Why I Chose a Women’s College!

The Lehigh Valley, where I live, is full of colleges and universities.  Each school has its unique culture, great programs, clubs and activities.  In the heart of Allentown is Cedar Crest College, a women’s college founded in 1867.  Its campus spans many acres and is listed as an arboretum.  Its historic buildings mix with the contemporary, just as the traditions of the college have remained steadfast while welcoming change.  Every day, I walk to work and classes, to meetings and activities, and I feel truly at home and welcome.  This leads me to why I chose a women’s college.

Cedar Crest welcomed me as a continuing education student, and I found the environment to encourage growth, leadership, and success.  There are opportunities around each corner, and I have taken as many as I could over the years.  The faculty and staff want students to not only pass, but to excel, and they support creativity, initiative, and innovation.  I have found my education to be hands-on and it has focused on how to apply information gained to real world experiences.  In addition, I have found my voice at Cedar Crest.  I am now more empowered than ever, and I am ready to make changes in the world.  Not only am I ready, but I also believe that I can because Cedar crest has inspired me and instilled within me a higher level of confidence.  I believe in myself and my abilities, and I believe in each student who graduates from Cedar Crest because they have been given the tools to succeed if they choose to use them.

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Cedar Crest College creates leaders.  This is a fact.  I am an example of what a women’s college can do in a modern world.  While Cedar Crest has a strong tradition, and so much history that is worthwhile to explore, it is the future that is so exciting.  Here I am about to graduate, and all I can think about is how much love I have for this incredible institution, and how can I be there as it evolves into the 21st century.  With exciting new programs in health care, a new MBA, and a strong new writing major, I am enamored with this dynamic path Carmen Twillie Ambar, Cedar Crest College’s esteemed president, is crafting.  She is continually meeting and exceeding challenges put forth by the needs of the college and community. This passion is catching, and I want to remain involved.  I can see myself becoming just as active as an alum as I am now, and working to help the college meet strategic goals.  I am more passionate about this unique world of higher education than I ever imagined I could be, and I hope to to use my skills in this way after graduation.

I look forward to walking across that stage in may and entering into a new chapter of my life as an alum of Cedar Crest College.  I also plan to give back because so many wonderful  donors to the college have helped to support my education. My last month of college is coming to a close, and I feel like this part of my life is one of the hardest to let go.  I have been truly affected by my experiences at Cedar Crest, and I am so incredibly thankful.  I know the new chapter will be exciting, and Cedar Crest will still be a major part of my life.  Perhaps I will even pursue my master’s degree there soon.  However, the undergraduate experience is a unique one, and it will be over for me in 5 short weeks.  The lifestyle I have known, the friendships created, and the overall experience will be gone physically, and only remain as memory.  I chose a women’s college because it was right for me.  It gave me more than I could have expected.  In fact, it changed my life forever.  I would choose Cedar Crest again, in a heartbeat.

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Follow Your Passions!

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I learned a great deal from the PLEN seminar in Washington D.C.  One of the greatest lessons I took away, that was echoed by many of the speakers, was that if you follow your passions, it doesn’t matter what path you take, you will accomplish great things.  Every speaker found their way into careers that were challenging, rewarding, and personally fulfilling.  They may have started on very different career paths from degrees in English, political science, history, and so much more, but they found their way to nonprofit, advocacy, or policy work.

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When I look at my path through education, knowing I am about to embark on an even greater adventure, I realize that the more I follow my passions, the more I will be fulfilled.  I have found that stifling passion merely leads to a life of monotony, and an existence plagued by regret.  I choose to never regret again.  I choose to take opportunities to make a difference in the world when I find them.  I choose to make opportunities where they do not currently exist.  I choose to initiate social change for the betterment of caregivers, even if it requires small steps to reap small rewards.  I choose to be an advocate for those who need one.  I choose to empower other women to lead, as these women have empowered me.  Most of all, I choose to be myself and represent my values and morals in the career decisions I make.

You have this power as well.  You can choose the person you wish to be and you can empower yourself to follow the passions that make up your spirit.  Be strong, be willing to make changes when necessary, and be open to the advice of others.  In the words of Caryl M. Stern, “Don’t be afraid of lateral moves today to get to where you want to be tomorrow.”

