who inspires you?

This is more of a call to action than it is a blog post. We are in the preliminary planning stages for our Big Ideas Conference that will be held in mid May of 2012. Finalized dates and details will be shared in the next few weeks as we solidify just a couple more things.

However, we want the Big Ideas Conference to inspire each of those that participate and attend. So we ask, who inspires you? Let me give a little more context so we are all on the same page. Many people probably come to mind at first, well at least we hope many people come to mind, its important to surround yourself with people that inspire you. But, we want you to dig deep and think about what it means to be inspired. Below is a 3 minute video that I find to be very inspiring.

I’ll give one more example. Last year I brought a group of graduate, professional and undergraduate staff into NYC. We did a “Broadway Classroom” training, and one of our trainers had been on Broadway for 20 years. He is a cast member in Wicked, and spoke passionately about how important it is for him to not only focus on his acting but how important it is that he knows everyone he works with and what they do. He works to build relationships and understand the janitors at the Gershwin theater, the lighting crew on set, and everyone in between. This was an inspiring guy, and the message was just as relevant in higher ed as it was on Broadway.

The Call to Action

Think about someone you met at a dinner party or a family friend that has an amazing story. Someone that you went to school with that is doing inspiring work. Maybe you brought in someone for a training that doesn’t necessarily fit the typical “trainer” mold, and had an unconventional message about passion, leadership, or making ideas happen.  Did we strike a chord? Does someone come to mind? Comment below with their name, a little about their story, and a way we can reach you (e-mail, twitter handle, etc.) to follow up. If you prefer not to list contact info right here on the comment thread, just e-mail njstudentaffairs@gmail.com. If you see a comment about someone inspiring, let us know that you like an idea someone posted.

Courtney O’Connell
Vice President, The Jersey Alliance
Big Ideas Conference, Chair


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13 responses to “who inspires you?

  1. Patrick Love

    I think @tomkrieglstein from SwiftKick is a great thinker and speaker. I will think of more!

  2. Courtney

    I figured I would start as an example:)
    So a friend of my dad’s is actually the former president and ceo of Majestic Athletic Apparel. His story is really inspiring because his father started the company (from the ground up), apparently before they became who they are today, they started by making blouses. They got a big break when they we’re contracted to make uniforms for women’s softball leagues back in the early/mid 1900’s. Faust, my dad’s friend, started out at the bottom level and worked his way up to take over for his father (the founder of the company). He came in last June for a leadership panel that we coordinated for the OLs and had some great stories about being the president when Majestic was adopted by the MLB as the official outfitter of all major league baseball teams. Might be kind of cool as a speaker about legacy, leadership, etc.

    -Courtney O’Connell

  3. This blog comes at the perfect time for me as I have just returned from the Annual Meeting of the Association for Fraternity and Sorority Advisors. There we share stories, laughs, inspirations, challenges, ideas, frustrations and most of all pride points. During the closing banquet we have an opportunity to hear from the most highly esteemed colleagues that exist in our field. On Saturday night, I had the honor of hearing remarks from Mark Koepsell, AFLV Executive Director. Mark was this year’s recipient of the Jack L. Anson Award, one of the Association’s highest honors. During his acceptance speech, he spoke about a “Land of What If’s”. He shared powerful thoughts and comments in 140 characters or less (the perfect amount for twitter). Each on its own provided an unprecedented amount of thought and wonder and hope for the future of Fraternity and Sorority.

    If you would like to read a listing of all of Mark’s #WHATIF comments, you can check them out on the AFLV blog at: http://aflv.blogspot.com/2011/12/in-land-of-what-if.html

    You don’t need to work in Fraternity and Sorority Affairs to find his message inspiring and empowering. Thank you Mark.

  4. Maya Bley

    Esmilda Abreu comes to mind as a dynamic speaker whose passion has led her to do great things in higher education. Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New York City, Esmilda is the Director of Equity and Diversity at Montclair State University. Her work at MSU has opened doors for difficult discussions about diversity, spirituality, non-violence, etc; and I am always inspired when I see her serve on panels or as a keynote speaker at events outside of MSU. She believes passionately in her work and she leads by example. I would definitely recommend her as a potential speaker for the Big Ideas Conference.

