This Fall I Am Not Going Back to School

Well, this is weird.  All over people are going back to school.  I even have friends who have been in school for almost a month already.  The University of Denver begins its Autumn Quarter the first Monday after Labor Day.  That would be today – i.e. since 2006, I’ve been back in college today.  But not this year.

Apparently, when you graduate you know longer go to school.  Who knew?  Just kidding – but it really is a strange feeling.  I thought in May/June that graduation would really hit me today.  I’m not sure if it has.  I guess I’ve understood for some time that I would not be returning to DU. Searching for a job for months probably drove that home.

Today does feel strange though.  As I write this, I am on a plane flying to New Orleans.  When I post this I will be in a hotel in Baton Rouge.  Last year at this time I was in classes at the Daniels College of Business or working at the Center for Multicultural Excellence.  I’ve moved on. I’ve grown up.  For the first time since I started school (a.k.a. before I can remember) this fall I do not go to school.

I guess it is time to apply what I’ve been learning all these years.  Maybe it is fitting then that this afternoon, I have a big meeting with a provider.  Maybe it is fitting that I spent Saturday giving advice to Scouts and being told how old I am (more on these last two comments in a later post).

I certainly will not take for granted all that I have learned and experienced throughout my years of education.  I am so fortunate to have had the opportunities I have had.  My time at the University of Denver, specifically, and the people I met there was more than I ever could have asked for.  Hopefully I am working now to be able to give others the same experiences – and I know my education is far from complete.

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Pre-Work Update (with Denver Trip)

I start working full-time on Monday!  What a crazy idea… I’m excited, nervous, anxious, hopeful, scared – just about everything.  I am confident that my job with Centene Corporation is going to be a great next step in this life journey.  I’ve had a few weeks since accepting the job offer from Centene to get back in touch with people and begin the process of re-establishing myself in St. Louis.  It seems like it will be a long process, but I am looking forward to rekindling friendships and building new ones.  Things sure have changed here in the past five years.

I had planned on making a trip to Denver (if I wasn’t going to be working there) before beginning work and it worked out for me to spend about a week in Denver recently.  It was great spending time with friends and seeing the University of Denver again before I begin my professional life.  I was also able to spend time with people who I had hoped to see before leaving Denver but timing with finals and graduation prevented it.  I’m glad that happened.

I had a “mental checklist” for my time in Denver.  Everything I had hoped would happen happened and then some.  It was a great time!  I spent time with my “adopted” Denver family, the Cohen’s.  I went camping off of Guanella Pass with some friends where we also went hiking and met some really great people (including some from England and Ireland).  Camping there was really fun though.  I was at Chabad for Mendel’s 10th birthday.  I went out downtown with friends around LoDo.  Several of us went up to Loveland to visit another friend.  We went swimming and bought a slip ‘n’ slide at Wal-Mart.  We felt grown up (haha), but it was a lot of fun!  I hung out with a friend around Capital Hill.  I went camping with my cousins at Chatfield Reservoir. I spent a day and a half around DU seeing more friends and people I used to work with.

I was able to spend time with some great people during my time in Denver.  I hope that we are all able to stay in touch and continue to be a part of each others’ lives as we all begin this next stage of life.

This weekend will be quite busy as I spend time with old friends and begin the process of making new ones.  After an amazing week in Denver, I am hopeful that this next step in St. Louis will continue my trend of fortunate and blessed experiences.  I am excited for what the future holds.  Thank you to everyone who has, continues to, and will be a part of my life!

Life Update From The Past Month +

It has been quite some time since I’ve written a regular blog post on here.  May and the beginning of June just flew by!  The end of college came and went – way too quickly!  I am hoping to start doing a better job of blogging again now.  In the meantime, I figured I would give some updates on what I have been up to during the past month and half or so (In no particular order).  I don’t know if anyone will read this, but just in case…

