Coming Soon: The Defectors, Series 2

We back, baby.

After a successful series of dispatches from higher education practitioners who have taken their talents to new venues, we’ll be back next month with another set- this time during Careers in Student Affairs Month.

It was imperative this year for me to portray these “higher education-adjacent” roles as equally viable options to those seeking careers in student affairs or higher education. So rather than placing the series in August, as was the case last year, it’ll be running all through October with the tales of professionals working for educational partner organizations, nonprofits, and for themselves. There’s more than one way to do this work, to serve students, to make a difference- and it is my sincere hope that this second group of folx will open your eyes to the possibilities.

Stay tuned for new stories all October, and catch up with last year’s edition here!

[PODCAST] “Your Office Is Built for Extroverts” on Hubspot’s The Growth Show

Today, I am so pleased to share the recent episode of Hubspot’s The Growth Show that I recorded, ahead of my session at their INBOUND conference later this month.

I can’t believe I got to do this show, one that can also count Basecamp’s David Hansson, The Muse’s Kathryn Minshew, and Alec Baldwin among its guests. I mean, really? Me? But I overcame the nerves (I think) to chat with host Meghan Keaney Anderson about how temperament shows up at work, what we can do to level the playing field, and how creativity fits into that conversation. I share a few stories from my family and online…and I manage, as always, to bring up Hamilton 🙂

Thanks to Meghan, Kierran, and Matt of The Growth Show team for having me- enjoy the listen!

(And if you’re headed to INBOUND and want to talk more about this, I hope you’ll come see me Tuesday the 26th at 4:15!)

Program Preview: AFA Annual Meeting Advance Program

2017 is ending with a big first for me- the chance to travel to Atlanta, GA for the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors Annual Meeting! Along with my friend and frequent collaborator Dr. Josie Ahlquist, we’ll be speaking with advance program attendees about how to bring more creativity and innovation to the Greek experience in Frameworks for Innovation in the Greek Experience.

Frameworks for Innovation v1

Josie and I are each deeply committed to helping students and professionals look at their college experiences with an eye toward leadership and change management, and I’m excited to be teaming up with her to combine the lessons of digital leadership and competence in creativity.

From our program description:

At a campus steeped in tradition, it can be difficult to make a case for change in fraternity and sorority life. However, as the landscape these traditions exist in changes, organizations and their professionals must adapt. 

We’ll seek to facilitate the start of that adaptation in our three hour program, addressing the following objectives:

  • Participants (you won’t just be attendees, you’ll be part of it!) will experiment with ten (10) digital/mobile tools, and learn three ways each can be applied to your success in Greek life.
  • Participants will engage in active discussion on conflicts between tradition and innovation.

A trio of frameworks we’ll be addressing – Design Thinking, Finding Creative Voice, and Cultivating Creativity – will help you to rethink your campus’ capacity for innovation, while still honoring and maintaining tradition. These frameworks help determine how innovation might go over on your campus, offer strategies to overcome resistance to change, and address systemic but hard-to-act on issues in a methodical way.

The AFA Annual Meeting Advance Programs take place ahead of the Meeting, on Wednesday, November 29th, 2017. Ours will be taking place in the afternoon, from 1pm to 4:30pm. Registration for the program is $55, and can be completed through the online meeting registration process.

Learn more about our program on AFA’s site, and we look forward to seeing you in Atlanta!

[PODCAST] #JPSPEAKS Season 2 Premiere: Cultivating Creativity as a Social Justice Advocate

Headshot and podcast episode descriptor: Cultivating Creativity as a Social Justice Advocate with Amma Marfo (JPSPEAKS podcast episode 14)

Click on the image to hear me on the #JPSPEAKS season 2 premiere!

This week, I share a podcast that I recorded with Jamie Piperato of JPHigherEd about the case for creativity as a tool for equity and inclusion.

I always really enjoy talking with Jamie- she is insightful, hardworking, and relentlessly dedicated to creating a more socially just world. By founding JPHigherEd and continuing to find new ways to hold and advance these conversations, she embodies so many of the traits and elements of the Cultivating Creativity manifesto. So it was a pleasure to talk about how my pursuits and hers dovetail so nicely.

