Listen to Episode #29 here
Mark and Steph’s Calendar Of Fun
Our guests are Dr. Stephanie Green and Mark Ferne. Dr. Stephanie Green is a post-doctoral fellow at Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions and she’s joining the faculty at the University of Alberta as a Marine Biologist. Mark Ferne is the Chief Student Affairs Officer at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. He’s formerly, at least in my opinion, the youngest Dean of Students ever in the United States, maybe the world. Welcome, Steph and Mark.
Thanks for having us.
Steph, Mark, if you weren’t a Marine Biologist or a dean of students or a Chief Student Affairs officer, respectively, what would you be?
I’d be a lawyer or a traveling gypsy. It would be one, which I get to do on my day job. That would be my preferred career.
Did you think about becoming a lawyer? Did you study for the LSAT?
I studied for the LSAT. I took the LSAT, I got into law school and then I did the dangerous thing of traveling, which made me realize that if I were a lawyer, I’d spend 95% of my time in my office and 5% of the time traveling and doing the things that I enjoy. I decided to go for the flipped career model of 95% of the time traveling and a smaller proportion of time doing things that I don’t.
That caused you to choose marine biology then? If you chose chemistry, you wouldn’t have been able to travel.
Yes. I traveled to Central America where I met people who are working in marine conservation and I realized that you could make a career out of studying the ocean, studying conservation and doing things like scuba diving for a living. I decided that that was going to be the track I was going to go on and I said, “No, thank you,” to law school.
What law school missed out on you?
The University of British Columbia in Canada, which is a good law school.
Did you have an aptitude for science? Clearly, you had an aptitude for taking standardized tests. Did you have to fight to become a marine biologist? You’re just getting your career started but you’re incredibly successful already.
[bctt tweet=”Ask questions about the world and work with groups of people that figure out how to help you answer those questions.” via=”no”]
It’s funny how many people I meet that say, “I always wanted to be a marine biologist.” There definitely is a large supply of us that have tried to go into this field. I feel incredibly lucky that I’m able to work and find a job in it. I would say I’m not sure that science has a direct aptitude, but I have an aptitude for risk-taking and getting out and exploring nature, which fit well with marine science.
You need to be good at science to be a marine biologist. Lots of people want to be a marine biologist but they don’t want to be biologists or they want to be a marine biologist but they don’t have the chops to be a biologist. I was at your wedding and everybody talked about how smart you are. Why are you so smart?
I don’t think I’m smart. The scientist thing is a thing that people look at and they think, “Science is so hard. I don’t think I could ever be a scientist.” You just ask questions about the world and you work with groups of people that figure out how to help you answer those questions.
You run mathematical models.
I do my own taxes, all these things inside. That must come from being smart I guess.
I remember when Mark met you, and I spent some time with you. Afterwards, we had a phone call and I said, “Mark, we should never forget that Steph is smarter than both of us.”
I’m just trying to allow you both into a false sense of security, so you can pounce.
You were good at math as a kid?
No, I cried all the way through sixth-grade math. I wouldn’t say that I was good at it. I’m not sure whether it was a product of the way it was taught to me or if I had this preconceived notion that I wasn’t going to be good at it. It all came back to a traumatic event that happened when I was ten years old. I was in fourth grade and it’s the first time that you’re given a letter grade for anything. You’ve always had those flowery written comments that your teacher gives back to you and we’ve got As, Bs.
Stay as close to the lines.
Our teacher was so kind and Mrs. Postman said, “Everyone, we’re going to get our grades now but before you see what I’ve given you, I want you to sit down and give yourself grades. I want you to think about all the subjects that we’ve done and give yourself an A, B, C or whatever.” I gave myself C+ in every possible subject except for math. I gave myself an A in math. I was like, “I’m so good at math.” When I get my actual report card, I get straight As and everything, and I got a C in math. I was like, “Holy crap. My world is shattered. My confidence is destroyed.” If I’d listen to what I got in fourth-grade math, maybe I wouldn’t have taken this path. I didn’t, so here I am.
Mark, you’ve had some time to think about what you would do if you weren’t in student affairs.
For the last few minutes, I pretended to be listening to Steph, but I was thinking in my mind, “What would I be doing instead of seeing affairs work?” I will be joining Steph in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada when she starts her new position and my career path is unknown at this point.
