Until last month, Teara Flagg Lander was the assistant vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion at the University of Oklahoma, and now she is the associate vice president of student success at OSU-OKC. Working to provide access to all students is her passion, and self-care, taking time off and leaning into her support system are how she stays motivated to continue helping others.
What inspired you to get involved in higher education? I am a first-generation college student, and upon arriving at college, I realized I could stay here either as a staff member or faculty member. I have loved working in higher education, generally, but I am passionate about providing access to all students, and working in DEI and pursuing a role that supervises the intake process and matriculation practices directly connect to my goals.
What inspires you right now? Wow, I am inspired by our future. I have the opportunity to work with young people on a college campus, and they are so full of life and excitement about their future. I love seeing them in their element and witnessing a sense of fearlessness.
What are your best tips for a work-life balance? Be in the moment and give priorities time. For example, if your workday is 8-to-5, arrive on time and work on work while you’re there. At home, take time to play with your kids or pets or to do stuff for yourself that is meaningful and recharges your battery.
What’s your best self-care advice? Schedule time for self-care. After I had my first child, I scheduled 15 minutes of self-care daily because I had read about or known so many mothers that never made time for themselves. My solution was to create that time. I have maintained that practice of doing something for myself for at least 15 minutes a day, and it has served me well.
How do you avoid burnout? I take regular days off about every six weeks. And I also make time for leisure, and I also pay attention to my body. If I am getting sick more often or feeling more tired than usual, I may take a late start or work from home if I can or find other ways to slow down or rest. I also make sure to set boundaries between work and home so that I can be fully present.
How do you stay current in your industry or profession? I receive several digital journals about higher education trends, DEI trends and student success trends. I am also a member of several industry and profession-based organizations that provide me the opportunity to network, learn and grow in my profession. I also have an industry-specific professional coach that connects me with resources and individuals to support my goals.
What advice do you have for others who want to pursue your professional path? If you are interested in pursuing a profession in higher education, subscribe to The Chronicle in Higher Education. Networking with folks currently in the field is important, and potentially pursuing a master’s degree or certificate in higher education would be a great start.
If you are interested in pursuing a career in DEI, I would suggest gaining a certificate or degree that aligns with DEI or social justice. I would also suggest figuring out which sector you are interested in working in. The role of DEI in higher education looks different than a corporate space, so it is important to do some research. Additionally, DEI is a personal profession, so it is important to assess your biases while you’re doing the work.
What do you know now that you wished you knew when you were getting started? The landscape of higher education, DEI and student success will always be changing. It is important to remain open-minded and be willing to adapt to said change. Know that sometimes your goals change, and it is OK to pivot in a different direction if your previous plan no longer serves you.
What else inspires you that we’ve missed? My wonderfully supportive family! I was born into a family that allowed me to grow, learn, think and explore. I have parents that encouraged me every day to be my best self, and they still do as I have matriculated throughout my career. My chosen/created family with my life partner has been equally fulfilling. Together, he and I have two children and are creating a life that we are both proud of and leave better for our family.