Daniel Pascoe Aguilar, the Founding Director of the Center for Social Justice and Chief Diversity Officer at Excelsior University, shares how he’s using identity and allyship communities to serve underrepresented students and develop the next generation of diverse leaders.
A longtime leader in career services and higher ed, Daniel discusses the critical importance of developing the next generation of diverse leaders, improving access, and building a village around underrepresented students on and off campus.
Daniel shares how his team built the communities, how he got buy-in from senior leadership, and why improving access to higher education is everyone’s responsibility.
Resources from the episode:
Meredith Metsker: Hey everyone. Welcome to the Career Everywhere podcast. I’m your host Meredith Metsker, and today I am joined by Daniel Pascoe Aguilar. He’s the founding director of the Center for Social Justice and chief diversity officer at Excelsior University in Albany, New York. Daniel, thank you for being here.
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: My pleasure. I’m honored. Thank you for the invitation.
Meredith Metsker: Yeah. I’m so glad to have you. I feel like everyone in career services already knows who you are.
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: Some do.
Meredith Metsker: But just in case they don’t, for the audience, Daniel has been working in career services for over 20 years. He’s worked at a variety of public and private institutions, including Indiana University Bloomington, Seattle University, University of Oregon, Ithaca College, Drew University, and now Excelsior University.
Throughout his whole career, two of his major focuses have been serving underrepresented students and just improving access to career resources in general. He’s done this in a number of creative ways, particularly in his current role at Excelsior. So I am just thrilled to have him on the podcast today to talk about that work and in particular how he and his team are using identity and allyship communities to really develop that next generation of diverse leaders. Before I get into the questions, Daniel, is there anything else you’d like to add about your background or your role at Excelsior?
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: Thank you, Meredith. That was very kind and very beautiful. I really appreciate it. Probably something to mention is, this might not be a surprise particularly to the folks who know me, and that is that probably halfway my 20 years in career services in higher education, I came to understand the work that we did, career and professional development, as a form of social justice. It is clear to me that that’s an imperative focus of our work on developing a diverse interculturally-ready next generation of leaders.
Since the University of Oregon, I started to focus my work significantly on how to bring equity to career services and professional development. I knew that probably as I progressed, and I look to transition to the DEI or social justice emphasis of a higher education institution. Needless to say, I don’t see those two aspects of the work of higher education organization as separate. I see them as fully integrated.
Another interesting aspect of these processes, I was significantly attracted to Excelsior University because its mission is to serve the underrepresented. Those who might not think that college is for them, those who might not think that college is accessible to them, and those who might otherwise struggle to complete a college education. It is transformative, but often inaccessible. I’ll talk more about it later. But the fact that it’s an online institution that focuses specifically on helping those who traditionally don’t access degrees in postsecondary education, I really felt attracted to the mission, to the work, and to building an agenda on social justice through the center and on DEI through my role as CDO to help us move forward was very attractive.
Meredith Metsker: Okay. Love it. That was great context. I’m curious, what’s the size and structure of your team? Who are you working with?
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: Well, it depends on what you mean. People who know me again, are aware of the fact that wherever I work, I don’t care about the size of my assigned team. I work with everyone.
Meredith Metsker: Well, that’s true.
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: So my team is very small. It’s me and one other person. But I work very closely with so many. If you think of the communities on which we’re working with uConnect. We work with alumni relations, we work with development, we work with the Career Readiness Center, with enrollment management, with marketing, with analytics and data support. I mean, just because I think that this work is one that we need to do as a collective and we cannot delegate the preparation of our next generation. We have to do it together. So my assigned team is small, but the team with which I work at Excelsior is fairly diverse and large.
Meredith Metsker: I love that answer. As you know, that’s kind of how we view it at uConnect as well, that it’s really about bringing that culture of career readiness and preparing that next generation campus-wide. That it’s not just on career services, it’s on everyone who could potentially come in contact with the students. So I love that.
Before I get into the more specific questions about those identity and allyship communities and how you’re using those to kind of prepare that next generation of diverse leaders, I want to kick us off with a question that I’ll ask all of our guests just to get us in the right headspace for this discussion. But what does Career Everywhere mean to you?
