Dalton Institute in Review: On Reunions and Reflections

A beautiful campus, even with a slight chill.

I spent this past weekend in Tallahassee, FL, at the Dalton Institute on College Student Values at Florida State University. This year’s topic, surrounding social media and “character in an age of self-promotion”, spoke to me from the very moment I learned of it. I vowed to be a part of it, expecting to play my role while at FSU. But as so many of you already know, I’m no longer there. I refused to let my departure from the institution affect my involvement with the Institute, and so I made it a priority to be there.

After participating in the Institute last year, I admired it not just for its intimate feel and ability to draw marquee talent, but for its ability to engage and assist graduate students in their development. Major elements of the conference are planned by graduate students in FSU’s HESA program, and they are also featured prominently as presenters. Special thanks and major props go out to the first and second years of the program- you do amazing work, and deserve to be recognized for it.

Fuel for the day, courtesy of the wonderful Carolyn Barringer 🙂

I learned a few things over the weekend that I hadn’t really thought about. First, I will openly admit that I had no idea how much I was going to miss the friends I made in Tallahassee. While I wasn’t always the very happiest when I was there, and I feel far better about life now that I’m in Boston, that doesn’t in any way negate how much the people there mean to me, or how good it was to see them this weekend. We went to dinner at old haunts, bowled and watched movies, caught up and inquired about new projects. While there were a lot of things there that weren’t the best fit for me, so many of the people were. I’m so thankful for them.

As much as this conference was a chance for me to connect with old friends, it was also a great chance to make connections with new ones. After so many months of following their thought-provoking posts and conversations, I had the long-awaited pleasure of getting to meet both Eric Stoller and Laura Pasquini. In them, I was happy to find kindred spirits in thoughtful inquiry and occasional silliness. I also got to make friends with first year graduate students at FSU, and some staff members from Baylor and University of Dubuque (a fellow Ghanaian in Iowa…lord bless him, we’re not great with snow!). As I met people both old and new, I was surprised at how many people were familiar with my social media presence. I heard myself referred to a few times as “the queen of social media”, which frankly feels like an overstatement of the issue.

I value the connections I’ve been able to make over Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like. They’ve made my life fuller, and have given me a way to ease connections that this anxious introvert otherwise has tremendous difficulty building. But the public element of that, the idea that others can see that and are interested in what I have to say, still escapes me at times. I was reminded by a student the other day of it, and was sincerely humbled by it. All I can say is, to those who appreciate what I bring to the airwaves (as it were), thank you. And if you were here with me, I’d say what I always do: “Happy to help!” with a smile and a giggle.

This is why I do this work. Happy to help 🙂

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