Prompted

Summer 2017

Prompt: What's the best advice — or worst advice — you've either given or received?

In his youth my grandfather was a boxer. He taught me how to follow through on a punch by advising “always aim for the back of the skull.” It’s served me well and I think it could be a good metaphor for going all in. 

He also taught me to know my limits, though, through his example of declining an offer to box a kangaroo. He said the guy who did was never quite right afterward. The ’40s were a different time, indeed.

Before applying for the promotion that would take you the next step up the corporate ladder, take time to deeply consider whether you really want that job or not, including careful consideration of (1) what it will take to get that highly competitive promotion and (2) whether you are prepared to meet all of the demands it will impose.

My parents always reminded me that, “You can’t get what you don’t ask for.” I always take this to heart in everything I do. Take advantage of new opportunities (of all sorts), don’t wait around for the world to come to you.

When my mom passed away, a good friend said, “Be gentle with yourself.” Especially good while grieving since it is a strange creature that shows up in unexpected ways. I need to heed it far more often. 

In high school, everyone said college would be the best four years of my life. So when I was looking at schools, that’s what I looked for: Where would I have the best four years of my life? And it was such a difficult thing to ask of a school, any school. 

Now, as an admission counselor, I make sure to tell students looking at colleges that they should choose a college that will make them happy and able to be the best version of themselves, because that’s how it becomes the best four years of a person’s life. That’s why Grinnell was for me.

At the time I was stage managing a show for the theatre department and going to talk to Erik [Sanning ’89]. His wife Susan Sanning was in his office, and when I agreed to do something I didn’t have time to do, she commented, “Saying no makes your yeses mean more.” I still have a lot of trouble following this advice, but nonetheless I think of it every now and again when I’m taking on a new project.

As each of my five kids prepared to leave for college, this was the advice/wisdom I offered: “Dance with your friends.”

 

I got some great advice at the start of my career, which is that I’m the one responsible for my professional development (and my career), not my employer. Don’t take development or career for granted: It’s on you to make it happen. 

When my son was born six weeks early, a co-worker told me that all the trials and tribulations we were facing would turn out OK and just “become part of his story.” At the time, I wanted to punch the person through the phone, because I thought he was minimizing the situation and didn’t understand. However, he was right. My little guy is now an amazing 12-year-old because of all the things that are “part of his story,” and I share the idea and what it means to me now, all the time. 

Spring 2017

Prompt: Grinnell students read a great deal for their courses. What has stuck with you from your course reading, and why?

It’s not who you are — it’s where you are that matters,” Theresa Geller, associate professor of English, concluded after a lecture on Robert Stam’s and Ella Shohat’s seminal book, Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media. Prior to my arrival to Geller’s Film Analysis, Theory, and Criticism course, I had not encountered a book that critically interrogates popular culture to the extent and intensity that Stam and Shohat do with this book. 

From critiquing colonialist discourse to racist politics of casting, this book helped decolonize my mind, influence my activism, and bridge the divide between theory and practice. Now, every time I engage with activism outside of the classroom, I ask myself: “Am I helping dismantle the unjust power relations? Is this empowering the disempowered? Am I transforming the subordinating institutions and discourses?