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Getting Caught Up in Our Own Worlds

It’s easy to get caught up in our own world and the challenges we face which could lead to thinking we are the only ones who are going through difficult times. Sometimes, we might think we’re the only ones who are working after hours and the only ones who must face so much work for the inadequate resources we have. This could lead to thinking we are unfairly being asked to take on the burdens of our organization on our own. This kind of thinking happens when we don’t take the time to connect with other folks in other parts of our organization. In IT, we are often asked to work after hours and weekends because that’s the only time when we are given the opportunity to do some maintenance work  and not disrupt the work of our customers during business hours. I personally don’t do much technical work anymore given my management role but for years, I worked after hours and weekends to complete parts of my job. There were times when I got frustrated but there was one thing I did that gave me perspective about my situation. It’s a practice I still do today – talk to other folks in other units in my organization about the challenges they are going through.

Admittedly, there have been times in the past when I have over-valued the importance of my role in IT when it comes to providing services to the students and to the campus community. As an IT organization, we’ve been able to create significant systems that have been able to improve the efficiency/effectiveness in how the staff do their work. We’ve also created systems that helped students learn and assist them in their lives outside the classrooms. As the dependency for technology grew the last few years, so did the demands on IT. At the same time, the resources to meet the demands have not been able to keep up. This is the daily challenge I face now as the director of my IT organization. It’s daunting, indeed.

However daunting my challenges are, it’s when I speak with other colleagues in our student affairs organization that I gain perspective on how my challenges compare with others. As I am reminded, we are all facing a not-so-unique challenge of too much work, having to deal with much more complicated situations but with not enough resources. But, on the other hand, I am also reminded that I don’t have to deal with the aftermath of tragedies, not at the personal level at least. When I speak with my colleagues, I am reminded that they are the ones that must make the calls to parents to inform them their child just committed suicide, or they must be the ones the campus community must look up to as the strong ones to lead them through a crisis when they themselves are suffering at the same time. It is during these conversations when I am reminded that as challenging as my job is, I cannot even imagine the impact of my colleagues’ jobs must be on them. I am dealing with computers, they are at times must deal with human tragedies.

 

 

 

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Employees’ Sense of Ownership for Better Customer Service

chinois_2My wife and I had lunch at Chinois in Santa Monica last week for my birthday. The food was as delicious and the portions were definitely served for family style. We were very impressed indeed! More impressive was the customer service and the sense of teamwork I observed amongst the staff. Frankly, I’ve been to some fancy restaurants and I really don’t mind paying a lot of money for quality food but it’s the experience and customer service that determine whether we go back to the place.

As one who leads a higher ed IT department and one who is always looking on ways to provide better customer service, I observe and try to learn from watching how staff works at restaurants and other business establishments. Here are some of my observations:

  • The staff worked as a team. We initially had a server take our order and she was very enthusiastic and very welcoming. Other staff delivered our food, water, and whatever we needed. Nothing unique about this observation from other restaurants but it was the way they all seemed to treat us as their customer, not the “other staff” that stood out. They were conversing with us and there was a sense of continuity of service, not disjointed as I’ve experienced with other restaurants.
  • The staff were cheerful and took the time to talk with us. Even though the restaurant was busy, the staff took the time to talk with us. They didn’t seem rushed nor did they feel like they were forced to talk with us.
  • The hostess and most of the staff seem to know many of the customers who came in that lunch. As soon as the customers walked through the door, they were greeted with hugs and/or pleasant greetings as if they’ve known each other for some period of time. The hostess was particularly nice and welcoming. Very cheerful and seemed to enjoy what she was doing.

After our lunch, my wife and I spoke with the hostess, Natalie, complimenting her and the other staff on how well they treat their customers, including us. She was gracious and we spoke for a bit about why was it that the staff seem to work well together and the reason behind the good customer service. Here’s what she told us:

  • Most of the staff have worked there for years, including her. She mentioned she was in her mid 30′s and she started working there when she was 19. She also mentioned she wrote her thesis on the restaurant for her grad school.
  • The attitude comes from the top, Wolfgang Puck. The hostess also mentioned Puck oftentimes visits the restaurant in the late hours before closing and he genuinely interacts with the customers. As she told us, he enjoys talking with the customers and it’s not a chore for him to do so. Puck sets a tone and example for his staff to follow.

From our conversation, one thing that stood out to me was the following:

  • The staff feels a sense of ownership. For the hostess, she feels as if this is her restaurant, even though it’s owned by the famous chef Wolfgang Puck. She says the staff has a strong sense of pride in their work and with the restaurant. This was their place.

I was thinking about this sense of ownership the hostess shared with us and how it relates to my work. Looking back at my experience and from my observation of my colleagues through the years, I do feel employees contribute more to towards their work if they have a sense of ownership in what they do and even better, of their organization. Part of that sense of ownership is the idea that their voices are valued and what they say matter in how their organization is managed as well as its future direction. They are also given the opportunity to take action as trusted employees. This also means they are given the leeway to make decisions without having to always wait for management approval.

Based on the good experience we had at Chinois, we will definitely go back again to try the other dishes. We are also looking forward to dining at Spago in Beverly Hills, another restaurant owned by Wolfgang Puck.

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IT Organizational Management & Leadership

 

IMG_2201I have learned a lot in my role as the acting Executive Director for my IT organization, a role I’ve held for the last 7 months. While I’ve held management positions for more than a decade, I have learned more in this position when it comes to organizational change dynamics as well as leadership/management because of the significant scope/depth of the responsibilities and the challenges of the position.

One of the lessons I’ve learned is that to be an effective organizational leader you need to be an effective manager and to be an effective manager, you need to be an effective leader. In short, leadership and management go hand in hand when it comes to delivering results. I’ve seen quotes on the web that goes something like this “culture eats strategy for breakfast/lunch” or some variation of that as if one is more important than the other. I get the sentiment that an organization can implement strategies and processes all day long but it won’t work without a culture that supports these strategies. One thing I’ve come to learn though is that ultimately, what people want from their leaders/managers are results. As reminded to me by a few staff after our initial department retreat soon after I took on this position, I can talk all I want but the only way I can prove my merit and effectiveness is by following through and delivering on what I/we had intended to accomplish. I was speaking with a colleague of mine who said “Joe, you’re doing a great job setting the culture of collaboration and transparency, but we do need you to provide clearer strategy towards the things you want us to accomplish as a department.”  That conversation reminded me that as a leader, I need to influence and shape the culture of the organization and at the same time to provide a sense of direction, clear direction, for folks to follow especially when going to a place that is unfamiliar to them.

A mentor of mine once said “manage constraints and lead towards possibilities” and I also read somewhere that “you manage things and you lead people”.  I’ve led enough projects to understand that scope, time, and cost are variables that need to be managed when delivering projects. These are all constraints that need to be managed. But I’ve seen too often when project managers treat people as merely project resources and sometimes like factory robots just expected to follow orders. Any effective project manager would recognize the need to treat people as more than units of resources but rather human beings whose motivations and personal satisfactions cannot be ignored. Treat people as robots and they will give you the bare minimum, treat them with respect and as human beings and you’ll get more productivity out of them. That’s from personal experience any way.

The credibility of an organization’s leader are based on the consistency between their actions and their words and their ability to deliver results. To be able to deliver results require that they have the skills to manage constraints and leadership competencies to get the maximum effort out of people towards the achievement of intended goals.

image credit: http://www.torbenrick.eu/blog/strategy/the-importance-of-organizational-alignment/

 

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Feedback: The Motivation Behind Them Matters

There are a couple of mentors I have come to trust in my career. That I trust them is based on the many interactions when they’ve shown me that when they provide me feedback, they come from a right place.  What I mean by “a right place” is that the feedback are genuine and they are to help me become a better professional and as a person. My mentors are honest with me and they can offer their observations about myself I may not want to hear, but nevertheless I readily accept them.  What I’ve come to realize is that the intent (perceived or real) behind the feedback from others do matter in terms of how well they are accepted. If one is to be effective in providing feedback to others, we must earn the trust of those we are seeking to provide feedback to.

While feedback about my performance/behaviors sometimes do hurt, I still seek them as I think in my role as a leader, it’s important for me to understand how I am perceived by those I lead and I serve. Just recently, as a part of a departmental survey about my department’s organizational health, I included a couple of questions about my areas of strengths and improvements. I presented the result at our department meeting and I thanked my staff for providing me helpful recommendations on how I can be better.

I’ve received feedback in the past when I’ve had to question the motivations behind them. There have been times when I find out the “friendly criticisms” were based on professional jealousy and less than noble intentions on those providing them. It’s unfortunate that I became skeptical about the feedback I receive from these individuals who broke my trust. I’m still open to them and I do consider them, but not to the extent I do with my trusted mentors.

Trust is a key component that must be considered as part of an effective professional relationship. The effectiveness of the messages we provide to others and the actions we take not only depend on the manner we express them, but also on how others perceive our level of trustworthiness.

 

 

 

 

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Cohort-Based IT Leadership/Management Program for Higher Ed

This post contains some of the ideas I will be proposing to our HR department as an officially endorsed training program to address two issues I see present on our campus IT community. These two issues are 1) lack of a cohesive community among the different IT units (and leadership), and 2) needed training on IT leadership and management knowledge and skills. As it is, our campus has a decentralized IT environment and there are minimal opportunities for planning and communication among the IT leadership themselves as well as between the IT leaders and the campus business leaders. As for community building, there aren’t too many opportunities for IT folks to get to know each other as there are only two campus-wide IT events: once-a-year holiday party and a summer beach party. With regards to training, it’s very common for technically adept staff to be placed into management positions without management and leadership training. It is not really a surprise when these staff struggle in their new roles. Even with previous management experience, the campus bureaucracy can be daunting and confusing for those new to the campus.

The idea behind  a cohort-based program is to promote community building among the participants, a selected group of campus IT managers with varying degrees of experience and levels of positions.  The community-building process happens as they complete a set of  training curriculum on areas related to IT leadership/management. In addition, a mentorship component could also be part of the program that pairs up more experienced with new IT managers and/or IT managers with senior campus executives.

Personally, I’ve experienced the benefits of a cohort-based and mentorship program through my participation in our Division of Student Affairs’ Management Development Group (for mid-level SA managers), a campus-wide program called GauchoU, and through a new professionals program within the Division of Student Affairs called Foundations.

I envision the curriculum to be a mix of formal training and monthly discussions on IT leadership/management topics.  A schedule could be something like this:

* Two day institute that could include the following topics:

  • Introduction to campus organizational structure and politics
  • Budgeting
  • Introduction to HR processes (hiring, on-boarding, performance-evaluations, etc)
  • Policies (Security, PCI, FERPA, HIPAA, etc)

* Monthly sessions (discussions/training) that could include, but not limited to the following:

  • IT Project Management
  • Employee Engagement
  • Technology Trends (security, cloud, infrastructure, etc)
  • Career Development
  • Leadership/Communication Styles
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Change Management

Beyond community building and leadership/management training is the benefit of cheaper cost of training for the campus. By bringing trainers and having the training done on campus to a pool of participants the campus can save a significant amount of money spent on travel and accommodations.

Would you have a campus-wide IT leadership/management training program on your campus? Anything you’d add to the curriculum?

 

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Complexity of Identity and Appearance

The saga of Rachel Dolezal and her claim to be an African American despite her upbringing reminds me of a couple of learning experience about the complex issues behind identity and appearance. Her appearance, which seems to have changed to what could be considered African American features, is one aspect that is really interesting to me. This post is not at all about Dolezal herself and neither is it an analysis of why she chose to pursue her life the way she did. But, I referenced her issue because it reminds me of two experiences related to identity and why I am now more careful to assign a person to ethnicity/race based on their appearance.

When I was a discussion leader for an international students’ First Year Experience course at UCSB a couple of years ago, I made the mistake of assuming one of my students was from Japan. In my eyes (very subjective eyes), she “looked” Japanese. So, I asked her what part of Japan she came from. Her response was, “I’m not from Japan.” From how she looked at me, she seemed offended, so I apologized to her for making that assumption. She then explained to me that she is from Chile and she considers herself Chilean. She spoke fluent Spanish and told me she doesn’t know any Japanese.

I also have friends who are South African Indians. Their families have been there for generations and they themselves grew up in the age of apartheid.  If I had not known this prior to meeting them, through my wife, I would have assumed they’re from India. Luckily, I did not make the same mistake of asking them how India was, since I think they’ve only gone their to visit.

On a related note, I wonder how the adopted children (African-Americans) of friends of ours (Whites) will identify themselves growing up.

Race, culture, and ethnicity from what I’ve learned are social and political constructs. So, who decides and defines who belongs to a certain race/ethnicity? Is it by appearance? What if that person doesn’t conform to what is generally attributed features of a certain race? Is there a formula to determine which group a person should belong to? What about a multi-racial person?

Clearly, I don’t have the answer to this, but rather more questions.

 

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The Quantified Life

bodyMonitor_collage-filtered-1024x800Cloud, mobile, social media, wearable computing, and internet of things are now making it possible for those who see the value of being able to quantify their lives for the sake of improving themselves. Devices and applications that measure financial, health, work, and social activities are readily available today. What I’ve found is that the data themselves don’t create change but they do play in changing one’s behavior. There’s an adage that “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” and personally, that applies to me. There are elements built into these apps such as timely alerts and gamification which involves rewards and social interactions to encourage positive changes. Of course, whether those using these devices and apps are aware of the security implications, is another topic to be discussed. Wit that said, below is a partial list of apps and devices I’ve personally used as part of a movement called “quantified self.”

  • Automatic driving system. This is a combination of a hardware (car adapter) that is plugged into vehicles and is accompanied with a mobile app to measure driving performance and vehicle diagnostics.
  • Mint mobile app. This app provides financial data and activities that is real-time and easily accessible.
  • Toggl time tracking tool. This app provides the user the ability to track time spent on any activity. Some co-workers have started using this app to analyze where they are spending their time at work. I’ve started using this recently, and I use it mainly to analyze how much time I spend studying as well as physical activities.
  • Fitbit activity tracker. This is a wearable device that tracks activities. It has an accompanying mobile app that can be synched real-time to provide data such as number of steps, as well as reminders of progress towards daily and weekly goals.
  • iWatch. There are many features I like about this new device including notifications of text, emails, etc. A set of features I really like are health related. It has sensors that can measure heartbeat and physical activities like walking. It also has reminders (via haptic feedback) to encourage certain good habits like standing up every hour.
  • Weightwatchers mobile app. This is an app that tracks food intake, activities, and weight. Given a stated weight loss goal, the app provides the user a number of “points” per day. It also has a built-in real-time chat app that provides users access to support so if there are questions about food and activities, a user can easily connect with a staff using the mobile app.

Ultimately, a person has to be motivated to change for these apps to work. I remember a quote from an Anthony Robbins book called “Awakening the Giant Within” which I read way back in the mid-1990s as I was going through a break-up that still sticks to me today. The quote goes something like “A person will only go through change if the prospect of change is so good they’ll want to change or their circumstance is so bad they are forced to change.”

What apps do you use?

