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Be Engaged – Get your Popcorn and Mulled Cider Heeere! 

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  • The CEHD Student Success Team is all about…well, you guessed it – student success. Each team member supports that success a little differently. Some provide study tips or help you navigate conflict with peers. Others knock down barriers on your behalf, making sure that nothing gets in the way of you completing your coursework. And I, proudly, pop popcorn and mull cider at least once a semester. It’s called balance. 

    If you’ve been in CEHD long enough, you know I’m not joking about the popcorn and cider. The Student Success Team adores sending students to class with a smile and a salty snack. Believe it or not, we don’t do that just to satisfy hunger. The purpose behind the popcorn is actually much deeper – it’s about enrichment

    Dr. Ivory Berry and Brianna Alford making popcorn
    We love popcorn – almost as much as we love students!

    What is enrichment?

    Enrichment extends a student’s education beyond the classroom. It encompasses a variety of engagement opportunities that focus on developing the whole student. Examples include: participating in activities and organizations; reflecting on health and wellbeing; engaging in writing and research; sharing knowledge in new communities and cultures; establishing leadership skills and abilities; proactively preparing for the future; developing relationships with peers and mentors; and much, much more. If you’re involved at Mason in a way that helps you grow personally, academically, and professionally – and it’s not just during class – you’re most likely engaging in enrichment. 

    Why does it matter? 

    Enrichment is the free throw after a two-pointer. It’s the “and some” that seems optional and maybe even inconsequential but could ultimately cost you or save you the game. Enrichment helps students gain self- and cultural awareness; build a support network; increase and apply knowledge, skills, and abilities; and develop a sense of belonging in the college and community. Students who are plugged in and connected know when and with whom to celebrate, as well as when and where to reach out for support. This ultimately aids in persistence to graduation. 

    How to enrich your experience: 

    • We (the CEHD Student Success Team) host activities and events. Attend them.  

    Remember the popcorn I mentioned earlier? It’ll be available during our Suite 2200 Open House on Monday, August 30. We guarantee it’ll be delicious, but more importantly, it will encourage people to linger near the suite, which gives students like you a chance to connect with faculty, staff, and fellow students. Social enrichment at its best. Learn more here.

    • We oversee CEHD Clubs and Organizations. Join one.  

    There are over 400 student organizations at Mason, and our office oversees close to 10 in CEHD alone. Chances are at least one of those organizations will align with your academic or personal interests. Join one and build up your support network. Check out the CEHD student organizations here. Discover other student organizations at Mason’s Get Connected fair happening in-person on 9/1 and virtually on 9/2. Learn more here

    • We provide opportunities to strengthen and develop your skills. Participate in them. 

    Throughout the year our office offers numerous opportunities to further your skills in reading, writing, research, time management, etc. These opportunities come in the form of events (Writer’s Retreats and research symposiums), guides (like this Time Management Toolkit), and campus partnerships (like encouraging students to attend Learning Service’s upcoming workshop on How to Focus Better). Take advantage of them now – it pays to be proactive! 

    Enrichment opportunities extend well beyond the suggestions listed above, but for the sake of your time, we’ll pause there for now. Enjoy the fall ‘21 semester, CEHD students, and don’t forget to Be Engaged!  

    Brianna Alfors, CEHD Student Enrichment Coordinator

    Brianna Alford is the Student Enrichment Coordinator for the College of Education and Human Development. When she’s not devising opportunities for CEHD students to Be Engaged, she enjoys cooking, crafting, and advocating for a proper RSVP.

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    The Ripple Effect of Kindness

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  • I think we too often mistake being kind for being taken advantage of. We worry that letting a person cut in line means we don’t stand up for ourselves, or we decide it’s our responsibility to “teach them a lesson.” The problem with this mindset is that it benefits nobody, including ourselves.

    TL;DR: Random Acts of Kindness Day is on Wednesday, February 17. Click here for ideas on how to participate.

    I was in a grocery store checkout line recently and noticed a frantic-looking customer balancing a mountain of items on her person a few lanes down. I watched nonchalantly as she eyed the checkout belt longingly, counting down the minutes until she could move up in line and relieve her arms of their heavy burden.

    I didn’t think much of it at first. I had been there before, of course. We’ve all walked into a store with the best of intentions to go cart-less and get one or two items, only to have our plans quickly diverted by a tempting sale or irresistible snack. The scene playing out in front of me happened daily, I’m sure; she would just have to wait her turn like everybody else.

