Announcement: My First eBook is LIVE!

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I am very excited to announce the release of my first eBook; Talk Nerdy to Me: Connections Between Work & Geekdom!

This book is a collection of some of the best posts on the blog (from myself and others) surrounding how the geeky world influences our perspectives, beliefs, and everyday lives. It has revised, expanded, and exclusive content that won't ever be released anywhere else.

If you've ever wanted to support me and this blog, please consider buying this book. With your help, you can help it become something more, and do your part working towards a world where campuses are safe places for everyone to geek out about something.

I appreciate you all buying the book, reading it, sharing it out, and leaving a review on the platform of your choosing (book is currently available on Kindle, iBooks, and NOOK). It all counts!

Cheers!

Some Final Thoughts on San Diego Comic Con

IMG_7533 San Diego Comic Con is the pinnacle of geek culture. Pretty much everything you can think of in the entertainment world is somehow represented there. From Power Rangers to Galactus to Buffy to Peanuts and Charlie Brown, and everything in between. It's a great melting pot of fandom, with people coming from all over the world to take part, but there are some elements that were distressing to me as a newcomer, much like with national student affairs conventions.

The Verge did a great piece that gave voice to some of my concerns, and The New York Times highlighted well the convention experience as a whole. The long lines, the shallow industry showcases disguised as fan service, the overwhelming crowds, and the exclusive, fairly expensive nature (especially with airfare, meals, and hotels) of it all just seemed very privileged to me. The convention lost some of its immediate luster to me after spending a few days there. Maybe I just didn't do it right, but I didn't feel like the point of it all was to spend half of your hard fought ticket to SDCC waiting in lines for a short session that essentially was just a studio patting itself on the back for how great their thing is (and then the trailer you saw being released the next day online). There was a lack of depth that annoyed me to most of the proceedings. There was so much going on it's not surprising. There just wasn't a time or place for it.

Maybe the whole event has become a bloated version of what it was originally intended to be and it will eventually deflate back to a more focused event. Or maybe that is what the other conventions are for. Nowadays though, a lot of comic conventions seem to be trying to model themselves after SDCC, becoming huge entertainment industry showcases versus a focus on panels, artists, and personal interactions. Also, it's a whole other post in itself about the problems SDCC has with consent and cosplay.

Don't get me wrong, I had a great time. It just feels like it could have been even better. Maybe if I get the chance to go again it will be different. Maybe I'm expecting too much or maybe it's all just not for me. The crowds were frustrating for me at times, I couldn't buy a lot of stuff even if I wanted to (I didn't that much), and I got confused many times about just how the convention worked. Maybe I should have done more homework and preparing.

Well, either way, until next year, here's to the memories and the weird, wild, and one of a kind San Diego Comic Con.

Highlights From #SDCC15

IMG_7532 From July 9-12 I was at 2015 San Diego Comic Con (SDCC), which was my first time ever attending this mecca of sorts for geeks and nerds (and my first time ever in California). It was a whirlwind trip that had a lot of great highlights for me.

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First off, the weather in San Diego was beautiful for the weekend I was there. The sun was out, it wasn't too hot, and overall it was just a great setting to be able to explore and experience the area. I did a lot of walking over the few days I was there, which wore me out a bit and gave me a solid sunburn towards the end of the trip.

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On the first day of the trip (Thursday), I walked to the convention center to check in and just walked around the show floor and other off-site events to see everything and get a lay of the land. I eventually made my way to the San Diego Central Library for the panel I was helping to cover. This was definitely a huge highlight and it was what enabled me to come out in the first place so I'm really happy I was able to sit in and take a bunch of photos of the session.

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After that panel, I crashed back at my room since I had to wake up early that day for my long flight from Boston. On Friday, I did more exploring, got tickets for a session, popped in for a panel, and then played the new Star Wars Battlefront game on the PlayStation 4. The Nerd HQ was demoing the game and it was incredible! I would contemplate getting a system to play this game it was that good. Then I went to the Nerdist Conival to see of their speakers (mainly Felicia Day). Both the Conival and Nerd HQ were free to anyone to come in, no SDCC badge was required. They both a lot of fun activities and it was nice that they were there as accessible options for fans to enjoy.