Image credit:  http://www.peelapom.com/technology/quantified-self-and-aging/

 

 

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Leading In Stressful Times

I read somewhere that one manages constraints and leads towards possibilities. Certainly, as a manager, getting things done and delivering services and products with the constraints of  finite resources, including staff, within the time frame  and the level of quality expected is a core of our duties. This responsibility gets even more difficult during stressful times brought on by budget cuts, increased mandates, but with no additional staffing to support the increased demands. However, It is too easy as a manager to get caught up in trying to get the most of our staff in ways that may not be the most productive and produce unintended consequences. For example, in the attempt to become more efficient during busy times, managers begin to micro-manage details making sure that staff are focused and are following procedures to minimize waste. In some cases, new procedures are put into place intended to promote efficiency without realizing the additional time, energy, and effort to implement new procedures. Activities that are not considered part of getting projects and tasks completed are discouraged. For example, one-on-one meetings with the staff are eliminated as they are seen as waste of time and taking time away from projects. However, treating staff as machines and robots, as units of resources, may not be the most productive strategy. After all, our staff are human beings, driven by intrinsic motivations, with emotions, and in my opinion, more productive when engaged. This is where leadership is needed. There are many definitions of leadership, but ultimately, leadership is about people.  As I read once, you manage resources, you lead people.

As leaders, one of our roles in the workplace is to cultivate an environment that promotes engagement which should lead to increased productivity and improved quality of work. Engagement, as I learned in one of my leadership workshops, is the maximum level of personal satisfaction and maximum level of productivity in the workplace. One without the other is not engagement. For example, one can be personally satisfied  doing some work that does not contribute to the goals of the organization. On the other hand, one can be contributing to the goals of the organization, yet they don’t feel personally satisfied.

As leaders, we cannot lose touch of the idea that we need to be available and we need to build relationships with our staff. Managers must take the time to recognize their staff and acknowledge their contributions as well as to resolve staff issues. Having one-on-one meetings when staff have the opportunity to be heard and listened to is a very important activity to have on a manager’s schedule.  Having lunch, taking a walk, or doing an activity with a staff without talking about tasks are good examples of how to be available and how to build relationships.

How we delegate also matter. Giving orders in a command and control style, in my opinion, does not really work. Not when you’re working in an environment that requires independent thinking and creativity. This style of managing only leads to resentment and staff not wanting to do more than what is expected from them. What I’ve found is that staff will go beyond what is asked of them if they know their managers care about them. Even small actions to show managers do care about their staff matter. Stopping by to say “how are you?” mean a lot to some. Taking the time to explain what is being asked of them in person instead of an email that can be misinterpreted also help.

As managers, don’t lose sight of the idea that our staff are human beings and not just units of resources. If organizations are to be productive, managers must make themselves available and build relationships with staff to build an engaged workforce. Being too short-sighted and just giving orders to complete tasks can lead to unintended and counterproductive consequences.

 

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Keeping Your Seat at the (Virtual) Table

seat-at-the-tableAs a leader of an organization and an advocate for students and staff alike, I have the responsibility to be able to convey the concerns and issues facing my constituents to the campus at different levels of conversations. As part of the responsibility, I am always careful, though not always successful, in making sure I carry myself in a way that even when I may disagree with colleagues and those who I deal with, that my presence and what I share add value to the conversations. While I certainly play the role of agitator at times, I try to be respectful and carry myself in a way that others do want to engage me in conversations. Each interaction with another person is an opportunity to build relationship and trust or it could just be a time when others decide they’d rather not deal with you because you’re perceived as a “smart jerk”, “know-it-all”, rude,  or just simply too unreasonable. What good am I as an advocate for students, for my organization, for myself if I am not at the proverbial table to be part of the dialogue? Understanding the proper moments when to push buttons, how to communicate, and which battles to fight are part of one’s political acumen that contribute to one’s reputation and influence.  This is the same perspective I carry with me when I am on social media.

Social media can be a place for productive dialogues. Experts and novices alike can express their opinions in ways that can reach far significant numbers of people and engage in dialogues with those who may share their perspectives as well as those who may have opposing opinions. Social media offers those who may not have avenues to express themselves in their non-digital worlds a place to be able to be part of conversations. In the world of student affairs, #sachat and the weekly chat session with the same hashtag has become a place for lively discussions amongst student affairs professionals and students on personal and professional topics. In a sense, participants have a seat at the proverbial virtual table, a place they may not have at their campuses.

Just as it is on non-digital interactions, how one acts on social media may lead to others wanting to continue engaging with or choosing to disengage with you. These disengagement can be in the forms of unfollowing on Twitter, unfriending on Facebook, or blocking on Yik Yak. It may only take one message/interaction to lead to the actions above. I’ve personally had to do the above actions to a few individuals because I found them to be too difficult to deal with. It isn’t because I disagree with their perspectives, but it’s because of their arrogance and sometimes vulgar messages that led me to stop interacting with them. I’ve also noticed that individuals who may develop a negative reputation for being argumentative, a smart jerk, know-it-all or just plain rude are ignored. I will not cite specific examples but anecdotally, what I’ve observed is that even when a post/message that come from these individuals, are ignored.

Having a seat at the (virtual) table is a position I value. As mentioned above, each interaction is an opportunity to build trust and relationships and to continue having a seat at the (virtual) table. However, it just takes one message, post, interaction to lose that privilege.

image credit: http://www.pamwoldow.com/files/2013/06/seat-at-the-table-1.jpg

 

 

 

 

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The Need for More Conversations on Character

My use and observation of posts and comments (yaks) on Yik Yak, an anonymous geo-location based social media app, leads me to believe that perhaps we should have more discussions on the values of having good moral character. What constitutes a good moral character may be subject to debate but I do believe that there are certain attributes/actions we should consider as we engage on social media as well as in other forms of interactions. It seems to me that being kind, be helpful, and do no harm even when we are  engaged in highly charged conversations are basic principles we should consider and practice, regardless if we are recognized by others or not.Perhaps, we need to remind ourselves more of how to act and to aspire to be individuals that make our world a better place.

In the world of student affairs, there are a lot of discussions regarding reputation and authenticity. They’re related to the concept of personal branding and crafting our own persona and how we choose to present ourselves to our colleagues, students, and future employers. Can we really be authentic though if we are crafting our reputation and personal brand in anticipation/expectation of how others perceive us? In short, our efforts to craft our reputation is based on how we want others to perceive us. We craft ourselves as mavericks, radicals, out-of-the-box thinkers, innovators, and non-conformists as well as passionate, dedicated professionals, and crusaders of certain causes amongst other attributes. I’m not entirely sure which of these presentations are genuine or just facades.

On Yik Yak, the identities of those posting comments are anonymous and so one cannot build a reputation. What is interesting though is that even in this anonymous platform, the comments range from outright despicable and malicious to the kindest, most encouraging posts. Why is that? What drives a person to share the types of comments when their reputation is not a factor. I personally have had to block some individual(s) because of the vulgar and disgusting comments they post. I can still see their comments after I’ve blocked them (they appear as “This reply has been deleted.” to others) and consistently, they post the same types of malicious comments.

There are other users however that post supportive and encouraging comments as a reply to a yak that expresses need for support. For example, several times, I’ve seen yaks from individuals who are depressed or considering suicide and immediately, other users reply sharing their experience, their support, and encouraging them to consider seeking professional help through our school’s counseling services.yikyak_support

I’ve also had civil and respectful debates about national and local events and issues that I can’t have on twitter or on facebook because those involved in these debates can be honest about their perspectives without the fear or retribution or being shamed.

As we educate ourselves and others on how to effectively use social media, let’s go beyond the mechanics and how to build digital reputation. Let’s remind ourselves what it takes to be good human beings.

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My IT Organization’s Guiding Values and Principles

SIST_principlesAn IT organization that can effectively deliver quality service and keep up with the dynamic wants and needs of its customers requires guiding values and principles as foundations upon which it operates.Below are what I shared with my organization at our retreat soon after I became the Acting Executive Director for my IT organization in November 2014.The opportunity to be in this position was certainly unexpected and so the transition was short (one month) and within that time, I had to define and communicate my concepts and vision for our organization.It was my preference that we as an our organization go through a process defining these guiding principles and values, but given the circumstance, several of the staff wanted me to share my own ideas as a starting point for the organization to consider and discuss.Upon discussions, the guiding values and principles were adopted for our organization.

As I’ve been with my organization for more than 15 years, I have a good sense of our culture, our strengths, capabilities, and areas of improvements. I firmly believe that we are a very capable organization proven by what we’ve been able to do and we can continue/improve our delivery of quality solutions and excellent customer service. We have a dedicated, highly knowledgeable and skilled team with strong support from our senior management. It is for these reasons that I strive for the idea that when people think of THE model higher education IT, they think UCSB SIS&T!  

I believe the guiding values and principles of my organization have to be able to stand through time in the midst of ever-changing technology landscapes and dynamic customer services and needs. It is with this mindset that these guiding values and principles were formulated.

Mission:

SIS&T is committed to contributing to the success of UCSB students in their pursuit of learning and with their personal developments by providing current, effective, reliable, and secure information technology delivered through exceptional and professional customer service.

Three Components: PEOPLE, PROCESSES, PHILOSOPHY

PEOPLE:

  • We trust, respect, and value diversity and inclusion of ideas.
  • We strive to develop a sense of community, and worth/values are not defined by our organizational roles and hierarchy.
  • We are committed to helping others – our colleagues, our partners (staff/faculty), and customers (students, parents, community).

PROCESSES:

  • We will define processes and frameworks that add value and effectiveness of our work.
  • We will be disciplined in implementing these processes and frameworks.
  • We will make adjustments to these processes and frameworks as necessary.

PHILOSOPHIES:

    • We area an adaptive and learning organization.
      * Supportive and learning environment
      * Concrete learning processes and practices
      * Leadership that reinforces learning
    • We are customer-focused.
      *People, Objective, Strategy, Technology (POST)
    • We must perform as a team.
      * “Teams win championships” – VC Michael Young

It has been about six months since our retreat and I believe we have made some strides towards our goals to be an even better organization. Here are some of my observations:

- Changing the organizational culture, as I’ve found, takes time and requires leadership to model the behaviors we want to see in our organization. Communicating our guiding values and principles must be done through the leadership’s actions and words and they must be practiced consistently.

- It requires participation/contribution from our entire organization to make change happen.

- At times, the environment that encourages diversity and inclusion of ideas, have resulted in honest/frank conversations, from different parts of our organization. I have welcomed and encouraged these sometimes uncomfortable conversations as I believe this a sign of a healthy, evolving organization.

- I expected some missteps on my part in my attempt to implement some changes and I have. But, I acknowledged this at the retreat, and as a matter of fact, I encouraged the idea that at times, we will “fail” with the ideas we try but that’s perfectly okay.

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Issues and Considerations with Evolving Student Affairs Technologies

Here are some technologies I think will become more integral parts of student affairs business in the next years – internet of things, wearable computing, big data, analytics, social media, mobile, and cloud. Of course, some of these technologies are already in place but internet of things, big data, and wearable computing will become even more significant in how student affairs organizations will do business and communicate with our students and customers. The future trend will evolve towards greater personalization in how information/services are delivered and what information is made available based on context. Can you imagine the possibility I wrote about in this post? The changing student population (non-traditional, international, veterans, …), political pressures for accountability in the midst of increasing tuition costs, and technology advancements are just a few variables that will shape the use of technology in student affairs.

While I can discuss the specific uses of the technologies I mentioned above, I’d like to focus more on the topics that we, as student affairs and IT professionals, must keep in mind as we consider the use of new technologies. This blog post will explore some of the the challenges involving the use of new technologies and it will also discuss some considerations to keep in mind when it comes to the effective use of technology in the context of student affairs.

One of the challenges in predicting about the future of anything is that basically, does anyone really know about the future? One can only look at potential scenarios based on history, current events, and factors (political, economic, social, technology, environment, legal – PESTEL) at different levels (local, national, global) and make some assumptions. In the world of student affairs and higher ed technology, another challenge is trying to determine at what point to adopt new technologies as part of the way we do business. Of course, for the adoptions of new technologies to happen at the institutional level, individuals who have the authority to allocate resources towards these efforts must be convinced that the benefits outweigh the risks and that these new technologies add value to the goals of the institution. In some cases, these individuals might not even be motivated by institutional goals and risk/value analysis, but rather, the questions are more personal – “what’s in it for me?” and “does this add more work for me?”

Another topic that’s also central to the use of technology in student affairs is the concept of high touch/high tech in how we conduct our business, particularly in working with students. But technology cannot and should not replace all our interactions with our customers, but rather complement them, as I discussed in this blog post.

I offered the challenges above because as we move to a likely scenario of what student affairs technology may look like in the near future, I think we can learn from lessons of the past. Consider the following responses I’ve received in my effort to introduce new technologies at my institution. These are sentiments from some of my IT colleagues and business users.

~1996 – “What do we need web sites for? They’re a fads. We have brochures.”
~2007 – “Social media? They’re a fads. Security risks.”
~2009 – “Mobile? Students don’t uses mobile. They’re fads. Security risks.”
~2012 – “Cloud? Our data center is more secure. They’re fads. Security risks.”

History shows that while platforms/tools within the types of technologies mentioned above may change (remember MySpace, Second Life), it seems to me these technologies will be around for a while and that they’ve become integral components in student affairs organizations. They’ve transformed how we do business. Here’s the reality – there are security risks involved in making data available online so as technology providers and end-users, this risk must always be considered. Furthermore, the use of technology in general introduce issues related to ethics and privacy. These must also be addressed.

As the idea of incorporating internet of things and wearable computing into student affairs become a wider discussion, I suspect, I will receive the same reactions as above – “They’re fads. Security risks. No one use them. They’re toys.” The problem of that response is that by rejecting the possibilities (maybe even inevitability) is that it takes time to learn about these technologies, and even longer to implement them. From IT perspective, the design and approach to new systems must also change. Consider the idea that user interfaces are no longer limited to screens but now include voice (aural) like Siri and Amazon Echo, gestures such as Leap Motion, wearable computing such as iWatch and Google Glass, as well as through geo-location like iBeacons.

Even a more significant challenge is that there’s a mindset as well as practical skills and knowledge within the organization that must evolve along with the use of these new technologies.

By the time our institutions come to the realization that they’re behind the realities of the needs and wants of their customers, we are now having to play catch up. We find ourselves in reactive vs adaptive mode which could lead to ineffective/costly implementations and even worse, solutions that customers and end-users don’t find entirely usable. However, there’s also the danger of using new technologies for the sake of technologies. A key aspect, perhaps, the most important aspect in how technology is used in student affairs should be why we are using them in the first place. It is too easy to get caught up in the excitement of using new technologies because everyone is using them or there’s the sense that we could get left behind.  Finding the right time to adopt a new technology for use in our organization is indeed a difficult challenge.Perhaps, one way to approach the challenge above is keep in mind the goals of student affairs, student learning, development, and success, when discussing technology implementation and use. As I wrote in this blog post, student affairs organizations and professionals need to maintain the core mission and keep up with the trends.

Just this week, the proposed technology competencies was made available by NASPA/ACPA to the general public for feedback. That technology, which was previously a “thread” in the current list of competencies, is now a proposed competency is the right approach to addressing how technology fits into our student affairs roles as educators.  The summary of the proposed technology competency I think effectively puts into context of how technology can be used in the student affairs. The proposed competencies are constructed at a level that can be used across time and not geared towards specific technologies.

