books    •    other    •    etc.    •    blog



Top 5 Things I Learned About College Assessment: #indyai14

October 21st, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 10.31.54 PMFor the past two days, with jet lag in hand, I forged ahead to the IUPUI Assessment Institute 2014 (#indyai14) downtown in Indianapolis.  This is the first time I’ve ever attended this meeting, and was interested to learn more about assessment.

For those of you not entrenched in higher education geekery, assessment is required in various ways for accreditation and re-accreditation of colleges, universities and professional schools.  In my world, for example, Butler University (the day job) is accredited, and then the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences is accredited via each of its two professional programs (there is a separate accrediting body for pharmacy and another for physician assistants).

So, back to assessment.  Assessment is necessary for the benchmarking and evidence of student learning on college campuses.  Assessment can be everything from taking a test after learning material, to giving a performance critiqued by professionals, to surveys, and assignments.  Why I decided to go to this conference was this new journal I’m working on, BU Well, so that I can learn how to better assess student writing (hint: not that easy to do).

Here’s some of the best stuff I learned at this conference over the past two days:

1. Pharmacy is ahead of most professional programs on assessment – there was one session I attended that compared nursing assessment to pharmacy program assessment.  Pharmacy had a wider variety of forms of assessment than nursing.  Where I think pharmacy is still NOT good at assessing are the new standards on entrepreneurship, leadership, and self awareness.  A gal I connected with after the session suggested the student leadership practices inventory (SLPI)…but looking this up, there’s a fee, so I have no idea if it is decent or not for pharmacy.  I’m checking the entrepreneurship ed world for good tools.

2.  The Writing Across the Curriculum Clearinghouse at CO State - This is wac. Seriously. You can go in, type in any profession to the search bar, and get info on writing across the curriculum in specific professional eduction programs.  SO HELPFUL and probably THE BEST nugget of info I received at this entire conference relevant to this new writing venture I’m trying at BU.  This nugget was parlayed by Dr. Barbara Walvoord up at ND – and she wrote a book on How to Improve and Assess Student Writing – by that title.

3. ePortfolios are. Everywhere. - There was an entire track dedicated to students creating electronic portfolios as a longitudinal assessment of their learning in a program.  While we grew our own ePortfolio in WordPress, other schools were using sites like Wix, and in other paid databases.  I still have a few areas of intrigue and concern here.  First, what about copyright of images, music licenses, etc., when it comes to ePortfolios?  Second, can students carry this information with them and supplement it after school without incurring subscription fees and ensuring some quasi-privacy?  Third, do ePortfolios REALLY help students get jobs and gigs?  Last, badges within portfolios–has anyone figured these out yet relative to pharmacy practice?

4. STEM education learning struggles: back to basics – One of the very first breakout sessions I attended was by Dr. Saundra McGuire at Louisiana State University, where she teaches students in STEM how to LEARN (typically after the first exam of the semester, when she has a captive audience).  This includes basics like teaching students about Bloom’s Taxonomy, and get them to think via metacognition, about how they individually think and learn. First, this kind of seems obvious to me, but then again, the first time any prof ever taught Bloom’s in class for me was in law school. So, perhaps we need to talk about this in class.  Second, my favorite form of teaching is “creating” which is at the top of the pyramid of Bloom’s – and frankly, that’s the best place I learn as a student as well.  Note to self: go back to retrace Bloom’s if anyone is struggling.

5.  I need to get more charrette assignments in my classes – From the art and design world, a charrette was given as an example several times in several sessions.  I think it is basically working in small groups on design solutions to problems. (I’ll let the masterful wikipedia explain it better than I can in a day.) Design thinking is one of the BIGGEST ideas missing from pharmacy programs that I can see these days, and if I can get ahead of this curve for my students–getting them thinking about identifying problems and turning them into opportunities with solutions–I think our program will remain ahead of the curve.  The art folks also do a lot of high stakes performance/Shark Tank-like assessments – I use those, and I’ll be using them even more now.

That’s all I have from the last 2 days.  I’m glad I attended this meeting.  I learned a lot…about learning!

What Makes a City Great?

October 20th, 2014


Recently, I had the luck to take one of those things called a “vacation” (I almost forgot what the meaning of that word was) – to tour parts of northern Spain.  We started and ended in Barcelona, and made a big loop to various northern cities–San Sebastian, Zaragosa, Sitges, and took advantage of a couple of the Paradores in the region.  But the most impressive visit for me was: Bilbao.


