On My Hiatus

Some of you, perhaps, have noticed that I’ve largely been absent from Student Affairs twitter (#SAchat, #SAgrad, etc.) and blogging for awhile. I’ve popped in and out for a stray thought or response, but on the whole, haven’t engaged the way I used to. There are a multitude of reasons for my hiatus in the past months, but as I near a return to greater activity in these spaces, sharing the primary reasons for my absence seems appropriate.


1) I Wasn’t Listening Well Enough and My Voice was Amplified… Too much.

I have a few problems with Student Affairs Twitter, primarily the groupthink that tends to occur and the over-amplification of certain voices. We have lots of great people with great ideas – but I tend to think that we amplify the same people too much sometimes and I was feeling like one of those people. I became aware that my voice was not part of a dialogue – but a monologue. This isn’t anyone’s fault – but it got to a point where I felt like I wasn’t listening well enough and that people were not challenging my ideas or engaging in dialogue with me. This isn’t to say my ideas don’t have value – but I fail to understand why my voice should be amplified more than others just because I’m a recognizable name. I wasn’t comfortable with it. I’m wrong. A lot. And it bothered me that no one else seemed to see that or challenge me on my ideas. So I removed myself and did a lot listening instead. I learned way more and am better for it. I may have added an occasional thought or asked a question, but on the whole, I sought to listen more than speak.

I’ve worked through my feelings on this and realize that this problem may not subside, but that I can take an active role in changing it by knowing when to listen, when my voice would be an asset to the conversation, and asking questions instead of answering them all of the time.

2) I Needed to Focus on Creating Change in My Daily Work

I love that we talk big picture in Student Affairs Twitter. I love that we tackle big topics and have big ideas. The reality is that my day-to-day work is not always rooted in the big topics. Sometimes, I need to balance my Pro-Card. Sometimes, I need to tackle my inbox. Sometimes, I need to stay at a student event until 2am. Sometimes, I need to console the student sobbing at my desk. In short, I need to live in the moment with my work sometimes. I’m happy to take a crack at the big topics in our field that need change; but the conversations we have don’t always help me be the professional I need to be in the moment. Sure, let’s talk about what we’re missing out on in our #SAgrad programs or how to better manage up – but how about the practical topics that help us do our day-to-day work? I know I could benefit from us grounding some of our discussion topics – I wonder if others feel the same? The big topics are important, but how about something that doesn’t require a major campus culture shift to enact? Why don’t we talk about things like effective programming board models or retreat curricula? In essence, I struggle to take an hour (or more) of my work week to talk about things that aren’t helping me develop in the work that needs to be done NOW. I’m not asking for that every week – just sometimes. We shouldn’t have to go to a conference to get practical professional development information – we have a great network that could facilitate that sort of learning and dialogue. There’s a happy medium somewhere, I know it.

3) I Needed a Damn Break

In light of today’s #SAchat on Work/Life Balance, I took some of my own advice for a change. The past 12 months have been challenging outside of work and I decided that I would spend my time outside of work and my commitment to ACPA focusing on me. I’m unapologetic about this. I was biopsied for cancer last May (the type of cancer is unimportant, but it was benign, for those curious. I am well.), I lost two grandparents, and I broke up with a significant other. To be frank, I wasn’t really feeling my best and I sought solace in other places.

Throwing myself into my work and career has been a traditional escape for me, but this time around, I said “No,” and removed myself from career-related things that I didn’t need to be a part of. My habit of busying myself with work when things get tough isn’t healthy and I finally owned up to that. I get plenty of satisfaction out of my career, but my struggles taught me this past year that I need face my challenges head on and stop using work as an excuse to hide. I find great community in Student Affairs Twitter, but it wasn’t the community I needed this past year.

All of this to say, I’m back. This post is probably a mess. But so am I. I look forward to hearing what you have to say, learning with you, and finding a way to ensure that my voice does more good than harm in our little community.




An Open Letter to Fraternity Men

By now many of us have seen the video of SAEs from OU and their racist chant. Like many of you, I’m disgusted – but I’m not here to address you today. No – instead, I’m here to address fraternity men. Specifically, fraternity men that crop up after a racist incident, hazing or a sexual assault saying, “Not ALL fraternity men are like this,” or “Those are the bad apples. Only a few ruin the experience of many.” Sound familiar?

Indeed. There probably are thousands of men out there that do hold the true values of their fraternities close – I’m not disagreeing. BUT – why is it that they only ever seem to appear in reaction to something? My question to this so-called majority of fraternity men is this: where are you BEFORE this happens? Where are you WHEN this happens?

