Geeky Office Décor Series: Lynne Meyer

This week we're featuring the office of Lynne Marie Meyer, the Director of Spiritual Life and Diversity at Illinois Institute of Technology.

Here's what Lynne wrote about her office:
Buddha Yoda and the other deitiesoverview of my interfaith display
Here are some shots of my office. There's not a lot of overtly geeky stuff -- at least, not pop culture geeky anyway -- but my prize piece of geekery is the Yoda Buddha given to me by one of my students just before she graduated. That Yoda sits right next to a little Yoda magnet given to me years ago by a Jedi-identified colleague, who decided that I needed Jedi representation among my interfaith display of icons, statues, etc. -- which has also come to include things like Mexican paper flowers, origami cranes, and yes, even a nun with a baseball bat, "Sister Runnata" (I'm a huge Cubs fan, and I want to help give my guys in blue any and all divine support that I can). Many of the icons and statues were gifts from students and colleagues, including Mary, one Ganesha, one of the Buddhas, a Greek Orthodox icon, and Athena. You can also see that I the end of the cabinet facing out towards my door, there are items about the Golden Rule in various religions, my Safe Space sticker, and two Hekate magnets. As I'm a devotee of Hekate, and since statues of Her are/were traditionally placed at thresholds/doorways, I've placed Her as close to my door as I could.
Medicine Shield
Next to that cabinet, on the wall directly to my right as I sit as my desk, you'll see a different kind of a display. The two African masks I bought because they're beautiful and I loved that artists' statements about what they signify. The Buddha tapestry was given to me by a colleague. But for me, hands-down, the central item is the focus. It's a medicine shield made for my late first husband, Ken, many years ago. He was part Northern Cheyenne, and when he was in his 20s (he was 18 years older than me), a friend made the shield for him. It features a crow, because that was Ken's spirit animal. When Ken died in early 2007 from colon cancer at the age of 53, I didn't know what to do with the shield; when he was alive, Ken was very clear that no one other than him could touch it, as it contained powerful spiritual medicine for him alone. As it turned out, I got my job at Illinois Tech later in the same year, and so I decided to display it in my office, where it could be honored and also serve as a kind of spiritual and emotional support for me. It's visible to students and colleagues, but removed enough that no one touches it. I later added the small shield with the spider on it to represent me, after a spiritually significant series of experiences following Ken's passing which left me deeply connected to Spider teachings.
Diversity walllamp
The other photo shows the opposite wall, which showcases my diplomas, a 370-degree photo of Harvard Yard, a diversity-related banner, a tapestry with a favorite Dalai Lama quote, and a cool (I think) map of religious diversity in the US. You can just see the Daffy Duck mug on my desk, next to my very favorite thing in the office: that lamp. My mother's aunt Esther was a Baptist missionary who focused her career on two things: improving race relations (she was doing this in the 50s and 60s), and resettling refugees. She traveled the world, and made friends everywhere she went. One such friend, years and years ago, gave her this lamp. I've heard many stories about who it represents, and I'm not entirely sure which is accurate. We think that he's one of the Eight Immortals of Taoism. Because of the scroll and large forehead, he seems to me to be associated with wisdom. But hey, if any of your readers can give me more info about him, I'd love it!
I love this wall -- and my office as a whole -- because it's colorful, provides a number of talking points for students and colleagues when they visit, and more importantly, gives them a very visible indication that this is a space for everyone. I want students to see something of themselves here. and know, too, that I'm a real person with lots of interests who's going to take an interest in them as well.

What I really enjoy about Lynne's office is how she brings her genuine self to the space through items given to her by friends, family, and other loved ones. Every item has a story and a meaning. There is personality covering all the walls and students instantly know who Lynne is, can ask questions, and learn so much just by the way the space is decorated. It's an amazing office that really embodies the spirit behind my thinking for this series, which is why it feels like such a great way to kick everything off. I really appreciate Lynne sharing her story in such depth for you all.
HH Dalai Lama quote
Stay tuned for more awesome offices in the coming weeks!

Thanks for stopping by!

Seeing Is Believing: Pop Culture, Representation, and Higher Education

I am a huge media consumer. From books to music to television to movies to web series, I am transfixed by entertainment. My habits border on addiction and often distract me from more academic pursuits. This piece is an attempt to mind meld both my passion for media and my passion for student affairs. Let's hope it comes out more like a hybrid striped rose than Frankenstein's monster.

Mind Meld

Staying up to date on what is popular is a hobby for me. I always check the trending sections on Facebook and Twitter as well as entertainment magazines. As a woman of color it has been of interest to me how representation, particularly in television, has changed lately and the trends are reflecting that. We have seen many characters bring the variety American life to the screen in the past few years. There are two critically acclaimed shows, Orange Is The New Black and Transparent that focus and feature on the lives of transgender people. The biggest show runner in Hollywood is a black woman who heads up three hit shows with diverse casts ranging in ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and more. Shows like Blackish, The Fosters, and Fresh Off The Boat explore family life in ways that we haven't seen in years or maybe ever. Television is starting to try to reflect our society. Of course, it is by no means perfect and the majority of what is created is targeted at a certain demographic of viewers. The simple truth is that our media is still run by men and white men at that and they are the ones deciding who and what we see. However, we are taking a turn for the better and I only hope that this will continue until it is no longer a trend, but everyday reality on our screens.

