All posts by Brenda Nelson

This Too Shall Pass

Difficult Situations

I served as the GCC Professional Staff (PS) President for a couple of years and sat in many meetings with PS employees and HR to discuss difficult situations. I always maintained a professional demeanor, which helped me in these often uncomfortable and emotional situations.  I put myself in the employee’s shoes to do what was best for them. I supported them and ensured their rights were met. I spoke up to managers a couple of times which wasn’t easy, but I did it for my colleagues which made it easier.

I believe putting the best interests of the people who need help really gives me the backbone and courage I need to endure difficult conversations and situations.

For me, 1983 was the best and worst year of my life. The very best things and the absolute worst things in my life happened that year. It was then that I learned the mantra “this too shall pass.”  I realized that I could get through anything that year. I learned that for better or worse, time passes and everything flows down the river, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It all becomes history. I think back on times when I would obsess over something, usually a negative thing and the hours and energy I would waste in  worry. A few weeks later I recalled being very upset and agitated about something, but couldn’t remember what caused all of the angst. This too shall pass.

Sometimes just knowing this is enough to get me through.



Building Relationships

Fostering and sustaining healthy relationships is one of the greatest skills and challenges in the workplace. Ask a person who leaves or retires what they miss about the place, and the answer is always the people.

We spend the biggest part of our lives at work. Work consumes most of our time, so the people we work with are some of the most critical relationships we will ever have. There are many kinds of relationships and some are unhealthy. I need to honestly evaluate and analyze my work relationships to see how they sit with me. Am I OK with them or do some require work and remediation? Are some relationships unhealthy and require my taking steps to protect myself or to fix them, or do I learn to let go and form a polite truce?

I like to think I have formed some good, healthy, and productive relationships with my colleagues at GCC. I try to be that person who says she will do a thing, and then does the thing, preferably in a very timely manner. I try to be kind to people, because really, what does it cost me? I used to do telephone registration during peak enrollment periods and it was a stressful time for the students and for me. My goal was to somehow, someway, lighten every conversation I had. I was polite, cheerful, and efficient. I wanted to hear a smile in their voice by the end of our conversation. Most students responded positively to my attempts, but every once in a while I would get someone who wasn’t having it. I never had a really grumpy person, but I could tell my plan wasn’t working. In those instances, I would quickly process their transaction, wish them a good day and send them on their way. I guess I learned in the few minutes I had with people that I was there to fulfill their needs and did that to the best of my ability.

I try to do this with everyone I meet. I don’t have a lot of interaction with students, but when I walk across campus I try to make eye contact and smile or say hello. I don’t always do this, I try to be alert to non-verbal clues, but again, what does it cost me to be nice?

I find the old adage “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” is so, so true in relationships with my work colleagues. I also find the practice of going out of my way to help another comes back to me ten-fold when I get on the phone to ask for help.

I don’t go to other colleges very often, so I find that is my next frontier. My plan is to build bridges and relationships with employees outside of GCC. Who knows what future friends are just waiting to be found?


You Have to Dream Big, Amiright?

(Sorry I’m so late with my entries, life is getting cray cray!)

If we are talking dreams, I have to go big, right? I am working on my Master’s degree, acquiring better writing skills that I hope to use to GCC and MCCCD’s benefit. I would love to be in the position where I could promote and facilitate staff workshops and events. I believe if done right, they will help build staff engagement in the GCC community. There is a lot of good work happening across campus and district at the student and faculty levels, and I would like to play a bigger role in promoting staff engagement.

To that end, I am exploring grant writing. I believe adding that knowledge and skill will go hand-in-hand with my dream of project managing workshops. My dream is to find many small grants to help with the fabulous work done at GCC and to create events and workshops for any and all, students, staff and faculty. I don’t believe professional development is a high priority for staff members at Maricopa. A lot of attention falls on faculty and “MAT” employees to attend conferences and increase knowledge, but I feel we staff members do ourselves a disservice when we are content to punch in, do our jobs, and punch out. Day after day of doing the same work gets boring and monotonous and leads to apathy. Most professional growth occurs with employees completing higher degrees, which is admirable, I take advantage of this myself, but I see a larger group of employees who don’t participate in professional growth or development activities.

I’ve had the luxury to work on many wonderful events like the Human Library, Human Trafficking Week of Awareness and Call to Action, and the Junior Gaucho outreach events. I have learned a lot and become more engaged with the campus and its future. I would like to promote this among our staff and to the rank in file employees. I know we have a district training and development office, but I would like to explore some different, creative ideas and opportunities.

Let’s see what dreams may become realities.



Life Lesson

Way back when, half a lifetime ago when I worked in a lab, I learned the lesson of follow through. Or to be more exact, I learned the consequences of not following through. Let me clear up your confusion by sharing some back history.

My mother and most of my family go to a doctor in my little hometown, I will call him Dr. Big Stuff.  I never cared for Dr. Big Stuff, I just couldn’t relate or talk to him, ever.  I think it’s important to be comfortable with and able to talk with your doctor, to share intimate details about yourself. Not going happen with Dr. BS.  I was a young adult when I realized I didn’t have to see him, I could choose to see someone else, which is what I did.  Dr. BS discovered this fact one day and he was never nice to me again, not that he ever was in the first place.  I worked in the local hospital and had many occasions to interact with him.  He treated me with barely veiled contempt.  Whatever.  The fact that my Mom and family were his patients didn’t give me a pass.  Nope, I had rejected him, HIM, and deserved his contempt.  Again, whatever.

