How to Start a Successful Campus Wide Note Writing Project

Last week, we launched a note writing project called Hound Notes, here at Loyola University Maryland. It’s really taken off, and has added a positive buzz in our college community! While this project can be a lot of work on the front-end, it’s not so bad once you get started.* Plus, I’ve outlined most of what we’ve done, so you’re already halfway there. I’m hoping the following guide will assist you in bringing this same project to your campus.

*If you’re wanting more tips or information after reading this, send me a quick email to and I’ll get back to you!

I. Highlights of the Project

We emailed a link to a sign up form to our commuters, residents, and administrators in our division. Then, we had information about the project posted in the online campus bulletin that’s emailed to the entire campus each week.

  • Within the past 6 days, 200+ students, faculty, staff, and administrators have signed up to receive anonymous and positive notes in their campus mailbox. 65 first year students have signed up. Commuters will get their notes mailed home.
  • One goal is to write 300+ notes during the 2016-17 year. 20+ students, faculty members, administrators have officially signed up to be note writers on a weekly, monthly, and semester basis.
  • Another goal is to form a student club by May 2017, help them to raise funds for material costs, and continue to have an organized recipient database and system.This adds sustainability and added potential for growth for the project.
The first few notes we sent!

II. Boosting Engagement, Inclusion, Retention & More

Our division of Student Development has been charged with connecting and engaging with “every student”. In addition, our institution is moving towards being an university that  is more intentionally anchored in its surrounding community. Hound Notes hopes to meet these aims by: 

  1. Engaging students who are and aren’t part of other student organizations by inviting them to write notes to other students.
  2. Fostering a more inclusive environment on campus through late night on-campus letter writing parties at our on-campus Starbucks (between 8pm-11pm) and bundle nominations. Note: Our on-campus Starbucks stays open late if we request it in advance.
  3. Discovering ways to give back to the Baltimore City community through letter-writing campaigns for local agencies and organizations.
  4. Helping students who study abroad for a semester or more, to still feel connected to campus through a post-card letter writing campaign in collaboration with International Programs. Note: A large amount of our students study abroad during the second semester of their junior year.
  5. Creating and cultivating a sense of belonging with first year students, and other class years.
Notes on their way to commuters and employees at satellite campuses.


III. What We Did

Hound Notes was largely inspired by Hannah Brencher and More Love Letters. We made it our own and gave it a name our university community would love (our mascot is a greyhound). This section will outline everything you will need to get started. The most important things to know are to be organized, get your office’s/department’s buy in, and to be careful not to over-complicate things. After all, it’s supposed to be fun and meaningful. 

Materials and Supplies Needed: Each note writer receives a Hound Note Pack that includes a sharpie, pre-labeled envelopes (saves time and prevents the campus post office from having issues with legibility of handwriting), notes, and a note writing guide. Target had a great deal on notes + envelopes: 200 count for $14.99, Spritz. 

Note writers can sign up to write on a weekly, monthly, or per semester basis. To make for easier workflow, we send each note writer their Hound Note Pack through campus mail. Next, the note writer completes each note, and returns the finished and unsealed notes to our central office for review. Once that’s done, someone will seal each envelope with a sticker and send them to the recipients via campus mail or outgoing mail. Here’s a preview of the note writing guide. You can see the rest here.

Quick Start Guide Example.png

Organization + Files: We used a system called Qualtrics to create our form and download all pertinent data. But you can use Google Forms, Wufoo, or Typeform to capture the information you need. All data is stored in a Google Drive folder so any Hound Notes team member can access it.

A few tips… 

  • Make sure to have separate forms (or use skip logic if you’re fancy like that) for students and for faculty, admin, and staff. Also, make sure there is a way for you to accurately attain each commuter’s mailing address. Here’s are some key snapshots from the form. You can see the rest here (just make sure NOT to submit it): 

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  • Test the form several times before you send it.
  • We used to shorten the link to the form. This was great because it looks good (, but some students had issues when they clicked the hyperlink in their Outlook email. So, make sure to add something like: if the link doesn’t open, copy and paste this URL into your browser, or sign up on your laptop. 
  • Create a new folder in your email specifically for this project, and then create rules for each folder. For example, I have the following folders: Hound Notes Form Submissions and Top Secret Note Writers. 
  • Make your Excel spreadsheet work for you. Here are the fields we use to keep us organized:

