About the Author · Education · Higher Education · Professional Development

Colleen? Where have you been?

Hi All – Yes, I’m still alive but I’ve been very busy adjusting to my new full-time job at Loyola University Chicago as their Director of Executive Eduction.  I am thrilled for this new chapter in my career path and was recently featured in an Executive Education Roundtable for Crain’s Chicago.  For more information on what I do for my day job, please check it out:  http://www.chicagobusiness.com/section/custom-content-roundtable-executive-education.

More stories, photos and blog posts to come including a great resource for a potty training bootcamp!

Education · Op-Ed · Technology

An Op-Ed: Has technology killed the conversationalist?

*Note: This post was written May 18, 2016. 

As I sit here at the airport waiting on my second of three flights this month for work, I’m reminded of how dependent (or reliant) society is on technology. There are charging stations at every corner of the airport for travelers to stay fully charged while away from home, and there is Wi-Fi available to everyone throughout the airport as well as on most flights (when the Wi-Fi is working). Many passengers don’t even print out their boarding passes before their flights anymore, but instead rely on their smartphones for scan-able boarding passes. While waiting just over an hour and a half through the security checkpoint at O’Hare this morning, I was actually questioning the validity of those non-printed boarding passes. How do the TSA personnel physically write on those passes to make sure that person has been cleared through security?

Technology is also playing a key part outside the terminal. For example, while sitting here at my gate I noticed outside the window that a suitcase, which was supposed to be stowed away on a flight going to Charleston, SC, fell off the cargo truck and was laying on the tarmac under the walkway to the plane. It was over 20 minutes before someone came back to retrieve the suitcase. I would like to think that some technology notified the luggage handler of the missing suitcase, but then again wouldn’t we have NO missing bags if that were the case?

While waiting for the boarding call to begin, I noticed that many passengers – including myself – are on their personal technology devices. Laptops, smartphones, iPads and e-readers are in full usage all around the terminal. While video may have killed the radio star, has technology killed the conversationalist? What happened to participating in pleasant small talk with other passengers while waiting for a flight? I noticed a middle-aged man who had arrived at the gate very early waiting to board the plane. When another couple about his age sat down near him, he tried to strike up a conversation about how he is a widower traveling to Boston this weekend to see his daughter graduate from college with dual degrees. He was beaming, but they just looked at him and said some comment in a dismissive tone along the lines of, “Boy, that’s great. Congratulations.” Then they proceeded to have their own conversation. Now the widower is just sitting there looking out the window and at the passengers going by in the terminal. It was quite sad to witness the death of this conversation right before my own eyes. Even now, I know I rely heavily on my own technology to keep me connected to my family while I’m traveling, but I recognize that I need to spend more time talking to family and friends via phone or face-to-face to keep those lines of communication open.

As a professor of communication studies, I’m quite aware that the best form of communication, to make sure that both nonverbal and verbal communications are being accurately transmitted, is face-to-face communication. Electronic communication is, in my opinion, the least effective form of communication because it’s missing both non-verbal cues associated with body language as well as verbal cues like tone and inflection, as depicted in this illustration by Bill Warters of Creative Commons .

CommunicationModelDiagramWithout the appropriate channel of communication, how can you be sure your message is being transferred effectively? Can you recall a time when your lack of choosing the proper medium led you down a path of total miscommunication? While this is a lecture that I share with my students during the first week of my class, the lessons learned from this lecture carry well beyond the classroom.

Technology challenge: Today I challenge all my readers to take one moment out of the next week to try to strike up a conversation with someone outside your comfort zone. I’m not asking you to be “that guy” who starts talking to everyone at the grocery store, but maybe you’re on the train riding in to work and you realize that, instead of texting a family member, you actually pick up the phone to talk to them just to say hi.

While we know that technology has killed the art of correspondence, let’s not let it kill the art of being a conversationalist. Verbal, face-to-face communication is essential to the development of all mankind and is slowly becoming extinct. Do you think we can avoid adding the conversationalist to the endangered species list? Put down your technology and open your mouth – don’t let the art of conversation die.

Education · Higher Education · Op-Ed · Professional Development

Op-Ed: How current events will affect your career

Ever Monday night I teach ORGC 201 Business & Professional Communications at DePaul University.  I have 23 students in my hybrid class this quarter mostly made up of sophomores and juniors in a variety of majors. I’d like to think the students take my course because of the professor’s witty lectures, but the reality is that it’s a required course for most majors.  It’s one of those “life skills” courses combining public speaking with employment interviews that many students wait until their junior year to complete, but wish they had taken sooner. According to the ORGC 201 course description in the DePaul course catalog:

Employers demand strong communication and presentation skills. In order to compete effectively in the job market, students need to acquire and practice the written and oral communication skills needed to interview successfully. Furthermore, as a professional you will not only be expected to be a confident speaker, but also to organize and prepare clear, concise and interesting presentations. You will also need to communicate effectively while working as the member of a team or in other group contexts. In developing the knowledge, competencies and skills needed to communicate effectively in these and other contexts, this course will embrace opportunities for both critical thinking and applied problem solving. (Formerly CMNS 201)

As part of the course, the students can obtain an easy five points of extra credit when they bring in a news article they recently found and present to the class 1) a summary of the news article, and 2) an explanation of how this current event will impact his or her career path.  This is a concept that I introduced to my course when I first started teaching in 2005.  I wanted my students to realize that the current events of today will make an impact on their future career paths.  After taking attendance, I start each class with, “So does anyone have a current event they’d like to talk about?”  This week my students and I discussed a variety of topics from the Iowa Caucasus to the State of Illinois possibly expanding medical marijuana for PTSD patients.

The reason I bring current events into the classroom on a weekly basis is that, while I was a college student, I was greatly impacted by events that happened in 2001 which, in turn, impacted my career path.  In the fall of 2001, I was about to graduate from Eastern Illinois University with a BA in Speech Communication, focusing on broadcast journalism.  With the experience I gained and the amazing resume tape I created at WEIU-TV, I thought I had my job search in the bag.  However, a number of entry-level positions were eliminated from many Chicagoland stations in the post 9/11 broadcast era, including a morning writer position I had my eye on at WGN.

With no job prospects on the horizon, I had to quickly develop a Plan B and found a digital editor position.  I was extremely grateful to a cousin of mine for connecting me with the owner of NuWave Productions in Palos Hills for a non-paid internship opportunity.  My time with NuWave allowed me the opportunity to explore different editing software and even participate in an infomercial.  During my internship I continued to apply for other positions and, eventually, I landed a full-time position as an assistant editor at Daily Planet, a post-production house in Chicago.  I was so excited to commute into the city for a 12 hour work day while making a cool $19,000 a year (ah – young, naive Colleen! She’ll learn).

While my dreams of reporting the daily news were quickly diminishing, I knew another career path would be just around the corner.  Then I was offered the opportunity to help students plan out their own career paths in higher education at Robert Morris University in Chicago, and I had a new calling.  Working and teaching in higher education has been the most rewarding career path that I could have ever imaged!

To remind students that current events are affecting their career planning, I started a scholarship at EIU at few years back which the department still funds.  Per the College of Communication website:

Fashing Speech Scholarship – Established in 2006 by communication studies alumnus Colleen Fashing, this award supports a student who demonstrates strong public speaking skills and an ability to connect current events to a future career. The student receiving the scholarship must complete a manuscript connecting a current event with a future impact on a career and then present a speech to a faculty panel.

With the lack of state funding in Illinois for public colleges, many students are beginning to see the direct impact current events can have on their future career paths and, realistically, their college education, especially students who rely on MAP funding for scholarship dollars.  The students at EIU recently started a social media campaign labeled #FundEIU via Facebook and Twitter hoping to bring a spotlight on the very real impact the state budget is having on their university.

If you’re so inclined to support the students in the College of Communications at EIU through this scholarship opportunity, please feel free to donate to Eastern Illinois University via their annual fund giving page.  Please note that if you are working full time your company may offer a matching gift opportunity for the university.

Take a look back at your own career path to see if you can pinpoint a current event that impacted you.  This might be a topic that you’ve never thought about until now.  Once you can recall this said event that made an impression on you and your career choices, share that experience with a young professional.  Your shared experience will allow the young professional to be aware of current events and how it really can make a different in the career path they choose.

Education · Family · What's Going On

Parent & Tot classes for Working Moms

As a working parent, I wanted to make sure that I’m giving 100% to my son as if I was home with him all day long.  During the winter months, I’m noticing that cabin fever is starting to settle in on my little toddler who needs room to run, play and be a kid.  While there are some park districts and private community organizations that offer classes for kids over the age of 3, finding classes for 1-3 year old toddlers is extremely challenging, especially for nights and weekends as well as finding something nearby.  Recently I’ve been in contact with Rory Halperin who is the Editor-in-Chief at Mommy Nearest.

Mommy Nearest is the fastest growing mobile community for parents and caregivers in the United States. We believe in forming consensus when it comes to the places that we take our children and that the opinion of the masses outweighs that of the individual. We encourage our community of parents and caregivers to share their experiences with others so that, at the end of the day, we can all make the best decisions for our children.

Rory and I recently emailed about how working moms lament on parenting blogs that it is challenging to find Mommy & Me classes that accommodate after work or weekend schedules.  Another challenge I’ve personally encountered was that many websites were not updated with the most recent information when searching for dates/times when their classes were offered. So you may need to do a little research to see what tot classes might be the best for you and your little toddler.

I recently found a few classes in Chicago’s southwest suburbs which I’d like to share with local parents to help combat the winter cabin fever that you and your kids might be facing (I’ve listed the evening and weekend times for the working moms, but other dates and times are available for these programs).

Evergreen Park Recreation Department – Mom & Tots classes (Dads always welcome!)

A comprehensive gym and movement experience designed to allow the child, with the help of the parent, to learn basic stretching and flexibility exercises. Also, movement education principles to increase balance, coordination and body awareness. These classes include songs, finger exercises and equipment exploration, as well as socialization for the children. Classes held at the Community Center (3450 W. 97th Street).
Classes start Weds. Feb. 3rd.
Fee: 8 week class. Residents – $50.00, Non-Residents  -$55.00
For ages 13 (must be walking) – 27 months Wednesdays: 6:00—6:45 P.M.
For ages 28 to 48 months Saturdays: 10:15—11:00 A.M.

Frankfort Park District – Family Swim

Get out of the cold and join us indoors for swimming! Registration is done at the door at the Lincoln-Way East Aquatic Center.  Children 18 & under must be accompanied by a parent/guardian.

Location:        Lincoln-Way East Aquatic Center
Day:                Sundays
Dates:             Jan. 10, 17, 24 & 31  Feb. 7
Time:              2:00-4:00PM
Fee:                 $2 per child and $5 per adult.

You’ll notice that I’ve listed resident and non-resident fees.  I live in the City of Chicago, but many of the tot classes through the park district and private centers are during the day which don’t fit my work schedule.  I’m so grateful these classes are offered to non-residents for a very minimal additional fee.

There are other park districts in the south suburbs like Tinley Park, Orland Park and Palos Heights just to name a few.  Many of them, along with the Chicago Park District, have lots of classes for tots especially during the day and for kids 3 and over, but these classes fill up quickly.  When looking for classes check the dates offered and when registration opens.

Like in many different situations, you need to be your own advocate for your child. I would suggest calling to find out more information regarding parent and tot classes, especially with your local park district. If you see a class description for a class that would be of interested to your toddler, ask them if the class is really for kids over the age of 2.  If you have a 20 month old child who you feel has the skills and abilities to be successful in a particular class, speak up.  Bottom line, these toddlers need to stay active year-round and to get out of the house, so help get them involved!

Education · Learning 101

Learning 101: Toddler Learning Milestones

*This post is part of an ongoing series called Learning 101 which will be guest written by a few amazing educators (and friends) who are parents themselves. The first installment is by a former tenure teacher, current stay-at-home mom of four, author of the blog raisingwills.com, and one of my best friends, Cally Will. Enjoy!

When Colleen asked me to write a Top 5 List for The Two-Minute Mom about toddler learning milestones, I hesitated. What the heck do I know about what kind of milestones or even skills toddlers should be reaching or working on? She quickly reminded me that I have spent the majority of my life around young children, both professionally and personally. I was a special education teacher for 11 years and and I am a mom to 4 crazy kids. So I have learned a lot about adorable, sweet, and often sticky young toddlers. It really is such a fun, amazing age group. Toddlers are grown up babies and are quickly learning how to become independent. However, they are not quite the total monsters that they will become once they hit the dreaded 2 year mark… or even worse, 3 years.

Toddlerhood is a challenging, yet beyond fun, stage. These littles have so much that they are working on and learning, without even realizing it. My list is in no particular order but just skills that I value and feel are important to work on with your toddler.


1. Develop those fine motor skills…
Toddlers love to touch everything. Take advantage of this by helping your little one work those fine motor muscles. Pinterest is filled with “safe” play-doh or cloud dough that you can make at home. I mostly just use regular play-doh and my kids love it just the same. It really works their hands and fingers and is just addicting to play with. Experimenting with crayons or markers is great for this age too. Toddlers love to color or “draw” and it helps strengthen those hand muscles. Puzzles with large pieces, that are easy to grab, are also fun to try at this age. Think of those Melissa and Doug puzzles, that have the big, chunky pieces. Painting is another great way to get their hands and fingers moving. Pick up some finger paints or even water colors and a larger paint brush and let that baby get messy. It’s how they learn!

2. Let Them Play – Work on those gross motor skills too…
Toddlers need to move. They don’t stop moving throughout the day, so make sure to give them both structured and unstructured time to move. You can make simple games both inside or outside, as long as it’s simple and fun. Throw and kick a ball, chase bubbles, play “Mommy Says”, play tag. However, they should also have time to just be able to run around, without structure. Whether it’s in the backyard or at the park, let them go and follow their lead.