Head to JPHigherEd for our conversation, and give back episodes a listen! You’ll learn so much! And huge thanks again to Jamie for such a fantastic chat. Always a pleasure 🙂


Sharing the SXSW Spotlight

As you may know from last week’s post, I am excited to be proposing two panels for this coming year’s South by Southwest Conference and Festival. Between now and August 25th, you can head to South by Southwest PanelPicker and cast your votes for what sessions show up in Austin next spring.

But it feels wrong and self-indulgent to fill your feeds only with what I’m working on- especially because I’m seeing so many other cool proposals that deserve your votes. So below, I’ve compiled a list of some of my other favorite pitches that deserve what I’m calling “a vote and a note.” Click on the titles to explore their proposals and hopefully show your support! Should you decide to upvote any of these (or mine, for that matter), the notes you leave in the comments can make or break some decisions. So use your words!

Customer-First: Inside Social Media at the TSA

Metal through metal detector, courtesy of Rocko.

This would never fly (haaa) on present-day TSA’s watch.

I fly so often for work, I’ve built an image in my mind of what TSA is and can be. While I won’t say what that image is, I will say that their social media presence is quite the opposite: funny, informative, and approachable. It was a genuine surprise to find that they’ll be talking about said approach at South by Southwest (if accepted), and I want to see it. So take your laptop out of your bag, power it up, and throw them a vote!

From their proposal:

With over 60,000 employees working to screen almost 2 million passengers per day, TSA knows about about pressure. So how has the agency maintained its quirky sense of humor on Instagram? How has it been able to launch a wildly successful social customer service effort? And what is the proper way to pack a mummified head for flight? Our panel will pull back the curtain and discuss the details that goes into managing social media for one of the most hands-on agencies in the federal government.

Kevin Hart clapping during

Real (claps) talk (claps), Dillan (claps) is (claps) great (claps) for (claps) this (claps).

I was lucky enough to meet wellness coach and speaker Dillan DiGiovanni during his stint in Boston, and have since teamed up on a number of projects together- mostly because I keep asking him to do things 🙂 His message about the power we have to effect change in our own lives continues to resonate with me, and has stayed with me as my own career and approach to life has evolved. It would be a pleasure to see him shine at South by, so throw him a vote and get ready to have so much fun learning from him!

From his proposal:

Our job is clear: take impeccable care of ourselves and assist others. What’s most needed now, in all sectors, are open-minded, high-performing, healthy and inspiring influencers who will help guide culture in a positive direction. But what does that really mean? What gets in our way of doing it and how can we be successful at it? This experience will leave you thoroughly clear and confident about how and what to do starting today.

Diversity in Podcasting: Righting the Ratio

Insecure Kelli and Issa talking about podcasts

Is Kelli going to this?

Podcasting has been billed as, among other things, a relatively egalitarian platform; as long as you have the ability to record and an internet connection, you can join the game. However, the lion’s share of the podcasting world looks straight, white, male, and able-bodied. This panel aims to address this disparity head-on, using their own experiences and ideas for the future as fodder for conversation.

From their proposal:

Podcasting is a booming business: it’s seen a 40% lift in audience over the past two years and revenue is nearly doubling year over year. However, there’s one major pain point: diversity. Podcasting is mostly white, straight, and male. As of mid-2017, a majority of the top 100 podcasts were hosted by straight, white men. Join a diverse panel of podcast hosts and pros from Gimlet Media, WNYC Studios, and more who are working to right the ratio and increase diverse voices in podcasting.

30 Rock's Jenna Maroney summoning the room:

Women have knowledge to share, and this group wants them to have the chance.

As an active participant on the speaker circuit, I’m aware of the considerable gender disparity in the field. And I’ve been lucky to have support in the Boston community in the form of Bobbie Carlton. Going to events where she’s spoken and reading her writing has reminded me often that there is a place for my voice in these circles. So I’m incredibly pleased to support her sharing this message on a national level, alongside other inspirational female founders.