PLEN Seminar Experience Taught Me How To Better Advocate, Lead, and Pursue My Passions!

I have not posted a blog entry recently, but I have a good excuse.  I was attending the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) seminar, Unlocking Nonprofits: Innovations and Careers!  For anyone who is not familiar with PLEN, I highly recommend you check out their site.  http://plen.org/

Cedar Crest College regularly sends a handful of students to PLEN seminars, and I was lucky to be one of the ones chosen this year.  While I will be covering some of the information I feel I received from this truly enlightening seminar throughout the week, I want to offer an overview.  PLEN is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering women as leaders.  They seek to connect women in top level roles throughout various areas of health, science, nonprofit, advocacy, government, and other agencies with high-achiever undergraduate and graduate students wishing to make their mark on the world.  PLEN provides multiple sessions with a panel of women, who not only detail their own experiences navigating their career path to reach their current positions, but who also inspire students to seek out their passion, to work hard, and to never give up.  This was one of the most inspirational experiences I have had.

These sessions were broken up by practical workshops to help students build better resumes, to enhance their LinkedIn profiles, and to gain necessary networking and interviewing skills.  Overall, I feel I walked away from this seminar with more than I could have expected.  From the pages of notes that are filled with detailed information from each speaker, to exceptional quotes, and a feeling of enhanced self-confidence, I believe PLEN went beyond the experiential, into something life-changing.

The seminar was off to a rocky start initially, because of the snowstorm that hit the east coast.  Below is a picture of Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. where PLEN headquarters is located.

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That was just the beginning, but PLEN was able to continue the seminar despite a few speakers who were unable to make it.  We also had to miss a planned field trip, but they filled that time with an activity that was also rewarding, and gave us a chance to think about the use of social media marketing as a tool in nonprofits.

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Our keynote speaker, Caryl M. Stern, President & CEO of UNICEF was one of the most incredible women I have listened to.  She spoke about her own family, and how she made decisions about her career, that while unusual, were exactly what she needed to get to a place where she was satisfied.  One quote that really stuck out to me was, “Don’t be afraid of lateral moves today to get where you want to be tomorrow” (Stern).  While we tend to think of how we can move up the career ladder, sometimes we need to stay on the same tier while moving to a different career or organization.  We should in fact, follow our passions because that is what will make us feel complete at the end of the day.

Caryl Stern was just one of the many speakers who left me with great ideas, plans, and thoughts to mull over.  The women who dedicated their time, helped to make a change in the lives of the students who attended.  Based on the wonderful group of women who attended with me, I believe they will take this knowledge and use it to make a difference in the world.  This is one thing I can say I have take away from PLEN, every person who spoke fanned the flames of passion I have for advocacy, and this passion will lead me to initiate necessary social changes.  This goes to show that as I move into a career in advocacy and leadership, I can do the same for others, and if we all did this, our world would become a much better place.  This is just one of the many bits of information I took away from PLEN.

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I will carry this experience with me, and continually look back at what I learned so I can apply these lessons to my life as my path shifts.  I will also build upon the networks that were started and hope they lead to valuable connections.  And, I will continue to work towards my goals to make a difference in the world one step at a time.

Below is a picture of the great group of women who attended this seminar, it came from the PLEN Facebook page which I have linked below.

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Thank you Cedar Crest College for your support and for sending me to this seminar, and thank you PLEN for all of the hard work that went into planning.  I was also chosen to receive a PLEN scholarship, and for this, I am truly grateful!

Don’t Wait For Opportunities, Make Opportunities!

It is easy to conjure up the vivid dreams of a hopeful future, and to play through scenarios of opportunities as they come knocking on your door.  The problem with this, is the complacency that fills your life when these opportunities do not arise.  You may fall into the belief that there are no opportunities out there, accept your life as it is and become comfortable with it, and you may find little self-worth in the process.  The fact is, opportunities are everywhere.  Instead of waiting for them, you have to realize that they are waiting for you.

