Monthly Archives: April 2014

Mindfulness Part 2 – Mindfulness in Practice

mindfulnessdefn4Most people reading this have heard the phrase “stop and smell the roses” but how many times have any of us actually stopped to appreciate a flower? If you have, then you’ve already practiced mindfulness. When you stop your journey to appreciate something immediately in front of you, you are being “in the present.” Instead of worrying about a test you are getting back this afternoon or considering how you’d like to spend your weekend, you focus your attention on what is going on around you right now. Spring is the perfect season for exploring this aspect of mindfulness. It seems everywhere you look there are signs of life and renewal, all inviting you to stop and appreciate the beauty surrounding you. But being in the present isn’t just about flowers and nature. You can also take a moment to savor that bagel you had for breakfast, feel your feet as you walk, or even relish the graphics in Titanfall.

One way to practice being in the moment is through mindful breathing. Set aside a few minutes and sit in a quiet place. Allow yourself to settle into wherever you have chosen, then direct the spotlight of your attention on your breath. Try to feel the air as it enters and exits your body. Be curious about your whole body as you inhale and exhale – the rise and fall of your chest, the feel of the air in your nose and throat, the sounds of your breath. Inevitably, your attention will wander from your breath to other thoughts or feelings. When this happens, gently acknowledge that your mind has wandered and refocus on your breathing. This refocusing process is at the heart of this meditation. As you become skilled at refocusing your attention away from your thoughts and back on your breath, you may find that you are better able to refocus your attention away from your worries, fears, regret, or pain.

It is not uncommon to feel frustrated when you start the practice of mindful breathing. You may sit and try to focus on your physical experience of breathing, only to find that you can’t seem to stop thinking about an upcoming final. This is perfectly fine. In fact, the second important aspect of mindfulness is being nonjudgmental. As those worries about your test force their way into your attention, do not judge yourself for not being able to control your thoughts. The goal is not to control your thinking. Instead, the focus is on choosing how we respond to those thoughts and feelings that unconsciously, and without our control, pop into our head. We often negatively judge ourselves for the thoughts or feelings that we have, and do everything we can to escape or avoid the negative feelings. A mindful approach is to accept that we cannot control what comes into our mind, but we can control how we respond to those thoughts or feelings.

SproutsThe exercise of mindful breathing helps us work the mental muscles that allows us to be more directive in choosing where to focus our attention. As we go through our daily lives, and experience the ups and downs that comes with being a human being, mindfulness helps us to become more aware of what we are internally experiencing, accept what we find, and choose how we relate to the world around and within us. For more information about mindfulness, you are welcome to attend the mindfulness workshops being held at the Counseling Center at 6pm every Wednesday evening (through 5/14). The counseling center web page also has links to additional readings, blogs, and apps that can help you get started in your own journey.

Tom Wahlund
Doctoral Intern
Counseling Center

What Kind of a Leader Are You?

leadershipLet’s start with the premise in leadership that you don’t need a title to be a leader.  What is leadership?  Leadership is a process where a group comes together to create positive change.  While the organization might have a traditional “leader” at the helm of an organization, when viewed as a process everyone contributes to the success of the group.  In a successful group, every member has skills and abilities that contribute to the group accomplishing its goal.

As a TU student, I encourage you to seek out opportunities to examine your strengths as a leader and group member, to practice your skills, to get feedback and to grow personally and professionally.  Learning and understanding your strengths, applying your knowledge and skills, and being able to articulate your strengths and skills are invaluable as you graduate and navigate your career path. brandyhall

What are some of the key skills needed to be effective in contributing to a leadership process?

  1. Effective leaders know and understand their strengths.
  2. It is important to be able to communicate your message effectively and to listen for understanding so that you are able to recognize different perspectives and experiences.
  3. Leaders who are able to build relationships and trust with other are most effective.  It is crucial that a leader learns how to work effectively with others and to be a contributing part of the team.

