The Freshman Project



A couple of years ago I did a five post series called, College, Ready or Not?, that focused on finances, making friends, going Greek, stress management, and the importance of listening to your instincts in the collegiate environment. This was great foreshadowing for the opportunity I had to contribute to The Freshman Project: A Collection of Practical and Clever Advice About The College Experience. This book is for college students diving into their first-year of college AND for those people in their life who serve as their advocates, allies, mentors, friends, teachers, guidance counselors, mentors, and champions.

After serving as a Student Affairs staff member on the campuses of Duke University and Vanderbilt University for the past 9 years, I know that parents/guardians always want to know, “How do I prepare my student for college?” This book can help you answer that question with pages of expert knowledge that help you have the conversations that matter most with your student.

Gift this book to a student and they can spend some time preparing for their next incredible chapter.

Topics include:

  • Survive Failure
  • Build Healthy Love Relationships
  • Pick a Major
  • Be a Beginner
  • Navigate Depression and Anxiety
  • Discover Leadership Opportunities
  • Honor the Differences
  • Sleep Smart
  • Consider Fraternity/Sorority Life

All of these topics are critical for an incoming college student to discuss with a caring individual in their life AND there are still many more topics in the book. Providing them with this information will provide a strong foundation that will help support them as they navigate their first-year of college.

I’m honored to have a chapter in the book “Discover Leadership Opportunities”. Erin Fischer of The Leadership and Training Studio put together an all-star roster of expert contributors who give you top notch nuggets of wisdom.

If you’re a student or a supporter of a student and you want  deeper insight into the collegiate experience while adding some tools to your toolbox to help you both be successful, then this book is for you.

Want a copy? I’d love to send you some purchase information.

Want to develop a program around the first-year college experience?

Email me at so that I can send you purchase information and we can begin planning something positive for you community.


Want to read my series, College, Ready or Not?

Part 1

Come Back to Calm

Inconvenient Friends

Go With Your Gut

Money, Too Much and Never Enough

The Greek Thing


Thanks for reading.



Keep Swimming.

The #CreativeSoulsChallenge, Day 5 is to blog about 3 ways that I stay motivated and I love chatting about motivation so this one’s a treat. I’ve been able to do two presentations on motivation this year at the College Panhellenic Conference and Vanderbilt’s The Leadership Studio.

I’m a fan of Daniel H. Pink’s book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. As luck would have it, he provides 3 ways to motivate yourself and others that are a departure from our classic extrinsic motivators of money, food, and stuff. When you want people to do higher level work and be creative, you’re going to have cater to their intrinsic motivators–things that come from a personal and internal space.


Autonomy–Am I able to self direct my time, task, technique, and team?

Mastery– Am I getting better at something?

Purpose– Am I doing something meaningful and relevant for my life or the lives of others?

When I read this book, I could clearly reflect on moments when I’ve had a lapse in motivation, and how it was connected to one of these factors.

Drive new

A= Pink states that one of the “t’s” might be more important for you than the others. Perhaps you don’t care if someone tells you how to do something (technique) but you want to be able to choose when you do it (time). For me, time and team, are important to maintaining a high level of motivation.

Time= I don’t like anyone to be in charge of my time. Only my boss (sparingly) and my boss’ boss (sparingly) are able to put meetings on my calendar. If I feel like I don’t have control over my time, I’m not happy and I will not be motivated to get the work done.

Team= I  really like to choose my team. Inherited teams are hard for me.

Do you have autonomy over the areas that matter to you? How are you providing autonomy in these areas to those you supervise? Or are you micromanaging the motivation right out of the room?

M= I’m an achiever. I have to know that I’m getting better at the work I’m doing in my full-time job as well as my side hustles and community work. Improvement is highly motivating for me when I speak or host educational programs. Have I gotten better? Have we improved as a team? On top of that, for me to be truly motivated, I have to want to get better at the skills utilized for a project.

In general, people want to develop and grow as a person and a professional. How is this work helping them to move toward mastery? How are you helping people track their growth? Are you celebrating their improvement? Recognition is good.

P= The WHY is critically important for my motivation. What is the purpose of the project? Why does this task matter? How is it contributing to the bigger picture? “Because I said so” doesn’t work with me at the age of 33. I have to know if I’m making a difference. Knowing the Purpose really helps motivate me when I’m engaged in tasks that I don’t enjoy. I hate the financial pieces of my current job BUT I have to do those things so that we can continue offering great programs. Now, if I don’t find a WHY or if the WHY I find is ridiculous then I’ve totally discovered the root of my motivational hardship. If it doesn’t matter then stop doing it. No one has time or desire to do meaningless work.

