught up in proving why you were the chosen candidate or that you can meet any goal/objective laid before you. However, it is crucial to spend time getting to to know your new environment. Even if you move up within the same organization, your new level, title, role, and responsibility all equate to a new environment as well. Who are the natural allies to your organization? How have those relationships worked in the past? What relationships need to be established? Who is on your team? How are all the people and stories connected? What can you learn from the organization’s past to help you and your organization move forward today? This type of learning takes time and the ability to understand what is not being said by those around you.

It’s not about you

Your words, your actions, your decisions, your silence, your ambivalence, all reflect directly on your organization in a way it never has before. I tell my team when I am struggling with an idea or concept or philosophy, “I am trying to decide if this is going to remain an Anne issue or if it needs to become an organization issue”. Meaning, I may have my own thoughts and views but are those right for the organization in the moment? Does it really matter how we get to the same or a similar solution/outcome? In some cases, it will matter and my issue does become an organization issue and we move forward with change. In many other cases, I have simply learned a new way to solve a problem by listening to those around me.

Learn the types of “weeds” that report to you but stay out of them

Learning as much as you can about your organization is a great idea however, caution against recommendations/suggestions/comments on the weeds as this will unintentionally take power away from those whose job is to manage the weeds. Said differently one comment about how you might prefer to do something differently than what is currently in place could easily be heard as an expectation from the director to change what we are doing, which could then spiral into the new director being a micro-manager. Your people need to know you trust them to think critically and solve problems at their level.

Capitalize on all the types of people

As you transition, you will need “your people” outside of the organization whom you can call upon to assist you. The people inside your organization may be great humans however, they are not your transitional support system.

Your administrative assistant, if you have one, can make or break you! When these humans are empowered and trusted to utilize all of their skills, they not only do great work for you, they also look out for your well-being (asking if you have eaten lunch yet today, recommending you step outside for a break, leaving you encouraging notes/candy to let you know your tough day will end soon and there is always tomorrow).

Partners inside and outside the organization and university are extremely valuable. Those relationships need to be built early and maintained as one would a garden of Orchids. The stories these humans have about your organization, the institution, the community, the state politics will prove to be invaluable to your success.

The humans in your organization will need you to be a strong leader and supervisor. They will be looking to you for vision, direction, development, and guidance. When these humans have what they need and are trusted to bring your vision to life, great things will happen. As you get to know the strengths and weaknesses of your team, intentional delegation that taps into each person’s strengths will allow the team members to feel valued, trusted, and empowered…never a bad thing!


There are many other tips and tricks to success as one transitions into the director’s chair. The four I have listed above have been particularly helpful in my transition over the last year. What additional tips would you add to the list?

My parental status doesn’t matter…or does it?

I recently read a blog post about a female entrepreneur who also happened to be a stay-at-home-mom. She put a great deal of energy into her business and wound up with physical representations of stress that landed her in her doctor’s office. Her doctor told her she was trying to hard to be a good mom on top of running her own business. She comes back at him with the idea that something like that would never be said to a man; ‘You’re trying to hard to be a good dad in addition to running your own business.’

I was in complete agreement with this post until the reactions I received from a recent Facebook post. I had posted about how well I done academically this past semester as a full-time student who works full-time and also, some how, found the time to write and pass my PhD preliminary exam as well. That is a lot to accomplish in three and half months and I am quite proud of my perseverance. There were a few people who posted about me also being a mother.

At first, I had the same reaction the woman who ran her own business did when her doctor commented on her parental status. If my husband had posted the same comment on his Facebook page, would people comment on the fact that he is a father as well? I doubt it. Even though him being a good father is just as important to him as me being a good mother is to me, why did my parental status matter? Who cares that I am mother? What does that have to do with the price of eggs?

Later, it hit me. While it is true my husband would not have gotten the same comments about his parental status as I did, the fact that people know I am mother is not a bad thing. It is hard work to balance a full-time job, a full academic load, and a high energy three and half year old boy. However, it is possible. If you want it bad enough, you will find a way to make it all fit. You will not let distractions and excuses get in the way.  My parental status in combination with my successes show other mothers what is possible. It can be done. You can be a good mother while working full time and pursuing higher level degree. I am the proof.

