Geeky Office Décor Series: Mauricio Gómez Montoya

This week we're featuring the awesome office of Mauricio Gómez Montoya, Retention Specialist with the Office of Multicultural Affairs at the University of Kansas.

Here's what Mauricio had to say about his space:

"I love my job. It’s challenging, rewarding and ultimately really fun. However, if I’m going to spend over 40 hours per week at work, I’m gonna make this place look and feel like home. I’m a huge Marvel & Star Wars fan, I also love sports and cultural artifacts. I’ve tried to blend these interests into the look of my office. Initially, I did this because of what I thought these items said about me. It made me feel “cool” and express my interests. I’ve noticed that the decoration of my office has inspired my students to trust me more if I put myself out there. I they feel like they really know me.

Over the last year, I’ve asked students if I should “rebrand”. I’m progressing in my career and it has made me questioning if there is room for a Tie Fighter or a Spider-Man poster in the office of a Senior Student Affairs Administrator. After many conversations with my students, I realize that there is. My students (and some colleagues) made me promise to not get rid of my “nerdy stuff” when I advance. They gave me a different perspective on the issue. It’s not what my office says about me, it’s about how students feel when they’re in it. One of my students said: "I feel intimidated when all I see are degrees and encyclopedias in my faculty’s office. But Spider-Man? I can talk about Spider-Man.”

Good practices in Student Affairs rely on relationships across campus. Relationships are based in trust. If your students (and colleagues) know you, they will trust you and if they trust you, they’ll listen to you. I’ve bonded on several occasions with students because of the conversation starters in my office. Whether it is the giant Spidey poster on the wall, the Gumball dispensing Yoda on my desk or the Jimi Hendrix portrait, students feel like they can relate and ultimately, feel more comfortable.

These conversations have lead me to think it’s time to redefine the idea of professionalism in student affairs."

What I really like about Mauricio's office is that it features Spider-Man (a personal favorite of mine), as well as the other diverse interests that he showcases in his space. I also appreciate how Mauricio shared the doubt he experienced as he thought about moving up professionally. I think we can all be our genuine selves no matter what we want to do professionally. Especially in our field, we should be encouraging professionals to be themselves so that we showcase a positive example for our students. I know it was transformative for me to accept that I can be myself and also be an effective leader and professional. It's awesomely poignant that Mauricio's students helped him realize that he should keep his geeky decorations up in his office.

Many thanks to Mauricio for sharing his space with us.

Stay tuned for more awesome offices in the coming weeks!

Thanks for stopping by!

Geeky Office Décor Series: Tyler Miller

This week we're featuring the awesome office of Tyler Miller, Assistant Director for Housing & Residential Services at University of California, Santa Barbara.

Here's what Tyler had to say about his space:

"As you can see my office isn’t the typical “professional” looking office. I have a ton of stuff. The reason for this is during my day. Most of the people who come into my office are students and/or people who work with students. My office is meant to be a “conversation starter.” Generally someone comes in and finds something they can right away connect with me about without me digging and asking a lot of questions. Whether it’s my Dunder Mifflin shirt, my Batman, Star Wars, Doctor Who stuff, or my sports memorabilia, there is generally something for everyone. You can’t see it in my pictures, but I even have a working 8 track player with 8 track tapes. There are also tons of pictures of my previous staffs. Again, you can’t see it, but one of my former staff members was such a Doctor Who fan, as part of a secret Santa gift exchange she designed a painting where she wrote my families name in Gallifrayen. The people who come into my office and connect with me aren’t always the people who would connect out in the halls. It is a “safe space” for discussing all sorts of pop-culture questions such as “what do you think about Ice-Man coming out?” or “Did you hear what happened with the Bat-woman comic book?” I am able to discuss social justice issues in the safe context of pop-culture and comic books, and it opens a new world for me. Finally – I love sharing the process of critical thinking as we discuss topics such as “who would win – Batman or Superman?” (Batman, obviously) or “is there anyone Batman couldn’t beat?” (No, obviously).

So there ya have it."

What I really like about Tyler's office is the diversity of interests showcased as well as Tyler's emphasis of critically analyzing pop culture like comic books (I always joke that I take my entertainment very seriously). Looking for the deeper meaning in the stories we all share is an amazing way to connect. Those emotional bonds are a powerful positive force for us to feel understood, not just through the story but also through others understanding it (and us) as well.

Many thanks to Tyler for sharing his space with us.

Stay tuned for more awesome offices in the coming weeks!

Thanks for stopping by!

Geeky Office Décor Series: Kevin Forch

This week we're featuring the awesome office of Kevin Forch, Student Success Coach at Southeast Community College.

Here's what Kevin had to say about his space:


Thank you so much for showcasing my work space on your site. I've been a fan of superheroes and comics since my elementary school days when a lot of my allowance went towards Spider-Man and all those mid 90's X-books (X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, X-Men Adventures, X-Force, Excalibur, Generation get the idea). What I love most about these books is that (even now as an adult) they have been a great way to connect with friends by sharing books, discussing at length our thoughts about plots/cliffhangers/characters, and fiercely debating which of our favorite heroes were the best (Batman/Superman, Wolverine/Cyclops, Krypto/Lockhead).

I started acquiring a lot of the items on my desk relatively recently. Almost all of the items on my desk are gifts from friends scattered across the country. Another big contributor is my mom, who cannot control herself around the stocking stuffer aisle at Target (a lot of the smaller gifts have come with the explanation 'Your work desk doesn't have a Batman, right? I thought you needed a Batman.') (Mom, if you're reading this, you were absolutely right. Thank you!)

There are a couple key reasons I like having these figures at my desk: 1) They are awesome to look at. They're a good pick-me-up for times that I'm frustrated or lagging. 2) They make for a great icebreaker. Even for people who don't like comics, they can make for a starting point for conversation that helps to put a student at ease. Working in Retention and Student Success, I meet with a lot of students who are struggling in their classes or returning from a suspension. My office is not a place they probably envisioned themselves being when they started their academic journey. It's my hope that placing these items prominently on my desk gives a visual indication that this is a safe, relaxed place. If students are more at ease, we can easily work together to plan positive strategies for their academic success.

Additionally, working at a community college means that I work with a lot of adult students, first generation students, and other populations who may need extra support. Reading texts like 'Unequal Childhoods' and 'Educating by Design' allowed me to see how difficult it can be to get at-risk students the support they need, either due to not being aware of the services we provide or not being sure how & where to ask for help. By providing a safe/fun/at-ease environment, it's my hope that our office provides a welcoming space for students who want to get back on track and build their academic skills or find community resources that could help them.

So, that's why I have a giant Wolverine on my desk!"

What I really like about Kevin's office is his understanding of his student population as well as his emphasis on comfort. Serving adult learners and really college students in general often has us as student affairs professionals needing to make people feel less anxious and more willing to ask for help. Many people don't ask because of pride, some because of ignorance of what is available to them or perhaps where/who to go to. Kevin does what he can to compensate for this by simply helping people feel more comfortable with asking for help, which we all need sometimes. It makes me happy that some geeky toys on a desk can do this and how it also allows for Kevin to showcase some of his personality at the same time.

Many thanks to Kevin for sharing his space with us.

Stay tuned for more awesome offices in the coming weeks!

Thanks for stopping by!