Student Employee of the Year Press Release

The Office of Student Employment sent out this press release about the award I received.  It is way too kind, but people tell me I should share it so here you go:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 14, 2011                                                                                      

Contact: Marlena Hartz, 303.871.6795

DU’S JOEL PORTMAN NAMED 2011 STUDENT EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR

His resume rivals some professionals twice his age.

By June, the 23-year-old will have earned a bachelor’s degree in International Studies and a master’s degree in Business Administration. Somehow, he found time last quarter to work 20 hours a week, complete a full load of courses, and launch and maintain an entire social media network for a national diversity training company. He helped nearly double participation in a University of Denver diversity retreat in less than two years. If you don’t know his name, you should. Meet Joel Portman, the 2011 DU Student Employee of the Year.

University of Denver Director of Financial Aid Chris George announced the winner of the annual title Wednesday at the Ice Cream Social Awards Ceremony in the Gottesfeld Room of the Ritchie Center. The Math Department Team – comprised of Sarah Caulkins, Nikki Chen, Grace Horwath, Juan Valles and Molly Webber – was named Student Team of the Year.

For the last two years, Portman has built a foundation of practical knowledge in diversity issues as a program coordinator at the Center for Multicultural Excellence at DU. Prior to joining the staff, the St. Louis native volunteered his time at the center.

“Joel is mature, wise, and professional beyond his years,” according to his supervisors, Johanna Leyba,  the Assistant Provost for Inclusive Excellence, and Thomas Walker, Program Director of Intergroup Relations  & LGBTIQ. “Many people on and beyond the campus have assumed he was a full-time, veteran staff member based on how he carries himself and represents the university.”

When the Center for Multicultural Excellence lost an assistant director last spring, it was Portman who filled the gap, ensuring the center’s major projects – the Diversity Summit, Voices of Discovery Intergroup Dialogue Program and Diversity and Unity Retreat – had proper administrative support.

His employment has been an integral part of his learning experience at DU. “I’m able to bring a different perspective to the table (in class),” he says. Even better in his eyes: “The work I’m doing here impacts the entire campus.”

Plus, “CME is more like a family than an office,” Portman says. While CME staff keeps work fun, they confront serious social justice issues, often involving issues of identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation and privilege. One of their goals is to create a more welcoming campus. Joel wants to extend that mission to the larger, business world.

The Eagle Scout and former Hillel staffer says he feels obligated to use his privileges – as an educated, white male – to shape a more equitable world.

“My theory is there is a lot of potential in this world,” Portman says. “I’ll do whatever I can do to make sure everyone has an equal part at the table.”

More information about Portman, the Math Department Team and Student Employment Appreciation Week can be found athttp://www.dustudentemployment.blogspot.com/ or http://www.du.edu/studentemployment/seaw.html.

Student Employee of the Year Award

Today I received the University of Denver’s Student Employee of the Year Award for 2010-2011!  It was definitely a surprise when I found out that I had been selected and I appreciate Johanna and Thomas for nominating me! and the Office of Student Employment for supporting and selecting me for this award  The Director of Financial Aid said that there are 2500 students working on or off campus so I know I was up against some great, well qualified people.  I know some of the other nominees personally  and I hope that they receive the recognition that they certainly deserve.

It is important that I recognize everyone who has helped or supported me in the various roles I have had while also being a student at DU.  I want to especially that Rachel, Mia, Thomas, and Johanna for being amazing supervisors!

 

Picture of Johanna, me, and Thomas after my Student Employee of the Year nomination

 

 

Student Employee of the Year Nomination

My awesome supervisors at the Center for Multicultural Excellence nominated me for the Student Employee of the Year Award at the University of Denver.  The Office of Student Employment has highlighted the nominated students on their blog.  Here is what they wrote about me:

Joel Portman far exceeds expectations. Not only is he reliable and exacting in his work, the 2011 Student Employee of the Year Nominee has implemented processes that improve the overall quality of work at the University of Denver Center for Multicultural Excellence, according to his nominators, Johanna Leyba, Assistant Provost for Inclusive Excellence, and Thomas Walker, Program Director of Intergroup Relations.

Leyba and Walker attest Portman has built a strong network of student leaders, administrators, faculty and staff, which he draws upon to encourage engagement in CME projects. During a staff change, Portman stepped up, handling the organization of key CME programs, including the 2011 Diversity SummitVoices of Discovery, and the Diversity and Unity Retreat. Portman plans to graduate in June through the 4/1 program. He will have earned a bachelor’s degree in International Studies and master’s in Business Administration.

Spring Quarter – My Last at DU

It is Spring Quarter and there seems to be excitement in the air.  I can’t really put my finger on it, but there is certainly something different, something exciting about this quarter.  People are generally in a good mood and seem to smile more.  I like that.

My classes this quarter will be a lot of work and each of them involves at least one group project.  I am taking the following classes: Creating Sustainable Enterprises, Strategic Human Resource Management, Competitive Marketing Strategies, and Enterprise Solutions.  I like my professors so far and the content seems like it will be interesting and relevant to me post-graduation.  Enterprise Solutions is a capstone class that is meant to bring together concepts from the entire MBA program and function more as a consulting engagement.  My group will be working with Denver Health.

Working at the Center for Multicultural Excellence this quarter will focus mostly on the 10th Annual Diversity Summit on Inclusive Excellence.  We should have a great program and I am extremely excited about the potential the Summit has.  I will also be doing some wrap-up and evaluation of the Diversity & Unity Retreat and Voices of Discovery, while beginning planning for next year’s Diversity & Unity Retreat.  Of course, there will be our quarterly Dinner and a Movie and work with Joint Council.  Importantly, we will need to be developing some sort of transition/succession plan for after I leave CME.

I am participating in the Daniels College of Business’s Inclusive Excellence Case Competition this quarter with a great team.  We will be working with MolsonCoors to solve a real diversity/inclusion program that their enterprise needs to address.

A big part of the next 10ish weeks will be my job search.  I am constantly looking up companies and jobs and applying for opportunities.  I hope to have something lined up soon.  My goal is to have a job well before the end of the quarter, while making sure that it is a great fit for me and the company.  I am hoping for something that provides continued growth and long-term opportunity.

Then there are the other groups of which I am a part and to which I will continue to contribute.

In the midst of all of this, I hope to make the most of the end of my college experience.  It has been an amazing five years, better than anything I could have ever imagined.  I want to cherish each moment, each experience, every person, all of my friends and make the most of the short time I have remaining.

Here’s to the end of college and setting ourselves up for a successful future!

On a Stormy Sea of Moving Emotion

Today was the Diversity & Unity Retreat.  I know I have much to update on here (I have not really blogged in a few weeks), but I’d like to offer some of my takeaways from the weekend.  Some of these are related to the actual content of the event, but more than that is how the Retreat has/may set the context for where I am in life more generally right now.

I learn so much from the people with whom I interact.  I spent 23 hours with 130 Retreat participants who challenged themselves and each other on how to comprehend topics of diversity and inclusion, how to grow in their own identities, and how to transform this passion and knowledge into becoming allies for each other and towards creating positive change on university campuses.  I witnessed so many people who got out of their comfort zones and challenged themselves to engage differently.  Too often, we become complacent within our own safe zones, our own communities, our own knowledge.  I am amazed at how much we can transform in such a short period of time.  I hope that the new knowledge and understanding gained by participants will continue to fester and develop.  If that happens, I have much hope in the future.

Thomas and I worked with a group of 12 students (10 undergraduate and 2 graduate) to develop content for the Retreat.  We worked with them on curriculum development, event write-ups, training methodologies, and discussion/facilitation skills. We call this group the Core Team.  Mia and I began the group last year and we expanded upon their role for this year’s Retreat.  Our first Core Team included many of my best friends who also happened to be leaders of diversity work on campus.  Most of them graduated last year and I was unsure at first about how I might interact with this year’s group of students.  While I knew each of them from other activities, our relationship was different and for the most part, they were several years younger than last year’s group.

After this weekend, I am proud to say that we could not have had a better group of student leaders.  Their passion, dedication, hard work, and skills are an inspiration and I am so proud to have had the opportunity to be a part of such a group and help them develop as individuals.

Yet, it was also me who developed in the process.  I sometimes become frustrated at diversity events when people “don’t get it” or when I attend sessions that I “know.”  But I learn from the people with whom I interact.  And my knowledge and skill set are constantly challenged and transformed from the work that I do.  I am thankful for every person at the Retreat who has also helped me as I become the person I want to be.