One day I received a call from his office nurse who phoned in a lab order for one of his patients.  I quickly jotted it down, and instead of going to the front office and filing the order, I shoved the paper in my pocket, I would do it later.  Procrastinate, procrastinate, procrastinate.  I was a procrastinator from way back.  To be fair, I wasn’t such a procrastinator anymore and was very busy, running my fanny off that day, but I should have filed it right then and there.  I didn’t.

Back in the day we wore paper lab coats and they got gross, covered in all manner of body fluids.  Can you say DNA?  The following day I was wearing my shiny new, clean lab coat, going about my business when it hit me.  I remembered the lab order from Dr. BS that I had shoved in my pocket and neglected to file.  It was gone, still in the pocket of the lab coat I threw in the biohazard trash at the end of my shift.  Horror!  I struggled to remember the patient name and orders, but of course, that was also gone.  Nothing for it but to suck it up and phone his office to beg Sue (his nurse) to forgive me, pull the chart, and repeat the order.  It really was no biggie, not really.  So who do you suppose answered the phone when I called the office?  Why, Dr. Big Stuff, of course.  And heaven only knows why, I still question it to this day, but he was delighted to hear from me!  He was so pleasant and kind, downright cheery. Until I confessed my sin of not following through and throwing away his lab order. His voice got really flat and he handed me off to Sue as quickly as possible.  I know my face was burning with shame.  Seriously?  It was not a big deal, not really, an honest mistake, but it was a big deal to me.

What is it about shame that teaches us (me, for sure) some very valuable life lessons?  I need to search psychology books on this phenomenon, it’s kind of fascinating to me.  I swore that day to always follow through and try my very best to complete a task as accurately and quickly as possible.  And for the most part, I do a decent job with follow through.  When asked about qualities I consider most valuable in colleagues, I always reply with the practice of follow through, it’s right up there for me.  It tells me that my request and time is important, that the person who follows through cares about me and my needs.  Or the needs of our students and colleagues.

I learned a painful lesson that day, but it has stuck with me through all of these years.  I am grateful to Dr. Big Stuff.  He was a player in an interesting chain of events that reinforced a quality I hold most dear.  Our relationship has mellowed over the years and grown to one of mutual respect.  I email him for news of my mom’s health, and he always follows through, replying to me very quickly.  Thank you, Dr. BS, I appreciate you and all you do for my mom.  Thank you for teaching me this valuable life lesson.


Keep Calm and Be Kind

I was thinking about the phrase “KEEP CALM and BE KIND” permeating the campus and I am totally down with this philosophy. It has been my philosophy for a long time; I am my mother’s daughter. I was also thinking about a recent interchange with an employee pursuing a degree. This woman works full-time at GCC while raising two young daughters and taking evening classes. When I asked if she is completing a bachelor’s degree, she responded with a hangdog “no, it’s just an associate’s degree”. This saddens me beyond belief.  I used to be her, ashamed of getting JUST an associate’s degree. I am fortunate to have broken free of this attitude.

You see, I have an associate’s degree in medical laboratory science from Madison Area Technical College. The most important and fulfilling work I have ever done was working as a MLT in hospitals in the Midwest. I had direct impact on people’s health; I literally helped save lives. I did this with an AAS and earned far less than my colleagues with bachelor’s degrees. I always felt like a second-class citizen, ashamed of JUST having an associate’s degree, when I should have been proud of my accomplishment. It is no easy feat obtaining this degree.

I find a lot of stigma attached to degrees. It’s not that you are getting an associates, bachelor’s, or master’s degree. It is a question of the type of degree and the school you attend. There is a pecking order and boy, you better be going to the best school and getting the right degree or well, you are down there and I am up here, above you. I’m afraid I see this attitude quite often from where I sit. The fact is a lot of the brightest people I know do not have a degree.

I am not immune to this prejudice, no one is, but the fact that someone is striving to obtain more knowledge should be the most important thing we see. I personally don’t find value in racking up letters and acronyms after my name. I do find value in increasing my knowledge and working my brain, hence my going for a master’s degree. There will always be someone with higher degrees from places of greater esteem. I cannot hope to compete with them, nor should I. I can be kinder to everyone I meet, staff and students, and overlook the award (or lack) of a piece of paper attached to them. I can and will continue to admire the work they do to help others achieve their goals and dreams. I can give a huge high five to those who overcome a lot of obstacles to get an associate degree or higher.

Yes, we should keep calm and be kind, and work to be the very best person we can be.


Whoops, I Did it Again!

NAU Lumberjill

I am a lifelong learner but have to confess, it’s been many years since I took a credit class for an actual grade or credit. Oh, I’ve noodled around and taken credit classes like Hiking, Body Sculpting, even Accounting, but that was for sh*ts and giggles, not for reals. I have long felt an emptiness and a yearning to go back to school for something concrete and real, not simply for fun. Don’t get me wrong, the fun classes were mostly health-related and that is a very good thing, but I felt a need to work on my mental muscles.

SO, to make a long story short, I found the program I have been searching for – I am enrolled in NAU’s Master’s in English, Professional Writing program. It is scary and exhilarating at the same time. I had to dig up an old transcript when applying for the program and realized I haven’t taken classes towards a degree since 2003! Whoa, times have changed and that is a long time to not have homework, exams, or for time spent on study. I have had 13 years of playing video games, goofing off, and relaxing with a boatload of free time. That is gone, long gone.

I completed two classes in fall and just started one this spring. I have gotten over the panic of navigating my first online course and am now digging in and getting into this whole new learning gig. My plan for 6×6 is to document the journey and path I just stepped foot on.

Wish me well, good peeps!