What are you going to do?
I’ll finally reach my life goal and if you ask me what I would be doing in my junior high school, I’m going to be a stay-at-home husband. Not even a dad, just a stay-at-home husband.
The term was, “Man of leisure.”
The term that we’ve decided on is nestcock.
This is exactly why you guys qualified to be on this podcast because of that statement.
I never met anyone until Mark, an accomplished man, a professional, well-established in his career, lots of opportunities, who had marriage as such an integral part of his next career move and life path forward outside.
[bctt tweet=”Little things could go a long way.” via=”no”]
Like his career was just getting in the way.
You hear about that terrible fallacy of the ‘60s of women going to university to get their Mrs. and it’s like, “Is this man playing the long game with me to get his Mr.? Is this what’s happening here?”
Mark, I want to put forth a hypothesis for what you would be doing. You should be in event planning in some way, shape or form or like managing a bar or a restaurant or something that involves putting together parties. We made this decision to do this pod rather in an impromptu way. Steph and I were having a long debate, you were party planning. Talk about your love of party planning.
I don’t know what the history is. I was as an event planner when I was at my undergrad. I was on the programming board and helped plan events for the college community and my fellow students. I had comedians and bands come through and tried to put on good events. In that sense, it’s something that I like to organize and have a good time with friends and family and put things together. The party that you were referring to is the Kentucky Derby Party.
This is not a regular Kentucky Derby Party. I’ve been to it before. You will have two ponies. You’re located in Salt Lake City. You get the Jazz Bear, the mascot. You can text the bear.
I can text the bear. I won 30 minutes with the Jazz Bear years ago at a silent auction. He was supposed to come to my house for 30 minutes. It was arranged for birthday parties or something for kids. I had a variety of suggestions. My friends would be like, “You should borrow the mascot for the Westminster Griffin and when the bear shows up for your 30 minutes, you start eating the Griffin mascot and then you’re like, ‘You said 30 minutes with the bear.’” We ended up deciding on using him at a Kentucky Derby Party. It was well-received. People loved it.
The issue in the first year was we had the pony race occurring when the bear comes up and he rides his motorcycle. If you’ve been to an NBA game, you see mascots shoot T-shirt cannons up to the crowd. He would have like a confetti cannon. He came barreling into the backyard and started firing this confetti cannon. The ponies lost their minds. The kids, one almost got thrown off. One got decapitated from a pear tree. It was chaos. Then there was like, “You’ve got to warn the ponies when the bear is going to fire weapons in the backyard.” That got a little out of control, but the bear had such a good time that he comes back every year if The Jazz doesn’t have a playoff game. First Saturday of May, he comes. I don’t have to pay him anything. He shows up and has a good ole time.
The thing is he plans parties all the time. Our life is like one big party. We have a calendar, six months in advance, of all of the fun things that we’re doing that Mark does.
It’s called the Calendar of Fun.
It is indeed called the Calendar of Fun or the COF, as I like to call it. The F can stand for variable things.
Do you find it sometimes hard to keep up with his social schedule?
I love it. That’s probably why this works so well. I appreciate having Mark in my life that is so energetic and wants to get out there and plan things. The Calendar of Fun, you’ve got to understand, it’s not just one calendar. It’s breeding, multiplying and spreading to the point where we both have our own versions of the calendar. There are also versions online as well.
I’m involved in some of this. Unfortunately, this will be launched after May but we’re going to go see you two in Los Angeles and we’re going to go to the Magic Castle, which we’re all excited about doing.
One thing you might notice about May, there are not a lot of blank spaces.
The 13th, 14th and 15th are open.
That’s in Colorado. We’re in Monterey, then Derby day, then Commencement, then LA. The Memorial Day weekend, we don’t have it booked yet. I thought we were going to do something but then Steph was like, “We’re going to Asia for five weeks the Wednesday after so maybe we should pack.” In June, we’re in Asia. In July, we have to figure out.
This is a fun calendar. I have something like this. I have an Excel file where I have my weekends. I started this when I started The Humor Code. I do it by weekends mostly. A typical week, I may be somewhere else but it’s more work focused. It’s fun to look back on it because I have seven or eight years, Palestine is the first entry. That’s a neat thing to have on there and it’s a nice reminder of how vigorous my life can be.
What kinds of things don’t go on the calendar though? Does everything go in the calendar?
