I’ve worked in student affairs for almost 10 years now and every spring, as summer approaches, my mom always, without fail, asks me when my last day working will be. And then, I again, explain to her that while students are out for the summer, we still work. Then she asks me “Well, what do you do all summer with no students?” I don’t know about you, but summer is my sanity. A little piece of peace in the midst of the crazy storm that is fall and spring (side note: I feel for you orientation, summer conference, and event folks that do not get a traditional “summer”).
So here is what I do in the summer: I reflect, I think, I read, I assess and then, as an office, we discuss, we dream, we prepare and we connect to launch another great year. It looks something like this:
Summer is a great time to do some reflection both internally and externally. In our fast-paced work environments, we don’t take the time to stop and truly reflect on the previous year. What went well? What didn’t and why? What is a new goal we have for next year? We must ask these questions to ourselves and our jobs in order to truly move forward.
I oversee involvement and leadership on campus. Summer is a time I spend thinking about what needs to be done. I really get a chance to clear my mind and my meeting schedule for the weeks ahead and just think about what can be. What new projects can we take on and what do we need to do differently next year? Similar to the reflection piece, I get a chance to really think about where we’re at and where we’re going.
I love to read. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I am constantly buying new books or saving articles I want to devour. Summer is when I don’t just get to add to that stack off to the side of my desk in my office, but I actually get to dive in and tackle that list. I try to carve out 30 minutes each morning after I get to the office to pick up something and just read for a bit.
In our current culture of proving our worth while managing dozens of little tasks and projects, assessment and why we do what we do is ever critical. I use the summer to review our goals, learning outcomes, and assessment plan from the previous year and ask some hard questions about what we accomplished and what we missed or could improve upon next year.
My thoughts and plans are nothing without my team of staff committed to the same outcomes. So we take time each summer to make sure we’re all on the same page, too.
Some of my favorite ideas for new projects or services come when we’re just hanging out with each other talking about things. Never underestimate the value of constant and open communication with your team. The things you can accomplish when you take the time to listen will astound you!
From those discussions and conversations about the future, we allow ourselves the opportunities to dream big- to put the constant “why we cant’s” aside and just pretend like we can. You know what we’ve found? Most things we dream of implementing are actually possible! The creative process booms when there are no limitations. Then you can really break each idea down and get creative about how to make it happen. This also creates a lot of excitement and things to look forward to about the year ahead and helps team atmosphere and overall buy in.
Once we’ve got our new goals and plans for the year ahead decided, we work hard over the summer to prepare to implement these. It’s never too soon to plan ahead. Starting the fall with a game plan helps ease that transition from summer to the hectic start of the school year.
Last on my list, but certainly not last in importance, is taking time to connect with your team, other members of your department, or even reaching out to make new connections around your campus community. We have office and departmental retreats each summer and also just spend time together over social activities, chatting in the office, or meals out as a group. The relationship building that happens when we set aside time to reconnect is priceless and creates the right atmosphere for success.
So, as you can see, while we might not have the normal hustle and bustle of the school year in the summer, we still stay busy! (I’m not giving up hope that my mom will get this one day.) Until then, what are some ways you spend your time in the summer preparing for fall?