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My favorite session that I got to go to was the Nerdist Podcast Network Podcast Jam (an unwieldy title to be sure) that featured Jonah Ray, Matt Mira, Pete Holmes, Kumail Nanjiani, Emily Gordon, and Sandra Daugherty. There was also a kid who does a podcast apparently on the network (The Mutant Season) that I had no idea who he was but it was sort of neat to hear from a young person and the impact doing a podcast has had on him. I had never seen all these people in person, much less all at the same time. It was hilarious! They provided some neat insights as well from their collective years podcasting. As a fan of the medium and an avid podcaster myself, it was definitely a major highlight of the whole con for me.

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Saturday was spent checking out a local beach and dipping my feet in the Pacific Ocean (a life goal for me). I came back to SDCC later in the day to check out Adam Savage from MythBusters do a Q&A session as well as a session from the folks at Nerd for a Living about doing just that; how to get into nerdy creative fields like costume design, movie makeup and effects, comic writing/illustrating, etc. I have appreciated the work they do for a little while now so it was cool to be able to check this panel out.

After all that, I packed up and got to bed so I could head out the next morning for my flight back to the East Coast. It was an awesome trip and experience that I did not expect to have so soon in my life. I'll try to capture more of my in depth thoughts in a future post, but I just wanted to share some of the cool highlights from the trip with you all. If you haven't gone before, I hope you get the opportunity to do so at some point. It's an amazing experience to behold, and will definitely be memorable for you for your own awesomely geeky reasons.

Thanks for stopping by!

Reflecting On All the Things I've Done

Clist2 I have felt at some points in my life that I have had a tragically mundane, ordinary life that hasn't had much good or bad happen in it. It was a depressing thought to consider, especially in my darker moments, but recently, I've taken time to sit down and put my mental energy to work writing down all my "greatest hits" (just like with Charlie Pace in one my favorite television shows of all time, Lost). Moments in my life, big or small, that I'm proud of. They include the places I've traveled, the accomplishments I've achieved, and the small things we should all think of more. Here are some specific examples of what I'm talking about:

  • Smiled so much my face hurt
  • Presented at a national conference
  • Visited Las Vegas, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, DC
  • Gone to a comedy club
  • Gave good lives to my pets

Some of these things are concrete experiences in my life that I am happy to have done. Even if they aren't that special to others, they're special to me. Others are things I look back and affirm for myself. People can have regrets, doubts, and think negatively about the experiences in their life, but I challenge myself to think positively. I can never know for certain if I gave a good life for my pets, they can't tell me, but I choose to believe that I did based on the memories I have and the things I did for my two wonderful dogs I had growing up.

I'm keeping a list of experiences I want to partake in before I turn 30 in a few years. I'm making intentional efforts to accomplish them and keep updating my list of "greatest hits". It will help me in my darker moments realize that I have lived a full life and have the ability to take actions to make change my life.

I encourage folks to do something similar to this to keep the positivity flowing in their lives. Things like this or a happiness journal can let us be more mindful of what happens around us each day, and what brings us joy.

Thanks for stopping by!

Reflections from My First Year as a #SAPro

18dichotomy I've been waiting a while to write this post. I hope it is helpful to some people out there as a snapshot into my life for the past year. I feel it is important to reflect often, and I've had a lot of feelings about my work that I've wanted to share. I appreciate your thoughtful consideration and openness to what I'm about to share.

I started working at my institution on July 1 of last year. I just finished my first full academic year as a full-time professional at a small, private university, which is unlike any other place I've been at, in a state (albeit where I was born and have visited many times) where I have never lived, away from any friends I know and was mostly left to my own devices to find my own path. It's been a weird, wild journey, and I've learned a lot from the experience. While there have been some things that I wish I had known before I started working and living here, I'm grateful for where my path has lead me.