No, it’s mostly destination basis. If there’s a big event or where I am. You guys are on the calendar. That’s a big event.
Calendaring, planning, getting people to come together, planning fun that goes to Mark, he does this all the time. Finding a way for him to get paid to do so is the next thing. Sacrificing our quality of life in terms of our own Calendar of Fun, this is on the horizon of what’s in store next.
I knew you’ve thought about other careers and Steph, you’ve thought about launching a social club at one point. I know you were looking at the Soho House as a model for this. What would an Edmonton social club look like?
It would involve curling, that’s for sure, beer and toques. Curling is a winter sport that combines shuffleboard, hockey, ice sports and beer drinking all in one. Toque is a knit cap that you wear on your head during the said sport and beer is the beverage that you drink which, coincidentally, you can drink from the age of eighteen in Alberta.
I’ve got a list of big ideas on my phone that I haven’t had time to think about.
What’s on there?
Once I say them out loud, inevitably someone will tell me, “That came out 30 minutes ago or six months ago. I know all about this.” That’s why it was a big idea. It’s a little bit late so I don’t want to share what they are because one of you two will tell me, “No, that’s been done.” It sits on my phone as something that I dream about and my bubble hasn’t been burst by reality yet.
[bctt tweet=”You either depend on friends who have been through the process or go the traditional route of finding therapists.” via=”no”]
Peter and I know you so well. Some of your traits that come through in some of those big ideas, like around counseling and mentorship.
Providing some therapy at a more social setting, coaching for recently divorced or individuals who ended long-term relationships who are a little unaware of how to get back at it.
Why do you think you’re qualified to do that?
I’ve done it.
He used to have a big old personal success story.
I taught this before. There’s this positioning. How do you position your offering in the minds of consumers? One of the key elements to that is to have a point of difference. How are you better than the existing solutions? Your “Get back in the game” idea already has a strong point of difference. If you’re a middle-aged man who gets divorced, there’s not much out there for you. You’re already offering something better than the existing solution which is talking to your buddies, maybe go see a traditional therapist who’s likely to be a woman also on top of it. The point of difference is there should be what we call a reason to believe, a because. Why should you believe that this point of difference exists? Avis’ point of difference is, “We try harder.” You’re going to get better customer service at Avis and Hertz. Their reason to believe is, “Because we’re number two. We’re not as successful, we’re going to work even harder than they do,” and so on. You have a good reason to believe, which is, “I’ve managed to bounce back.”
The evidence is through my wife. I’ve provided this resource if you will. There are a number of people who have been in tough situations who we’ve gone out and I’ve coached them through this process. Just little things that could go a long way. That’s one idea.
He already got a half-page of testimonials that he can put on the website.
We’ve talked about this. I was hoping you would allow us to discuss it. It’s a tough business model. The way the model works is if you flip it, there’s a bunch of dating coaches out there. A friend of mine purchased this. There’s this guy, Matthew Hussey. I don’t know if he’s an Aussie or a Kiwi. He’s a good-looking guy. He’s got this great accent. He gives dating advice to women. It’s a man’s view of dating. What he does is he has a lot of stuff for free. Lots of videos and little tidbits about how to text or how to do this kind of stuff. What he does is he monetizes it with a program you can sign up for so you get a lot more stuff online. He does workshops. He goes to cities. He sets it up in a hotel, a ballroom and whenever. He gets 500 women in the room, does his talks, does Q&A and gives a lot of tough love. He’s incredibly charming and his advice is pretty solid advice. I’m sure he does one-on-one coaching at a very high price yeah. For $500 an hour, he’ll do one-on-one coaching. That seems to be the kind of model. Do you think divorced dudes are looking for that?
That’s the thing. The issue is you either depend on friends who have been through that process or you go the traditional route of finding the therapists. Everyone says, “I’ll go get therapy,” and you go Google one and find one locally who might have some experience in this. It doesn’t matter who they are per se, but will someone in their 30s, 40s or 50s say, “I’m going to go do this right now?” My model theoretically would be in between the sense that it’s not quite therapy. We’re not going to go to sit on some couch and talk about the relationship with your mom, but it’s going to be a little bit more intense. It’s structured than just hanging out with your buddies to talk about what you’re doing.
