Dear Family and Friends

I have a lot of feelings this year—2016 has kind of thrown a lot of curveballs and a few of them have hit me and left me bruised. It’s Thanksgiving Day as I write this, and I’m thankful for all of you. We are entering the time of year where I typically get excited to send out holiday cards and find perfect presents for the people in my life, but I can’t muster the energy. This year I’m dreading the holidays. I feel crappy inside. The world is going to hell and there’s nothing I can do—except, maybe there sort of is.

Instead of giving me a present this Christmas, please consider donating to one of these charities/nonprofits (either in my honor or just cuz):

The Big Ones

Some Specifics


I don’t need things this year. I need my heart to stop hurting. I am blessed with food, shelter, and an amazing support system of friends and family. I hope that you can choose one of these nonprofits—or find one that is special to you—and share good fortune with others this year.

Love always wins,

Inspriation from eduWeb 2016


This is going to be the year I delegate more.

I’ve been at Washington College for nearly five years, and with each year I’ve taken on more responsibilities. I found out that I love content strategy and information architecture—something I might not have known had I not become our resident CMS guru. And these days, I’d rather spend my time developing strategies that will serve our audiences than crafting tweets about campus events.

Maybe this is what happens when you wear many hats at an institution. I’ve reached critical mass, and I need to make room for the new ideas and goals that I’m bringing back to the office through professional development. It’s time to stop postponing diving in to data and analytics because I don’t have time; if I want our strategies to be successful, I need to make the time. Several of the sessions I attended at eduWeb spoke to the importance of analytics strategy and data-driven changes. I want this information to inform my decisions—whether it backs up what I think or changes my views. (Now the big challenge is getting the data I want out of Google Analytics.)

Two of the sessions I attended—“Empathy for the Digital Age” with Kevan Gilbert and “Project Kickoffs that Work” with Allison Manley—prompted some additional thoughts on breaking down those wonderful silos we have in higher education. In a perfect world, I would incorporate so many of these tactics into larger scale projects, but I don’t typically get to start the big stuff. As it stands, I will take bits and pieces of each presentation and incorporate them into the smaller-scale CMS trainings and content strategy consultations I perform. I want the people I work with to feel empowered to use the CMS. I want them to feel comfortable coming to me with ideas that seem crazy and asking me if what they want to do is even possible. That is, after all, how Jenny and I ended up presenting at this year’s eduWeb.

This year will be more strategic, but I won’t implement all the ideas that support the strategies I create. I will use my time wisely—and encourage others to do the same too!

Leveraging Alumni Stories

“Can we do something like this?”

It’s one of my favorite challenges—and in the case of Path to Passion, a very promising question. When Jenny first came to me with her idea, she had been shot down because it seemed complicated. We talked about what she wanted, and in 10 minutes we had the basics hammered out.

How It Started

When Jenny moved into the Volunteer Coordinator position, 450 alumni had filled out an engagement survey stating that they wanted to give back as career mentors and admissions champions. Unfortunately, at that time, those opportunities weren’t really available to them. Career development wanted job placement, internships and job shadowing instead of mentors; and admissions wasn’t ready to onboard alumni volunteers. Jenny was confronted with the challenge of making sure these alumni still felt valued even though we did not have the volunteer opportunities that they wanted. While she was thinking up ideas, she was also watching her firstborn look at colleges. He had a strong interest in economics and finance but no desire to be a banker. Jenny knew that our liberal arts majors went on to great things regardless of their majors—so how could she show this to her son?

Path to Passion solved a conundrum. The opportunity to create a profile and make your way to Jenny’s rolodex of volunteers would keep our alumni engaged beyond that initial survey, and creating a searchable directory of outcomes would benefit prospective students like Jenny’s son.

In its first year, we’ve developed and expanded our searchable directory to include academics and career fields. We’ve increased engagement with alumni—some of whom were previously hard to find. We’ve placed various alumni on panels and found inspiration for new events. With alumni who participated in Path to Passion we saw twice the conversion in monetary giving. And finally, we generated numerous story leads and social content.

