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Weekly Wisdom

Weekly Wisdom

Weekly Wisdom

I write Weekly Wisdom as the Executive Director of Human Resources at Central Washington University. Having an eye for meaningful things, I include my own observations and thoughts, ideas I've recently encountered, and/or topics that are of current importance. I like to think that others will find reading Weekly Wisdom worth their time.



By Johan Sennero and Alistair Scrutton | STOCKHOLM

      Bob Dylan, regarded as the voice of a generation for his influential songs from the 1960s onwards…won the Nobel Prize for Literature in a surprise decision that made him the only singer-songwriter to win the award.

Image result for what the nobel prize committee said about Bob Dylan        The 75-year-old Dylan - who won the prize for "having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition" - now finds himself in the company of Winston Churchill, Thomas Mann and Rudyard Kipling as Nobel laureates.

        Dylan's songs, such as "Blowin' in the Wind", "The Times They Are a-Changin'", "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and "Like a Rolling Stone" captured a spirit of rebellion, dissent and independence.

        More than 50 years on, Dylan is still writing songs and is often on tour, performing his dense poetic lyrics, sung in a sometimes rasping voice that has been ridiculed by detractors.

Some lyrics have resonated for decades.

        Blowin' in the Wind", written in 1962, was considered one of the most eloquent folk songs of all time. "The Times They Are A-Changin'", in which Dylan told Americans "your sons and your daughters are beyond your command", was an anthem of the civil rights movement and Vietnam War protests.

Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan honoured for his discontent

John Robinson

      If Bob Dylan was going to win a Nobel Prize, there was a time when you would have bet on it being for peace, not literature. In the early 1960s, the American poet-musician wrote about social injustice and nuclear threat, and campaigned for civil rights. One of his highest profile public appearances ever was at the August 1963 March on Washington where Dr Martin Luther King Jr delivered his "I have a dream..." speech.

        As influential as Dylan was in this capacity, writing music that championed the oppressed and hoped for change – his songs became banners for his generation to march under – to be a writer of protest songs was clearly too limiting an occupation for him.

To be defined, to judge by his subsequent artistry, is, in Dylan’s estimation, to be captured.

“May you stay…forever young.”


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Optimism is a political act.  Those who benefits from the status quo are perfectly happy for us to think nothing is going to get any better.  In fact, these days, cynicism is obedience.

Alex Steffen, The Bright Green City


As we grow up, we put away our laughter and our silliness and our childish noises, the great sensory hilariousness of our young lives. We pick up a few notions about proper behavior, like what books to read and how to go about getting married and buying a home and being police and having cocktail parties…and the next thing you know, the little child – who was also an enormously alive sensory apparatus – is just another boring adult going to work in a seersucker suite with a briefcase.   John Rosenthal, Amazing Conversations




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In a personal essay (My Take, 10/1/16, Seattle Times) titled The Emotional Tug When Children Leave for College, David Takami writes:


      …both boys, when they reached 18, were absolutely ready to Earlier this month, I dropped off our younger son in New York City to begin his freshman year at New York University. My older son had already started his junior year at Babson College near Boston. And with that, both our children had fledged and left our Seattle-area home.

      …we have been surprised that our initial reaction (to “How does it feel?”) is not predominantly sadness or abandonment, as is often implied in the asking. We’re not happy they’re gone, but we are relieved and grateful that they are in good schools and that they seem well prepared for this next step. Family life, we’re confident, will continue during school breaks, holidays, and our visits to them.

      Yet both boys, when they reached 18, were absolutely ready to leave home – and they let us know in various ways. This was the “soiling of the next” we’d heard about from other parents. Starting in their midteens, each of the boys began separating themselves from us, one through persistent, sophisticated arguing and the other through stony silence and closed doors.  (Of course they were communicating with the outside world on a frequent and prolific basis through Snapchat, Twitter, and other social media beyond our reach and understanding.)

      A breakdown of house rules ensued. It was increasingly hard to get them to pick up their rooms, which looked recently bombed and pillaged, or clean the car they had littered with Gatorade bottles and fast-food detritus, or do other household chores. We were reading our limit of cajoling, nagging and threatening.

      …we are ready for our next phase. While we enjoyed almost every hour of youth sports from T-ball to high-school track and soccer, we are also eager to revive our weekends to spend the time as we choose. Think of that! Yes, we will miss them terribly. But a dear friend of ours suggested another outlook that resonated with us. Think of it not as an empty nest, she said, but an open field…we started a list of everything we wanted to do (house and yard work didn’t count). Hikes. Book readings. Dinner parties. Trips to wineries. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

      The field outside our home is wide open, and it is beckoning.


I can relate to having an empty nest; our three children have graduated from college. We, too, didn’t miss a baseball/softball game, 4-H event, or horse show. They take for granted their childhood home, our home, coming and going at their convenience. I am trying hard not to allow work (both paid and volunteer) take the place of those family times.  Yep. I can see the open field is filled with many great things; I struggle sometimes to hear its voice.

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Still a long way to go...

Yes, Hillary Clinton is the first female presidential nominee in history. The American Association of University Women last week distributed 79 examples of how women are still treated unequally.  Seems we still have a long way to go…

1  In less than 10 years, the United States will need 1.7 million more engineers and computer scientists, and women could help fill these critical jobs.  But today, women make up only 26 percent of mathematical and computer scientists and just 12 percent of engineers.

2  There was a 7 percent decline in first-year undergraduate women who said they were interested in majoring in computer science between 2000 and 2014.

3  Nearly two thirds of bylines, on-camera appearances, and producer credits were listed to men, while women constituted only a third of these contributors.

4  Older men are much more likely to be married than older women  - 72 percent of men versus 46 percent of women.  In 2014, almost half of women age 75 and older (46 percent) lived alone.

5  Women working full time are paid 79 cents to every dollar men working full time are paid.

6  The gender pay gap could cost women more than $435,000 throughout the course of their careers.  For women with college degrees, losses can be much higher.

7  After becoming fathers, men see a 6 percent increase in earnings, even after controlling for factors such as hours worked and marital status, while new mothers see a 4 percent decrease per child.

8  Forty-three percent of men do food preparation or cleanup on an average day, compared with 70 percent of women.  Men are slightly more likely to do lawn and garden care than women – 12 percent compared with 8 percent.

9  More than three-quarters (76 percent) of public school teachers are women, but a mere 20 percent of superintendents are women.

10  Sixty-six percent of women in the military were sexually assaulted in 2014.  Sixty-two percent of the women in the military who reported their assaults faced retaliation.  One in four women who used the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2013 screened positive for Military Sexual Trauma.  Forty-three percent of victims of sexual assault in the military were encouraged to drop the issue.  Women in the military are more likely to be victims of rape than to be killed in combat.

According to Michael Kimmel, in a TED talk, “…gender equality is in the interest of countries, of companies, and of men, and their children and their partners…gender equality is not a zero-sum game. It's not a win-lose. It is a win-win for everyone.”  I agree.

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The Beatles

Paul McCartney and Ringo Star appeared on Sunday Morning this week. At Shea Stadium in New York City, in August of 1965, they played before 56,000 fans. The sound wasn’t BIG enough, it was so new. Ringo, as the drummer, couldn’t hear the voices. He said, “We played our best, no matter what. And I couldn’t hear them! I was playing, you know, to his foot tapping, to John’s bouncing. You know, and they went (shakes head mimicking Whooooooo!)  I couldn’t hear that. I just saw the head and always the whoo.”

“And the thing is, because we put in some many hours as kids, we instinctively knew what to do as a band,” McCartney said. “We were making a pretty good noise, most of the time. Not always!”

Before a concert at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida, the band was told the audience would be split, white on one side, blacks on the other. They didn’t agree; had written in their contract that the concert wouldn’t be segregated.  In the end, the big stadiums, the craziness of their fans, was too much and they quit performing live in August 1966 after playing Candlestick Park.

A Life Lived to the Fullest

I was reading an old Time magazine and read editor Nancy Gibbs announcement of the death of Michael Elliott, former international editor:

“Michael is one of the very few people I’ve ever known who deserved the description ‘larger than life,'” says TIME editor Nancy Gibbs. “He lived life large, buoyantly, flamboyantly, delightedly chasing the next big idea, spotting the next great talent, inviting us all to his table to listen and learn. He was preacher and teacher, mentor to generations of journalists and model to all of us as editors. We will miss him terribly.

That’s quite a legacy.

Daily Record Managing Editor Joanna Markell and Louise

Joanna Markell announced in the Daily Record on September 12th that she is taking time away from the paper to care for her daughter, Louise. Her daughter has been at Children’s Hospital for several weeks; original symptoms were unexplained seizure and high temperatures. I’ve never met Joanna but I was touched by her story. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers.

Convocation 2016

I spent Tuesday morning with 1900 first-year students, 50+ student ushers, and lots of support staff in putting on Convocation 2016. It’s always one of the best events at the beginning of a new academic year.  A “rite of passage,” CWU Convocation marks the transition of students and the institution into a new stage of life.  It marks the induction of each new student into our academic culture and community.  Additionally, it marks the transformation of CWU as each new student brings their own perspective to campus life. It’s a wonderful ceremony and I encourage everyone to participate next year if you have the chance.  


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Be a Hero!

Today is my 21,358th day on earth (3051st weeks; 702nd months). What have I accomplished? Do I make every day worthwhile? Do I act like this will be my last?  Hmmm…

Did you watch the Seahawks game on Sunday against Miami? Russell Wilson is being heralded a hero for his actions in the fourth quarter, playing on a sprained ankle. He led the team on a 14 play, 75 yard series to score a touchdown and win the game. What a performance.

Dan and I say the movie Sully on Sunday. Starring Tom Hanks and directed by Clint Eastwood, it chronicles US Airways Flight 1549 and its Captain Chesley “Sully” 

Sullenberger.  On January 15, 2009, without engine power because of a collision with a flock of Canadian geese, Sully lands the plan in the frigid water of the Hudson River. He lands the aircraft and saves the lives of all 155 passengers and crew onboard. It also sheds light on the NTSB investigation that followed. The investigation suggested initially that there was enough power in one of the engines for Sully to have landed the plan at a nearby airport.  The eventual conclusion is that Sullenberger took the best possible actions and saved the lives of all aboard.

A hero is defined as someone who is noted for courageous acts of nobility of character.  According to, it also includes those people who, “…in the opinion of others, has special achievements, abilities, or personal qualities and is regarded as a role model or ideal.”  I think all of us have the potential to be a hero, just like Wilson and Sullenberger. We all have the ability to positively affect the lives of others.  Especially in an environment like CWU, where we come in contact with young people and their families on a daily basis, we have the opportunity to really make a difference.

I’m also reminded of the famous quote by Thoreau:  “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation, and go to the grave with the song still in them.” I’ve read enough Thoreau to know he believed our trappings, our possessions, our inattention to simple things is the root of this desperation. Thoreau would have us strip our lives to the bare essentials.  I think meaningful interactions with others are essential for us to truly live. Part of what makes us honorable, what gives each of us the chance to be a hero, is how we connect with others.

So, my commitment this week is to make days 21358, 21359, 21360, 21361…days of value. I want to grab every opportunity to treat others with dignity and respect, to go the extra mile, to bring a smile to someone’s face. I hope you’ll make the same commitment.  Be a hero!

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Doers. Dreamers. Trailblazers.

I saw this tag line in the Chronicle of Higher Education last week. The advertisement uses these words to describe the faculty at another institution. It got me thinking. I checked with to ensure I knew the meanings of each word.

A doer is described as a person (duh!) that does something, especially a person who gets things done with vigor and efficiency. A doer is driven, a go getter who wants results. In Australia, a doer is someone who is amusing or eccentric…a character. 

A person who lives in fantasy, who is impractical and unrealistic is a dreamer.  But a dreamer can also be imaginative and idealistic. They embrace new things and can be catalysts for change

A trailblazer is one who blazes a trail for others to follow through the wilderness or unsettled country; a pathfinder; or a pioneer in any field.

Seems to me we usually use words like this to describe what people are. This week I’ve been thinking about these as aspirational characteristics. I’m generally seen as a doer, both in my professional and personal life. So, is it possible to add a little dreamer to my profile? How might I do that? I started with Google, of course, but the search engine wouldn’t hold when I asked how to move from doer to dreamer. It flipped the question: 5 Ways Dreamers Can Become Doers; Dreamer to Doer: 7 Practical Steps for Taking Action and Seeing Results; and my favorite: How You Can Go from Being a Dreamer to a Doer in Less than 15 Minutes. Seems the Internet, probably the culture we live in, appreciates doing more than dreaming. I persevered. After much searching, I found a website that has advice for doers like me! Here’s what had to say:
1. Team up with a dreamer to help you to not lose direction.
2. Try to be open to possibilities and embrace change. Find someone who has a different perspective than you, and does things differently so you can learn from them and try it their way.
3. Give yourself permission to dream bigger.  Take time to dream and look at the big picture.
4. Remember that you can’t do it all yourself; it’s OK to ask for help.  Or to tell people no, so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
5. Be curious and confident and try to think outside of the box, like a dreamer would.
So, I guess the moral of the story is to find strategies to complement your perspective. Work together with someone to ensure that you have considered the dream, prior to taking the action. Make sure you’ve considered various paths before choosing one.
Have a great week. Enjoy the beginning of fall!

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Comings, Goings, and Changes

The last few weeks have been emotionally challenging for me. I don’t know about you but during times like this, it feels like time goes by slowly…and then you suddenly realize three weeks has gone by. My goodness, it’s mid-August! Where does the time go?

Dr. Laura Appleton. Long time Sociology Professor Laura Appleton died last Thursday. Dr. A was one of my mentors. For years, I took one class per quarter under the employee education benefits policy, paying $15 for five credits. I already had my undergraduate degree so took classes that sparked my interest. I was in the midst of my second class (Gender Roles, I think) with Dr. A when she took me aside. “What are you doing?” she asked in a rather accusatory tone. I was stunned; didn’t know she knew my name. She challenged me to have a goal, develop a plan for an independent, interdisciplinary Master’s degree. While I didn’t begin right then, it did get me thinking and I did earn my graduate degree in 2008.

Excerpts from
A Daughter Is Born

by Judith A. Drew

Encircle your child with love
Offer your hand to guide her
Shower her with tenderness
Shelter away her fears

May she look for sunshine when
There seems to be clouds
May she take a step further to
Find the best in people and life

Help her to learn the power of
Words spoken
The response to actions which
Might be awakened

Shower her with your love and
Your pride
Protect her as needed, but let Her fly free
Free to stand tall with absolute


In helping organize her belongings after her passing, I found her notes from a talk she gave on teaching effectiveness. A section, titled “Interactive Socratic method,” included the following:

  • Count class contributions, re: grade (not attendance)…but can’t fax it in from Vantage while drinking beer!
  • Value synergy and serendipity, new insights and ideas students bring up in discussions, reaction papers. Stress their backgrounds, life experiences as the background for informing and testing out sociological ideas. Some of my best examples come from students…use in class and credit them.

Students were really Dr. Appleton’s passion. It was teaching that defined her. I am thankful to have known her; my life was enriched by her encouragement and care. I will miss her.

Nola Mary Jones. HR Partner Katelyn Jones and her partner, Josh Jones, Disability Services Consultant, welcomed daughter, Nola Mary Jones this week. We, in HR, are thrilled to welcome this new little Wildcat! Congratulations!

Weekly Wisdom. Weekly Wisdom will be moving to a blog format soon. My hope is that this new format will give more people the opportunity to contribute comments more readily. While I am at it, let me apologize for my misspellings! I generally write and post Weekly Wisdom early on Tuesday morning. I always miss something. Thanks for your patience; I’ll try harder…

 - Staci Sleigh-Layman
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The Tragedy of ALS

About 25 years ago, my sister in-law, Charleen Thrift Layman, died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, ALS “…is a rapidly progressive, invariable fatal neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscles (muscle action we are able to control, such as those in the arms, legs, and face).” It goes on to explain, “ALS does not affect a person’s ability to see, small, taste, hear, or recognize touch. Patients usually maintain control of eye muscles…”  So, technology allows them to communicate using eye movements and a speech-generating device.  Charleen was a flower-child from San Francisco; competent emergency room nurse at Overlake Hospital; loving mother of three (the youngest was only five when she died); loved to wear fancy clothes and drink good red wine.

Famous people with ALS include:

Quote: "Better to lose count while naming your blessings that to lose your blessings to counting your troubles." Maltbie D. BabcockLou Gehrig: American Baseball player who, during his career, his 23 grand slam home runs which still stands today. He was confirmed to have ALS on his 36th birthday.

Professor Stephen Hawking: Along with Roger Penrose, he has shown that Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity implied space and time would have a beginning in the “Big Bang” and end in black holes.

Jason Becker: Guitar player who toured with David Lee Roth’s band in the 1980s. He still remains mentally sharp and composes with a computer.

Steve Gleason:  Former professional football who
played at Washington State University. He is best known for blocking a punt in a 2006 game while playing for the New Orleans Saints. This occurred right after Hurricane Katrina and became a symbol of hope for the city.

Steve Gleason is actually who got me thinking about ALS this weekend. There’s a new documentary, Gleason, about his life. He was diagnosed with ALS in 2011; today he is only 39 years old. Weeks after her diagnosis, his wife, Michel Varisco, found out she was pregnant. From The Seattle Times: Knowing that time was of the essence, Gleason started making video journals –love letters, really – for their unborn child. He recorded himself reading children’s books, talking about religion, love and even how to build a campfire. When his disease progressed, the couple hired cameramen…to pick up the slack.  The two lived with the family for five years.

In that time, they collected 1,300 hours of film that was structured and edited…The film captures doctor’s appointments; the growth of the couple’s son, River; Gleason’s tracheotomy and stem-cell surgeries; meetings of the couple’s foundation, Team Gleason; and one difficult scene when Gleason’s fundamentalist father, Michael, brings him to a healer.

Just imagine. I have to admit, I don’t know if I could do it. But what else could you do? It gives me pause to think about how lucky I’ve been in my life. Thanks to Steve Gleason I’ll count my blessings more often and use my voice for good. At least for a while.

- Staci Sleigh-Layman
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Dress Codes?

It’s summer! The weather outside is hot, the air conditioning is finicky, the attitude is more relaxed. On top of all this, clothing styles are more revealing (and more acceptable) than ever.  This is the time of year where we in HR get lots of questions about what is appropriate to wear
to work. No, there isn’t an institutional dress code. But managers and supervisors have the right, maybe even the obligation, to ensure employees dress appropriately. As you can guess, “appropriate” is up for interpretation.

Summer is a state of mind.No!

Employees in 2016 have more power to affect their own work experience. Microsoft is an industry leader in this regard.  From their website [1]:

Flexibility. Whether you are an early bird or a late riser, flexible work hours allow you to work when you are at your best. Our dress code is simple: you have your own style; we expect you to bring it.

At the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH), a small nonprofit based in Chicago, the dress code is two words: “No nudity.”

Many people argue that authenticity and individual expression are hallmarks of being productive and successful at work. Allowing employees to determine what to wear to work each day, without it being dictated from the top, increases employee engagement. [2]  Especially in a world that has 18-22 year old students as the customer, establishing approachability and rapport from a “what to wear” perspective can be seen a good thing.


Think Mad Men! There was a time when business suits, button-down shirts, polished shiny shoes ruled the day and the workplace for both men and women. There are still reasons that professional dress is important:

  • It establishes the brand for the organization.  It creates an image of professionalism.
  • Some believe it has an influence on job performance. Researchers from California State University and Columbia [3] found that “formal business attire enhances how employees are “seen by others and the way workers view themselves…”
  • Formal dress codes can create stronger work culture. Everyone in the work group operates on the same level.
  • Some employees really like dress codes and the stability that knowing the rules provides.
- Staci  Sleigh-Layman

2 HR Magazine, SHRM, June 2016, page 28.
3 HR Magazine, SHRM, June 2016, page 29.

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