“The educational technology competency area focuses on the use of digital tools, resources, and technologies for the advancement of student learning, development, and success as well as the improved performance of student affairs professionals. Included within this area are knowledge, skills, and dispositions that lead to the generation of digital literacy and digital citizenship within communities of students, student affairs professionals and faculty members, and colleges and universities.”‘

The competencies and the efforts put forth by ACPA’s Digital Task Force and NASPA’s Technology Knowledge Committee ensure that technology use in student affairs is guided through the right frameworks.

For student affairs professionals to develop these competencies, organizations must commit to the culture of providing opportunities for staff (as well as students) to learn and practice them. This require technology leadership at the senior student affairs officers table and these technology leaders must have knowledge/skills that includes both student affairs/higher ed history, theories, contemporary issues and  enterprise technology level implementations.  Senior student affairs officers themselves must also accept the reality that they need to play the role as information technology managers.

Graduate programs must also play their part in educating future professionals about technology use in student affairs.

So, as we discuss the likely scenario of the future of student affairs technology, let’s keep in mind lessons learned from the past, keep our core missions as guiding principles, and develop skills/knowledge as well as adopt an open-minded mentality that will allow us to adaptive and not reactive to be able to keep up with the dynamic needs of our ever-changing students we serve.

What’s your vision of the future of student affairs technology?

 

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On Social Media – What Resonates Gets Our Attention

I recently became more interested in Yik Yak, the anonymous and location based social network  a couple of weeks ago when controversy arose from the use of it by some student affairs professionals attending the NASPA national conference in New Orleans. I read through the comments and there were different types of comments posted from what could be considered sexist, unprofessional, and provocative. There were also other comments that some would consider as fun and positive. Most of the discussions revolved around the first set of comments I described above. I also read the reactions of other student affairs folks on the matter and their perspectives varied from their interpretations of the comments as well as pointing out related topics (social justice, professionalism, etc) and even the motivations behind the comments.

Since two weeks ago I’ve begun to check YikYak more often just to observe what our students are posting. In addition, my team did an April Fool’s joke on the students by re-introducing a checkbox feature on our student information system’s login screen, a feature that was not too popular when we had it available two years ago. I wanted to see the students reactions on our joke. What I noticed were overwhelmingly positive. Students found them funny. One of the students even posted this – “Props to the people running GOLD for having a sense of humor. I wish I knew who you were to bring you cookies. :P”

cookies\There’s another major event in the town next to our campus (Isla Vista) called “Deltopia” happening this weekend. Google the term and you won’t see too many positive comments about the event. One of the major factors attributed to the problems at last year’s event was the tremendous number of out-of-towners that came to UCSB as the event became well-known throughout California and beyond through social media. A theme I’ve noticed the last few days is how UCSB students are very strong in their opinions about not having “oot” (out of towners) visiting Isla Vista this weekend. As one of the comments show “The fact that OOTs are so ignorant about what’s happened in our town and have no respect for it really upsets me. Blaming a lot of things on us when most of it is cause of them.”

deltopiaOther general comments I notice are related to expressions of wanting connections and loneliness (“I don’t have any friends and I don’t know how to meet people.”) and most, if not all, of the responses to these comments were offers of help. There are also comments related to their lack of personal confidence (body image), sex, and other topics that I would guess would not be shared if they’re not anonymous.

As I read through the comments, I find most of them to be of the positive tone though from time to time, I do read some crass comments. Another thought that comes to mind as well – Is my perception/interpretation of YikYak different from others, even if we are reading the same comments? Is how we perceive the comments on social media and the use of them based on our personal biases? Certainly, as I mentioned at the top of my post, there are different types of comments on YikYak, but do we focus on the comments that resonate with us?

As the saying goes – “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Is our interpretation of social media, the use of them, based on our perceptions shaped by our experience and value systems? I was reminded of a situation many years ago when I was still a student. I was the President of our student organization and so I was the coach for our basketball team at a tournament. I wanted to represent our organization well so I was in a suit and tie.  A few friends of mine complimented me but one of them called me a “poser”, a not-so-positive term. I don’t know why these friends of mine, who were looking at the same person (me), had different reactions.

Another analogy applicable to how we perceive social media is that there are some folks who will somehow see something negative in every situation. A story that I’ve read is something called “negative farmer” and it goes something like this:

A (positive) farmer who had a dog with an unusual skill invited one of his friends (negative farmer) one day to go duck hunting. The positive farmer was excited to show his friend what his dog can do. So, they hopped on a boat with the dog on to the middle of a lake. The positive farmer shoots a duck and the duck landed a few yards away from their boat and on the water. The positive farmer commanded his dog to retrieve the duck. The dog miraculously walked on water. When the dog came back on the boat, the positive farmer excitedly asked his friend what he thought of his dog. The negative farmer just shook his head and says “I knew it, your dog doesn’t know how to swim.”

Going back to YikYak and my observations, perhaps my view of YikYak is more positive than others because of the types of comments that resonate with me. I don’t know. What do you think?

 

 

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Random Thoughts on the Yik Yak at NASPA 15 Controversy

As I read the reactions on twitter and blog posts by student affairs folks on the comments made on Yik Yak, random thoughts/questions came to mind. This post by Paul Gordon Brown provides a good collection of the reactions from this incident. A session was held at the conference to talk about the incident and here are the tweets from the session. They may be wrong/right from your perspective, but here are just some random thoughts that came to mind.

  • How much of the strong reactions against the Yik Yak posts are based on the need for validation/proof of credibility of the student affairs profession? From time to time, I read the frustration of how those outside student affairs don’t seem to understand what we do and that’s why we need to do a better job telling our stories. For some, is it about protecting the reputation of the student affairs profession?
  • When students make mistakes, some folks talk about these mistakes as teachable/learning moments and opportunities for growth. I think there’s a sense that students are still developing as people. What if we apply the same mindset to professionals? It’s not like we all become perfect individuals once we became professionals or when we get the letters after our names. No one is perfect and the development process lasts a lifetime, me included.
  • Even before this Yik Yak controversy, I’ve heard of the topics of “hooking up” at conferences and participants using conferences as paid vacations. It’s not as if Yik Yak introduced these issues, but it just made them more public and when I mean public, the whole internet to see.
  • With the topic of “hooking up”, I’ve also seen moral judgments on another person’s sexual activities (“slut shaming”) before Yik Yak and I think there’s a sense that it’s happening here as well.
  • Even professionals need to understand how to be good digital citizens -by understanding the pitfalls and opportunities provided by social media and how their participation (positive/negative) impact themselves as well as their communities.
  • Not all comments were negative.
  • I can’t believe anyone would actually even post some of the comments I read. SMH.
  • How many of those comments came from student affairs in attendance at the conference? Is there a chance that there are individuals who posted comments to further exploit the situation for fun or for malicious intent?
  • I refrained from providing my reaction on twitter as I wasn’t quite sure how it will be taken. I didn’t feel safe offering my opinions. Sometimes, twitter isn’t always the best place to have productive conversations even in a community that promotes itself as being open to conflicting ideas.

I’m also reminded of a conversation I had with a student on one benefit of Yik Yak. I asked this student her opinion on social media and how students view and use social media. We came to the topic of Yik Yak. Her response was that Yik Yak, because of the anonymity it provides, is a good venue for students to express their opinions in an honest way. She talked about the topic of masturbation and how students shared their opinions without feeling judged.

 

 

 

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Six Ways to Build Confidence In the Workplace

I believe that as a manager/leader, one of our most important responsibilities is to build leaders and to build productive colleagues by providing them the environment to think for themselves and grow. The confidence to pursue ideas and actions beyond their comfort zones is a big part of this process towards leadership and towards our co-workers’ ability to do their job as well. I also believe having an environment where a person can confidently do their jobs is part of having an engaged staff. Engagement to me means a staff feels maximum personal satisfaction with the work they do and secondly, they are also contributing to organization to the best of their willingness and ability. From experience, here are some ways we can build the confidence of others:

  1. Communicate goals clearly but leave room for staff to find ways to accomplish them. Basically, do not micro-manage, especially when working with talented and creative folks. Unless we work in an environment where it doesn’t require much thinking, providing our co-workers room to explore ideas and come up with their own ways to accomplishing goals you’ve given them is the way to go. However, those goals and expectations must be clearly communicated to save those assigned with the tasks from having to spend emotional energy and wasted time and effort.
  2. Allow room for “failure” as it’s part of the learning/growth process. The world is changing rapidly and we encounter new experiences/ideas everyday and we may not necessarily know how to always respond to them in the right ways. Personally, the biggest moments of growth I’ve experienced have been through my mistakes. These mistakes encouraged me to re-evaluate my approach and certainly, these mistakes helped me improve the quality of my work. Luckily, I had bosses in the past who understood that making mistakes is all part of the learning process and so while they helped me understand how to eliminate those mistakes, they also did not admonish me to a point I stopped trying new ideas. Don’t rob your co-workers with these opportunities to grow by not allowing them to make mistakes.
  3. Set higher expectations and standards beyond their comfort zones and abilities. This requires that you are intimately familiar with your co-workers’ skills, knowledge, and interests. Understand their areas of strengths and weaknesses and challenge them to further utilize their strengths and improve their weaknesses. You may encounter some resistance as this will require more work from them and they may not understand why you are challenging them, but growth isn’t always comfortable.
  4. Praise in public and criticize in private. How demoralizing is it to have your ideas interrupted by your boss in public settings because he/she just happens to believe their ways are better and do it in a way you look incompetent. There are situations when a manager does need to intervene because the information is incorrect. But even then, there’s a diplomatic method to pointing out the error and/or to suggest different ideas. This point relates to point 1 above in that as leaders.managers, we need to be clear about our expectations and goals. If our colleagues don’t understand what they are, they may share their own ideas that are contrary to what we have in mind. In these cases of confusion, it’s best to speak with your colleagues behind closed doors and clarify your expectations as well as to understand their perspectives so you are both on the same page. As I wrote on this blog post, as a manager, your words matter. You can use them to “praise or curse” your colleagues.
  5. Lead via influence, not command and control. Treat your colleagues as human beings and not machines or resources. Build relationships with them so they feel they matter. While ordering your colleagues to perform tasks may yield short-term results, the command and control approach can result in a work force that will not go above and beyond what is expected of them. This type of approach could also lead to unhappy employees and worse, lead to emotional and physical ailments. However, by leading through influence, you can build a work environment that is more positive and more sustainable in the long run. You have a workforce that will go above and beyond what is asked from them because they feel a sense of autonomy, growth, and a sense that they are respected.
  6. Model confidence. As a leader/manager, your co-workers watch your actions and your words. You play the role of the victim/complainer and soon, they will adapt your attitudes and behaviors. Work is not always ideal and we are all presented with challenges from time to time. While I’m not suggesting that we always look and feel invincible, it is important that we display the attitude of solution seekers and optimism, even in the lowest moments.

What other methods have you used to build the confidence of your colleagues?

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Student Affairs Conferences & Higher Ed – Some Parallels

As I sit here at home in California and participating on the twitter back channel for the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) 2015 national conference in New Orleans, it dawned on me that this conference and like other higher ed conferences is like higher education in some ways. By no means is this post an analysis of what’s right or what’s wrong with higher education or the NASPA and other similar conferences. They’re just observations.

The purpose for attending vary. For some, it’s to get a job by interviewing with campuses at The Placement Exchange (TPE) or by making connections with potential employers at other universities during the conference itself. For some to learn new ideas via the sessions, for some to network and build their social capital, and maybe for some, they were ask to attend by their organizations, and yet for others, maybe a chance for vacation and visit a nice city.

The cost of attendance can be considered expensive. I can’t attend this year just because of the combined cost of attendance.There are no shortage of literature and stories about the rising cost of tuition and attending higher education. Also, a big portion of the cost of attendance is on travel, accommodation, and food, and clothes. Some folks paid on their own while others received assistance from their organizations or other sponsors.

The conference is bound by time and location. While there are virtual sessions offered and the availability of recorded sessions after the event, it’s not the same as being in New Orleans.The sessions are generally presentations for about 50 minutes just like lectures and the level of interaction between the speakers and the audience can be limited.Technology is used to extend the conference but as it is used, is it considered transformative when it comes to using it for learning/education?

Learning is hard to measure. If one of the goals of the conference is to learn new ideas, how does one know how much and what they have learned? What’s the proof/measure of learning? Colleges provide diplomas as proof that the students met the course requirements and while tests may provide some assessment on what they’ve learned, is there really any definitive way to measure learning? How about personal development, which is one of the goals of student affairs?

The benefits you receive is based on how much effort you put into it. I am personally guilty of having skipped sessions in past conferences (not NASPA)  because they just didn’t interest me or I had other activities planned, and I felt guilty for having done that given that my campus paid for my trip. This is not to suggest that learning doesn’t happen outside those sessions as well. For this conference, I’m taking advantage of twitter to learn and engage from those who are in attendance.

As I mentioned above, these are just observations. What do you think about the state of higher ed and how conferences are held?

 

 

 

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My Professional Reading List 2014

Below is a list of books (kindle books except for 5 or so) I read in 2014. I didn’t quite get to read as many books as I did in 2013 because I went back to school to pursue my MBA with Specialization in IT Management and I also got promoted to a new position with much more significant responsibilities. Finding time for leisure reading was a challenge. Here’s a list of books I’ve read in 2015. Please feel free to ask me for any recommendations.

Business/Productivity:

Change & Innovation:

General Reading:

Higher Education/Student Affairs:

Information Technology:

Management/Leadership:

Technology (Social Media, Big Data, Wearable Computing, Cloud, Mobile, …):

 

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Case for Technology Leadership at the SSAO Table

How many IT professionals attend student affairs conferences such as those offered by NASPA and ACPA? I would guess not too many. When I attended the first NASPA Technology Conference in Rhode Island a few years ago, there were only few IT professionals in attendance and those who attended expressed their frustration of the limited topics at the conference as most of the sessions revolved around social media. Why is it that while information and communication technologies  do span across student affairs organizations yet there seems to be such a big disconnect between IT staff and student affairs practitioners? Let me add another question, how many Senior Student Affairs Officers (SSAOs) have technology backgrounds to make strategic and tactical decisions for effective and cohesive technology investments for their organizations? How many student affairs organizations have IT directors on their senior directors board?

As mentioned in this article about CSAO as Information Technology Managers,  SSAOs don’t necessarily have to have deep technical knowledge to be able to act as IT managers, as long as they have the technical staff to be able to provide them with the strategic and tactical guidance when it comes to technology investments and usage. However, if IT directors (or some form of technology leadership position) are not involved at strategic discussions held at the highest student affairs management level, opportunities for valuable input from those who have deep knowledge of the opportunities and pitfalls related to enterprise technology implementations and use are missed. As mentioned above, technology spans across all units of any student affairs organization and as such, the investment and use of technology must be approached from a holistic perspective and aligned with the purpose of student affairs.

I had previously advocated for a Dean of Student Affairs Technology position and I firmly believe that this position will need to exist in the future of student affairs. At the core of this position is the understanding of the philosophies, theories, and organizational framework that guide the work of the student affairs profession and the role technologies play within student affairs and the campus.

I have read the goals of the  ACPA Digital Task Force and NASPA’s Technical Knowledge Community as well as the work they’ve done and I am so grateful these two groups (as well as other similar groups) do exist and for the work they do. I think these groups are framing the right questions and they are leading the profession towards the better use of technologies for student development and learning. I do wish however that more IT leaders are involved with these very important strategic discussions. This lack of involvement of IT leadership at conversations being held at the national level mirrors what I think goes on at the campus levels.

