Timeline: March 18-27
Monday, the first full day of the conference would be a busy one, stretching into the evening as we had plans to celebrate the upcoming wedding of James, a former UNCC colleague now happily and successfully integrated into life in South Alabama. Our first order of business in the morning was to attend a session with the “Seasoned Professionals” group, organized to include senior members of the profession and those who have retired.
At the end of the session a group of masters degree students joined us and we paired off so that the seasoned folks could answer questions and impart advice about how best to navigate a career in higher education, particularly on the Student Union side of the house. I had a chance to speak with Thomas, an MBA student at Rowan University in New Jersey and our conversation covered a number of topics and considerations.
Success in any profession is often predicated not just on one’s innate talent and drive, but also on how they are managed and developed. In large enterprises (IBM, Intel, GE, etc.) this is a formal process imbedded in the culture of the company; individuals are groomed to move up the chain of command receiving necessary training to address shortcomings, allowed room to make errors that lead to growth, and provided with opportunities their resumes normally wouldn’t qualify them for.
In the world of higher education enterprise directed development doesn’t flourish as given the nature of how open jobs are filled one can’t simply or easily promote an individual; they must apply for the position and compete against an open field. This is where the importance of the role of a mentor comes in, someone to personally guide the development of an individual’s path, sometimes from a distance if that person leaves your direct sphere of influence.
My mentor, the woman responsible for recognizing what little talent I have and bringing me over to the student side of the house at UCLA was Margaret Snow. Without her direct involvement in my career, I’d still be processing journal entries as an accountant instead of becoming a director. The lessons I learned at her feet were not always easy ones, but they were delivered with a wisdom and grace that I have tried, not always successfully, to incorporate into my own management style.
Thus the importance of meeting up with Thomas, providing some guidance to help him navigate what one would hope would be a happy career in higher education. The day progressed and later a couple more gin and tonics were consumed in the room before Jim and I headed down to the lobby bar to meet with our good friend and colleague, Carolyn, who having left the University of Alabama Birmingham last year was now getting her feet wet promoting a line of products for DIRTT Environmental Solutions, providers of custom prefab modular interior solutions.
It was great to spend a bit of time with Carolyn, getting caught up on each other’s lives as quickly as we could in the short time allotted to us, as Jim and I were to leave the lobby at 6pm to travel across the street to the Hard Rock Café for our prepaid regional dinner. Having been burned in the past with horrific food quality and quantity at these meals we were only going as it was included as part of our conference registration when fate intervened in the form of representatives from three food chains (Einstein brothers Bagels, Freshens, and Panda Express) located at UNC Charlotte, who invited us to join them for dinner at Monk’s Cafe, an establishment I had identified for a visit later in the trip.
During the fifteen minute walk from the hotel, through an area I would become quite familiar with during our stay, I engaged one of the representatives from Freshens and our conversation lasted into the our first beer or two and the meal. I ordered a Pliny the Elder to start and finished with a Lost Abbey Devotion, both west coast beers hard to find in North Carolina, to compliment the Mac & Cheese (weissebeir braised French ham, asparagus, goat, cheddar, Swiss and sottocenerre truffle cheese) main plate I demolished for dinner. Each ingredient brought out the flavor of the others, with the asparagus the star, a burst of piquancy in each bite.
We returned to the hotel at the end of dinner, recharged our batteries and then walked back to the same general area we’d been to before to join a small group for James bachelor party at The Franklyn Bar, a speakeasy type establishment that took us some time to find because it has absolutely no identifying signage to guide us to its door. The rest of the group arrived at the same time and we all went downstairs (there is an upstairs bar as well) and were seated together.
It was decided that the first round would be a large bowl of punch and the drink of choice was the Gladiator Skull (London Dry Gin, Barrel Proof Bourbon, Islay Scotch, Green Chartreuse, Coconut, Basil, Lime and Pineapple Juices, Celery Bitters, and Black Pepper), running just about $100. Seemingly expensive, it was an excellent choice and relatively affordable once we starting drinking as it was highly potent. We were given small punch glasses to drink from, a good thing as it encouraged sipping, not gulping and believe me when I say that two small glasses was more than enough to drink.
We left the party in high spirits, both physically and mentally and the walk back to the hotel seemed to take no time at all, a gift from the Gladiator Skull. It had been yet another very full day and with Joanna joining me the next day, the rest of the week rose pleasantly before me. Who knows what mischief we’d get into?
DIRTT Environmental Solutions: https://www.dirtt.net/
Monk’s Café: http://www.monkscafe.com/
The Franklyn Bar: http://www.thefranklinbar.com/