Micro-Affirmations Small Acts, Big Impact

Small Acts, Big Impact
Presented by Candice Powell, Retention Specialist
Office of Undergraduate Education for the
Brown Bag Lunch Group
October 10, 2014
Acknowledgement and Gratitude
Think of a time when you felt
welcome, valued, and supported
during a transition, challenging
task or new environment. What
was the context of the situation?
What made you feel affirmed?
Small acts … fostering inclusion, listening, comfort, and
support for people who may feel unwelcome in an
environment (Rowe, 2008).
Micro-Inequities and Aggressions
• Apparently small events which are often
ephemeral and hard-to-prove, events which are
covert, often unintentional, frequently
unrecognized by the perpetrator, which occur
whenever people are perceived to be different
(Rowe, 2008).
• Subtle verbal and nonverbal cues that an
individual or group is unwelcome, invisible, or
incapable of performing well (Franklin, 2004;
Solórzano, Ceja, & Yosso, 2000; Sue, 2004).
• Stem from bias in our every day life.
Bias in our Everyday Life
From Sharbari Dey’s Brown Bag Lunch Presentation, Recognizing Bias in Our Everyday Life, 9-12-14
Micro-Inequities and Aggressions
Micro-affirmations communicate…
I see you.
I value you.
I appreciate your differences.
I am committed to
understanding your needs.
• I believe in your potential.
• I want to support you.
Power and Investment
Inclusive Excellence
Strategic micro-affirmations contribute
to a campus culture of inclusive
excellence by cultivating and
recognizing the potential, strengths,
and value of individuals and groups
within a diverse community
(…said Candice to herself last night).
Micro-Affirmations contribute to
cultivating a safe environment
Micro-Affirmations in Everyday Life
From your role or position within the University,
what could you say and do to help students feel:
• Seen
• Heard
• Valued
• Included
• Appreciated
• Supported
• Endorsed
Things to Say
“I’m glad you’re here.”
“I believe in your potential to succeed.”
“Here’s what I can do to support you./ How can I
support you?”
“Have you considered this opportunity? You
would be a great candidate.”
“Meeting with you/talking with you is important
to me.”
Things to Do
• Make an intentional effort to consider who
you are leaving out and why, and to reach out
to the margins.
• Get to know student’s personal stories and
their goals. Create a safe and welcoming
environment for students to express their
needs and concerns.
• Demonstrate real acts of acknowledgement,
accommodation and advocacy.
Micro-Affirmations and Challenge
Micro-affirmations and
Academic Feedback
• Feedback is a critical component of helping students to
strengthen critical thinking, problem-solving,
articulating evidence-based concepts, and meeting
• Strategic micro-affirmations can strengthen students’
reception of and response to feedback within academic
• It is possible to provide critical feedback, including
disappointment or unmet expectations, while affirming
the students potential to adjust strategies and
perspectives toward meeting high expectations.
Just curious…
What is the value of these small
acts differentiated from more
overt demonstrations?
How can micro-affirmations,
individually or over time, be
“Student success is the product of thousands of small
gestures extended on a daily basis by caring, supportive
educators, sprinkled throughout the institution who
enact a talent development philosophy.”
– George Kuh (2012)
Intention and Practice
• What can you do to increase your intention of
providing micro-affirmations in your work with
students? In other areas of your life?
• What can you do to practice this intention ?
One thing…
One thing you will start doing/saying…
One thing you will stop doing/saying…
• Micro-affirmations are small acts
that can have a big impact on an
individual’s success.
• Micro-affirmations have the power
to counteract the negative impact
of micro-aggressions or inequities.
• Micro-affirmations involves more
than simply being nice. They are
used intentionally as part of a
strengths-based approach to a
talent development philosophy.
• Micro-affirmations can, and should be,
practiced intentionally.
• Micro-affirmations can be especially powerful
when given by a person with more social
capital than the recipient.
• Micro-affirmations can be especially powerful
when delivering constructive criticism, difficult
news, or when the situation is challenging.
• Micro-affirmations can be
What I hope you will do…
• Recognize the impact and value of microaffirmations in your own life.
• Affirm yourself.
• Affirm others.
Kuh, G. D. (2012, October 31). What matters to
student success. [PowerPoint slides].
Presentation at the National Symposium on
Student Retention National Conference, New
Orleans, LA.
Rowe, M. 2008. Micro-affirmations and microinequities. Journal of the International
Ombudsman Association, 1(1), 45–48.

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