The gap between technology professionals and student affairs practitioners need to be eliminated and this starts at the top of student affairs organizations. There needs to be a better understanding on how student affairs as an organization can best effectively serve students through technology and better partnership so technology implementations result in effective use. Technology leaders need to understand what student affairs is about so they can in turn influence their organization to think in the right framework. This understanding must go beyond business processes. Unfortunately, I think this gap will persists as long as technology leaders are not included as a member at the highest level of student affairs management and leadership.

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What Defines Student Affairs Professionals?

This question of “what defines student affairs professionals?”  probably has an obvious answer and maybe I’m over-thinking it? This is what happens in the middle of late night when my mind wanders and think about random ideas. As a reader of this post, how would you answer this question? My personal answer is anyone who is working in the field of student affairs in  paid capacity and not just a pastime. This is probably an inadequate, perhaps even a wrong definition. But, that’s how I interpret what student affairs professionals are.

This question came to mind after following the ACPA national conference via twitter last week where several thousands of student affairs professionals convene to network and share their research, case studies, and work-related topics. This is an assumption, but a large number of the participants probably hold an advanced degree in education and specifically in student affairs and higher education. I ask this question because when I think about the folks who work in my student affairs division, a large number of them, including me, probably don’t fit the demographics of those who attend conferences by ACPA and NASPA, the two major student affairs organizations. Based on my general knowledge of the folks who work in my division, most of us probably don’t have masters degree in higher education and student affairs and we’re probably not familiar with student affairs and student development theories. A large number of us hold administrative, support, and other roles. In our division, two of the largest departments are the central student affairs IT group and student health services. The folks who work in these departments are specialized in the technology and medical fields.

Why am I asking this seemingly obvious question? Regardless of we belong in the camp of those who attend NASPA/ACPA conferences or the other folks I mentioned above, we all have common goal which is to provide services towards student development and learning. Collectively, through our roles, we contribute to helping students succeed. We interact with students through different ways and at different degrees of interactions from direct contact to behind-the-scenes.I have read/heard this concept that our practice should be driven/informed by theories. But, how many of us who work in student affairs even know the theories and concepts that drive our practice? If we don’t know theories, does that mean that we can’t effectively do our jobs? As administrative and support folks, do we need to know what student engagement means and how it relates to student success?

For those who have formal educational experience in student affairs and who are familiar with student affairs theories and models and how they apply to their jobs, how are you sharing these knowledge to your colleagues?

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Technology (Big T), technology (little t)

The use of technology without a sense of purpose/direction leads to wasted resources and could even derail organizations from their missions. I came across a concept called Big M (Marketing) and little m (marketing) in a book (Marketing Management) for my marketing class. The idea is that in marketing, where the customer is at the core of the business, there are two elements that must be considered – strategic (Big M) and tactical (little m). According to the book, strategic marketing is “a long term, firm-level commitment to investing in marketing – supported at the highest organizational level – for the purpose pf enhancing organizational performance.” The tactical element (little m) “serves the firm and its stakeholders at a functional or operational level.” As the book notes, since the customers are at the core of the organization’s business, all parts of the organization must play in the marketing efforts.

I see some parallel between marketing and technology as they are used in organizations. For technology to provide value to the organization, both Big T (strategic) and little t (tactical) must be considered. Without strategy, an organization may just be chasing “shiny objects” and/or using technology in less optimal ways. It may be even be used counterproductive to the mission of the organization. Likewise, without execution, the best technology road map will be just a piece of document.

In the field of education, one topic that surely illicit strong responses from different groups is the use of technology for educational purpose. One notable example of such project that may have been caused by lack or unclear vision is the Los Angeles Unified School District’s attempt to integrate iPad as a tool in the classroom and somehow ended up in fiasco. As this article would suggest on why LAUSD cancelled the “ipads-in-the-classroom” program, it’s not because of the technology, but rather, it’s because of lack of vision.

Another topic of discussion about educational technology revolves around the perceived lack of curriculum design and pedagogy when technology is introduced in the classroom. I believe technology in itself can be beneficial or a distraction to the learning process. The question that must be asked when technology is used in the classroom is how does technology add value to the learning process?

As it relates to student affairs, information and communication technologies play an integral role in how student services and enrollment services units conduct their business functions and how they communicate with students. With students at the core, the different functional units must work as integrated units instead of silos to be able to effectively serve the students and their needs. The information and communication systems used in these units also cannot exist in silos and neither should there be duplicates as this could only lead to wasteful spending of tuition and tax money. Furthermore, these siloed/duplicated systems could also lead to inaccurate information and prevent student affairs staff to view a holistic view of the students they serve. From the students’ perspective, the lack of unified systems could lead to frustrations and hindrance to their success.

As I noted in this article about Chief Student Affairs Officers as Information Technology Managers, the use of technology requires folks at different levels of the organization to be involved in the strategic and tactical levels. Technology use in student affairs (or any organization) is more than software/hardware as there are organizational and personal dynamics involved. For technology to add value to the work done in student affairs, student affairs organizations must ask the role of technology towards student development and learning and in addition, what would be needed to implement technology towards these purpose.

In your organization, is the purpose of technology clear? What are the driving forces behind their uses? Is your organization providing resources/training so technology can be used to their fullest?

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Don’t Forget the Big Picture

How we view our work may just make a difference in how engaged and motivated we are. There are portions of our jobs that we don’t particularly enjoy. Some are mundane and not very exciting at all. There are personalities conflict, politics to be navigated, and too much to do with not enough resources. If we forget the reasons why we joined student affairs in the first place, what motivated us to go to graduate school and/or spend countless hours to hone our skills/experience to get into our positions, our jobs may just become something we need to do to pay our bills. For some, we may just get to a point where we dread coming to work. There’s a story about The three stone cutters and it goes something like this:

One day a traveller, walking along a lane, came across 3 stonecutters working in a quarry. Each was busy cutting a block of stone. Interested to find out what they were working on, he asked the first stonecutter what he was doing. “I am cutting a stone!” Still no wiser the traveller turned to the second stonecutter and asked him what he was doing. “I am cutting this block of stone to make sure that it’s square, and its dimensions are uniform, so that it will fit exactly in its place in a wall.” A bit closer to finding out what the stonecutters were working on but still unclear, the traveller turned to the third stonecutter. He seemed to be the happiest of the three and when asked what he was doing replied: “I am building a cathedral.” (Leadership Quality)

The story resonates with me and it’s a story I try to remember during some trying times because it reminds me of why I’m in student affairs. My goal is to help students, especially the ones who may have extra challenges similar to me when I was a student – first generation, low-middle income family, and one who may not feel like they belong. For me, thinking about the big picture and why I joined student affairs gives me a sense of direction and a sense of purpose. It’s too easy to get down and get frustrated with the day-to-day challenges of our jobs. But, if we are to think that the paper pushing we do, the crucial conversations we have to do, and the meetings we dread attending are all part of a bigger purpose, it may just change how we view our work.

Reference:

http://www.the-happy-manager.com/articles/leadership-quality/

 

 

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Reflecting on Why I Love My Job in Student Affairs

I came across a couple of blog posts and some tweets on why it’s not a good idea to love one’s job. It made me think of how I I approach what I do in student affairs. I’ve come to the conclusion that for me to do what I do, I really do need to care and love the purpose of my contributions and the folks that impact them for me to have put the efforts and thoughts all these years. By no means am I suggesting  other folks who don’t share the same level of care/love can’t/don’t do their job as well or better than I do. Nor am I suggesting that my job is all fun and games. I share my stories not to suggest other folks should approach their jobs like me, but because I do genuinely feel blessed to be working for an organization which provides me personal and professional satisfactions.

The bureaucracy, the lack of resources to do what need to be done, and sometimes difficult personalities are challenges that make my job hard at times. At times, I feel as I’ve been treated lesser than others because of the color of my skin or my background. But, they are all worth the efforts to deal with them given the reasons why I’m in student affairs. To me, it’s about helping the first generation students who don’t have parents and family members who can help them navigate college, those who are struggling financially to attend school, those who are trying to find themselves in a society that is not fair at times. The satisfaction in my job is just seeing these students succeed. They may not even know I exist. That’s okay. I’m not asking for anything in return from these students personally. I’ve been fortunate though to have built relationships with some students that have lasted beyond their years at UCSB.

If I view my job in student affairs IT as just about computers, I’m missing the bigger picture. In the end, it’s about helping students succeed through technology and my roles as discussion leader, organizational advisor, mentor, and a facilitator. In my role as the director/leader in my IT organization, it’s about helping my staff and my colleagues grow, create an environment where they feel personally satisfied with what they do and that they feel they are contributing. Ultimately, my job is about helping people and helping build communities. I am also part of the UCSB community.

As I reflect on this topic of why one should not love their job, I came across these blog posts I’ve written in the past that remind me of why I love my job.

Nowhere I’d Rather Be Than in Student Affairs:
http://joesabado.com/2015/02/the-blessings-of-my-job-in-student-affairs/

The Significance of Possibility/Role Models:
http://joesabado.com/2015/01/the-significance-of-possibilityrole-models/

UCSB STEP Program – Nourishment For My Soul
http://joesabado.com/2014/08/ucsb-step-program-nourishment-for-my-soul/

Why I Love My Job in Student Affairs
http://joesabado.com/2014/06/reminders-of-why-i-love-my-job-in-student-affairs-at-ucsb/

UCSB Community – We’re All In This Together
http://joesabado.com/2014/05/ucsb-community-were-all-in-this-together/

Pilipino Graduation and What My Job Really Means
http://joesabado.com/2012/06/pilipino-graduation-ceremony-and-what-my-job-really-means/

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What Do You Want For Your Staff?

As managers, how often do we ask ourselves this question “what do I want for my staff?” Sometimes we focus so much on getting deadlines met and tasks to be completed that we fail to ask and consider what can we do to help our staff to grow, to learn, and frankly to make sure they are satisfied personally and that they feel they’re contributing to the organization.

How often do we spend time talking one-on-one with them, and I mean talking with them, not talking at them? It’s easy to focus on what projects they’re working on and how much they’ve accomplished towards their tasks, but how often do we ask “how are you?” and “how can I help you?”

I write this as a personal reminder to take the time to fulfill my responsibility as a servant leader to my staff; to make sure they are taken care of.

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Nowhere I’d Rather Be Than in Student Affairs

It is during the most challenging times of my job when I find myself thinking how blessed I am to have my job in student affairs, specifically as an IT leader within student affairs. The sometimes convoluted nature of higher education bureaucracy, the pressure of having to deliver critical technology services with the limited amount of resources, and having to juggle competing priorities make it challenging some days. But, even with these challenges, actually, because of these challenges, that I feel blessed to have my job. I can easily look beyond the day-to-day frustrations because I know that at the end of the day, what matters is that my colleagues and I, the work we do, have a very important purpose – to help students succeed.

My wife and I were watching a tv show this evening, it might have been Dinners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on the food network. The host asked a chef “how much of what you do is work and how much is it love?” My wife asked me, the same question. My immediate answer is 100% love. That may sound corny but and overly sentimental, but I truly believe it. Yes, my job provides me and my wife income to live a life we enjoy, but frankly, if I were paid the same amount working outside student affairs, I don’t think I will have the same personal and professional fulfillment. What the public may hear and read about UCSB at times is that we are a party school. The reality is that I know many students who came from challenging backgrounds growing up and they have had to fight through some adversities to get to the university. I also know that these students take their studies seriously as they not only have the burden of creating a future for themselves but for their families as well. These students drive me. They motivate me to do my part to make sure they succeed.

I don’t think about this often, but from time to time, I look at our portfolio, the body of work our team has done through the years, and it’s amazing how technology impacts the lives of our students, way before they even step on to our university. I think about how our online disabled student program system enable our students with disabilities to get accessibility resources (note takers, proctors, adaptive devices), how our student health service and counseling and psychological service information systems helps our clinicians and psychologists provide timely and effective service to our students, and how our  other systems and applications assist our students from the application process and after they graduate. When I think about the value of these systems,  I realize how important our roles are to the success of our students.

There are times when I read/hear others complain about the demands of our jobs as student affairs professionals and I think I can sympathize with some of these complaints. But, personally, if one is to think about the amazing opportunities we have to make a difference in the lives of our students and their families, how blessed are we to be working in student affairs.

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Own Your Story. Share Your Story.

I watched a clip of Dr. Victor Rios’ interview about the adversities he faced growing up and how he overcame them to obtain his PhD. Dr. Rios is a very highly regarded Sociology professor at UCSB. He is also known for his work in the community working with youths. In his interview, he said  the words “Own your story. Share your story.” This really resonated with me. For most of my life, I never really felt as if I had anything remarkable to share. I can’t speak about the struggles other friends have had in their lives. I’ve encountered racism, discrimination, and struggles throughout my life, but even then, I never felt as if they’re at the level worthy of talking about. But what I’ve come to realize that as unremarkable as my life may have been to this point, I do have some perspectives to share.

My family and I came to the United States when I was 11 years old. While I spoke some English, I was teased a lot in the playground because of my “fresh off the boat” accent. Because of the fear of being teased, I sometimes pretended to be sick during those days when I had to do oral book reports. I became self-conscious of my speech for the most part of high school and even for the first year or so in college. I feared public speaking because I expected to see someone in the audience laughing at my accent. So, I stayed quiet. I had ideas, but I chose not to share them. I finally got tired of staying silent. I became more vocal towards my latter part of college. I finally gained some confidence.

When I became a professional, I soon found out my voice would be drowned again. I felt the same struggles as when I was growing up. At meetings, I felt as if my ideas were ignored. When I spoke about my perspective as a person of color, I felt as if I wasn’t taken seriously. I lost confidence and found myself trying to express my perspectives once again.

It is through my blog posts that I’m finally able to express my thoughts, share my experience growing up, about the sacrifices my parents made and the value systems I learned from them. It’s through my blog posts that I can share my concepts of leadership and the influences and philosophies that shape my leadership style.

When  I started my blog, I didn’t have expectations when it came to who will be reading them or if people would even find my posts interesting enough to read. What I have found though is that in sharing my stories, I’ve developed some connections with folks I have never even met in person before. As I’ve come to find out, I am not alone in how I see the world and with my struggles.

While my life may not be remarkable enough worthy of a movie or a book, it’s been liberating to be able to share my story - to own them and to be able to share them.

 

 

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Intent vs. Impact

“Don’t steal my car!” a total stranger, an older white man, told me this morning. He said this comment while we were in a restaurant and when I walked past him to get an item from my car. We had arrived at the same restaurant parking lot earlier and he had parked his car, an older model Porsche, next to my car, a Prius. It’s not everyday a total stranger tells me not to steal his car so I was a bit startled by it. My initial reaction was “did he just really say that?” As soon as I heard what he said, I responded with “Excuse me. What did you say?” Maybe he had thought he wasn’t going to get any response from me or if he did, maybe he expected a more positive one. He looked startled when I said that to him. Because I was with a group of co-workers to celebrate the retirement of one of a school administrator, my personal mentor actually, I chose not to continue my exchange with this stranger.

Whether this stranger said this as a joke or whatever his intent was, he probably didn’t expect the impact on me, based on my reaction. Maybe he was expecting me to laugh and go along with the humor. I didn’t see it that way. I later posted this incident on Facebook, along with my sarcastic comment that maybe I look like a car thief even with my professional attire (dress shirt, slacks, and tie). I also commented that he was an  “SOB”. The reactions ranged from that it was a joke to racial profiling and the possibility that the stranger was posturing, that as males, this was a display of competition.

In the most objective analysis, I can suggest the idea that intents do not always equal impacts. I can give that stranger the benefit of the doubt that his reasons could be just that he was joking as suggested from a couple of friends who responded to my Facebook post. Personally, I wouldn’t say that to a total stranger because I am cautious of what I say anyway and I was raised to be respectful. But what makes this incident somewhat complex is that as the recipient of this comment, I carry experiences that formed my emotional reaction to it.  While I suggested in my Facebook post today that the stranger’s comment was more of a reflection of himself rather than mine, my reaction, however is also based on my perception.The incident today triggered an experience I had a long time ago. When I was younger, I had a similar incident happen to me. I was waiting for my parents in our car, with the window open,  while they were in a doctor’s clinic and this older white male just came up to me and told me “don’t steal my car” as he pointed to his car parked a couple of stalls away. I didn’t know how to react back then and certainly, I didn’t have the courage to respond to him like I did today.

There have been several times in my life when I’ve been in situations when I felt like I was treated with lesser respect than others. For example, there have been times when I’m shopping and either an employee follows me closely or in some other times, I am offered no help at all.  One unpleasant experience was at Nordstrom in Santa Barbara. Two employees, a few feet away from me, did not even acknowledge me or offer their help. I was the only person in that area of the store at that time. I was alone until an older white couple, dressed like they would have money, joined me. The two employees immediately walked and greeted them and cheerfully offered their help. This is when I went through a process of posing questions in my head trying to understand why this just happened. It’s a process I unfortunately go through more than I would like given the number of similar incidents in my life. Was it because I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and I probably look like I have no money to spend? Is it because of my age, my look, my race, maybe something else? I have had similar experiences at Best Buy in the past as well where I was totally ignored. It’s interesting that when I described my experience to a co-worker who once used at Best Buy, he mentioned that when he worked for the company, he was trained to look for people who may not look technically knowledgeable. These are the customers that they could potentially sell extra warranties because that’s where the store makes money. I had not considered that perspective before. After hearing this, I added another possibility as to why I’ve gotten the treatment from Best Buy. Maybe I look like someone who may know about technology so they don’t bother taking the time helping me. Of course, it still doesn’t make sense to me as to why a store would not treat every customers, no matter how they look, as potential revenue.

I once brought some friends of mine, young Filipino-Americans to a nice restaurant in Montecito. Montecito is a very affluent town and not a diverse community. How we were treated was one of the most blatant display of discrimination. The waiter ignored us the whole time we were seated and when he attended to our table, the cheery and friendly disposition he treated the other customers, all white folks, suddenly turned to a  look of annoyance. It was a disappointing experience to say the least. I can cite other incidents similar to this experience as well.

The incidents above lead me to question the motivations behind how I’m treated and the realization and disappointment that I will come across these situations throughout my lifetime because of how I look, how I speak, and because of my socio-economic background.

Going back to the incident today, I can look back and either accept the idea that the stranger was just a bad comedian with no ill intent, or that his comment was driven by malice. I don’t know his intent, and I’m certainly not going to excuse his action, but all I know is that as the recipient, the impact was not a positive one.

 

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IFTTT for Integrating Cloud, Mobile, Wearable, Social Media, and Internet of Things

IFTTT for iPhone - Intro Screen 01I like gadgets and discovering how I can use them beyond how they come out of the box. One of the fun part about having these gadgets is trying to figure out how to integrate them with other devices and services. This is where IFTTT (If This Then That) comes in. IFTTT is a service that through triggers and actions can enable different devices and services including cloud, mobile, wearable computing, social media, and internet of things to work together. I use these technologies including Evernote, Dropbox,  iPhone/iPad/Samsung Galaxy Note, Fitbit, Pebble watch, Google Glass, Nest Thermostat, Automatic app, and various social media platforms. I’ve experimented with some IFTTT “Recipes”, a combination of triggers and actions, just for fun and to see what I can actually use for productivity. Listed below are a few of the recipes I’ve used:

1) Fitbit activities to Google Drive. This recipe saves daily activity summaries to a spreadsheet on Google Drive.

2) Automatic/Nest Thermostat – turn on Nest with car comes home. This recipe turns on Nest thermostat when my car, which has Automatic, is detected within a certain distance from home.

3) Automatic/Nest Thermostat – turn on fan for 15 minutes when car is home. This is similar to #2 above.

4) Twitter favorite creates a note in Evernote. This recipe creates an Evernote that contains the tweet I have marked as favorite.

While this post is about IFTTT, I also want to mention an application I have used to issue commands to my Nest Thermostat using voice command from my Google Glass. As this page shows, this app called “Google Glass App for the Nest” can be used to issue different commands which include adjusting the Nest thermostat temperature to certain temperature.

Klout recently gave me a Parrot mini-drone as a “perk”. Currently, there are no IFFFT recipes published for it but just like the Google Glass App for Nest, I wonder if I can control the mini-drone with Google Glass. It seems some companies, including this one, has tried it.

It’s fun trying to integrate these technologies through IFTTT and other means. I do them mainly to explore what is possible for entertainment’ sake. Sometimes they work and sometimes they do. But, I do explore these possibilities as part of my thinking of what the future may hold. There are ethical and privacy considerations with the use of these technologies and so as I do these experiments, I think about what the implications are. As I mentioned in this blog post about why I decided to buy Google Glass, to truly understand how these technologies work and the implications behind the use of them, one must have real-world experience with them. Just like golf, there’s no substitute to actually swinging a golf club to understand how a swing works.

Going back to IFTTT, there are thousands of recipes for you to try. Check it  out and have fun with it!

Photo credit: http://blog.ifttt.com/post/55130449805/the-power-of-ifttt-now-in-your-pocket

 

 

 

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Changing Oneself Before Others

changeOne important lesson I have learned in life, lesson learned from moments of frustrations, is that it’s probably easier for to me to change myself rather than changing others. As I wrote on this blog post about working effectively with my boss, I came to the realization that I needed to adjust my communication style and perspective so we can work better.  The idea of changing myself first rather than asking others to change is one I’ve come to apply to my personal and professional relationships. I can perhaps influence others to change, but I don’t think I can force others to change. Especially in a position of leadership, this is one of my key beliefs when helping others grow.

I read somewhere that in academia, we are quick to offer our suggestions on how others could change but asked to change, that’s a different story. I’m sure this is not universally applicable, but one of my colleagues who work with faculty told me this – “faculty are quick to profess about change but ask them to change their parking space and you’ll get a lot of complaints.” As I wrote, I’m sure this is not universally applicable to all faculty and as well, staff and administrators are probably just as guilty of this reluctance to change.

As I learned to accept the idea of looking to change myself first over others, I realized I needed to practice self-reflection of my actions, my values, and my emotions. I suppose it could be considered emotional intelligence, but I’ve learned (and still learning) to be aware of my reactions and thoughts, especially in emotional moments, and to react appropriately.  In addition, I’ve come to be more considerate/appreciative of the perspectives other folks bring and look for the validity and positive aspects of these perspectives instead of offering quick criticisms.

In taking the approach of changing myself first before seeking to influence the change in others, I’ve become less stressed and I think  it has led to improved personal and professional relationships.

Photo credit: http://www.ifunny.com/pictures/who-wants-chang/

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What’s In It For Me?

There is one question folks are probably wondering but won’t explicitly say when changes are introduced that may impact them. That question is “what’s in it for me?” As an organizational change leader, this is a question that you need to be ready to answer and to spend some time explaining to those impacted by the change. This is to create buy-in so as to make the change and transition process smoother. It’s also the right thing to do.

I’ve worked on and have led several campus information systems projects at UCSB since 1996 including an electronic medical records system, a system for managing international students and scholars (SEVIS), and an advising system used across the campus. One lesson I’ve learned in implementing these systems is that change can be emotional and psychological. When a new system or process is introduced, it can pose a threat to the people impacted. The threat can be to their livelihood and even worse, a threat to their identities. Some folks are attached to certain processes and certain systems. These systems and processes can represent their reputation as experts, they are part of their daily routines, and they also represent areas of ownership. When those systems and processes are changed,their identities are challenged.

So the next time you have the opportunity to introduce changes to your workplace, think about this question of “what’s in it for me?” from those impacted by the change. Take time to understand them. Get them involved in the process. Don’t make the mistake as a project manager of neglecting the human aspects of change. It’s not all about tasks, budgets, and deadlines.

 

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Technology as Enabler of Student Network Development Through Information Sharing

About a couple of weeks ago, I decided to buy some lunch from the UCSB Filipino-American student group to support their fundraiser. While I was eating, a student introduced himself to me and we started talking about my association with the organization through the years. He also shared with me that he actually knew about me and in particular about the fact that I helped developed our online portal (GOLD) used by students to register and manage their courses, amongst other functions. He then asked me a seemingly simple question but one that I had to think about for a bit. His question was “Can you tell me what’s different now with UCSB compared to how it was back then?” I responded with something obvious like “these buildings you see around you weren’t here back then.” But, what I also mentioned to him was how technology has transformed how students find information and how they conduct their business with the campus. For one, when it comes to general information, students no longer have to rely solely on campus staff to obtain the information.  Second, students nowadays no longer have to physically visit the departments to find information and conduct their business as they can now do many of their administrative (e.g., financial aid, billing) and academic transactions (course registration) online.

As I shared with the student, when I was a student at UCSB in the 1990′s we had to visit the departments physically and speak with the staff to find information. They had the monopoly to the information since information were not readily available beyond their offices. There were printed course catalogs and pamphlets of course, but students could not share information they know on a mass scale.

With social media and the web, students have become both consumers and producers of information.  Just observe the activities on facebook, twitter, reddit and other social media platforms and you notice students exchanging information amongst themselves. Information students share include deadlines, orientation, financial aid, housing, courses, and other campus services. Most of the time, the responses are accurate. Sometimes, when a wrong answer is provided, there are other students who will chime in and offer corrections. They offer advice to each other, including how to waive health insurance, how to get to the airport or bus stations, how to fill out forms, and which courses to take for their majors.

What I find interesting as I observe these exchanges of information going on is that relationships and social networks are also being created. I’ve also seen a couple of students assume roles as community leaders and as credible sources of information. What is missing in all of these interactions are the campus staff. In a way, these online interactions somewhat change the dynamics of interactions between student and staff. I don’t have data to prove this point, but I wonder if the frequency of physical contacts between staff and students are less now than how it was back then before the age of the web and social media.

There was actually one time not so long ago when I observed a student who seemed new to the campus since she was trying to figure out a campus map. I offered to help her and asked her what department she was looking for. She told me she was looking for the Registrar’s office. I asked her if she’s new to the campus and her response surprised me. She told me she was a second-year student, but she’s never visited the Registrar’s office.

As I think about how social media and the web have become platforms for information sharing amongst the students and not relying on staff, I wonder if there are still some staff who still see themselves as the sole source of information and maybe not too appreciative of the idea that students do exchange information and provide help amongst themselves. Personally, I think it’s great that in the process of sharing information they develop networks and social relationships that may contribute to their success at UCSB.

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The Significance of Possibility/Role Models

mdyI attended a campus event to celebrate the retirement of UCSB Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Dr. Michael Young yesterday, January 23, 2015. Dr. Young will retire at the end of this month after 25 years as the VC for Student Affairs starting in 1990. It was an event attended by former and current students, staff and faculty, campus administrators, and local politicians as well. Throughout the three hour event, speakers on stage shared Dr. Young’s accomplishments, the differences he made to the community, and most importantly, the differences he made to them as human beings. During the 24 years I’ve known Dr Young, he has had a profound impact on me, greater than he will realize, as a student, as a professional and as a human being. As I shared in this post dedicated to Dr Young as my mentor/role model, I admired how he led, his integrity, and the ways he made other people feel special. Even as a student new to UCSB, I saw Dr Young as my possibility model. Dr. Young embodies the possibility that I, too, a person of color (PoC), can hold a leadership position at the highest level of the university. And, I can do so without compromising my value systems and my experience – my identity.

The entire event yesterday reminded me of the significance of possibility/role models and the impact  Dr. Young has had on others. Dr. Young inspires others through the virtue of his accomplishments and how he handles himself, especially to other folks who share his similar experience and background.

I became a student affairs professional because of Dr. Young. There were two primary reasons that led me to my career path. For one, I had a positive experience as an undergraduate student, a student leader, and as a student worker at UCSB because of the support provided by many student affairs professionals. The second reason I chose this profession is because I saw how Dr Young was effectively able to use his experience and his value systems to create positive changes for the students and staff at UCSB.  At times, these changes needed principled leaders, like Dr. Young, who brought a sense of dignity and respect to the process leading to the appropriate outcomes. At times, these changes needed strong leaders, like Dr. Young, who was not afraid to challenge the institution. As one of the speakers said yesterday, Dr. Young brought conscience to the institution. Through him, I saw how a PoC was able to overcome racism and other institutional obstacles to get to their position. In addition, I saw how a PoC can bring their unique perspective, experience, and value systems only persons of color can only understand and use them to promote the benefit of others.

My positive experience as an undergraduate student at UCSB were due to  the help of many student affairs professionals  during times of personal struggles and in helping me develop my sense of self. As a first generation Filipino-American student, I faced many challenges during my times at UCSB from culture shock, limited financial resources, micro-aggressions, academic challenges, and just going through the process of growing up. How these professionals viewed their work were shaped by Dr. Young.  Collectively, the student affairs professionals shared a common set of values of putting the needs of students first and treating them like they matter. These are value systems that were developed under the leadership of Dr. Young. Throughout the division of student affairs and the campus, his value systems were on display through the work of his staff and his relationships with students. These are values that matter to Dr. Young. These include: freedom of speech, student activism, mental health and wellness, sustainability, technology, professional development, teamwork, and treating others with dignity.

I worked for a corporation who owned/managed hospitals a few months after I graduated from UCSB as a web developer. A few times, I was invited to meetings attended by hospital CEOs. I still remember to this day walking into those meetings looking at the room and the folks sitting at the table. I sat in the corner of the room. They were all white males, middle-aged or older. I was the only person of color in the room. It was very intimidating. There were a couple of times when I joked to myself how I could never be one of them because I would fail one of the requirements – that I needed to be a white male. After a few months, I left the position to go back and work at UCSB in student affairs. I just didn’t feel like I belonged in the corporate world.

My experience in those meetings highlighted even further the significance of having folks in leadership/management position who share similar backgrounds/values/experience. At the very least, having persons of color at the highest leadership positions in an organization could suggest the org values diversity, or, it could be just tokenism. So, as I describe the significance of Dr. Young and possibility models to PoCs like me, it goes beyond skin colors. It’s also how those folks like Dr Young conduct themselves. It’s about how they were able to overcome obstacles, how they are able to use their value systems and positively influence to provide opportunities for others. Dr. Young embodies the qualities I was looking for in someone I admire and why he’s had such profound impact on my personal life and career as my possibility/role model.

 

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Making the Best Out of Opportunities

In my career, I have been told a few times that I wasn’t the first choice for a seat in a committee or for a role in my organization. I’ve been told I was given the position because there was either an extra seat or that other people didn’t want the role that was eventually given to me. At this point in my career, I am grateful for the opportunities that come my way, albeit not always how I may have wanted them.  My  mentality nowadays is that I am going to make the best out of my situations and the opportunities given to me. As a matter of fact, I use this information to fuel my motivation to show others what I am capable of doing.

