I will state the obvious: I love a good coming-of-age movie (particularly ones filmed in the 1980s). The idea of being able to start over, start fresh, and gain a new perspective on life is very appealing. Molly Ringwald finally gets her man after a lifetime of being awkward in Sixteen Candles. Robin Williams’ students finally break the mold and stand on their desks, chanting “O Captain! My Captain” in Dead Poets’ Society. A major, transformative change happens in these characters’ lives that proves challenging but ultimately leads them to a deeper appreciation of their lives, whether the ending is happy or not.
Our daily lives in student affairs aren’t exactly as exciting as the hunt for One Eyed Willie’s treasure. However, we are lucky enough to witness coming-of-age moments with our students that can be just as valuable. It’s important for us to be able to help our students manage these major changes in their lives, whether it is moving away from home, stepping up into a significant leadership position, or even failing in the planning of a large-scale event. I argue that we can best do that by modeling appropriate behavior whenever the winds of change come blowing our way.
Recently, a colleague of mine was very distressed over several large organizational changes happening at our institution. He constantly brought up feelings of shock and uncertainty, always asked for updates (“any news yet?”), and frequently gossiped about upper level administrators. Maybe I’ve become somewhat more adept at handling large and small-scale change, but my attitude has always been, “let’s not worry until we have something to worry about”. He and I have gone back and forth over these changes, analyzed every detail, and predicted some of the most outlandish outcomes possible.
As of now, nothing has come from these major changes. Valuable time was spent mulling over catastrophes that never materialized, time that could have been spent with students. It is important for all of us to reflect on the time we spend dwelling on the negative impacts of change, and considering how that time could be better utilized. Of course we can all take time to identify challenges, but the Goonies would never have made it out of the Fratellis’ restaurant if they spent all their time panicking about One Eyed Willie’s ghost coming to get them.
Change happens, whether we are ready for it or not. It’s up to us to respond accordingly and model the appropriate behavior for our students. And maybe, just maybe, that process involves watching a lot of great 80’s movies together.
I would love to hear your suggestions on how to best manage organizational change. Feel free to comment below or share with me on Twitter @kristaknj.
Regional Programming Coordinator
The Jersey Alliance