Category Archives: SDO of the Month

New Faces and Different Thinking Spaces

SDO: Appreciation of Differences

Blog Author: Sophie Johnson, Sophomore Psychology Major, College of Liberal Arts. Student employee in College of Education & Human Development.

Throughout job interviews and applications, you will see that appreciation of differences and knowledge about diversity is an important aspect for any position. From Walgreens to the big leagues, your employers are looking for people who can effectively communicate differences and refrain from creating conflict for their own amusement. We’ve all experienced these questions, and being able to talk about experiences where you overcame personal differences can make or break that interview.


A way to increase opportunities where you interact with different types of people is leaving your “comfort zone.” In many cases your first few days, weeks, even months on campus can be a completely different zone in and of itself. You first arrive and meet many new people, but you can often fall into a group and have them be the only people you interact with. Activities like student employment can help, but even then you have often fallen into a comfort zone. I’m talking about those evenings where you’re chilling in bed, and you know you should attend a club meeting, or an event you’re interested in, but you’re struggling to find the motivation.

It’s hard after a long day, but I encourage you to go attend that meeting. Take an opportunity that’s presented to you but you’re nervous to attend because your friends refuse to go because they’re “busy” a.k.a. it’s Netflix time. Take that chance to meet new people and be forced into a situation where you have to sit next to someone new. Allow yourself to be open to challenges that may frighten and intimidate you.

I think there’s been a lot of conversation about creating dialogue and understanding between different groups of people lately. Be it gender, religion, race, ethnicity, or sexuality, college is a time to open yourself up to new thought processes, ideas, and ideals. Don’t be afraid to speak up when you think in a different way, but more importantly, take the time to listen intently and whole-heartedly to what others are saying. Take their opinions into consideration; continue to speak with them and others about topics you may be passionate about, or topics you’re interested in. Read articles and talk about them, in class or research meetings or just hanging out, enjoy the chances the university provides you with. Apply to attend the Social Justice Leadership Retreat over winter break, take a class about social justice, or a class about different cultures, religions and sexualities. Attend a multi-cultural event or holiday celebration, challenge yourself to see the University in a different way.

I know I spend a lot of time just trying to keep up with the friends I’ve made so far, but I find myself reflecting back on situations where I took a risk the most. Alone or with a friend, make the effort to get to know people with different values and beliefs by being understanding and respectful. Take that leap while you have the chance, enjoy the opportunities, and gain new stories to tell.


Find your Motivation; Regain your Strength

Find your Motivation; regain your strength

Blog writer: Danielle Korby, Sophomore Journalism major, College of Liberal Arts

February SDO: Resilience

We live in a society where we are surrounded by people and by messages that encourage us to stay strong. People are constantly telling us to “never give up” or to “keep on keeping on,” and while these anecdotes can be inspiring and even helpful at times, they are far easier said than done. In a time of our lives where many of us are pursuing new opportunities and trying to figure out just who we really are, it can be so easy to throw in the towel when we find ourselves at a dead end.

We all know that it’s important to stay strong, but just how do we do this? I think the he best response when we are told this is to ask, “Why?” Why is it important to us that we persist in the face of disappointment, loss and mistakes, which are inevitable for nearly all of us in some way or another? And for each of us, the answer to this question can – and should – be different.

In order to fully recover from hardship, whether from the loss of a relationship, a job, a loved one, or even just a bad grade in a class, we must find a specific reason or reasons why we want to overcome these obstacles to find some peace of mind. Without the motivation to move forward, it is difficult to be resilient.

My high school Cross Country running coach always used to tell my teammates and me to get rid of all of the “junk” in our minds. We would lie down on the gym floor with our eyes closed on the days before our big races while he talked about clearing our minds of any negative thoughts and focusing only on specific motivators or happy thoughts. I was always amazed with how I felt afterwards; it never mattered what had happened during that day, because I would have new energy and new purpose after clearing my mind.

In a similar way, by learning to clear our minds of sad, troubling or harmful thoughts to the best of our abilities and instead focusing on specific motivating factors, it can be easier to be find the strength within us to be resilient.