We spent some time talking about identity development models – how each of our social identities develops/transforms overtime, at different levels, and at the same time as our other identities.  We had an incredibly diverse group of participants (and not just in the “usual” dimensions of the term).  This morning when I was standing in the middle of the circle of participants, I reflected on my whiteness.  I’m not entirely sure what it was that made me think this way, but almost as if someone hit a button, I was instantly aware that I was a white person leading the Retreat.  Would it be seen as though the majority person was trying to tell the minority people what “they” needed to do?  I hope not.

I certainly do not have all of the answers.  I just try to do my part to make the world a better place.  Hopefully I am able to impart some wisdom on other people, just as other people constantly teach me and challenge me.  In that process, I think it is important for each of us to recognize and own our own identities and engage ourselves as we try to discover who we are and how we interact with others.

Over the past year, I have filled out a lot of forms asking me what my career goals are and what my intended career path is.  Here is the short answer: it depends.  My long term goals are to be successful, both personally and professionally, and to be able to use that success and my position (whatever it may be) to create positive change in the world.  I want to do my part to make the world a better place, where each of us can be recognized, welcomed, included, and respected equally.  How I get there is yet to be determined. I have no set path that I feel a need to take.  Whatever field or industry I end up in, I will try to position myself for my long-term goal.

I had a conversation this weekend with someone about my goals/career path.  I shared that I sometimes wonder whether a MBA was the right choice.  Perhaps I should have pursued a degree in higher education so that I continue my work on student engagement and university development.  There is no right or wrong answer and I am committed to the MBA.  Hopefully, the business world will provide me the opportunities I seek.  And who knows – I could return to higher education sometime in the future.  The path leads in many directions.

In case you were wondering, the title of this post is a line from “Carry On My Wayward Son” by Kansas.  It is a great song that offers opportunity for reflection on one’s place in life.  As I consider my experiences with the Diversity and Unity Retreat, I am well aware that my path is in flux.  The fact that I graduate with two degrees and have to move to the next stage in my life in ~13 weeks is still surreal to me.  Just as I offered opportunities for thought and reflection to event participants, I reflect on my own privileges and opportunities.  Hopefully, I am able to engage and challenge myself to use them for positive outcomes in the years to come.

11:11

It’s 11:11 and it’s time to make a wish.  Here it is: a future of happiness, health, prosperity, love, family, and friendship.

I am in an interesting place in life.  I’ve finished my undergraduate degree at the University of Denver.  Yet, I am still here.  I am here working on a Master of Business Administration degree.  I really enjoy what I am learning.  But it’s different.  Mostly good different, but in some ways, just different in that I miss the way it used to be.  I have to start looking at the rest of life.  Next year no longer implies the classes I will be taking.  Now it means the rest of my life.

My social circles are constantly evolving.  I have recently spent time with both old and new friends in Denver.  I have gotten to know so many people over the past few years that it is sometimes difficult to balance all of my friendship commitments, but I certainly try my best.  I have grown with many great people whose friendship I value strongly and with whom I hope to stay friends for a long time to come.  I have also connected/reconnected with some wonderful people this past year.  I have found people who encourage, challenge, and love me.  I have found people who share and listen and support – relationships in which I certainly reciprocate these activities/feelings.  These are people not only from Denver or the United States, but all over the world.

I also talk with many of my good friends from home (St. Louis) on a regular basis.  People who I grew up with.  People with whom I have relationships and inside jokes that sound outrageous to everyone else.  These are people who I cherish and whose support I have appreciated while not always being physically present.  I am incredibly blessed by the people in my life.

Scouting has been a huge piece of my becoming who I am.  Many of the values and skills I have learned and acquired have been developed through the Scouting program.  My summers at camp led me to some of my best experiences and best friends.  I miss camp.  I miss the experiences, the impact we had, and the friendships we built.  I hope that I can reenergize my involvement with Scouting after graduation that my future children and millions of other youth will have the same amazing experiences that I had.

I work part time on campus and collaborate with students, staff, faculty, and administrators from across campus.  I have been very fortunate in the relationships I have developed over the past five years.  I have learned a lot and grown immensely.  I am understanding the value of individuals and groups and connections between them all.  It has been awkward at times though when I’ve gone out and interacted socially with other students who I have supervised or met staff or faculty “off the clock” – especially when they think I work full time for DU.

My field of diversity/inclusion programming, training, strategy, project management, etc. is incredibly rewarding and at the forefront of social change, while remaining incredibly challenging at times.  I can see the positive impact of my work.  I was once told by a mentor to think about my work, my capabilities, and my opportunities and utilize them in shaping and creating a positive lasting legacy at the university.  I believe that I am being successful at doing that.  Hopefully, others will agree.