3. Communication Skills
A huge worry that most parents have during this year is whether or not their child is talking enough. This is where I urge you to talk to your pediatrician if you have legitimate concerns. I’ve had both early and late talkers, so I understand both ends of the spectrum. I do know that one of the recommendations from our pediatrician is to talk, talk, talk. Luckily, my husband and I both love to hear our own voices, so this was not a problem. Talk to your child all the time. Even when you think it’s ridiculous, like when you’re changing a diaper or getting them dressed. With all children, but especially children in this age group, everything is a learning opportunity. Of course, the teacher in me loves to remind people to read, read, read to your child. Toddlers have a tough time sitting still. Picture books with flaps to bend or books with tactile pages (fuzzy, bumpy, prickly make great toddler reading material.

4. Identifying body parts
Toddlers love to explore their independence and usually want to begin learning small self-help skills, like putting on their coat or shoes. Learning their body parts helps lay the foundation for this. This is also a great way to practice those communication skills too. Start with the easy ones – nose, eyes, mouth, ears, hands, feet. You can make a million games out of it – “Find mommy’s nose!” “Where’s your eye?” When reading, you can work on this too. “Find Bear’s ears.” You can also play Mr. Potato Head – “Let’s put the eyes in.” Toddlers also love music, so don’t forget that there are million different songs to work on this too. “Hands are for clapping” and “Head/Shoulders/Knees/Toes” are some of my favorites.

5. Put them to work – Yes, I’m talking chores
Ok, I’m not talking about giving your toddler a list of chores and expecting them to get them done. Laughable. But let your child help you. If you’re filling the dishwasher, let them get in there in help. The Dollar Store sells great little brooms and dustpans and mini mops. When I’m desperately trying to get something done and my almost two year old wants to help, sweeping the floor becomes her chore. It can be annoying and will probably slow you down. Believe me, I get it. But by letting them see that you want them to help, not only are you laying the foundation for early responsibility, but you are also showing your little one that everyone in your household has a job to do. No matter how big or small.

My little lady helping peel potatoes. It only took her 27 minutes to peel one-fourth of it, but that’s 27 minutes she left me alone to make dinner. -C. Will

c379030acae8436844aa91d1283bf3bcCally Will is a professional mom and former teacher. She lives with her husband, four children, and needy dog in the outskirts of Chicago. Her hilarious writing can be found on her blog, when she remembers to update it, www.raisingwills.com



Education · Product Review

2MM Review: Toddler Flash Cards

As a working Mom, I have great anxiety to making sure that my little one is learning everything he can, especially because he’s not in a daycare learning center, but being taken care of out of our home.  I’m constantly reading up on what learning milestones should toddlers reach by certain ages, (which will be a future blog by Cally Will of raisingwills.com).


My son has always loved to look, feel and listen to us reading him books ever since he was a baby.  As posted in many magazines and journals including this article in Parents Magazine, there are great benefits to reading to your infant. We’ve always tried to read to him daily since he was a newborn and he loves to cuddle up on my lap and read his favorite story of the day, (really who am I kidding – this kid will sit and listen to me read 5-6 books at a time).


While recently reading a few parenting blogs I noticed that some toddlers were starting to develop their vocabulary through the utilization of flashcards.  So I went online to start researching which products I think would be the best fit for Jimmy.  Knowing that he loves his touch and feel books, I wanted to incorporate this in my choice of flashcards.  I found a product on Amazon.com called,  DK My First Touch and Feel Picture Cards (First Words).  After reading a review from a father of a 16 month old child who loved them, I thought, let’s give this a try!


When I received the box the first thing I noticed was the sturdy construction of the box and the Velcro closure which kept all the cards secure in the box.  The box is small enough for a diaper bag so it’s a great travel toy.  The cards are made from a harder card stock than I would have anticipated with a laminate on the front of them, in case your little one spills on the cards.  The touch and feel aspect of the cards is really nice for little ones who might not be as verbal yet, but can still listen to you read the cards and feel the touch sensations.


I got these cards for Jimmy when he was about 12 months old and from the first moment we opened the box he loved them.  I would take them out one by one and tell him what the item was on each card. He would look at it, feel it (sometimes taste it), and then we’d move on to the next.  After a few weeks of doing this, he was hooked on flash cards.  Now, he opens the box, dumps all the cards out and finds his favorite ones to play with around the house.

I’ve notice that through this playful and educational interaction with him, he is starting to become more verbal and attempting to say more words than before:  Shoe, Sock, Boot, Dog (his favorite).  And while not saying all the words on the flash cards, he is starting to recognize the pictures.  We’re playing a game now when I put about 3-4 cards on the floor and I can ask him to identify a particular item from the cards. For example, if I ask him “which one is the baby?”  He’ll pick up the card with the baby on it, give it a hug/kiss and then toss it to the side for the next item.  It’s so much fun!


Two-Minute Mom rating – Five out of Five Bottles! These cards are great for early learners and very easy to use for parents.