Casey Cornelius: Hey everyone and thank you for joining the latest episode of the Four College for Life Podcast. My name is Casey Cornelius. Thank you for joining today for giving some of your time to learn about one of the coolest people I know, one of the most interesting and entertaining members of our roster. I’m going to tell you a little bit about them. Obviously, you’ve clicked on this link. You’re interested to know, but I want to tell you a little bit about the person I’m going to be talking to today.
Chris Molina, some fun facts about him and these are in no particular order, by the way. Chris has sailed through the Panama Canal and across the entire Pacific Ocean. Chris was barely a hundred pounds when he graduated from high school.
Chris was recently honored as one of Purdue University’s Rising Professionals, which is incredible. We’ll get into that. I’m sure Chris is hoping to publish his second and third book this year, 2022, couple of other fun things. He’s already an award-winning speaker, An Amazon bestselling author. He’s a United States Marine Corps veteran having served seven years on active duty. He’s a Leadership Literacy Expert, easy for Casey to say, as I mentioned, he’s a Purdue university alum, but most important, more than anything. Chris will tell you that he’s a father. He’s a proud girl dad, he’s a husband, a son, a brother, and an east Chicago, Indiana native. So let me bring him to the mic. Now, Chris, thank you for joining the podcast today.
Chris Molina: Ladies and gentlemen. Thank you! Thank you for all the cheering, Casey, thank you for the introduction. I might put that in my bio, one of the coolest people that Casey Cornelius knows, I might put that in bio.
Casey Cornelius: It’s just a fact. I mean, there’s no other way around it. For people who are listening, who might not yet realize or recognize your coolness. I think those interesting facts about you probably give people a clue as to why I say that, but can we dig in a little bit more on some of these, not only the fun facts, but on the stuff that you do as well?
Chris Molina: Please I’m a wide-open book. I’m looking forward to whatever you want to talk about today, Casey and before we jump in, I just want to say thank you for giving me the time and the platform for what we’re going to be talking about today.
Casey Cornelius: Of course, I always tell people, like I will answer 99% of the questions that you ask except about, I don’t know, my bank pen number or anything like that. Let’s start with the one that probably stands out initially to people. You are a Marine Corps veteran. That is correct. In fact, your social media handle, I believe correct me if I’m wrong, is Sergeant Molina.
Chris Molina: That is correct. At Sergeant Molina.
Casey Cornelius: At Sergeant. Molina, because there might be another Sergeant Molina out there, make sure you include the dot. So, Chris, seven years active duty in the Marine Corps.
Chris Molina: That is correct. That is correct.
Casey Cornelius: Talk a little bit about that. Like what led you on that journey?
Chris Molina: Absolutely! What led me on that journey? What the two things that quite honestly, and I think if people listening have never met me before, they’re going to find out one thing very quickly is that I am incredibly transparent. Sometimes people tell me that I shouldn’t be as transparent as I am. I got into the Marine Corps or I decided to enlist in the Marine Corps because of two reasons. Number one was that, although I love east Chicago, Indiana, that’s where I grew up from ages zero to 18. I put it in my bio because I’m so proud of it. It’s a rough neighborhood and the school system is in line with what you would think of a poor neighborhood. Quite frankly, in high school, many of my teachers were drunk. We had some teachers that would just let us grade our own papers and our own exams. We gave ourselves grades in shop class, for example, we just watched Bootleg movies every single day and if you’ve seen a picture of my face, don’t let the baby face fool you.
We were watching bootleg VHS tapes. Every single day in shop class, which at that time I thought was cool, but it would’ve been nice to learn something in shop class. Right! But so going into my junior senior year, there would be a few adults in my life, either family, friends or counselors at the school that would start talking to me about college and finding grants and applying for scholarships and all this stuff, and I just remember thinking to myself. You want me to try to go find money to do more of this? Like, this is boring
Casey Cornelius: To watch more videos. Yeah.
Chris Molina: Watch more bootleg videos and grade my own tests because that’s all that I knew of a school to be and I didn’t want to do more of that at all. I remember seeing the Marine Corps recruiter walking through our hallways and Casey, you and I are pretty friendly, you know that I’m a very competitive person. You do Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I will always talk trash about being somewhat competitive against you, which is ridiculous. Because have like 40 pounds on me on top of all the experience.
Casey Cornelius: But It’d be fun though. It’d be Fun. Oh yeah.
Chris Molina: I would be smiling the entire time. I love challenges and so whenever I started looking at the possibility of the military, I looked at all the different branches and my thought of difficulty was who had the longest boot camp and the Marine Corps still has the longest boot camp, 13 weeks, and all the other services have shorter boot camps than that. You know what, okay! I’m going to do whatever the toughest thing is and so I decided to do that. But then the other thing was that this was in 2003 is whenever I decided to make that decision, 2004 is whenever I graduated high school back in 2011, when I was a sophomore, the September 11th happened. Then shortly after that America started a 20-year war. I would very frequently see faces on TV that looked like mine that were serving our country and I felt like I needed to carry my own weight. It was a combination of both of those things that led me to the Marine Corps.
Casey Cornelius: Knowing you like I do. I’m not surprised by that statement, but you made a really sort of profound statement there. You said I’m going to do whatever the toughest thing is. Even as a young person, Chris, like that was already part of your mindset, your worldview is I’m going to do the toughest thing in this situation.
Chris Molina: Absolutely! I mean maybe it was in line with me not being challenged academically at all, so I needed some type of outlet to challenge myself. I was less than a hundred pounds graduating high school, but I was still on the basketball court at the park. I was playing tackle football at the park as well. Kids that were much bigger than me, so it was always something that was in me. This love for a challenge. It’s always been there and I still get excited whenever. For example, you will come to me with an opportunity Casey and maybe it would be adjacent to my wheelhouse, but it’s different and it just gets me excited the challenge of something new.
Casey Cornelius: I think as someone who’s gotten to work with you Chris and gotten to know you like even as you were describing the phrase is on brand, that phrase gets used too much, but like that is so at the center of who you are, is someone who not only accepts challenges, but sort of goes above and beyond with any of those challenges. I have to imagine correct me if I’m wrong. I have to imagine that that going into basic trading is a hundred-pound young person. Probably it was not the easiest process at the beginning. Is that a fair statement?
Chris Molina: Very much so. There were a few things that were a bit easier for me. You have to do pull ups in the Marine Corps, weighing around a hundred pounds and being very physically active. I was able to spit out 20, 25 pull ups easily. Where there were like six foot something guys that weighed a lot that were struggling to get six or more so it was easy there. But whenever you’re carrying equipment into war or you’re training to be capable to carry equipment that you would need into war. The rifles don’t get smaller.
Casey Cornelius: Right! There’s no smaller, There’s no proportionate size rifle, right? No,
Chris Molina: I don’t get the small size of everything outside of like my Cammie’s and my boots like everything else.
I carry an 80-pound pack the same way a six-foot two person carries an 80-pound pack. You’re absolutely right. I was there’s an accordion effect that happens when we go on hikes, which we call humps in the Marine Corps. On the west coast, there are a ton of mountains and they also (unless they changed it), they have the tall people at the front and the short people at the back and this according effect makes the small people at the back run almost the entire hike. That’s a very short story to explain that whenever you’re a small person in the Marine Corps, you generally have a little bit of a tougher time.
Casey Cornelius: It sounds like Chris that something clicked there, right? Like something in you clicked in the Marine Corps, probably in your leadership journey, like earning the rank of Sergeant, like what seven years later, what was Chris like versus coming straight out of high school and Bootleg VHS copies and all of that. What was Chris Sergeant Molina seven years later? Like in comparison?
Chris Molina: I can tell you he was still very witty and snarky as you know, still would like to talk trash every now and again. I was an incredibly quiet person coming out of high school. If I wasn’t on the court playing basketball or playing football or playing video games with my friends, I was generally loud with them. But in general, I was a quiet person. I was very reserved. The Marine Corps doesn’t allow you to stay that way. You’re required to be loud. The extroverted part of me definitely came out. This love for leadership came out because, and it’s funny, I’ve never really made this connection, although I’ve always talked about leadership being one of the most difficult things. I think leadership is one of the most difficult things because you’re dealing with people and not all people are the same and even the same person can be different week to week, day to day, hour to hour.
When you’re trying to lead an organization or a group of people or even yourself down the path, that is a difficult thing, and the larger the group gets the more difficult that it gets and then whenever you have to make split second decisions in the military that might affect people’s lives, that becomes even more difficult. My love for a challenge, I think made me also love leadership, the exact same that I loved any other challenges and so starting in the Marine Corp, didn’t really know what I wanted to do in life.
All I knew is that I loved challenges and I was going to be a Marine and see how that felt. Then coming out of the Marine Corp, I had so many different challenges that crafted and molded me into exactly who I am.
I definitely wasn’t a married person going into the Marine Corp and I left the Marine Corps being married for about six years, five or six years at that point. I could go down all the different personality traits that had changed and how I’d become a different person that would probably take a while.