    Except she didn’t. The gentleman in front of her noticed her struggle and invited her to cut in front of him. She hesitated at first, but then seemed to remember her arms were giving out and moved up in line with gratitude. And then the next person invited her to cut, too, and the next, until she was finally able to set her items down on the belt. She looked back to thank them all and they smiled and waved it off like it was no big deal. But it was. In what I imagine was a split-second decision, the man who chose kindness inspired every person witnessing the occasion to follow suit. One simple gesture created a ripple effect throughout the community that I’d bet lasted far beyond that moment.

    I think we too often mistake being kind for being taken advantage of. We worry that letting a person cut in line means we don’t stand up for ourselves, or we decide it’s our responsibility to “teach them a lesson.” The problem with this mindset is that it benefits nobody, including ourselves. The person struggling to hold their items continues to move forward with their day frantically, and we go home with a pompous attitude, letting someone else’s “lack of planning” put a damper on our plans.

    What if instead we gave people the benefit of doubt and released ourselves from the grip of assumptions and perception? Perhaps letting somebody cut in line isn’t weak after all, but selfless and generous. Perhaps that frantic person isn’t scattered and in need of a lesson, but instead having to unexpectedly take care of a family member who is sick.

    Shifting our thoughts in this way and choosing kindness in ordinary moments has the profound ability to improve the mood and health of all involved. Research shows that witnessing, participating in, and receiving acts of kindness can increase energy, happiness, pleasure, endorphins, and levels of oxytocin and serotonin. Likewise, it can decrease stress, anxiety, depression, and blood pressure. It really is worth our energy and effort.

    And so, I urge us all to participate in an upcoming initiative that can help us begin choosing kindness in our lives. Wednesday, February 17, is Random Acts of Kindness Day. Will you join me in committing to at least one Random Act of Kindness, no matter how small or big, for the sake of others and ourselves?

    CEHD Student Success Grad Professional Assistant, Jennifer, has gathered some ideas to get us started. Click the image below to view them.

    Acts of Kindness flyer
    Brianna Alfors, CEHD Student Enrichment Coordinator

    Brianna Alford

    is the Student Enrichment Coordinator for the College of Education and Human Development. When she’s not devising opportunities for CEHD students to Be Engaged, she enjoys cooking, crafting, and advocating for a proper RSVP.

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    A Call to Extend Thanksgiving: The Link Between Gratitude and Wellness

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  • Choosing to be thankful only when circumstances are ideal runs the risk of spending most of our lives waiting around for a moment good enough to be grateful for.

    As we return from Thanksgiving break most of us have our eyes set on one big, beautiful prize: saying goodbye to 2020. This year has mercilessly thrown one curveball after another, nudging each of us closer and closer to a breaking point. We’re exhausted, we’re lacking focus, and we left our motivation and daytime clothes somewhere back in April or May.   

    In a time where we have every excuse in the world to be thankless, why would we extend Thanksgiving?

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    Host a virtual gathering, and follow through with it!

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  • Meeting face-to-face may not be an option right now, but hope is not lost in the ways of maintaining social connection. Virtual gatherings are quickly becoming a staple in our new, quarantined world, and we are BIG fans.

    Meeting face-to-face may not be an option right now, but hope is not lost in the ways of maintaining social connection. Virtual gatherings are quickly becoming a staple in our new, quarantined world, and we are BIG fans.

    Beyond the obvious, instantaneous perks of connecting with one another (sharing a laugh, venting frustrations, learning something new), social connections also have long-term health benefits that can lead to an increased lifespan (read more about that here).

    Once again, big fans.

    We’ve been quarantined for 3-4 weeks now, so chances are you’ve at least heard about a virtual social gathering, if not been invited to one. Now, it’s your turn to take the lead. So what is an event coordinator’s number 1 piece of advice when it comes to hosting a gathering? To actually HOST THE GATHERING, or, without shouting, to follow through with it.

    All too often events are cancelled or postponed because of a lack of preparation or a fear of awkward, uncomfortable interactions. And guests are all too accepting of the cancelation, generally for the same reasons. 

