Shout Out to Chrysanthemum (Mum) Hayes!

Imagine that your job is a blank canvas. You still have your title, of course, but you have an opportunity to recreate what it means to do your job in a new, effective way. This was how Chrysanthemum (Mum) Hayes introduced me to my work on the OWHE Board of Directors in July 2017. She told me to imagine that OWHE Education wasn’t just about webinars and session proposals, but to brainstorm all the possibilities for the role. 

It was after this brainstorming session that OWHE Education became more complicated and fun. Annie Popoff and I agreed that the OWHE Blog would move to the Education desk so that the professional advancement role could shift to mentorship and engagement. I dreamed of making podcasts, having OWHE sessions and educational meet-ups throughout the year, and all the rest. 

Mum had inspired me to think beyond the ordinary and reach for the extraordinary, the sort of content and challenges that would allow me to grow along with the organization. 

I first met Mum when we were both at Oregon State University. We spent a term teaching ALS 116 together, an academic success course aimed at teaching success strategies and tools to students during their first year at the university. I remember working with Mum because I remember disagreeing with her at a staff meeting. It was the first time I ever disagreed openly with someone in a work setting. We were discussing whether she should pass or fail a student who hadn’t attended most of the course and failed to do any of the work. She was advocating for passing him because he had spoken with her and acknowledged that he didn’t do the coursework and respected her decision. I spoke up and said he should fail: what lessons were being learned if he passed the class – that it was ok to continually not do work as long as you could talk your way out of it? Mum’s face showed her disagreement with me and I remember how much my heart was racing with anxiety for sharing my opinion. But I learned a valuable lesson back then: I needed to learn how to disagree and share my mind in an effective manner even though I might possibly hurt or frustrate people I respected in the process. 

This was not my only disagreement with Mum. When I was on the Board of Directors with Mum, we defined the 7 values for Oregon Women in Higher Education. Mum’s favorite was celebration. I challenged this. I argued that it wasn’t important to be so self-congratulatory for an organization. But Mum pushed back. She shared how much celebration was important to inspire and motivate people to keep going. As I watched her talk passionately about the importance of celebration in moving forward as an organization, I realized that she was right. If I was honest with myself, I was most motivated to do things and make a difference when I felt like we were able to celebrate our successes.

I imagine I annoyed Mum a little bit while I was on the board with her: I never hesitated to speak my mind or disagree, I went a bit rogue with the OWHE Education role, and I even missed a few board meetings on Zoom. But Mum still supported me two hundred percent. I found Mum to be the kind of leader who inspired me to try new things and be better. Disagreeing with her encouraged me to further develop my empathy and to try to communicate my disagreement in a kinder manner. 

I have all the respect in the world for Chrysanthemum (Mum) Hayes. When I see her at the OWHE Conference, I seek her out for counsel and mentorship. When I have the opportunity to hear her speak or attend a session with her, I know I will learn something new and be challenged to think about things from a different perspective. Mum is one of the people I consider to be a Higher Ed hero, because she has impacted my journey over the past few years in a way that has pushed me to grow and change into a more effective, more compassionate professional and for this, I will be forever grateful. 

 

Sharece M. Bunn is an International Student Advisor at the University of Oregon. She has been part of the OWHE Board of Directors since July 2017 as the Director of Education. You can reach Sharece by emailing her at sharece@uoregon.edu

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