People have to know that what they are doing matters. Why are we raising this money? Why are we painting this wall? Why are we stuffing these envelopes? Take them back to the WHY when motivation declines.


Those are my three ways that I stay motivated. I think through these elements before I begin a project and when I can sense myself hitting a wall, I tap back into this knowledge and do a quick assessment of what I’m missing. Perhaps I need to take more control over a certain area, remember how what I’m doing is helping me become better at a desired skillset, and remind myself that what I’m doing matters.

Do an A.M.P. assessment the next time you experience motivation issues.

Want to watch an animated version of the book? Go.

Daniel H. Pink’s TED Talk? Go.

Thanks for reading!



Why Are We Still Talking About This?

There are a few things that I’m really over reading about on social media. If I’m reading about it then that means people are ACTUALLY having these irrelevant and unnecessary conversations. I just feel like we should, as a society, be BEYOND these things. Perhaps, I expect too much of humans.

Disclaimer: I must admit that I have great privilege in that most of the time I ask for forgiveness (or not) instead of permission. I’m not expected to wear a uniform to work. I also work in education which really tries hard to NOT be a corporate environment BUT I mean, who are we kidding? A College/University is a business. My clients happen to be 18-22 year olds. Often really great 18-22 years olds who wish me Happy Birthday, make me laugh, and leave me donuts and honeybuns.

The topic that made me itch today was, “Are workout clothes appropriate for work?” REALLY?! The world of athleisure is a thing and people like Hannah Bronfman (major crush) are helping women understand how to step up their athletic wear to make it fashionable and appropriate enough for work. I laughed a great deal when a colleague shared with me a TODAY show segment about athleisure and how they advised women to whip on a strappy heel with their sweatpants. WHAT?!

I think at this point the term athleisure just makes me giggle BUT I take the meaning behind it seriously as a professional woman who floats through the world juggling a nice number of roles and wearing a few different and stylish hats. I’m also a person who does really great work in leggings, t-shirt, and sneakers because I’m not worried about my Spanx rolling, a run in my tights, and my left pinkie toe killing  me in heels as I hustle around a brick campus.

I work and live in one of the most obese states in the US. I’ve always been overweight. I come from a large people and I REALLY enjoy biscuits. Working out makes me feel happier, relieves me of stress, and infuses me with a great deal of energy. I’ve also been known to lose a few pounds. When I work out, it’s an act of prioritizing me over my work, which makes me not resent the amount of time that I devote to my professional life. By taking care of myself, I can provide a better version of Krystal to all of the other stakeholders in my life. I’m better for my bosses, my students, my staff, my friends, my colleagues, and my family. If I’m healthy, that leads to less time out for sick days or doctor’s appointments. I also work in an environment in which, rather I’d always like to or not, I serve as a model for my clients. Modeling the Way is a critical piece of working in Student Affairs and if I can make time to engage in fitness, then perhaps I can serve as encouragement for a overly involved student to do the same. We urge our students to practice self-care and make wellness a part of their life. For many of them this means incorporating physical activity into their day. There’s even a hashtag called #SAFit to encourage folks in my field to include fitness into their packed and often student directed schedules.

All of this sounds pretty great, right? A happy, healthy, motivated, confident, and engaged Krystal is the best Krystal to have on your team. Not the grumpy sloth I become after skipping days of Barre3 or whatever ClassPass adventure on my schedule.

Then why do we keep admonishing people for sporting workout gear to the office? This is actually improving my work and if I’m getting the job done then should we really be hung up on what I wear to the office? What we’ve defined as professional dress, for many reasons, needs to be updated. Many of the women that have adopted athleisure as their work style, talk about it as a way of being comfortable while they work. These clothes help them perform at their self-defined personal best.


Here’s the thing, we preach balance and life prioritization, but don’t want to always deal with the reality of what this looks like in practice.

There are times when I could make it to a fitness class in time if I didn’t have to worry about changing clothes or I could make it back to the office in a more timely manner if I didn’t have to take the time to do my entire morning routine for a 2nd time post workout. This is balance/prioritization in practice. If this isn’t acceptable, then I might just forego a workout because I don’t have time to change in a phone booth like Superman.