To all of you so-called “good men” of fraternities – now more than ever we need you to be proactive. We need you in the moment. There are many privileges in life that you may have grown accustomed to or live with, but hear me when I say that silence is not one of them. Like your racist brothers, you too carry the power of free speech. What’s more is that your words carry weight – you have an impact. You have a responsibility to your brethren, to your campus community, to your national organization, and to your very society to speak up. You don’t get to stay silent. You don’t get to be reactive – not anymore.

You say that not all fraternity men meet the stereotype, but I see incongruence between those words and what we continue to see in the news. Continued instances of sexual assault, racism, bigotry toward the LGBTQA community, and hazing demonstrate to me that there is much work to do. That work does NOT rest on the shoulders of those impacted by this behavior. That work does not only belong to your national headquarters. That work does not only belong to chapter advisors and the fraternity/sorority affairs office on your campus. That work begins with you – fraternity men.

Be proactive and have these difficult conversations now. Really take time in your chapter meetings to discuss values and accountability. Challenge your brothers to better at the very moment they go against the values you both pledged to hold close. You have agency – use it. You cannot afford to simply be reactive anymore – too many people get hurt when you aren’t there in the moment. If you’re going to be a champion for anything, be a champion for others – not just your fraternity.

Looking Back, Moving Forward: My Year in Review

Surprise – after a long stretch of not feeling compelled to write, I’m back. Like most folks, I find the New Year a time to reflect on the past year and to look ahead to what’s to come. So let’s get to it:

2014 In Review:

I could review many things – but I’m going to focus on my two biggest takeaways from the past year, trusting my instincts and finding joy outside of work:

  • Trust My Instincts

    The Good: Professionally, I had a very challenging Winter-Early Spring; I gained a new supervisor, became a supervisor to a graduate student, was placed into a crisis management situation, and encountered some… interesting… institutional traditions involving campus nudity. As I encountered more and more challenges, I became much more comfortable trusting my instincts – I’m happy to say that I’ve come out of these challenges both successful and wiser.

    The Bad: I also spent a good portion of the year ignoring my wellness – I didn’t ask for what I needed until this academic year. Despite my accrued vacation time, I was horrible about asking for time off (something I’ve been called out on) and a few times, I worked myself to the brink of sickness. This culminated in a bout of acute insomnia at the end of the summer. Despite knowing what I needed, I ignored my instincts and my body’s warnings that I needed to put myself first. It’s a work in progress, but I’ve identified this and I’m working toward getting better.

  • Adult Social Life Takes Way More Work

    The Challenging (I wouldn’t call it “bad”): 2014 was my first full year as a non-student. I had taken my position at UChicago in September 2013, so 2014 was really my first full year of not having peers built-in to my life and schedule. Even weirder is the fact that I moved back to my home city and where I went to college, but struggled to reconnect with many of my old social circle. I still have many friends here in Chicago and I love them dearly – but after being away for 2 years, life has moved on in different ways for us. It has taken me some time to come to terms with this, but I now realize that I cannot expect my social life as it existed in 2011 to be intact.

    The Good: The good news is that although I see these friends less, the bond is still strong and we do take good quality time to spend together, just less frequently. My college friendships have become all the more special as a result of our changing lives – I cherish our time together much more. We’re all better for the changes and nothing changes the way I feel about my friends. The other good news is that I’ve built a nice social life for myself at work – I have met some wonderful colleagues and peers that I’m happy to say have become quite good friends. The other benefit to my blossoming adult social life is that I’ve been able to pursue interests that I didn’t have time for in school – cooking and my music. I cook nearly every day and it gives me life (and doesn’t hurt in terms of my health – less eating out!). In the summer, I took my guitar to lake every Sunday and spent time reflecting and getting lost in the music.

So, Derek? How About 2015? Resolutions?

Anyone that knows me knows that I don’t set resolutions or goals by the flip of a calendar page. Sure, I use New Year’s as a mark to look back at things, but I try to better myself year-round. Goal-setting should be a constant, and for me, it is. That said, I’m happy to set an overall theme for 2015 – something that my evolving goals might speak to. For me, the goal of 2015 is: Don’t Be Afraid.