  • I graduated.
  • I co-chaired the University of Denver’s 10th Annual Diversity Summit on Inclusive Excellence.
  • Earlier (end of April) I competed in the University of Denver’s Inclusive Excellence Case Competition. Life got really busy though and I never wrote about that experience, but my team developed a comprehensive diversity and inclusion strategy for MolsonCoors, focusing on its international business units.
  • I have gotten to know some amazing people.  This includes quite a good number of the international (specifically Chinese) students at the Daniels College of Business.  I am so happy for the opportunity to become friends with so many great people.
  • I went to a protocol dinner.  I have never had sorbet between courses or three wine pairings at one meal.  I don’t even know if I have ever even had a wine pairing… 🙂
  • I attended part of TEDxDU.  There were some pretty awesome speakers.
  • I completed group papers that involved meetings with and research into Vail Resorts (on human resource strategy) and Love Grown Foods (on business sustainability).
  • I saw the University of Denver’s lacrosse team play in the NCAA final four game… on TV.
  • A friend and I created a Wiki with extensive research and best practices about onboarding and orientation programs.
  • I met up with several friends who came back to visit Denver.
  • I went by the Native Student Alliance’s Pow Wow at the University of Denver.  It was awesome and I wish I could have stayed longer.
  • I went to a Cardinals vs. Rockies game at Coors Field.
  • I went bowling and played laser tag with my cousins in Littleton.
  • I had funnel cake. 🙂
  • A friend and I wanted to go camping, but unfortunately that did not happen.  Apparently finals meant there would be a lot of work to do…
  • I worked with a team as part of my MBA capstone class on a feasibility study/business plan for the creation of a Neurology Clinical Pharmacy Specialist (PharmD) position at Denver Health.  We presented to the Associate COOs and several other executives at Denver Health.  The formal ask will be made soon.
  • I have subscribed to Fortune, Fast Company, The Economist, and several other magazines.  I need to stay current and engaged to be competitive and innovative in the marketplace and to engage in intelligent conversation.
  • I went to a lot of goodbye dinners.  Some on the same night.
  • I went to a pool party.
  • I smiled.
  • I cried a little.
  • I laughed a lot.
  • I left my position at the Center for Multicultural Excellence.
  • I moved back to St. Louis.
  • I have been catching up with friends at home.
  • I have been debating going to Las Vegas with some friends but plane tickets are really expensive.
  • I am trying to figure out my future – weighing options, balancing priorities, etc.
  • I have been applying for a lot of jobs and have had several interviews lately.  I am hoping that some positive progress might happen in regards to my future very soon.

That’s a lot.  And there is a lot more.  Hopefully, I will have time to post updates on life, what I am thinking, and interesting things I come across online.

Thoughts on Graduation

I graduated from the University of Denver one week ago today!  Wow!  I can’t believe it has already been one week!  It is amazing to me how quickly time flies.  I am incredibly behind on my blogging (which I hope to fix soon) so I missed blogging about commencement.  Instead, I want to share a few reflections:

I graduated with a MBA on Friday, June 3, 2011.  A Master of Business Administration degree.  Weird.  My dad tells me that I am the first person in our immediate family to get any degree beyond a bachelor’s degree.  That’s kind of cool.

A lot of people told me that a master’s degree was a big deal in the month or so leading up to graduation.  I didn’t really think of it that way.  After all, I just graduated with a bachelor’s degree a year ago.  This was just another year for me to continue learning, keep growing, and have the opportunity to meet some amazing people.  I guess it was all of those things, but actually so much more.  The MBA seems to already be setting me up and setting me apart for the future.

I was originally a management major before changing to international studies.  I then decided to move back to business for the master’s degree.  I made the right choice leaving business to expand my horizons and skill set.  I also made the right choice coming back to business. 🙂

I have had the opportunity to meet some amazing people at the University of Denver.  I have been friends with many of them for four-five years.  Some I knew for several years, but really only become close friends with this past year.  I have also met some amazing people in my MBA program.  They might have had great experience and/or insight.  They might have been from another country.  I have tried to get to know a good number of the international students at Daniels.  I remember what it was like studying in a different country and I know that each of us has something great to offer.  However I met people and from wherever they are from, I am very happy to have had the opportunity to get to know each of the amazing people and friends this past year and the four previous years.

The hooding ceremony was interesting and a good close to my business education.  I’m glad the business students actually get to keep their hoods.  Who knows if there may be another degree in my future?  Commencement was a good end to my University of Denver education – an acknowledgement and a way of saying thank you.  I was happy to have many good friends close by and to be able to see both the Chancellor and the Provost at the end of my DU experience.  Both this year and last the Provost gave me a hug as I crossed the stage.  I appreciate that.  He has actually been one of the most influential people in my University of Denver career, providing academic and career counseling as well as being a key person for the work I have done on campus.