    There’s a way to overcome these issues and insecurities, and it’s really not that novel: plan ahead. A fully thought-out plan is much harder to cancel than a half-hearted “let’s Facetime sometime next week!” The catch, though, if you consider it a catch, is that planning ahead doesn’t just mean selecting a date, time, and “location.” In order to plan ahead successfully, you also need to:

    • Ensure you and your guests aren’t overbooked during the day/time of the event (this gathering should not be an inconvenience or an interruption).
    • Select a theme or activity to get your guests excited (e.g. Tea Time – Let’s spill it while we drink it!).
    • Express your enthusiasm to individual guests throughout the planning process. Guests are less likely to back out if they feel like their presence, or lack thereof, will be noticed. This isn’t meant to guilt your guests into attending, but rather to let them know you’re looking forward to connecting with them. You will both be rewarded for showing up!
    • Familiarize yourself with the platform to fend off technological difficulties.
    • Prepare some guided discussion topics to ensure the conversation flows smoothly.
    • Be ready to MC the gathering – It doesn’t matter if you’re talking to two of your best friends or ten of your colleagues; BOTH require someone to guide the conversation, especially in a time of “mute yourself until you’d like to speak.” Be ready to “call on” attendees to ask them to share or respond.
    • Be ready to end the conversation – Have an idea of how long you expect the conversation to last, and be prepared with an exit strategy. Is it time to make dinner or put the kids to bed? Wrap things up. Your attendees will be relieved that the conversation didn’t linger and become uncomfortable.
      • Our best tip? End the gathering on a high note. Many times a host will wait too long to say goodbye and guests will begin to get uneasy. That is not the feeling you want to leave them with! If you’ve been chatting for a while and just finished discussing an engaging topic, now’s your chance – close the call and leave guests with happy memories of a lively conversation.

    Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t be afraid of a few awkward moments if you and your group aren’t used to virtual gatherings. Everyone will appreciate you taking the first step, reaching out, and seeing it through – so go on and get to planning!

    Brianna Alfors, CEHD Student Enrichment Coordinator

    Brianna Alford is the Student Enrichment Coordinator for the College of Education and Human Development. When she’s not devising opportunities for CEHD students to Be Engaged, she enjoys cooking, crafting, and advocating for a proper RSVP.

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    Wellness Tip of the Week: Moderate Your Media Intake

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  • If being informed is beginning to impede on your sleep schedule, increase your anxiety, or introduce an enhanced sense of isolation or depression, it might be time to consider regulating your intake of information.

    In a time as fluid as this, it’s no surprise that the masses are hungry for information. Consumers are searching day and night for any update related to the novel coronavirus, and the media is happy to oblige and provide news around the clock.

    While the CEHD Student Success Team is a huge advocate of being informed, we also think it’s important to keep a firm grasp on your wellness, especially during a pandemic. If being informed is beginning to impede on your sleep schedule, increase your anxiety, or introduce an enhanced sense of isolation or depression, it might be time to consider regulating your intake of information.

    So how do you create the perfect balance between being informed and being well? Try out our top three tips below.

    • Find credible sources: As a student, you’ve been told over and over again to cite credible sources; the same goes for gathering information about a crisis. Find a handful of reputable, reliable sources, and use them as your go-to’s when it’s time to catch up on COVID-19.
    • Schedule your screen time: Instead of reading or watching the news on an “as-needed” basis, try making an effort to check in on the status of coronavirus twice a day, perhaps in the morning and right after work or studies (early evening), and put a time cap on it. This will allow you to be informed at a time that works best for you, which will ultimately help you focus on other tasks throughout the day.
      • We recommend avoiding late-night check-ins, as taking in overwhelming information before bed may cause restlessness throughout the night.
    • Do your due diligence: Many people use social media to keep up with friends and family, especially during times like this. There’s nothing wrong with that! However, social media is swimming with misinformation disguised as “expert opinions.” Take “news” on these platforms with a grain of salt, no matter who shares it. For credible information, revert back to tip number 1.
      • If social media triggers your anxiety, you may consider limiting that, too. Small steps work well here – start by only checking your accounts once an hour, then every other hour, and so on, until you notice your wellness is back in check. It helps if you move the app on your phone to a less-accessible place (or delete it altogether); this way you have to think twice before finding and clicking the icon!

    We hope these tips help you find some harmony in your new “normal.” Until our return, be well!  

    On Next Week’s Blog: Host a virtual gathering, and follow through with it!

    Brianna Alfors, CEHD Student Enrichment Coordinator

    Brianna Alford is the Student Enrichment Coordinator for the College of Education and Human Development. When she’s not devising opportunities for CEHD students to Be Engaged, she enjoys cooking, crafting, and advocating for a proper RSVP.