“I don’t just care about making you all good at your jobs, though that is really important. I also want you to be good people. That sounds really cheesy, I’m sure, but it’s important and it’s something I want to help with.”
The statement above is a rough excerpt from my speech at our student organization Fall Planning Day, one of our biggest training opportunities for student organization leaders on campus and a significant platform to get relevant information across to this segment of our student leader population. While we had sessions on procedural items such as reserving space, using our campus events calendar, and financial paperwork, I believe that values education and clarification deserves a place on that stage as well, so I incorporated a values exercise into my section of the day.
The link for the activity and accompanying resources will follow this post, but I do want to explain how we went about this process.
Students were given a packet of slips, thirty slips in all, and told to read through them all and spread them out on their table so all could be seen. Bit by bit, they were told to eliminate some of the values present by flipping them face-down, until five remained. Those five were the most important values to them. This exercise was completed in four rounds: identifying personal values, values as an organization member, values of the organization, and what values they want from OSAMP staff, SGA, and those who work with them.
It was this last part that I want to share here in this blog. We all have values that guide us as professionals, and we like to think those are the ones that students appreciate most. To get an idea of what guides the work of my fellow professionals, I took to Twitter and and asked.
— Amma Marfo (@ammamarfo) September 10, 2013
I was really excited to see the responses that I got from everyone, and put them into this Wordle for a more graphical representation of the words selected. Even without a common bank of values to choose from, the larger words will indicate which values rose to the top. Take a look to see which words recurred: “empathy”, “integrity”, “caring”, “service”, and “justice”.
Now, take note of those words, in comparison to the ones that students deemed essential to good working relationships with student activities staff, organization advisors, and their SGA members who oversee many student organization processes:
Of particular note to me was the recurrence of the values “openness” and “honesty”. While students understand (at least in an academic sense) that we can’t always share all the information we have with them, they are also very aware when they’re being given the run-around, or even flat-out lied out. The degree to which this term came up helped me to remember to continue being straightforward with students- including saying “I don’t know” if I truly don’t know an answer.
Another important observation for me was the number of times that professional conduct and professional demeanor surfaced as a desirable value. We all want to have friendly relationships with students, and the degree to which we successfully create these friendly dynamics varies. But when it came down to it, and we asked close to 200 student leaders what they want from those who they work with, they asked for professionalism. Be it by asking for teaching or mentoring relationships, requesting quality work from us, or stressing their desire for hard work and commitment, they want us to be professional.
To be frank, when I look over this cloud again, I find that the values they appreciate, are ones I would like to see in them. We want our student leaders to approach their work professionally, and with the understanding that some initiatives and projects will take work. We want to learn from them, just as they want to learn from us. We would like them to be respectful. And, most common- we want them to be honest.
Do you see intersections between the two clouds? In my estimation, professionals and students alike value having good working relationships, understanding the feelings and thoughts of the parties involved, and being considerate of the opinions and developmental processes each side is experiencing. In the best case, we are all learning each day, whether we’re professionals or students. Being considerate of those learning moments could be essential to better understanding one another, and being able to work together better as offices, student organizations, agencies, and individuals. As I move forward in the year, I look forward to sharing these results with them, and framing the work we each do through the lens of the values they would like to see in us.
Do you incorporate values education into the work you do with your student leaders? What values do they find important? What values do you want to see in your own student leaders?
For more information on the Value Sort activity, a part of the GoodWork toolkit, click here: