Chancellor Emeritus

Twelve years ago this month, I rebranded this blog – which had started in 2006 as Lines from Lee and later evolved to the clunkier PR, New Media and GTD – Lines from Lee – as Social Media University, Global, or SMUG.

It’s time now (or rather past time) to reorient it based on the fact that my career has evolved far beyond anything I could have dreamed when I gave myself the title of Chancellor.

My idea was that through SMUG I would learn in public and invite others to come along for the ride. I would develop some curriculum categories, and other communications professionals who wanted to learn to use social media could use my example as a resource.

I had a lot of fun with it, and one of the best points was when people would greet me with my self-appointed title.

But then in 2010 my employer, in response to a proposal I helped to develop, created the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, which in 2015 became the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network (MCSMN). It was gratifying that this teaching role I had created for myself on my personal blog became part of my day job.

We provide learning resources for our Mayo Clinic staff to help them apply social media in their work, and also open membership – Basic (free), Premium and Corporate – to provide access to these resources to colleagues globally. Oe of the best parts is that we also learn from them!

So while Social Media University, Global was a lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek phrasing, MCSMN made that global vision a reality.

As a result, when I have written online about social media, I have been much more likely to do it on the MCSMN site instead of here. So after averaging 160 posts a year in 2009-10, since 2016 my SMUG post average has been… 3.

As of today I’m recognizing that reality, and will be coming up with a new name for this blog. I’ll probably keep the same domain name for a while at least: no one types URLs anyway, and it’s kind of a pain to switch. All of my previous posts from the SMUG era will remain available.

I don’t expect that my post volume will approach 2009 levels, but I will be a lot more regular in my blogging. Over the last three years I’ve been reading and learning a lot about health, diet and fitness that’s pretty radically different from what I had previously heard and believed.

It’s made a huge difference for me.

I’ll start telling that story tomorrow.

I’ll also use this space to write about other things I find interesting. That will be the common thread.

If you want to follow along, I’ll be tweeting links to new posts and sharing on Facebook. Or bookmark the site, and check in occasionally.

So as of today, I’m giving myself a new title: Chancellor Emeritus.

A Year (and a Decade) of Blessings

As Lisa and I look back on 2019 and the decade that was, and as we look ahead to what we hope will be our Roaring ’20s, we are grateful to God for so many blessings in our lives.

The reason we think the 2020s will be Roaring is mainly because last week the noise level at our house could fairly be described with that adjective. We had five of our six children and their spouses or significant others – and 11 of our dozen grandchildren – home for Christmas.

That meant with extended family on Lisa’s side we had 50 people in our house on Christmas Eve eve, and 26 on Christmas Day. We were glad that my parents, Lewis and LaVonne, and Lisa’s dad, Leonard, were among the throng. Leonard turned 89 in October, and Dad’s 89th birthday is in a couple of weeks, so it is a blessing that they’re all in reasonably good health.

Here’s the report on our descendants:

Rachel was the only one of our married children who didn’t have a new baby this year. That’s fine, though, because she and her husband Kyle already have five. Evelyn, Judah, Aletta, Mabel and Sylvia spent 10 days with us in January, as has become a tradition, while their parents took a cruise.

Jacob and Alexi had their fourth child, who became grandchild #12 because her cousin in Bulgaria came a little early. Their oldest, Graham, started school this year, while Isaac and Clara are still home with baby Julia. Jacob is a physical therapist at Mayo Clinic and lives with his family in Rochester. We’re glad to get to see them every week at church.

Rebekah and Andrew, who both work for Mayo Clinic Health System, had the first child of the year when Augustin (a.k.a. Gus) arrived in April. They live seven blocks from us in Austin, so we see Griff and Gus more than the others, but we feel blessed that half of our grandkids are members of our church.

Ruthie and Trevin left in March for their long-term assignment as Presbyterian missionaries (also in our denomination and with support from our church) in Sofia, Bulgaria. They had their first baby, Noa, in mid-July, and so she was already home from the hospital with her parents when we came to visit later that month. We also got to be present (along with Trevin’s parents) for Noa’s baptism.

Joe is living and working in Mankato. His job with Ameripride involves a lot of regional driving, and one of the benefits is a four-day workweek. He’s doing well and enjoying being beyond college life, and no longer sharing an apartment with several other guys.