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: So it’s quite aligned with what I was mentioning before. I came across a datum not too long ago based on a Gallup survey that indicated that 87% of the world’s workforce is struggling to find meaning in what they do. When we think of the challenges that we need to solve and why we’re preparing our next generation of leaders, it became an imperative that we figure out how to engage everyone in this work. Our future talent will determine how our world looks like, our planet, our society, our democracy, our international relations, poverty, hunger, I mean, you name it, all the systemic issues that we’re facing. So in my mind, there is no way that we can any longer think, “Oh, we have a career center. They are taking care of that.” Or to think, “Oh, higher education is doing this work.”
Preparing our next generation of leaders and particularly preparing a purposeful next generation of leaders that finds meaning in what they do, preparing systemic challenge-ready next generation of leaders becomes imperative. And then also preparing a diverse next generation of leaders. Every day, I would imagine some of our viewers identify, perhaps you identify, but it’s clear to me that our decision-making tables are not engaging the necessary diversity of perspectives and backgrounds and experiences and skills. Our interdisciplinary decision-making, our ability to think in multiple ways about the solutions that we need to generate has become one of our most important societal endeavors. So to me, Career Everywhere is this mandate that requires us to be leaders in our communities, to bring everyone, to help us facilitate, or as I like to say, scaffold the preparation of a purposeful, systemic challenge-ready and diverse next generation of leaders.
Meredith Metsker: That’s a great answer. I love that. And takes us into the next part of the discussion here. But on that note, that scaffolding especially, can you just give me an overview of what you are doing with these identity and allyship communities there at Excelsior?
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: Absolutely. Well, it’s very clear to me. If you look at data, one of the reasons for which I love the mission of Excelsior University is because if you look at Department of Labor data, and this has been consistent throughout the last decade. As soon as someone in the United States earns a bachelor’s degree, their unemployment rate drops to half and their wage is double. The day they get the diploma, they enter a different bracket. So it’s a transformative opportunity for anyone who has access to education. The problem though is that if you look at Pell Research data, it’s only 11% of people in poverty in the United States that complete a postsecondary degree. That is a systemic lack of access in our society, in our country. It takes five generations for a family to get out of poverty.
Meredith Metsker: Wow.
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: Still, the highest predictor of wealth or economic and career development is the education and the wealth of our parents. So when I see that discrepancy of the opportunity that education brings to the table, and at the same time the limitation of access, we need to figure out a way in which we level the plane, in which we scaffold the student experience, in which we go to the people who say, “I don’t think that education is for me.” Or, “I don’t think that I have access to education.” And we tell them, not only yes you do, but we need you to, and we’re going to take you by the hand and walk you through the process to make sure that you succeed. Because at the end of the day, we need you at our decision-making table, in our organizations, in our governments, and even at a global level.
So to me, communities are one of the ways in which we can create a village around our students, those who we bring to postsecondary education opportunities, whether they were thinking of it or not, but making sure that we’re providing them with the resources, the connections, the opportunities, the experiences, everything we can make available to scaffold all around them their development and their preparation as members of the next generation of leaders. So to me, the opportunity to bring equity to this experience, to engage everyone in the community to do this work, to truly build a robust village around those who come with less network, with less perspective, with less resources, with less confidence is imperative. I think it’s very important. And I have not found such a concrete way of presenting these both to the students who we’re serving as well as to the communities we’re trying to engage.
Meredith Metsker: What format do these communities take? How exactly are you executing that? Are they physical? Are they digital? Is it both?
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: It is both. We’re trying to build a community around the student. And keep in mind, at Excelsior, students don’t have the opportunity to walk on campus and come across a faculty member or a staff member or, “Oh, what’s that group of students doing? And I’m going to join them.” We’re an online institution. So these allows us to create an online campus for them. It’s a village that otherwise they wouldn’t have except for the interactions they have in the classroom and the interactions they have with their advisors. So what we’re trying to do is to not only facilitate this platform and webspaces through which we curate and integrate all types of content specific to the identities and the allyships of students and community members, but to enhance that by engaging the entire community in that work and by making sure that we make available engagement opportunities. So we have conversations and events and activities that allow for each community to flourish and to feel like an actual community, not just a webpage.
