Recap: Authentic Women in Student Affairs

At the ACPA Convention in Las Vegas this year, I was lucky to co-present a roundtable on being Authentic Women in Student Affairs. Kayla Nuss and I have known each other since graduate school, but weren’t close during our time at The University of Iowa. Instead, we have found each other over a series of ACPA conventions and dialogue over g-chat. What we found as we became closer is that we had both experienced issues at work because we weren’t living up to unspoken expectations if how we were “supposed to” show up.  Over time, our conversations often drifted to ideas of how to be our true, authentic selves in the workplace.  We had some amazing women in our lives who could role model this sort of authenticity, we knew intellectually about self-authorship theory, and are both wholehearted members of the Brene Brown fan club.  Yet, we run into struggles and challenges.  And we turn to one another for support, ideas, and strength (despite being several states apart – we love g-chat!).  We wanted to offer some of these ideas to other women in our field and help them identify some of the ways they can connect with other women (within and outside student affairs) to grow into stronger versions of their authentic selves.

What do we mean by authenticity?

Authenticity- Brene Brown, “Gifts of Imperfection”

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are.

Choosing authenticity means:

  • Cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable;
  • exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle; and
  • maturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe that we are enough.

Authenticity demands Wholehearted living and loving-even when it’s hard, even when we’re wrestling with the shame and fear of not being good enough, and especially when the joy is so intense that we’re afraid to let ourselves feel it.

Mindfully practicing authenticity during our most soul-searching struggles is how we invite grace, joy, and gratitude in our lives.”

We came up with some words and phrases that shame us, encourage us to not be our authentic selves.  We wrote them down and asked our participants to respond.


In your experience, what words shame us? What messages do we get that make us afraid of being perceived as unworthy?

We also asked participants to do a little reflective writing with the following prompt: What are some times when you felt in-authentic?  Who were the “players” that participated in those moments?

One of the great conversations that was generated from that prompt is about our intersecting identities and how the can complicate the idea of authenticity – particularly because it adds layers to how we are expected to show up.

One of my favorite reminders from Brene Brown is, “We aren’t either authentic or in-authentic. Authenticity is a practice.”

With that in mind, here are some opportunities for practice…

Authentic Women in Student Affairs Resources

What resources are we missing?  Please share!

I had a lot of thoughts and internal questions as I prepared for this session.   I am excited to add some great women to my circle as I continue to strive for authenticity and wholeheartedness.

Here are some of the blog posts I’ve written that I reviewed in my process – maybe they’ll get you reflecting, too!

supported, affirmed, lifted, and transformed
am I radical?
#ACPA12 – the conference of redefinition
Authentic Supervision

Be well, friends.


Filed under life stuff, student affairs

3 responses to “Recap: Authentic Women in Student Affairs

  1. Yes, yes, yes. Thank you for sharing this – would love to connect to hear more about the roundtable. I wrote about the challenge of being authentic for WISA a couple of year’s ago, and I still stand by it:

  2. Pingback: Being My Authentic Self

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