From their proposal:
All evidence indicates a need for diverse viewpoints. We read about it. We write about it. We talk about it. And yet many conferences, publications, and public platforms fall short of providing that value. 
We’re beyond awareness. We know there’s a diversity problem. It’s time to take action. Let’s focus on what’s next: solving the invisible woman diversity dilemma. This session gives actionable resources to stop talking and start doing.
Unikitty talking about numbers.

These fabulous panelists are all business.

Featuring freelance writer and A Cup of Copy author Kaleigh Moore, this panel of powerful female entrepreneurs will be detailing their experiences in that ecosystem, helping attendees and participants navigate some of the expected and unexpected challenges, and talking about how gender affects these conversations.

From their proposal:

“If you build it, they will come.” Even 30 years later, this famous line rings true — and hopeful entrepreneurs adopted it as a mantra, launching companies by the millions. More than 6.6M businesses began in 2016 alone with no signs of slowdown. For many, entrepreneurship is the Holy Grail — but is it all it’s cracked up to be? The brains behind brands Packed Party and FlashTats will share the realities of entrepreneurship, and how to survive that dreaded first year of business…then thrive.

The Lion King and its Impact on Black Millennials

Rafiki hitting Simba over the head with his staff.

How could you not vote for this one? I mean, are you kidding me?

I didn’t come up with this panel, but it’s like I did. What else can I say, other than I have a lot to say on this topic and look forward to hearing it? Help me get them there, people. C’mon.

From their proposal:

The Lion King has been Disney’s juggernaut of the last 25 years, spawning a best-selling Broadway musical, countless pop references, and in recent years, rap lyrics. As we prepare for a live-action remake, Slate’s Aisha Harris and fellow critics will discuss the movie’s cultural impact, especially on the black kids who grew up with it. They’ll explore the film’s setting in Africa, the controversies it stirred, and how the remake could remedy these issues and, maybe, make the film even blacker.

#OscarsSoWhite: What’s Next for Entertainment?

Viola Davis Oscar acceptance speech

Did #OscarsSoWhite give us this moment? Let’s get the chance to talk about it.

Most of us are familiar with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, and the harsh spotlight it trained on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for their membership and nomination practices. That spotlight often evaded the hashtag’s creator, April Reign- who also founded the recent #NoConfederate campaign in response to HBO’s proposed alternative-history drama. She, along with filmmaker Matthew A. Cherry (recent Kickstarter record-breaker for the short film “Hair Love”), are passionate about the role that representation in media plays in society. They’ll be bringing their experience and wisdom to Austin…if we help. So let’s get them there!

From their proposal:

In 2015, #OscarsSoWhite was created, forcing the Academy to make changes not only to its structure but also its mindset with respect to inclusion of traditionally underrepresented communities. Hollywood followed suit, resulting in movies reflecting experiences of marginalized communities. 2018 will be an improvement & we will discuss those films & TV shows. But what is next? Is #OscarsSoWhite still relevant? What more can be done? Who should be held accountable? What does diversity really mean?

Pre-Woke Watching: Your Faves Are Problematic

Coming to America Arsenio spitting out his drink

Colorism in Coming to America? Well, what do I do now?

One of the challenges that the entertainment industry faces is an evolution of acceptable imagery, conversation, and stereotypes/archetypes. Aisha Harris over at Slate captures this in a regular segment called “Pre-Woke Watching.” She’s hoping to bring the conversation to Austin, as we dive further into how these images look in the light of present-day, what has happened to change their look, and if we can still enjoy them knowing what we now know.

From the proposal:

On her hit Slate podcast Represent, Aisha Harris has a recurring segment, Pre-Woke Watching, where guests talk about films they grew up with and loved, but can no longer view through an uncritical eye. (Like coming to terms with how totally sexist Pretty Woman is, or discovering the prevalence of colorism in Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America.) The panelists will have a hearty discussion around evolving tastes, opening up the floor to audience members to give their own PWW examples.