That’s why I said coaching. It feels more like coaching. It’s taking a bunch of different things and putting them together like it’s part therapy, talking about how painful this is and so on. It’s part stylists like, “It’s time to get rid of those cargo shorts” and it’s part like, “You’re going to be living on your own. Your apartment cannot have this.” This is falling out of favor with the #MeToo stuff that’s like “pickup artist” stuff that was this big thing like, “How do you meet someone at a coffee shop or at a cocktail party? How do you flirt with someone or whatever because you’ve been out of the game for twenty years?”
The other thing that I’ve thought a lot about and some of it is from experience of friends or significant others. Someone posted on Facebook about the struggle that people in their 30s and 40s have, especially if you don’t have kids and you’re not into that daycare kid genre yet, is how do you connect with new friends? If you move to a new city, even if you’re at the same city, when your friends have changed their lifestyles, kids, what have you, how do you make that transition to finding a wider social circle? People struggle with that. There’s this other piece of figuring out how one can develop the skills to my party planning?
I had a party several years ago that was based on a party you threw at your house. It was Stranger Danger Party and Six Degrees of Separation Party. I said, “The only way you get to come to my party on Saturday night is if you bring someone who I’ve never met before.” It’s Salt Lake City, they call it Small Lake City. It can be a challenge, especially when you’ve lived there as long as I have like I know a lot of people. People still talk about that party years later. We met so many people. We had an org chart on the wall that we drew lines, but it allowed others to connect. Even at the Derby party, we get friends like Jesse and Matt. We’re like, “We’re so glad we went to the Derby party last year because we met all these new friends that we needed to meet.” People struggle with that. If you’re not connecting at work with friends or in your community in some way. How do you find fun people?
[bctt tweet=”Traveling and pursuing hobbies and interests keeps us interesting in the other person’s eyes because you got a lot going.” via=”no”]
I moved here when I was 34. My friendship structure here is deeper now. I’ve got closer relationships obviously, but I had a much larger one then. People have coupled up, they’ve had kids and it’s harder to see them. We have to plan weeks in advance and things like that. I’ve felt like my friendship group here in Boulder, Denver has shrunk a lot. I should probably have another Stranger Danger Party. That party was ridiculous. They do call it stranger danger for a reason.
There is a danger element to it.
There was a dance party at the end.
There was some dance party. I can’t say everything that was happening because these were strangers acting dangerously. Steph, what would you think of Mark pursuing the “get back in the game?”
It’s a great idea. As you guys were discussing that, I was thinking that part of what “getting back on your feet” means isn’t just launching yourself back into another long-term relationship. A lot of people get so comfortable and narrow their relationship field to this one person. Why it’s sometimes partly so catastrophic is that you become a little bit more isolated. If it focuses on helping people make friendships and become comfortable on themselves, that’s great. That’s one of the things that I appreciate most about Mark and he might assume the same about me, is that we both enjoy having a large network of friends. Traveling, pursuing hobbies and interests and it keeps us interesting in the other person’s eyes as well too because we both got a lot going on and we bring that to the table.
That’s obvious to me. That was clear at your wedding, just the amount of people there and the way they talked about you guys. This idea has come up a surprising number of times in these conversations. What’s interesting is people view divorce as a failure, but yet like any traumatic experience, it actually also offers the opportunity for growth. Everybody’s always focused on how the media, the researchers, everything about the post-traumatic stress and about the challenges of having these kinds of bad shocks in your life. There is always the possibility for them to result in something good. The suggestion is that with a bit of coaching, it might provide the opportunity impetus, “Are you going to start a new career? Are you going to relocate to that place you’ve always wanted to? Are you going to make changes to your health and wellbeing that you weren’t because you weren’t in a good place? Are you going to lose weight?” Mark, here’s a question for you. When do you do the haircut? Let’s suppose you have client X. He’s a 40-year-old guy, divorced after ten years, letting himself go a little bit. Do you roll out the haircut, the redesign, the overhaul early or later? When does it happen?
It’s client by client. Some people can’t necessarily take that feedback and when you gave it to me about my hair, I thought people still like the Zack Morris look from Saved by the Bell. I thought it was working for me. I went home and cried a little bit. It took a while and it certainly changed perspectives. For a lot of people, it’s obvious like, “Let’s change all this.” That’s why these makeover shows are so well-received and everybody loves them. Every other day on The Today Show they have some housewife or househusband makeover. I was trying to be inclusive, but I don’t remember many househusband makeovers on their show.