Dog Grooming

What Bilbao seemed to have figured out (while most cities I’ve visited do not, frankly) is a very rich mixture/blend of old with the new.  And, when I started reading about Bilbao’s history after visiting it, I was even more impressed.  It was originally a port and industrial city, with one of the most polluted rivers flowing through it (the Nervion).  If you get there, you can take the boat tour (it runs several times a day) and you’ll see that the river is now clean.  However, the industrialness of the city still remains in parts, and a lot of potential opportunity in the region still exists for creative civic and entrepreneurial spirits in the city.

The Guggenheim is really the diamond in the setting once you enter the city through a very dramatic bridge (that also lights up at night – cool), but there’s also a beautiful performing arts center along the river, as well as new development and retail.  Last, but certainly not least, it appeared that both sides of the river contained a linear park and a huge running/walking the dog/jogging/bicycling path and playground for all the citizens of the city to participate.  And it appeared that everyone was maximizing this space.

There are also +5 different types of mass transit in the city–an underground metro, buses (including one I took into the city from the airport for under 2 euros), trams, train, the boat, and of course an airport.  The tram even runs along the linear park near the river.

The other thing that impressed me with the city was the various parks scattered throughout the city.  Heading into the old town, we ran through a park full of sycamore trees (not unusual in Spain), but the park also had stalls for farmers’ markets, almost like a mini Ramblas (and if you’ve visited Barcelona, you know what a Ramblas can be).  It was also very, very clean.

After reading more, I understand that the city had its own challenges in becoming what it is today–doesn’t every city?  But, I found the city itself inspiring when I was briefly visiting.  I also found this article on innovation, creativity and city development–which I think strikes at the heart of this post, and Bilbao.

The tram in Bilbao

As I returned to the states, I also read this story on–Des Moines, Iowa of all places, being a new innovative city for young entrepreneurs.  (Pinterest was made by a dude from Iowa?!? Rock on!)

What’s my point with this post?  Simply this: not only do we need to take a vacation from our own crazy little lives every once in a while, but more important, we need to go out and explore what other cities and countries are doing to take themselves and their citizens into the future.  Whether it’s Des Moines, IA or Bilbao, Spain, we need cities to feed our creative souls.  And after reading the article above on innovation, creativity and city development, I agree that creative cities will attract the early birds of the creative economy.

And let’s face it, the early birds get the protein…!

Going, Going, Gone…But Not Forgotten

October 9th, 2014

Well, I’m off to vacate for a while!  Taking a mini sabbatical.  Miss me yet? Lol!

If you want to follow where I’m going (hint: I’ve never been there before, the weather will be fab, and if you love architecture like I do, this will be a trip of a lifetime) you have to back the #STEMPrincess2 project over at Kickstarter.  Only the backers are getting my photos, posts and live action where I’m heading.

In the interim, if you do miss me and you can’t back #STEMP2 (OK, mom, if you miss me), here are some other shenanigans I’ve been up to recently that you might consider liking, learning about, or watching while I’m away…ready?

1. BU Well - we have the Facebook.  We have the Twitter.  We even have a logo now! Join us and watch the first-ever student-driven healthcare journal grow over the next year.  This is going to be a first!

2. STEM Princess 2 – I’ll be honest.  I have not pounded this Kickstarter campaign as much the second time around, for a bunch of reasons.  However, if you’d like to join in the party – I’ll be posting pics from my vacation for the backers only per above – so hop to it!  It runs until Oct. 24.  (The campaign runs until Oct. 24, not my vacation.)

3.  One more biggie for Pharmacy Times – If you’re a pharmacy geek looking to expand your career creative corners, I have one more ginormous article coming in the next edition of Pharmacy Times.  As of now, the e-edition isn’t posted yet – but it’s coming, and it’s going to be good.

4.  Multipationals – Everywhere I look these days, this is becoming even bigger than I originally thought.  There are so many professionals who are running simultaneous careers and gigs at once that it makes my head spin!  Check out this article on the subject.  The hardest part about this is that YOU get to be the drafter of your own career life.  That’s good and bad all at once, because you have to get super duper creative about how to make it work.

That’s all I’ve got for now.  Hope you can follow me OUS – but if not, keep things moving forward for the rest of us here in the states while I’m away…! XOX!