Teens and Social Media: An Experiment in Civility

Louis CK mimeing typing with mouth open

Mean people online be typing like…

We need to talk about the nature of discourse online. And while teenagers are far from the only perpetrators of uncivil behavior in these spaces, discussing these issues with them early on can affect how they interact in later years. Citizen Discourse, recognizing that, is launching a platform aimed at cultivating empathy and discernment skills. I look forward to the prospect of hearing from them, and starting to think about how these practices and exercises can impact “adult” discourse online.

From their proposal:

Citizen Discourse (CD) is launching a social media platform for teenagers designed to build empathy. Through storytelling and by cultivating a practice in writing & civil discourse the intent is to develop members’ skills in: discernment, media literacy, communication, collaboration. A panel comprised of and facilitated by teens sharing their experience navigating social media and their role developing CD. Topics may cover bullying, echo chambers, privacy, youth engagement.

Zen Your Work: Creating an Ideal Work Experience

Don Draper finale meditation scene

Get Don Draper chill after leaving Karlyn’s session.

Karlyn was a bright light on the Workplace track at last year’s conference, and she’s back for another round with a new session this year! After tackling office politics, this year she wants to turn your focus inward, helping participants to understand their value at work, and use that understanding to focus their work life and goals. Her blunt, funny, and insightful style will change the way you think about “mindful” work. So go give her a vote, and tell her I sent you 🙂

From her proposal:

Creating your ideal professional experience is possible no matter your role/level, if you have a proactive plan for making it happen. This session will give you the framework to develop that plan. We’ll cover three key areas – understanding and embracing your unique value, navigating interpersonal relationships, and developing career clarity. When you zen your work, you embrace the concept that you are in control of your professional experience and mindful of how everything you do creates it.

Don’t forget, PanelPicker voting runs through August 25th- so get your votes and notes in! Did I leave any notable pitches out? Let me know in the comments! 

Help Me Bring My Weird to Austin!

In recent years, the tail end of summer has brought another milestone for me: South by Southwest registration and panel season. I’m participating in the latter for the first time since 2013, and would love your help in upvoting a pair of proposals I’m a part of. Check out the details, and cast your votes (with accompanying notes!) at SXSW Panel Picker! You don’t have to be going to the festival to vote, but your voice as someone interested in these issues will make a difference to those tallying and deciding!

[Looking for other proposals? I did a roundup of ten other proposed sessions and panels that deserve “a vote and a note”!]

Read on or click on the session images for more about how I’m hoping to bring my particular brand of weird to Austin!

NSFW? Your “Professional” netWORKed Community

NSFW? Your Professional netWORKed Community

f/ Josie Ahlquist, Liz Gross, and Laura Pasquini
In 15 years, we’ve gone from “Bowling Alone” to being hyper-connected online both personally and professionally. Online communities form for personal enrichment, professional networking, and social learning. How do they help or hurt individuals, organizations, and industry? What challenges and barriers arise for community organizers? When it comes to the workplace, what happens when our online and offline life converge? Implications for both individuals and employers will be discussed.

This session will aim to answer the questions:

  1. Why do networked communities matter for professional practice and industry?
  2. What are the benefits and challenges in these professional networked communities?
  3. How do we (employers, employees, or industry) deal with these digital communities or networked professionals in the workplace?

Memes + Monologues: Lessons in Laughter for News

f/ Alonzo Bodden (Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me…), Keli Dailey (News Hangover), + Jason Meier (Emerson College)

Can news outlets and journalists apply the strategies of comedians to their work, even if they’re “not funny”? With standup, late night, memes and hashtags, comedians are navigating a tense reality with skill, tackling issues head on. And we think they can teach a thing or two about how to hit “publish” on that controversial piece or have that talk with a cranky uncle. Join us for frank talk on their strategies for speaking truth to power, challenging ideas, and navigating inevitable backlash.

This session will aim to answer the questions:

  1. What about that nature of comedy makes it such an effective tool for discourse on tough topics?
  2. How can news outlets and journalists apply the strategies of comedians to their writing and discourse, even if they’re “not funny”?
  3. How can knowledge of how comedians think, write, or comment on culture help news outlets and journalists address cries of “too far” or “how dare you”?

PanelPicker voting starts on Monday, August 7th and runs through Friday, August 25th. You can vote for each panel once by creating an account with SXSW.  And be sure to leave a note detailing what you like about the proposals!

Will you also be in Austin? Know of other panels I should hear about? Let me know!

The Grand Debut

So you all know that I’ve spent the summer writing…but what most may not know is that I’ve been doing more than one kind of writing. Here’s the result of it…my student standup showcase at ImprovBoston​​! 

FIRST LOOK: Cultivating Creativity, Out This Fall!

For the last month or so, I’ve taken a break from much of the Internet’s social side, as I buried myself in notes, interviews, and thousands of my own words. I’m pleased to share with you the cover and first excerpt of Cultivating Creativity, my new book on the essential elements of the creative mindset.

Cultivating Creativity cover- lightbulb silhouette

Click on the image above to read the introduction to the book!

In its introduction, I aim to share with you what the book will be about, why it’ll be useful to you, and what you can expect to find in the pages that follow. If it looks interesting to you, keep an eye out for the preorder link…it’s on its way!

Unconventional Leadership and Student Development Reads

Having a book list front and center may have given you the indication that I’m a reader. I have 1-2 on me at all times, even in inopportune places. This has been a trait of mine for as long as I can remember- I remember a particularly heated family Disney trip, turned so after I lost a book somewhere in the park (if anyone sees Baby-Sitters Club #91, let me know so we can make arrangements)- and I’m genuinely pleased it persists.

As an educator in the college and university space who focuses so intently on creativity, the need to approach reading with students creatively is not lost on me. And I frequent circles where book recommendations circulate often, and the same names and topics appear. These recommendations are rightfully earned, as these books are thoughtfully researched and yield important conclusions and lessons. This week, however, I want to pose my offbeat answers to that question. They’re insightful, borne of life experience, and truly entertaining. Whether these recommendations are passed to individual students, or used in classes, I hope they’ll change the way you think about imparting lessons of leadership and development.

What additions would you make to my reading list for the second half of 2017?

Creativity and its Utility in the Workplace

This week, I want to expand upon the cultivating creativity manifesto I shared a few weeks back, by articulating how it can be used in the workplace- and thankfully, I have the data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers to help me out.

Each year, NACE conducts a survey (summarized as their Job Outlook report) to assess what skills are most in demand in job applicants. What qualities should they have? What are you looking for? Where are the gaps between their needs and the workforce we presently have? As I dived into the data, I started to draw connections between the tenets of creativity and the expectations of prospective employers. Below, I’ve encapsulated these connections through an infographic:

Creativity and Its Utility in the Workplace Infographic

To clarify, the percentage next to each trait or desired ability indicates the percentage of employers who expressed they will be requiring this skill in a hired candidate.

Below, the data in text:

Broadmindedness (employing ideas from one scenario, in a new or disparate environment)

  • Initiative: 65.9%
  • Detail-Oriented: 62.1%
  • Organizational Ability: 47.7%
  • Entrepreneurial/Risk-Taker: 19.7%

Collaboration (working with and alongside others to achieve a goal, even as it shifts and changes)

  • Ability to Work in a Team: 78.0%
  • Interpersonal Skills: 58.3%
  • Friendly/[Outgoing] Personality: 25.8%*
  • Tactfulness: 25.8%

*We’ll come back to this soon.

Determination (staying with a project for its full duration, even when it becomes difficult)

  • Strong Work Ethic: 72.0%
  • Strategic Planning Skills: 37.9%

Execution (closely tied to determination, the ability and endurance to translate an idea into action)

  • Communication Skills (written): 75.0%
  • Communication Skills (verbal): 70.5%
  • Technical Skills: 56.8
  • Analytical Skills: 64.4%

Flexibility (the ability to change course when internal or external forces require it)

  • Problem-Solving Skills: 77.3%
  • Flexibility/Adaptability: 63.6%
  • Strategic Planning Skills: 37.9%

What are your programs, procedures, trainings, and student interventions doing to help students develop these crucial and in-demand skills?