Have you seen the new Queer Eye for The Straight Guy on Netflix? It’s good. It’s a lot deeper than it used to be. It would be a good model because they basically have four or five guys and they each specialize in something else. They not only do a physical makeover on this dude, but they help him redo his house or apartment. They help to give him skills like, “Here’s how to cook this dish, here’s how to host a dinner party.” The thing that is touching about the show and why it’s received a lot of critical acclaims, it’s weird to say “critical acclaim” for a reality TV show but it has, is that there’s a psychological makeover. These guys come in and boost this guy’s confidence and self-esteem. It’s not that they lack self-esteem because they feel ugly. They become ugly because they lack self-esteem. Both of those things have to get fixed.
You don’t often have a group of people that are so invested in you and helping you become self-aware and understand what’s going on for you. The intentionality of that also feels nice for someone who’s going through that show. Is there a Queer Eye for The Straight Girl show too? Did they focus on men only on this show?
It is men only. The tension between the sexuality of the two groups. In some ways, you can only be as good as your friends and family are in many ways. Steph, I’ve only known you for a few years now but I’ve known Mark now for eighteen years or something like that. Regularly, he’ll say things to me like reflect things back that he’s observed that I couldn’t have necessarily come up with myself. Good friends do that. They pay attention. They care enough to say it even when you may not always want to hear it.
I want to ask you guys another set of questions. Despite being on different sides of academia, one on the scholarly side and one on the student affairs side. You both have overlapping and professional interests in diversity and inclusion. Steph, you’re in Colorado. You gave a talk at CSU about this topic within your field. Mark, you’ve been dealing with this since day one of your grad program. You give talks so on and so on. That’s not why you two got together. It’s not that you met at a diversity inclusion conference or something like that, but yet this has emerged as something that you both care about. What’s going on with that?
Working in conservation which is so much about relationships between people in the environment and trying to change those in constructive ways. I am in a position where I am a Canadian woman working at a university in North America, but working internationally in a lot of developing countries. We have a diversity problem in our field in particular, in terms of representing the views and perspectives of the people that these problems affect. It hinders our ability to get that work done.
That sounds like an abstract thing that a scientist would say.
How can I come into a small island nation in the Caribbean and pretend to know what it’s like to be a daughter in a coastal fishing family that’s living on a few thousand dollars a year? Facing a changing climate, declining fish populations, food insecurity and a bunch of other things? How can I possibly know what a relevant solution for those problems is if I’m not living that life and I’m not necessarily going to know all the ramifications of some of the changes that might be coming?
[bctt tweet=”It’s that outside colonialist view that’s pervaded some of these science principles have been implemented that’s caused a lot of mistrust.” via=”no”]
What would someone who came to that village from your world try to do?
What has been in practice for a couple of decades now is large organizations with a lot of backing, coming into a place and saying, “We know how to fix this problem. We’re going to set up a marine protected area, which is an area where nobody can fish. Since nobody is fishing there, the fish are going to come back and fifteen, twenty years down the road, the problem of declining fish stocks here is going to be solved and you can start fishing again.” What happens in the intervening time, in that fifteen years? How are you making a living? What are your options?
It’s that outside colonialist view that’s pervaded and the lens through which some of these science principles have been implemented that’s caused a lot of mistrust. It’s not addressed some of the problems and so now we’re saying, “Why is that young woman who grew up in that community, what are the barriers to her becoming a scientist and engaging in solving some of these problems or a leader in her community?” How can we help to address that set of problems and those barriers rather than the fishing exclusively? Why are we not trying to support what’s happening internally? That’s one lens on diversity and Mark is wonderful in that he brings a whole different other perspective working with students that are affected by the way the ideas they are taught. Either speak to their background or don’t, based on the professors they encounter and the experiences they have. We have a lot of discussions that are from different perspectives but talking about some of the same issues.
What’s the overlapping you see, Mark?
