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[S2E7] Katie's Beautiful Mind 'LINK'


Annmarie Caño: Welcome to EmpowerED to Lead, a Wayne State University podcast for academic leaders who are committed to empowering their community to succeed. I'm your host, Annmarie Caño, associate provost for faculty development and faculty success at Wayne State. In this podcast, we'll explore the personal journeys of academic leaders, both current and emerging, to learn more about how they've developed their careers. We'll speak with faculty and staff about their work and how they have empowered themselves and others along the way. By doing this, we hope to empower listeners like you as you continue on your leadership path. Today, we're speaking with Katie Turner and Angela Zanardelli Sickler. Katie Turner is the Academic Initiatives Coordinator within Housing and Residential Life, as well as the Community Director for the Thompson Home. This is Katie's fourth academic year with Wayne State. In her new role as the Academic Initiatives Coordinator, she is responsible for partnering with departments and individuals on campus to bring more academically focused programs and initiatives to the residence halls in order to promote student success. In addition, she works to support and bring structure to the five living-learning community programs in Housing by partnering with the coordinators of these programs and the learning communities team. Angela Zanardelli Sickler is the Associate Director of the Study Skills Academy with the Academic Success Center. She works with students both individually and in the classroom in an effort to create independent learners by offering customized study plans to address their specific needs. Angela takes a holistic approach to student success by combining evidence-based learning strategies with self-management exploration. In addition, Angela is the creator and curriculum designer of FYS 1010 Learning with the Brain in Mind, and she takes great pride in hiring and training the program's 37 instructors. Thank you for being with us today, Katie and Angela. Angela: Thank you. Katie Turner: Yeah, thanks. Annmarie Caño: We'd like to start off with what you love about your roles at Wayne State. Katie Turner: Okay. Angela: Do you want me to go first? Katie Turner: Yeah, sure. Angela: Hi, I'm Angela. They didn't know, right? As the Associate Director of the Study Skills Academy, we offer several services to students, mostly undergrad level, but several for also graduate level. They are one-to-one study skills counseling. We have a workshop series. We offer procrastination accountability groups and success in the sciences groups. We also run FYS 1010 Learning with the Brain in Mind out of our Study Skills Academy. My favorite aspect of my work is learning new evidence-based methods to improve students' learning performance and then finding an opportunity to share the information with students. An example would be using that information to revamp the FYS curriculum or sharing with staff and faculty the information to assist them in the classroom or with their work with students. The other thing that I really like is the challenge of discovering a study strategy based on recent research and cognitive science and then finding a way to creatively more fit into a lesson that appeals to students. What is interesting is that I did not think students would like the nerdy brainy part of how we learn, and that has been the most well-received aspect of our study skills program. Because once they understand this is based in research and this is backed by science, they're like, "Oh yeah, now I guess I'll manage my time," or, "All right, well, I'll give it a shot." But I think that a lot of study skills programs, in general, can be rather surface level. Annmarie Caño: And students seem to want to know, "Why am I doing this?" Angela: Right. Annmarie Caño: If you don't give me a good reason for why this is useful or why I'm doing it, then I'm not sure I want to spend my time on it. Angela: A few years ago, I was teaching a lesson and I went off on a tangent. They were arguing with me about ... I can't remember what it was about. And I remember giving the brain science behind memory. How we move information from short to long term memory and how that relates to sleep. They were listening and I thought, "Oh." And they started asking questions and questions and questions, and suddenly, they weren't bored. I'm like, "Do you like this part of it? The cognitive psych part?" They're like, "Absolutely, now I'm going to do it." So then, FYS was born. Annmarie Caño: Yeah. Great. Angela: Yeah. Annmarie Caño: Great. Angela: It just appealed to them. Annmarie Caño: Yeah. How about you Katie? Katie Turner: Many things that I really like about my job. This seems like cliche, but obviously the students. In my role as a Community Director and as the Academic Initiatives Coordinator, I get a ton of opportunities to talk to students really about anything that could be going on. I come to contact with students many different ways. They drop by my office, they get into a little bit of trouble and we just have to talk about it and see what happened. My student staff I get to interact with, we have constant one-on-ones and meetings. I think that those interactions with students really do inform everything that I do. It's very inspiring because you're sitting there and you're talking, you started at one place and you ended up in a completely different place. I try to write down all the ideas and how that comes to be. That's what I really like about my Community Director work. And how it informs my Academic Initiatives work is really just reaching out and seeing what is there that we can provide and give to students. What exists, what can I get my hands in? Who can I talk to you about being involved and getting housing involved, what services are they doing that I can connect with? That is what I really love most and what I really have been able to do. Our housing department is growing and changing and learning every year. It is hard, but that is why I come back