Meredith Metsker: Right. Okay. That makes a lot of sense. I know I’ve looked at some of your communities on your website, and I know they’re hosted on the uConnect platform, but I’m curious, what kind of content are you putting on these communities? How are you sourcing and finding these resources that are relevant and applicable to all these different communities?
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: Well, I’ve had the benefit of onboarding the platform three times, and that has allowed me to learn from previous experience and to ideate what are better ways of doing it. One of the reasons for which I got really excited is I had a number of ideas of how to make these spaces more interactive and more engaging. I mean, a fascinating part of the structure of these pages is the fact that it allows for not only curation of content by particular areas, race, and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, military and veterans, different abilities, age and generational diversity. We have nine of them. And then not only curate imagery and content, and then you can have blocks that are specific to that, you can have events specific to that, you can have community connections specific to that, then you can have databases of internships and jobs and resources and professional associations and videos.
There’s a plethora of things you can put together, opportunities and resources and connections you can put together for students based on how they identify and for community members to contribute based on how they identify and what matters to them. But I really wanted to turn these pages not only into opportunities for people to consume content and even to begin to interact with that content. So we have a conspicuous widget at the very top that has strategic action items for the user who comes to this space. The first one is we want to highlight the intersectionality across the different, what we call rope teams or communities because we’re not just one single identity. We identify with a number of them, both career and identity allyship. So we encourage users, students, and other participants to explore other communities and to see the intersectionality across them. That’s one.
There’s this interactive push to help them explore more than what they’re seeing in that particular page. But on the other end, we have ways in which we can engage them directly, ask questions, and we have a survey that walks them through that, they click on the button and that takes them there, provide us with feedback, then tell your story. And we have them go through a survey through which they share certain aspects of their story and they share a picture and then now we can highlight them. A way in which they can chat and interact with others in that community, a way in which they can recommend content. They might know of an article that needs to become a blog. They might know of a connection that needs to be featured. They might know of a resource that we need to highlight so that we turn these into their spaces.
And at the very top, we have also a button that says, “Get involved.” And we have listed all the ways in which people can become active in the communities. They can participate in the conversations that we have every week, they can participate in activities, they can do all the other things that I mentioned. And even a way to customize their spaces, their community experience so that they can say, “I want these content types related to these communities, and I want to get an individualized newsletter as often as I want based on the content that I said matters to me.” To me, all these are game changers because it allows us to help them see that these are their pages, that these are places where they can engage, whether to be supported or to support. That these are spaces where they can tell their story, learn about other stories, they can customize their experience. So to me, that level of interaction and that level of engagement and making that accessible 365, 24/7 is really transformative.
Meredith Metsker: Yeah, I love that. And that kind of brings me to my next question, which is, why is this so important? I know you touched on it a little bit earlier, but I would love to really dig into the why of building these identity and allyship communities and preparing that next generation of diverse leaders.
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: Well, if you think of the gap, it is very clear. I don’t think that it is difficult to understand that our students come from different backgrounds and that some of those backgrounds are quite challenged. We probably all identify with one reason that made our higher education experience, and we have gone through that, really challenging or even our K-12 education challenging.
A couple of examples. I grew up with dyslexia. The educational system wasn’t designed for me. And figuring out how to… Just realize that that was an issue and then circumvent the system to try to survive, it was a challenge international. I would’ve loved to have something like this, that told me, “You matter. We care about you. We’re scaffolding your experience, and there are many others who are here ready to support you and with whom you can walk this difficult journey.”
So I think the gap or the need is not difficult to understand. We have students who don’t come with the same level of network or perspective or resources or capacity to engage in the way that others do. It’s just the difference between privilege and lack of privilege. So to me, the responsibility that we have to level the plane is critical. To me, that’s our job. We have to stop thinking that we can just bring diversity to our campuses and then we standardize the education. This is what everybody needs to do. Well, no, because not everyone has the same access or has the same capacity. And then how important it is that we curate content for our students, that we help them see, you matter, how you identify matters, and we’re going to show you how we’re supporting that. And there are many members of the community who identify in the same way. Why not build that village that allows for that support?
Then of course you have the issue of the fragmentation of higher education. We have presented to students a higher education experience that looks like a scavenger hunt. An example of this, how we tell them to engage in experiential learning and then to figure out how to pursue that, they have to work with, I don’t know, seven departments under three different divisions. Nobody explains to them what they mean and why I go to one versus the other one. It’s not as accessible. So integrating the student experience and centralizing, feeding all those systems into one single space, curated by what matters to a student. I think it is something we have to do. We don’t do it. We are being neglectful of that student. The uniqueness of that student experience.
And then of course, as I mentioned, this is not something that can be delegated. It is one of our most important societal endeavors. We need to engage everyone in the community in order to do this work and then provide 365, 24 access. These communities allow us to do it at the students’ and community members’ time, place, and pace. I know I am slower at the number of different processes. Well, I want to take my time. In order to consume and to engage and to take advantage of opportunities, we need to let that happen. So to me, it is about equity, curation, integration, engagement, and access.
Meredith Metsker: That was a great answer. Thank you for sharing that.
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: Great question.
Meredith Metsker: Thank you. I’m curious, as you got to Excelsior and you started formulating this plan to build these communities, how did you go about getting buy-in and just getting that whole structure set up?
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: It’s all about collaboration. This is a very interesting question, Meredith, because one of the arguments that I make is that just as I say that we cannot delegate the preparation of our next generation of leaders to anyone, any area, any unit, or even any institution or any sector like higher education, we all need to work on it. Well, that also means that if I am a professional that by my job description I’m supposed to either contribute to or lead that aspect of the work, one of the most important outcomes of higher education, which is preparing our future talent, then why would I assume that my role is limited to my assigned position? Now I need to be politically respectful, but I need to also assume that my leadership is institutional, not departmental, not divisional, even not specific to a field. I have to assume this responsibility of if I am charged to figuring out how to better lead the preparation of our next generation of leaders, I have to engage everyone. And that happens on campus and that happens off campus.
So everywhere where I go, including Excelsior University is I begin to work with people that I know share the work and share the vision and share the mission and begin to show the different strategies that can help us do better in our work. That’s one of the advantages of uConnect, that it offers a very concrete way of facilitating this in a way that’s tangible, that’s palpable, that’s visible, in a way that’s attractive and exciting, that’s accessible, that allows for integration, all the things that we have been talking about. So at the time, when I share what other people are doing, what I have done in the past, it becomes an easy sell. Because you approach others by telling them, “I want to enhance your outcomes. I want us to figure out how to make what we are trying to do happen better and more effectively without asking you to do much more work. So it’s not like I’m asking you to do my job.”
Meredith Metsker: It’s a win-win.
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: Yes. So it becomes an exciting sell to do and then begin the work together. And it’s really interesting because the meetings that we have to continue developing our platform and our communities are so exciting. And it’s not just me. I see everybody else excited about the work that we’re doing and how they can get engaged and the more they see, the more ideas come to their minds and more things we explore. So I strongly recommend, particularly thinking of leadership differently, thinking of the role that we play as one that critically meets our assumption of more than our assigned leadership or jurisdiction, if you want to call it that way, to engage the entire community on and off campus in the work that we do,
Meredith Metsker: Right. It’s about getting out of those silos, which I know it can be hard sometimes.
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: Absolutely, yes. It’s an art, right? It requires political savviness.
Meredith Metsker: And I know you definitely have a lot of that. I’m curious, what have been some of the early feedback or some of the early results that you’ve seen from building these identity and allyship communities?
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: Well, we decided to start with four prototypes of nine identity allyship communities and the Career Readiness Center decided to start with four prototypes of the 11 career communities. So we have a total of 20 that we’ll launch in the middle of November, next week. And we decided the four prototypes to begin to socialize them in targeted ways. So we sent a message to alums, we presented to all the staff of the university. We then decided to do focus groups. So we invited students, we invited alums, we went to the alumni council and presented to them and got feedback. And for the four that we have so far prototyped, race and ethnicity, different abilities, gender and sexuality, and military and veterans, we did a focus group for each of those. And that was a fantastic experience because this is inviting people. And we tried to target two outcomes. One was, let’s engage people by the communities that matter to them. Let’s begin that process. So we invited people to, if you are interested in race and ethnicity, come and join us so that you can see who we’re doing and give us feedback, that type of thing.
So we started to engage folks and then also we spent time with them, showing them what the communities were, explaining to them what we were trying to do, and eliciting their feedback. Like military and veterans, we had a student who participated from Spain because he stationed there. And we had students, faculty, staff, and alums participate in the focus groups.
Overall, the feedback was very powerful and positive and actually moving in an affirmation of this is great, this is something that will make a significant difference in my experience, in the experience of students and alums, and the experience of community members. So that was really nice to see and that was a theme across the four focus groups. And then they engaged in giving us feedbacks and ideas. I mean, some things that were fly in the sky and others that were very concrete in terms of what these communities could do. That in itself I think is an outcome of the work that we’re doing.
Two other aspects of this are looking more into the future. Of course, we want to measure activity. How many people go to the website? How many people go to each of the communities? How long do they look at the website or at each community? And we can then identify metrics that we measure across time to figure out our growth and our progress as we move forward and in different types of activity in the page. But the other one is that we are hoping that this communities impact the way in which students feel about their experience, the way in which staff and faculty feel about their experience, the way in which alums feel about their affiliation to the university, even the way in which employers and other community members feel. And we have measures in all of those of different types that we’re going to be looking at based on the introduction of these communities to see what impact are these communities having and how our community members are responding to their experience.
Meredith Metsker: Okay. It sounds like you’ve got that all set up.
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: Well, we’re working on it, but we definitely have ideas.
Meredith Metsker: Well, it sounds like it’s been very positively received so far. I’m curious, what are some of your future goals or what’s the vision for these communities in the future?
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: Well, to start with, we want to launch the 20. Just earlier today, it was fascinating because we were asked to do a series for alums. So we’re putting together a four-session series on social justice and particularly on how alums can get involved. Because we do these tours that’s part of our agenda in the university where we go to every unit and then we make sessions available to other stakeholders like faculty. And we brought a framework and we’re having everyone go through models and applications and strategies on how to do our work consistently so that we share a vision, share practices, share vocabulary, and we’re moving in tandem as we grow interculturally, individually, and as teams and as an organization.
What we decided to do was to break down that process in four sessions to help people challenge their individual assumptions, to help, in this case, alums to explore how to change behavior, and then how to begin to structure that in the way in which they operate in interaction with the university and in their own environments. And what we decided to do is to use the communities as a playground of applications for each of those content areas. What we’re realizing is that the communities can be embedded in everything that we do in a very exciting way. I’m really thrilled about the opportunity to have become, the work of the center has become one of the five goals of the strategic plan of the university.
Meredith Metsker: Wow!
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: So we’re facilitating the university’s process of becoming a multicultural organization and there are definitions for that and different levels. And then under that goal, we have seven strategies, and those are all facilitated by the Center for Social Justice. And then what we’re trying to do is to embed the communities in all of those strategies in a way that helps us move not only in a robust and concerted way, but in a way that offers an application sandbox in which everyone can engage and at the same time enhancing the robustness of the village that we’re building around our students and alums.
Meredith Metsker: Wow. That is very cool that the work that you’re doing is now in the strategic plan.
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: It’s amazing. I had not seen that before and it’s one full goal of five. Yeah.
Meredith Metsker: Wow. Talk about elevating that role of career services.
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: Yeah, we’re hoping to do that and particularly with an eye on how to do it equitably.
Meredith Metsker: Right. What advice do you have for other career services leaders who may want to do what you are doing?
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: Well, besides what I have said, assume that your leadership is institutional, not departmental or divisional. This concept of we cannot delegate the preparation of our next generation of leaders. I think something that I would add is to not shy away of opportunity. I know we’re really busy. I know that right now higher education is under such pressure that we’re likely to be inundated with not only responsibilities, but expectations of outcomes that we need to reach, and I know how overwhelming that feels. But my assumption is that you, as I, am not in higher education for the money, it is because we believe in the transformative opportunity that postsecondary education offers our students and our next generational leaders.
So to me, when you identify concrete ways of highlighting, elevating the student experience, particularly our underrepresented student experience, our underprivileged student experience, our marginalized student experiences, when you find concrete and attractive ways of engaging the community and building that village, whether it’s uConnect or something else, take it, take it and run with it. Because unfortunately, those systemic challenges that I was mentioning, they are taking us to crossroads, and we don’t have time. We don’t have time. There are many things that are becoming irreversible. Look at climate change, look at social justice, democracy. We’re at the verge of not having the reality that we have experienced, and we have unfortunately not stewarded in the way that we should have. But our ability to help our next generational leaders to be ready and to diversify our decision-making tables, it’s just such a priority. So jump at it.
And then on the flip side, you’re not alone. I don’t believe in the competition across. I know that it’s in some respect necessary, but I think that higher education needs to join forces. We don’t have the luxury of siloing not only in our campuses, but across the field anymore. So you’re not alone. And between uConnect and other people who are in the field, we’re all ready to jump at supporting and helping and facilitating or role modeling and becoming part of one front that hopefully will help us accomplish this goal.
Meredith Metsker: I love talking to you, Daniel, because it reminds me why I was so excited to join the team at uConnect because I wanted to be part of that impact. And it has been so meaningful in the almost one year that I’ve been here because you and all the other folks in career services are so open and happy to share strategies with each other. That’s something that I didn’t really see that much in the private sector because people are understandably competitive about their secret sauce, so to say. So I love how open you and your peers across career services are, and just how willing you are to collaborate for the betterment of students, and as you’re saying, for the betterment of our society. Because quite frankly, that’s what it comes down to.
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: Exactly.
Meredith Metsker: Yeah.
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: Exactly.
Meredith Metsker: Yeah. I love that. Let’s see. I know we’re getting kind of close to our time here. So is there anything else about this topic that you would like to add? Any questions that I didn’t ask?
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: Let me think. I think that another responsibility that we have is to influence our systems. I know that’s a lot easier said than done, but I think it is important to, as we engage in this paradigm of identifying our leadership as institutional, I think we also have the responsibility of making that case. This concept of elevating career services, diversity, equity, inclusion to an institutional level is one that if we see that gap, if we see that opportunity, if we do begin to see our role as institutional leaders and community leaders, that it is not just for us to know that and function in that role. That’s very important and very powerful. But we also need to become voices and profits in our land. We need to figure out a way in which we are promoting this understanding that we have to work on this together because we need other leaders to join. And not only other leaders in career services and other institutions, but other leaders around us.
So this opportunity to influence and think of ourselves as thought leaders, if you agree with what I’ve said, get out there. Get out there in your community and get out there… I mean, your campus community and get out there in your broader community. And as you know, we have challenges right now with our ability to dialogue. We have challenges right now with our ability to convey messages that are received with an open mind, but we don’t have a choice. We don’t have a choice. We have to get out there and we have to role model that for our students. When I say that we need to diversify our next generation of leaders, part of that is we need an authentic next generation of leaders that help us disrupt our systems. That helps us disrupt the lack of vision that sometimes organizations or communities or governments or the lack of interdisciplinary, the lack of seeing the value of multiple perspectives in what we do. Imagine if we could see let’s say Congress that speaks to each other, that engages in dialogue. That seems so-
Meredith Metsker: That would be nice.
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: … that seems so remote. And I know that sometimes in our institutions, that is also the case, the silos are so strong. I remember the time when a whole school in a college I was working told me, we don’t work with career services. We tell our students not to go there because they don’t know what our students need. I’m like, “Oh my goodness.” It took us 11 months to schedule a meeting with the deans and then we showed them what we were doing and it was a different story. But my point is, we don’t only need to become leaders in our work and assume that responsibility at an institutional and community level, we need to become voices that influence and transform. We need to become thought leaders that become role models, and we need to help our students see what we tell them that they should be thinking and doing in action, in our behavior.
Meredith Metsker: I’m curious, in your opinion, what’s like one concrete first step that someone could take towards that goal, towards being more collaborative with other people on campus, especially if those silos are really in place?
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: I’ll tell you two examples. One of them is identify someone on campus with whom you could work or with whom you should work and for some reason that is not happening and develop a strategy not only to approach them, but to engage with them in a way that allows them to be subject matter experts of what they do, but in a way that is connected to the mission of preparing our next generation of leaders and explore collaboration opportunities. I tell you, a lot of it is that we don’t engage in that dialogue, and it’s not about approaching others to ask them to do our work. It is about telling them, “What if my team became a contributor to your outcomes and to your goals? What if we together device strategies that don’t add work to your plate, but allow us to work together to make sure that we are… An example, if it’s alumni relations, to make sure that we’re engaging alums more and we have students who are dying to interact with alums and alums are going to be very excited to engage in that particular way?”.
So test this, right? And you know who that is or what area that is, device a strategy. Don’t say, “Oh, we’ve tried and he doesn’t work.” Figure out a way to make that work. The other one is, this is something that we have done with quite a bit of excitement is approach your leadership with a paragraph that articulates the goal, the outcome of your work at an institutional level. And then go and ask them, “We think that this is what you want us to accomplish.” Kind of a mission statement. “Could you review it and tell us whether this actually makes sense? Edit it at will.” What happens is, I mean, at least in my case, is they changed maybe one, two words, “You might add this.” they don’t change much. But now you have cabinet telling you that what you do is critical for the institution and specificity on the fact that you are supposed to do it and how to do it.
That becomes your charge in a way that’s further supported by leadership. Your ability to ask for resources, your ability to ask for support changes because you told me that this is what we need to do. So we’re noticing that we need X or that we would benefit from partnering in this way. And then you can go to partners on campus and say, “Hey, this is what the institution is asking us to do, can we do it together?” And then engage people in this way. These are just two concrete strategies with which you can get started. But I have noticed, be fearless and you will find out amazing opportunities that you have not envisioned otherwise.
Meredith Metsker: I love that. It’s such good advice, especially the be fearless part. Sometimes it’s just about taking that first step. It’s the hardest part.
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: Yes. It’s amazing. Yeah, sometimes we’re the worst enemies of our confidence.
Meredith Metsker: Yep. I feel that. All right, well, we’re coming up towards the end of our time, so I want to start wrapping us up. I’ll end this with a fun thing that I want to start. I want to do the thing where one guest will answer a question that a past guest left for them, and then they leave a question for the next guest. You are the first guest, so the question’s going to come from me. Daniel, what’s one hidden talent that you have that people may not know about?
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: Oh, that’s actually difficult because a good number of people know this, but I love to sing. I’ve sung all my life. I’ve written songs and musicals and I recorded them. I put them on stage, and then I have gotten to classical music. So now I’m singing opera and oratorio and I record albums. So if you are interested, look for my name, Daniel Pascoe, and you’ll find them in any distributor. But to me, I call it a companion career that has brought 30 minutes of joy every day to my life in a way that makes me feel that I fly. I actually recommend that not only to my network, I recommend that to students, find a companion career that helps you build sustainability in what you do. But that’s something that has been part of my life and I just love it.
Meredith Metsker: I love that. I’m not going to lie. I did look you up on Apple Music yesterday and you have a lovely voice.
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: Thank you.
Meredith Metsker: I was in marching band in college, so I can definitely relate to that kind of having that companion career. In my experience, it was part of my college career.
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: It’s amazing, isn’t it? I mean, it really helps you survive the rough days and the challenges that you face every day.
Meredith Metsker: It does. Absolutely. So what question do you want to leave for our next guest? It could be anything, serious, fun, whatever.
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: What inspires you?
Meredith Metsker: Oh, that’s a good one.
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: And it could be who inspires you, but what inspires you? Because I think that a major driver of our work is to identify the why. What is it that drives us to do what we do? And having that in mind can be really powerful. So what inspires you to do what you do?
Meredith Metsker: All right. I’ve added it to my list. Thank you for that.
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: Of course.
Meredith Metsker: And then finally, Daniel, before I let you go, if anyone listening or watching would like to connect with you or learn more from you, what’s a good way for them to do that?
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: My email is very long, so I don’t want to confuse anyone about it. So LinkedIn. I love connecting with folks in LinkedIn. Just look for me, Daniel Pascoe Aguilar, and you’ll find me easily and I’ll be delighted to connect and chat, collaborate, whatever opportunity becomes available.
Meredith Metsker: All right, great. Well, thank you so much, Daniel, for joining me on the podcast today.
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: My pleasure.
Meredith Metsker: It was lovely to have you. I love this conversation.
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar: Likewise. Meredith, you’re doing a fantastic job. I really appreciate the invitation and look forward to hearing more of these.