How We Did It

After we realized that the CMS side of things would not be a problem, Jenny set out to create a form that was in depth but not daunting. The questions shape the narrative for the alumni, focusing on their experience with Washington College and the liberal arts. Any school can create the narrative it wants with specific questions. If yours is a research-based institution, ask questions about what kinds of research influenced the alumnus’s path. If your students transfer on to four-year programs from your school, tell the story of how starting at your institution helped them achieve longer-term goals.

We use paid third-party service Wufoo to run the form because it can employ logic and also allows for file uploads; it goes a bit beyond what our CMS’s forms can currently handle.

Lists of alumni were built through the aforementioned survey, through personal contacts, and through some good old-fashioned detective work. Jenny found interesting alumni via Google and then stalked them (in a completely appropriate and legal way). Some of the connections she built from this seemingly simple research provided incredibly interesting stories and fantastic opportunities for these alumni to work with faculty and students.

After they are contacted and complete the form, profiles are created and tagged in our CMS. We use LiveWhale, which makes the idea of profiles super easy because it has a profiles module we were already using for student (and alumni) profiles. If your CMS doesn’t have a profiles module, you can use some sort of dynamic content to make profiles. If you go that route, make sure you come up with an established style guide so your profiles look consistent!

The tagging nomenclature is vital, as it drives the search function of our widgets. We decided ahead of time that we would use academic programs, but as we were creating the form we came up with general career fields to use, and we haven’t expanded these too much. The academic program tags are somewhat overwhelming; we don’t need career fields to get out of hand, too! In the future, we may add tags for athletics—it will depend on the buy-in we get from our coaches and athlete alumni.

How It Turned Out

I can talk in depth about the varied experiences we had reaching out to alumni with personalized emails, with letters from professors, and through general word-of-mouth discussion of Path to Passion—but that’s a long story for another time. The TL;DR version is that our first year went pretty well. We’ve gathered a plethora of profiles, Jenny found inspiration for a new event (Lead Like a Girl), and we’ve continued to grow the program. Recently, we presented our journey at eduWeb Digital Summit in Denver, Colorado. That experience helped me feel like we’ve got something good—and I look forward to continuing to work on this project.



Daenerys Says Dracarys: A Playlist for Daenerys Targaryen

Even though I didn’t watch much of this season of Game of Thrones, I tuned in for the finale, and watched the previous week’s episode in preparation. I won’t write an spoilers, but let’s just say there were some kick ass dragon moments and while show Dany isn’t always my favorite, I really like the whole girl-will-kill-you-with-fire vibe she has. Can you blame me?

So during a specific scene, I commented that if Dany had a playlist, it would include “Heads Will Roll” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Then, I had the idea to open up Tidal and start putting together something about the length of a mix tape inspired by her character. And now I can share it with you on Tidal (and a version with one different song on Spotify).

1. Metric – Glass Ceiling

We kick it off with a song that directly references the barrier to success faced by women. Guess who’s going to shatter that? With dragons.

2. Ani DiFranco – Not a Pretty Girl

Dany basically doesn’t give a fuck if you want to save her. She is not a damsel in distress (looking at you, Jorah!). There’s also a tendency for folks not to take her seriously at first; they think she’s a naïve child with some angst: “Every time I say something they find hard to hear / They chalk it up to my anger and never to their own fear.” Thankfully, she’s found some decent advisors now, so she can blare this 90s feminist tune.

3. No Doubt – Just a Girl

Does this song even need an explanation? Thankfully Daenerys will never be a judge on The Voice, but she will rise up and prove that a chick with platinum blonde hair can get shit done. Imagine if Gwen Stefani had some dragons.

4. Meredith Brooks – Bitch

So if you’ve tried to date or fight or deal with Daenerys Targaryen, you’d probably agree that the chorus of this 90s song speaks to her as a person:

I’m a bitch, I’m a lover
I’m a child, I’m a mother [OF DRAGONS]
I’m a sinner, I’m a saint
I do not feel ashamed
I’m your hell, I’m your dream
I’m nothing in between

Basically, don’t cross her. She has many sides, and all of them will kill you with dragonfire if you mistreat her.

5. Bikini Kill – Rebel Girl

Feminist revolution! Would Dany have been a Riot Grrrl? Maybe. I like to think this song is also on the “I <3 Daenerys” mix that Asha Greyjoy has obviously made by now.

6. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Heads Will Roll

The song that inspired this whole insane playlist. Since I’ve started watching GoT, I’ve seen a lot of heads roll. Just ask the Starks about that.

7. Beyoncé – Sorry*

No one has ever cheated on Daenerys, and one could argue that she is quite the Becky herself, but she is incredibly unapologetic about giving the finger to people who try to cheat her or betray her. You might get locked in a vault, have your throat slashed, or just get burned to death by dragons. She ain’t sorry.

*On Spotify, this is replaced with Beyoncé’s “Run the World” because Lemonade isn’t on their platform at this time. It’s still pretty appropriate and could be a theme for a number of ladies kicking ass in GoT.

8. Hole – Asking For It

For all that is great about the empowerment of women on GoT, there is a lot of rape. It’s ridiculous that you can be the mother of dragons and men still think they can take advantage of you. It’s ridiculous that you can stage dive and men think that they can take advantage of you. It’s ridiculous that you can exist as a woman and men think that they can take advantage of you.

9. The Cure – Burn

If you have three dragons, you’re probably a little goth on the inside. This song, from The Crow soundtrack, speaks to Dany’s feelings about Khal Drogo after seeing him (and their son) in her vision at the House of the Undying. Plus it’s called “Burn.”

10. Coal Chamber – Sway

We don’t need no water, let the motherfucker burn. Burn, motherfucker, burn.

11. Crazy World of Arthur Brown – Fire

This 60s psychedelic rock song begins “I am the God of Hell Fire” and it made the playlist thanks to Preston & Steve. Sometimes, when you’re burning people alive with your dragons, you just need some organ music.

12. Imagine Dragons – Radioactive

Obviously we have to include something by Imagine Dragons on this mix because Daenerys Targaryen doesn’t have to imagine dragons—she is mother of them. Plus this song alludes to revolution and the apocalypse; we’re going to see some of both of those in the future, methinks.

13. The Cult – Fire Woman

Let’s be real, Jorah listens to this song in a dive bar while he has a shot and a beer. Dany’s playlist has it so she can have a little giggle over how weird that whole situation is.

Admittedly, I got a little lazy by the end of the playlist, but it was a fun exercise. I miss the art of the mix. We started with tapes, then CDs, then iTunes playlists—but now I can just stream whatever I want to hear or I listen to Sirius in my car. My fabulous friend Sara makes mix CDs still at Christmas, but I just haven’t felt the inspiration. So thanks, HBO. You finally did something well.*

*You did The Wire well. The only anger I have at that show is because it rips my heart out on the regular.

Things I’m Not Ready to Talk About

The Recent Tragedy at my Alma Mater

I’m completely drained. Since waking up to that text message on November 16 to now, it’s just been hard to wrap my head around the whole ordeal. I’m blessed to have an amazing support system and a wonderful husband who got me through this. And sadly I have too many friends who have experienced suicides of classmates and friends and family. My own husband has lost family members.

I hope that Jacob’s death can open the door to talk about mental health—especially on college campuses. Right now the focus is on bullying, which is in some ways just leading to more social media bullying (from grown ass adults!). We need to honor his memory by learning from this tragedy.

For the upcoming LiveWhale Developers Conference, I am presenting on our web response to the crisis and how we handled our communications. I’ll be thinking it out over Thanksgiving break, so maybe I’ll be able to talk about it after I sort out all the thoughts in my head.


I’d actually love to talk about this, but I haven’t had time to process all the awesome. After the conference was over, my husband and I stayed a few days in New Orleans to be tourists. We saw some floats, ate a ton of food, and I got a tattoo. I have a lot more to say about our trip.

I also have a lot to say about the lessons I learned while at the conference, and the new ways I want to approach our web content. Unfortunately I haven’t had time to read over my notes and properly geek out since we’ve been home.

The Dog

Yeah. Uh. We got a dog. We fell in love with a dog at a rescue before we left for New Orleans and were approved to adopt him. Unfortunately, while we were gone, someone else adopted him. We kept our appointment and let a dog pick us. Sadly this particular dog has major separation anxiety. He’s a great dog, though. Pugsley Addams is a cuddle bug and he’ll eventually adjust and not destroy the world when he’s left alone. We just keep telling ourselves that.

Heart Will Always Be Relevant

I read an article today about the Gilmore Girls revival Netflix is planning, and I took some issue with it. The author, Darlena Cunha, argues that society has changed in the past decade and our favorite Connecticut ladies might not fit in a 2015 world. Cunha admitted she didn’t finish the series; she also mentioned that it started while she was in college so she “grew out of it.” But her belief is that to succeed in today’s entertainment scene, Lorelai and Rory “would have to branch out from their small-scale feminism and represent a broader worldview.

I’ve never seen Lorelai and Rory as feminist icons. In fact, the more I watch the series, the more I see the flaws in their feminism. Is this bad? No. It’s human nature. Even feminists can have terrible boyfriends walk all over them—lord knows I have. For me, and for many others, the show is about growing pains, family relationships and a quirky small town. The most political moments were probably Paris and Rory trying to get people to sign a petition for political prisoners in Burma and Rory dreaming that Madeline Albright was her mom. Sure, Rory had the same Planned Parenthood sign hanging in her dorm room that I did, but abortion was never actually discussed.

There are several reasons fans of the show are excited about the potential reboot. First, Amy Sherman-Palladino left after season six and many of us like to pretend that season seven didn’t actually exist. The final season tied up some loose ends, and Rory went off to a job following Obama on the campaign trail—which turned out to be a good choice in May 2007. But some of the main relationships were never fully resolved, and Cunha is not necessarily interested in this closure.

Cunha states that she would watch the show for different reasons than most of the fanbase. Operating on the belief that Lorelai’s growth from maid to owner of the Dragonfly is some sort of early aughts feminist journey, she expresses concerns that Gilmore Girls will not be able to stand up to the cultural changes we’ve seen in the past eight years. Cunha says she wants the girls’ struggles to be more realistic; that she wants “to watch Lorelai and Rory take on the world as full-fledged adults who have sorted out their issues.

Asking for a change in the core of the show and saying it’s in the name of feminism is misleading. If we’re limited to four 90-minute episodes, confronting stark issues is not an option and the absence of trying will not affect the show’s relevance to its fanbase. It is not more or less feminist if the show fails to tackle real issues or acknowledge cultural hot topics. If Rory was still in college, could we examine rape culture? Possibly. However, shoehorning issues that don’t touch the Stars Hollow bubble into six hours of show would be a disservice.

What’s more, Lorelai and Rory are never going to be full-fledged adults. That’s one of the reasons we love them. Who ever truly grows up and feels they’ve got a handle on the world? When I rewatch Gilmore Girls on Netflix now, I see beautiful disasters. I recognize the self-sabotage in relationships. I notice the confidence issues that real women have to overcome. I’m disgusted by how terrible all of the men actually are when I think about it. Lorelai and Rory are just living their lives and dealing with the challenges they’re handed. If it wasn’t for the fabulous writing and the quirky story, their stories could be incredibly mundane.

Gilmore Girls worked because it existed as the story of a family and a town living in the world but not necessarily dealing with the world’s problems. Feminism was present in the broadest sense, represented by independent women but not exemplified by actions. References to George W. Bush where limited to Lorelai saying, “He’s stupid and his face is too tiny for his head and I just want to toss him out.” Money was never an issue because the grandparents had unlimited funds. This fictional world allows Lorelai and Rory to struggle with smaller, personal issues—straying from that model would make the show different and shatter the illusion. What use is relevance if it destroys the heart?