For example, after being turned down for multiple job or internship offers, we may become discouraged and begin to question our capabilities or our worth. We may start to ask whether we are pursuing the right career or we might even lose the motivation to apply for more jobs for the fear of being turned down again. In this case, we might ask ourselves why we decided to pursue the jobs we applied for in the first place or why we even want a job or an internship.

The simple answer to these questions might just be that we need the money, but there might be other motivating factors as to why we wanted to pursue a specific kind of career or how we set our minds on a particular “dream job.” Maybe a teacher told you that you had strong negotiation skills, which is why you decided pursue a career in business, or maybe a young engineer came into your class when you were young and you were inspired by the kind of work that they described. By reminding yourself of why you wanted to pursue these careers in the first place, you can find the will to continue pursuing them, despite the roadblocks you have faced.

Resilience is not something that comes easily to many of us, and it might even be one of the most difficult parts about being a college student or a young employee. However, by using motivation-driven thinking, it will be much easier to overcome the challenges in your life and to display resilience in the face of any hardships you might be facing.

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Use Your Top 5 to be more Self-Aware

Use Your Top 5 to be more Self-Aware

Blog Writer: Jane Sitter, Student Employee, CLA 1001 course

December SDO: Self-Awareness

When you think about “Self-Awareness” it can be a little hard to come up with a concrete definition about how this idea can be helpful for you. However, if you break it down from the word itself, you can tell that it is all about ‘you,’ and being aware, or knowledgeable, of yourself!

One way to think of it could be, instead of talking with a future employer and simply saying, “You should hire me because I’m great,” with self-awareness you are able to fully identify and explain your strengths and weaknesses, you are able to give the ‘why’ behind your greatness.

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I increased my self-awareness after finding out my top 5 Strengths. Before taking the StrengthsFinder assessment I had a general idea of what I was good at and what I was not so good at. I knew in high school I really enjoyed languages, speaking, and writing and I considered those to be my strong subjects. After receiving my top 5 Strengths I remember being really confused. What did Strategic, Input, Ideation, Communication, and WOO mean for me?

The longer I spent time at the University I was able to develop self-awareness by understanding how my Strengths can help me in my student employment.

After considering my Strengths, reading through the explanations provided in the results, and attending Strengths Coaching, I felt like I could really understand how my Strengths fit me.

Remember how I said I knew I always enjoyed language, speaking, and writing? Well those Strengths tie directly to my Communication and WOO strengths. I am aware that I value high quality communication, so in my student employment when I need to communicate with other coworkers, I put in my best effort to be clear and concise in my communication and I know I am better able to complete the necessary tasks for my work when I receive good communication from my coworkers of what they need from me. Additionally, in my student employment, my awareness of my Ideation Strength enables me to be able to think of creative ideas for programs to implement in our work.

With Self-Awareness I am able to understand what my strengths and weaknesses are, and with that understanding I can focus on improving my Strengths and sharing what I do best with my coworkers in my student employment. Self-awareness has made my job easier and more fun! I recommend taking time to reflect on what you feel your strengths are, whether you identify with your ‘top 5’ or other strengths, by being aware of your strengths you will be able to succeed by fully being able to articulate what you do best!

Using Your Strengths to Achieve Your Goals

Using Your Strengths to Achieve Your Goals

Blog Writer: Katy Hinz, Program Coordinator, Office for Student Engagement

November SDO: Goal Orientation

Goal setting comes more naturally to some people than it does for others. For example, if you have Strengths in the Executing Leadership Domain, chances are that setting goals is second nature to you. Not sure what Leadership Domains your Strength fall into? Take a look at this chart to find out!

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Goal setting is an important skill to learn as it will help you reach your professional aspirations. Here are tips for goal setting based on your dominant Leadership Domains:

Executing: How these Strengths will help you: Having Strengths in the Executing domain will enable you to take steps to achieve your goals and the goals of any team you are a part of. Make detailed plans and timelines for your goals and set up reminders on your calendar, you will likely enjoy being reminded because you like to get things done! Watch out for: Sometimes with these Strengths you may become too focused on a goal and are unwilling to adapt or change your goal even if your original goal isn’t serving you. Talk to a friend or mentor with Strategic Thinking Strengths, they may help you define your goals in the context of the larger picture and ask you some good questions to bring your most important goals into focus.

