Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A STLR Transformation

Yesterday I participated in the Intern UCO end of the year showcase.

            I've served as the Research and Assessment Intern for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion for two years. Through Research, Creative and Scholarly Activities, I have gained a greater understanding of Global and Cultural Competencies and Leadership. 
I dissected the structure and objectives of the following theories: Identity Diversity Development, Social Change Model of Leadership, Miami Spectrum of Service, Marginality and Mattering Theory and Intercultural Knowledge Value Theory.
I  discovered how these theories correlated with the mission of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and tied into the levels of transformation utilized in UCO Student Transformative Learning Record.
     I have combined creative and technical skill to fulfill the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s artistic vision: the quantifiable assessment of student growth in “knowledge, skills and attitudes,” which is usually qualitative and often intangible. 

            Through research, attention to details, appropriate contextualization, cross-referencing information, and tolerance for ambiguity in considering various possibilities I have become transformed in the UCO STLR Tenant of Research, Creative and Scholarly Activities. 
         This has been a great experience, and I believe the UCO Student Transformative Learning Record does give a competitive edge in the job market.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Agony of Analytics

I am the Research and Assessment Intern for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion on campus.

I research theories , create rubrics based on these theories and put together assessments to measure student growth.

 I have a knack for seeing trends in sets of data.

I'm an analytical thinker and I process better when I am able to place my experiences within a framework or compare it to a theory.

This makes a perfect intern, but  constrained 21 year old.

My younger cousin described me as, "angsty."

  1. a feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically an unfocused one about the human condition or the state of the world in general.

Maybe I am, I really just think a lot. I even think about my thinking. 

I consider all life events to be interconnected, serve a greater purpose and a have potential reason. 

I strive to discover, assess and validate this reason, stepping across my responsibilities as Kalen Russell and into the job capacity of a higher power in which I don't understand.

My fellow intern and friend, Jaylon, described me best in saying, "Kalen thinks in rubrics. Everything has to have an explanation and quantifiable cause, effect and response."

Jaylon is not wrong.

Thinking critically is an amazing gift, and it even helps me with many creative pursuits.

But, “When all the details fit in perfectly, something is probably wrong with the story.” ― Charles Baxter

And as I continue to assess my assessments, I sometimes feel I'm missing out on the experience.

Sincerely and theoritically,

Kalen Russell

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Comparison, Competetition and Categorization

I'm an only child.

I don't have siblings to be compared against- therefore, I am simultaneously the best and worst at all I do.

My accomplishments and failures are often augmented/ blown out of proportion, but never used to determine my value or as a tool to compare me to others.

I became independent at a young age. 


  1. 1.
    free from outside control; not depending on another's authority.

I respected my parents' decisions, but I was empowered to make my own choices whenever possible.

I wish to magnify my experience of being an autonomous individual to everyone. My parents realize that there is only Kalen Russell. That of Earth's 7.8 billion people, I am unique. I process information differently, I have a distinct sense of humor, passions and needs that are mine alone.

Though equal, I am incomparable to anyone else.

Each person on Earth is the result of their personal experience and characteristic disposition. There are no means to ever compare two people- nor is there a need to.

Far too often one person is used to represent the ideologies, beliefs and mannerisms of a group. This mindset is often referred to as stereotyping.
A generalization, usually exaggerated or oversimplified and often offensive, that is used to describe or distinguish a group.

Stereotypes rob individuals of their uniqueness, value and sometimes their potential. Stereotypes derive from laziness, as our brain evaluates an entire community based on one individual.
Stereotypes are frequently placed upon minorities, because they are they have a smaller presence in a population in comparison their majority counterparts.
A few populations frequently stereotyped in the United States include:
  • Muslims
  • African-Americans
  • Hispanics
  • Disabled persons
  • Veterans
  • Immigrants
Stereotypes are detrimental to our humanity, reducing beautifully complex individuals to a generic assumptions. 

Removing stereotypes from our ways of thinking is difficult, but definitely possible and absolutely necessary.

In addition to being stereotyped by others, minorities may also suffer from stereotype threat.

Stereotype threat refers to being at risk of confirming, as self-characteristic, a negative stereotype about one's group    

Stereotypes are harmful, to both the person stereotyping and the one being stereotyped. Getting to know someone as an individual requires effort, but the rewards are tremendous, and odds are you will learn something new and maybe make a friend.
I try to limit the extent that I allow societal stereotypes to influence how I view myself and what I assume about others, and you know what they say about assuming..... Don't do it!
What are some days to challenge stereotypes in our daily lives? Comment below.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Sometimes You Say I'm Just a Friend

“Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell toils; it toils for the.”  Jonne Donn
I can grin when I am alone, I sometimes cry in solitude, I create my daily agenda, I can create and I can complete homework. I can plan events, run errands but all that I do has a limit.