4 Tips for the Perfect Purge Trip

October 5th, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 4.13.09 PMThey say that the more stuff you have, the more it has you.  In my more mature years (slightly past age 29), I’ve learned that this is true.  I’ve found this especially true when people travel outside the U.S.

Americans LOVE to over pack.  We for some reason like to drag around our stuff with us wherever we go.  But, today while preparing for my next trip outside the US (OUS) soon*, I’ve reinforced yet again that a purge trip is in order.

What, pray tell, is a purge trip?

I’m so glad you asked!

It’s an opportunity to clean out your closet, get rid of stuff you don’t need (or should have donated or thrown in the rag bag a long time ago), and come home with a lighter load.  Yes, I mean that you’re going to wear clothing and LEAVE IT BEHIND.

While I normally just go with a backpack, this time is tricky, because I’m getting on a cheap flight in the middle of the trip with crazy baggage restrictions, and yes, that would mean I’d have to check my backpack, believe it or not.  Instead, I’ve decided to take along a roller board that is on its last leg, so it, too, can stay behind.

So, here’s how I roll on a purge trip:

1. Take every T-shirt with holes, grease, bleach and paint marks – You’re going to wear them one last time, then leave them behind in the hotel.  Trust me, it seems like my closet collects T shirts that have these issues – here’s the big chance to take them on one last journey!  Besides, you can cover them up in layers like jackets or with scarves – no one is going to know you when you travel abroad anyway!

2. Buy bottoms that can be easily washed on the trip – I rarely throw out bottoms on my purge trips – they’re tricky for me to find that fit.  On this particular trip, I’m going to try out a Royal Robbins Discovery Skirt.  It has a lot of secret compartments, and washes up/dries out on the road in a breeze.  Literally.  Ladies – skirts can be a good option for wash and rinse on the go.  Needless to say – you’re going to wear a money belt when you travel OUS – right?  It needs to hold your passport, credit cards, and wads of cash – they make them now with RFID blockers too.

3. Find dual purpose clothing – Pickpockets are all over the world – they prey on tourists.  Don’t LOOK like a tourist.  One way you can do that is avoid carrying the big American bag or backpack.  I like the SholdIT brand of scarves, this brand of vests, and the ScotteVest line with RFID blockers (which I may need to ask Santa about this Christmas).  The last thing, ladies, you want to be dragging around is some big American junk filled purse.  Don’t do it.

4.  If you return with empty luggage, you can stock up on souvenirs – Now I don’t typically buy a lot of junk when I go on an OUS trip.  However, if you go on a purge trip and need to buy a bunch of trinkets for friends and family at home – guess what? You’ve now got an empty suitcase that you can stock up with your favorite goodies and check on the way home, rather than sweating out how to stuff everything back in that suitcase to begin with – yay!

That’s it. Just consider the next time you go for a serious week or more OUS trip, that you consider getting rid of some stuff that should have gone a long time ago, and that will free you from the burden of dragging it all over the world.

Your back will thank me.

*Where am I going, you might ask? Well, feel free to back the Kickstarter campaign and find out.  Only the backers are going on the road trip with me this time.  Note two hints: 1. It’s somewhere I’ve never been, ever and 2. The trip is going to have AMAZING weather.

5 Ways to Help Your Pharmacist Help YOU

October 4th, 2014

TheNewPharmacist46DosesOK, for all of you not privy to the world of pharmacy on a daily basis: October is national pharmacists’ month.  So, in honor of my fellow brothers and sisters in white coats, I thought I’d offer up 5 ways for YOU to maximize your health and your relationship with your pharmacist.  Ready?

1. Get a copy of your drug formulary and take it with you to the doc – If you have health insurance, chances might be that you also have some type of prescription coverage.  Most health insurance companies put drugs in categories or tiers–where you pay less if you get a generic  or a cheaper brand when there’s multiple brand-name drugs available–it’s like a menu of price fixed options at a restaurant.  You should have access to a drug formulary that has your ‘tiers’ of drugs listed – somewhere, typically online.  Get that from your employer and take it with you to your doctor so s/he can give you the cheapest alternative.  And unfortunately, most pharmacy benefit managers (administrators on the insurance side who pay pharmacy drug claims for your employer) don’t let your pharmacist know what tier that prescription is in within your insurance plan until they actually fill the prescription (why insurance companies do this, I have no idea…) Having this list before you see the doc and before you roll into the pharmacy can save your doc and your pharmacist a lot of headaches, and save you from sticker shock!

2. Be extra nice to your pharmacist on Monday, Oct. 6 – Hydrocodone combination products (like with acetaminophen) are switching their controlled substance category on Monday from CIII to CII.  This is going to cause a lot of administrative headaches for your friends in white coats on Monday.  (Mondays are generally terribly busy days in pharmacies anyway, but Oct. 6th will be extra crazy.) On the other hand, I’m not totally sure why we use so many opioids in this country for pain – when non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) exist.  One Russian doctor said that in Russia, they rarely if ever use prescription opioids for pain in outpatient settings.  Frankly, if the Russians can use NSAIDs, why can’t we?

3. Keep all your prescription drugs at ONE store – Pharmacists are obligated to look at and fill not only that new prescription your doc wants you to take, but they have to run it against all the other prescriptions you are taking to make sure there aren’t any drug-drug interactions or therapeutic duplications.  This is called DRUG UTILIZATION REVIEW (DUR).  However, if you go to 5 different pharmacies and one pharmacist with that new script only knows half of what other drugs you’re taking, she can’t do proper DUR.  That’s why it’s important to keep your stuff in ONE place.

4.  Ask at least the following question of your pharmacist on EVERY new prescription you take – Pharmacists should be asking if you have any questions, but why not OWN your education around new scripts and just ask every time you get something new of the pharmacist, “Hey–can you give me 3 things to look out for with this prescription?”  You’ll get the hi-lights without having the 20-page War and Peace version of everything that could possibly go wrong with that drug when you ask this question.  It’s your job to ask your pharmacist what you’re putting into your body…own asking this question and any others every time you get something new!

5.  Ask about Medication Therapy Management (MTM) services – Some pharmacies have this really cool service (on top of filling prescriptions and giving flu and other immunization shots now) called Medication Therapy Management (MTM).  That’s a service that you might want to ask about if you’re on half a dozen or more meds.  The pharmacist can actually sit down, review all your meds with you, look for any problems or duplications, and then give everyone (including all your doctors and yourself) a list of your meds to carry with you when you go to see the doctor(s) next time.  (You do have a list of all the medicines you are taking in your wallet and in your refrigerator at home, yes?  If not, see this.)

There you have it – 5 tiny ideas to keep in mind the next time you roll into the pharmacy.  And if you see your pharmacist during the month of Rocktober–please tell them I said THANKS for all that they do!

Social Media for Pharmacy Majors

October 1st, 2014

Today, I’m giving a lecture at Butler on social media and online professionalism to pharmacy majors.  (Yeah, I never got any of this when I was in pharmacy school – either time.)

How do you professionally use:

Your email footer?
Your business cards?

And how does your first world activity relate to your second (digital) world activity?  Or do they intersect that much?

Maybe I’ll learn a thing or two from the students…! Yay!

P.S. Here are the slides:

Owning the Second You: Building Online Professional Presence in Pharmacy from Erin Albert




September 30th, 2014

I often rant about work/world shaking/STEM/pharmacy/writing stuff here.  But this post I dedicate…to my friends.  We all need them.  In fact, I have a few that I can categorize (no names listed below to protect the innocent–but I’m sure they can identify themselves):

The Friend(s) who:

Tries to fix me up: I have one in particular in this department.  Girl, love ya for your tenacity, but seriously – won’t be happening por moi!  MEMO: I AM A LOST CAUSE HERE!  (Unless, of course, Mr. Darcy actually exists in this world, or she knows first hand David Muir.  Otherwise, I’m sticking to fictional characters.)

Sends me news I want: Always sends me TED stuff, STEM stuff, and stuff I actually care about.  It’s a human news filter role he’s playing, and works way better than Flipboard – thanks, dude!

Sends me interesting career stuff: Mentors typically do this for me.  And friend mentors. APPRECIATED!

Travels with me: I’m SUPER lucky to have a friend who travels all over the world by herself – sometimes, she lets me come along for the ride!

Solves all my problems along with me: Like my Cape friend this weekend, she’s one of a handful that verifies my gut and my head.  It’s nice to have friends who keep it real.

