The art of supervision

By |2018-08-07T06:39:44+00:00August 6, 2018|Categories: Blogs, Student Leader's Notes|Tags: , , |

In my previous entry in the NIRSA Student Leader’s Notes series, I began a series of student leadership reflections based on quotes selected by the regional student leaders on the Student Leadership Team.

In this second installment of seven, I present to you Region III Student Leader and Graduate Assistant, Intramural Sports, at Indiana University-Bloomington, Stephanie Calhoun’s, favorite quote:

“Be somebody who makes everybody feel like a somebody.”
Kid President

If you haven’t had the chance to watch Brad Montague, a.k.a. Kid President, in his viral videos, this pep talk to teachers and students can get you geared up for the school year and also give you insight into why Stephanie chose this particular quote to guide her professional career.

From the moment I introduced myself to Stephanie I knew she was going to lift our team to new heights. She constantly radiates positivity and makes a difference. She goes to great lengths to make sure each person she speaks to feels valued and supported. I know that the students she serves as a supervisor at the University of Indiana and the students in Region III are better for having her as a leader.

If you’re familiar with Kouzes and Posner’s Student Leadership Challenge, Stephanie definitely excels in encouraging the heart. Great supervisors make everybody feel like a somebody by encouraging their hearts. In the spirit of Stephanie’s favorite quote, I like to think that encouraging the heart is not only an exemplary practice of leadership, but also an exemplary practice of supervision.

The best supervisors tailor their teaching style to the learner

Incoming graduate assistant for intramurals and officials development at Central Michigan University, Bailey Adams, says, “Great supervisors, like Sean Graninger, give me autonomy. He didn’t just tell me what to do, he let me figure it out on my own to suit my unique learning style. If I failed, he helped me get back on track but gave me the creative liberty to learn and grow. Tiffany Lundy taught me the importance of goal setting and showing up physically and mentally to each and every shift. She always asked that we be present and actively engaged and that is something I will carry with me into my graduate assistantship.”

The best supervisors put students first

Undergraduate student at The Ohio State University, Aaron Heydinger says, “My supervisor, Andrew Jordan, would take time out of his day to set up informal meetings with staff members. He always made time for his students and for me. When I applied for the UCLA internship, he gave me real feedback on my resume and cover letter instead of just glancing at it. I appreciated Kyle Pasake, my graduate assistant, as a supervisor because he helped me navigate the NIRSA Annual Conference by introducing me to people I never would have met and connecting me to opportunities I didn’t know were out there.”

The best supervisors are lifelong learners

To me, supervising is an art. Effective leadership has to be intentional, genuine, and a mutual relationship of teaching and learning. In the video above, Kid President even says in this world, “We’re all students and we’re all teachers.” When we forget to keep learning, we forget to keep growing. That’s something that a supervisor of mine Emmanuel Akogyeram, Assistant Director of Campus Recreation and Wellness at the University of Houston Clear Lake, never failed to remind me.

The best supervisors inspire a shared vision

When supervisors invite those that they supervise into meaningful conversations to get their opinions or help make decisions, they’re inspiring a shared vision. Think back to the first time you were tapped on the shoulder to take on more responsibility. What did that person tell you? How did they make you feel? Now think about the people you supervise or the people that you mentor. How often do you tap them on the shoulder? How often do you invite them to be a part of the conversation or to have a seat at the table?

Competitive Sports Coordinator at UCLA, Megan Normansell made sure that any opportunity I was remotely interested in this summer, was an open door for me. She invited me into the conversation, gave me a seat at the table, and made sure—from my first day—I knew that I was her colleague and not “just an intern.”

The best supervisors are vulnerable

A great supervisory relationship is built on trust and breeds vulnerability. Developing a professional trust can organically create a personal trust too. My former supervisor, Marty Dempsey, Assistant Director, Facility Operations at the University of Florida, would host dinners at the end of each semester to thank team leaders for their commitment to the program. Opening up your home can be a vulnerable moment, but it made our bond stronger and our trust deeper as a result.

The best supervisors invest in the wellbeing of those they supervise

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Whether it’s a tour of the best restaurants in town, an invite to her house to watch the Bachelorette, or a coveted spot on her intramural flag football team, Amanda Alpert, Assistant Director of Intramural Sports and Sport Clubs, shows individuals that she supervises that she cares.

She’s always on site for sport club events, checking on staff, and actively engaging in the lives of the students that she serves. Her work with Special Olympics College at the University of Mississippi demonstrates her passion for the power of sports to bring people together. Her students see how much she cares and rally behind her. They care how much she knows because they know how much she cares.

Supervising seems complicated when you call it an art and say it needs to be intentional, genuine, and vulnerable. I think it can be simplified: care about the people you’re supervising and show them that you do. I think we’ll all be surprised how much of a difference it makes. That’s my challenge to you, NIRSA family! As always, you stay classy!

Graduate Assistant – Facility Operations at University of Mississippi |

Caroline Ciell, NIRSA Student Leader, is currently Graduate Assistant – Facility Operations at the University of Mississippi.