As you might see from my 2014 takeaways, I spent a lot of time holding myself back from achieving or from a personal sense of success. I’ll be the first to admit that I have crippling impostor syndrome at times (despite my cool, composed exterior). I have big plans for 2015 and my theme for this year is to blaze the trail – to live bravely and authentically. Whatever the goal, fear (whether of failure or success) isn’t going to be what holds me back.

Live boldly with me – what would you do if you weren’t afraid of failure?

Happy New Year!

You Big Drip: or, Why I Won’t Do the Ice Bucket Challenge

There is no denying that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has done some great things. You’ll never hear me say that the millions they have received in support is a bad thing. However, what you will hear me say is that many people are still missing the mark – particularly those that take on the approach of “Do it OR donate” – the ultimatum of philanthropy is ridiculous. Also – setting a donation amount (like $100, for example) assumes that people are in a financial situation that allows them to donate that much. If you can afford to donate that much, great. If you can’t – also ok! Instead, when challenging others to engage by donating, encourage them to donate what is within their means and financially responsible.

“But I’m raising awareness, Derek,” you may cry! Are you? If you learned something new (beyond ALS is a neurodegenerative disease – congratulations, you read one line of Wikipedia!) and can communicate it, you have raised awareness. Good on you – nothing wrong with that. If you simply dumped ice water on your head and said “this is for ALS” you have taken an incredibly passive approach in the hopes that someone else will do the work to raise their own awareness. You mentioned ALS – you didn’t talk about it or why it’s important to research (for those of you that don’t know, ALS has no known cure). Again – if you’ve done this, good. But if you haven’t, then be honest with yourself and go back to learn something or teach something from this trend. It isn’t too late.

Aside from that, my next problem is that this challenge combats one issue by exploiting another – clean water and access. In the USA, we are fortunate to have regular access to clean water; this is not the case in many countries. Consider how your giant bucket of water is a resource and could be better used. In fact – consider the fact that much of the Western and Southwestern United States in currently in drought. Perhaps consider donating to a philanthropy that works to provide access to clean water, like Wine to Water. Nearly 2.5 billion people worldwide are impacted by poor sanitation and lack of access to clean water (per Wine to Water). The interconnectedness of these issues (and many philanthropic causes) is an important consideration to make.

My final problem with viral philanthropy is that it is, at best, passive and fleeting. You donated once. You raised awareness (maybe). I understand that money is deeply personal and you may not be able to afford donating. No problem – I respect that. But what you can do is be a philanthropist of your time. That’s right – you can donate your time towards improving your community. Find a cause in your community that interests you and do some community service. You don’t need money to do it. You can sustain it. You can be part of a solution. But the best part? Once you’re on the ground doing some of the work and learning the issues, you can be a real advocate for raising awareness by inviting others to join you in regular community service.

In short – you won’t see me pouring water over my head, of my own personal convictions. Instead, I intend to make budget-sensible donations to the ALS Foundation and Wine to Water. But beyond that, you can find me volunteering my time in my community. I’m making that commitment now; stay tuned, I’ll blog about it in the future.

Jammin’ to the Beat of Leadership

Last night I participated in #SLchat for the first time, so that I may interact more with Student Leaders outside of my own institution and help advance some of the conversation. I’m still a freshly minted #SApro (my one year anniversary is in 4 weeks from now!) and I’m not THAT far removed from where some of these great student leaders are now. It’s nice to reconnect outside of my daily responsibilities.

What’s more is that for my first joining as a guest to #SLchat, the conversation was about one of my favorite things: music. For those of you that don’t know me, music has been a central part of my life since childhood. I grew up in a family of musicians and in my musical journey I’ve (at one time or another) picked up about 11 instruments and played them (to varying degrees of success…). I’ve played in bands on and off for years, and I still do open mic nights. I have a degree in theatre and a special love for musical theatre. So when I saw the topic was about music, I fired up my library of 25,000 songs and settled in. It was a great conversation (and I urge you to look at the transcript of it in the #SLchat archives on their website when it is posted).