Chicago: eduWeb 2015

Every time I go to a conference, I wish I had a time turner a la Hermione Granger. Having to choose between multiple sessions? It’s too hard!

For the past few years, my job has focused on social media and becoming a LiveWhale CMS guru. This year, to expand my wheelhouse, I attended sessions that primarily focused on analytics, advertising, and teamwork.

I flew away from O’Hare with a ton of ideas to bring to the upcoming school year. I want to expand our use of Google Analytics and use social advertising to support our recruiting messaging. And, per usual, I want our team to function more seamlessly. That will come up again when I go to ConfabEDU in November, I’m sure. The editorial calendar and my Virgo organization tricks will catch on. They will!

Sometimes a picture can say more than any note-taking can.
Sometimes a picture can say more than any note-taking can.

Since I have over 50 (small) pages of notes, I’m going to limit this blog post to talking about the opening keynote from Sree Sreenivasan. I was lucky enough to meet with Mr. Sreenivasan, Chief Digital Officer for The Metropolitan Museum of Art before the conference began for a quick look at Washington College’s social media. I’ve already implemented some of his tips including a more striking Twitter profile picture and more engaging Twitter description.

According to Mr. Sreenivasan, we need to focus on the mobile experience and making content available in formats our audience want. Our institution is targeting teenagers; this audience often engages with our content through mobile devices. If the content isn’t created with them in mind, will they consume it? As we focus on our stories and our videos, pitting them against Buzzfeed and the never ending supply of cute cats on YouTube, we need to make sure our content cuts through the clutter and stands out. Colleges need to connect to their students, alumni, and professors and show those connections to prospective students. I’m happy to say that Washington College is working on this through video campaigns like #unhurried.

To make our content appealing to our target audience, we have to consider the language and attention span of these students. Throughout eduWeb, I heard a lot of dislike for press releases being copied and pasted into the CMS. I’ve already talked to my boss about this, and we do need a repository of press releases somewhere, so I cannot light them all on virtual fire like I’d hoped. However, I’m going to adjust the workflow so that we have a web story and a press release—not just a press release. Creating a smaller, easier-to-read web stories also means content that is more evergreen for our department sites.

These aspirations and plans are taken from just a few pages of my notes. I hope that by posting them here, I can force myself to work hard on them. I’ll also be updating on my experiments with Google Analytics once I have some time to figure it all out.

A Look Back at Analog-A-Go-Go

Dan and I have been going to Analog-A-Go-Go since its inception, and each year it’s grown and changed. Logistically, this year was the best set up we’ve seen. Upon check in, we received a map that showed where vendors, beer and food would be located, but there was still a lack of instruction when it came to staying behind the fence-line with booze. I assume that this is a new ordinance from the town, but a mention of it prior to our stroll over to the air conditioned tasting room probably would have helped us not break the rules.

Analog is always hot. I’ve come to terms with this, and encouraged my husband to start searching for a new partner-in-crime to attend the event with him. This year, though, I had to suck it up and go. I pre-gamed with Gatorade and overjoyed at the water coolers they put out. I also devised a plan to complete the try-every-beer game faster: we each grabbed a different beer after waiting in line and I would try a tiny sip of the ones I was interested in. That way he got to try everything, but we only had to wait in a few lines. It proved an important time saver, and we were out of there before I became an overheated crankypants.

The main draw of Analog—aside from the beer of course—is the vinyl. Some of our favorite record stores, Rainbow Records and Jupiter Records, had booths but various other vendors set up shop as well. The other artisans and vendors this year were impressive as well, and in general the set up was greatly improved from years before. There was a better flow, and a better system for parking than in previous years. Part of this is due to the expansion of Dogfish Head as a brewery. In the years we’ve been visiting the brewery we’ve seen its growth, and the past few years that growth has been exponential. Part of the newest addition includes a truck entrance; directing traffic through this entrance made it easier to have flow between the vendors/beers and the main tasting room (with its glorious air conditioning).

My only complaint was our tour, and I—the girl who hates to talk to people about uncomfortable things—was actually upset enough to talk to the manager about it.

I should have realized immediately that going on the tour with this particular guide would be painful. His mannerisms, his vulgarity—it didn’t sit well with me. I have been on the DFH tour at least a dozen times by now, and several times I had one of the best tour guides ever, John. So, yes, I do hold the bar pretty high, but this young man ticked every box that made me twitch. It doesn’t matter what you’re like when you’re hanging out with your buddies, drinking PBR and being a bro. When you have a job giving tours for one of the larger craft brew companies, you need to project a professional (although off-centered!) personality, and that is not accomplished through dick jokes. Whether he realized it or not, he was representing this 20-year-old company poorly from a hospitality standpoint. The manager seemed on point, though, and I’m truly hopeful that she will address it with him and make him a better representative of the company.

I have lots of opinions on the hospitality and customer service industry, and part of that probably stems from my job in marketing a college. You need to believe in your product—you need to bleed what you’re selling. In my case that’s liberal arts, in his case it’s craft beer that is enjoyed by a demographic that skews a little too old to enjoy a barrage of jokes about “hard wood.”

Analog Sculpture

A highlight of the day (that we actually missed but got to enjoy on our way to pick up a case of Festina Peche before we left) was the unveiling of a sculpture that dispensed beer. A very cool thing, and one of our favorite guys was tapping and handing out samples of beer from the new art piece as we walked by. It complements the Steampunk Tree House that was once at Burning Man and now sits proudly in front of the brewery.

I’ll put it this way—one little hiccup in an otherwise good day isn’t going to completely turn me off from this brewery, especially since I got my gumption up to say something. I can thank them for getting me into craft beer, even if I’d rather spend my time at Burley Oak or Evo these days, enjoying the slower pace and smaller scale. I am happy for their growth, and wish them well with future events.


Post Wedding Blues

I’ve definitely been hit pretty hard with a case of the post-wedding melancholia. There’s nothing left to do except thank you cards and selecting what pictures we want to frame. No more decisions to make. No more anticipation.

I wonder if this is worse for an only child. I hate to think that I’m bummed out because I miss the attention, but in a way that was kind of nice. When you’re planning a wedding, everyone asks you about how it’s going and you can select what detail you want to talk about. The questions now range from how’s life as newlyweds to when are we having kids, and they’re harder to answer—and not as frivolous and fun.

Another issue with the post-wedding slump is that we both jumped back into work after only a few days off. His job has been especially tumultuous, with people on his team leaving and constant pressure driven partially by his Virgo perfectionism and partially by the field he is in. I jumped back into post-Commencement work at the College and I’m essentially doing a content audit as part of a long-term website redesign project. Our “honeymoonish” as we dubbed it was really just a chance for me to sleep off the heat stroke and for us to hang out. We’re going to the beach for a week soon, so I’m hoping that will help us feel a little more like newlyweds.

Going into this, people told me I would feel differently after the wedding even though we’ve been together for six years and living together for almost four. To some degree, I do. In some ways, though, it hasn’t completely clicked yet. We’re still operating as we always have, just with extra rings on our fingers. When I look at the pictures though—which are fantastic, by the way—I do feel an immense swell of love in my heart. I know that I’ve met my forever person and I’m glad that some of our favorite people were there with us that day to celebrate our love.

So when will everything click? Perhaps once the last review is written and the thank you cards are sent out. Perhaps when we have our guest room back and the gifts we received have found their homes. Maybe once we can actually spend some time together where I’m not dying of heat exhaustion or overtired and he’s not stressed about work. I don’t think there’s a right or a wrong here, and I don’t think what I’m experiencing is out of the ordinary, especially for girls who make extensive planning spreadsheets for their weddings.

All I can say now is that it’s been a hell of a spring and I’m so happy that I have this gentleman by my side as my partner.