In the midst of this I am looking to the future: what are my options for long term employment post-graduation (June 2011)?  I am trying to do everything I can to best utilize all of my resources, network, explore opportunities at every turn.  In this process, I am trying to determine my personal worth (read: what type and quantity of compensation am I seeking) while determining my values and the weight to assign to each of them.  Among the plethora of things I am working to consider are: family, friends from home (St. Louis), friends from Denver, friends from everywhere else, job function, job duties, living location, company culture, long term impact of short term decisions, company/job prestige, opportunities for personal and professional growth, and much more.

I have had conversations recently about how to represent yourself online.  I have professional and personal profiles online, all of which offer accurate depictions of me and my life.  Nevertheless, I am constantly impressed when I find people who can write honestly about their feelings and beliefs without fear of how they might be interpreted or any potential future repercussions.  I’ve tried to be honest in sharing my feelings in this post.  I hope to challenge myself to continue to do so.

So, here’s to the future!  While the future may be uncertain, I can always reflect on where I am, where I came from, where I am going, and the people and experiences that have supported me along the way.  If you are a part of my life, thank you!  I am who I am because of you.  There is so much more to say, but who yet knows what those things will be…

In the meantime, perhaps the following song will offer some insight into this path we call life:

How the time passed away? All the trouble that we gave
And all those days we spent out by the lake
Has it all gone to waste? All the promises we made
One by one they vanish just the same

Of all the things I still remember
Summer’s never looked the same
The years go by and time just seems to fly
But the memories remain

In the middle of September we’d still play out in the rain
Nothing to lose but everything to gain
Reflecting now on how things could’ve been
It was worth it in the end

Now it all seems so clear, there’s nothing left to fear
So we made our way by finding what was real
Now the days are so long that summer’s moving on
We reach for something that’s already gone

Of all the things I still remember
Summer’s never looked the same
The years go by and time just seems to fly
But the memories remain

In the middle of September we’d still play out in the rain
Nothing to lose but everything to gain
Reflecting now on how things could’ve been
It was worth it in the end

We knew we had to leave this town
But we never knew when and we never knew how
We would end up here the way we are
Yeah we knew we had to leave this town
But we never knew when and we never knew how

Of all the things I still remember
Summer’s never looked the same
The years go by and time just seems to fly
But the memories remain

In the middle of September we’d still play out in the rain
Nothing to lose but everything to gain
Reflecting now on how things could’ve been
It was worth it in the end

 

Snow Closure

It is really cold in Denver right now.  It is 6 degrees Fahrenheit.  I’m not a fan.  The low today is -4.  Tomorrow, the high is -1 and the low is -15.  Seriously.  The low is not a positive number.  That just does not seem right.  The wind chill is supposed to be -20 to -30, which I do not even know how to fathom.

I’ve been expressing my desire for a snow day for tomorrow since this morning when I realized how cold it would be.  It is also snowing, but the amount of snow itself would not qualify the University of Denver for a snow day (although that would not necessarily be the case if I were home in St. Louis).  Nevertheless, with the extremely cold temperatures I figured it could happen.  Everyone told me that there was no way school would be canceled – but it was!  I was extremely surprised though that DU was closed early today.  Tomorrow is less surprising.  Nevertheless, there is more time to relax and (hopefully) get work done.

Earlier today, I checked snow closures online and saw that the Greeley Moose Lodge was closed for bingo tonight.  I figured we may have a shot.  No one wants bingo canceled without good reasoning.  This resulted in my current Facebook status of “Greeley Moose Lodge is closed for bingo tonight. It is thus appropriate that DU is closed. No bingo, no school. That’s always been my philosophy.”

 

This is a message from the University Of Denver Department Of Campus Safety. Due to hweather, the University will be closed the rest of today, 01/31/11 and all day and evening on 2/1/11. Please check the University of Denver website at www.du.edu for updated information.


To listen to the above message, you will need audio software and speakers on your computer.

 

Winter Quarter Class Summary

I’ve now completed my first week of Winter Quarter and am getting ready for the second week.  This quarter may be my most difficult yet.  There will certainly be a lot of reading/work.  Work at CME is also keeping me busy.  This quarter, we have the Diversity & Unity Retreat and Voices of Discovery, two programs I am planning with Thomas.  I am also doing a lot of work for the Diversity Summit on Inclusive Excellence (big expansion this year, held in May) with Johanna.

