Beyond Work-Life Balance: Leaning In & Daring Greatly

For several months, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a team of outstanding women to prepare a session for the ACPA Indianapolis Convention. We have pulled together a combination of current literature and research to take the oh-so-common “Work Life Balance” conversation a few steps further.

ACPA Program: Beyond Work-Life Balance: Leaning In & Daring Greatly

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 1:30-2:30 PM EST – Indiana Convention Center, 238

As women in student affairs, we regularly challenge others to grow, to be comfortable with the unknown, and to be empowered to make tough decisions.  We continually practice empathy and vulnerability within our profession, but often struggle to practice those lessons with regard to our own professional growth.  Grounded in the work of Brené Brown (Daring Greatly) and Sheryl Sandberg (Lean In), participants will identify and develop steps to address congruence and dissonance between the authentic self and professional identity.

Women have made strides in education, outnumbering men in college enrollment for more than 30 years – and yet – women still hold only 45 percent of tenure-track faculty positions and 31 percent of tenure positions (Branch-Brioso, 2009). Administratively, women hold just 23 percent of college and university presidencies (Branch-Brioso, 2009). Knowledge, skills, and reflection on leadership development is needed for women who aspire to leadership roles, and men and women who can sponsor and mentor them. While all women may not aspire to the presidency or to be a Senior Student Affairs Officer, the ability to create and implement a professional development plan, goals, and a support network are critical for all women in higher education.

 Presentation Team

Becca Obergefell, Ohio Dominican University, Kelley Stier, Purdue University, Melissa Robertson, Purdue University, Valerie Heruska, Indiana University (from l-r)

Melissa, Val, Kelley, and Becca have each read the related literature, participated in small group discussions, and/or facilitated book clubs discussions relating the texts to Higher Education. Additionally, each has presented at a regional or national conference(s) on women’s leadership and/or using technology to develop mentoring and support networks for women in higher education.


Follow the conversation around this presentation with #ACPADare on Twitter from wherever you are. Get general program updates from Twitter: follow @ACPAConvention, visit or download Guidebook, the conference app. Follow all convention conversations on Twitter using the hashtag #acpa14

Further Reading

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brene Brown, Ph.D., LMSW Brown is a world-renowned Social Work professor who researches shame and vulnerability. Her extensive research and practice come together in this book, exploring the way authenticity, perfectionism, resiliency, and gratitude can help and hinder our desire and ability to cultivate meaningful work.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg combines anecdotes, research, and powerful data to paint a portrait of women in the workforce, and the lack of women in leadership roles across multiple industries. Her work challenges the myth of “Having it All” and accepting a standard model of Work-Life-Balance. In exposing these myths, Sandberg opens up a dialogue for women on career development, sponsorship, and self-advocacy.

Branch-Brioso, K. (2009). Keeping pace, but not catching up. Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, 26(2), 14-16.

Madsen, S. R. (2007). Learning to lead in higher education: Insights into the family backgrounds of women university presidents. Journal of Women in Educational Leadership, 5(3), 183-200.

How to Live-Tweet an Event

Live-tweeting happens all the time – from major award shows, tv shows, product launches, and press conferences. It’s also a great way to share new ideas and take notes at a conference. As with any new adventure, I learned things along the way through lots of practice. For anyone who is thinking about live-tweeting their first event, or doing a better job next time, here are my suggestions.

  1. Give Credit – When you are tweeting another person’s words, give them credit. Use quotation marks or something else to show attribution. The best way to do this on twitter is to include their Twitter handle in your tweet. This lets others connect easily with the speaker, honors their words, and lets the presenter see how their message was heard. This can be difficult to do in 140 characters, but make it a point to honor this as often as possible. To make this easier, look up the Twitter Handles of conference headliners in advance.
  2. Give Context – Your message should make sense to people in the room and people following the backchannel. A great quote can stand on it’s own, but taken out of context, a lot of live-tweeted lines just don’t make sense. One of the reasons people live-tweet an event is to share the content – do your best to think about how your tweet would read to someone without access to a live-stream of the event. Including pictures of slides can add a lot of content and context quickly.
  3. Listen – It can be tempting to tweet every inspirational thing a keynote speaker says. Listen carefully to get your quotes as accurate as possible. Beware, these are the same things everyone else is going to be tweeting – let someone else say it and Retweet it if you want to add your own emphasis. Having a column set up in TweetDeck or Hootsuite (or any other social media management system) of the event hashtag will give you an idea of what everyone else in the room is saying.

    Create columns for mentions, event hashtag, and direct mentions

    Create columns for mentions, event hashtag(s), and direct mentions to keep up with conversations.