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If you do not seek them out, you may never move beyond the basic life you are living.  You have to become a mover.  The kind of person who looks for the needs and wants in their life, and finds ways to fulfill them.  This requires a great deal of determination, and a desire to work as hard as possible to make your dreams come true.  This is not for those who are lazy, or those who with to skim by with mediocrity.  This is what is born from innovators and leaders.  This requires a unique ability to learn from the lessons and the experiences that have made you who you are, and to build on them.

futureNow is the time to make this happen.  Discover the passions you possess, and you will be on your way to determining what will make you happy.  Then, seek it out.  It may require a return to school, a change of jobs, learning new skills, or a change of attitude.  It may require risk, and you will have to decide if the risk is worth taking.  Just remember that each person who created a successful business, designed products, wrote books, or built a successful career, had to work hard to get there.  There is no easy way to true success, it is a road that must be paved with failures, lessons, and tenacity.  Make your opportunities, instead or waiting for them.

Make Time to Read, and You will Be Better Suited to Lead!

Society continues to rapidly change and advance with current technologies, and this has a profound effect on leadership.  As we rely more and more on our devices, picking up snippets of information from various sources, we move further away from reading larger works.  There are many people who rely on daily doses of data in small forms, and never tackle a book on industry analysis, a fiction novel, a biography of a truly accomplished and inspiring individual, or other great works.  This may not seem so bad as the bits of information form wholes eventually, but there are effects that may not be realized until later.

Reading is crucial to a greater understanding of the world around us.  There is magic that happens as we pour over pages full of information, and not just in Harry Potter novels.  This magic is an evolving of ourselves.  An informational book allows us to see a specific area, like business, from another perspective, and to gain valuable insight to the industry in which we work or hope to work.  It helps to provide skills, vocabulary, and a deeper understanding of that particular world.

Biographies and memoirs allow us to see a life, in its entirety, through transformation.  It reminds us of the nature of humanity, and the challenges that erupt for everyone, despite status, race, religion, gender, etc…  It is a chance to see how someone overcomes adversity, and how they build a future on blood, sweat, and tears.  It is an experience in itself because we can connect, even if just through the words that fill each page, with another human being and their journey of existence.  This helps leaders to become more socially adept, and to realize the complexities that make up each life.  This may lead to higher levels of empathy, and compassion.

Fiction stories, the ones that may seem the least valuable to those in a world of business, logic, and facts, may in fact, be the most critical.  The story typically takes the reader on a journey which reaches a conflict or climax, and a resolution.  There are variances, and those novels that change the rules, but there is a need for leaders to get wrapped up in novels with complex conflicts because it requires analytical thought.  Readers naturally attempt to solve the problems, and while the resolution is given, the reader can find other alternatives, and learn to accept the endings they cannot change.  There is also something that must be said of the need for escapism.  As we surround ourselves with an endless stream of facts, news, and critical information, the chance to become a part of another world, involved with fictitious characters, and relax a little, is much needed.

Every leader should create a small amount of reading time each day.  Even if it is just 20 minutes, it is highly beneficial in so many ways.  This is one positive change you can make in your life that will provide you with skills that may be unattainable otherwise.  It leads to creative thinking, social skills, and perhaps the patience that is needed to commit to something longer than 140 characters.   Make time to read, and you will be better suited to lead!

A Dream Remains a Dream Without Determination!

We all have dreams.  Those wonderful ideas that brighten our spirits.  The ones that we can see as though they are tangible and right before our eyes.  We have those dreams that are so much a part of us that we would no longer recognize ourselves without them.  The key is how to make those dreams a reality.  The truth is, a dream can remain a part of us until we cease to exist, but it will never be given life unless we have the determination to make them come true.  With determination, we must have true passion, knowledge, and tenacity.  This is what sets the dreamers apart from the entrepreneurs, the artists, writers, actors, executives, innovators, and more.  The people who succeed have what it takes to make their dreams real.

How can you become this person?  Here are a few steps to get you on your way to success!

1.  Know what your dream is and what it will take to attain it.  This requires a great deal of work because we can all say we wish to own our own business, but if we do not know what kind of business, who the target market is, what location will be the best, and have a detailed business plan, this business will never get off the ground.