Seeing is so very important, especially in the media. It is where we get a lot of our information and education. It is where we learn about other cultures and experiences we may not have access to. It is those views that help shape how we view ourselves and how we view others. When there is no one like you in the common places to look your view of yourself can become skewed. I know that I connect better with stories and characters that reflect aspects of myself whether it be my ethnicity, my gender, or my hobbies. When you can see yourself in the characters on your television screen it helps to affirm all sorts of possibilities. When characters that look like you or identity as you do are doctors or business people or just fully formed complex humans you have an easier time conceiving that these are things that you can achieve, that you can be. When I see characters like Cookie from Empire, and Maxine Shaw from Living Single, I get so much LIFE. This feeling of belonging and believing made me think about how I could apply this to my work.

Cookie gif

I do a lot of program planning in my organizations, from academic panels to Disney themed socials, and one thing that has stood out to me is that students are more engaged in the work my groups and I do when they feel represented whether physically or in terms of interests. Diversity in programming and presentations is so important to students, just like it is to media consumers. The programs on campuses need to reflect their communities. I have helped curate a Nerd Girl Panel for the past two years of Geek Week at Rutgers University. With the help of advisors we were able to gather an amazing group of women from a bunch of nerdy fields from film to social justice bloggers to librarians to Buzzfeed authors. We had women of different ethnic backgrounds, sexualities and experiences. It was amazing to see the way students of all different backgrounds, genders, sexes, and interests interacted with the panelists and spoke about how wonderful it was to see themselves in the speakers we brought. Our programming has to reflect our students and their interests, not just in the entertainment we provide, but in the academic and networking areas as well. Students can only thrive when you affirm that they can achieve anything by showing them real life examples. Seeing truly is believing.

Geek Week 2014 - 2

The Invisible Benefits of Gaming While Male

video-game-learning I've gamed for my entire life. I remember having an original Nintendo Entertainment System and I've kept with it since today, playing video games to varying extents throughout my life, mostly enjoying to play single-player adventures that I can really sink my teeth into. Multi-player games have never been my forte for the most part, mostly because of the sort of behavior that happens in the community. The language and bullying is reprehensible at worst and at best, you still have to face the lack of diversity in games.

A recent article a friend shared took a keen eye to the bias non-white, non-male, queer identified gamers face daily. It has a long list of incidents they face whether or not they are jumping online to enjoy some friendly competition. There is a lack of heroes for them to look up, voices in the community to echo their concerns, and multiple incidents of bias every day when all one wants to do is relax with a favorite video game. A major point the article makes is that a big first step for us here is awareness of the issue, which I highly agree with. We need to not tolerate or support the types of behavior from each other that makes fellow gamers feel less than. We should be having conversations about acceptance and respect for diversity, and just focus on having fun with our favorite video games.

This was an eye opening article for me and I hope that it can positively influence others, since even though I have enjoyed the benefits of privilege in this space, doesn't mean I can't do all that I can now to help remedy its effects.

Thanks for stopping by.

Star Trek: Boldly Going Where No Student Affairs Professional Has Gone Before...

Image I've just started exploring the Star Trek universe lately. I am a fan of the two newer films by J.J. Abrams and have seen two of the original series movies. Only now though am I starting to work on Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix. As far as geekdom goes, this is a pretty established bit of sci-fi.

I write with Star Trek as a foil for all of science fiction. The genre as whole is a great place to gleam learning that is overtly delivered, just like in the comic book realm of storytelling. It gives a certain glimpse of what might come in our future either moving past our current issues or being symbolic of them. I always find it fascinating the different perspectives on what lies ahead for humanity in these shows and films, especially since Star Trek focuses a lot on diversity. While humanity has united itself, there are still growing pains with acclimating ourselves with all of the varied aliens out in the universe, so it still provides teachable moments for the viewers.

Whether it is Klingons or Romulans, these struggles of understanding and accepting the "other" showcased in Star Trek as well as the deep moral questions always posed by the show make it a greatly entertaining and educational show for this emerging student affairs professional to partake in when I have some rare free time. I highly recommend it and the other complete series that are out there to stream for free. If Star Trek isn't your thing or perhaps you prefer another medium, there is so much awesome science fiction out there that deals with diversity as well as many other important issues, like the growing role of technology in our lives, or how it will be best to govern in the future, just to name a few. It's also just a great guilt-free way to spend some free time! You'll have some fun and learn something too!

Take care, folks!