  4. Know the Hashtag – If you’re tweeting #Event2014 instead of #Event14? People following you will still see your messages, of course, but you won’t be contributing to the conversation.
  5. Take Notes – Live-Tweeting is for you and your followers. It’s a great way to take notes that you can reference later. Like any notes taken at a conference though, it’s easy to forget to come back to them. Storify is a great way to compile your thoughts (and those of others too), include links, tweets, pictures, and commentary after an event. Here’s an example of how I used it for the 2013 Women’s Leadership Institute. 
  6. Bring Power – Pick a device you’re comfortable typing quickly on and can support your constant usage. For me, this is usually an iPad. Laptops make typing easier and faster, but I find they’re also larger and clunkier to handle – especially if there isn’t a table during the presentation. Whichever device(s) you choose, bring an extra battery, power cord, and/or power strip. Bonus: Power strips are a great way to meet new people at a conference. A power strip clusters 5 or 6 people together while their devices charge – and you’re the hero!
  7. Be Honest - but resist the urge to bully, complain, and heckle. This happens a lot during award shows; it’s easy to make fun of Jennifer Lawrence for tripping (again) and Miley Cyrus for whatever she’s done this time. Disagree vehemently with points the speaker makes, but give him a break if his tie is too short or you don’t like her dress.
  8. Be Considerate - To many people, you’re going to look like some punk who is texting during the whole presentation. Having your screen lit up and your head down for an hour can definitely look rude. I try to find a seat in the front corner of the room or the very back to deflect some of this. The front row also makes taking pictures of the presenter and his/her screens easier too.
  9. Add Value - Don’t try to tweet a play-by-play of the entire conference or keynote; you will exhaust yourself and your followers. Listen for things that are useful, provocative, and interesting. Include links, videos, and pictures when a speaker mentions them (a laptop makes this one much easier). If you see others have already tweeted something, retweet it and give your fingers a rest.
  10. Connect - Remember the social part of social media. You already have something in common with everyone in the room and even more with those who have their heads buried in their screens. Follow these people on Twitter, or maybe to the nearest outlet or Starbucks line and introduce yourself. Take this opportunity to take your connections beyond 140 characters and get to know people.  Don’t be surprised if they ask if you’re that girl from Twitter.

BONUS: Check your spelling. Watching your errors get retweeted stinks.

What else would you add to this list? Connect with me on Twitter @OberBecca

Maximize Your Break: 5 Reflection Questions

We all have busy seasons at work and we’re flooded with meetings, appointments, interruptions, and reports to deal with. We’re also usually gifted a week of respite here and there. For me, those weeks are Spring Break, Winter Break, and most of the summer. I tend to use this time to dive deep on projects and tasks that require a lot of focus. As much as I enjoy working with people – I also know that these uninterrupted blocks of time are a gift for doing some of my most thought-intensive projects.

It’s also a great time to stop and reflect on our lives, our jobs, and our happiness. I’ve borrowed some questions from a HuffPost article (5 Killer Life Coach Questions You Can Ask Yourself) and added some of my own thoughts and resources to the mix.

How happy am I overall, today, out of 10? 

Let’s start off easy. On a scale of 1-10, how happy are you today? What can you do to bump that number up by 1?  If you haven’t already take it, check out Gallup’s Wellbeing Finder and the accompanying book, Well-Being: the 5 Essential ElementsThe wellbeing finder assesses your wellness in 5 areas: Career, Social, Financial, Physical, and Community. After taking the initial assessment, you’re prompted to retake it periodically to track your progress over time. It’s a great way to set goals for yourself and suggests ways to improve your well-being in each area.

Wellbeing book cover

Well Being: The Five Essential Elements

Fore more inspiration, check out Ann Marie Klotz’s Wellbeing series of guest posts on each of the 5 elements.

What type of life do I want to lead?

In the context of your work – what kind of a team do you want to lead or be a part of? How does the life you lead with your family and friends fit with the work you do? What changes can you make to move more seamlessly between these realms? When people talk about your leadership or life – what do want them to say about you?

What does success look like to me?

Is it being promoted to a mid-level position? Acceptance into a PhD program? Submitting an article or program proposal? Showing up to work on time? Success looks very different for all of us. Start by envisioning your success and developing a road map to get there, one small step at a time.

What brings me joy?

I spent last year searching for and celebrating joy in my life. While you may not dedicate a year to it, spending your morning coffee time thinking about it is absolutely worth it. Maybe it’s wrestling around with a new puppy, or savoring the last few pages of a good novel.

What can I do in the next 2 weeks to bring more joy, passion, and purpose to my life? 

Think about the last time you stopped worrying about your inbox and felt fully present in your life. What can you do to make time for more of those moments in your life? What mindless, meaningless task can you replace with something purposeful? Maybe it’s reading a devotional first thing in the morning instead of scrolling through Facebook. Or catching up on your DVR/Netflix cue while doing laundry or running on the treadmill.

What question(s) are you going to reflect on this week? What answers have you found?


Video Book Review: Women’s Leadership & Empowerment

In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, my first video book review includes three of my favorite books on the subject. The review includes Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, Gail Evans’ Play Like a Man, Win Like a Womanand Brene Brown’s I Thought it Was Just Me (but it isn’t)These three books have challenged me to think about my place in the world, how I work, communicate, live, and play.

Recording this video was difficult for me. Not for a lack of technology, time, or interest – but out of fear. I had planned to start the Becca’s Bookshelf* series in January, but sometime’s life has other plans. As Brene Brown writes in Daring Greatly, 

“To put our art, our writing, our photography, our ideas into the world with no assurance of acceptance, or appreciation – that’s (also) vulnerability…We love seeing raw truth and openness in other people, but we’re afraid to let them see it in us. We’re afraid that our truth isn’t enough – that what we have to offer isn’t enough without the bells and whistles, without editing, and impressing.”

And so I give you this first video without the bells and whistles, without editing, and without impressing. This is the first and only take of the video, complete with glimpses of my notes on the back of the book, ums, and slightly awkward pauses. I will get better at this as I go, but for now I’m going to at least start putting my thoughts out more boldly into the universe. Enjoy.

For more reading recommendations, see my full book list from the Women’s Leadership Institute: Smart Women Read Books.

*I’m not entirely committed to calling it From Becca’s Bookshelf. Let me know what clever title you come up with. The wining name will receive a prize!

What do you think of these books? What three books would be on your short list for women’s leadership?

Book Review: Miki Agrawal’s Do Cool Sh*t

I picked this book up in the new arrivals section of my local library – the one that only lets you keep a book for two weeks. I didn’t get around to reading it right away, but finished it in two sittings once I finally did. Miki Agrawal’s Do Cool Sh*t promises to teach you how to Quit Your Day Job, Start Your Own Business & Live Happily Ever After. Whether you’re looking to actually quit your day job or just spend more time doing something you enjoy – there is a mix of motivating moments and reflection questions to start you on your way. 

I tweeted some of my favorite passages as I read and gathered them all in a Storify story. I’ve chosen some of my favorites to use in this post, but the full list is worth referencing.

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And last, this book will remind you that you have a backbone and that you are inherently strong. It will remind you that it’s cool to care and be excited about an idea, it’s cool to be proactive, it’s cool to mess up, it’s cool to work your ass off on something that is meaningful to you, and it’s cool to keep trying when the odds are stacked against you.

If you only take away one thing from reading this book though – let it be this:

No matter how good your ideas are, your success is not really about you.

Every piece of advice I took away from this book centered around building and cultivating relationships. Do you have to be bold and committed to your project? Absolutely, but your success does not happen in a vacuum. And you don’t just succeed because you want to.

Return on community, How will your idea have a direct impact on your community?

Return on community, How will your idea have a direct impact on your community?

We’re all familiar with the concept of Return on Investment (ROI) – but Miki introduces the idea of Return on Community (ROC). It’s a term she picked up from her friend and business partner Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. President Clinton calls this idea “doing good and doing well.” Others call it Social Entrepreneurship.

You will get more from your community if you seek to help others before trying to get others to help you.

You will get more from your community if you seek to help others before trying to get others to help you.

I used to keep a quote like this on my vanity mirror as a teenager. It read, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” Wise words from Dale Carnegie (I had no idea who that was when I was 13, I just knew I wanted to make more friends). People are going to help people they like and people they trust – spend time building these relationships and offering your own help first.

And when you do ask them?

If you give people the opportunity to be an expert, prepare to be delightfully surprised.

If you give people the opportunity to be an expert, prepare to be delightfully surprised.

And….when they delight and surprise you?

Recognize your peers when they do cool shit. They will want to keep doing it.

Recognize your peers when they do cool shit. They will want to keep doing it.

When she talks about community and ROC she doesn’t ever mention Social Media. I love this. Miki builds community by hand delivering invitations to her new restaurant to her neighbors, journalists, food critics, fitness instructors, and friends. She invested serious sweat equity into her farm to table pizza restaurant WILD (originally called SLICE). She doesn’t tell you how to GET MORE FOLLOWERS NOW! Or how to maximize your Search Engine Optimization. She tells you about how she created press kits, strapped them to her bicycle, and rode around NYC dropping them off anywhere she could get in the door.

Although she mentions websites like Kickstarter, she gathered people for dinner parties to pitch her ideas. She met them for coffee. She got certified as a cycling instructor so she could host pizza tastings at local gyms (don’t worry, they are healthy pizzas). She put herself out in her community and built relationships.

Speaking of local gyms? I lost interest in a few of the chapters near the end. The chapters on physical fitness and finding love just felt out of place with the rest of the book. They seemed to be included to fulfill the last part of her tagline - & live happily ever after. I’m sure others may find value in them, but if you’re picking this book up to learn about entrepreneurship you can skip over them. She starts mentioning her website ( pretty frequently toward the end too.

Feel free to gloss over her ivy-league education and powerful circle of friends too. Her parents worked hard (and so has she) to afford some of the opportunities – but they are unrealistic for many readers lacking access to NYC and friends at MTV studios.

Overall I give the book 3/5 stars. If you only read the 150 pages it’s closer to 4 stars.

If you had the freedom to quit your day job tomorrow, what would you do instead?