Yes, I know there are all of these office friendly workouts that people integrate into their day and that’s fantastic.  I’ve done some Barre3 10 minute workouts in the middle of my office but sometimes, you need a good lifting session or some time on the TRX. Unless you have the best office  EVER (if you even have an office) , these things might be super difficult to make happen between your desk and your decorative fichus.

Instead of looking at someone in a dri-fit top and a pair of workout pants as messy, lazy, unprofessional, and disrespectful, what if we looked at this person as just trying to get it all done in the best way they can?  What if we looked at this person as someone who has their priorities in order? What if we looked at this person as working hard to be their best in order to do their best work for and with others? We put athletes up on pedestals and invest billions of dollars in high performance  clothes that we hope will make us look, play, throw, shoot, swing, run, jump, flip, catch, kick, row, box, ski, and swim like they do BUT don’t bring that mess to work! Work, the place where you’re expected to perform like an Olympian for at least 40 hours of your week.

Now, I must admit that when I do wear workout clothes to the office I tend to do the following:

  1. Wear an oversized top to cover my bum.
  2. Ensure that what I wear is so fresh and so clean.
  3. Choose items that are black. I don’t rock my most colorful leggings on these days.
  4. Make sure that I’m not too exposed.
  5. If I happen to workout and then go to work, I take grooming items with me to freshen up at my desk or in my car. Deodorant or Dove’s Dry Spray , BeautyCounter’s Rose Water Spray, wipes, and fragrance. The goal is not to show up as a sweaty and smelly mess.
  6. Make sure that I have a light load of meetings post workout.

I know that these 6 items are my own way of contributing to the problem but to be honest, they also just help with my comfort level. I know that some of my friends feel they could never just pop back into the office post workout because of the amount they sweat in the process. I get that and this kit has helped me not be as concerned about this issue. I also would never wear leggings or workout pants without covering the junk in my trunk. I just can’t! No shade to those who do. You have much more confidence in your behind than I do.

I just think we’ve got to effectively design the outcomes of our office culture and be open to the steps that need to be made in order to achieve those outcomes. The tech world has certainly figured this out as my friends who work at Google and Microsoft rock sneakers, t-shirts, and jeans,  but what about everyone else? Do we really need to discount a person’s entire skillset because they wore a pair of sneakers, workout leggings, and a t-shirt to the office?

Stop with all the policing and get back to work. Let people be great.







Summer is Here!! Part 2: The Work Edition

I work at a university and fortunately, I get the summer months off from my clients aka my students. I adore them BUT we all need a break from each other and this May-August split is cherished.

My previous post was about my various Nashville/US adventures BUT I still have to work. I have A LOT of work to get done this summer before the youngsters return and invade my world in only the way they can do so.

I have a summer to-do list about as long as the Mississippi River and I have to squeeze it all in around my vacation time and general periods of that feeling I call “I don’t want to do work! Wahhh!” I can’t be the only one that suffers from that condition, correct?

every single day

It is practically June. Yes, June! Deal with it.

Here’s my next steps to success:
1. Refine the list. Currently it is on multiple sheets of paper in three different notebooks and on my computer. I have to make the list practical and manageable. What do I actually need to get done to accomplish my office’s and my goals? What can I reasonably accomplish this summer? What projects can I complete by just taking them off the list? I love that Arianna Huffington has introduced that notion into our world. Check out this video of her discussing “Thrive” with Marie Forleo. Also, just check out Marie Forleo. She’s fantastic and MarieTV is perfect lunchtime professional and personal development.

2. Prioritize my priorities. Just because it is on the list doesn’t mean it has to happen ASAP. There are things that I could push off until July or the beginning of August. A timeline will be super helpful. Deadlines are a MUST! I don’t function well without them. I can then plop all of this information on my calendar. If it’s on my calendar, there is a 97% chance that it will happen. I often print out a template calendar and write it all old school with a pen on a sheet of paper. I’ll then transfer it to my Outlook Calendar.

3. Accountability is so necessary. I will share the list and the calendar with my staff and my supervisor. They can then know what to expect of me this summer and what to hold me accountable for this season. During my 1:1 meetings with my boss, I will use this list as the agenda for our meeting. It is also important that I don’t allow him to keep refilling up my plate with things that are not essential for my or my office’s success. Exploring all options and saying “no” is powerful because if I”m not careful, my list will grow longer and longer.

4. Be okay that everything may not happen this summer and keep plugging away into the fall. If it’s important then it’ll happen. The goal is not to beat myself up but to do the most best essential work I can this summer.

To make everything happen I’m going to have to design and create time and space to focus on the projects at hand.

1. I have to step away from my desk and often my office. I have a table in my office that allows me to think in a more creative and open manner. I don’t know what it is about the table but I am able to sit and stare at my blank whiteboard and then fill it with ideas and outlines for curriculum, workshops, or speeches that I need to write. I also work really well at Starbucks. I think it’s because I feel like College Krystal and that girl was a master at getting sh*t done. No one did it better. I may also hit up the campus library. Arriving to work before everyone else and working on Sundays is also a move of mine when I have a lot to get done. Don’t worry, I’ll make up the weekend time during the week :).

2. Put time on my calendar to just be away. Close my door, leave the office, and just be creative and productive. I can’t let anyone usurp that time. It is mine! Back off! I already block off 3-4pm as Krystal, Inc. so I may just extend that time since I don’t have any student visitors during the summer.

3. I have to be okay with using time to think and not rushing through that process in order to just “do work”. I have a longing for using my creative abilities more at work and because my office was created from scratch, I have a lot of freedom to do just that.

4. Because I’ve packed my summer schedule to the brim, I’m going to have to be way more discriminating about whatever else I add to the list. Pretty sure unless it’s a weekend trip, I can’t leave town anymore than I already am at this time. Some of my weeknights might need to be spent on work. That’s the trade-off and trade-offs can’t be avoided.

What are your tips for getting things done during the summer?

Alright, so now I’m going to get off this blog and get some stuff done. Ready, set, go!

get shit done steps

Lata Y’all

What’s Your Brand? Part 2

Imagine the meeting is happening…

What’s going on in the meeting?

– Were you on time?
– How are you dressed? Smell good?
– Are you making eye contact?
– Did you smile?
– Was your handshake firm?
– Take note of your speech patterns. Do you sound confident? Are you using a lot of vocal pauses? Are you enthusiastic or are the other person’s eyes glazing over? What about your use of gestures?
– How do you behave while another person is speaking? Do you give them your attention or are you busy thinking about your next points?
– Do you pick up on social cues that denote that you’ve been talking for too long or that what you’re saying isn’t interesting? Perhaps you can observe if you’ve just made someone uncomfortable?
– Are you prepared? Are you taking notes appropriately? Did you come with an apparent agenda for the meeting even if it’s in your head?
– If there was a presentation involved, did you use your best public speaking skills? How about your inclusion of technology? Did it go smoothly?
– Do you have a business card?
– Make sure your phone is turned off.
– Can you answer questions posed to you about the topic at hand?
– If necessary, are action items in place prior to departing from the meeting? Did you provide a means of follow up?

You have to bring your confidence to the room. People want those that believe in who they are and their abilities. You got this!

You have to bring your confidence to the room. People want those that believe in who they are and their abilities. You got this!

This is all a part of your Presence. When someone meets you, what do they get? Are you polished, poised, and professional or are you a bit of a mess? Do you come off in person in a way that gets across your desired self message? Fit is important and the in-person meeting gives someone the opportunity to figure out whether or not you will fit the current/desired culture of the organization. Is your presence in alignment with your Pre-Presence?

Some would tell you to do lots of research in order to make yourself fit within the norms of an organization. That might be good advice but I would caution you to not force yourself into an uncomfortable box. I knew that if I ever desired a retail job, I could never work at Urban Outfitters,Abercrombie & Fitch, or Hot Topic but I could work at J.Crew, The Gap, or Banana Republic. Those places naturally fit me and my personal brand.

Presence is the strongest component of your brand. This is when you get to connect and live your brand out loud. What does your Presence say about you? Understand that what you bring to that room will also have lingering effects and might be dissected by others especially if this was an interview. Mock interviews are a smart way to practice and always rehearse your presentations in front of other people for honest feedback.

There are students who show up in my office that are well dressed, polite, enthusiastic, prepared, and ready to engage in a great discussion. They have an action plan for our meeting, relevant questions, and action items. They give us time to meet and don’t rush away after 10 mins of blabbering. Then there are the students who haven’t showered,are ill prepared, obviously don’t feel that this meeting is worth their attention, and don’t really have a lot of time to chat despite their intent of asking me for my time to help them or their student organization. Which of those students do you think I keep in mind for special events and when it is time to recommend people for awards? Which of those students do you think I’m willing to go above and beyond to support in achieving their goals?

Who are you when you're at your best? Figure that out and live that because it is your brand. It is your Presence.