I am an extension of others. I am the faith of my grandparents, the perseverance of my grandparents and the repercussions of dedication and care of my parents. I am product of a loving community, a supportive family, caring teachers, thoughtful mentors, amazing friends and a merciful God.

I am who I because of the intentionality and sacrifice of others.

I’ve always been comfortable with being alone and technological advancements have condoned a culture of seclusion.               

Technology has decreased the amount of intentional interactions humans have with one another.

Information was originally conveyed through storytelling. Tribesmenship was an essential component to individual survival.

Now one’s entire existence can be completed without ever having to physically meet another person.

Technology has made life more convenient than ever, but it has made fulfillment almost unobtainable. Satisfaction only derives when one feels they have earned something.

Despite the release of dopamine that I receive after a text message, Facebook like or Snap Chat- there is something missing.

It’s like using high-fructose corn syrup instead of sugar, like wearing an under-armor jacket instead of a coat, like eating frozen yogurt instead of ice-cream. It’s fun, it’s convenient, but it is so empty. The false pretense is so strong that you can actually go a long time before you realize how empty you actually feel.

Human relationships take time, sacrifice and intentionality.

My mom’s cousin is in a rehabilitation facility, he has been low-functioning since coming out a coma last year.

This week we went to visit him, and it was my first time to do so. In my heart I didn’t want to. I don’t like nursing homes, hospitals being around sickness that makes me feel sympathetic and reminds me just how well I am. It is humbling and uncomfortable.

In high school, I mentioned once that I didn’t like nursing homes or hospitals, and my chemistry patiently remarked, “Nobody does.”

That has always stayed with me.

I went to the rehabilitation facility because my mom wanted to go. My mom went because she wanted to see about her cousin, and she wanted to see about her cousin because she loves him. She loves him because she cares for him, prays for him and conveys her love through intentional and sacrificial actions.

She didn’t like a Facebook post, solicit prayer through a shallow status update or send him a card. 

She intentionally set aside the time to go visit.

Relationships don’t happen haphazardly, that is why so many people live empty lives because it takes effort that society has grown unaccustomed to.

When I consider some of my failed friendships, they dissolved because of lack of effort. Moving forward, it isn’t my goal to make more friends, but to be a better friend to the people I already know.

The Restrictions of Religion

I hail from Muskogee, Oklahoma- the county seat with a population of around 30,000 kind, traditional and somewhat conformist individuals.

I had 114 in my graduating class. Of these 114 people there was little religious/ spiritual variety. Last weekend in a conversation with my mom, we discussed how most students and staff from my high school attended one of two local churches.

Churches can be great places to grow in one's spiritual journey, but can also hinder personal growth.

When choosing a place of worship, many individuals seek a place where they are comfortable, where their beliefs are confirmed, ideologies and methodologies repeated- things which are not negative within themselves, but it can impede one's tolerance for different ideas and viewpoints.

The problem with my high school classmates all attending the same church, is that they all thought the same way about religion and spiritually. They all viewed religious practices as absolute, with their's being right and deviation from the social norm as wrong.

These thought patterns are humanistic, and as human I too am guilty of occasional narrow-mindedness.

I attend a church where I feel welcome, loved and able to grow. As I mature, I know that all people seek these same things, but may go about it in different ways. It is my love for others that prompts me to respect and support others in their spiritual journeys without judgement.

Really churches are just buildings.

The true value of a church comes from edifice’s function of fostering spiritual growth.  The grandeur of a cathedral is not in its religious appearance, but in its spiritual potential.  -Kalen Russell, The Majesty Within

Religion oversimplifies the human experience and discourages diversity and inclusivity.

I find spirituality to be more inclusive. Within Christianity, differences are accepted, celebrated and add to the strength of the group.

"Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many." 1 Corinthians 12:12-14
So if diversity within a religion is good,  why would diversity of religion be considered bad?

Many religions are founded upon the same principles- love, unity and service to others, event those who are different.

Like me, most pictured in this photo have attended their whole lives. 
The church is one of the strongest echo chambers, and sense religion is so closely linked to identity, these echo chambers are difficult to dismantle.

I try to find my identity from within, from who I am. Not where I worship.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Though I'm Wrong, I Write

I think critically, I share my thoughts and I grow. I better utilize my strengths and I am more aware of my weaknesses.

