Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 48

Renovation of an old schoolhouse
on their campus showed staff
at The College of Wooster how
mental models work. Woosley
and Venaas share that, when used
as a mental model, stories are
more impactful than data points.
"Stories tap into emotions, connect
to larger truths or values, and gain
strength from the way they show
the audience something rather
than telling it to them."
PHOTO COURTESY OF JAMES A. BAUMANN

A

very simple but powerful mental model is a story that conveys a real or hypothetical
situation. Whether it involves the student staff member who beats the odds to
attend college and become a leader in their profession or the student whose failure
and departure was so painful that the story remains vivid years later, the accounts
of students hold real power. The stories may involve a particularly memorable call from a
helicopter parent and the negative impact it had on a student's behavior, or it may be about
the much needed breath of fresh air that a coat of fresh paint and some new furniture brought
to a residential community.
Whether positive or negative, stories have
a lasting impression that affects daily work,
planning, and even the personal behaviors of
housing and residence life professionals. When
compared to a statistic, such as the retention
rate of students who request roommate
changes or the mean grade point average of
students who attend at least one hall program
a month, it's not surprising that a story would
have a more lasting impact than a data point
would. Stories tap into emotions, connect to
larger truths or values, and gain strength from
the way they show the audience something
rather than telling it to them. They have
significant sticking power and are impactful
because they are often vivid, emotional, and
concrete. They can easily be shared with others,
and people remember them. But stories as a
mental model do have limitations if too much
is assumed about the truth they contain.
Because a story sounds good, it is easy to
assume that the lessons from it are accurate,
generalizable, and widespread. A story about
a resolved roommate conflict, for instance,
may have been unusual or unique and may
have involved other behaviors not included in
the narrative. However, that story may not be
48

TALKING STICK

reflective of what is actually going on across
a campus or within a department. If that
story is used to frame a mental model about
how roommate conflicts work, programs and
interventions could be based on incomplete
or inaccurate information. In analytical
assessment this may be referred to as the
dangerous "an n of 1." A story that represents
a one-time event may point towards solutions
that will have little or no impact on students.
When the story is used to guide department
and campus-level planning, decisions are made,
programs are designed, and interventions take
place based on the stories that apply. Using
this approach alone is probably not the most
effective strategy because the best stories
and storytellers end up driving the direction
of the department, regardless of the quality
of assumptions and information. People
remember and believe the most powerful
stories, not necessarily those that are the most
useful or the most accurate. Powerful stories
need to be complemented by other mental
models to ensure an accurate and holistic
focus. Stories are best when used to build
shared understanding around values, priorities,
and initiatives - not to create or define them.



Talking Stick - July/August 2016

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Talking Stick - July/August 2016

Talking Stick - July/August 2016
Contents
Vision
Just In
Calendar
Your ACUHO-I
Transitions
Res Life
Special Focus
Regroup
ACUHO-I Awards
Thinking Ahead
Working Overtime
Conversations
First Takes
Around Student Affairs
New Members
Snapshot
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - Intro
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - BB1
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - BB2
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - Talking Stick - July/August 2016
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - Cover2
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 1
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 2
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - Contents
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 4
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 5
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 6
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 7
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - Vision
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 9
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - Just In
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 11
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 12
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 12a
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 12b
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 13
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 14
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 15
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 16
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 17
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - Calendar
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 19
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - Your ACUHO-I
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 21
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - Transitions
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 23
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - Res Life
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 25
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 26
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 27
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - Special Focus
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 29
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 30
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 31
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - Regroup
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 33
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 34
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - ACUHO-I Awards
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 36
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 37
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 38
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 39
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 40
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 41
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 42
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 43
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - Thinking Ahead
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 45
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 46
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 47
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 48
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 49
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 50
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 51
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - Working Overtime
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 53
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 54
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 55
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 56
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 57
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 58
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 59
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - Conversations
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 61
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 62
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 63
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - First Takes
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - Around Student Affairs
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - 66
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - New Members
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - Snapshot
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - Cover3
Talking Stick - July/August 2016 - Cover4
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