Influencing: How these Strengths will help you: Having Strengths in the Influencing domain will help you to articulate your goals and your team’s goals clearly, as well as give you the confidence to know you can achieve them. Use these Strengths to help you navigate what resources you need to be successful, as well as how you can get other people on board with your goals. Watch out for: When you are creating goals for a team make sure that you are getting other people’s input. Partner with someone with Relationship Building Strengths to ensure you aren’t burning any bridges with others when it comes to the goal setting process for a team.

Relationship Building: How these Strengths will help you: Having Strengths in the Relationship domain will help you to create goals that will have a positive impact on the lives of others. When it comes to setting goals for a team, you will help to ensure that the goals are meeting the overall needs of the team, while satisfying the individuals on the team. Your Strengths may also help to keep the team motivated to make the goals a reality. Watch out for: Be aware that it may be easy for you to let the goals of others trump your own goals. Remember that your personal goals are important and should not be ignored. Talking to someone with Strategic Thinking Strengths may be helpful to you when you are feeling conflicted between your goals and the goals of others as they may be able to help you find a creative way to satisfy both sets of goals.

Strategic Thinking: How these Strengths will help you: Having Strengths in the Strategic Thinking domain will help you to create goals with the big picture in mind. You naturally like to think about the possibilities in life so you probably have a lot of ideas about your future. Use your ability to envision tomorrow to keep you motivated to achieve your goals. Watch out for: Although it may be easy for you to think of what your goals are, and even what some of the steps are to get there, you may find it difficult to follow through to make these goals happen. Consider partnering with someone with Executing Strengths to help to make sure you are taking both the small and big steps needed to achieve your goals.

The Sandlot: Working Together for Success

Blog Writer: Marcus Mauer, Marketing & Communications Coordinator, Office for Student Engagement

October SDO: Independence & Interdependence

In the 1993 cult classic The Sandlot, a group of baseball-loving buddies are faced with the dilemma of a lifetime, when a ball of immeasurable worth is lost to the neighbor’s enormous and ferocious dog. In an effort to retrieve the ball, the group rallies together and begins planning and testing elaborate schemes of recovery. Though their efforts are admirable, they ultimately fail. In the end of the movie, it comes down to one of the boys, Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez, to take it upon himself and recapture the lost baseball.

Though for many of us 90’s kids this familiar tale is nothing more than a good movie, it can actually serve to be an accurate depiction of our current/future workplace. “How can this be?” you ask. Well, much like the characters of The Sandlot, you will often find yourself in situations where you must strike a balance between working alone or with a team.

As with most things in life, there are no concrete answers for when you should work alone or in a group, but there are things you can consider when seeking direction. For example, considering your abilities and the abilities of those around you can be a critical and not always obvious step in your decision making process. Do not assume that you are the expert just because a job was assigned to you. Stop to think about how those around you might benefit your project, and if working with them will help or hinder your progress. Finally, never let your ego get in the way of asking for help, but also realize that sometimes it is best to be like Benny “The Jet,” and take on a task alone. Having the ability to independently complete your work is a highly valued skill sought by recruiters, but being able to take a back seat, when needed, is just as important.

Hope you all have a great week!

Owning your Responsibilities

Blog Writer: Catherine Cantieri, SELP Training Coordinator

September SDO: Responsibility & Accountability

Hello everyone! I hope your first month of classes is going smoothly! I know it can sometimes be a bit stressful when trying to get used to a new schedule and routine – transitioning from summer back to the school year sure threw me off a bit. In times of transition and stress, one thing that I notice happen more in my life is that I tend to make more little mistakes every now and then! Whether it’s small mistake like forgetting to pack a lunch for the next day, or something a little bigger, like sending an email to the wrong person – accidents happen! I’m sure you know what I’m talking about – you have new classes, bizarre work schedules to accommodate your classes, student group meetings, study times, etc. – things get a little chaotic! With all of these things going on in your life, little mistakes are bound to appear at some point or another, and this is why our SDO of the month (Responsibility and Accountability) couldn’t have come at a more convenient time!