Because I am the proof that it can be done, I need to be OK with being a mom, no matter what goal or dream I am chasing down next.

Until next time…

Planning for times when enough is enough

In the work of student affairs there are times when high levels of student crisis and followup seem to dominate the vast majority of hours in our work day as well as after-hours attention. There are key times during the year when we can anticipate a spike in this type of workload (near mid-terms or finals) and then there are times where it just simply hits the fan.

It’s important to have a plan in place for your well being during these times. Thinking through and developing a plan during ‘down times’ will help you be able to put your plan into action when you approach your limits.

A few questions to consider as you put your plan into place:

1. Identify your pinch hitters. Who in your work setting can you call on to help you get through the heavy and intense workloads that come with high student crisis and follow up? Write down their names, strengths, and contact information. Keep this list short. Having this list will help you to be able to quickly identify who to ask for help in whatever area you need help.

2. Identify aspects of your workload that can be delegated or put on hold. Sometimes, you just need a couple of days to solely focus on students in crisis and the associated follow up. Not all of your work needs to be done right now. The world will go on if you need to put a couple of things on hold for a few days. Periodically make a list of few items that can be easily placed on the back burner for a moment. On that list, write down with whom you need to connect to put these projects on hold for a few days. Knowing what can be put on pause and who needs to know you have pushed the pause button will better help you manage your workload.

3. Identify who can help your team. Often times, it’s not just you going through these times. Your team is helping ensure student follow up and care is happening as it should along side you. Write down a few names of people you can call on to assist your staff. I recommend writing down a few names at the same level of your staff as they understand finer details of that level often better than you or your peers do. Next to their names, also include strengths and contact information. Having this information on hand will help you to quickly ask others to step in for your staff before they reach the burn out.

4. Identify time for you. When student crisis and intense follow up situations take several days to complete, be sure to take a moment to allow yourself a time out. Then, take the time out! Contact the people you have already identified if needed to cover your workload while you step out to take care of you, even if for a moment.

5. Prep your team for these moments. Have them write down a plan. Then, during these high times, remind them of their plan and give them the permission they might need to put the plan into place.

While we might not always be able to anticipate times of high student crisis and follow, we can still plan on how to accomplish the work that needs to be done and avoid hitting our breaking point.

It’s important to remember your self care is your responsibility.  There are environments and levels where a supervisor doesn’t or no longer checks in with you as they did when you were a new professional. If you don’t develop these skills, you will continually burn yourself out and then you will not be able to serve students well.

What strategies have you put into place? How do you manage times of intense student crisis and follow up on top of your everyday workload?

Because it’s still an issue for women…

I was listening to my husband tell a story about a conversation he had had with an older woman. They were talking about how this woman had made the decision to leave school in the middle of her master’s degree in the mid 1970’s because her husband had gotten a promotion. The woman went on to tell my husband about bluntly sexist the world used to be. She had been dismissed for jobs because she was a woman over and over again. She was thankful the world was no longer sexist. 

I looked over at him and said, “It sure is, it’s just not as obvious”. And then I began to tell him a story of my own. I reflected back to being a recent graduate from an elementary education program. I had been interviewing for several full time teaching jobs. At the time, I thought that telling the principals with whom I was interviewing that, even though I was engaged to be married, I had no desire to have children, would help increase my chances of landing a job. 

My story did not take place in the mid 1970s but rather in 2004. Where did I get this idea? How had it been taught to me? Why did I think that being a woman of childbearing age was an automatic mark against me in the interview process? I am not sure of the answers to these questions but the point it, they existed for me. And, I am confident I was not the only one with these thoughts back then…or even today. 

It’s not all better. Women are not treated equally and these messages are passed on to our young people. There is much work to be done, my friends, much work to be done. 

I know I am not the only one with a story like this and I would love to learn about yours. Please share your story in the comments to show how important the work on gender equality still is today!