I was able to celebrate the end of my time at the University of Denver with some of my best friends from the past five years, as well as with many of the other MBA graduates over the course of my last week in Denver.

  • To my fellow graduates, however well I knew you: “Thank you for being a part of my education and my experience.  I appreciate everything you contributed to our successes and our community.  Congratulations!  We did it!”
  • To my friends: “Thank you for being a part of my life and for everything you do for me and for us.  I appreciate you more than you could know.”
  • To everyone: “Please stay in touch and continue to be a part of my life.”

University of Denver Graduation Profile

I graduated with my MBA on Friday, June 3, 2011! (More on that to come soon.)  The University of Denver (DU) highlighted a handful of graduates.  I was one of them.  The story is below:

Joel Portman started his career at DU as a management major.

 

But try as he might, he couldn’t shake the notion that he was learning more about leadership from his extracurricular activities than from his classes.

 

Then again, he didn’t spend his free time just hanging out or going to hockey games; instead, he raised $300,000 for Hillel as an intern, served as a student senator, fought for religious accommodations for Muslims, Jews and other minorities on campus and worked as the coordinator for intergroup relations at DU’s Center for Multicultural Excellence (CME).

 

“I like bringing together different groups … and being able to think and explore,” Portman says.

 

DU’s dual-degree program offered the perfect compromise: Portman could get a bachelor’s in international studies — with a concentration in international security and conflict resolution — and an MBA.

 

“It has the economics piece but it also has the [focus on] relationships, and how people understand and interact with each other,” Portman says. “The MBA is allowing me to go into more depth with people who actually care; to learn what strategy is and how to apply that. I like to be able to understand what’s working, what’s not, why and how it can be improved.”

 

He’s now set to graduate June 3 with both degrees.

 

Portman came by his ambition — and his interest in social justice — at a young age. In high school, he went on a summer trip to Poland and Israel with his youth group, which was trying to settle on a project for Holocaust Awareness Week.

 

“I researched it and decided we should expand to genocide awareness more broadly,” Portman says.

 

Before long, Portman had founded his own nonprofit, Never Again!, dedicated to raising awareness about the Holocaust and the genocide in Sudan and Rwanda.

 

Though he’s since turned over the presidency, he remains active in that and other social justice groups.

 

At DU, he joined the Social Justice Living and Learning Community early on.

 

“I got involved with [DU’s] Undergraduate Diversity Committee and the [DU] Programming Board. I started exploring that more in depth and it just piqued my interest. I saw a lot of opportunity for improvement, and I like planning programs — so I figured it would be a good way to apply my skills, learn more and influence the community.”

 

He didn’t stop there.

 

In 2008 — his junior year at DU — Portman studied abroad in Be’er Sheva, Israel.

 

“It’s in the desert, so it has a lot of Bedouin, as well as a lot of immigrants from Ethiopia and Russia,” Portman says. “I had Jewish, Muslim and German roommates — and I met people from all over the world. It really shaped how I interact with people. [Be’er Sheva] was not very Westernized, so I had to interact with people the way they did. It’s very interesting to figure out how people come together and how conflict resolution happens.”

 

When he returned, Portman began putting those skills to work by volunteering at the CME. He’s quickly risen through the ranks and now is responsible for planning and producing workshops and training about diversity. His flagship event, the Diversity Summit, this year attracted almost 650 attendees, who discussed and strategized ways to improve inclusion and identity.

 

As a result of his work at the CME, Portman is in demand as a speaker himself; last year, he hosted a workshop at a national conference in Wisconsin, and this year he presented at a conference of several colleges.

 

Though Portman has been named DU’s 2011 Student Employee of the Year — and should be able to pretty much write his own job description upon graduation — he’s not resting on his laurels.

 

“I had a job offer but turned it down because it was in a place I didn’t see myself living. I want to be able to contribute value to the organization and be with them for more than a few years,” he says.

 

He would consider a position in consulting, project management, organizational development or training.

 

“I think doing diversity work in international businesses is my ideal job — even if it’s not in the title.”