This is a whole different podcast. It could be a whole new series. I’m sure there are a lot that will speak to these questions and issues. I come home with situations all the time about what the student experiences, especially for our historically underrepresented students of color on our college campuses. First-generation students who lack the support networks at home, in the community colleges and university settings. It’s certainly a top-of-mind type of concern that anyone who is a faculty or staff member at any college or university should be thinking about critically consistently. I’m often surprised when those conversations aren’t happening. The fact that this is like, “Mark, Steph, you have this in common.” I would hope everyone has this in common. That’s the bottom line to say these are things that we should be discussing and thinking about to help support our students, faculty and staff of color but also to move the needle on what’s happening in society and what we could do to help this world be a better place, one day at a time.
I’m going to purposely ask this question in a naïve way since I’m part of a college campus. The universities, its main focus is to create knowledge and to pass that knowledge along, so then the question is, “Why?” There are people out there who say folks who have the highest grades should get in, it’s sink or swim and pull yourself up by your bootstraps and so on. Why? What is the argument from a pathological standpoint?
Pull out all the research. Research has been proven in the last ten to twenty years. There have been people who do these types of studies and work that say, “Institutions that have people sitting at the table, making decisions, helping inform what the next move is for that particular organization, if they have diverse thoughts, diverse lived experiences, they can speak up.” That ends up helping the entire institution and society in ways that you’ve got a bunch of straight white men sitting around the table making decisions. Look how that’s ended up in the last 200 years. That’s the important piece that needs to be addressed.
[bctt tweet=”We should be discussing about what’s happening in society and what we could do to help this world be a better place one day at a time.” via=”no”]
I’ve got some nice feedback from the talk I gave in Colorado, which was afterward in a conservation class, the students were talking about the talk I had given. This one young woman said, “I want to be just like Stephanie Green.” I love to hear that, but if it means that this young woman could identify with me and see herself pursuing a career in science and conservation and doing that work because she saw something that in her eyes, was the similarity between us that she could follow up on. To me, that’s important. I am a heterosexual, white woman, working at an institution in America. I know how I might resonate with some students, but I’m certainly not going to be a role model for everyone. For students from underrepresented groups across the country, where are their role models in our universities? Latinos and the Latinas, African-American individuals, are they in these roles in academia so that students can look up to them and have someone to say, “I can identify with you. I can do this work and be in this field.”
Just in your field, 7% STEM PhDs are female? To have a student in a class say, “I want to be like Dr. Green.”
I pushed you on this because it’s important to know why it’s important. I see that universities have multiple goals. It’s not just to educate and to create but it’s to provide opportunity. Any successful society takes care of its poor people, in the sense that you create a workforce and you allow people to make the most of their opportunities. Obviously, if you do not create a place that’s safe and encouraging that has mentors, that drives financial resources to allow people to do this, we know that it works.
Steph and I were talking about the amazing strides that women have made in education in the last twenty years. The changes are magnificent. We know that providing a level playing field, encouragement, mentorship and so on, can have that kind of an effect. What’s interesting is this notion of diversity in general. You can pick out places where diversity creates a stronger structure than a lack of diversity. In your financial instruments, you’re saving for retirement, diversity is good. Within an organization, in terms of creativity and innovation, new ideas, diversity is good. Enough rain forest, diversity is good. There’s this interesting thing where it starts to cut across domains. You could find some common set of conditions that show that it provides a hedge. It has multiple inputs.
It’s an insurance policy in some way too and also helps to make sure that the decisions you make are relevant, that are going to achieve the goals that you want. You asked, “What is the common thread for us in this vein?” One of the key things is that Mark and I have had the opportunity to travel a lot, to interact with people from many different cultures and backgrounds. We’ve both come from backgrounds where we didn’t necessarily grow up in households that had a ton of financial resources, but we now have good jobs. We have interacted with a lot of people in our lives and so we’ve benefited from those diverse relationships and so when we go into a setting where we see that’s not happening, it’s a common point for both of us.
Clearly, you guys have a fun side but to show that you have the serious side that is complemented by that, is important. We’re going to finish with two questions. What are you watching, reading or listening to that stands out as superb? It’s not run-of-the-mill good, but good.
I’m late to this party but I’m at the same time and actually back-to-back, I’m reading Lean In and also Option B, which are two books that are focused on the real challenges that women are feeling in leadership. Sheryl Sandberg, who is a phenomenal writer, very interesting and easy to access material, but I have to find the times when I’m going to read it because it can’t be for relaxation. I get fired up when I read the books. There’s a lot of content in there and her experience is rich. It got me thinking, I know a lot of women colleagues who read those two books, but I’m not sure how many men in my life have read them and it’s an important set of books to read for everybody.
