SEAHO Report - Summer 2021 - 31

FEATURE ARTICLES
team understand it's okay to take time and unwind and relax, especially in years like 2020.
Each excellent residence life professional shared their purpose for staying in housing this year. They are inspired
by the people around them - the give-and-take of living in a vibrant community. Mills beamed while saying, " I
make a difference. You see students and staff and see their growth and excitement each year. I love RAs and hall
directors. They keep me charged up. They are the best and brightest. " Small reflected simply, " The work needed
to be done. I wanted to support our students. We had 30-40 domestic and international students who never left
campus. There were still people who needed us and I wanted to be a part of that. "
So, perhaps we stay in this crazy profession that our families and friends don't quite understand for the
community. We gather annually, and rejoice in being mutually understood, because of the camaraderie. We
figure out how to make do with decreased budgets; write policies about door props; sell our product to parents,
board members, and incoming students for the sense of togetherness we experience. We even lug items across
campus, in the rain, in full PPE - all for the community. Not just the community we teach in RA training to
transform our residence halls, but for the community that transforms us as we show up to do the hard work of
residence life every day on our campuses.
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST:
Organizational Fit & The Plant Theory
Dr. Janine M. Weaver-Douglas, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee
I have been consumed (professionally) by one concept since graduate school: " fit " . In preparation for
entering the field professionally, I memorized my theories, I wrote down my interview examples, I edited and
personalized my cover letter for every possible eventuality. I was ready. But for all my preparation, I could
not find, could not understand, could not master the invasive and ambiguous concepts of " culture " or " fit " :
the place and space I wanted/needed to run to or avoid; the measuring stick I needed to figure out how to use
without knowing what it was. It was too obscure, too dubious for my mind and early-onset imposter syndrome
to wrap around it. I could not prepare for an unknown and undiagnosed culture. I could not prepare for an
undefinable and indistinguishable fit.
A few years ago, I started taking care of plants. A novice, I started with a small aloe and a bamboo. Having
bought both from the basement of an IKEA, I figured my apartment couldn't be worse for the plant. It went well,
and in that time, I have come to care for and love a great deal of plants. I've also come to learn from those plants.
Not only about their needs and development, but about my own limitations (I didn't think I would ever need a
" plant watering plan " for a vacation, but alas) with the type of care-giver I was and could be. In my home, in
that space, in my quiet time, from those plants, I gained what graduate school could not teach me, and what over
a decade of my professional career had not yet crystallized. My plants taught me how to understand culture, how
to interpret fit, and how to articulate that within my own work.
I call it the Plant Theory. It specifically focuses on the professional environmental ethics that surround staff
selection, training, development and supervision within student affairs, and provides a method of measurement
for organizations to utilize and evaluate their environmental health. The Plant Theory is an extended metaphor,
supported by Astin's (1991) IEO Model, and examined with respect to critical race feminism (Crenshaw, 1991;
Lorde, 1984) and community cultural wealth theories (Gusa, 2010). It is colored through my own positionality. I
am neither a botanist nor a trained sociologist. I am a cisgender, Black woman within the academy. I know what
I know from my lived experience, and from my learning and growth as a person. I center my lived experience,
and I center the experience of other historically marginalized populations, including people of color, queer,
trans, immigrant and indigenous populations. I apply what I know through my understanding and practical
applications of theory, which in and of itself is also biased. I find validity and reliability through my own
professional career. I am a scholar practitioner, so my scholarship is my practice. As you continue to read, as
you digest and determine the practicality of the Plant Theory for yourself, I invite you to stand in your own
positionality as well. From that space, I ask you to add your own scholarship. This is a shared community, and
one of the underlying tenets of Plant Theory is that we are all one ecosystem.
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Contents
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SEAHO Report - Summer 2021 - Contents
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