I’m lying on my hotel bed, beside an article I should be reading (and will be soon, I swear), but all I want to do right now is process on paper some of the things floating around in my head.  And that’s a good thing because at the start of a doctoral program, there are many pages, words, and blank spaces needed filling ahead of me.  Cohort 2013 at Azusa Pacific University received our first syllabus today, and it was almost comical how the room immediately went quiet.  Like so many of my students back at Warner Pacific, I immediately flipped to the section on assignments to see what was coming my way in the coming months.  Once the four projects, and their basic descriptions were skimmed, the professor’s voice became understandable again (versus the temporary Charlie Brown effect) and the room regain floor, walls and ceiling.  This seemed do-able once again.  And even better, two of the assignments looked exciting enough that my brain started wondering when I could dive in.  The other two…well, they’ll be fine. = )

A significant focus of Azusa Pacific’s program is on developing ourselves and our students through the understanding of our strengths, specifically those discovered through the Strengths-Quest assessment tool.  Part of my personality is to seek unique opportunities for myself and to appreciate and want to honor the unique qualities in others, so a learning I will definitely be going through (and look forward to) is understanding how the labels of these strengths fits into my own valuing of the story and context to the individual.  I hate the idea of putting someone into a box almost as much as I hate being put in one.  We are all so much more than one survey result.  And yet I know that this particular tool is being used to help advisors, administrators, professors, students, etc. better communicate and collaborate in colleges around the country.  How do having five simple words share the story of someone’s true self?  This is not a significant paradox but it is one that I embrace the opportunity to wrestle through.

My words are Achiever, Belief, Developer, Individualization and Strategic.  So far the way I understand them and can best explain them is through story…I believe everyone could earn a college degree.  If they put in the time, have the support, and believe it is worth the sacrifice, I have that core belief in my fellow men and women.  That graduation stage is like the finishing line of a marathon.  Every person in the race must put their own foot down for it to count, but they can run, walk, skip or crawl if they have to and it will count.  And if everyone succeeds / graduates / finishes, that in no way diminishes from the journey of the others. In fact, each person can support another through their words, their compassion and their random acts of kindness along the way.  It is the responsibility of the individual to finish their degree, and it will be their success when it is done, but the entire community can struggle and celebrate with them along the way.  (okay, my story needs work but the article beside me needs reading more so I’ll have to play with this more another day).

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