In the conversation, I challenged participants to come up with a playlist that helps us determine who they are. It can be about their identity, their culture, their favorite pump up songs… whatever! I chose a few of my favorites to share as well, around some of my thoughts on leadreship. They aren’t in any particular order and these are just a few of the first ones that came to mind (with a library of 25,000 I could spend days looking for 10 songs). There are lots of great songs about leadership. Share some of yours in the comments. Without further ado, here are mine:  

  1. Dream On – Aerosmith – For me, leadership always allows for innovation and dreaming big. One of my top strengths in Strengths Quest is “Ideation” – so this song is always a reminder to keep dreaming til those dreams come true!
  2. Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) – Eurythmics – Continuing with the dreaming theme, this 80s classic is more about working to make dreams a reality. Sometimes you’ll find obstacles to making dreams a reality. Leadership is about overcoming those obstacles – as the lyrics say, “Hold your head up–Keep your head up–MOVIN’ ON”
  3. Backwards with Time – The Avett Brothers – I’ve always been drawn to folk music, and The Avett Brothers are a top 10 (maybe even top 5) favorite group of mine. I own their entire discography and this song stands out for me in ways that are a little different. At times, leadership can be confusing and can cause us to wonder if we’re moving backwards. I believe it is a part of the process and that, sometimes, we must move backwards to push on forward. 
  4. Learning to Fall – Lowen & Navarro – a family favorite and friend, Eric Lowen was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and wrote this song. As he says, “There are good days and bad days, and good parts of bad days and bad parts of good days” – leadership is learning to handle falling with grace.
  5. Lean On Me – Bill Withers – A favorite of many, “Lead On Me” is that constant reminder that leadership isn’t a solo journey and that you can and should lean on your network when you need it. Remember – it’s a two way street – make sure that you’re there for others to lean on, too!
  6. With a Little Help From My Friends – The Beatles – In the same vein as “Lean On Me,” this Beatles classic tells it like it is in my life. Sometimes it takes a village to succeed – my friends are my village. 
  7. I Can See Clearly Now – Jimmy Cliff (Originally, Johnny Nash) – Another take on one of my top strengths (Positivity), “I Can See Clearly Now” is all about optimism for me. it’s a song about that beacon of light in the darkness and persevering.
  8. Compass Point – Lowen & Navarro – I try not to put two songs by the same artist in any playlist, but this is the exception – and for good reason. “Compass Point” is all about the journey and the process – it doesn’t end. Leadership is an ongoing process with many unknowns and pitfalls – but we face them boldly.
  9. Who Are You? – The Who – I usually set this song for upbeat reflection and sharing in a group – for me, this song isn’t just about self-reflection, but really standing and making a strong declaration about who you are to others. As a leader, it is absolutely critical to take the time to get to know those you collaborate with and serve. Ask them and ask often, “Who Are You?”
  10. Man in the Mirror – Michael Jackson – In my leadership journey, I’ve discovered that self-reflection and assessment is critical in growing, leading, and making a change. The King of Pop says the change starts with you. I think it’s a pretty good jumping off point! Take a look at yourself and make that change!

I hope you enjoy some of the tunes (linked!) – I was going to embed a Spotify playlist, but based on our chat last night, I realized that not everyone has access to it, so I decided linking YouTube videos might be a better way to get it out there to folks!

Share you favorites in the comments, tweet me @DerekBundy, and tell me what gets your foot tapping!



Welcome & Why I’m Blogging

Welcome to my blog! For a little more context about who I am (in brief), you can visit my “About” section. Naturally, there is more to me than what I share in the “About” section of this blog – and as I post, I expect that it will become evident exactly who I am.

Which brings me to the purpose of this blog – Who Am I? I do not reflect nearly as much as I should. I’ve blogged on and off for years, but it was trite, and felt forced. I’ve come to a time in my life, however, where reflection through writing comes more organically. I know I need to take more time to really put some thought into who I am, both personally and professionally. I’d like to think I’m self-aware and have a reasonably strong sense of self. However, I strongly desire to be able to track my journey – to learn from my past self. Frankly, my Facebook photos and status updates don’t quite cut it in the way that I thought they would. It is my hope that this record of my journey is one that I can interact with and that my community is able to share in it. This is not a solo trip.

So there you have it. The “why” of my blog. And now, in true student affairs fashion, some expectations about my blog:

  • I will not post on a schedule – only when I am moved to or need time for more focused reflection. If I don’t have something to say, I won’t say it. If I’m committing it to writing, it must be authentic.
  • These reflections may be on my personal or professional life. My life is a culmination of all of my identities and roles, and I refuse to focus solely on one. If I am dwelling too much on any one thing, call me out on it.
  • The thoughts expressed here are mine and mine alone (unless otherwise cited, credited, or linked). We all slip at times, call me out if I’m not giving credit where it is due.
  • I will respect myself and others in my musings.

Simple though they may be, these are my guideposts. I’ll be checking myself against these guideposts as I write. So here we are – I’m excited for the journey; to chart where I’ve been and where I’m going.

Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring