Day 22 - Activators vs. Cheerleaders: How to Find the Action Oriented Supporters in Your Network


katie bean, be the change, leadership, niche movement, happiness, college students, workshops, leadership trainings, activators, cheerleaders In the first few months when I started The Niche Movement in January 2013, I had a growing number of supporters and advocates that initiated some early outreach. One advocate that really stands out and still supports my vision to this day is Katie Bean. I met Katie in 2006-07 when I started visiting Courtney in graduate school at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. They were both in the same student affairs program and became really close friends.

Upon earning her masters degree, Katie moved to Washington, DC in 2008 where she worked as the Assistant Director of Alcohol and Drug Education for three years. Katie is one of those people who has huge heart and believes in what she does in her job. She has a vision where every college student is properly educated and supported to make healthy lifestyle choices thus leading to a healthier and safer campus.

In 2011, Katie found a new opportunity and moved back to her hometown of Philadelphia where she took a job as the Assistant Director of Student Outreach at St. Joseph's University. In this role, she provides wellness, alcohol, and drug education, support, and programming. Part of her job at St. Joe’s is to lead a group of peer educators that are advocates for responsible lifestyles and link the campus to her office. Katie’s leadership philosophy, both with her programming and advising her students, is to empower people to make choices that benefit them. I love her leadership style because anyone that works with college students knows you can’t force a college student to do something, but you can educate and guide them to make healthy choices that lead to a happier life.

Katie was someone that didn’t just talk about change, she created it. That’s why her mantra is “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” The emphasis is on ‘be’ because she is an action oriented person. I didn’t realized it at the time, but I learned that this trait would benefit the Niche Movement tremendously. After telling her about my ideas it was only a matter of time before I saw something different than many of my other conversations with supporters...I saw her take action.

When I launched The Niche Movement’s first online cohort for college students to help them find their niche, Katie Bean was one of the first colleagues to share it with her network. Not only did she promote it, but she encouraged a few of her peer educators that were juniors and seniors who were looking for some direction upon graduation to apply to this program. I can’t thank her enough for her belief in one of my first initiatives. Because of Katie’s support, four students from St. Joe’s were accepted into The Niche Movement’s program. One of her students, Nikki Uy, has an incredible story that I will share later this week.

You will have friends along the way that will listen to your ideas, share their support with you and those all great people to have around you. However, activators like Katie are game changers. She took the conversation a step further by sharing it with her students and supporting their involvement in the cohort. That kind of action-oriented support is invaluable.

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Just like many of the people I have talked about, Katie has been there for Courtney and I. She played an amazing role as one of Courtney’s bridesmaids, she has helped us connect with several other colleagues in the field, and has always been there to offer positive life advice. It is great to see her genuine personality shine through in both her professional and personal world.

What They Taught Me:

Everytime I talk to Katie she shares amazing stories of how she empowered one of her students or helped a struggling student on campus better themselves. She has taught me to never give up on a student and to find an outlet where they can be empowered.

How They Inspired Me:

Having Katie as one of the first advocates of The Niche Movement has really met a lot to me and establish a name for my passion project outside of New Jersey. Her encouragement and belief, along with many others, helps me recognize that I bring value to this subject of post-graduate life.


When you are finding your niche, there will be those that are cheerleaders and those that will be activators. The activators go beyond the cheers of support and they take action in ways that will amplify your message and help you reach your goals. Katie was an activator for me. I have lots of cheerleaders, but it is the activators that continue to help make this ‘dream’ a reality. Be an activator for someone else. There are many times throughout my story where I have done that for others, and I believe that is why I have been fortunate enough to see that kindness and dedication come back to me. If you have activators around you, thank them. They are critical to your success.

Day 5 - The First Big Pivot: How a Conversation Changed the Trajectory of my Life


FDU, college, student leadership, award, college award, orientation, orientation leaders, OL's, leadership, leadership workshop, college training, training, student training, keynote The summer between my sophomore and junior year in college I pushed my comfort zone to work as an orientation leader at FDU. I had no idea what I was getting into and the critical point that was about to shift my college career from good to great.

I remember when I was a first-year student and my orientation leader, Mark Bullock, said “The more you put into college, the more you’ll get out of it.”  During my first two years in college, I didn’t quite grasp what Mark meant by that statement. However, by putting myself out there and later becoming an orientation leader it slowly started to make sense. Immediately, I had 15 new friends that summer and we all lived in a string of suites in Park Ave (real-world style).

Our group was inseparable: we worked 8am-5pm together, played volleyball after work, went to concerts together, and sure enough behaved like college students that had a campus to themselves at night (swimming in the fountains and such).

Growing up as a shy kid, I finally felt like I was coming out of my shell, putting myself out there, and suddenly had several groups of friends where I could be myself.

Unconsciously, I was becoming a leader.

Waking up early, setting up tables in the student center without being asked - check.

Running corney ice breakers by myself - check. Ability to work with several different personalities - check.

Get on stage in front of hundreds of first year students twice a week - check!

However, halfway through the summer, there was a  moment that I started to realize I may have had a special skill set. Orientation was led by Sarah Azavedo (Director of Student Life) with Ray Flook and Nathalie Waite (both Assistant Directors). One morning, Sarah wanted to meet with me early before that day’s sessions. I, of course, thought I was headed to the boss’ office because I had done something wrong.

That was not the case - she told me there was a student attending today’s sessions that had a disability. She personally wanted me to be at her side for the next 48 hours to make her feel welcomed, help her get around campus, and connect her with other peers. Part of me was terrified and the other half was shouting “yes, I’ll do it!” in my head.

Well the adrenaline kicked in, I said yes and I met Anna at 8:30am that morning. Anna was an incoming first-year and only two year’s younger than me. Her energy and personality was exhilarating and contagious. She was so excited to be at college and meet new people - she couldn’t get enough of it. Later that day, I remember Courtney had a 30 minute break, joined Anna and I, and we gave her a private tour of campus. That is when we really got to know Anna.

It turns out, she was in a car accident when she was younger and she had relied on getting around in a wheelchair for most of her life and she had a slight speech impediment. I didn’t see that - I saw a young girl with a lot of ambition and excitement. I really feel like she came out of her shell because we treated her like a human being. It was one of the most rewarding days that summer, and Courtney and I still reminisce about this story.

What happened next was the real tipping point for me, and it had a major influence on why I got into student affairs.

The first week of September, Sarah, Ray, and Nat held one-on-one’s to provide feedback and get suggestions for next year from each orientation leader. I didn’t know what to expect and I definitely went into the meeting very timid. That changed quickly - I sat there and just a few minutes in, they said “Kevin, do you know you are a leader?” I was shocked at what they said and I answered the question “No, I never saw myself as a leader.” No one ever told me that before. When they said that, something clicked for me. Things haven’t been the same since that moment.

Nathalie demonstrated her belief in my potential yet again a few years later. This past semester, she hired me to present my slide design and presentation workshop to international graduate students at Steven’s Institute of Technology.

How they inspired me:

Ray, Nat and Sarah saw my potential. They saw something in me, but even better they shared what they saw. My outlook on life as I became more involved during my junior and senior year, turned into something completely different than my perspective as a timid new student on campus. The next few posts in my “How I Found My Niche” series will dive into how I became a leader.

What they taught me:

If you are an educator, leader or supervisor don’t let an opportunity to tell someone that they are a leader pass you by. My life would have been vastly different if they never told me about their perception of me in that one meeting. Even if they were thinking it, I would never have known unless they said something. Always take the moment to ‘say something.’


We are often our toughest critics, and will put ourselves in boxes. For instance, I put myself in the ‘shy kid’ box, I’ve seen students put themselves in the ‘not good at school’ box, and so on. Look outward for help on finding your niche. Ask others what they see in you. You may be surprised to hear what your supervisor, mentor, or friends think of you.


5 Must-Have Tips for the Modern Presentation


Download The Niche Movement's Guide to Slide Design

Regardless if you are presenting at one of the upcoming national conferences, running a training for your students or holding a workshop at your institution these 5 tips are mandatory for the modern presentation. These quick tips will link you to all the resources, how-to’s and teach you how to take your presentation from good to great.

Tip #1 - Invest in a presentation remote. I can’t tell you how many times we have all sat through presentations where the presenter stands in the corner of the room using their pointer finger to advance to the next slide. Here is a list ranging from $15-$60+. I recommend the Targus for about $30 and if you want to spend a little more for features like scrolling and audio controls then invest in this Keyspan by Tripp Lite.

Tip #2 - If you are co-presenting here are a few suggestions. Split yourself on each side of the room and as you each have important points to make walk to the middle or back of the room to keep the audience engaged with you - “work the room.” Also, create a spreadsheet: 1st column number down for every slide you have. Then put a short title or subject of each slide in the second column and in the third column put the name of the person presenting that slide. Memorize it and color code it. Print it out and put it somewhere visible in case you get lost. Here’s an example from a recent workshop we did on Creating Engaging Social Media Content for the Maryland Student Affairs conference.

Tip #3 - In Apple Keynote you can add presenter notes and you can also set up a “current slide” and “next slide” that will display on your macbook so you don’t have to read off paper, notecards or the screen behind you. You can even choose to have time remaining - it’s a perfect way to set up a confidence monitor in your room. Here is a great short and detailed version of how to set it up. Also, bring your own laptop, get to the room at least 15-30 minutes early and set up your laptop to practice. Bring extra batteries, small speakers and your own macbook adapter if needed.

Tip #4 - DON’T USE BULLET POINTS! Now for those of you already getting away from bullets and powerpoint or keynote templates...thank you. For those of you who have not made the transition yet, it’s like removing a bandaid: you have to do it quick and it will be painless with a small learning curve. This summary from a one sheet I created for my “Rethink Your Next Presentation workshop” will quickly give you resources, books and 5 Apple Keynote tips.

Tip #5 - If you do have a handout, it should be no more than one page front and back and pass it out at the very end. The handout should not be your slides because if created & presented right, your slides are useless without you speaking to them. If you do want to share them upload them to Speakerdeck or Slideshare prior to your talk, create a customize link and add it to the one sheet or to your live presentation so the audience can go back to the office and view them, especially if you have specific examples on your slides you want to share.

These 5 tips are certainly in-depth and take courage to try but believe me it is worth it. If I can help now or in the future please do not hesitate to contact me and you can view a few of my recent slidedecks I uploaded to slideshare. Happy conference season!

Kevin O’Connell, Founder - The Niche Movement

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