Conversations Across Differences

People in various spaces across the world with a range of platforms are grappling with what best practices to have difficult conversations across differences. There are experts like Heather McGhee, President of Demos who will host a talk later today titled, “How to talk to people who offend you” via the TED2017 conference. Discussions across difference benefit you because it allows you to be outside of your comfort zone. One reason why the Office of Student Leadership Development dipped our toes in the waters of encouraging conversations across difference is we recognize how important these conversations are for college leaders who are moved by what they care about to make the world a better place.

In a 2016 interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education, President of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, Lynn Pasquerella stated, “So in a world that is increasingly globally interdependent, and where rapidly changing technology means rapid obsolescence, the best that we can offer students today is the capacity to work with others who are different from themselves in diverse teams. And to be adaptable and flexible in a world where the jobs of the future have not yet been invented.” One way that you can work with others who are different is through healthy communication. As you wrap up the semester and prepare for finals season, consider the ways that you can have healthy conversations across socio-cultural differences with members of the William & Mary community.

If you’re wondering where to access the Discuss Difference podcast, click on the hyper link embedded in the text.

Episode 1– An Introduction to Discuss Difference with Anne Arseneau, Director of the Office of Student Leadership Development and Melody Porter, Director of Office of Community Engagement

Episode 2- Discuss Difference: An Introduction to the Chat & Chew Series featuring Shené Owens, Assistant Director of the Center for Student Diversity

Episode 3- Discuss Difference: A Conversation with Dr. Jaime Settle, Assistant Professor of Government at William & Mary

Discuss Discuss: Podcast Episode One

Being a part of the William & Mary community allows students- in particular student leaders to have an impact on the types of conversations happening around campus across difference. This is one reason why Student Leadership Development is proud to release podcasts as a part of our Discuss Difference initiative.

Our first episode features Anne Arseneau, Director of the Office of Student Leadership Development and Melody Porter, Director of the Office of Community Engagement. The podcast is moderated by Dr. Drew Stelljes, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, Student Engagement and Leadership. Anne and Melody chat about a variety of topics related to why leaders thrive when they are able to discuss difference and navigate controversy with civility.

Discuss Difference podcast will cover a variety of topics related to socio cultural difference!

Discuss Difference podcast will cover a variety of topics related to socio cultural difference!

The next podcast will feature, Shené Owens, Assistant Director of the Center for Student Diversity. One upcoming opportunity to discuss difference is by engaging in the Chat & Chew series. The next Chat & Chew is Friday, April 7th!

We look forward to sharing these and if you have comments or thoughts on the podcast, please comment below.

An Introduction to Discuss Difference

William & Mary’s Student Leadership Development Discuss Difference is an opportunity for leaders to think intentionally about ways that you engage with people across socio-cultural differences. These differences range and include but not limited to gender, race, ethnicity, ability, socioeconomic status, neurodiversity, region, political leanings, etc. Research shows that leaders who can have healthy conversations across differences engage and thrive in their leadership efforts. Leadership experts reveal that discussing difference of views and seeing diverse perspectives advance leadership skills. Those discussions can be informal and formal and should include a wide range of issues.

There are various opportunities on campus to get involved with organizations and events where discussing difference lives at the center. Reading through list serves such as Diversity Happenings published by the Center for Student Diversity allows you to learn more about what is happening on campus. Here are a few suggestions for things you can do to inspire conversations across difference:

  • Have lunch with someone who has a different political point of view than you! Check out this initiative, Hi From The Other Side that provides a guideline for conversations.
  • Attend an event sponsored by a faith based organization that you are less familiar with.
  • Consider ways that cultural awareness will allow you to become a better leader. Read this great article!

Please join the Office of Student Leadership Development in celebrating discussions across difference. Throughout April, we will post a weekly blog that offers more tips and we have a series of podcasts. The podcasts feature W&M staff and faculty who care deeply about leaning into conversations around difference. If you are not an avid podcast fan, try listening and you may have a go-to medium for learning & sharing ideas (ultimately, inspiring you to have more conversations across difference!)