every single year is because there's a new challenge. There's something else to develop, new ideas. I've always felt very supported in my creativity. If I can look at the best practices, make a pitch and do it, usually I can do it. I don't want to put anybody in a bad place, but I can't think of any times if I've been told no, not to do something. That's what I really like about my work is I'm supported. Annmarie Caño: Yeah. It sounds like for both of you, there's an element of being able to provide something to students that they might not have had before, whether it's a rationale for why they should try these different strategies for studying or providing resources about how to connect them to the rest of the campus community. There's that connection piece, but there's also the ability to put your own personal stamp on it and use your creativity in ways that sometimes people are not able to do that for whatever reason, because of the system or the structures or particular supervisors. You're both able to be creative and now, you're able to be creative together in a new partnership. I'm wondering if you could share with listeners what that's looking like. Angela: Yeah, it's actually a relatively new partnership and you're right, I think that the autonomy that we both have in our individual roles has really lended itself for us to expand in this way and for us to meet students by collaborating in various ways. Our learning specialist, who is part of the Study Skills Academy team, Kalyn Griffin, reached out to Katie or Katie reached out to Kalyn. Katie Turner: Yeah, Kalyn had sent out all of the information about the programs for the semester. Angela: I see. Katie Turner: Kalyn and I have connections from graduate school. Angela: You went to Eastern together. Katie Turner: I was like, "Yes, Kalyn!" Angela: She's incredible. She's just absolutely dynamic and has been an asset. We had a meeting about how we can bring one-to-one study skills, counseling into Housing. Meeting students where they are. Katie Turner: Yeah. I felt incredibly, really excited and supported because Angela's team was able to come and be in our residence halls at 8:00 PM until 10:00 PM. I was like, "Wow," because we're thinking when do students feel inspired and motivated to possibly get their stuff together so that they can be more successful. I know for me as a student, it was always at nine o'clock where I was like, "Oh my gosh, I got this thing. I'm worried." It was really special to be able to plan something and bring it so late at night. Angela: Yeah. We're actually planning a debrief meeting about how that went this semester and how we can collaborate again next semester to make sure that we are meeting students with the information that we have, but where they are most comfortable. Annmarie Caño: What was the program that you did at nine o'clock at night in the dorms then? Angela: We had a study skill specialist available for two-hour blocks of time on Monday and Thursday for two weeks in a row, correct? Katie Turner: Correct. Angela: Katie set up a system using Calendly to have them, which I've been using now. It's awesome. Katie Turner: Yay! Angela: Yeah, I think it's great. I just sent it out to people and then it goes onto my calendar. I don't even have to put on my calendar. Pretty amazing. But anyhow, you basically sent this out and students could sign up and you created a beautiful flyer. From your end, do you think it was ideal? Katie Turner: Yes. In this new year, I'm just like, "Okay, foundations, partnership, definitions." I think something that's been really important for myself is holding myself accountable to doing the things that myself and more so Housing and Residential Life will do. I think it went really well, and what I appreciated about our meetings is that it was very intentional about, "Okay, so your team's going to do this and our team's going to do this, and we're going to get this together." Yeah, I thought it went incredibly well. I had some ideas, you had ideas. I think it was truly a program that demonstrated the strengths of both of our areas. Angela: And that the sum is greater than its parts, right? You were able to pull together something that neither team could do by themselves. Annmarie Caño: Exactly. Katie Turner: Yes, correct. Angela: And as both of our areas expand, it's an excellent opportunity to start the collaborations now. Katie Turner: Yes, I agree. Annmarie Caño: And something else that you are saying that stuck out for me is you had a very intentional plan of how are we going to work together, how are you going to delegate the different aspects of the job, which is very clearly whenever you're collaborating on a team, no matter what the collaboration is, that should be really super clear so that there aren't many misunderstandings later on. Katie Turner: Correct. Angela: Correct. Annmarie Caño: But also, you learned from each other and how to do your work in other ways. Angela, you are able to learn from Katie about the calendar, working the calendar a little bit differently so that you could take that back to your unit. Angela: Yeah, absolutely. I think it was really ideal. Again, it's housing and it's interesting to put academic with housing because that's a very new role that Katie has, but that's a new phenomena. Katie Turner: Yep. Annmarie Caño: At Wayne State. Angela: Yes. Yeah, for sure. Annmarie Caño: Housing has grown so much. Angela: Yes. Katie Turner: So much. Angela: Exponentially. Katie Turner: Yeah. And I think it's always this thing or this concept that we want to do. I'm really proud of our area for we're going to dedicate a person for this. And I think we've already made great strides with our living-learning community programs and providing more structure. I'm really excited, so I'm going to say it. We're going to have a sixth living-learning community next year for fall 2020, which I'm super psyched about. I think just putting our money where our mouth is, where we care about our academics and we cherish them and we want students to grow and thrive and be successful. I think it's really amazing