To put my year in context, we started out without a permanent central office for our department and also without a dedicated director to supervise us. We never got any of these things resolved during the academic year (still haven't), so we made it work without them for the entire time. This was unfortunate and frustrating but we still did our work to support our students as best we could. I can understand that there are several different variables beyond me that played into this situation becoming reality, but it still felt like we weren't valued enough to be a priority. There still are no discussions now about how the search for a possible supervisor is going to occur. We have an interim supervisor still overseeing us but they can't focus on us in the same way a dedicated departmental director could.

The culture here is also very relaxed, almost too much for my tastes. I like that about it but there seems to be a lack of urgency to get things done quickly or to go beyond the bare minimum. Communication is lacking, the infrastructure and procedures for our work feel out of date, and resources are very limited. Students enroll and withdraw from their coursework and the residence halls consistently, making things even more difficult (higher education in Maine is struggling with this). The Student Life team is tiny here and seems to be low on the totem pole of institutional support. While we aren't a required part of the student experience (they are coming there for their degree after all) we are increasingly what makes it meaningful and memorable for our students.

Even with all of this, I'm mostly glad that I'm here. I shared some thoughts relevant to this before, and especially after my job search, which was emotionally difficult for me, I am happy that I found full-time employment in my field very soon after graduation. The pay is fair, the benefits are good, and I am not stressed out by my job (unless I get into a negative mindset and get frustrated about all the quirks). I know I'm learning a lot and I've been given some great opportunities here to help with New Student Orientation very closely as well as sit on numerous search committees hiring full-time colleagues.

I write all of this to try to give a candid picture of my experience. I've had students cry in my office, parents and students genuinely thank me for helping them, I've had late nights, early mornings, long days, and programs not succeed how I wanted them to. I didn't get to do all that I hoped for in my first year, and a lot happened that I couldn't expect, good and bad. All I can say is that life is funny that way sometimes, and I encourage folks to always make sure you are very thoughtful in your decision-making. If I had ended up somewhere else, far from my partner, that was like where I am now, I probably be in a much worse emotional state. Since I have her and my family close by, I'm much better off.

I hope this didn't come off as airing dirty laundry. I don't intend it to seem that way. I didn't know what I didn't know about what was to come here. Some of it I couldn't possibly know. I just have had an experience here that isn't what I want for myself going forward. I don't seek to make any definitive qualitative statements about my institution. I just know it isn't for me. That's been a very helpful point of growth for me to learn that. I'm sharing my truth and I hope some others can perhaps normalize what I've gone through, since I don't have much to compare my experience to, and perhaps give advice.

Thank you for taking time to read. I appreciate any and all comments.

On Two Years of Blogging

12374748633_8020694e9d_b I like to celebrate milestones. No matter how small they might be.

I'm pretty proud to have been blogging now for two years. While my first few months of blogging were pretty sporadic, I am now leaps and bounds ahead of where I was then. We all have to start somewhere and I'm glad I've kept with it.

Some other little milestones I've had recently; I'm at almost 300 total posts, I've started to have my first guest posts, and last year was my first full calendar year of blogging. I'm getting more views in a month now than I did in the entirety of 2013 when I started, and I've built the site out way more than what it was when it began.

I'm always trying to continuously improve my content, my layout, and my outreach. There is always more that I can do and that is part of the fun for me, that I can always do more and do better. Every time a blog post takes off, I get likes, comments, shares, etc., it motivates me to keep the momentum going. I always appreciate hearing feedback and thoughts from people and it is nice to know that people read what I write and have feelings they want to share. I write for myself mostly but I also write to share information, stories, and my own feelings with people. It's nice to know when it resonates with others.

I'll be sure to look back again at the end of the year, but until then, thank you for taking time out to read and connect with me here, it means a lot and I look forward to many more blog posts and years to come!

