Inspiration and Lessons Learned

Q&A with the OWHE Board

Who inspires you and why?

Tricia Brand, Director of Engagement: Too many family, friends, students, creators, leaders and public figures to count, but I’ll share my most recent inspirational person.  Lena Waithe is a screenwriter, actor, and producer with a phenomenal set of projects she has supported, created and received critical acclaim for. What inspires me most about Lena is her remarkable ability to tell stories and to make space for womxn, BIPOC and QPOC in film, television and all forms of media. She has a new project called “Artists You Should Know”, where she is using her platform as a celebrity to introduce emerging creatives to bigger audiences. She demonstrates such wisdom, humility, enthusiasm, confidence and boundless energy. This woman is a force! 

Brenna Kutch, Co-Director of the Annual ConferencePeople (especially who are part of multiple marginalized social identities) who work in service of others but who hold strong boundaries for themselves. Working in DEI or social justice is very draining, and the higher ed/not-for-profit sector often glorifies working to the point of exhaustion and then some. Those who can still do good work, make the world a better place, yet still be able to say “no” when they need to are very inspirational and I want to continue learning from them. This is something I (and probably like all of you) struggle with, and I am always appreciative of seeing it in action as a reminder for myself.

I also want to throw out: I sometimes inspire myself, and I think that’s a healthy place to be. I recommend y’all reflect on how you inspire yourselves (you may need to talk to one of your cheerleaders!) and get to a point where acknowledging that does not feel like blasphemy. I know it took me a lot of work.

Shannon Shivers, Director of Education: Amanda Jette Knox (@MavenOfMayhem on social media). Here’s her bio from her website: “In early 2014, her middle child came out to the family as a transgender girl, shifting the focus of her mom’s writing career towards LGBTQ+ rights and education. Alexis' journey changed everything, and taught Amanda a great deal about courage, compassion and authenticity. It made her a better person. Full stop. A few months later, inspired by Alexis' courage, Amanda’s spouse, Zoe, came out as a transgender woman. It’s been two years of very big changes for this family! Amanda’s wife is now living openly, her kids have two moms, and there is a permanent rainbow over the house that unicorns like to prance around on. It's all very gay.” Amanda inspires me by sharing the authentic struggles she deals with, including depression and fatphobia. She fights the internet trolls with humor and compassion. I appreciate that Amanda fights for justice in all arenas and I’ve just started reading her wonderful book that came out this Summer: “Love Lives Here.” 

McKenzie Winders, Co-Director of the Annual Conference: My students staff members continually inspire me. They bring so much energy, enthusiasm and passion for the work that they do and their learning that it becomes easily infectious and I find myself wanting to continue to grow and learn with them as well as share in their development. I have the privilege of working with students who are leaders in their communities as well as in the office and its wonderful seeing them find new passions and take on new roles over their time on campus. Students keep me doing the work that I do and have me  looking for ways to better serve them, to meet them where they are at and help them get to where they want to be.

What was one of the key things you have learned in the past year?

Tricia Brand, Director of Engagement: Managing time and not “shoulding” yourself about how to spend time requires a bit more structure than I’ve ever allotted. To ensure more balance, I should schedule practically activity, even my leisure time, and my “device-free” time.

Briana Stansbury​, Chair of the Board: This last year I really learned the power of my community and in turn dug deep into cultivating that community.

McKenzie Winders, Co-Director of the Annual Conference: Just to start with honesty, this is something I am still learning and going through after nearly seven years in Higher Education. But the thing that I learned and have to remind myself that it is OK not being the problem solver for every issue that comes up or be personally responsible for finding a solution. I took a lot of pride in being the “fixer” in my office and having a plan b,c,d,e,f and even z but as you can imagine, it became very taxing. I was tapped for help in areas that were not my own and ended up taking on a lot of responsibilities and ultimately became drained and disheartened with my work. It took a few heart to hearts with some wonderful colleagues who had faced the same issues and were put in similar situations for me to realize that I am not the only one and that I don’t have to keep sacrificing my time and wellbeing to get this work done and be everything for everyone. I think for higher ed professionals and specifically for young professionals, we can easily fall into this system of taking on additional responsibility and projects to show our value or because its need that is not being met for our areas/students, and then that is being taken advantage of and we are left being overworked and underpaid. 

 

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