2.  Make a list of steps with milestone dates to get you to the end goal.  This will have to be adjusted as the plan becomes more detailed, but it will give you a start and having items to check off will help to keep you motivated.

3.  Make a list of rewards that will come from your dreams.  This is crucial because it will be needed when challenges and setbacks occur.  Because, setbacks will happen, and if you have a list like this, it will help you remain focused on the end and maintain your determination.

4.  Build a support team.  You will need the best people you can have to be behind you each step of the way.  Working towards a goal like being a published author, or an executive requires a great deal of support at home.  If you have kids, you will need it even more.  You will need someone to listen to you, and someone to escape with when things get tough.

5.  Finally, remember to find fun time.  It is easy to get lost along the way while you work towards your goals, and if you forget the people you love, or the life that you have already, you will forget why you are working so hard.  Make time for fun because work will always be there.

Now, get started!

Maintaining a Positive Perspective in Social Media!

With the growth of social media, there has come a clash of personal and professional spheres.  I have noticed a large amount of people lately, who happen to have a job they are not happy with, take to social media to vent about their misfortune.  I have seen family problems aired all over Facebook and Twitter, and I have seen people share things that do not place them in a positive light.  Now, I am all for freedom of speech and maintaining liberty, but I also recognize that with this freedom comes consequences.

If you are seeking employment, you should maintain social media pages which reflect the professional side of yourself.  You should find ways to express the positive aspects of who you are, and the skills you possess.  I can honestly say that employers can and will look at your social media pages.  Not all employers, but do you really want to take the risk?  Having known quite a few people who take part in the hiring process, they take this seriously because they want individuals working for them who will represent the values their company embraces.  Potential candidates for a job position should have social media pages that present themselves as a hard-working, trustworthy individual with a moral compass.  Employers do not want to see whiny posts about life, they want to see someone with a positive outlook!

Now is the time to clean up your social media sites because even current employers may look at your pages before considering you for a promotion.  Your social media pages are a reflection of you as an individual. Scroll through your page and try to determine if this is the person you wish others to see you as.  Maintaining a positive perspective in your social media pages as well as in your daily interactions can help you to become more confident and come across as someone others can have confidence in.  Be mindful of how you present yourself in all areas of your life, and you will find it has an affect on your career and relationships!

CHD Awareness Week: From the Heart!

(I am posting this on both of my blogs in the hopes to reach many readers because of the importance of the topic.  I apologize if you are subscribed to both and get this twice.)

Many may not know this, but this week is incredibly important.  February 7-14th is Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week!  Plenty of information circulates to prepare parents for down syndrome, cleft lip, diseases caused by not vaccinating, and autism, but are you aware that nearly 1 out of every 100 babies is born with a heart defect.  Many of these defects are minimal and may even correct themselves, but there are also many that are life-threatening.  With advanced prenatal care, most of these defects can be caught in an ultrasound, before the baby is even born.  However, in our daughter’s case, they missed it many times.  In fact, after repeated ultrasounds because of an inability to see one side of the heart, they wrote 4 chambers down, despite the fact that she only had half a heart.

My daughter was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.  This means the left chambers of her heart were small and non-functioning.  She was not even diagnosed until day 12, and she had her first reconstructive open-heart surgery the next day.  Going from being a regular parent to one caught in a whirlwind in the cardiac intensive care unit (CICU) is overwhelming.  Learning about the complex nature of this defect, and the special needs that a child with this defect has is terrifying.  I felt shock, and I was always worried, watching each beautiful breath she took with gratitude.  I learned how to read the machines and what her sat requirements were.  My husband and I created medication logs and we documented her life for months.  We became caregiving parents.  Between this beautiful new child with a host of complications and a mentally ill child, we were exhausted, but we survived, and our little girl is 9 now.  She has survived three surgeries, and each year, I speak about her condition to alert people to this common defect.  1/100 is a high number in my opinion.  Much higher than the current statistics for other common defects like down syndrome.