Mentoring Matters: A Mentor Does Not Have to Look Like Dumbledore

About the Writer: Rachel Becker is a sophomore here at the College of William & Mary with a keen interest in leadership theory.  In her free time she likes to re-read Harry Potter, organize her organizing and apparently write blog posts. 

Rachel Becker, student blogger.

Rachel Becker enjoying time in Colonial Williamsburg!

My youngest cousin, Lauren, is the spunkiest fourteen-year-old you will ever meet. She loves to laugh more than anything, her wit absolutely does not match her age and she is probably the most outspoken person I know. The adults in our family actually ask for her opinion on things and usually will follow; it is quite impressive. One time I saw them leave a restaurant right after they sat down just because Lauren knew the food down the street was better. I also think she skipped an awkward middle school phase, because she dresses better than I do on a daily basis and she is a freshman in high school which is really unfair and feels sacrilegious. But besides Lauren’s vibrant nature, she also has this incredible trait of self-confidence.

She is not afraid to stick up for herself or others and because of this I really look up to her, especially given her age. I am nearly ten years older, but I would consider her a mentor to me because she has a way of telling me she believes in me without having to explicitly state it. Her compliments are very personalized, and usually make you tilt your head but nonetheless are very sweet. One time she told me that a boy was dating me only because I had great hair. It was honestly so flattering. People like Lauren remind me that literally anyone can be a mentor, and you should never be afraid to admire someone even if they do not have a lot in common with you, that really anyone can be someone you look up to.

When I am faced with challenges whether it be socially or academically, I think of Lauren’s fervent confidence in me and it reminds me that I am completely capable of what I am trying to accomplish. Surrounding yourself with people who believe in you is something that can make a big difference in your life, just as it is important to remind the people around you that you believe in them.

As my young cousin always demonstrates to me and in honor of National Mentoring Month, here are three tips that I would give to any mentor:
1. Sometimes listening can be just as valuable as giving advice, letting someone know that they are heard and their remarks are valid can make a tremendous impact
2. Do not be afraid to share your own experiences, often that is what someone will remember you telling them more than responding with blanket statements
3. Be yourself! Someone looks up to you for being YOU, try to avoid worrying about what other people may think or about comparing yourself to others, your uniqueness is an advantage!

This blog serves as a part of the Office of Student Leadership Development’s celebration of National Mentoring Month in our “Mentoring Matters” campaign.

Mentoring Matters: The Great That I Am

About the Writer: Ebony Martin is a senior at the College of William & Mary. She is an Africana Studies major concentrating in African-American Studies. On campus, Ebony is involved in SPAN and serves as a research fellow for WMSURE. Ebony works in the Office of First Year Experience in undergraduate belonging and peer mentorship.

In response to the quote, “A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.”- Bob Proctor

I think this quote is amazing and I think it embodies everything that a mentor should be for you. I have been mentored and I have been a mentor and I know for a fact that had my mentor not seen more in me than I did in myself that I would not be where I am today. I was pushed exhaustingly, I was given all the tools that I needed to be successful, but I was also encouraged. I was told, “I needed to stay out of my own way; that I needed to stop letting my own limitations hold me back from the great that I am.”
Even more than all of these things, I was supported. I was watched over, all of my events were attended when it could be done, all of my accomplishments, both big and small were magnified. I was given the confidence that I always wanted and needed. I feel like to be a mentor, you and your mentee have decided together that something in you has inspired them to want your guidance in one or more aspects of life.

After making that decision you and your mentee create a relationship that is built intentionally to help you navigate through those places that you feel they have obtained some sort of mastery. That is not to say that your mentor is all-knowing, but they have a great wealth of knowledge on the topic and some does and do nots from their own experiences, so at least your mistakes, if any can be different from the ones that they have made. You establish a relationship built on trust and reliability believing that this person wants to be by your side to help you to enhance the qualities that you already have even if you did not know that you had them.

