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leading and migrating

June 27, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

Changing spaces is hard. When you are at a brick and mortar campus, it means there’s a ton of dust and stairwells are blocked off and hard-hat wearing construction workers outnumber your team members. And then things like your office space change and your live out of boxes and it’s just an all around messy process.

It turns out, changing spaces in an online campus is just as messy but in a super sanitary manner (if that dichotomy is even possible.) At the school I work for, we’re in the process of doing a massive migration where over the course of four weeks everything from our LMS to our lecture delivery system to our student records database is changing. The first three weeks were manageable and I was able to assume a zen-like sense of calm as I did bite-sized chunks of work each day but never let myself get overwhelmed. This week (aka final week before we go live)…not so much. It seems the closer the deadline gets the more everything seems to fall apart, go down, or just get janky. The only thing zen in my life this past week has been the calming chant music I’ve been listening to and even that is beginning to wear thin.

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and now for something completely different….

June 26, 2014

lisa hammershaimb


On Leadership

June 20, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

Coming up on my sixth month in the not-so-new-to-me position I now hold, I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership and what I’ve learned so far. At the beginning, one of my major concerns wast that I’d burn out or that I just wouldn’t have what it takes to command attention and actually lead. Good news is I am still going strong (and oddly enough way more intentional about personal boundaries than I ever was in previous roles) and I have a team that not only says yes to things but actually says yes with an excitement to them when I propose new and somewhat madcap ideas! So I’d say the leadership thing is something I definitely can hack.

Here’s what I think is the best crazy thing I’ve learned in my tenure thus far: When you are leading a team, the most important thing isn’t that you are always in control or you always dictate the next move, rather it’s that you take the time to get to know your team members well enough so that you can arrange for them to enter into positions where they will shine—where their strengths will kick in to turbo gear and they will take off. As a leader, I have the unique agency to create those situations and as a leader, there’s nothing better than seeing my team members hit their stride because the synergy from that is endless.

You need to be in control and have control but I think when the cool stuff happens it really is when you let go of that control and just sit back and allow yourself to be dazzled as everyone comes alive.

And here’s the hardest thing I’ve learned in my tenure thus far: Sometimes the best thing for people isn’t to be on your team anymore and yet they don’t want to risk the move. Change is scary and unknown and the mediocrity of where they are is preferable to the potentially awesome but also potentially awful beyond. I don’t know how to deal with these people yet…navigate these places and be this sort of brave.

Overall these six months have been so so so good for me and also for my school. Legit I am itchy in my job (as I seem to be in any situation after about a week and once it’s moved from total fear to being somewhat routine…it’s a sick sick thing that I can both totally fear change for all its newness and also secretly crave it like nothing else.) But for now I am committed to learn and I could not ask for a better team to lead as I do.

Literature Review = Dinner Party with “Experts”

June 15, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

So Week 2 of MOOC-land is almost over. I’ll admit this week I’ve become dangerously close to being a drop-out statistic. Don’t get me wrong…I didn’t mean to not log in, not read, not post, and generally disappear but things got busy and World Cup started and I had a dinner party, changed my hairstyle, and did summer-life-stuff. And…to be completely honest I was a little turned off by this week’s topic, namely “Literature Review.”

I’ve never done a literature review but in my mind it seems like in order to do one you just have to sit and read and read and read some more and everything has to be dry and boring and “academic” and it will mostly turn into one giant slog-fest of boredom. “Experts” feel old, stuffy, and dated to me and while I know that’s both unfair and untrue to them…I still can’t quite erase the idea from my head.

And then everything changed…..

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day 3: exploring abundance

June 11, 2014

lisa hammershaimb


My new thing to be a bit obsessed with is how to help students (and even ourselves/our staff) navigate and delight in the world of knowledge abundance that we’re living in. I recently watched a YouTube of Bonnie Stewart talking about abundance and scarcity and it was awesome stuff. Thus far I’ve got nothing composed but hand-lettering but….I think this is a super important topic and one I want to dig a bit more into.

day 1: on being a positive MOOC statistic

June 9, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

So, last week I began a MOOC (I’m going to tentatively call it my first MOOC ever…I tried to start one back in January but didn’t really do it because everything started in January…good news is I was in it just long enough to meet a new member of Cohort 7 and establish a great Twitter friendship but that’s another story…blog post.)

So, last week I began Understanding Research Methods from Coursera. I thought that the whole research methods thing would be a great way for me not to lose all I’d recently learned in 802 and the somewhat structured environment of a class (even a class as free wielding as a MOOC) would keep me more accountable…more likely to actually live as a doctoral student in the day to day part of my identity and not just as an impressive bit of party trivia at summer soirees.

