"I met our Woman Crush Wednesday, Dr. Skendall, two Friday afternoons ago as the Gems Suite was clearing out for Spring Break. Our conversation ranged from talk of her latest conference, to her role on Gemstone, to her children literature preferences." - Elliot Frank, Stone Journalist
EF: You were just at a conference, right? Would you like to talk a little about what that was?
KS: Sure! I served as the convention chair of the ACPA 2015 annual convention in Tampa, Florida, a meeting of folks in higher education from around the world but primarily the US. We had a theme, “Consider, Collaborate, Create, Commit” and had 650 educational sessions and different events to help higher education professionals be better teachers and administrators.
EF: How long have you been in the Gemstone Program?
KS: I’ve been in this role since 2012 and I’ve been on campus since 2005. I did my PhD program here and I worked in the Stamp, I started the Alternative Break program. Well, I came in right at the start; it started in spring 2005 and I started in September 2005. And I also was a graduate coordinator for the National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs for the Stamp, so I worked in the Stamp for 5 years and then was working on my PhD before coming back to this job. Then I actually did an internship at the US Department of Education, working in the National Center for Education Statistics on a project looking at two-year college student success, and then I worked for an association, and now I’m here.
EF: How have those two perspectives, staff member and student, helped you in your work with Gemstone?
KS: I think because I was a grad student in the School of Education, I was able to take classes with senior administrators on campus and understand the university from multiple perspectives. Being able to think about the student affairs side, the administrative side, the faculty side, I think I have a better picture of how Gemstone maybe fits into the overall university. I was able to develop relationships with folks who are in the different academic colleges and student affairs, which really helps when there’s a Gemstone student who needs help with a student organization, or is maybe having a mental health crisis, or is in a student conduct challenge; I have someone to call.
EF: How would you describe your role on the staff?
KS: I primarily work with the teams and the mentors. So once the teams are formed, I probably work most closely with the teams and the mentors in facilitating the team development process. So depending on the time of year, I might be team mentor, team cheerleader, sometimes I need to be, like, team accountability manager. So those are my primary roles; anything that really fits into the team process is where I fit in.
EF: Do you think everyone’s personality fits well with those roles?
KS: Yeah! I think we’re a good example of a team; we try to model what we hope you all would do on your Gemstone teams. So it’s not always sunshine and roses, but that’s okay, because it’s always a positive experience. Even if we don’t agree on something, we can work through that conflict in a way that everyone feels good about where we land. We have a lot of fun together, I think we all work well together, and we’re all on the same page in terms of making sure we’re working together to serve the program.
EF: Now they’re making me ask a fun question, so Operations wants to know: what is your favorite children’s book?
KS: Gosh it’s been so long! The one I always buy for my friends’ children is Goodnight D.C. It’s like Goodnight Moon but it has all the D.C. stuff in it; it’s fun for people that might come visit or that live here. And I like President Obama’s one, Letter to My Daughters.
-25 March 2015, Elliot Frank