John is in his final year at University of Northwestern in suburban St. Paul, Minn. He is engaged to marry a young lady from Rochester, Bella Higgins, a fellow English major he met at school. That wedding is coming in June.

In addition to our visit to Bulgaria, Lisa and I had an April-May vacation to Germany, Switzerland and Austria. And in late October, with a week of vacation to use or lose, we spent some time in San Diego.

I had another good year of work as well, with several opportunities to travel and meet with like-minded colleagues from around the world. Two of the highlights were visits to Dubai in early September for planning and then in December for our Middle East Healthcare Social Media Summit.

I ordinarily would have completed this Christmas letter before now, but I was extra busy in the last few weeks, both with the visiting clan and also in completing my first course at Western Governors University, where I’m working on a MBA in Healthcare Management. As of this morning, I’m 8% done.

When I did this newsletter at the beginning of the decade, Lisa and I had only one grandchild and had just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. We are grateful for so many blessings since that time, including reaching our 35th.

Here’s wishing you and yours many blessings in the year ahead!

Happy New Year!

As the Aase clan looks forward to an exciting 2019, we’re thankful for the many blessings we experienced in the year that concludes tonight.

The 6,000-mile driving vacation Lisa and I took was a major highlight. We left from Austin July 27 in our Chevy Cruze with no agenda but to drive west. We had a few ideas of places we wanted to visit, but mainly we wanted the windshield tour of the country. We never made hotel reservations for more than a day in advance, and that led to some interesting discoveries.

Our route took us to DeSmet, South Dakota (a Laura Ingalls Wilder site) and Mount Rushmore on the second day. After a night in Butte, Montana we were on to Seattle for two nights. We visited Dan and Sandy Hinmon (and toured the museum with Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose) in McMinnville, Oregon on the way down to the Pacific coast.

After a couple of days in Eureka, California (a delightful coastal town the size of Austin, Minn. that was one of our serendipitous discoveries due to our “No Plan” travel plan), we took the Avenue of the Giants to see the Redwoods.

Our only other two-night stay was in San Diego, where we had a delightful visit to the beach, and then it was on to the Grand Canyon (my first visit) and to Winchester, Kansas, where a couple of our granddaughters were celebrating birthdays.

Two breathtaking wonders of Creation.

Here are some other photos from the trip:

For the first 32 years of our marriage we only took a few longer vacations with our six kids (a trip to Washington, DC and a couple of Florida trips were the big ones.) Now that our nest is empty we enjoy taking advantage of increased opportunities to travel together.

Speaking of an empty nest, here’s what’s up with our kids:

Rachel and her husband Kyle Borg still live with their five kids in Winchester, where he’s a Presbyterian pastor. On their 10th anniversary they took a cruise and left the kids with us, and that has started a tradition. We look forward to having them stay with us again in a couple of weeks, and we plan to start with a day at Mall of America’s Nickelodeon Universe with as many of our descendants (and significant others) as can make it. It’s become a great family tradition.

Midweek visits to Nickelodeon Universe = More rides for the money
While Grandpa takes kids on rides, Grandma guards the strollers.

Jacob and his wife Alexi and their three kids live in Rochester. Jake is a physical therapist at Mayo Clinic. It’s great to see those kids every week at church (and sometimes more frequently).

Rebekah and Andrew Gatzemeyer live just seven blocks away from us in Austin with their son Griffin. Andrew works at Mayo in the appointment office, and for about a year was riding to work with me every day. Now he’s teleworking so we don’t have that ride, but sometimes I take Griffin to Alexi for day care while Rebekah is at work. She’s a nurse at Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin.

Ruthie and her husband Trevin Hoot are going to be long-term missionaries to Bulgaria through our church (Presbyterian Church in America) mission agency, Mission to the World. In May we were in St. Louis for his graduation from Seminary. They’ve raised more than 90 percent of the support they need, and so we expect they’ll move to Sofia in March.

With Ruthie and Trevin for his graduation.

Joe graduated from Minnesota State University, Mankato this month and is working full-time for Ameripride. He’s thankful to have a good job that he was able to do during his last year of college and that he can continue to do and enjoy as he considers his next steps.

Our youngest, John, is in his second year at the University of Northwestern in suburban St. Paul, Minn. He took post-secondary classes in his last two years of high school, so he’s planning to graduate in a little over a year. He also had a big announcement on Christmas Day:

John and Bella

So, if you’re keeping score, we have

  • Six kids, four of whom are married
  • Five granddaughters
  • Four grandsons, and
  • More on the way.

How many more? You’ll have to see in next year’s review.

But here’s a gallery of some of our blessings so far:

In a future post I’ll review some professional highlights of 2018.

Best wishes for a Happy New Year!

An Unforgettable Year

Three long journeys and two very short ones are among the blessings for which I give thanks as I reflect on 2016 and look ahead to the new year.

Let’s start with the short trips first: a pair of 40-yard strolls with my daughters Ruthie (Aug. 12) and Rebekah (Oct. 15) after which their names changed.

Each of their weddings doubled as a fantastic family reunion, and Lisa and I are so thankful that we now have four of our six children married, and that they’ve married well. We’re delighted to welcome Trevin Hoot and Andrew Gatzemeyer to our extended family.

Ruthie and Trevin’s wedding Aug. 12 in St. Paul, Minn.

Rebekah and Andrew’s wedding Oct. 15 in Rochester, Minn.

This was the year for our married kids to spend Christmas proper with the in-laws; we hope to get the whole gang together next year.

So here’s the family update for 2016:

Our oldest daughter Rachel and her husband Kyle Borg will celebrate their 10th anniversary on Friday. Kyle is the pastor at Winchester Presbyterian Church in northeast Kansas, and it was great to have him officiate at Ruthie and Trevin’s wedding.

While the Borgs couldn’t join our early Christmas celebration on Dec. 17, we will get some extended time with the kids in mid-January. Rachel and Kyle are going on an anniversary cruise, and on the way to Minneapolis for the flight to Houston they’ll drop off Evelyn, Judah, Aletta, Mabel and Sylvia to stay for a week with us.

An excited Graham with his trampoline

Our oldest son, Jacob, still lives with his wife Alexi and sons Graham and Isaac in New Berlin, just west of Milwaukee. Jacob is a physical therapist at Froedert Hospital, and he and Alexi are expecting our eighth grandchild in May. While we missed having the Borg grandchildren for Christmas, it meant that Graham and Isaac got more attention.

The matrimonial news involving my younger daughters had some broader ramifications as well. Rebekah and Ruthie had (with only brief exceptions) lived and worked together for nearly a quarter century, and both were employed as nurses at Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul.

With Bekah G before her interview

After Ruthie’s wedding in August, she and Trevin moved to St. Louis, where she’s working at DePaul Hospital and he’s in his final year at Covenant Theological Seminary. And last Tuesday (see selfie at right) I got to have lunch with Rebekah in Rochester when she came to interview for a nursing job at Mayo Clinic.

On Thursday afternoon, we got the excited call from Bekah that she had been offered and had accepted the position, and that she’ll be starting in February. She and Andrew are hoping to move to Austin, so he’s applying for positions in Austin and Rochester, too. The good news is that with her work schedule (five 12-hour shifts every two weeks) they don’t need to be in a hurry to move; she can commute from St. Paul.

Our son Joe is in his last year at Minnesota State University in Mankato and is working at Buffalo Wild Wings as he heads into his final semester. Because he opted not to play basketball in his senior year, Joe was able to join Dr. Farris Timimi, our medical director for the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network, and me on our November trip to Australia and New Zealand. One of Joe’s roommates, Jake Weierke, scraped together the plane fare so he could join us. I had Delta SKYMILES to pay for most of Joe’s ticket.

In the hobbit hole with Joe and Jake

None of us will forget the experience. We saw the fairy penguins come ashore at dusk at Phillip Island, and during our 2nd International Mayo Clinic Healthcare & Social Media Summit the “lads” had a few days to explore Melbourne. Then it was on to New Zealand, where Dr. David Grayson was our most gracious host, arranging for us to visit Hobbiton, where the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed. We got to walk throughout The Shire and step inside a hobbit hole, and wrapped it all up with a pint of cider at the Green Dragon Inn.

With Farris, Joe and his roommate Jake at The Green Dragon Inn.

Dressed up for the theater

In October, I brought Lisa and our youngest son, John, on a trip to New York City. This was John’s time in New York, and while I was attending my meetings he and Lisa explored the city via tour bus. We got tickets to Wicked one night, and on our last day also got on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty.

John is a high school senior attending Riverland Community College full-time, so he will graduate high school with his Associate of Arts degree. He also was one of ten young people from southern Minnesota chosen to be teen columnists for the Rochester Post-Bulletin. He’s written about his adult anxiety (confessing that in his heart he’s “a very tall hobbit”) and his love of history.

Lisa continues to enjoy her retirement from homeschooling and the flexibility it gives her. In addition to the New York trip, she and I were able to fly to Nashville in July for a family friend’s wedding, and to Houston in November for a wedding reception for Ruthie and Trevin on his home turf. Lord willing, we’ll be visiting London April 28-May 8, and this will be Lisa’s first international flight. If you have activity or sightseeing recommendations, we welcome your help in planning our trip.

On The Great Wall with Wen Feng

I wrote several posts in June about my trip to China, and reading through them again brings back heartwarming memories of our gracious hosts and the many dedicated physicians and other health care workers we met. I also was blessed to make my first trip to Africa, when I did a workshop in August for The Aga Khan University in Nairobi, Kenya.

Our workshop participants at The Aga Khan University in Nairobi, Kenya

I’m continuing to enjoy my work as Communications Director for the Social and Digital Innovation (SDI or “Star Wars”) team at Mayo Clinic, as well as our work with the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network to help our Mayo staff as well as colleagues elsewhere learn to use social media tools strategically in their work.

The Star Wars Team

It was great this year to fill several vacancies to bring our full-time team back to full strength, and that we could get those members together in conjunction with our Communications Division retreat in August. I’m also grateful for the part-time supplemental staff members we’ve added, and the volunteer members of our MCSMN External Advisory Board who believe in and contribute to our mission.

At the end of the year, while I was in New Zealand, I was elected to the voting staff of Mayo Clinic. This is a group that is mostly physicians and scientists, but a limited number of administrative staff also are included. It doesn’t affect salary but it does include some extra perks, one of which is having my name in bold in the employee directory. And because of my alphabetical endowment, mine also happens to be the first bold name listed:

Our March 1 #ScopeScope, broadcasting a colonoscopy – my colonoscopy – on Periscope to raise awareness of the need for colorectal cancer screening, was an important educational project. Here’s that story:

It also led to my picture being on the NASDAQ Jumbotron in Times Square the next day, when our collaborators in the project, Fight Colorectal Cancer, rang the NASDAQ closing bell.

As I said in the TV interview, part of the #ScopeScope inspiration came from one of my high school classmates, who was diagnosed two years ago with stage IV colon cancer.

Lisa and I attended the visitation Monday night, and Jim’s funeral was yesterday.

If you haven’t been screened, please do it. Colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable cancers; detecting and removing precancerous polyps stops them from turning into cancer.

 

Arlene with Mabel

We also lost Lisa’s mom, Arlene Wacholz, in June. Arlene was first diagnosed with malignant melanoma, one of the most deadly and least-treatable cancers, in 1980. That skin cancer recurred twice, and she lived on to have Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and macular degeneration before finally succumbing to complications of Parkinson’s Disease. We’re thankful Arlene was able to live more than 35 years beyond her original cancer diagnosis, and that she got to know her 13 grandchildren and even some great-grandchildren.

As the sands of 2016 run out, may we all be grateful for the year we’ve had and treasure and make the most of each day we have in the future.

Wishing you and yours many blessings in 2017!

See the Christmas tag for previous yearly updates in this series.

A SMUG Decade

Ten years ago today, I published three posts on a new blog that I called Lines from Lee.

I had no idea where it would lead me.

IMG_1576So it’s fitting that I’m starting this post in the KLM Lounge at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, as I have a few minutes to grab a cup of coffee before my flight to Nairobi, Kenya.

When I started my blog on July 30, 2006 my main purpose was to experiment with blogging and learn how to do it, in case we would ever want to have Mayo Clinic blogs.

And while my more-than-full-time job was leading the Mayo Clinic media relations team, I found time for blogging at least in part because I thought it was amazing that I could publish to the world for free on wordpress.com.

In my early days of blogging one of my major applications was to take notes during conference presentations. By live-blogging and linking to the speakers’ blogs or other online profiles, I reported what I was learning to a broader audience, and also shared my perspectives. And I began making connections.

A major turning point was in late 2007, when I was asked to give a Facebook 101 presentation to the Association Forum of Chicagoland. Some in-depth questions led me to joke that they were asking for information that was more appropriate for a 200-level class. That’s what led me to rename my blog Social Media University, Global in January of 2008.

And of course I gave myself the lofty title of Chancellor.

My university name was a tongue-in-cheek riff on the geographic naming of many real universities in the U.S., such as UCLA, University of Alabama-Birmingham and University of Texas- Southwestern.

Because my university was online and available anywhere in the world, the natural designation for Social Media University was…Global.

Which made for a fun abbreviation. And when I developed and metaphorically nailed my 35 Theses to the wall of SMUG, it helped me to think through and make the arguments for why mid-career communications professionals need to develop capabilities with these new tools.

While I started seeing some traffic to SMUG from widespread locations, I never dreamed that it would lead to international travel and face-to-face connections.

Lee's VisitsBut in 2009, Lucien Engelen invited me to speak at a conference he was organizing at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands. I had only left the U.S. once previously, for a work-related trip to Calgary.

Carolyn DerVartanian invited me to Sydney, Australia in 2011, and on some other trips I also got to visit Sweden, France (with a brief stop in London), Italy, and Mexico. More recently I’ve made a couple of trips to the United Arab Emirates and a return visit to Australia. My two-week tour of China in June was amazing, and now I’m excited for my first trip to Africa, where I’ll be leading a workshop Monday at The Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi.

As best I can figure, I think I’ve presented in 39 states and Canadian provinces, too.

Of course none of this would have happened if we hadn’t found good applications for social media at Mayo Clinic, and without the support of our leaders to have Mayo serve as a catalyst to help professional colleagues also venture into social media. Special thanks to Jim Hodge, Chris Gade, John LaForgia, Shirley Weis, Amy Davis, and our President and CEO, Dr. John Noseworthy, as well as Dr. Victor Montori and Dr. Farris Timimi, our former and current Medical Director for social media, and Dr. John Wald, our Medical Director for Public Affairs, for their backing and inspiration.

Here are five things I’ve learned in 10 years of blogging:

1. It all starts with taking the plunge. Gaining familiarity and comfort with blogging and social engagement personally made it much easier for me to confidently recommend Mayo’s involvement.

2. It’s not too late to start. When I began in 2006, I felt I was probably too late to the party. People like Robert Scoble, Jeff Jarvis, Shel Holtz, Shel Israel and Jeremiah Owyang had been blogging for a while, and I wished that I had recognized the opportunity sooner.

Handwringing about starting late would have been not just unproductive; it would have been counterproductive.

As the landscape has changed, you may want consider publishing on LinkedIn instead of having your own blog, to take advantage of LinkedIn’s distribution to professional connections.

But it’s never too late to start expressing yourself thoughtfully online.

3. Geography doesn’t matter much. Social tools let you overcome barriers of time and space to bring together people with common interests. Even if there isn’t a dense concentration of those interested individuals in any one location, on the global scale enabled by social, there’s likely a large existing or potential community of interest.

4. The argument on the importance of social media is over. As I review my Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Social Media today, the only elements that seem a bit dated to me are the references to social media being “free.”

But that’s just a sign that social media are completely mainstream. Facebook suppresses organic reach for brands because it has so much friend content to show users, and because brands find Facebook advertising cost-effective in reaching their audiences.

When I published my 35 Theses, Facebook was still almost three years away from its $100 billion IPO. Since then its market capitalization has more than tripled.

And with most print and TV ads now including a hashtag or a Twitter handle, Thesis 12 is beyond dispute.

5. We have a great and generous online community in health care. The people I’ve come to know through this social media journey are delightful. Naming them all would completely blow my word count, so I’ll just highlight current and former members of our Mayo Clinic Social Media Network (#MCSMN) External Advisory Board, along with my team, a.k.a. the “Star Wars” team, and our #MCSMN Members and Platinum Fellows. It’s gratifying to have so many colleagues who want to learn together how we can best use social platforms for medical and health-related purposes.

IMG_1607As I publish this now, having finished it during my Amsterdam-Nairobi flight and arrived at the Nairobi Serena Hotel, I’m filled with renewed thankfulness for another safe landing, and for a decade of blessings from blogging.

Thanks for reading!