Turns out…it’s pretty awesome. Though I’m only a week into things there are a couple standout moments which I’ll just list because it’s late and I’m tired (but also a bit guilty feeling because I’ve not written for a few days. Actually no…I’ve been MOOC-writing so maybe I should just stop all this rambling and go to sleep. But I’ve made it this far so an orderly list with clever and pithy numbered points won’t kill me.)

MOOC Epiphanies From Week 1
(from a girl who admittedly was a little skeptical because even though she’s being supervised by the original MOOC-creator…she’s kind of read enough articles and sipped enough anit-MOOC kool-aid to kind of think that maybe all the cool kids are more in the ironic + skeptical camp than the believer tribe therefor she should be too…)

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June 5, 2014

lisa hammershaimb


Two posts in one day because I’m kind of an overachiever. Haha..not. But I am almost finished with my faculty presentation about massive change, burn out, and other such fun topics that make everyone feel warm and fuzzy inside. This is one slide and kind of encapsulates the some of the style of it all for right now. Actually, who am I kidding…this kind of encapsulates my style for everything. Open, minimal, modern and of course…orange-love.


day 3: have a question?

June 4, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

Me too!

First new blog adjustment in over a year means I now have a space in my menu bar (on the upper right corner to be exact) to record random, iterative, questions-with-no-answers. In addition the other pages I never updated anyways (“books”….seriously, who reads anymore? “travels and people to meet”….ditto. who travels anymore it’s all webcam all the time, right?) have been hidden for a while.

Unfortunately the graphics are still at the bottom because I really like them and can’t quite remember how to unlink them….but I’m thinking at some point I’ll remember. Maybe that’s a good question to add to my new page….

day 2: gettin’ it done and being the bachlorette

June 3, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

So yesterday night while driving to a Bachlorette viewing party (pro tip: this is how one best balances the rigors of being an academic dean of an online program…mega drama, make out sessions, and lots of mascara + sequins…awesome) I was listening to a podcast from my new favorite pod-caster, designer, and design educator, Mitch Goldstein. Mitch co-hosts at Through Process. The podcast I was hoping to hear was all about the VCFA Low-Residency Graphic Design MFA Program run by Silas Munro but it wasn’t posted yet so instead I listened to a conversation between Mitch, Nancy Skolos, and Thomas Wedell.

Nancy and Thomas are married (I think) and have been with Rhode Island School of Design for 20+ years. They spoke with Mitch primarily about how their design-making practice has influenced their design-teaching practice and vice versa. Then, as podcasts do, they rambled down several other pleasant side trails like: Does graphic design even mean anything anymore? (nope…well, maybe but maybe not.) What is the best skill a student can have when they grad? (ability to Google so that they can take advantage of all that is out there and not be limited by their own small frame of reference of skill set….woah! never heard that one before! : ) Does curriculum’s obsessive focus on the final project rather than the initial exploration phase ultimately neuter students’ creativity before they even start? (yep….well, most likely but maybe it is just a necessary evil with accreditation and all.)

It was a great conversation to hear and it made me realize how much I miss being in a space and school where I can have these types of conversations with my own faculty on a regular basis. Legit I love my team but it seems with both our program structure and geographically distant disbursement having these types of super heady chats about everything and nothing just don’t happen often.

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day 1: vocalization

June 2, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

So last entry I may have gotten a little overly emotional about this whole doctoral thing. It was the weekend after a long week and I think all my filters lowered concurrently with me deciding to write and the dawning of a new month…perfect storm to call out the inner teenage girl angst-ridden portion of my artistic soul. Identity and its construct have been one of my constant obsessions from my late teens onward and I think I’m only now beginning to see what when I begin using language like “finding myself” or “growing into myself” it generally means (A) there’s a lot of other stuff that’s been going on externally to destabilize me and (B) I’ve generally been drinking too much and sleeping too little in an effort to silence the voices and find some personal clarity. When all is well being myself and actually growing as a person are occupying enough of my own psyche that I don’t need to verbalize how I need to do them…they just happen.

But anyways, the weekend meltdown did bring to light something that I think is valuable namely that I do need to root more deeply into these ideas and be intentional about this process so that I have that legitimacy, confidence, and credibility inside me. All the positive self talk in the world isn’t going to make up for sloppy work so yeah…time for the work part of the equation.

On Thursday I will be holding an all-faculty training session and, as we’re on the brink of several significant changes as an institution, have decided to present on faculty burnout. I know…total downer topic, right? Just when everyone needs a rah-rah girl to point out that the cup is way more than half full, I’m bringing up the b word. But seriously, I think our faculty has been consistently told that they need to “consider the student” and “take care of our students” and “do all you can to ease the student into this next step” and though I’m all for making the students comfortable…if my staff is burned out it means we’re losing ideas and losing the desire to take risks and generally losing out on what we do best.

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