  5. Kelly Hennessy

    Great post Courtney! Your “Try Something New for 30 Days” video inspired me. Perhaps that could be an idea for the conference and some speakers. Perhaps we could challenge some TJA members and e-board to try something for 30 days the month directly before the conference and ask these people to be speakers. It could be small thing like taking a picture everyday or recognizing a student or staff member each day for something that they have done. These individuals could come back and display their month in photos or be a speaker.

    I get inspired by professionals in the field that have touching stories. So although I have not ever told her Lyn Krueger, Director of New Student Programs at Rutgers is inspirational. She is a dedicated professional in the field and does an amazing job balancing it while being a terrific mother to her daughter, Greta. Although it is her story, I believe that she is exceptionally inspiring!

  6. Kelly Hennessy

    A friend just posted on my facebook page-Eric Legrand!

  7. Drew Dudley. He does a lot of TED Talks and he is a great professional to bring in. Plus, he’s CANADIAN!

  8. Kevin

    They way I’ve been thinking is anyone new I meet or old friends, family, etc I reconnect with is what to they have to offer to student affairs, higher ed, or recreation.

    For example, a family friend is the facility coordinator for the Meadowlands stadium and was there during the whole process of the building of the new stadium. Can that translate to running a student center, rec center or how to orchestrate a large program, sure can. Or wouldn’t
    it be outstanding to find out who is in charge of the lighting, sound, and displays at the Meadowlands and maybe that will spark an idea on how you can re-energize the way you set up your events, meetings, centers?

    Second, wow about meeting a young professional that does marketing for Major League Soccer and travels nationwide to market tournaments, ticket sales, ads, etc. At the very least, maybe he can meet some of our students and potentially set them up with an interview. Either way, from talking with him for 15 minutes at a football game, we now have each other’s contact info.

    Last, I had just a 5 minute conversation Saturday night out to dinner with a friend who went to Villanova. She now works for Google in charge of google adwords and marketing. As soon as I mentioned the big idea project her eye’s lit up and invited me to take a tour of her office. From there, maybe her and her team could come do a presentation on Google adwords and how it could help promote your programs to the community, advertise your upcoming event or land you another exciting contact for the future.

    This is what inspires me and I’m looking forward to footprint the Big Ideas Project can make if we all continue to think this way.

  9. Krista Kohlmann

    I’ve been thinking about your question a lot, Courtney (possibly too much!). I realized that the people who truly inspire me on a personal level are actually authors, artists, etc. I have two favorite authors in mind who both are known for writing about New Jersey. It might be neat to get a more creative perspective on our work, and maybe that could come from a local artist or writer. Just a thought, and I’ll need to flesh it out some more, but those are the kind of people who are really inspiring to me and who have been throughout my life!

  10. I recently saw an interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson (http://youtu.be/YXh9RQCvxmg) that inspired me. He is an astrophysicist and the Director of the Hayden Planetarium. His ability to explain complex subjects simply and with humor is impressive and he helps me stretch my mind and consider new possibilities.

    I was also deeply inspired by a talk at NAPSA last year by Robert Kennedy Jr. who spoke eloquently and frankly about environmental issues. It spurred me to investigate, challenge and educate others on topics of and myths surrounding environmental and political issues.

    Hans Rosling is the last inspiration I’ll share. He is an amazing storyteller that uses props and visuals to illustrate his message and his message always comes back to improving humanity in some shape or form. The last video I saw had him take me on a journey from hand washing clothes, to the washing machine to finally ending and connecting the dots with implications on education. He is master of his craft. (http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_and_the_magic_washing_machine.html)

  11. I can think of many people who inspire me, and certainly the circle of student affairs professionals mentioned above make me think of others in my life who do the same.

    But when I think of finding people who inspire me AND intersect with the goals of this project, I personally am interested in something very different than ACPA, NASPA, NODA, etc. I recently attended a national conference that will remain unnamed, and the keynote could have been the exact same speech from the first regional student affairs conference I attended as an undergraduate student in 1997. There was nothing memorable, inspiring, or urgent about it.

    I think the necessity to be inspired to do the work required of higher education in 2011 goes beyond inspiring me to do what I’m doing now better. It needs to inspire us to change what we are doing, because higher education cannot remain the same moving forward.

    I would love to see whatever speakers present bring something to the table that will break the mold of typical national conferences. Sometimes, not always, ACPA, NASPA, etc. feel to me like the profession of student affairs is the center of the universe (and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing), and all things revolve around that lens. I would love to see a departure from that line of thinking that can help us bring something completely new and inspiring into the educational experiences of our students.

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