 

Despite his numerous accomplishments, Portman comes across as remarkably humble— like when he outlines his ultimate plans for the future: “A lot of the successes I’ve had have been because of the support I’ve had from other people. My long-term goal is to be able to give back and help other people. A lot of what I’m doing now is building skills in other student leaders, so they can be successful. I want to stay involved in the community and give back, in terms of time and financially, to help other people do the work they’re passionate about.”

 

DU’s graduate Commencement ceremony begins at 4:30 p.m. June 3 at Magness Arena. For more information or to watch a live stream of the ceremony, visit the DU Commencement website.

 

Reflections on the University of Denver’s 10th Annual Diversity Summit on Inclusive Excellence

[This should have been posted four weeks ago!  Wow, May has been incredibly busy!]

10th Annual Diversity Summit on Inclusive Excellence

Friday, May 6, 2011 was the University of Denver’s 10th Annual Diversity Summit on Inclusive Excellence – the largest program I work on in my role at the Center for Multicultural Excellence.

The Summit has grown significantly.  Ten years ago, 25 people participated.  When I got involved 250 people participated in the Summit.  This year, I wanted to grow and expand the Summit both in terms of content and participation.  We have been spending the daylong conference on understanding diversity and inclusion and discussing research in the field.  Our community was ready for putting these ideas into practice and understanding why diversity and inclusion truly matter.

I co-led a committee of 32 students, staff, faculty, administrators, and alumni in the development of a new program: we built on the educational foundation of the summit while expanding into three tracks: Business & Industry, P-20 Education (pre-school through higher education), and Philanthropy & Community.  There were many more opportunities for focused tracks, but we thought these would be a good testing ground for focusing on how diversity and inclusion are of value in each of these arenas and why our constituents need to learn about and apply diversity and inclusion in order to be successful now and in the future.

We had approximately 650 participants and evaluations have been extremely positive.  University leadership connected with our keynote message more than ever before, we connected with the broader community in news ways, and gained national exposure for our program.  Our speakers actually began to make their own connections and our Summit resulted in multiple new partnerships with long-term value and donations to the University.  Participants left with real, tangible action items and a better understanding of our focus areas.  In addition, our committee was able to embed the program as a University-wide program through a focus on cross-functional collaboration.

The feedback I received has been both positive and personally meaningful.  A friend who is a first-year student commented the following to me on Facebook:

I’m sorry I did not get the chance to attend the Diversity Summit today, I was REALLY looking forward to it, but I got very ill and ended up having to see a doctor to prescribe some medicine. Hopefully I can attend next year! You’ve been a great role model to many of us freshmen and i wish you luck on your endeavors after you graduate!

I was in the library the day after the event and someone else came up to me and said “I saw you at the Diversity Summit on Friday and wanted to let you know that you did a really good job – it was a great event.”

I share this feedback because I believe that the collective efforts of multiple people made the Summit a success.  If my role in that and in the other things in which I have been involved have positively influence people, then I am leaving the legacy at the University of Denver that I hope to.  All of us need to think about how we can improve our communities and how we can develop meaningful interactions, relationships, and friendships.

So many people helped make the event a success.  Thank you to our amazing committee and the great speakers and presenters who contributed to an amazing event!

Click here for a copy of our e-program with details on the 10h Annual Diversity Summit on Inclusive Excellence.

Click here for some pictures from the Summit.

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

 

 

‘Til The Morning We Dream So Long

I have a new song stuck in my head.  And I like it a lot – but, more on that later.  I’m about to begin week four (of ten) of Spring Quarter.  I knew this quarter was going to fly by, but wow!  I have no idea where the time is going!  I feel like it should be week one still – my classes still seem to be starting up and wham!  The work hits.  I am researching for several projects right now, doing a case competition, planning an awesome Diversity Summit, looking/interviewing for jobs, and trying to make the most of my time here with my Denver friends.

Yesterday was interesting.  I had conversation throughout the day that made me want to go back home post-graduation to rejoin friends and family there.  Then I attended Shabbat 200, the University of Denver’s largest Jewish event.  Chabad plans it every year and we had a great turnout.  I spent time with great people (Jewish and not Jewish) at the event and afterward that caused me to reexamine my convictions from earlier in the day.  I know these major decisions should not be based on chance encounters or single events, but I have been extremely fortunate to be surrounded by amazing people wherever I have lived.

No decisions yet.  Hopefully, I’ll have the opportunity to make some decisions on my post-graduation future very soon.  I am ready to end the uncertainty.  Regardless of what happens, I know that I will have to work hard to maintain relationships.  But they are relationships worth maintaining and that really is the point.

Lupe Fiasco has an incredibly catchy song right now: “The Show Goes On.”  It’s a great song and actually has a pretty good message.  It is also rather relevant in that it causes one to evaluate the reasons why we act the way we do.  It is definitely worth checking out (note that the language in the video and lyrics below is explicit):

LA-SER

Alright, already the show goes on
Alright, till the morning we dream so long
Anybody ever wonder, when they would see the sun up
Just remember when you come up
The show goes on!
Alright, already the show goes on
Alright, till the morning we dream so long
Anybody ever wonder, when they would see the sun up
Just remember when you come up
The show goes on!

[Lupe Fiasco Verse 1]
Have you ever had the feeling that you was being had
Don’t that sh-t make you mad
They treat you like a slave, with chains all on your soul,
And put whips up on your back,
They be lying through they teeth
Hope you slip up off your path
I don’t switch up I just laugh
Put my kicks up on they desk
Unaffected by they threats than get busy on they ass
See that’s how that Chi-Town made me
That’s how my daddy raised me
That glittering may not be gold, don’t let no body play me
If you are my homeboy, you never have to pay me
Go on and put your hands up, when times are hard you stand up
L-U-P the man, cause a brand that the fans trust
So even if they ban us they’ll never slow my plans up!

Alright, already the show goes on
Alright, till the morning we dream so long
Anybody ever wonder, when they would see the sun up
Just remember when you come up
The show goes on!
Alright, already the show goes on
Alright, till the morning we dream so long
Anybody ever wonder, when they would see the sun up
Just remember when you come up
The show goes on!

[Lupe Fiasco Verse 2]
One in the air for the people that ain’t here
Two in the air for the father that’s there
Three in the air for the kids in the ghetto
Four for the kids who don’t wanna be there

None for the n-ggas trying to hold them back
Five in the air for the teacher not scared to tell those kids thats living in the ghetto that the n-ggas holdin back that the World is theirs!
Yeah yeah, the World is yours, I was once that little boy
Terrified of the World
Now I’m on a World tour
I will give up everything, even start a world war
For these ghettos girls and boys im rapping round’ the World for!
Africa to New York, Haiti then I detour, Oakland out to Auckland
Gaza Strip to Detroit, say hip-hop only destroy
Tell em’ look at me, boy!
I hope your son don’t have a gun and that would be a D-boy

Alright, already the show goes on
Alright, till the morning we dream so long
Anybody ever wonder, when they would see the sun up
Just remember when you come up
The show goes on!
Alright, already the show goes on
Alright, till the morning we dream so long
Anybody ever wonder, when they would see the sun up
Just remember when you come up
The show goes on!

[Lupe Fiasco Verse 3]
So no matter what you been through
No matter what you into
No matter what you see when you look outside your window
Brown grass or green grass
Picket fence or barbed wire
Never ever put them down
You just lift your arms higher
Raise em till’ your arms tired
Let em’ know you’re their
That you struggling and survivin’ that you gonna persevere
Yeah, ain’t no body leavin, no body goin’ home
Even if they turn the lights out the show is goin’ on!

Alright, already the show goes on
Alright, till the morning we dream so long
Anybody ever wonder, when they would see the sun up
Just remember when you come up
The show goes on!
Alright, already the show goes on
Alright, till the morning we dream so long
Anybody ever wonder, when they would see the sun up
Just remember when you come up
The show goes on!

Looking to the Future as I Finish Winter Quarter

I am currently in the middle of my final exams for Winter Quarter.  As finals end and I head home to St. Louis this weekend, I am going to be spending time with my family – the most important people in my life – and positioning myself to make some big decisions for the future.  I thought this would be an appropriate time to share one of my favorite pictures that has been taken of me.

This picture is of me hiking the mountains above Eilat in Southern Israel.  It really embodies who I am in terms of the future opportunities the picture represents and even what I am wearing – a shirt from Boy Scout camp, a water bottle from the University of Denver, etc.