I am taking four classes this quarter.  Here they are with some initial thoughts:

Strategic Cost Management

This class has an interesting topic that I’ve never really though about before.  I’m hoping to get a more integrative understanding of managerial accounting.  My professor is a nice old guy who clearly knows the material.  However, I’ve already been lost in class and there is a ton of work for this class, most of which has to be done with a partner.  Luckily, I have a good one.

Ethics for the 21st Century Professional

This class is very interesting and multidisciplinary.  It covers leadership, management, law, public policy, etc.  I like my professor a lot.  It has a good amount of work and effectively utilizes Blackboard by dividing up readings, discussion boards, and quizzes into “learning modules”.  I know a lot of the people in this class so that makes it a lot of fun as well.

Strategic Management

My Professor is extremely knowledgeable and has great experience.  We will be covering a lot of material and fast.  It will be a lot of work, but I think I will really enjoy it.  We have several team case analyses and I have a good group with people I know.

Law and Public Policy

I’ve always been interested in this topic and now I get to take a class that also relates it to business.  A good fit.  We have a lot of reading for this one too and several longer papers/presentations on different cases.  My professor seems to be a nice guy.

End of Winter Break, Beginning of a New Year

[This post was written while on board a plane from St. Louis to Denver]

I am sitting on a plane again.  This time for domestic travel.  I’m on the way back to Denver from St. Louis for the beginning of Winter Quarter.  I’m also heading back to Denver at the end of my last winter break – and I have to say, I’m not a big fan of that one.  I cannot believe that winter break is over.  Simultaneously, I feel like winter break just began and has been going on for quite some time.  Of course, winter break has been about six weeks long and I have been to the other side of the world and back again – literally.

I have no regrets about this winter break.  While I would have liked to have had more time in St. Louis to spend with people, I had some amazing experiences that I would not have wanted to pass up.  In my time at home, I spent a lot of time with family – something I am very happy about.  As well, I got to catch up with friends all over St. Louis.  I traveled to Israel where I saw new and old sights, reconnected with old friends and made some new ones, and attended an amazing wedding.  I traveled to England where I traveled the country with a friend and saw some of the most amazing (and old) places I have ever been to.  I was able to experience England and what it has to offer.  I spent time looking for and Interviewing for jobs (hopefully with some results soon).  I did a bit of reading and time to reflect and prepare for the new quarter.

The past few weeks have taught my several things.  I can rely on my instincts.  I know more that I realize sometimes.  It can be okay to go with the flow.  While planning is necessary, some adjustments may be necessary.  Change is okay and can be a good thing.  Relationships may change and morph.  We have to be okay with this.  Friends and family are important.  Treat them as such.

I graduate from the University of Denver with a BA and a MBA at the beginning of June.  This June.  With two degrees.  Wow!  I cannot believe that 2011 is here; 2010 just flew by!  The first half of this year will be filled with what promise to be the most difficult classes I have taken in college.  This new challenge should prove to be of benefit to me and I plan to rise to the challenge and exceed all goals and expectations.

This year will also contain a major decision that will likely affect the rest of my life (the next few years, at a minimum): what job to take and what city to live in – the two are linked.  Everything I have done these past 23 years was effectively preparing me for this moment.  This year I will need to make a decision based on my past education and work experiences that will set me up for my future – work, friends, family, etc.  I do not take this situation lightly and I hope to make the right/best decision possible.  I pray that will indeed be the case.

Other than what I have written here, I do not really have any new resolutions for 2011.   I generally have the same goals for each year that will hopefully lead me to being a better person:

  • Try my best to understand people – i.e. increase my empathy and open-mindedness
  • Rely on my values
  • Do my best
  • Learn
  • Talk less about people behind their backs
  • Do what I can to make the world a better place
  • Be the best friend and family member that I can be and trust my friends and family
  • Be happy and healthy

I have no doubt that 2011 will be my best year yet.  They each get better and better.  Every year also seems to go by faster.  I hope that I will be able to create new memories and relationships and value and retain them all.

Happy 2011!

Graduation Video

To celebrate Undergraduate Graduation this past June, me and four friends had a party at Hillel for our families.  Leslie made a video slideshow that has now been posted on YouTube.  It is quite good and brings back many memories.

Here’s to good times, great memories, and wonderful people: