Special Guest: Janessa Dunn
"It's so interesting being a millennial. I think we get such a bad rap in so many different ways in terms of being lazy, undriven, don't want to work, don't have a work ethic, and are willing to fall all over the place. But at the end of the day, in my opinion, I think it has a lot to do with having MEANING IN WHAT WE DO. In my opinion, I think that Millennials are very driven for something that has meaning, something that is greater than ourselves, and we want to align ourselves with that. So if we're going to align ourselves with a job, we want to make sure that the job has impact and is something that also touches our mission and our core values. " ~Janessa Dunn
~~ A native of Birmingham, AL, Janessa is an enrollment management professional who is deeply passionate about supporting students, families, counselors, and community members in their search for post secondary education opportunities. She currently resides in Winston-Salem, NC, as an Associate Dean of Admissions at a major liberal arts university.~~
Join Dr. Patrice Buckner Jackson & Janessa as they talk about the Millennial Purpose for Purpose.
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Hey, hey friends, this is Dr. Patrice Buckner Jackson. But you can call me PBJ. Welcome to another episode of hard work with PBJ, where we are disrupting cycles of burnout and compassion fatigue, so that you can serve from the heart. Listen, friends, I need your help, if you would subscribe and share and rate and comment. Wherever you're listening to this episode, wherever you listen to this podcast, it helps us get this message out to more people. That's how the algorithms work. So do me a favor, make sure you let us know you're listening, say something back to us subscribe, so that we can keep getting this good message out. Friends. I'm so excited about these next few episodes. So as I shared with you all, I had a plan for opening the heart work Academy right now. So as May 1 today would have been our orientation. But I've been led to hold and wait on that as I'm doing other things. But in preparing, I had the opportunity to interview a few ladies who have been a part of the heart work community and Heartwork Academy. And I still want to share these episodes with you. These phenomenal women not only have they experienced transformation, but their stories are going to be a blessing to you, I believe that you're going to see yourself in their story. So I'm not going to wait to share these episodes with you. I'm going to share them now. So over the next couple of weeks, you are going to have the opportunity to meet several members of the Heartwork Academy, Heartwork community. So friends you know, for the last couple of weeks, I've been introducing you to members of the heart work Academy, these phenomenal, powerful women who are a part of my heart, who have allowed me to be a part of their lives in one way or another. All of them have been a part of the academy, but we also are connected in other ways. And today, this woman that I'm going to introduce you to, you'll see you'll feel it, you're gonna feel it yourself, I don't even have to tell you so Janessa Dunn, thank you so much for joining us today. I'm so honored to introduce you to these people. Thank you so much. I appreciate it as well. And I'm just super happy to be here. Thank you for inviting me thank you for sharing. You know that your your talent and your wisdom and you know your calling with this. It's very, very enlightening and something that we can all embrace in apply to so many areas of our lives. So thank you for utilizing your platform to share that with so many wonderful people as well. My name is Janessa Dunn and I just a little bit about me I'm originally from Birmingham, Alabama. Born and raised in Alabama. I attended college at Georgia Southern University, which is where I met Dr. Jackson at the time, Dr. Buckner and then moved over to Dr. Buckner Jackson, amongst other wonderful people. And is that actually at Georgia Southern where my my passion for higher education administration was birthed and in my profession, and in so many different ways and so I had so many great exit exemplars who care so deeply about the word so deeply about students in their development and in Dr. Jackson was most certainly one of those individuals, whether she knew it or not, does exuded this this beautiful light about this feel and care for for everyone, or colleagues, staff and students and so many others. I will say that I work in enrollment management and the admissions field I'm going to be very honest with you admissions is notoriously known to be a high turnover high burn out profession where we tend to joke around that it's either three or 30. And you either sticking in it for three or less years or you're in it for life and I have surpassed three years and so it definitely in it. And I truly love this work and I worked as a student in offensive admissions at Georgia Southern and ended up going to grad school and continue at another institution in Tennessee and now in North Carolina. And so, for me it's so great to be able to apply what I've learned. But also at the same time there's it's a high paced environment and in compassion, fatigue and so many other things are are rampid across staffing across students, I'm excited to talk about that. Absolutely, absolutely. Janessa. And, you know, one of the things that I love about my career is the continued connection to my students, I always say that you all give us the honor of being a part of your life is beyond a job, you know, especially when we can stay connected. And I watched you as a student leader on campus, and how you lead represented the university and yourself and your, your professors and the college that you were in. You were and still are one of those shining stars. So it does not surprise me at all the phenomenal leader and professional you are right now and to watch you rise and to watch you go, is one