Finding My Post-Grad Geek Nest

The zombie head cookie jar perched on our filing cabinet, the row of Avengers bobble heads gathered for a strategy meeting at my supervisor’s desk, the Spock and Groot figurines guarding my bookshelf like a science-fiction power couple…these are the images that greet me every morning and confuse the hell out of anyone that walks by our open office door for the first time. The Pennoni Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry is located at the bottom floor of Hagerty Library at Drexel University—what we lovingly call the Dungeon (during sunny days), the Bullpen (during busy days), or the Wall (during the summer when the air conditioning in the building is somehow set to “Wildling Country”). “What is this place?” the brave few ask while they search for a quiet study space. Whenever I do have the chance to explain the programs and initiatives coming out of our office, I am rewarded with a still half-confused “oh, right” and then on their way they go. While one of our primary goals involves service to students, casual library foot traffic doesn’t realize how this environment has played a critical role in helping me to develop a feeling of belonging in this, my first “new professional” position. Having faced some challenges in prior experiences, finding a workplace that I could feel welcomed and be myself was a priority.

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The buzz words “organizational fit” loomed over me throughout the post-graduate school job hunt. Somehow convinced that I was the only person of my 24-member Student Affairs cohort to not obtain gainful employment left me in a constantly panicked state. I was faced with a dilemma that many encounter leaving school: Do I take the first thing that gets offered to secure myself financially? Do I wait for a place that feels right, among other variables, no matter how long it takes? Armed with the privilege of temporary financial support from family, I made the conscious decision (risk) to be selective about the places I would apply and interview for.

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My Drexel interview happened late into the summer and drew frighteningly close to the beginning of the academic year. My then potential supervisor and I covered the job responsibilities, the student expectations, all the nitty-gritty work details…but we also made jokes, discussed the Philadelphia foodie scene, and touched on the inevitable zombie apocalypse (surprise-surprise, we’re Walking Dead junkies, too). These are my people, I remembered thinking. Eight months later I couldn’t be happier with my position in an office that was created to be an incubator for independent thought and innovation. The value of our initiatives paired with the physicality of our environment sends a very important message—that we have created a space that is judgment-free: a place that you can be yourself and–by golly—even us professionals can give a glimpse of our personalities to our students and our higher education institution does not implode as a result!

Now, leaving behind our individual unit and going to meet coworkers for lunch is always a treat because I’ve realized that the break room is filled with others also deeply interested in the most random array of things—and that folks somehow understand and accept your obsessions too. And by understand, I mean understand. Without a single spoken word, I walked in the day after Leonard Nimoy passed away and was greeted with a silent hug by our Director of Administration and Finance...that level of understanding. I started off bonding with them and continue to bond over these different passions. Of course, beyond our displayed toys (*ahem, collectibles) and morning check-ins about the latest episode of this or that, I also happen to work with very progressive, caring, and dedicated professionals with a number of shared values regarding education. That, most importantly, is the core of what makes my office a great place to work. The fact that they also have a great sense of humor and always (ALWAYS) dress up in a group costume for Halloween is just the cherry on top.

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The environment you choose to occupy, the people with whom you choose to surround yourself; these things are indicative of the kind of experience you can offer to students and colleagues. I can’t emphasize enough how impactful it has been for me to be able to work in a place where I feel safe both as a professional and as a person. Being in a place that allows me to love my work and be successful with the people I work with every day—it has given me the power to be a better advocate for students and keeps me energized in a way that an office saturated by passive aggression, judgmental attitudes, and resentment simply cannot. With the understanding that not everyone has the luxury of passing over offers, the best decision I made after graduate school was to wait until I found a job that connected with my values and personality. When students walk into my office I hope they know they can talk about transcript audits, internship decisions, and roommate troubles without issue. In the event that they have the pressing need to debate the deeper philosophical ramifications of Star Trek the Next Generation Episode 125 The Inner Light---hey, I’m ready for that too—and they should feel completely at ease bringing it up.