Here are some ways you can develop leadership skills and capacity at Towson:

  1. Join an organization or participate in an activity which allows opportunities for self-assessment and reflection.
  2. Attend a retreat focused on personal and professional development.
  3. Visit the Career Center which has a variety of self-assessment and feedback opportunities such as “StrenghtsQuest” which identifies your top 5 talent themes to help you identify and develop your strengths.  To learn more about the self-assessments offered through the Career Center visit: http://www.towson.edu/careercenter/students/advise/assessment.asp
  4. If you live on campus in the residence halls, look for opportunities to get involved in your Building Council and attend programs offered by URG and H&RL.
  5. Become a peer mentor on campus.  The training opportunities and hand-on experience are invaluable.
  6. The Center for Student Diversity holds the “Retreat for Social Justice” every fall which provides an opportunity to strengthen your multicultural leadership and to understand the complexities of identity within organizations and groups while striving to create inclusive and safe spaces for all voices to be valued.
  7. The Office of Student Activities provides many opportunities to strengthen your leadership.  To learn more about the Office of Student Activities visit: http://www.towson.edu/studentactivities/leadership/

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a. Initiatives out of Student Activities include:

i.    I L.E.A.D. Certificate – a non-academic certificate offered to students on campus who earn points by attending workshops and participating in various leadership opportunities on campus.

ii.    LeaderShape – The LeaderShape Institute is a 6 day leadership development program offered each year to TU students.

iii.    I L.E.A.D. Workshops & Conferences – workshops are offered on a variety of topics and conferences offered through Student Activities include the Men’s Leadership Symposium, Spring Leadership Conference, or Women in Leadership Conference.

iv.    Omicron Delta Kappa – ODK is a national honor society that recognized students who have shown achievement in one of five areas.

My hope is that each reader will take advantage of the numerous opportunities available to enhance their leadership while a student at Towson University.

Deb Moriarty, Ph.D.
Vice President for Student Affairs

Finding the Right Employer (It’s okay to be picky)

Looking for employers and jobs is somewhat like looking for a significant other. It’s vaguely like dating where you need to know as much as possible about the other person (the employer) in order to know if you’ll be happy and successful in the long run. When looking for the right employer, you need to start taking into consideration important factors that can later impact your career.

While past internships and work experiences are a great way to start figuring out what you like best in the work office, there are other factors to take into consideration: In what kind of work environment do you excel? In what type of atmosphere are you most productive? Do you work better with certain people?

There are several other factors that go into finding the right employer:

  1. Employer reputation– Are they well known? Will this organization help open doors for you later on?
  1. Growth potential– It’s common to apply for entry-level positions (that’s how you get your foot in the door!), but does this company have opportunities for you to move up? Will you be able to take on more responsibilities and climb the career ladder?
  1. Security/benefits– Is this company still going to be in business in 5 years? 10 years? What benefits can the company provide for you (i.e., retirement, health insurance, etc.)? But also keep in mind benefits like flexible schedules and holidays. Benefits often lead to overall satisfaction and a happy work-life balance.
  1. Work environment/organization mission– Can you imagine yourself happily going into work and not minding if you have to stay late? Would you feel comfortable at your job due to the people and atmosphere? Also, does the company culture and leadership match the values and ideas you hold valuable?

It’s a lot to take in and consider about an employer, especially when you start to feel like you can’t be too picky when it comes to applying for jobs. But to help make your searches easier, there are plenty of resources to help you figure this all out:

  1. Organization’s website/social media– Check out their “About Us” and “News” website sections to see what the company is up to. Also see if the company has LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter pages. Seeing how they interact with people and what they post can help you get an overall sense of the culture.
  1. TU’s Career Mentor Database– You can connect with TU alumni working at companies you’re interested in to conduct informational interviews.
  1. Websites that review companies– Check out Vault and Glassdoor to read reviews from people who work there.
  1. TU Cook Library’s Guide to Company Research– This guide has valuable resources for conducting company research.

The best way to find out what you want from a job is to get out there and work…now is the perfect time to start an internship or even an on-campus job. Student employees can look forward to National Student Employment Week (April 13-19) here at Towson University when we show them just how much they are appreciated in our offices. This is also the perfect opportunity for student employees to reflect on what they value and need in a work environment.

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And finally you can learn about other students’ work, internship, volunteer, and overall leadership experiences by checking out the Career Center’s #TUinfinity campaign on Facebook and Twitter. Tell us about your experiences using #TUinfinity for your chance to win weekly prizes, including a grand prize $500 Amazon.com gift card!

Shelby Hillers
Career Peer Advisor
Career Center

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