of my greatest joys is one of my greatest joys. So I just need to say that before we get into this conversation, I am so proud of you. But I'm not surprised at all. I'm not surprised at all. So you mentioned you mentioned your career field being in admissions. And there are a lot of folks who are educators who are part of the heart work community. So shout out to all of our administrators and Student Affairs and Enrollment Management and teachers and everybody shout out to all y'all shout out to our educators. For those who are not familiar with it missions or within enrollment management. And how in the world can that be connected to compassion fatigue? Because all you're doing is reviewing applications? Right? That's all you do. Right? We know better. So help us understand the heart of the work that you do. Oh, wow, that's, that's a loaded question. I'm to be honest with you, because you're right, it is not simply making an admissions decision and moving that student's application along. I always like to describe us as admissions officers, as advocates we are, we are looking at students as whole people with experiences and their backgrounds and their lived experiences, the experiences of their families who influenced their, their trajectory, as well. And, and all of that matters. And so when we are looking at a student, we're looking, of course, at their grades we're looking at, you know, what their academic interests may be. But oftentimes, we're looking at what hardships they have endured, especially during this time, but then the last couple of years, that has been exacerbated for many families during the pandemic, we're also looking at what drives them, what keeps them and keeps them going, what makes them tick. And so that brings his level of excitement of, Wow, this student is going to go to some really great places, I hope they come my institution, but if they don't, they're going to be just fine, they're going to have this incredible, impactful academic and life experience. And, and also to it's, it's, it's also an area where you are, you're essentially putting yourself in a student's shoes, you are required, in my opinion, to be fully empathetic for our students and to, to advocate on their behalf, like their lawyer, but a really good one, um, at the end of the day, and so when you're doing that for hundreds and 1000s of students in a short period of time, on a year by year basis, one you have these inevitable connections where you want to see where these students land you, you enjoy this, you know, their their life trajectory, but also at the same time. That's a lot of weight. It's a lot of weight, whether that's good, bad, or the ugly, and how do you keep yourself alive? How do you keep your, your cup full, year after year after year? When times are becoming more challenging? And so, so yes, it's not just making that admissions decision. It's really looking at the life of the student. Yes, absolutely. What I love about what you've said for you, and for those who are listening, sometimes we don't realize the secondary impact of our work. So it may not that's what compassion fatigue is. It's not your baggage, right? So it's not your trauma, it's not your trouble. It's not your challenge, you know, whether it may be finances to go to school, or some traumatic incident that a student has been through or they're describing homelessness or food insecurity or maybe it's none of that, but they really want to go to school and maybe they don't have the grades so they have this dream, but there's this barrier for them to get to the dream, whatever. The challenge is, you and your team you consume those challenges, and you take them on to a certain Step because you try to resolve as many of those as you can, not just for the sake of the university, but for the sake of these people who have this plan and have this dream, and they want to accomplish this big goal. And sometimes I think we lose, or we don't realize the impact on us. When we're caring for other people, you know, I think about teachers who have children in their classrooms, and they know that the only time these children eat is lunchtime, and breakfast at school, you know, I think about nurses and medical professionals who have to break that news or have to support someone who can't have a family member with them, especially during COVID are having to break that news and help family members understand what's going on, or be the mediator between the doctor and the family so that there's some bedside manner and some care. That is not your baggage, but it has an impact on you, when you work with your empathy meter on high. That means that it's not just another application. It's not just another possible student is not just an enrollment number, but it's a life. It's a life. And acknowledging that working through and caring for those lives, impacts your life is so important. It's so important. So thank you for acknowledging that and and for sharing that because we don't realize that compassion fatigue is not necessarily because our life has the challenges, compassion, fatigue comes, because we're serving people. And anytime you're serving people, you are going to come head on with life. And that can mean so many things. So Janessa, as such an accomplished woman, you are moving through your career like lightning, it might not feel like that to you. Maybe I'm getting old, but it really feels like that to me. You are almost done, almost Doctor done. You're almost done. I mean, like footsteps away from your doctorate degree, all the things that people would say, Man, that's success. Like she's got it going on. She's got it all together. With all that going on. What attracted you to the heart work Academy? You know, that's a great question. And thank you, I appreciate that. You know, what attracted me was, honestly, I know that I want to be in this field and went to serve named bliss in this field. For a long time, I know that I have such a passion and calling for this area. But also at the same time, I found myself in a place where I was being depleted. I didn't have energy. I did, I found myself waking up one morning and I'm like, Can I do this another year, another month. I was physically mentally emotionally exhausted. And for me, that took place during the pandemic. I knew and I saw signs, you know, before the pandemic of like, Okay, I'm ready, I'm excited. And, you know, and I'm going to do this, I'm going to do this and like putting my hands in so many buckets to really just grab as much information as I can and to soak in the experience because I enjoyed it, I worked in a place that allowed me to, to take part in professional development to take part in committees and to, to do a lot of wonderful work. But also, I did not prioritize myself in that process. And when the pandemic hit, that was my, my moment where I slow down enough to be like, Whoa, what's happening? I remember sleeping a lot. I remember trying to get my focus I got it's almost as if you're running a like a wheel. And then all of a sudden, someone puts like a stoke in the wheel and so like keeps it from come going and so you're so used to going and turning over so many times, but then all of a sudden you have something that's you know, stopping your life. Have Mike I don't even know what this is like what is this place? No, I don't I didn't I didn't know where it was. And there was a lot of it was a type of deep reflection for me and I needed something to fill my cup. I needed something to fill my cup from a personal perspective, but also from a professional perspective there. There are some spaces where I'm like, you know, I the work in higher education is is somewhat unique. It's not always applicable to corporate America, although there are some similarities but They're also someplace that I'm like, You know what? I really feel like I Dr. Jackson will be incredible. And actually, I had a conversation with you before the artwork. Because you gave me some incredible advice that I needed at that time. And I was like, oh, I need to stay steady. I needed that, that wisdom and you know, these questions to ask myself in an intentional way. And when do you have open up the opportunity? I was like, yes, let me, let me get on this. Because I knew how influential it would be for me. I'm so grateful that you brought attention to the impact of the COVID pandemic and how it caused so many of us who are addicted to busy to stop. And that was not easy. That was not easy. When we are used to accomplishing when we are used to progress when we are used to moving and shaking. I mean, in your career, you're on planes, you're in cars, you probably live more out of your suitcase than you do your dresser drawers, especially certain seasons of the year. And you do it very well. And we encountered something that made us stop. I was on a call last week with a group. And there was a person on that call, who shared that not being able to be connected to people impacted her more than she ever thought. And she's still struggling with how do I recover. Because she's such a connector. She is such an extrovert she and it had and she still can't fully because they're immunocompromised people in her home. So she still has to be careful. So not having that contact. And having your normal routine what you're what you're accustomed to having it literally halted having it literally stopped. I think it took so much of so many of us to a reflective point. And we had to QUESTION, Well, who am I again? It Wait a minute, because we were just left alone with us? Yes. Yes, yeah. And, and not. Not in a way of there's necessarily anything wrong with us. But sometimes we're so busy. And busy becomes a distraction, that we don't get that self reflection time, we all we have time to think about is the next thing. And the next thing, and the next thing and the next thing, and COVID caused us or it required us to stop and not have the next thing. And that was difficult for a lot of people. Yeah. What would you say? Was the greatest impact? Or the thing that you remember? Or what was it from the Heartwork academy that had an impact on you? Oh, my goodness, you know, one, I really, really enjoyed connecting with others, who were going through very similar situations, whether they were in higher ed or not. I really enjoyed those, honestly, smaller group settings to be able to be intentional and to ask questions, and to know it was a safe space and to walk through it. And have people want not only empathize, but also say like, you know, what has worked well for them? And, you know, what resources have they been, but I will also say to Dr. Jay, and I always call you Dr. PBJ, you know, your facilitation is also very important, and I think being seen and being heard, I mean, there were moments where I my tears would literally come to my eyes to be able to say this is exactly what's going on. And, you know, and, and being able to be intentional, you know, in, in what I'm experiencing as a professional with compassion fatigue, and I want to be very frank, like that was participating in parallel with, with counseling sessions. And, you know, and it was such an added bonus and added value to me having both of those experiences where there were some areas where, you know, sometimes professional perspective in that spiel isn't necessary and important. And then there are other times where you really need that coaching, you really need someone who was able to pour into you for your specific field who knows it. And even if it's not your specific field, someone who gets the hard work that comes along with that, and so Oh, having both of those simultaneously for me was was a win win situation. And I feel very thankful. But so it's not it's more about the platform, the film facilitation that honestly I, you know, the atmosphere the the setting that is created for these type of conversations. It's something that I couldn't find anywhere else. Oh my goodness, I. So first of all, yes, I always encourage everybody counseling along with the Academy is a good idea. Because we're not counselors there so that that's not what we're doing. But to have that counseling support along with the journey that we take together, I always encourage it. But the community, oh, my goodness, to have an, you know, we started out with a bigger group. And then we started meeting in smaller groups and to have you all come together from your different perspectives and different lives. But to find the common thread, and literally just watch to support each other, I watched you encourage each other as one person was sharing, you can see that other people resonated with what they were saying, and to hear people say, I get that I understand that, you know, from talking about our childhood all the way through our profession right now, to sit in a room where you're not judged, you don't have to perform, you don't have to be perfect. No one is grading you no one is evaluating you. This is a place, and we say safe place a lot. But I think we need to be careful, because every place is not safe for everybody. But it's truly truly, truly a safe place where we get you. We get you, we understand it and and there were even some connections in the room that we didn't really, we didn't know who was coming. You know, we didn't know who was coming. But when those connections came together, it was just powerful. Even for me, even for me being in the room with you all and being connected and walking through with you all, it was powerful to be in the room with people who get it. And you didn't have to explain it, you didn't have to over explain it. You didn't have to justify the weight or the burden that you were feeling. You didn't have to feel bad about the emotions that you had. Because you were in the room with people who catered for people who get it. So Janessa you are a millennial leader. Is that fair to say? That's right. Yeah. And, and you your generation, and I'm not far off from it, you know, I'm just saying. But your generation, I'm watching, you know, really struggle with this hustle and grind mentality. And with this idea that I should wake up famous tomorrow that I should wake up in purpose tomorrow that I should wake up, you know, with the goal accomplished just quickly, like I want it now I want it now you know, and you all have so much of this information coming in at you from social media and other places, the pressure, I think the pressure is more than it's ever been. So can you speak to other millennial leaders? And talk to them a little bit about how you navigate the pressure? Hmm, wow. Okay, um, you know, it's, it's so interesting because I, I describe myself as an old soul, and so many different ways. And it's so interesting, ever since I was five years old, I was kind of one of those kids who were kind of my mom sent me back to my room, because I need to stay at a grown folks business. And I just was intrigued in so many different ways. And for me, you know, it's so interesting, because being a millennial, I think we get such a parent in so many different ways in terms of being lazy and being undriven, who don't want to work who don't have a work ethic, you know, the who are willing to fly all over the place, you know, like the wind, but at the end of the day, in my opinion, I think it has a lot to do with having meaning in what we do. We feel very and and I and I am cautioning myself because I know I can't speak for all millennials, I can speak from only my lens. And so I want to be careful there. But in my opinion, I think that, that millennials, because Millennials are very driven for something that has meaning that is greater than ourselves, and we want to align ourselves with that. So if we're going to align Under sales with a job, we want to make sure that that Job has impact is something that also touches our mission and our core values. And if there is a misalignment there, is that the job for us. And so we're, we're less likely to have that strong loyalty, you know, saying in a company organization or school or wherever that may be for 20 3040 plus years. But at the end of the day, and there may be some who still do, but at the end of the day, it has a lot more to do with, can I align myself with that mission? And and can I have impactful work? Can I actually contribute meaningfully that way. And that is a lot of pressure. It's really hard to figure that out. Even when, you know, when I was at Georgia Southern, I was a chemistry major. I was playing alone in pharmacy school, and I decided against it I was, I was not about it. And let me tell you, my parents were not happy. Initially, they're on board now. But they're not happy. Initially, and it was off the plan. It's like, okay, so how much money you're gonna make all these other things I was like, before I spend another four years in school, I need to figure out if this is something I actually want to do. And I can't do it for the sake of doing it, because that's not how my DNA that's how I operate. And, and it took that time for me to realize that I was already contributing in meaningful ways, in higher education and aroma management as a student at Georgia Southern and I applied to grad school on a whim. And honestly, I ended up where I ended up because the application was free. And I was a broke college student. And you talked about so many open doors were these unexpected opportunities that that really are catapulted based on what you're already doing. But you really discover like, oh, there is a field for that, there is an opportunity for that. Let me talk to a couple of people. And you're opening yourself up to so many different ways, but it takes a lot of bravery to get there. It takes some times, in my case, disappointing, you know, my parents, you temporarily, or being able to step outside. And I know Dr. Jackson mentioned this earlier, had incredible advisors and mentors in my major at at Georgia Southern and being open and having that conversation with them who invested so much time into me. And also learning at the end of the day, they supported me to you know, and they still do today. And so it, it's, it can't be fearful. And it can be sometimes very ambiguous, because it's like, I don't know what I'm doing. Like, I'm just randomly looking at stuff, but also at the same time, it's also an excellent opportunity to explore even more. And I'm not saying that graduate school is for everyone, because for me, that was that was my Avenue. But whatever that may be for you, whether that's having a cup of coffee with someone who you know, you haven't, you would love to know more about their role and you want to have an informational interview, and then that interview or that conversation catapults you into a whole different world or dimension and understanding what may be in alignment with you. LinkedIn, you know, there are a lot of people who are like, actually, I really enjoy what you're looking at on your profile, but you happen to have a couple of moments for a phone call or, you know, a zoom chat to talk about some things. And so, you know, for me, it has a lot to do with what are your core missions and values in that pressure, unfortunately, will continue to exist. But I think it does alleviate significantly, as you continue to pressure me to push through it. But also, as you align yourself more you find a little bit more peace in the process. Oh, listen, there are people who have been in their work for 30 years, 40 years or different lines of work and haven't found that alignment. A lot of people find themselves in burnout, because they're forcing themselves to fit into these roles and to these jobs that they were not created to do. And I always say but before you run away, let's stop and find your genius. Let's find that brilliance. So you're not out here searching. So you're not out here, just going from one thing to another and digging yourself deeper with the burden because you're not aligned. One of the things that I love about the millennial generation I appreciate is the courage is the courage. It takes courage. It takes courage to say I thought it was this. But now I'm not feeling like that's the right thing. And to understand and that's even when I look at your particular path, all of that was meant to be chemistry at Georgia Southern was meant to be II the connections that you have the network that you have what what you learned, not just in the textbook, but all the things that you learned through that journey that was meant to be for that season. At that point, you thought the goal was pharmacy school. But what people don't understand is clarity comes in the doing. You don't know what that next step is until you do the first step. So sometimes we get stuck in, I gotta have a plan before I do anything. Like, I have to know the whole 10 Year 10 year plan before I do anything, I don't, I don't want to apply for anything. I don't want to call anybody, I don't want to do anything, because I gotta know where I'm going. That's not how this works. I love your suggestion of connect with someone on LinkedIn, connect with the mentor, reach out to somebody, if you feel something, if a thought comes to you, or you just wonder, I wonder what this would be like, or that seems really interesting. That is just a little little sign. And you can take a step, you can ask a question. You can do some research, you don't have to commit to any humongous change. One little step, and you take that one step, and maybe you have a conversation with somebody you like, Oh, that's not what I thought, no, that wasn't it that wasn't it. Okay? Or you have that conversation, and you're drawn in more. And you're more intrigued, and it's like, Huh, what else could I do? What other step could I take? And literally, purpose is unveiled? Its unveiled as we take the steps. So instead of struggling, and, and having this pressure of what's my purpose, why am I here? What am I supposed to do? Take one step. Take one step. Like you said, the graduate application was free. And let's just try, let's just see what, let's just see what happens. But guess what, after you did that it worked. And a door opened? Yeah. So you walk into that door? And? Yes, yes. So this is how this is how we find the thing that we were created to do. You know, I tell people all the time, I still don't know what I'm gonna be when I grow up. I don't know. There was a date, I will tell you, Oh, yeah. And I'm gonna do this as a child. That is not. That's not how this works. I believe the work I've done and the different seasons of my life, I was supposed to be at those places. And I was supposed to be doing that work. And in those seasons, you couldn't tell me I would be doing anything different. You couldn't convince me that I would not be on somebody's campus, loving on somebody's child, somebody's College. Tell me, how are we doing anything different? Yeah, the rest of my life. But now, as I continue to take steps, that vision is not a race is expanding. And it looks different, because it's bigger than I thought it was gonna be. It's got a difference. It's got a different band, I got a different perspective on it now. So all of those steps, all of those steps are necessary to get us to the place that we were created to be, that we were created to be. We look around and think how in the world that I get here. How did this happen? And yes, Write the vision. Absolutely. write in your journal, do all the things, but trust the process. Yes. Yeah. The process. There are going to be detours and there are going to be left turns and right turns that you didn't expect that you might not even want, but all of it is important. Right? Yeah. All right. It's been my honor. It's my honor. Thank you for being a part of our conversation, our catch up today. As always, you are powerful. You better believe it? You better believe it. You are powerful. You are significant. And you are loved. Love always PBJ