Gives me tough love:  The friends who not only keep it real, but don’t let me feel sorry for myself too long.  It’s time to suck it up, pick yourself up, and move forward.  These friends I appreciate as well….because they don’t let my pity party go on too long. They’re the ones who tell me I have something in between my teeth too.  Good to have, especially when you don’t have a mirror.

Want to change the world:  These tend to be my friends who are also entrepreneurs.  They really fundamentally believe they can make the world a better place through positive change. I dig their chi!

I don’t even know:  I think I’ve discussed these friends here before – but I have one who sends me random joke stuff–who I wouldn’t know from Adam if he walked up to me on the street.  Another who lives far away, and again – wouldn’t know him from Adam, but who shares my days with me via the world wide web.  For all I know – these could be women…or men.  No clue.  But they can write a good joke or talk to me about absolutely nothing…and make it something. I’m glad to have these folks in my inbox as well.

My wish for my fab 13: that each of you have friends like this in your lives.  It’s important.  It’s what makes life interesting.  A girl’s gotta have friends, and this girl is glad she is rich in this department.


September 29th, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 9.16.51 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 9.17.04 PM  Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 9.17.55 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 9.17.36 PM

So…while I was (slacking off) at the Jersey Shore this weekend, some really amazing stuff happened!  (And hey, even this girl knows when it is time to take a break!)

1. The #STEMPrincess2 Project went international – with our first backer OUS – thanks, Soo!

2. The pharmacy podcast on third spaces popped out with John Cowan of Cowan Drugs.  You can listen below! Thanks to Todd and his crew over at for me to shine on the radio!


3. The latest article on pharmacy careers from Pharmacy Times came out – with the spotlight on Jim O’Donnell - one of my favorite creative thinkers in pharmacy at Community Health Network!

How might I top all this in October? Not sure.  But I have a few tricks up my sleeve….

So, title of this post is NOT gym-tan-laundry.

It’s Great-Times-Longer?

Good-Pharmacy Times-Louder?


I give up!

The Best Way to Complain: Create.

September 24th, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 9.40.52 PMFirst off, note to Santa: I think I need to get a T-shirt that warns people that conversations with me may lead to blog posts.   But that aside, (and frankly what initiated this post today) was a friend who shared with me that her daughter has a problem:

she loves superheros.

However, when mom went to search the internet for girl superheroes, she really didn’t dig what she found. Images of women superheroes were sexy. Voluptuous. Uninspiring and lascivious for girls. Needless to say, mom was a little bummed out.

I shared with her that maybe she and her daughter might consider creating their ideal superhero woman or girl together. That way, her daughter can figure out on her own (rather than the ‘help’ of society and the internet) what is truly important in a superhero girl or woman.

This reminds me of my talks with writers too. When I talk to budding writers, I always steal and reapply (with full credit to Toni) Toni Morrison’s awesome quote about books, “If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” That’s how 90% of my books came to fruition. And, a lot of my books came from frustration and complaint over an idea or a book NOT existing.

Two stories, one point: the best way to complain about something wrong in your mind, world, or universe is to create. Just start something. Maybe it’s a superhero. Maybe it’s a STEM Princess (like my project), a book, or a company. Whatever it is–don’t be like 99% of the world and sit back and complain, criticize, whine about it and wait for someone else to fix the problem. Channel that energy into obligation that Y-O-U need to do something about it. Think about it as part of your hint from the universe that perhaps Y-O-U can be the person to change it for the better. Share your revolution with others!

Make it. Start it. Create it. Don’t wait for someone else. Don’t channel the energy into negative. Use it to start something. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t even have to be great.

The greatness is in the dare to do it anyway…!

D = Database Administration and Dakota

September 23rd, 2014
Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 7.49.30 PM

Princess Dakota, Database Administrator

We’re at D of our alphabet of STEM Princesses…next up, Dakota.  She’s
into Database Administration.

Admittedly, I don’t know much about this field, but it appears that many women and professionals in this arena studied either computer science or management of information systems, informatics, or any combination thereof in school.

Dakota’s one sheet is below.

While I’m sure there are many women in this field professionally, I would say that this one was a challenge to find some rockstars within.  Maybe they are out there, but I had trouble finding them.  It would be GREAT to see and hear more stories about women rocking big data.

I know big data is a big deal in healthcare – as I’m sure it’s a big deal elsewhere.  Let’s see more women in here rocking it out–OK, dear Universe?