When I have speakers in my class, I give them a book. The first year, I gave them my book which felt weird. The second year, I couldn’t give them my book because sometimes they come back and they’re like, “I don’t need two of these bad books.” One bad, one is enough, so one year I gave Originals, that Adam Grant book. This year I gave Option B.
We like to watch The Blue Planet, Planet Earth, but Steph is always spoiling. I read the Krakauer book, Missoula, about sexual assault that happened in the University of Montana. It’s not his best work. Into Thin Air is fantastic, and Into the Wild. It speaks to what’s been happening on college campuses, especially since 2011 with the Dear Colleague Letter. Someone said, “All females should read this book,” and I was like, “No. Everyone should.” It talks about consent, it talks about alcohol, talks about college and hookup scenes. It’s quite enlightening and disturbing. It speaks to the reality that so many institutions are facing with what’s the role of higher education administrators versus the role of police and how sexual assault gets handled across the country.
There are going to be a lot of changes happening on college campuses. What’s the secret to success everybody knows but can’t seem to do?
Work-life balance. If you go one way over the other, you’re going to be unsuccessful. You have to find that balance between balancing what you want to do, what brings you joy, how much laughter is happening and then buckling down and doing the serious work that needs to occur.
How do you do that?
The Calendar of Fun helps. Especially early on, I tell my mentees that you need to book a flight and get out of town because otherwise, you’re going to be tempted to go. Especially in the work that I do, so many professionals live on campus. It’s impossible to get away because you’re in a college house or apartment. Booking flights and leaving the town is critical to finding some time away and reflecting on what you’re doing. That’s been a big piece. My HR office probably hates this, but I tell people when I see that they’ve been in for long hours, I would say, “Don’t come in tomorrow. Don’t take it as a vacation day. Let’s just off-the-books type thing because that’s what’s going to keep you wanting to come back every August instead of saying, “This job is killing me for the money that we make in student affairs. It doesn’t make sense to keep going on.” That’s how I’ve been successful with retaining good quality individuals who help our students succeed is by trying to be a more flexible supervisor so that they are getting that work-life balance.
The other one I see on the other side, with grad students, is it seems like there’s too much balance in a sense that it’s a tough business. There are times in life where you have to bear down a little bit more. You still have to take care of yourself obviously. You’re saying it’s like, “You go too far in a whack.” You have too much life and not enough work. You put yourself at a disadvantage in a five-year PhD. If you have too much work and not enough life, you put your health at disadvantage in a PhD. I always say that, “Grad school will amplify whatever problem you have.” It’s one of those kinds of places. You have health problems so they get worse. You have relationship problems, they get worse. You have a mental illness, it gets worse. You have weight problems, it gets worse. Just because of the challenges so finding that right amount of, “I’m getting enough stuff done that I feel good, but I also have enough things on the calendar that I look forward to.
I was going to go with baby steps here. I was going to say, “Wearing comfortable underwear and comfortable shoes.” I’d like to think that was not a genre-specific goal or fallacy, but it sure as heck affects your day, your mood and everything else about it. I still can’t get it right. “You’ve got to spend lots of money on both more than you think you should.” Sometimes it’s got to be sensibility over fashion and we screw that up all the time.
I’m going to go plug for podcast listeners, there’s a wonderful podcast called How I Built This. It’s very well-done. There is one by the creator of Spanx. I have my MBA students listen to it. It’s a great look at entrepreneurship. It’s actually connected to something you were talking about because that industry is very male-dominated. All the producers were men and all the company heads were men, the designers were men and all this kind of stuff. You needed this woman’s perspective of the problem that was there. One of the stories is she was having trouble finding a producer and the way she got it was the man’s daughter convinced him to say yes to it because this was going to be a great idea. I’m glad we decided to do this spontaneously. Thank you so much, you two.
Thanks for having us, Pete.
- Dr. Stephanie Green
- Mark Ferne
- The Humor Code
- Lean In
- Option B
- Into Thin Air
- Into the Wild
- How I Built This Podcast
- Spanx – episode on How I Built This Podcast
About Dr. Stephanie Green and Mark Ferne
Dr. Stephanie Green is an assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of Alberta. Mark Ferne is the recently retired Chief Student Affairs Officer at Westminster College in Salt Lake City.