Everyone makes mistakes, so don’t be too hard on yourself! The important part of making any mistake (especially in the workplace) is what you do about it afterwards, which is why responsibility and accountability are so important. Taking responsibility and being accountable for your own actions can lead to trust and respect between coworkers, and should not be overlooked. It may not always be easy to take ownership for a mistake you have made, but in the long-run it is always worth it.

Another aspect to being accountable and responsible is following through on commitments and meeting agreed upon expectations. Whether this is for a school project, or a work assignment, it is important to stick to your words and complete tasks that people are counting on you to complete. It may be easy to fall behind on a group project, or not put your full effort into a work commitment that may seem tedious, but I promise you – taking the extra time to fulfill your work commitments, or putting in the extra effort to stand out in your group project will pay off! Showing this kind of responsibility and accountability to supervisors and peers makes them more likely to come to you with extra opportunities!

I hope I got you thinking a little bit more about responsibility and accountability in your own life! Thanks for reading the SELP blog, and be sure to check back for more SELP Help questions, SDO posts, and Workshop Recaps. Hope you all have a wonderful week.

(Also, make sure you check out all the super serious links throughout the post!)


Ambiguity and all that Jazz

Blog Writers: Cody Mikl, Assistant Director for Minneapolis Facilities & Emily Thoreson, Facility Supervisor, University Recreation and Wellness

April SDO: Tolerance of Ambiguity

“A wise person is like a jazz musician — using the notes on the page, but dancing around them, inventing combinations that are appropriate for the situation and the people at hand.”

Indeed, as psychologist and economist Barry Schwartz indicates, the ability to navigate ambiguity is an imperative skill to modern-day wisdom. Here at University Recreation and Wellness we are presented daily with an array of harmonies, synchronizations, and occasionally a healthy dose of dissonance.

This past fall semester we opened a 175,000 square foot expansion to the Recreation and Wellness Center. Having been in operation since 1993 we had well established business practices for the operation of the original Recreation Center but they needed to morph to fit our new spaces. We work hard to hone those policies and procedures to be thoughtful, efficient, and as exhaustive as we can make them but when dealing with people it is not possible to draw up a plan for every contingency. Just as jazz musicians utilize notes on a page, we apply a strong framework of leadership, self-motivation, and a common mission to enrich the campus experience and encourage healthy lifestyles for all. However, as Schwartz would say, “too many rules prevent accomplished jazz musicians from improvising. And as a result, they lose their gifts, or worse, they stop playing altogether.” Therefore, we leave space for improvisation by empowering each and every employee with the very wisdom Schwartz attributes to success.

As the largest on-campus employer of students we are fortunate to have such a wealth of intelligent and capable students to draw from. There is no way we would be able to provide the programs and services that we do without them.

American scholar and philosopher Cornel West attributes the success of harmonious teamwork, strong leadership, and successful public service to the very tensions that arise when creativity and individuality of others are put together in collaboration toward a singular mission. He said,

“As with a soloist in a jazz quartet, quintet or band, individuality is promoted in order to sustain and increase the creative tension with the group–a tension that yields higher levels of performance to achieve the aim of the collective project.”

With nearly 7,000 people visiting our facility daily we see a wide range of issues and no two issues seem quite the same. The space of ambiguity is where we take the greatest pride in our Facility Supervisors who, among many other responsibilities, open and close our buildings, help manage other student staff, and operate our buildings in the absence of full time staff. We train our supervisors to be knowledgeable and prepared but we are also upfront with them that sometimes there are going to be situations that arise where they need to make decisions in a gray area with the information that is in front of them. We tell them to make the best decision they can and that we will support them.

There is no exhaustive handbook for life. To be sure, if one existed we would not have the pleasure that comes from harmonies built with notes of differing tones, the staccatos and accents that shake up the daily routine, and even the dissonance that is rooted in creative tension and exploration. So go ahead and fearlessly improvise, because without this empowerment there can be no growth, and growth is undoubtedly the future of the University of Minnesota.

Beehive Jazz Club

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