Ana Castillo-Nye started as the Program Coordinator for the Pennoni Center For Interdisciplinary Inquiry in September of 2014.  After completing her B.A. with a concentration in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at Rutgers University in 2011, she continued with graduate studies at the School of Education where she received her Ed.M in College Student Affairs/Higher Education Administration in 2014. She believes in cultivating student personal and professional growth with the goal of facilitating leadership development that approaches problem solving in the systemic mindset. She tries to challenge students to learn how to move between  “small lens” and “big lens” thinking. Within and outside of academia she is interested in issues regarding educational access, specifically related to immigration advocacy/reform as well as educational and leadership opportunities for women globally.

On One Year of Podcasting

SAC Podcast Today marks one year ago exactly to when the first episode of The Student Affairs Spectacular Podcast (let's call it SA Podcast for short) premiered. Since then, we've had almost 50 awesome episodes with student affairs professionals all over the country (and even abroad in Canada). I've learned a lot from these great people about our work with college students, and have also learned a lot about myself. I wanted to share with you all some of my reflections and lessons learned from this first year.

Preparation

A big lesson I've learned after a year of producing, hosting, and editing this podcast has been the value of preparation. When we started this endeavor, we had just began sourcing guests and kept pace well with our weekly episodes. However, there were certain times last year (especially when I was in full fledged job search mode or our team was away at conferences) that we had to scramble to get episodes. We also had some technical issues get in the way of keeping up with our weekly schedule. It was nice to take a break for the winter holidays as it allowed me to reset and get ahead of the schedule to where now I have episodes lined up for weeks in advance already recorded. The whole process has been far more enjoyable and less stressful this year due to my intentional effort put in to preparing ahead of time.

Conversation

The whole premise of the SA Podcast is fun, engaging, and relevant conversations with and for student affairs folks. I would not have ever considered myself a conversationalist but this show has made me into one more and more with each week. The quality of the show hinges on my asking of good questions, validating answers, and keeping a good flow going with each dialogue. I like to think I've done an alright job with this, and nevertheless, I've seen the benefits start to spill over into my non-podcasting life. I talk to students and colleagues all the time in my day job as well as my partner at home and I know the universal skills I mentioned before have come in handy. I listened more intently and I ask questions more purposefully. While I still have a lot of room for growth, I've seen a positive impact already in terms of how I talk to people, am I'm very grateful for that.

Collaboration

The SA Podcast couldn't happen without the help of my fellow team members. Tom and I have hosted together as well as hosted our own episodes of the show, and I've interviewed some amazing people in our field that I look up to solely based on connections through Tom or the confidence I've built to reach out to people on my own. Sabina also is the community manager extraordinaire who helps get the episodes out every week and promoted to our audience. I'm very grateful to have their support and assistance as well as the opportunity the do this. It is a dream come true and I'm excited to do every episode. I couldn't do it alone so both Tom and Sabina deserve a big shout out.

I hope to keep providing engaging content and to keep learning about myself from the SA Podcast for years to come. Thanks to all those that listen and if you haven't checked it out yet, go do it now!

Thanks for stopping by!

2014 Year in Review: My First Full Year

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"...you make time for what you want to make time for."

Now that the sun has finally set on 2014, it is due time to look back on the first full calendar year of the blog (!) and see where we have come. It has been a big year compared to 2013, especially since I've been willing and able to blog far more regularly now. I had almost 700 views in the fraction of 2013 I was blogging, and 2014 garnered almost 8,000 views which is a hugely awesome jump for the site which I am very grateful for.

In terms of posts, I kept regular with movie reviews, geek outs, and other random things for 2014. I had 177 posts over the year, which I hope to maintain at least that level of writing. I look forward to continuing creating a large library of posts to keep sharing out as "throwbacks", since this helps promote everything and gives me some breathing room on the weeks I'm light on new content (I highly recommend folks do this!).

