Walking as Professional Development

#SeaChange2018 – Charlottetown, PEI – The first joint conference between CACUSS and ARUCC, two professional associations supporting student success in the Canadian post-secondary context. Over the course of the next five days, I’ll be blogging about my insights and learning from the conference. You can follow me @CdnStdntSuccess or @TriciaSeifert on Twitter for in-the-moment take-aways from individual sessions.

Day 1 – It’s Sunday and the day is full with pre-conference sessions for keeners. Yep, I’m one of them but instead of seeing the inside of a conference room, I’m out with 12 others enjoying the scenery on the Confederation Trail. This is the second annual “The Way is Made by Walking” pre-conference session, inspired by Arthur Boers’ book and several CACUSS members’ pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago trail in May 2016.


Sometimes it is difficult to explain to colleagues that my professional development begins with an 18 kilometer walk. People wonder what there is to be gained from just walking. They ask questions like:

  • How can walking count as PD?
  • What are the learning outcomes in a walk?
  • And perhaps, more importantly, how are they measured?

Pre-conference walking allows people to find their place, their rhythm, in a new location. I find it grounds me and provides a connection with the land on which we visit. I am grateful to walk the unceded terrritory of the Mi’kmaq people. Knowing that the bustle of the conference is yet to come, the walk affords me the space and time to reflect on my intention for the conference.

Why am I here? What do I want to learn?

I’m on a personal journey to examine my practice from a new perspective. I’m learning about Indigenous ways of knowing and doing. I’m reflecting on how my settler/colonial assumptions limit what I see and how I respond.

#SeaChange2018 conference organizers developed an entire stream of concurrent sessions focusing on indigenizing and decolonizing student affairs and services work (look for the IC notation in the conference program or app). I’ve marked a host of sessions in my conference program and I’m excited for Dr. Sheila Cote-Meek’s keynote on Wednesday. I picked up her book Colonized Classrooms: Racism, Trauma, and Resistance in Post-Secondary Education just the other week. There is much to learn, to think about, to reflect on, to ponder.

My intention for this conference began with the first steps on the trail this morning. The PD was in the moments of quiet reflection, noting the dairy cows in the field. The PD was in the community of sharing at the end.


Some may ask how is going for a walk PD. What are the milestones? Where is the destination? My answer is simple; the way is made by walking. The point is to walk; the walk is the destination.



What Heats You? Finding the Thermodynamic Within

At the end of 2017, I tasked myself with thinking intentionally about why I do what I do. Why do I study student experiences in college? Why am I interested in how colleges and universities structure their support services and communicate their availability to students? Quite honestly, why do I care?

WHY? Such a big word. I remember peppering my parents with questions, ‘why’?

Simon Sinek asks what’s your why? It’s an existential question that essentially asks about purpose. I have come to think of the word ‘why’ as a question: What Heats You?


It’s the thermodynamic property of curiosity, creativity, and commitment coming together that heats us. It is the vocation of which Frederick Buechner defines as “the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Working in colleges and universities for 20 years, I’ve observed that staff and faculty typically focus their attention externally. They prepare for the next big event or the next lecture. Rarely, do we take time to ask what is our why? What heats us to do our work?

I’ve wrestled with this question and I’m excited to share my ‘why’ as part of Montana State University Provost’s Distinguished Lecturer Series, Tuesday February 20 at 7 pm (MST) at the Museum of the Rockies. For those who want to attend at a distance, I will also Facebook Live the event from my Facebook profile page, Tricia Seifert.

I invite you to listen in, ask a question, or leave a comment through Facebook (Tricia Seifert), Twitter (@TriciaSeifert or @CdnStdntSuccess), or LinkedIn (Tricia Seifert).

I look forward to exploring our ‘why’ together. In asking this critical question, I believe we will find untapped opportunities to further support student success.

Tricia Seifert is principal investigator of the Supporting Student Success research study and associate professor of Adult & Higher Education at Montana State University.

BUILDing Well-being

By Crystal Hutchinson, Health Promotion Specialist, Simon Fraser University

While attending Supporting Student Success research team’s (@CdnStdntSuccess) presentation on “Principles for Creating Student Focused Postsecondary Organizations” at CACUSS this summer, I was thrilled to see physical space emerge as a key area influencing organizational culture in higher education. My excitement was due to my role at Simon Fraser University (SFU), where I lead the Well-being through Physical Spaces project on behalf of the Health Promotion team (@SFUhealth_promo). This project aims to improve the well-being of SFU students by enhancing the physical campus environment. There is a growing body of literature that demonstrates a connection between built environments and mental, social and physical health. As a result, physical environments within higher education settings present a strategic opportunity for us to impact student learning, engagement and well-being.


SFU’s focus on well-being through physical spaces is innovative and leading within Canada. Although it was developed prior to the release of the WELL Building Standard (Delos Living LLC, 2015), it similarly focuses on considering psychosocial well-being in the design of built environments. Physical Spaces is one of six areas for action to impact student well-being in SFU’s Healthy Campus Community initiative which is informed by health promotion theory (World Health Organization, 2010; Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion, 1986). The project also aligns with the Okanagan Charter for Health Promoting Universities and Colleges (2015) that identifies creating supportive campus environments and working cross-departmentally to enhance student well-being.

About the Well-being through Physical Spaces Project

The Well-being through Physical Spaces Project was developed in 2013 through a literature review that indicated the quality of physical learning environments has a significant and measurable impact on student achievement, productivity, satisfaction and well-being (Earthman, 2002; Hill & Epps, 2010; Lippman, 2010; Whiteside, Brooks & Walker, 2010; Young, Green, Roehrich-Patrick, Joseph & Gibson, 2003). However, most research has been within corporate and health care sectors as well as in education at the elementary and secondary school level, suggesting that the interplay between the built environment, student well-being and learning within post-secondary settings is emergent. Data collected from focus groups and existing undergraduate surveys at SFU was also analyzed to inform the project and to explore how students perceived various physical spaces on campus in relation to their well-being.

SFU Health Promotion Physical Spaces Infographic_Page_1 Continue reading