we've been able to just say, "Yes, we will have a person, they will work on it. They're going to meet with partners. They're going to collaborate with departments across the campus and infuse the department and the student experience with academics." It is a foundational year, but I think that with this new partnership that we have with the Study Skills Academy, we're going to be able to keep growing and reviewing and shifting and seeing what we want to do. Angela: Absolutely. We're ready. I think it's neat that when you say, "Oh, the Study Skills Academy has these services, you can go meet with a learning specialist and have a customized study plan made for you." But it sounds a little daunting. They are going into an office maybe they haven't been to before. They may not know our team. But when we just come and sit in their living room and say, "All right, I'm here. Do you have any questions? Do you want to talk about any academic difficulties?" It's a little easier to... Katie Turner: To digest and really get the extra boost of confidence, because you can go in your pajamas. Walk downstairs, you're there. Angela: Absolutely. Annmarie Caño: I know that you're in a new collaborative relationship and you have big plans and they sound fantastic. Have there been any hiccups along the way or difficulties that you had to try to solve together in this process that you'd like to share? Angela: I don't know if you're going to say the same thing I am. It's tough to get students to commit to follow through on appointments they make. We make the cute flyers and we reel them in and we know how to ask the right questions to get them to say, "Yeah, I think that would be helpful." Katie Turner: And try to plan it around their midterms and get them geared up. Yeah, I would echo that. One time, I thought it was a different day the week and I had promised something. Angela: Oh, did you? Katie Turner: Yes. Angela: Do I not remember that? Katie Turner: Yeah, because I was sending out the attendance list and Kalyn, she was like, "Oh hey, do you have that list?" And I was like, "I thought it was Wednesday. My bad." Angela: I didn't recognize the hiccup. Katie Turner: Oh, yeah. I think that goes to just partnership and really taking the time in meetings and growing and getting to know people, because then it makes it okay and then it makes it funny to be like, "Oh, I'm so sorry, my bad. I thought it was a totally different day of the week." And then it's just you're typing, even using that typing cat, throw away the thing and it's just like, "I'm so sorry, oh my gosh." It feels more genuine, and honestly, it feels more fun if you can get to know each other in that partnership. When you forget something, it doesn't make it as hard. It's easier to own up to things, and I think that that helps a partnership grow. Angela: Being human. Annmarie Caño: Yeah, being human. Angela: Now I'm thinking about too, the other day, you sent a message because they're trying to have this followup meeting and I don't know what has happened with our November and December schedules, but they're super booked. Katie sends this message and it's like, "Can you meet in early December? Here are the days I'm not available." I write back and apparently I wrote yes, I can meet on those two days that she wasn't available. I tried to plan the whole team around it. Kalyn came to my office and she's like, "Can we talk about the email you just sent?" And I was like, "Yeah, what about it?" And she's like, "Those are the days she can't meet." It would be comical to look through our thread the last week. Katie Turner: Oh, yes. [crosstalk 00:16:15]. It's like, "Ha ha ha." Angela: We're all fools. Katie Turner: Do we work or do we just laugh on the email? Angela: The email. Annmarie Caño: But there is something about building trust and forgiving each other for our ... It's that time of year, people are stressed and you have a lot going on. But to be forgiving and gracious in being able to do that. For people who are just starting to do this work where they're developing partnerships or collaborations, what advice would you give them to work on developing that trust? Angela: You're looking at me. You want me to- Katie Turner: Yeah, if you would like to. Angela: I have a couple of thoughts. One thing that's really helped me and that I like to suggest to others, when you are working with someone, whether it's new or an existing partnership, regardless of whether or not they're meeting your individual expectations, we always have to assume that people in that moment are doing the best they can. Even if it doesn't come across as wonderful or great or stellar. We never know how other people's lives are outside of the email, as Katie would say. I think that and also I'm a really big fan of respecting your own time and your own boundaries, and that helps others to respect your time and your boundaries if you lead with that. And I think there are really nice and kind ways to do that and still be genuine to yourself. Once that's established, immediately it takes away a lot of stress. Annmarie Caño: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Katie Turner: Something I would add is before when I was Community Director only, I was able to, "Okay, Katie Turner show a little bit. Don't got to worry. Oh, I can do this at midnight and not worry about it." But something in the name of partnership that I think has been really beneficial is really sitting down and planning ahead and being reasonable with time. One of my favorite parts about this project that we've worked on is we got together in September and we're just like, "Oh, this would be nice for October." Angela: Right. Katie Turner: And now we're like, "If we could follow up in December, that's okay." It's spaced out so you can think about it and give each other time. Something else that I would say is just letting some of the meetings get a little distracted if you need to because that's where I think you're going to be able to really grow that relationship and get to know who you're working with.


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