Some reflections on the whole process though, it is definitely hard to write on those days when you're tired, creatively drained, or just busy and physically can't sit down to blog. I like to always say that you make time for what you want to make time for. I want to make time for this so I make the time in my life, even when it is a late night or weekend when I should just be lounging around or not working. I enjoy writing for this blog so it doesn't feel too taxing on me to do most of the time. My main takeaway for blogging this year is that you have to force it a bit until it becomes more habitual. The dedication and investment will pay off. I feel very happy and satisfied with the milestones I hit this first full year. It can be hard too when I feel like I should be doing more or worrying why more people aren't following or liking or commenting. It will take time and a huge part of success is just perseverance. I know that if I keep up with it, it will only go up from here in terms of achieving the goals I set for myself.

In terms of what is coming next for the blog, I hope to continue to promote the site regularly and get some guest posts from some cool geeks and nerds (if you're interested, please reach out!). I enjoy podcasting and it would be cool to do one for the site but I would want to build a bigger audience on the site first before I do a podcast or videos. I hope to read more books and do reviews for the site more often, since I feel like there is so much I want to get to and share.

Thank you to everyone that visited the site, liked, commented, shared, and found something fun and/or useful in what I posted. I look forward to continuing to serve up awesomely geeky stuff for you all!

All the best and Happy New Year!

Thanks for stopping by!

My Writing Process: From Stray Thought to Full Out Geekery

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"I hope people can have fun with what I write but also learn something useful for their lives."

 

I recently go a shout out from the marvelous Marci Walton to write about my writing. It's meta and I dig it so I figured I'd jump on here and leave some thoughts from my work here for the past year and a half of writing.

I have only been writing weekly since January of this year with my geek out posts and movie reviews, with other stuff sprinkled in between, but 2014 has been a good year for me to get in a regular habit of writing. I've written around 160 posts for this blog, covering all sorts of geeky topics that matter to me. I hope the framework of stuff below helps others get into a flow of writing however they wish about whatever they want.

On My Writing Process 

What are you working on? 

I'm currently working on a few different blog posts about stuff that has been popping up in my head recently just as stray thoughts or from reading books, articles, and keeping up with the news. I'm also working on reading more books to review and keeping my regular schedule of movie reviews from Netflix and geeking out about new, cool stuff. Keep an eye out for some awesome posts coming soon!

How does your work differ from others of its genre? 

I feel my work is pretty unique since I always try to find connections to student affairs in geeky topics, such as Star Wars, Doctor Who, Star Trek, Spider-Man, and Green Lantern. I don't see a lot of that out there in the blogging world and I enjoy being something original and unique. I think we should all seek to do our own thing and not just create an echo chamber for the usual zeitgeist.

Why do you write what you do?

I write what I do because it is what interests me and it is how my brain works a lot of the time. I always joke that I take my entertainment seriously. I look into their subtexts or symbolism to see what they have to say about society or greater topics like choice, love, friendship, family, or any number of other things. I hope people can have fun with what I write but also learn something useful for their lives. I seek to provide value and happiness to my readers!

How does your writing process work? 

I usually just let my mind wander and allow for ideas to pop in. Whether that is something about one particular show or movie or is about a general topic, I usually make sure to draft up a blog post for it so I don't lose the idea. A lot of the time I'll be watching or reading something and find something relevant in it, like with Green Lantern. For something like Star Wars, I was surprised I hadn't blogged about it specifically already. I also just think a lot about topics like positivity, social media, sustainability, or nerdy stuff in general so ideas will come to me all the time. I typically will bounce ideas off my partner to see if they make sense or not instead of always just having them rattle around in my head all the time. I don't have a formal, structured, or detailed process for getting the content together. I just let the writing flow out and then I'll proof myself afterwards. This works well for me but I know it might not work well for everyone! I'm also a very brief writer so I don't feel the need to prepare too much for posts since they're just quick bits and thoughts I want to share.

 

Thanks again to Marci for sharing her process and for the shout out! I nominate Tom Krieglstein & Jennifer Keegin. Why do you write what you do?!

Thanks for stopping by!