This blog serves as a part of the Office of Student Leadership Development’s celebration of National Mentoring Month in our “Mentoring Matters” campaign.

Mentoring Matters: An Ode to AP English

About the Writer: Anee Nguyen is a sophomore in the St Andrews and William & Mary Joint Degree Program. Currently in Scotland, Anee studies English with a minor in history. In her free time, Anee likes to use the metro system, write bad poetry, and watch what Audrey Hepburn movies are still left on Netflix.’

Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve wanted to go into education since I was 12. Between the amount of times I’ve mentioned teaching or English it’s not too hard to see how dead set I have been on doing this one profession for the rest of my forever. And it started with a person.

Not me, funnily enough, but with a teacher, which isn’t surprising. I have had teachers and professors my whole life, and my inspiration to become one stems from each and every one of their passions and dedications, but there was a particular woman who taught me so much about education and English and about being a good productive human of this earth.

Ms. Blankenship showed me that unconventional thinking is the best kind. She reminded all her students, and drove home in me that everyone thinks differently, and that is the most valuable thing you can learn from one another. She made me feel empowered and I worked hard to make her proud because she is one of the most brilliant minds I think I’ll ever know. She taught me that everyone is human, and humanity is what moves us to make changes in the world, to find love and to create happiness. Blankenship gave me so much self-confidence by telling me the truth, the hard and real way. She shared so much with me that I can only hope to share in one of my students when I become a teacher.

As a mentor, Ms. Blankenship was the mother bird to my attempts to fly. She consistently pushed me out of the tree until she knew she could trust me to jump off myself, to take risks and chances knowing that she would be there to catch me when I inevitably bumped into a few branches on the way down. I ran to her to tell her about my college acceptance, and then again to ask for her advice on joining the St Andrews program. I ran to her when I came home from college and made her argue with me on all my new ideas on papers I had written. I ran to her when my brother fell off his bike and had a huge gash on his face. I ran to her because I knew she would push me to find my own answers, and not give them to me. Her way of teaching me to be my own person was something I only wish I could emulate later on. I think the greatest compliment she ever gave me was that she and I think in the same way, using charts and visuals to create ideas. Ms. Blankenship helped to uncover who I am now and gave me a good visual for the woman I want to be in the future. Thank you, Ms. Blankenship. You rock.

This blog serves as a part of the Office of Student Leadership Development’s celebration of National Mentoring Month in our “Mentoring Matters” campaign.

Mentoring Matters: Tips for Being a Good Mentee

In the Office of Student Leadership Development, we are recognizing National Mentoring Month  to celebrate why Mentoring Matters. Research shows that mentoring connects students to personal growth and development and helps students recognize that they are not alone in their personal challenges (National Mentoring Partnership, 2017).

Mentoring is a two-way relationship where the mentee learns from the mentor and  the mentor learns from the mentee. As a way to encourage students to be effective mentees, we offer these tips to enhance the success of your mentoring relationships. Attached, you will find a list of Mentee Tips

Tomorrow, we will publish the first student narrative about mentoring. We look forward to sharing stories about why Mentoring Matters at W&M! If you or a student you know is interested in publishing a story, please submit your writing to the form linked here:

We encourage you to stop by the CORT area adjacent to the Scheduling Office to write a thank you note to someone who has been a mentor to you! Thank you notes will be available through the month of January.

Developing Your “Hired Mindset”

Authored by Sean Schofield, Assistant Director– Cohen Career Center

“I don’t have any relevant experience,” said the downtrodden student holding a white piece of printer paper marked only with contact information and large heading labeled “Education.” The very same student who, less than five minutes into our appointment, would go on to reveal former part time employment at a restaurant, research with a faculty member, membership with a fraternity on campus, and time spent volunteering at a local Boys and Girls Clubhouse.