Knowledge is power, and I can say if you feel something may be wrong with your child, be adamant in getting a doctor to listen.  It took 6 visits to get our doctors to finally admit us.  My daughter was diagnosed past the date where most will die without treatment.  She was in the lucky 5% that survive past 10 days.  This is incredible to me.  The most difficult aspect of her condition that I live with each day is that the future is so cloudy.  We have been told her heart will eventually wear out as it is working twice as hard, and she has had so much work done, she will require a transplant at some point.  This is a fact, but one that I try to forget.  I can often pretend she has no problems as she acts like a typical 9 year old with a bit of an attitude at the moment.  It is when the threat of a cold looms over us, or when she wants to do gymnastics moves around the house that I begin to panic.  It is when she gets overheated so quickly in the summer that I want to squeeze her tight and never let go.  I know her life has been borrowed by skilled doctors, and I fear what the future holds.  This is why I want to bring awareness about the importance of having knowledge about heart defects.  We nearly lost our chance to know this incredibly intelligent little girl, and I hope our story can help another family get that same chance.

5 Steps to Focus on Friday and Motivate for Monday!

Everyone who works a regular workweek of Monday through Friday, dreads Monday. The weekend is a nice buffer between the two days, but it gives us a sense of a freedom, a chance to remove ourselves from the humdrum of work life, so we can live life.  We may get more family time if we have kids.  We may just look forward to sleeping in.  We may find ourselves enjoying a mix of fun and catching up on work.  The point is, we usually have a choice about how we want to use our time on the weekend, so when Monday rolls around, we rebel.  How can we make our Mondays more manageable?

Here are the top 5 ways to make Monday easier for us to handle:

1.  The one thing that can be done to make Monday better is to utilize Friday a little more appropriately.  Many people fall into “it is the end of the week, it is Friday, I am so done mentality,” making Friday the least efficient day.  The problem with this is that this means it is time wasted.

2.  Tie up loose ends for the week so you are not worrying about what wasn’t completed over the weekend when you should be getting a break.  This will also keep you from starting Monday out already behind.

3.  Work ahead a little on next week’s work if you have already finished everything else you have to have done for the current week.  This could put you ahead and make your time on Monday less rushed.

4.  Make a list  of things that need to be completed, started, or planned on Monday.  Having a to-do list will make your day easier because it is already planned.  Just make sure you leave room for things that come up last minute.

5.  Prioritize Monday’s work so you will know what is the most important thing to be done first.  If you get the most difficult or dreaded items out of the way right off the bat, you will find the rest of the day will go smoother.

If we used our Friday better by focusing on the details and preparing for the next week, we could make Monday less of a monster for us.  Now is your chance to start as Friday winds down, and the weekend is looming ahead.  Plan for a better Monday today!

Find Inspiration in the Details!

How easy it is to be caught in the cyclic nature of the days, the weeks, the months, and the years.  A life becomes a ball of yarn, once linear, until it is wound up as one being that has become you in your physical form.  You embody each moment of your life.  The memories become etched in your face as you age, and the lines and spots on your hands become the insignia for a life lived.

When I think about writing, whether it is creative, for my blog, for an essay, or for business, I realize that sometimes more time is spend on the whole of the piece, and not of the sharpened edges that become crucial elements for effect or understanding.  I can throw a paper together, or write for my blog in a the 21st century style of rushing, but then, the words do not envelop the readers to make them a part of writing.  I want others to see the tiny details that will make my story come to life.  I want them to feel the wind on their face, rustling their hair as crumbled autumn leaves crunch under each footsteps.  I want them to feel the lump that forms in the throat of the parent as they discover their child is dying, and they feel as though the floor has become as unsteady as their future.

Writing, like any other aspiration, takes soul and it requires attention to detail.  When you plan for that job interview, you need to know everything you can about the job, the company, and your qualifications for the job.  Each detail will bring you closer to your goal.  If you are working to become a manager, you need to know your company inside and out.  Learn about the job, the people you work with or would manage, and it will help you to stand out.  An artist, journalist, nurse, scientist, surgeon, public speaker, and politicians all require this important skill.  It takes time and practice to study and gather moments that would have been ignored before, but each moment will make you smarter and more likely to excel.  Take a look around, and find inspiration in the details.