Who are you when you’re at your best? Figure that out and live that because it is your brand. It is your Presence.

The way you show up in a space is beyond important. Present your best self and reap the rewards.

What’s Your Brand? Part 1


Perception matters. For all of those people out there not caring about what others think of them, just know that finding a job,obtaining a promotion, getting involved in community efforts, and just basic existing in life, might prove quite difficult. A brand strategist, Jami Dunham, stated in a recent presentation, “You have a brand whether by design or default.” Wouldn’t you rather be at the helm of the conversation?


I had the privilege of spending time with a professor who broke down everyone’s brand in three parts: Pre-Presence, Presence, and Post Presence.

Pre-Presence: Before I meet you
Presence: The meeting
Post- Presence: After we meet

What makes up your Pre-Presence? Think of anything that gives people information about you before they meet you.

– Resume (past experiences, school, major, community involvement, and, honors/awards etc.)
– Emails including that pesky signature at the bottom
– Social Media
– Word of Mouth
– References/Letters of Recommendation
– Applications
– Phone conversations

People form a perception about who you are  from all of these items. I can learn a great deal about you in one swift Google search. By the way, have you Googled yourself lately?  I hadn’t Googled myself in a while but as part of s lecture, the person sitting next to me  had to look me up online. Eek! Luckily, I keep it classy and here’s what I thought post exercise:

1. I need to delete any social media accounts that I no longer use. What was the point of “We Heart It”? On the same note, if I use it then I need to keep outlets updated. I can’t keep throwing around my blog link if the last update was 6 months ago.

2. I should create a portfolio with all links associated with me including those for  interviews, writings, photos, presentations–there were things listed that I’d totally forgotten I’d done throughout my career.

3. An updated headshot can really do your profile some good.

4. If there is something I need to warn people about, then I need to be proactive and craft a response to any questions that might pop up in an interview about that image or text.  If you don’t want anyone to know about it, then don’t post it on social media. Ahem, depending on what it is, you might just not want to do it at all.

5. What I devote myself to professionally and in the community are on full display. I want people to see what I do because  that also informs them of what I value. Any potential employer needs to know what you value and vice versa. If those values aren’t in some way congruent, the working relationship won’t be fulfilling.

Perception is important. Fit is critical. Employers begin assessing your fit before you walk in the door.

Tips to Pre-Presence Success
– Get your resume tidied up by a professional or an acquaintance who’s spent a lot of time hiring others. Always keep your resume freshly updated. You never know when an opportunity is going to land in your inbox.

-Are your emails grammatically correct? Did you utilize the power of spell check? Have you found a way to appropriately insert your personality into all correspondence? According to the professor you should erase that “please forgive any typos line” because it makes readers feel as if their email isn’t significant.

-Make sure to return all phone calls in a timely manner and rehearse voicemail messages once or twice before you start rambling on the machine. Also, make sure that your outgoing voicemail message is up to date and appropriate. Personalize your outgoing message and please get rid of that ring back tone. I’m terrible at listening to voicemails and often my mailbox is full. Grr! Not a good pre-presence tactic.

-Letters of recommendation/references are out of your control once you request them so work to make sure that you’re choosing people that can provide the best feedback about you and your skills. For some, the “requirement” of having your current or most recent supervisor as a reference can be bothersome. Be prepared to cover that issue with your potential supervisor and give them a heads up about the  nature of your relationship with that person. Just know that if you don’t list your current or most recent supervisor, it will raise questions for your potential employer.

-Clean up your social media and/or put it on private. I monitor my social media very closely and I make sure that I don’t post anything that would cause people to question my character. My social media engagement has become a large and positive aspect of my brand.

-Word of mouth is still the most powerful determinant of Pre-Presence.  Be cognizant of what you’re putting out in the world because word travels fast. Most people don’t adhere to the list of references submitted by the applicant. Informal means of communication are regularly used to gather feedback on a candidate.

Hmm...think about potential employers as your customers. They talk to each other about you and essentially about your brand. What do you think they're saying about you?

Hmm…think about potential employers as your customers. They talk to each other about you and essentially about your brand. What do you think they’re saying about you?

I strongly encourage you to take some time and tighten up your Pre-Presence. What are the things floating out in the world that can assist others in forming an opinion of your brand? Make sure your Pre-Presence reflects you in a desired manner. First impressions aren’t just made in person. In 2015, my first impression of you is made quickly after a few clicks on your Facebook Page or a scroll through your Twitter feed. Make sure the results are in your favor.