Spreadsheet Example.png

Bundles and Letter Writing Parties: Each person who signs up, has the option of submitting a nomination for someone to receive a bundle of 20-30 notes. Recipients of the bundles are typically people who are experiencing a tough time, are sick or injured, or who are just really in need of a pick-me-up. As of the time this posting, 50+ heartfelt and detailed nominations were submitted by students, faculty, staff, and admin. Each semester, we will hold 1-2 letter writing parties. During this time, attendees will have the chance to hear the nominations, and write notes specifically for the recipients (people who sign up for to receive just one note typically only get a generic but uplifting message; bundle recipients get something that caters more to them because the writer knows more of their story).

Marketing and Getting the Word Out: Before this project launched, I spent several months getting my co-workers on board with it, asking students if they’d be interested in this project, working with our marketing/communications office (who provided over 200+ temporary tattoos with our school mascot – they had extra), and learning the culture of the school. If you already know the culture of your institution, and are confident that your community will enjoy the project, you can move a little faster.

Things to note…

  • The subject line of the email blast to the campus was: #HoundNotes: Happiness in Your Loyola Mailbox. It’s super catchy and probably helped with our email open rate, though we didn’t track this.
  • We created a simple powerpoint slide to be shown on the digital signs that are located in our student center. The advertisement is simple: “Make Your Loyola Mailbox Happier, Sign Up for Hound Notes Today at”
  • We designed our logo (below) on Canva. I use this website for most simple graphic design projects because it’s super user friendly and it’s free to sign up. Here’s the logo:

AnitaBlack (1).jpg

Funding: I recently submitted a proposal to get this project funded…and it worked! Here’s what helped, as well as what to do if you don’t get any funding:

  • We started by launching the project, then asking for funding after were able to show that a lot of students were interested in it. Plus, we used some of the stories from the bundle nominations to show how much of an impact the project could have.
  • Develop and create a clear, succinct, and thoughtful proposal that speaks to your institution’s/department’s missions, goals, and aims. We are focusing a lot on first year engagement, late night programming, inclusion, and our investment in Baltimore City.
  • If you don’t get funding, don’t sweat it. Get creative. Have students write positive quotes on post-it notes and stick them around campus. Encourage a student organization to pick this project up and use some of their funding to purchase envelopes and notes (it could just be a one time writing project). Write notes to you co-workers and leave them in their work mailboxes (smaller project but still impactful).

Next Steps: If you’re ready to get started, do it! Think about how good it feels to receive something handwritten in the mail – that’s the feeling you get to re-create with your campus community. It can be a one time thing, a semester long project, or a year-long initiative. Workshop your ideas from people in other offices. Have coffee with various student leaders to see if they’d be interested in a project like this, and then go and make awesome happen!

If you’re stuck, have questions, or would like to talk through your ideas, contact me anytime at I’m here for you, because we’re all here to help our students live a better story!  



Share Something Series #3 : Meet Kody Schneider



Head Resident Assistant | Office of Residential Living | Drexel University


One thing that I am grateful for in the life I live is my family. Family to me is not just defined as my blood related family, but also defined as the people I hold close to my heart. Throughout my life I have had the privilege to develop many meaningful relationships with the people I have met. Without the family I have developed over the years, I would not be the person that I am today, and for that I am forever grateful for them.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

I have to go out into left field with this one, and say that I would love to wake up tomorrow morning with the ability to teleport. Over the course of the past few years, I have worked at two different colleges (one in Virginia and the other in Pennsylvania) and my family still lives in California. Despite family being one of the things I am most grateful for, I have enjoyed traveling and exploring different places and meeting new people. Given the ability to teleport, I would be granted the freedom to see the people I care most about anytime that I would like.


Big thanks to Kody for sharing honest and heartfelt words. Follow and connect with Kody on Instagram here!

This post is part of the Share Something series. The idea behind it is to learn more about the Student Affairs practitioners in our field beyond our titles and the work we do. Each participant has the option of responding to a set of questions that come from this article. We have no idea of where this series will go, but some awesome people have already submitted heartfelt and fantastic content. Each week we’ll post one to two articles. If you’re interested in being a part of the series, go here today.

Share Something Series #2 : Meet Juhi Bhatt



Assistant Director of Student Affairs Compliance & Title IX Investigator | Rutgers University | New Brunswick, New Jersey


For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

I am most grateful for my family. I am lucky enough to say that my mother and my sister are my best friends. They have supported me through everything and truly do know everything about me. They have laughed with me, cried with me, and struggled with me as I have come into my own. My mother specifically shows me every day what selfless love looks like by leading by example. I am truly blessed.

Is there something you’ve dreamed of for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

For years I have been talking about visiting Europe. I have wanted to go to Paris for ages. I want to see the Eiffel tower. I want to eat the food! But finances, time, work, and my educational pursuits have held me back. I keep thinking there is still time but each year I lose more time. Now, with current attacks and such it makes it harder to plan a trip such as this but my desire to go has not changed. I have given myself a new deadline. My gift to myself once I complete my doctorate will be a trip to Europe.


Big thanks to Juhi for sharing honest and heartfelt words. Connect with Juhi on Twitter @jbhatt12 and make a new friend!

This post is part of the Share Something series. The idea behind it is to learn more about the Student Affairs practitioners in our field beyond our titles and the work we do. Each participant has the option of responding to a set of questions that come from this article. We have no idea of where this series will go, but some awesome people have already submitted heartfelt and fantastic content. Each week we’ll post one to two articles. If you’re interested in being a part of the series, go here today.

Share something (1)

Share Something Series #1 : Meet Christine Adam


Meet Christine Adam. 

Dean of Students | Thompson River University Kamloops, British Columbia

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

I am most grateful for a log cabin on a lake about three hours from where I now live. It’s a place we (me, my siblings, my parents and all our various children and partners) built six years ago to honour our grandparents. It’s a place where we all land on weekends and for extended vacations. It is full of physical things that are meaningful to us, but most of all, it’s full of all the people we love most in the world.


When did you last cry in front of another person?  

That’s hard to pin down, as I cry often! A recent time was on my birthday in May, on the first day walking the final 250 kms of the Camino de Santiago. I was surrounded by an amazing group of people, some of whom I barely knew, and some of whom I knew not at all. Someone in the group asked me about a tattoo I have, and I just fell apart, realizing that the star tattoo that I got many years ago represented the first step of a journey that included walking to Santiago de Compostela – Compostela being the Spanish “field of stars.”


Big thanks to Christine for sharing honest and heartfelt words. Connect with Christine on Twitter @trudeanstudents and make a new friend!

This is the first post in the Share Something series. The idea behind it is to learn more about the Student Affairs practitioners in our field beyond our titles and the work we do. We have no idea of where this series will go, but some awesome people have already submitted heartfelt and fantastic content. Each week we’ll post one to two articles. If you’re interested in being a part of the series, go here today.

Share something (1)

Introducing the Selfish Self-Care Box

Update: This was a fun, challenging, and growth-filled adventure that has come to an end. Thank you to everyone who supported the efforts. If you’d like to chat more about self-care, email me at These conversations make my life! 

Educators work hard to serve others, but we are terrible at taking care of ourselves. What’s worse is we don’t have the time to gather resources, and treat ourselves. It’s time to stop the excuses, take a deep breath, and open up a box of everything we need to relax and re-center. For a limited time only, you can order a Selfish Self-Care Box that’s made with you in mind.


a super fancy coloring book + colored pencils

modelling clay

nutritious snacks

the unofficial guide to self-care

a few surprises

Total Cost: $20 + Shipping



How soon will I get my order? 

All orders are shipped within 3-5 business days. You will receive a USPS tracking number in the shipping confirmation email that you receive, once the order has shipped. Please click the link in the email or go to and enter your tracking number to see where your order currently is in the shipping route. Contact Sinclair Ceasar at if you don’t receive an email with tracking info within 72 hours of placing your order.

Can I order a Selfish Self-Care Box for someone else? 

Yes! How kind of you!

Is the Selfish Self-Care Box a subscription service? 

Good question. For now, it’s just a one time thing. But you can order as many boxes as you like. They make fantastic gifts!


Need more assistance? Email Sinclair at

Say Something: Just One Way to Be a Better Ally

You hear the news. It’s not as shocking as it should be. It’s the same trending topic you heard about a month ago. Too soon. Too soon for another Black body to be gunneddowninthestreet. Another life gone. Another family member slain. Another fundraiser to support the children left behind. Another trial. Another uproar.

It’s not just another anything. Every single life is significant. Every story deserves to be lived, yet pages are torn away. Chapters left unfinishe

What do you do? You try to process this and wrap your mind around it all. You want to help. You believe that your liberation is directly connected to that of those you stand beside. For some reason, words don’t come easy.

What do you say when you and your Black colleague are face to face?

What do you say to your Black friend?

How do you broach the topic with the Black employee you supervise?

I don’t want to say the wrong thing. I don’t want to break anything. 

Let me tell you something: It’s already broken.  It’s not helpful to ignore it. Your silence – though well intentioned – is not helping to soothe the pain. Say something. Say something from the bottom of your heart. Be there. Ask, “How can I be someone you can count on right now?”

And then listen.



All This Before 30

To do all of the of the following things I have to start somewhere. For example, I haven’t gone swing dancing in like 2 years. I’d need to actually take classes and get proficient before I could teach a beginner class. That’s the idea. Set a goal and then do what it takes to meet it.

This is all stuff that excites me. What’s on your list?

  1. Facilitate an online workshop intensive on productivity or self-care. (I wanna be like Hannah Brencher.)
  2. Lose 30 pounds and keep that ish off. (I have a nutritionist and a personal trainer right now.)
  3. Write a book about my life and how I’ve gotten to where I am. Publish it. Sell it. Maybe change a life. Maybe not.
  4. Prepare to enter a doctoral program. (Ummm…that’s scary).
  5. Run two more seasons of SA Search Motivation.
  6. Co-teach a beginner level Lindy Hop Swing dance class.
  7. Co-teach a beginner level improv class. (This is going to happen. I LOVE improv.)
  8. Run 10 different 5Ks (No Color Run 5Ks. Some kid threw yellow powder up my nose one year).
  9. Have 1:1 coffee meetups with at least 75 different college students and document 1/3 of them. (e.g. Keep track of who I met with; jot down their dreams and challenges while in undergrad, take a selfie with them, etc.)
  10. Go on 3 BIG vacations with Tynesha. (We’re going to Canada this year, so that’s one down).
  11. Send the moms in my life flowers on Valentine’s Day. (Because I stress the eff out when trying to get the perfect gift. So moms are the best option.)
  12. Co-plan a 1-day for young professionals needing a jump start in their careers.
  13. Go to 3 dance exchanges that include day long workshops.
  14. Launch a university peer-to-peer note writing project. (Similar to this one.)
  15. Speak at 10 schools (K-12 & college/university).
  16. Take 3 cooking classes –  especially one to make delicious foreign street food.
  17. Do a TEDX talk. An IGNITE talk. And talks at NASPA and ACPA. We goin’ big, ya heard!

*To be updated and modified periodically.

Somebody Needed To Hear This

They told me: Your words do a lot for me. Keep saying them. 

I found it hard to believe. I would say these inspirational things, but I would doubt myself too. Often. Everyday. I’m bright on the outside and feel ugly and unwanted on the inside.

But, I keep saying them because someone needs to hear them. Recently, I started believing my own words.I started believing that I am enough and that I am needed. Someone benefits from my presence (even if I never discover who or how), so it behooves me to show up. To push. I get to keep pushing.

I don’t have to keep pushing. I get to keep pushing.

There’s such freedom in realizing that I get to create a positive and healthy life for myself. I get to smile in a room full of frowns. I get to dream – really, dream. Dreams are important. Don’t let anyone take them from you. Don’t let them trick you out of dreaming.

I get to move at my own pace with this healing thing. Childhood was hard. People can be mean right? They can be so full of themselves that they fail to see how you’re hurting. I have stories and scars. We all have them. But, I’m still writing this thing. I’m still working this thing. And as I do, I’m going to keep saying what someone needs to hear.

I’m going to keep saying that you matter and that you are beautiful. You are. You are worthy of love. You are worthy of happiness.

Truth is: all this scares me. If I’m worthy of so much, then can’t I lose it all?

I can. And even if I did lose it all somehow, I’d still be worth it. That’s how it works. You showing up as you are and acting out of good intentions is what matters. That’s where you start. The rest you’ll figure out.