The most exciting part of my job is not helping students develop the transferrable skills that employers seek, it’s helping students build and share the story of the rich and diverse experiences they have taken part in… stories that speak to any potential employer. It’s helping students start to think differently about the life that they’ve led so far, and to empower them with the understanding that there are three primary components that make up what I like to call “The Hired Mindset.”

1) Understand that Organizations Hire PEOPLE, not Machines

One of the most common misconceptions that I hear when I work with students is that they do not have the requisite skills necessary to secure opportunities in a field of choice. The problem with this concept is that people like, enjoy, converse with, and ultimately hire PEOPLE. This flies in the face of what most students believe, a perception that often confuses employability with titles, language proficiencies, or the equations that we can solve. All that skills and abilities can do is tell part of a job or internship candidate’s story. Take, for example, one of the most common ways for any employer to open a job interview – “Tell me about yourself.” A simple prompt, allowing us to speak on the one area in which we are a true expert, yet this statement strikes fear into some of the most competent applicants. Tell me about yourself is one of the best opportunities to “set the stage” for interview success, and one of the only parts of a job interview that you can really practice thoroughly. Don’t waste time talking about superfluous things, but instead discuss who you are academically, talk about extracurricular involvement, and allow your goals and passions to shine through – but make them relate to the position, the organization, and the industry.

2) Some Skills and Competencies are ALWAYS Transferrable

While you, as a job/internship seeker, should be measuring your potential employer with regard to your Values, Interests and Aptitudes, the hiring official(s) will be measuring you on whether or not you will help them advance their goals, fit in with their organizational structure and culture, and represent them well when it counts. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) lists seven highly important competencies that students must demonstrate in order to get hired (, for which I offer my basic interpretation of each:

  • Critical Thinking – This is not only measured by your grades and ability to solve complex problems, but also by the creative ways you approach obstacles.
  • Communications – Not just your ability to speak or write, but also your ability to listen and follow instructions. You can successfully demonstrate communication skills by showcasing your ability to relay information, and by proving that you can listen to and interpret information.
  • Collaboration – Everyone wants a team player, and you will need to be able to work with a diverse group of people (diversity can be measured in a number of ways) to accomplish a common goal. Students are often concerned with leaving their “legacy,” which they believe to be accomplished only when operating independently from the greater group, but collaboration is what wins championships on the field and keeps residence halls running smoothly.
  • IT Application – Familiarize yourself with the technical needs of each position that you apply for, and make sure its application will not be a point that holds you back. YouTube and are great ways to learn technical skills that will impress potential employers.
  • Leadership – The most misunderstood of all of the competencies! We think that a chief officer of an organization leads, but true leadership lies in a person’s ability to lift up those around them, or assist others in making meaning of their experiences.
  • Professionalism – This may be tough to hear, but you are a brand. Everything that you do will either support and grow, or diminish your brand in the eyes of others. Those Facebook posts that you think are inaccessible to employers are not, what you tweet is viewable to the world, and the way that you dress and present yourself when meeting people goes a long way in demonstrating your character. Make sure you treat every day like a job interview!
  • Career Management – Develop your ability to describe your experiences and connect your past with your present and future! This is also a chance to reflect upon areas where growth and development are needed.

3) Storytelling Can Get You a Job

Let’s face it, storytelling is an effective way to get a point across. There are multi-million dollar industries based upon people’s willingness to sit and watch a good story play out on the screen, stage or television, and few people find themselves apathetic to the hero’s journey (the formula that plays itself out in nearly every classic according to Matthew Winkler’s TED-Ed Animation). Although it may seem a bit erroneous to measure your accomplishments against those of Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen or Frodo, when you speak about your experiences, frame them in the following way: you faced a conflict or challenge, you developed and implemented a solution, and the day was won. Getting hired isn’t about each individual experience you’ve had, it’s about how you weave them into a story that the hiring manager is excited to hear.

During the 2016 #NoTitleNeeded initiative, we hope you and your organization will focus on emerging contributors within your group or cause. The belief that you are capable is one of the greatest contributors to leadership efficacy. Build this leadership efficacy in your members by thanking them for the (#NoTitleNeeded) contributions they are making to your shared goals. Would you like to celebrate #NoTitleNeeded, but in need of materials? SLD is offering a #NoTitleNeeded pack complete with buttons and stickers! Sign up to receive a #NoTitleNeeded Pack here:

#NoTitleNeeded When Home for the Holidays

Authored by: Jennifer Leung

Next week many of us will head home to begin a season of holiday gatherings with friends and family.  One question you are sure to be asked (other than “what’s your major and what are you going to do with it after graduation?”) is “so what clubs did you join?”  Here’s a great opportunity to practice #NoTitleNeeded.

When responding to the question(s) about what you are involved in at William & Mary, try not to list off the organizations and positioned leadership titles you hold, but instead start with sharing what you care about and how that drives your involvement on campus.  Here’s how it might play out:

Aunt Martha: “It’s so good to see you William/Mary!  I hear from your mom that you are becoming quite the leader on campus, tell me about the clubs you joined and what positions you’ve been elected to.”

William/Mary: “Well Aunt Martha, since I’ve gotten to school, I’ve really learned that I care about building community and helping other students feel supported and included, so I’ve chosen seek opportunities on campus that let me do good work on campus to do just that.”

Aunt Martha: “But I thought you were an RA?  What other positions do you hold, you were always a leader as a kid.”

William/Mary: “Your right, I am an RA, but not because of the title, but because it gives me a chance to help new students in transition feel welcome and like they are a part of our William & Mary community.”

Obviously, your conversation isn’t going to be so scripted and formal, but you get the idea……lead with what you care about, rather than the position or titles you hold and you’ll be practicing #NoTitleNeeded! You might be hesitant to try this at first, like that suspicious looking side dish one of your relatives brought….but just try it, you might like it.

Join Student Leadership Development for #NoTitleNeeded November!

Join Student Leadership Development in our celebration of #NoTitleNeeded November! Staff members will continue tabling in Sadler Center on Thursday, 11/17 at 5:00PM.

If you’d like to bring the #NoTitleNeeded message to you, sign up to receive a  Student Leadership Development #NoTitleNeeded pack



Student Leadership Development’s #NoTitleNeeded November


“Great leaders don’t set out to be a leader…They set out to make a difference. It’s never about the role-always about the goal.” – Lisa Haisha

Join us this year as we celebrate #NoTitleNeeded this November!

Join us this November as we celebrate #NoTitleNeeded!

Student Leadership Development’s #NoTitleNeeded initiative exists to encourage students to recognize and celebrate where leadership and contribution take place without a reliance on position, title or role. Leadership is a process amongst all members and through #NoTitleNeeded we work to elevate the concept that it is not about the role (or title) but always about working toward a shared goal together.

During the 2016 #NoTitleNeeded initiative, we hope you and your organization will focus on emerging contributors within your group or cause. The belief that you are capable is one of the greatest contributors to leadership efficacy. Build this leadership efficacy in your members by thanking them for the (#NoTitleNeeded) contributions they are making to your shared goals.

SLD is excited to celebrate #NoTitleNeeded and we hope you’ll join us! Join us in Sadler Center on Tuesday, November 15th through Thursday, November 17th to pick up swag, participate in the photo campaign with the #NoTitleNeeded boards, and write a note card to someone who you would like to recognize.

Do you want to celebrate #NoTitleNeeded, but in need of materials? SLD is offering a #NoTitleNeeded pack complete with buttons and stickers! You can register to pick up a #NoTitleNeeded Pack here: Please register by Friday, November 18th and packs will be ready for pick up in the Student Leadership Development Office (Campus Center Room 203) between Tuesday, November 15th and Tuesday, November 22nd.

Be sure to check out our handy guide here with suggestions on ways to recognize others:  #NoTitleNeeded Resource. Remember that the sky’s the limit as you recognize others!