“To be aware of a single shortcoming within oneself is more useful than to be aware of a thousand in somebody else." His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

I enjoy studying cultural competency and the importance of diversity. Though I condemned echo-chambers in my last post, I  realize that I may reside in an echo chamber myself.
How can you say, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while you yourself fail to see the beam in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the beam out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Luke 6:42

Self-reflection is essential to growth, but it is often difficult. Outside noises, influences, ideas and comfort impede our ability to think critically about well- how we think. 

Plato describes our confinement to our perceptions through an illustration of a cave, which shows how our culture influences our view of reality.

My blogging has grown more personal. Instead of covering cultural topics that I am familiar with, I write about my personal learning experiences, shortcomings and situations that have forced me to think differently.

My life application blog posts are more fulfilling than the more comfortable topics that I began with. I am stretching myself to see beyond my own perspective and include the perspectives and thoughts of others.
Those who are able to see beyond the shadows and lies of their culture will never be understood, let alone believed by the masses. -Plato
Blogging is important to my major because free, open and inclusive thought is necessary to all ethical communication.

Blogging is important to my career because marketing strategies and ideas never come from conformity. Success comes from deviation from the norm, pushing boundaries and thinking differently. We often marginalize creative pursuits to what one does, but creativity comes from how one thinks, and learning to think about how you think is the highest form of intelligence.

Everyone wants to be a better person, but we rarely dedicate the time necessary to bettering ourselves. This class helped me to better myself, by setting aside a few hours each week solely for reflection and growth. I plan to continue to blog once this semester ends, challenging myself with new topics and always striving towards personal growth.

Most importantly I have learned to think, to think for myself, to think about myself and to think about others.

I think therefore I am. Rene Decartes
I experience therefore I think. Kalen Russell 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Lessons in Leadership

"Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing." Tom Peters.
Anyone can manage a group's output without much skill or effort, but leading a group and enhancing the strength of each individual is rare/.

Leadership is not stagnant, but adaptive to the needs of a situation and a group.

For example, even if you make the world's best peach cobbler, you can not use a peach cobbler's ingredients to make a cake. It doesn't work.

A new varsity girl's basketball coach was hired my sophomore year of high school. He originally coached boys at a smaller school and had an amazing coaching record.

The whole school was excited to have a new coach and looked forward to building a better basketball team.

During his first months on the job, he pushed us past complacency and pointed out faults that had gone unnoticed for years. Players were improved individually and team was more cohesive than ever.

He continued to push the team to new heights, but not without a cost. Our record was at a higher than ever, but the morale of the team was low.

"Coaching boys is different than coaching girls," my dad knowingly remarked. "Girls get upset and will quit if they feel wronged, while most boys will get mad and play harder."

As if clairvoyant , my dad was right. After a record setting season, star players began to quit.

Coaching is the ultimate example of leadership because there is little direct input into the team's outcome. A coach observes and trains each player to be their best, minimizing individual weaknesses to amplify group strengths.

This was an amazing coach. His only flaw was in not adjusting his leadership style to meet the needs of his team.

Leaders must adapt to the dynamics of a group. 

Being accepted into the President's Leadership Council was a large component of my decision to attend UCO. I'm a required to be an active member of at least two campus organizations and complete twelve community service hours each semester.

In high school I was used to being a leader and having everyone follow, but being a part of a group where everyone was accustomed to being a leader was jarring.

Once again my dad reflected on my experience," It's like being on a college football team huh? Everyone is used to being the best."

He was right, and I adopted a softer leadership approach. I played up my interpersonal skills and affected change through one-on-one interactions instead of the dictator approach I used in high school.

It worked and I even made friends.

I currently serve as secretary of the UCO Black Student Association, which has also increased my leadership skills.

I discussed my leadership journey with the BSA President. She surmised that I would have still matured without BSA, "You would have been a leader anyway because of PLC."

I explained that I would have been the same leader because leadership skills are developed uniquely depending on each circumstance, and each circumstance necessitates different leadership skills.

How I lead in the President's Leadership Council is different from how I lead in the Black Student Association.

In both groups I use interpersonal skill, to accomplish tasks and encourage others, but I edit my delivery depending on the culture of the group.

Comparatively the groups are starkly different, but within each group their is a common culture, cultural cues, signals, signs, words and habits that affirm that one is a part of a group.

Depending on the group, I use certain  song references, jokes, cultural familiarizes and quotes.

In the duality of my interactions, I never lose my identity because I am the accumulation of my personal experiences and interactions that I have had.

We can all lead without changing ourselves, but our leadership can be misinterpreted if we don't adapt our delivery to meet the needs of the group.

Knowing the needs of a group comes from experience and interactions with others.

Being an influential leader takes effort, but the best leaders always manage.