Casey Cornelius: This podcast would get a little longer, but sure. That’s true. Yeah.
Chris Molina: Six-part documentary. I can tell you that love for leadership and that love for a challenge was much more matured than it was going in. Also, this might be a good Segway into one of the programs that I do, because it’s so close to something that means a lot to me, because my wife is also a Marine Corps veteran leaving the Marine Corps. The way that I did, there was a training accident and I injured my left knee and that pain that happened to come behind my left knee has never left and no doctor can tell me why it’s there or how to get rid of it. It increases in pain with the amount of impact that I do. So, running definitely inflames. That made me leave the Marine Corps and transition and then that transition it’s difficult, but I can tell you the mindset that I had that the Marine Corps gave me was that if I could make it through the Marine Corps re-enlist and get to high levels of leadership and then be in the position to get commissioned. If anybody has military experience, you know what that means because I was on the enlisted side and my fitness reports, which are evaluations, my annual evaluations, my (XO), my executive officer wrote multiple times highly recommended for commissioning program. That switch that’s like, if you have no idea what any of these words mean, imagine a factory worker being promoted to a salary position.
Casey Cornelius: Right?
Chris Molina: That is essentially what that is. I was on track to being promoted and getting to very important levels of leadership in the Marine Corps and then I had to leave, but because I was able to do all that, there’s nothing that I can’t do in the civilian world is where my mindset was, where normally, if you just, without that type of mindset,
if you’re just thinking about that transition, a lot of times we don’t even know where to start. It’s scary. We don’t have a unit. We don’t have camaraderie. It’s almost difficult to describe if you haven’t been through it, but that mindset helped me maybe just ignore that part of fear that I had, that fear of the unknown, and just think that if these other 18, 19, 20, 21-year Olds are going through college, why the hell can’t I.
Casey Cornelius: That probably leads this to Purdue. Right? So as a proud boiler maker, I want to hear about your Purdue experience. Was there some, what is commonly known as a non-traditional I’m using air quotes for those who can’t see me. A non-traditional student, like was there some apprehension? Was there some tension? Were there some nerves, anxiety? So forth, or were you like, look, I did this for the last seven years. I can translate this perfectly into college success.
Chris Molina: It definitely wasn’t that, last part because I told you my high school experience there’s not much at least in my world. So, my MOS, my job in the Marine Corps was supply chain and operations. There’s not much academics in my day-to-day job in the Marine Corps. So, when was the last time that I actually did algebra, 1999, maybe. And I left the Marine Corps in 2011 and Purdue has a lot of math in every single program that they offer.
Casey Cornelius: That’s the rumor. Yeah. That’s yeah.
Chris Molina: I spent a lot of time in the math help room in the math building at Purdue. There wasn’t so much that I could translate this to student success as much as there was, I did a lot of difficult stuff in the Marine Corps. Some of this stuff is going to be difficult. I’m not going to let this difficult stuff on this college campus, beat me! Like, I don’t care what I have to do. I don’t care how late I have to stay up. I’m going to make sure that this happens and I will be successful.
Like there’s no, if. It was definitely that mindset, but there was a ton of apprehension as far as sometimes I don’t even know where to start. Because I talk about algebra. That’s just one subject. When was the last time that I wrote a paper, right. Like a long, long time ago. Even though I had an incredible head start, as far as professionalism, real world experience goes and many other things having just been 25 years old as a freshman at Purdue, I also didn’t have the academic rigor that they did being high school students and then transitioning directly into college. There was a bit of apprehension and then socially, I will tell you what, in my mind was telling me that I was not going to be able to stand being around a bunch of 18-, 19-, 20- and 21-year old’s, snot nose kids. That’s what my parade told me. However, yeah, there’s a definitely however, there were a couple times that first semester where I heard like some other freshmen on their phones with their parents complaining about, I don’t know, food or whatever in a whiny voice.
They’re also kids. If I was able to do that when I was in the Marine Corps, in boot camp, because there were no phones or there were at least no cell phones when I was there. I probably would’ve called home and complained a little bit. I know I complained about stuff when I wrote them letters. So, it’s a double-edged sword or not double-edged sword. It’s a bit hypocritical for me to talk about it like that. My older brother went to Florida International University and he joined Alpha CAPSI. Whenever I told him I was starting at Purdue, he looked up and he saw that there was an AK side chapter at Purdue university and he told me that he thinks that I should join, not knowing anything about it and trusting my brother, I looked it up. sent an email and I rushed that first semester and I was there the entire time.
Finding community. Yes! Finding community, finding a group of people to call my own very important. But circling back to me thinking, I’m not going to be able to stand these college kids. The people that I rushed with the brothers that were already there, the brothers that rushed after me that were in our chapter, couldn’t have done a better job in giving me faith in quote a quote, I’m doing air quotes right now. Young people or kids these days. Like they were hungry. They were trying to do the right thing. They had aspirations. They were so far removed from that image that I had in my mind and I know that’s not just an AK side thing. There’s nothing that a rush process can do to make this magical process. That’s just how some people are and I was able to find those people on Purdue campus and there were many other ones that, weren’t in AK side that I befriended, I couldn’t have been more wrong about what a college student really was. Socially that’s how my mind was going into my college career, but it very quickly, my mind shifted.
Casey Cornelius: It makes me think about one of your programs Chris. So, Chris has a program called Check and it’s really about creating culture, creating environment on college campuses for student veteran and military connected families. It sounds like you were able to via your older brother and his experience at FIU develop a sense of community and sort of a check process so to speak.
I know that it’s something that you’re passionate about. That for a lot of student veterans, a lot of families who are connected to those who are serving, or those who have served, finding that connection, finding that community on campus can be really, really hard if the environment, if the campus culture is not aware, cognizant, proactive about it. Is that kind of the impetus for where that program came from?
Chris Molina: Yes, what I do in that program, whenever I just try to explain to somebody in a sentence is I train civilians on what to say after, thank you for your service. Because I noticed so many times as a non-traditional student in a KCI and just on campus, because I was around a lot of other students that were not a KCI. They would want to tell me that they appreciate my service. They would want to learn more about what it meant to be a Marine and why that’s important to me. But there are adults that can’t make that of verbal connection between what’s going on in their mind and what comes out of their mouth. A lot of the times these college students would just say, oh, thank you for your service and then they would stop there. Or I would see them wanting to say something or ask another question and they didn’t know what to say.
That came from a place of just reflection and knowing that I have strengths and I have weaknesses. One of my strengths is that I’m able to smile when somebody unintentionally offends me and go through that process of interpersonal communication so that we can talk about what it is they’re really trying to say. I’ve had people say like, oh, so do you ever go to war? Do you ever kill somebody? Do you ever like all these other questions that luckily for me, those are not triggering questions for me. I don’t have those mental scars that a lot of my brothers and sisters do that would make them react in a certain way to those questions. Another thing that hit home for me was I always try to be a student to the people around me that have different backgrounds than me, and that is one of those people is my wife. Because I’m never going to be a woman. I’m never going to be a woman veteran, a woman and Marine. I’m never going to be a mother, right. I need to listen and I’ve not just listened, but then after I listened and heard that this was a thing, I was able to notice it in action in real time and I know I only have a very small sample of just observing this, but I have lost the count, the number of times that Katrina and I have been at military events and I get thanked for my service and she gets ignored.
Wow! Because she happens to be five foot and a woman. We would be in the same uniform after I was a guest at her Marine Corps birthday ball for her reserve unit when she was still a reservist and we all her Marines and I tagged along, all of us in uniform, went to a bar. We would be standing there. We would’ve other people walk by us.
Thank me for my service. We’re in the same uniform and not say a thing to her. So, this program does come from a place of community and comradery and trying to make sure that just normal civilians and in this case specifically on college campuses, both students and staff and faculty are well-formed enough so that they don’t make these experiences a reality for their student veterans and their military connected families. That’s definitely where it came or where it came from and what my intent is. But at the root of it, it’s just, I don’t want other people to go through the hardships that my wife and I went through.
Casey Cornelius: Chris, I think I’ve heard you say this before, correct me if I’m right. Or if I’m getting it not precisely correct here, but I’ve heard you say before that for student veterans with those unintentional slight, or the sense that they’re not welcome on campus and so forth, they’re not the ones who are going to complain. They’re the ones who are going to disconnect.
Chris Molina: Yes, and if there’s any staff or faculty that’s on a college campus, not just disconnect and maybe not have a good college experience, very often, they just leave. They stop coming to class. They won’t sign up for next semester because not only do they not feel like they have a place where they can be themselves or feel like they have a chance to have a normal student experience, but they also don’t feel like they can talk to anybody and this isn’t just student veterans, that’s who I think we should focus on the most, but this past, this semester that we’re in right now, this spring semester. I’ve seen it multiple times on the faces of students that I talk to whenever I talk about this program that I do, and they happen to be dependents, which means that they are either a spouse or a son or a daughter of a veteran. It’s specifically been women that have been daughters of veterans, their eyes get so wide.
You can tell by their nonverbals, they are now locked in because I said something that triggered something in them. And whenever I’m done explaining, they go, Chris, I’m a dependent, like they’re so happy that they can say that word dependent without having to explain what it is to me. But I’m a dependent. My dad did this, this, this, this, and this. Like, they they’ve had that bottled in for so long and they don’t have anybody to talk to that understands that language or that world and that’s just a dependent, not to lessen what it means to be dependent, but imagine a veteran as well, because at least those dependents they’re traditional students that are the same age as their fellow students not think about that as a student veteran, who’s much older and feels like they don’t connect with their fellow students.
Casey Cornelius: I suspect that some of this as well, and you can correct me if my language is wrong here, but like a lot of colleges and universities across the country have earned a designation as being a military friendly institution. The question, I suppose, that arises for members of the community, in which you are a member, is this campus culture truly military friendly? Or is that just something on a sticker?
Chris Molina: If we had video on this, you would’ve seen my smirk when you said earn the designation of military friendly because there is an organization out there that has copyrighted the term military friendly, they train organizations on that. So, you can actually be certified and actually earn that title. But what I have found through investigation and investigation is just talking to the people that would know on college campuses what do they do to earn that military friendliness or even if their website, doesn’t say military friendly, whenever I talk to them and they just nod their head profusely. Oh, of course we’re friendly to military and student veterans. And then I start just asking questions about what is it that you do? How do you welcome? Like, why would you say that, it’s because they allow student veterans to be students on their campus and then maybe they do something on veteran’s day and that’s it. Now that’s not every college campus. There are some that do it.
Casey Cornelius: Very, very, really well. Right, right, right, right. Yes.
Chris Molina: But the ones that need the most help and the ones that a lot of times, they don’t know they need the most help because if they did, they would probably do something about it. They’re the ones that you’re absolutely right. They are military friendly, only entitled so that they can allow this other demographic of students to come under campus.
Casey Cornelius: In case you all haven’t picked up on this yet. Chris is truly passionate about this topic I mean look; this is not just something he talks about. This is at the no pun intended core of who he is of who his family is and I know that he sees, this is a very mission driven initiative for him to try to improve campus cultures for those student veterans, those who are military connected, dependent students, etc. etc. Chris, there was something that you mentioned a phrase that you used in one of your answers that really jumped out to me and it sort of made me think of your other sort of signature program.
You said that you’re a student of those around you and I think the program that people are probably most familiar with from you is code switching. Code switching at its core is about how people, modify themselves in different social situations in order to maybe path of least resistance, like you can describe this far better than me. Do you think that some of your interest in this topic, some of the way that you teach it is centered on that idea that you personally are a student to those around you and try to respond accordingly as well?
Chris Molina: Yes, and I think it also goes back to my level of leadership. You and I both know that everybody doesn’t respond to the same leadership styles. Sure. There’s a bit of style switching, is a term that’s used in leadership a lot. But it’s also code switching. You’re changing the way that you are around a different group of people or around a different person for an intended result and being a student of those around me is I think at the foundation of code switching, if you’re using code switching in a very strategic way. So; for those that maybe are still a little bit fuzzy on what code switching is code switching used to, if you look it up in a dictionary or online, you might get this old definition, the old definition says that code switching is a linguistic concept in which multiple languages are used to integrate into one conversation.
I was raised around my Puerto Rican family. I’m Puerto Rican, Trinidadian, and Chinese, and around my Puerto Rican and Hispanic and Latin X community, if you would speak English and Spanish in one sentence, we would generally call that Spanglish. That is what the old definition of code switching used to refer to or did refer to, nowadays, and what I specifically talk about is how code switching is more broadly used to describe the ways in which members of historically and currently marginalized communities have to adjust our speech, our language, our dress, the way that we do our hair, the topics that we talk about, and many, many, many other forms of expression and communication and we change that, we adjust that also that we can fit into the dominant group and the dominant group’s expectations. So being a student of those around me naturally has given me the opportunity and the advantage of just being that observer of everyone else and so many other different cultures, so that whenever I do need to code switch to fit into that group, I’m able to do that.
Casey Cornelius: I feel like at the core of your work as it relates to code switching and so forth is really about authenticity as well, right? So, we hear a lot, been the larger society about how, be who you are be, be authentic and so forth.
I think one of the things that it occurs to me when I hear you speak on this topic is while we say that we don’t actually provide a ton of space for people who are historically marginalized to truly be their authentic self in classroom situations, professional situations, the list goes on and on. Am I hitting that the right way, Chris, that code switching occurs because people feel like they need to modify who they are in order to be successful or in order to potentially avoid negative, feedback or consequences so forth.
Chris Molina: Absolutely! You’re absolutely right. And it’s all about the dominant group. And my lived experience, my lived narrative is a student or a student is a Puerto Rican Trinidadian Chinese kid that grew up in a predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhood for the first 18 years of his life and then ever since then has been code switching within predominantly white institutions within the Marine Corps at Purdue university. After I graduated, I worked at John Deere. All those places are predominantly white. I love all of those places and I have hats shirts and logos all over my house because I love those institutions, but they are predominantly white institutions and so, I’ve had to code switch there and going back to something that you do, because I love having conversations on podcasts and not just being the person that’s interviewed.
So sure, you do a lot of Brazilian jujitsu, right? You do. Yep. And so that is a martial art. A lot of grappling is involved and you know the empathy that you have for those new white belts or soon to be white belts. You want that experience to be the right way. You know what pitfalls you’ll help them whenever they just have that day where they’re being subbed and tapped left and right. Being caught in every single thing, nothing that they can do can go. Right, right, right.
I mean, you just recently posted something about, you were caught in a submission by a white belt and you were like, wow, it was perfect. And it was very humbling. You only have that empathy to them to give them that space because you’ve been through it. Right.
Casey Cornelius: So true. So true. Yeah.
Chris Molina: A lot of the people in positions of power and the people that have historically been in positions of power, both in academics and just in the civilian world, in institutions and socially a lot of them and I’m trying to be as delicate as I can here. They’re not creating that space out of any malice intent.
Most of them they’ve just never experienced the level of code switching that is needed from somebody who grew up only speaking a certain dialect of American English, only knowing how to express myself in a certain way, only liking hip hop music and, and certain things. So those are the only things that I know how to talk about and then going into institutions where it is very clear those aren’t the things that we talk about.
That’s not the way that you talk here. That’s not the way that you dress here. You are only considered professional. If you act or talk a certain way, or you talk about certain things like that is what happens when you have to code switch. You are always in the mindset. Maybe not consciously, but subconsciously that who I am in my core is not good enough and a lot of the times who we are is deeply attached to the culture that we come from. So, it’s not only that I am not good enough for this space or this place or this industry, but my culture is not good enough. My lineage, my DNA is not good enough. If you’ve never been there the same way, people have never been white belts and been choked out 18 times in an hour. You’re not going to know what that feels like. You’re not going to know. You’re not going to be able to point it out when you see it. When somebody says something or they come in with a certain hairstyle and everybody turns to them and now they feel like they have a spotlight on them and so they never want to do that again because they don’t want that type of attention. They’re just trying to be themselves and so it you’re absolutely right. Code switching does come out of that.
Casey Cornelius: No, don’t be sorry. For people who are listening, who are just getting to hear maybe they’ve never heard the phrase code switching before. Maybe they’ve never heard you talk about it. I think what you just described is a very sledge hammer sensation. And that is not only am I in this dynamic? Not good enough, but my DNA, my culture, my family, my lineage, my legacy, all those things. Aren’t good enough either. And I think what has been so profound in seeing your growth as a speaker and as someone others turn to, especially on this topic is that you are breaking down barriers that didn’t begin yesterday, or the week before. These are oftentimes things that, people haven’t thought about ever in the course of their life and now they’re in a director position. Or now they’re in a leadership institution or a leadership position at their institution and they’re looking at you saying, wow, I’ve never thought of it that way before and what can I do? That’s got to be really like I know the passion that you bring to this, like that has to be really, I important to you affirming to you that this message is so important.
Chris Molina: Whenever I can see that light bulb turn on, it is so rewarding and there’s been a few ways. There ‘ve been some fellow speakers that not on our roster, but that have heard me speak and heard me talk about my talk about code switching and those speakers, a few of them happened to be black and then that light bulb goes off and they’re like, I never even thought of it that way. I didn’t even know that there was a term African American vernacular, English AAV. I didn’t even know there was a term for the way that we speak and the way that we express ourselves. The one that comes to mind, he’s in his early forties. If I can do that for somebody when they’re 18, 19 20, so that they don’t have to go through life, just not understanding why they feel the way that they feel.
That is so powerful to me. And talk a lot about that a lot about predominantly wide institutions. And I love that that light bulb moment for people who happen to be white in these positions of power so that they can have these conversations so that their students of color have a better college experience, but it’s not just them. It’s also communities of color that need this message as well. There was an HBCU a historically black college or university that I went to, that I spoke at and I did two sessions. The first session in the morning was just for the staff and faculty. And the second one was for the students later in the evening, whenever I talked to the staff and faculty, they started having conversations about code switching on an HBCU campus among all black staff and faculty around talking about their own community and how code switching happens there and it’s not a predominantly white institution. There wasn’t a white person. I was definitely the only white passing person in that room, but we started talking about how some students might not feel black enough. We started talking about how some of the staff, just because that they had half of their family were from certain regions in the Caribbean and they had that Caribbean accent whenever they would mention their background that other staff and faculty at that institution mentioned to them in so many ways that you don’t belong here, right? This is not just an issue that we need to talk about among people who are not of color. We also need to talk about this in general, because it is, as you know.
I literally can go for 90 minutes talking about this but it’s an issue that for me, if we don’t tackle this authentic expression first, everything else that we’re doing is either performative or it’s just a band aid on a bullet wound and excuse the vulgar, it’s my Marine Corps background. It’s we’re trying to create diversity, equity or inclusion, but when the people that benefit the students or the staff and faculty, whenever those people who benefit come into these organizations, if they can’t be their authentic self and they have to whitewash who they are, what’s the point of any of this and you can definitely hear the passion in my voice about this topic, because it is for me it is one of the, not the most important topic, but it’s the first thing that we should be talking about.
Casey Cornelius: So as someone who’s seen Chris’s evolution in the professional speaking space, I’ll say this, a couple of things occur to me. One is there’s no foe passion about Chris, right? So, if you’re listening to this and do you think that maybe he’s just dialing it up for this recording or so forth. This is precisely who he is backstage as well and this is truly when I say this is a mission for him, but the ripples related to his work on code switching, as it relates to diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, authenticity, they just go on and on and on, and I’ve seen audiences light up undergraduate audiences, professionals, graduate students NASA, I’ve seen the response to this conversation and it’s just unearthed thoughts and feelings and reactions and responses, and in very positive ways that people, individuals and organizations just have never even considered.
So, listen, I’m going to give a little plug. First of all, not only is Chris passionate about this, but like professional speakers, who’ve been around a long time when they hear Chris speak, inevitably they say to me, wow, he’s really good and the answer is, yes, he’s very good and he’s just getting started it’s so exciting to get, to see the evolution. Chris, of your message of your journey of your career in speaking. But also knowing the long-term impact that you’re making for individuals for communities for organizations is just really awesome. Listen, I know we’re running a little short on time. You want to have some fun and get out of here on some rapid-fire questions.
Chris Molina: Absolutely and Thank you for all the kind words. I absolutely love what I do and so thank you for the time today and the questions.
Casey Cornelius: Oh, of course. Let’s have some fun. Okay Chris, I know this first one is hypothetical for you, because I I’m aware of your schedule, but let’s say you get an entire day to binge watch anything you want. What do you choose?
Chris Molina: I laugh because you’re absolutely right. No, I mean, my wife is going to travel for the next two weeks. So, I’m solo dad right now or yeah, it’s going to be fun. Is it something that I’ve watched already or something new?
Casey Cornelius: Listen, the choice is yours. You can pick anything you want; you can binge watch anything you have a day. What are you going to choose?
Chris Molina: I don’t know the name of it. So, this might be a horrible answer. There’s a series. I think it has three seasons it’s on Netflix. It is I think, considered like as good as game of Thrones, I don’t know the name of it. But I took a screenshot it’s on my phone somewhere and if I had a moment, I would definitely do that. If I wasn’t caught up because I will stay up late to watch it, anything in the Marvel cinematic universe, I will also binge watch. So right now, it is, what is it? Moon night I’m watching right now.
Casey Cornelius: Great. So that would be the one. All right. Yeah. Okay, cool. Chris, speaking of your technology choices, what is the most used app on your phone? This always gets It’s The most used app.
Chris Molina: It’s either Instagram or LinkedIn, one of those two, which is actually like that. That’s, what’s in my signature of my email, which makes sense if I’m there the most, I should probably point people to those places.
Casey Cornelius: I was having this conversation with, Evan Austin, because he said, listen, I I’ve been using LinkedIn a lot lately. Because you know, in my past life, I didn’t really need LinkedIn, but now I’ve joined.
But so here is the follow up question I had for him and since LinkedIn is important to you, is there a more commonly used app that is also less, hat’s the nice way of saying this, which is like not as crappy as LinkedIn, like LinkedIn has to be the worst app, user face functionality of anyone that’s supposed to be used by everybody. What’s up with that.
Chris Molina: Oh man. Well, I mean they, I think they fall into the same thing as a Microsoft with their suite. All their stuff has been the easiest to use, but it’s easy to stay that way when you’re the only one there.
Casey Cornelius: Yeah. Now that’s, that’s a valid answer. Yeah.
Chris Molina: Yeah. So, no there is no other one you can just like create your own website, maybe to highlight people or highlight things that you want to be important. Linkedin’s where you need to be.
Casey Cornelius: Linkedin’s where you need to be. Yeah, for sure. Okay third question. So, who would you most like to have dinner with Regardless of time space? Any of Those things?
Chris Molina: I’m picking people alive right now. Even though, previous conversation would be great people that understand current events I think would be best. There’s a one A, one B one a is James Madis. In the Marine Corps, he has the nickname of mad dog Madis his actual call name was chaos. He was secretary of defense. He was a four-star general. He asks any Marine about him or any military member in general. They will just tell you how loved he is. I love his leadership. I love the way that he communicates. I love everything about that person and so that would be one A one B would be Simon Sinek. You and I have had conversations a few small conversations about my love for leadership and just how his brain works and how I have to not consume his stuff so that I don’t sound like him.
Casey Cornelius: Right! Although fun fact and sidebar folks. Most people don’t give enough credit to one of cynic’s books called leaders eat last and I believe you have said to me before directly that that is purely a Marine Corps ethic that those with the higher rank eat behind those with the lower rank, is that correct?
Chris Molina: Absolutely. Yes. It’s both frustrating, but then it’s validating because all of the foundational Marine Corps’ leadership that I have in my bones is validated by somebody who is a leadership expert who sells tons of books and everything that he said about the experience that he’s had observing Marine Corps leadership is right in the civilian world. Very validating, very frustrating because I’m like, look, I’m not stealing any of this guy’s content. I happen to live through the organization that he was observing and so, we speak the same language, so yes.
Casey Cornelius: All right, Chris, we’re going to get you out here on two more questions. You ready?
Chris Molina: Absolutely.
Casey Cornelius: What do you do to wind down? Do you have any sort of ritual? Do you have any sort of signal that like now is when I’m going to relax? What do you do to wind down?
Chris Molina: There’s a few things, there definitely isn’t any one thing, but I can tell you that as a new stay at home dad and news relative terms, I’ve been doing it for three years. Cause my daughter’s three years old, but in those early days, whenever I was sleep deprived and I was still trying to do this speaker thing and be a dad to an infant and figure out what it is to what it means to a be a parent. And I would actually get some time to just be, and to just exist. I would literally just go in a room and just sit there you go and I think any new parents understand exactly what I’m talking about. Being able to just sit that was my unwind time, but I also love going to the theater, getting some popcorn and eating way too much of that popcorn.
I love doing that while watching a movie. I also love video games. What else? I’m a big nerd geek type of individual self-proclaimed and so magic. The gathering is my new thing that I do. Make my inner nerd happy. So now if I have time, I’ll go through the stacks of magic, the gathering cards that I have in my house.
Casey Cornelius: Any magic gathering folks out there connect with Chris. It sounds like he’s a newbie on the block, but interested to learn. That’s awesome. The last question we’re going to get you out of here on this one. So how can listeners best connect with you? Like what on LinkedIn preferred? Yeah.
Chris Molina: I’m on LinkedIn and Instagram the most. If I will see your message or your connection request faster, if you connect with me on those two places, my Facebook is a little bit more closely linked to who I am as a family man and a friend, which is not that far removed, who I am with who I am as a professional. But if you’re on Instagram or LinkedIn, feel free, you can also email me at ChrisMolinaspeaking@gmail.com. And then once you’re in my world, you’ll find where my phone number is. I’ll randomly get text messages from people. Like I still have to reply to one that wants me to come, peak for 20 minutes in October. I think it is. You can also text me. I’m a wide-open book. I might be in the middle of changing a diaper, but I will respond.
Casey Cornelius: Awesome. See this is the more we do these podcasts. The more that we have the opportunity to dig in the more even I learn about people who I get to work with. So closely, Chris, thank you for giving sometime today. Certainly, appreciate everyone who has taken the opportunity to listen. If you want to learn more about Chris, want to learn more about this programs forcollegeforlife.Com/Chris C H R I S common spelling for collegeforlife.Com/Chris. Thank you so much for your time today for listening, for sharing, for liking all that other kind of stuff. We certainly appreciate, and we look forward to the next opportunity to chat with you in the future. Thanks everybody. Casey.
Chris Molina: Casey, thank you for everything, sir, that you do, sir. Appreciate you.
Casey Cornelius: Of course. Appreciate you, Chris. Thanks. Thanks everybody. We’ll see you soon. Bye.