This was a different perspective from when I was younger. Back then, I took offense to the idea that I was not the first choice and that I was deemed not as qualified as other people. As a matter of fact, I had a conversation quite a while ago with a colleague about the idea that I was added on a committee because I’m Asian. I was told I made a good addition to the group for diversity. This colleague was laughing when he said this to me so I wasn’t quite sure if it was actually true, but there was some probable truth to it. I was very offended and it took me a while to get over the idea that I was chosen not because of my abilities but because of possible tokenism. However, I’m glad I was on that committee because I think I made some contributions and I was able to meet new folks along the way.

However opportunities are given to me, I’m grateful for them. At the end of the day, it’s what I make out of them that matter.

 

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Some Random Thoughts About “Student Affairs Platform”

I was reading Eric Stoller’s post about Connecting Technology Buckets in Student Affairs and it reminded me of some random thoughts I had a couple of months ago about what  a “student affairs platform” would look like. I use an iOS mindmapping mobile app called iThoughts to document my ideas and below is a pdf with my random/not-so-complete thoughts on what would be included in such a comprehensive/integrated platform. I would love to read your thoughts on this topic.

Student Affairs Platform

Student Affairs Platform

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Self-Nomination for UCSB VCSA Search Committee

Our current Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Dr. MIchael Young announced his retirement a couple of months ago and a search committee, consisting of faculty, staff, students, and alums, was formed. There was one spot available for staff, to be chosen by the Chancellor, through a recommendation by a staff committee. I submitted by nomination but, unfortunately, I was not selected. I’m confident however that committee will choose the best person for the position. I’ve chosen to post my self-nomination on my blog to share what I think are the issues facing student affairs at UCSB (and general) that the new VC will need to address.

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September 17, 2014
Re: Call for Nominations – Search Committee for the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
To Chancellor’s Staff Advisory Council:

My name is Joe Sabado, Director for Student Information Systems and Software Development Services in Student Information Systems & Technology (SIS&T). SIS&T is the central computing department within the Division of Student Affairs providing technology services to both Graduate Division and the Division of Student Affairs. In my role, I oversee 34 staff and 10 student employees/interns organized as teams dedicated to serving the specific technology needs of the departments and their customers. These units include: Financial Aid Information Systems (IS), Admissions IS, Graduate Division IS, Registrar IS, Student Services IS, Counseling & Psychological Services/Student Health Service IS, and Marketing & Communication.

I am interested in serving on the search committee because of my personal and professional interests as a student affairs staff and a student advocate. I firmly believe in the mission of student affairs to promote holistic student development and learning to complement the classroom education. My campus involvement listed below demonstrates my dedication to serving the needs of our students and the campus community. It also shows commitment to learning and understanding the perspectives and issues of those I work with, including students, staff, and faculty. I would like very much to have an input and contribute to discussions throughout the search process to select the best candidate for the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs position, working with the other
members of the search committee.

Vice Chancellor Michael Young has built a strong culture the past 25 years, a culture committed to the well-being of our students, commitment to staff growth through professional development, and campus partnerships. I look forward to the next chapter and welcoming a new Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs.

I believe the next VC for Student Affairs will need to have the skills, knowledge, and experience to provide strong management and leadership to address the following issues and topics that impact our students, the Division of Student Affairs and the UCSB community.

  • Access to higher education, affordability, and financial aid
  • Mental health and physical wellness
  • Alcohol and other drugs
  • Student engagement
  • Technology
  • High touch/high-tech concept as technology is increasingly used to complement/replace methods
    of student services delivery (e.g. virtual advising, online trainings, video interviews)
  • Recruitment, retention and persistence particularly with underrepresented groups
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Town and Gown (Isla Vista)
  • Budget and decreased state funding for public education / alternative sources for revenue
  • Professional development and succession planning
  • Assessment
  • Partnership and integration of student services and information systems with academic affairs and administrative services
  • Accommodation and resources for “non-traditional” students (beyond 18-24 years old) and populations including first-year generation, low socio-economic and underrepresented groups, international students, Veterans, Dreamers, foster youth and students with disabilities
  • Research and scholarship about student development and learning in the digital age

While my formal title is IT Director, I consider myself a student affairs professional first and foremost. I have used technology and participated in many programs, committees and projects within student affairs and across campus to contribute to the goals of student affairs. Through my current divisional IT leadership role and my experience working in the Division of Student Affairs and at Housing and Residential Services since 1996, as well as a student leader at UCSB prior to that, I have gained perspectives on issues and trends impacting our students, student affairs, and the campus. In addition to my IT duties, my current and previous activities within the division and on campus include:

  • Admissions applications reader
  • First Year Experience (Freshmen, Transfer) discussion leader
  • EOP STEP Facilitator
  • Student Fee Advisory Committee (SFAC) staff representative
  • Staff advisor to multiple student organizations
  • Veterans Resource Team member
  • Judicial Process Advocate
  • Graduate Student Support Network (GSSN) member
  • Gaucho U participant, mentor, Steering Committee member
  • Foundations: New Student Affairs Professional Development Committee member
  • Student Affairs Management Development Group (MDG) graduate
  • NASPA Undergraduate Fellowship Program (NUFP) mentor
  • UCSB Social Networking Policy chair
  • UCSB Web Standards Guide co-chair
  • UCSB Student Email Governance Committee chair
  • Campus speaker on professional development, building digital reputation, social networking, and mobile web development

I also try to keep current with contemporary higher education and student affairs trends and issues through my membership with National Association for Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) and collaborations with other student affairs professionals from other higher education institutions. I continuously study higher education topics including organization and governance, management and leadership, technology, contemporary issues, trends, philosophies, and history. This page http://bit.ly/joereadinglist includes my higher education/student affairs reading list.

My interest in student affairs issues and trends and contributions to the discussions through my student affairs and technology focused blog (http://joesabado.com/articles/student-affairs/) led to an invitation by NASPA President, Dr. Kevin Kruger, to participate in a national student affairs technology summit. Along with 12 student affairs professionals and administrators, we discussed the future of student affairs in Washington, DC last February. A document intended to provide a foundation for discussions about the future of student affairs and its implications to the profession is in final revision and will be available in the near future.

For more information about my current job responsibilities as SIS&T Director and UCSB professional
experience, please see my Linkedin profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/joesabado.
I hope I have demonstrated my strong interest to serve on the search committee and what I can contribute to the process. I look forward to hearing about your decision.

Sincerely,
Joe Sabado

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Student Affairs and Innovators DNA

I have been reading a book called The Innovators DNA and I find myself thinking how the concepts related to innovation described in this book apply to student affairs. The premise of the book centers around the idea that innovative organizations are led by innovative leaders. The book talks about delivery (questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting) and discovery skills (analyzing, planning, detail-oriented implementing, and disciplined executing) used by leaders to find new ideas and convert them to tangible solutions and products. While these discovery skills may be through through genetics, they can also be learned by understanding and practicing them.  Innovative leaders, they found possess more discovery skills while other leaders (professional managers) have more delivery skills. Dyer, Gregersen, & Christensen (2011), when they interviewed high level executives found:

“In contrast to innovators who seek to fundamentally change existing business models, products, or processes, most senior executives work hard to efficiently deliver the next thing that should be done given the existing business model. That is, they work inside the box. They shine at converting a vision or goal into the specific tasks to achieve the defined goal. They organize work and conscientiously execute logical detailed,data-driven plans of action.” (p. 31)

This another passage also notes the difference between innovators and managers.

“The key point is here is that large companies typically fail at disruptive innovation because the top management team is dominated by individuals who have been selected for delivery skills, not discovery skills. As a result, most executives at large organizations don’t know how to think differently. It isn’t something that they learn within their company, and it certainly isn’t something that are taught in business school. Business schools teach people how to be deliverers, not discoverers.” (p. 36)

 In contrast to the professional managers as described above,  Dyer, et al. (2011) note that disruptive innovators are motivated by these two common themes, “First, they actively desire to change the status quo. Second, they regularly take smart risks to make that change happen.” (p. 24) In addition,  innovative leaders, like Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos (Amazon) look to hire those with similar attributes they possess. They build their companies by hiring innovative people, establish processes that promote innovation (experimentation), and  have guiding philosophies that support a culture which encourages employees to try new ideas.These philosophies include 1) innovation is everyone’s job, 2) disruptive innovation is part of our innovation portfolio, 3) deploy lots of small, properly organized innovation project teams, and 4) take smart risks in the pursuit of innovation.According to the book, these four guiding philosophies reflect the courage-to-innovate attitudes of innovative leaders.

While Dyer, et al. (2011) focus on disruptive innovators/companies and discovery skills, they do see the value of companies having teams that include members who have delivery skills. Ideally, these teams should consist of members who have complementary discovery and delivery skills as well as those with business, technical, and “human factors” (behavioral sciences) expertise. Collectively, they should be able to view problems from multiple perspectives.

Reading this book with the themes described above lead me to the following questions:

- Are student affairs graduate programs designed to prepare future professionals to be “deliverers” and not “discoverers”?

- Is student affairs  designed to work within established boundaries (mandates, legal requirements, guidelines, etc) and within “inside the box”? What are the incentives/punishments for going “outside the box”?

- Are SSAOs more focused on delivery instead of discovery and do they hire the same people with the same philosophies?

- Are the guiding philosophies in student affairs like/unlike the philosophies mentioned above when it comes to innovation?

- Are student affairs professionals generally more “deliverers” than “discoverers”?

What is your take on this topic? Do you agree with the premise of the book?

Reference:

Christensen, Clayton M.; Jeff Dyer; Hal Gregersen (2011-07-12). The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators. Harvard Business Review Press. Kindle Edition.

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Digital Lollipop Moments

“We all have changed someone’s life – usually without even realizing it.” This is a message in Drew Dudley’s TedX talk on Everyday Leadership. The video resonates with me because for 1) I work with and for students at my university and 2) I don’t see myself as a “leader” in the sense that I don’t think I have made a significant impact in this world, not in the way of social activists, politicians, artists, educators, etc. I go about my daily professional and personal lives just making a living, pursuing goals, trying to help others, and enjoying the company of those I care for. However, there are times when I’m reminded that even when I don’t realize, what  I do and what I write do impact others. Generally, I do think about the potential impact of what I write. After all, I know my supervisors, students, and other folks in my professions do read them. But, it’s when others tell me in person, like a colleague did this week,  or via email and social media how a blog post I had written gave them a sense they’re not alone in their thoughts, a sense of connection, or  a sense of direction that remind me what I write and what I do matter.

As I wrote on this post, my blog has become a place for personal reflections and a part of my identity development and exploration. It’s become a place for me to express my perspectives that I don’t often find represented in what I read. I don’t find too many articles out in the mainstream media talking about the experience of Filipino-American immigrant and what it all means. But, if what I write do have positive impact on others, even just one,  I find that idea very humbling and gratifying.

There was a chat session on twitter last week about blogging and I tweeted that maybe I should be looking at my blog’s activities and audiences through Google Analytics to grow and shape my posts. Maybe, I should spend more time publicizing my posts, but I’m satisfied with knowing that even if my posts don’t attract hundreds of thousands of readers, if there’s one person who was positively impacted by what I’ve written, that in itself is rewarding enough.

 

 

 

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The Power of Empathy In Student Affairs – My Personal Experience

The ability to understand and share the perspective of our students plays a very important role in how effective we are as student affairs professionals and educators in building relationships and helping our students.  Personally, while I fully acknowledge the fact that I can never fully understand today’s students perspectives due to our differences in age and experience, some of my experiences and background help me in not only understanding what their needs and opportunities may be, but in building relationships as well.

Three years ago, I was a discussion leader for a First Year Experience course for international students. Most of them were Chinese with one student from Brazil. For most of them, they had only been in the United States for about two months. In addition to adjusting to the academic lives, they also had to adjust to the cultural norms, language, and navigating their environments as well. Their discomforts with their new environments were very apparent during the first few weeks of the course. In my one-on-one discussions and in class, they shared their issues in trying to understand how the university works, the habits of their American roommates, and difficulties with activities as Americans we take for granted. Language was one of the main barriers during their times of transition. Even going to the grocery stores or taking the bus proved to be difficult for some of them. I would not have been able to appreciate their difficulties to the extent  I did if it was not for my experience traveling to Italy with my wife, only a month before this course. Through my experience preparing for the trip and during our time in Rome and Florence, I was able to feel some of the issues these students were facing.The fact that this was our first time traveling to Europe became a source of stress for me for a couple of months before our trip. I did not know how to speak Italian and while I researched as much as I could through the web, perusing through travel sites, and reading stories from travelers, I could only speculate how our experience would be. I had some difficulty learning Italian even with the multiple translation and language apps I downloaded on my iphone. This difficulty added to my concerns about the trip. I was also worried about being pick-pocketed in Rome. Stories about different tactics used and the prevalence of thieves out in the streets became my focus during our preparation. During our trip, the local Italians we interacted with were very accommodating with our limited Italian, but nevertheless, even ordering food or asking for directions proved to be a challenge. When I met with the students, I shared some of my experience and my issues with our Italy vacation as a way to connect with them. I was able to have genuine discussions with them and offer them reassurance that they were not the only ones who have had to experience the difficulties of adjusting to a new culture and location.

Just last week, I facilitated a transitional course for a one-week summer bridge program for first generation and low income first year students. Having gone to the program myself and as a UCSB alum, I was able to relate to what they may be experiencing and anticipate/address some of their concerns. As a first year generation student and from a low/middle income family myself, I was also able to relate to some of their family values and views on education. While each student certainly brought their unique and individual experience, there were also common topics including financial concerns, first-time away from home, and the lack of directions with their intended majors I was able to share because of my personal experience.

As I had my orientation class for my online MBA last week, I found myself experiencing/feeling the same concerns the students shared during the summer bridge program. One of the students expressed doubt on whether she belonged at UCSB. As she mentioned in class, she realized she was surrounded with high achieving students and she wondered if she could compete with them. I also wonder if I have the aptitude and intelligence to be successful in completing my MBA. What was interesting as well was that one of the lectures was on critical thinking and research, both of which are topics in my orientation class. I have seen the same lectures a few times but I found myself being more interested this time around. During our class discussion, I was able to share some of my perspectives and provide additional information with the topics.

From personal experience, I do find it easier for me to relate and build relationships with others who share similar background and experience. In my interactions with students, especially Filipino-American students, our shared cultural background have proven to be an important piece towards building relationships.

 

 

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UCSB STEP Program – Nourishment for My Soul

There’s not a week I look forward to in my job more than STEP Program, a summer bridge program for incoming first year, first generation, and under-represented students at UCSB. I have served as a transitional facilitator for  the last four years and it’s one of the most fulfilling personal/professional experience I have ever done in my career. STEP Program has a special place in my life. I was a student of the program in 1991 and I was also a Resident Assistant in 1994. I met some of my life-long friends through this program and I became friends with some of the students who have considered me as their mentor as well.

A few years ago, this program was two weeks and unfortunately, due to budget cuts, the program was reduced to one week. Even so, it is remarkable how much transformation happens with the students. I have the pleasure of watching their confidence grow and develop connections with other students within this short one week. It’s a testament to how well the program is designed as well as the dedication of the staff and volunteers.

STEP Program facilitation is not one of my responsibilities as an IT Director. Nowhere in my job description does it mention anything about working with students in a classroom setting, and neither is working with first generation students. But it’s through my interaction with the students through my role as a facilitator that drives my purpose. It is a reminder of why my job matters and who I am working for. I don’t work for my supervisors, I work for students. In the end, while the systems I help develop with my technical teams enable our business staff and departments to be able to serve the personal development and learning of  the thousands of students at a mass scale, I would like to believe  the personal interactions our faculty, staff, and the relationships our students develop with their peers matter as much towards a fulfilling college career.

When I read the students’ reflections of their STEP experience at the end of the program, I get the sense of how much they value the program and I also get the sense of how much more confident and more comfortable they are with their transition into UCSB. Personally, STEP program provides me with the opportunity to build connections with the students and even if most of them will never contact me again, I consider it such a privilege and honor to be a part of their introduction to their new lives at UCSB. My one week STEP experience is enough to provide nourishment for my soul to provide me with the motivation and sense of purpose for the rest of the year.

 

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Technologies, Assessment, and the Future of Student Affairs

Technology is already a significant component in all facets of student affairs. Technology has played a role in student affairs for several decades as Kevin Guidry shares in this blog post about student affairs technology competency.  Moving forward, the new types of technologies and how quickly they evolve will pose challenges and opportunities. This blog post includes what I see as changes in the landscape of consumer technologies and how campus information system providers will need to change their approach in designing applications for devices and how end-users may interact with systems in ways they don’t do today. It will also talk about assessment, the limitations of current systems towards a complete analysis and evaluation of data from different sources, and how to potentially overcome these constraints.

The future of student affairs will include consumer technologies including mobile, data, sensors, social media, cloud, wearable computing, and location-based systems. This possibility is by no means a stretch if one is to consider what already exists outside the world of academia and follow consumer technology trends. I’ve written a couple of  blog posts about possible scenarios in the near future of student affairs using technologies I mentioned above. This blog post and this also talks about how I think wearable computing, specifically Google Glass, can be used in student affairs. The use of consumer technologies can no longer be ignored by IT and other campus service providers. For one, there are privacy, policy, and ethical considerations that must be addressed as data freely from one device to another enabled by cloud services (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc) and increasing availability of internet connectivity. In addition, the design and development of campus systems must consider how consumers of these systems expect them to work. As it is, legacy systems designed before the wide use of mobile are not mobile-friendly, and campus IT and vendors are still spending their time retro-fitting these systems to provide mobile interfaces.

As the development of enterprise campus systems like learning management systems, residential management systems, student information systems, and other administrative systems take years to complete, it’s probably wise to think ahead of what consumer technologies may  be available two or three years from now and design for them. I believe one of the major considerations when designing these systems is how users interface with the systems. Most systems available now are through graphical user interface (GUI) such as web sites. However, developers must also think about presenting systems through Conversation User Interface (CUI) which provides user interaction through voice. Apple’s Siri, Google Now, and Microsoft’s Cortana are three technologies that are now available via CUI.In addition to GUI and CUI, developers must also provide users the ability to interface with systems using gestures, which I consider to be part of the Natural User Interface (NUI) approach. Consider the fact that a user can now wink when using Google Glass to take pictures or that a user can use Leap Motion or Kinect to control objects on a screen.

Another consideration is the possibility of how data that may have been designed for a specific use today may be used differently in the future. For this reason, it’s wise to design applications to provide these data through services that can be consumed separately and in ways that may not have been thought of before. For example, one set of data that is commonly used across student systems is student demographic data. While in the past, this set of information may have only existed on the campus student information system (admissions, registrar, financial aid), increasingly, functional systems (judicial affairs, housing, etc) often provided by vendors, are now using this information for operational use as well as for assessment/reporting purposes. The older (and most likely used today) is to provide extracts of this data set, and send it to departments responsible for managing these systems via text files, which they then import. A more effective way would be to expose these data through API (application programming interface) including web service which can be used by these other systems without manual actions, given proper permissions.

One topic that has gotten more attention in student affairs and involves enterprise systems that cross campus units is assessment. The need for assessment is because of the seemingly greater need for accountability by the government in light of questions surrounding the purpose/effectiveness of higher education as well as to show the value of the work student affairs do. This is in addition towards efforts by departments to improve how they conduct their business (operational) and how effective they are towards meeting student learning outcomes. A major obstacle towards a complete campus assessment, or just within student affairs, is the fact that so many of the systems including student health, counseling, judicial affairs, disabled student programs and other student service systems are not designed to be able to seamlessly communicate and exchange data with each other. This is one of the challenges I discussed in this blog post about Higher Education and Data Liquidity. Moving forward, there has to be a way for these separate systems to be able to communicate and exchange data. At the least, there has to be a way to combine these data into a central database for analysis. One approach to solve this issue would be to have common data format that these systems can use, similar to a common eTranscript system by Parchment which enables high schools and colleges to exchange transcripts electronically. Additionally, a proposal I had recommended is to create a common markup language that can be used across all types of learning institutions. This is a learner centered approach which accounts for the fact that students are no longer receiving or completing their education from a single place, also called the student swirl.

It would also be wise for student affairs practitioners as well as IT departments providing support to student affairs units to lead the discussion when it comes to how vendors should design their systems to overcome the constraints above. As it is, there really are not too many vendors focusing on student services who are developing systems that can accommodate the needs of student affairs as whole. A company that can do this would need to have domain expertise in areas within student affairs that are so distinct (student health vs residential life) from each other to be able to develop systems that go beyond just a department or two. I think NASPA and ACPA, the two student affairs national organizations, should lead this charge as they should have a better perspective on what the general needs are across institutions. In leading this charge, they need to work with other organizations representing specific functions within student affairs to understand the specific needs within these areas. These organizations include but not limited to  AACRAO, ACUI, ACUHO-I, and NACE to name a few.

There are so many more topics and questions to discuss when it comes to the use of technology in student affairs. This post is just a small piece of that discussion, though I hope it provided readers, like you, some ideas and questions to think about when it comes to the future of student affairs.

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Resistance to Social Media Amongst Student Affairs Professionals

I worry when I hear other student affairs colleagues I come across online and face-to-face say they don’t believe in social media  because  they’re a fad and/or they don’t see the value in these tools. I worry when I hear comments like “I don’t use facebook, I don’t see why others are using it” or “I don’t see the value of social media in how we do business in student affairs. They don’t provide any additional value.” My concern is that some of the resistance to social media seem to come from the perspective of “what’s in it for me” instead of considering these tools from student perspectives. This is the type of selfish perspective that worries me. I consider this selfish because folks who think this way are thinking of their needs and placing their value systems first instead of those they serve. There are those whose minds cannot be changed regardless of countless of evidence presented to them about the impact and use of social media amongst the student population. Social media are more than about technology. To appreciate social media, one must consider how these tools impact and relate to communication, relationships, community building, engagement, learning, identity, and personal/career development. As student affairs professionals and educators, aren’t these the same issues we must consider when serving the needs/wants of our students?

Before I continue, some of those reading this will pose the argument that not every student use social media and not every student use mobile devices. That is true, however, just walk around campuses and you’ll observe many students using these technologies. Pew Research and ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2013 also confirm high use of social media and mobile along with other technologies amongst our students.

I hear this type of thinking too many times, what I call “legacy thinking” wherein folks reminisce about the past and they try to impose/apply them today. This is not only limited to how they approach social media but with other technologies and how students live their lives today. But at some point, we must adopt the attitude of “it’s not about me, It’s about the students.” Do I expect everyone to become experts and accept every technology blindly? Of course not. I personally examine technology with cautious optimism. But, if we are not even open to examining the potential benefits and pitfalls of social media, how are we to educate and model to our students how to take advantage and conduct themselves appropriately using these tools?I do think as student affairs professionals, regardless of our personal beliefs and biases against social media, we should probably try to understand what social media mean in terms of our professional responsibilities and consider them from students’ perspectives.

If there’s a message I would like to tell these folks, that message would be to be learn a little bit about social media, if not for themselves, for the sake of the students they serve.

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Higher Education and Data Liquidity

There is a lot of value in studying other industries outside higher education to gain perspective on issues we face as well as how we may adapt practices and technologies for our use. In the midst of rising student debt, claims of administrative bloat, call for higher accountability, and questions about the value of higher education, it seems there are more discussions about assessment within student affairs to improve quality of services and to provide evidence of our contribution to student success. A key component in assessment is obviously data and the ability to aggregate them from different data sources and perform analysis for different purposes. The fact that information systems even within the same campus do not communicate with each other leads to siloed data. As it relates to assessment, this issue of systems inability to communicate and exchange data, leads to less than accurate analysis and evaluation. In addition, the quality of service provided to students and other customers suffer. As one who oversees our campus suite of student health and counseling information systems, I see some parallels between higher education and the medical care industry when it comes to the challenges related to data.

One concept I came across from reading a book called Connected Health: How Mobile Phones, Cloud and Big Data Will Reinvent Healthcare by Jody Ranck is “data liquidity” which the author describes as “the ability to move data from one part of the health system to another”.  Another definition offered by this article is “more ways and more choices for patients to own their computable health data thus enabling patients to use their data to get help and advice.” Conceptually, data should be able to move freely from health providers and accessible by patients themselves.

The idea that students/learners should own their own data and be portable across institutions is a topic I discussed in this blog post “Common Learning Portfolio Markup Language (CLPML) – A Proposal.” One of the major challenges to this concept I proposed is the lack of a common standard in how data can be shared across student information systems both in terms of data format and interfaces (how different systems communicate). What I do know is that there is an interface standard that exists in the medical industry called HL7 used for clinical applications to communicate. Furthermore, older legacy systems designed to be stand-alone require modifications/enhancements to be able to interface with other systems. These enhancement projects may require significant financial and human resources.

For “data liquidity” to improve, other obstacles beyond technology must be overcome. Data privacy rules and policies exist to protect student data but a times, it seems so convenient for some to use the same rules and policies as inappropriate reasons not to share data, even to students themselves, who do have the right to view their own data. Furthermore, some existing data policies do need to be revised to reflect current needs and to reflect technological advances including cloud and mobile computing. In addition, designs of information systems must be designed from the perspective of the customers. It’s too convenient to design systems without consulting with those we serve leading to silos instead of integrated set of student information systems and services.

It will be interesting to follow how the medical care industry will address the lack of data liquidity and how solutions they arrive at within their industry can be adapted for higher education.

 

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Some Folks You May Want To Follow – Real People/Fresh Ideas

Social media, specifically twitter and blogs, have become key components of my personal learning environment (PLN). For as many books I read, social media provides me information and more importantly access to a variety of experts/up-and-coming thinkers and their ideas that none of the books provide. While books may provide thoroughly examined and edited concepts, theories, and even real-life case studies, I find it refreshing to read the experiences and ideas of my contemporaries in student affairs and technology fields. These are folks whose ideas may not have been heard if it were not through social media. One of my core beliefs is that everyone has something to contribute. Specifically in our field of student affairs, I value the insights of students and new professionals. Their voices need to be heard more when it comes to the current and future states of student affairs and higher education. I also value folks who are not afraid to challenge conventional thinking. Here are just some of the the folks I’ve come to follow:

- Josie Ahlquist (@josieahlquist). Brilliant writer as she is able to present academic concepts about digital leadership and student development theories that is enjoyable and easy to understand. She is one of the few folks I know who’s doing research on digital leadership and the use of social media in student affairs. Check out her blog at http://josieahlquist.com/.

- Trina Tan (@trinastan). It’s refreshing to read Trina’s adventures as a Filipina-American graduate student. She shares some of her personal and career challenges and lessons learned along the way. Check out her blog at http://trinastan.com/.

- J Chase (@JChase_). Do you want to follow someone who’s not afraid to call things the way we all should? Follow this guy. He makes a lot of sense, too. From assessment to critically looking at the principles/practices of student affairs, his commentaries provide different perspectives. Check out his blog at http://jchaseblog.tumblr.com/ .

- Josh Kohnert (@joshkohnert). Josh is one of the emerging leaders when it comes to the use of social media for digital identity development amongst students and staff. I like the fact that not only is he writing about his ideas but he is also actively sharing his knowledge through his presentations and through his work as well. Check out his blog at http://www.joshkohnert.com/.

- Joe Ginese (@joeginese). Joe is definitely full of ideas, innovative ideas. What I respect about Joe is that he is a thinker and a doer. When he identifies an issue, like how conferences can be improved, he will actually provide some ideas. Too many folks, I think can say “here’s the problem” and stop there. Joe actually will present some possible solutions. Check out his blog at: http://joeginese.com/.

There are so many more folks I could add to the list above and the ones I mention are representative of the folks I enjoy reading for their unique and fresh perspectives.

Who are the folks you follow who bring new ideas and even challenge you?

 

 

 

 

 

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Reframing Technology in Student Affairs

Technology can be scary for some. The prospect of technology potentially replacing one’s position in an organization is even more scary. This is one of the reasons as to why advances brought upon by technology are not always embraced by all. From my experience working in student affairs IT for more than fifteen years, obstacles to implementing new systems are not always about the shortcomings of the technology themselves but rather, the bigger challenge lie with the resistance of those impacted by the new systems based on fear, unwillingness to embrace change, refusal to learn new skills, or the belief their current practices are superior to what technology can offer. When implementing new systems, as a project manager, a few of the questions from staff I know I have to address are “what’s in it for me?”, “will it replace me?”, and “how do I fit in?” The reality is that technology has changed manual processes that may have existed in the past. Technology has made certain processes more efficient through automation. In some cases, this has led to elimination of positions that used to perform these manual operations. For folks in these positions, they had to  learn and adapt to the new ways of doing things, moved to new positions, or leave.

One of the concerns about using technology in student affairs, particularly when dealing with students/customers, is that certain services requiring face-to-face communication should not be replaced with technology. I generally agree with this sentiment. Not every process can be replaced with technology. If that is the case, there would be no need for staff at all. However, consider the idea that technology may just provide staff with more operational efficiency and effectiveness so they can devote more face-to-face interaction and provide more time to students who need extra attention? Given the global nature and increasing online presence of our students in higher education, physical face-to-face may not be an option. Here are some examples on how technology complements and improves our work:

- Knowledge base systems like Intelliresponse that can answer most commonly asked questions can minimize the number of phone calls and emails to staff thereby providing more time to dealing with special scenarios.

- Electronic medical records and case management systems provide student affairs practitioners with relevant student information from different parts of the campus they can use to assist students. Institutions without these systems probably still need to gather the information on paper format from different places. Imagine students having to wait during an appointment as the counselor must wade through files, which may contain outdated information, and synthesize the information in front of them?

- Web-based self-service systems can delegate some of the tasks to students themselves. For example, disabled students could register for services provided by disabled students programs by providing their health information and requesting services (proctoring, notetaking, etc) online. Given some business validation to ensure all required documentations are provided, these self-service systems save both student and staff the unnecessary steps and time of going over required documents.

- Virtual conferencing tools such as Adobe Connect to provide webinars to incoming students who may not be able to visit the campus (international students, out-of-state, etc) are saving institutions time and money for travel. They can also accommodate the different time zones when students are available. I know colleagues who have held web conferences at 2 am to students in China.

- Digital x-ray systems in student health centers have significantly reduced the amount of time required to diagnose a patient. In the past, the process would have involved a couple of days to send these x-rays to facilities outside the university. Student health centers with digital x-ray capabilities can now do the same process in minutes.

- Automated degree audit systems can assist students and advisors with information to monitor academic progress. The efficiency and accuracy provided by these systems are tremendous compared to manual processes which require staff to enter and process volumes of student academic records.

With the topics I introduced above including staff’s attitude to change and looking at technology as a tool towards efficiency and effectiveness, we must also look at the subject of technology competency. What does technology competency mean? As I wrote on this blog post, I define student affairs technology competency as:

“Technology competency includes the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to use, design, evaluate and implement technology to support the goals of functional units and towards one’s work.”

Competency is not solely about the mechanics of using the technology itself but rather, how technology is applied in intentional ways. Technology competency involves technical and business aptitudes as well as the right attitudes. As an analogy, one does not develop competency with money, but rather, how money is used.

How do we then develop staff’s technology competency? Graduate programs must include technology as part of their curriculum, either as a component in other courses offered, or as a course on its own. Not all student affairs professionals have a degree in student affairs and so opportunities to develop technology competency must be available to all staff. One such opportunity, which is also applicable to graduate programs, is a course on technology in student affairs. This would be in addition to any training provided by institutions such as lynda.com as well as by sites available to individuals including codecademy and Smarterer.com. I also think our profession could encourage and promote discussions about effective technology use in student affairs by bringing the topic to the forefront and not just as an underlying component of other competencies. Perhaps, the next version of Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Professionals by NASPA/ACPA could include technology as a competency area and not as a thread.

For anyone to deny the idea that technology is an integral component of student affairs today has not worked in student affairs and/or they have not spent the time reflecting on how technology impacts our work and our students. The question is no longer about whether technology should be a part of how we perform our jobs but rather how can we best use technology in whatever capacity we contribute towards our mission of supporting student success. Student affairs professionals do not have the choice of accepting technology as part of their job.  This article, “You 3.0: The Most Important Evolving Technology“, says it quite aptly:

“The focus will be on the relationship between the evolving technology and the user—that is, on You 3.0.”

To be successful at what we do in providing service require our willingness to adapt, not react, to the realities of the world of our students.

What are your thoughts on how we should frame technology in student affairs? Do you agree/disagree with my assertion that technology is a critical component of student affairs?

Note: Products mentioned in this post should be considered as references only and not an endorsement by the author.

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Thinking About the Future of Student Affairs

Thinking about the future of student affairs and exploring ways to “predict” what the next few years hold for my profession -these are two topics that have occupied some of my thoughts lately. As a student affairs professional, I’m anxious/excited about how higher education and student affairs will be, even a couple of years from now. The technological advances the last few years including social media, cloud,  mobile and more recently, wearable computing, have and will change the landscape of higher education. Rising student debt and tuition cost lead to questions about the value of college degrees as well as affordability/access and accountability. The changing demographics bring new expectations and needs. Newer forms of instructional deliveries including blended and distance learning, specifically MOOC, introduce debates about the role of technology and the faculty. As more higher education institutions offer online courses,  the role of student affairs professionals in providing student services must also be explored. Given all the different factors driving changes in higher education, I am intrigued as to what the next few years hold.

Can anyone truly predict the future of student affairs? I certainly can’t, but it’s fun to think about the possibilities. While the services we will need to provide and the way we will provide them will change, the needs of students outside the classroom will not go away. The questions we should be asking are “what is our preferred future of student affairs?” and “what are the possible scenarios we must prepare for and how can we prepare ourselves?” . How can we use information available to us, such as Pew Research, ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information TechnologyNational Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) to inform us about current and future issues/trends? What prevailing beliefs/ideologies, if any, do we need to change? At this point, I don’t know the answers to these questions, but what I do know is that as we think towards our future, we must not be confined by our past, and how it’s been done in the past. As much as we would like to reminisce about how wonderful our college experiences may have been way back in the days, we are not designing/providing services for ourselves. As we think about our future, it’s probably a good idea as well to expand our local campus perspectives by having conversations with colleagues outside our institutions and include those who will ultimately lead us in the future – our current students and new professionals.

What are your thoughts about the future of student affairs?

 

 

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Why I’m Taking a MOOC on Student Affairs

This MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) entitled “Exploring the Student Affairs in Higher Education Profession” may just be the closest experience to being in a formal student affairs course for those who have not taken a course in student affairs and higher education. This is one of the reasons why I chose to enroll in this MOOC. While I have more than a decade of student affairs professional experience in my formal role as IT staff and through volunteer positions (FYE discussion leader, summer bridge program instructor, org advisor, ,,,), it is only through self-directed learning that I have been able to learn about some of the fundamental principles/theories and history of student affairs. I’ve always believed that to be an effective student affairs IT professional, I need to have the practical experience and theoretical knowledge  to be able to contribute to the mission of my university and the purpose of student affairs, which I understand it as creating the environment and providing support towards holistic student development and learning.

There are other reasons why I am in this MOOC which include the following:

  • Better understanding of MOOC. I need to experience MOOC firsthand to be able to determine the values and pitfalls of this form of online learning. I read enough articles about the merit and shortcomings of MOOC and it’s personally intriguing. As a higher ed professional, online learning (including MOOC), is an area I need to be more knowledgeable to better prepare myself and my department in providing infrastructure and services to support online learners, instructors, and student service staff. In addition, I am interested in learning theories as well as computer-mediate communication and how technologies factor/impact the learning and communication processes.
  • Create connections with other students. Much of my “alternative professional development” has been through the use of social media, mobile and e-books as well as my virtual Professional Learning Network (PLN)  consisting of folks I met through twitter. These are folks who share my professional interest in student affairs/higher ed, technology, and leadership. Beyond the resources (videos, documents, web pages, etc) provided by the course,  I expect that the biggest value I will receive from this MOOC is the new connections and interactions I will have formed by this course is over. I can’t think of any other venue that provides me with a platform to have discussions with this many aspiring and current student affairs professionals. To be able to tapped into their mindsets would be one of the biggest value from this experience.

I completed the first module (out of eight) this evening and since students are allowed to go through the course on their own pace, I am hoping to complete the course in the next few weeks. Given that this is my first MOOC, I am excited for this experience and to be able to learn about student affairs in a topic I am comfortable with.

What’s your experience with MOOC? What’s your take on it?

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Exploring Google Glass for Higher Ed and Student Affairs

google-glassA student saw my Google Glass the other day and asked me “Is it worth it?” It’s no secret the price of the device is $1500. My short response – “yes, I consider it an investment.” I’m not rich enough to have bought Google Glass for the purpose of showing off and just to have a new toy. Actually, I have several reasons as to why I decided to commit my money towards this device. It’s the same reason as to why I spend so much time using social media and on my mobile devices. They are integral to my work and my life-long learning. I may be mistaken but I believe wearable computing and internet of things (pervasive/ubiquitous computing) will be part of the next wave of technologies that as a higher education technology professional, I will need to be ready for. I bought Google Glass as part of my preparation and to learn more about these technologies that will become more common sooner than we think. These technologies will bring new opportunities and challenges in higher education in the way we conduct our business and how we provide support and environment towards student learning. Privacy, ethics, confidentiality issues need to be considered and policies will need to be adjusted. Frankly, I don’t know what to expect as I learn how Google Glass works. What  I do know is that part of learning involves encountering new ideas that will lead me to questions which will (re)-direct me to new topics I may not have considered before. Google Glass provides me with hands-on experience to help me in the learning process.

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No Accomplishment Is Done Alone

I’m always puzzled as to why most winners of award shows like Golden Globe claim and act like they had not prepared a speech when they accept their awards on stage. Maybe it’s a Hollywood practice to not prepare a speech as part of a superstition. I’m not in the movie industry, so I wouldn’t know. What I do know is that for most of these winners, this may be the only time in their lives when they will get this type of accolade and to not prepare for it doesn’t make sense. Here’s my other take, this would be an amazing opportunity to express their gratitude to those they work with. They must have someone to thank and so why not make sure to use this maybe once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to highlight the work of others and what they mean to them.

Personally and professionally, I have had many folks helped me, open doors for me, to get to where I am now. My family, friends, teachers, co-workers, and mentors are just some of these folks whose I am very grateful for. The way I look at it, no accomplishment is done alone.

 

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My First Days with Google Glass

“Is that Google Glass? Does it recognize my face and can you see my criminal records?” These are the first questions I received on my first day wearing Google Glass as my wife and I walked towards the Monterey Bay Aquarium during our holiday break. I figured this would be a good place to wear them for the first time since picking up the device from Google’s Venice Beach office the week before.  I felt self-conscious and unsure of how folks around me would react. I was pleasantly surprised that while folks at the aquarium gave me a look of curiosity, I didn’t hear any negative remarks. From what I’ve read online and from my conversation with the Google employee who provided me hands-on training, people’s reactions vary. I also expected at some point to be called a “glasshole“. What  I didn’t expect was that I’d be called by this name from another higher ed technologist I really admire after posting a picture of my wife and I on facebook, a platform I had found to be a safe place for sharing my personal experience. The comment made me think twice about bringing the device to our family holiday party so I ended up keeping them at home. I did regret that decision just because I wasn’t able to capture much of the fun moments we had as a family throughout the night, especially during the white elephant game.

My initial experience with Google Glass is in some ways similar when I started speaking about wearable computing, mobile, social media, cloud, and even the web way back in the mid-1990′s. Some folks were excited and there were those skeptical of the new “fad//toy/useless/wasteful to business” technologies. Given how visible Google Glass is on one’s face, the potential benefits as well as potential ethical/privacy issues it represents, I think opinions on both sides will be stronger this time. In a conversation with a friend, I mentioned how Google Glass could be used for photojournalism and immediately, his response was “or voyeurism” to which I immediately agreed to this unfortunate possibility.

I bought Google Glass for professional and personal reasons. Professionally, I want to explore how this device could be used in student affairs and in higher ed. I’d like to connect with other folks who are already thinking on the applications of Google Glass in higher ed. The ability to play around with the device itself has certainly helped me think more about the possibilities. One function I’ve found useful is the ability to take photos through the wink feature while I’m on the go. It’s really convenient to take photos without having to take my iphone out of my pocket.

I also bought Google Glass for personal reasons, primarily for golf. I’m curious as to how I could use it to improve my swing at the driving range. Apparently, I have a tendency to sway and move my head a lot and this is not a good thing. Using Google Glass to record my movement while I’m swinging should help analyze these problems. Another use is for GPS on the course. Two days ago, I tried using it with the available golf glassware on the course, with not much luck. Given my limited experience with Google Glass the last two weeks, here are my initial observations:

Pros:

-Easy to learn. While there’s some learning curve involved, I was quickly able to figure out the basic gestures (back, forward, down swipes, tap) and voice commands for the device to be usable. Connecting the device to my iphone (personal hotspot/bluetooth) and with my wi-fi weren’t too difficult either. There were very specific steps involved, which includes pointing the Google Glass to a QR Code to connect it to the network,  so I just made sure not to miss any steps.

- It fits comfortably and adjusting it is very easy. The frame is made with titanium and so it’s strong and malleable.

- The wink feature, just recently added, is by far my favorite and most convenient to use. That  I didn’t have to take my iphone out nor did I have to issue a voice command “OK Google take a picture” to take photos is nice.

- Social media sharing. There are two ways to share photos/videos. First option is to “Send” to an individual who is in your Google+ contact. The second option is to “Share” to twitter or facebook. I’ve been able to share a photo via twitter (tagged with #throughglass) but I’m still figuring out how to share on facebook. I suspect this is because I have two-factor authentication enabled.

- Screencasting. The guest feature, which allows a Google Glass owner to share the device to others without exposing their personal information, has been disabled with the newest version. Screencasting, a feature which allows the display of what is on the Google Glass screen on a paired mobile device on the same network, is very convenient for demos.

- Google Support. My experience with the support team have been superb since I first inquired how to be on the Explorer Program months ago. Whether through their twitter account (@googleglass), via e-mail, phone calls, and the staff at the Google office, I’ve received very timely, professional, and friendly support.

Cons:

- I wear prescription glasses without them, the smaller text are hard to see as they are blurry. I will now have to use contact lenses for me to use the device. Another option, which I’ve already signed up for is to get a prescription eyeglasses for Google Glass.

- Wink feature doesn’t work with the shades on. While this should have made sense to me, I had to laugh at myself for not realizing this would not work since the camera could not detect my wink behind the shades. The problem with this is that I will most likely need the shades to see the screen better when I’m outside, like playing golf. I would like to use the wink feature, but it will not work.

- The case is a little bulky. The device doesn’t fold like a regular pair of glasses so it’s stored in a

Given my limited experience with Google Glass, I have many features to learn and I will be sharing them in the future as I use them.

As I’ve done with new technologies I’ve come across during my professional life, I look at Google Glass not only from a technologist’s perspective but from one who is curious about the sociological implications of this device. How will folks interact with me and what concerns will they bring up? I also try to look at this device from a student affairs perspective. As wearable computing becomes more prevalent, how will these devices change the way students communicate, how they build relationships, and how do they impact their identities in the way they represent themselves to others? How can we use these devices as part of our work? What ethical/legal/policy/privacy issues need to be considered?

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Asian American Identity Development In the Age of Social Media

I sometimes wonder how my ethnic identity development process would have been if social media were available during my college years in the 1990′s. This was a formative time for me, when I may have been in the midst of Stage 3 (Awakening of Social Political Consciousness) and Stage 4 (Redirection) of Kim’s Asian American Identity Development Model. I wonder about this when I come across tweets and blogs that remind me of these stages of my life when upon learning about  discrimination against Asian-Americans and from personal experience of what I perceived to be discrimination led me to being more politically aware and active. It was a time when I went through a period of discovery/exploration about my Filipino-American ethnic identity. Some may have perceived me as being angry while some may have viewed me as extreme in how I shared my pride as a Filipino-American.

As I think back to my time in college, I remember the times I watched movies and how I analyzed them from different perspectives.  For me, movies were more than entertainment. They were social and political commentaries. For example, why is it that white male characters are made to look bigger (camera angle points up) and Asian males are made to look smaller? There’s this one time we watched a Bruce Lee movie and a scene of Chuck Norris coming out of a plane shot in an angle which seemingly focused on his crotch. While watching this scene, I expressed to my then girlfriend that it’s Hollywood’s way of showing white male virility and proceeded to share my frustration about the portrayal of Asian men as geeks and asexual.  As the movie went on, I provided commentary on the significance of the characters and how the movie was made in relation to history of racial discrimination against Asian Americans . By the end of this movie, she was very frustrated that she could not enjoy it. I think she even refused to go to movies with me for awhile. I had taken a course on History of Asian Americans in Media where I learned the portrayals of Asian Americans throughout American movie history (Fu Manchu, White Peril, dragon ladies, asexual males, …).  What I learned from that class and my discussions with classmates led me to my extremely pessimistic view of the media, specifically when it came to portrayals of Asian Americans.

In relating to this day and age of social media where I see racism against Asian Americans like this  or this or this, I think how I would have reacted and expressed my views if social media were available at that time. As one who understands the capability afforded by social media as a platform to broadcast opinions/ideas to a large audience and to be able to do it anytime/anywhere with a mobile device, I wonder how my identity development during college would have been impacted by social media.

I suppose at this stage in my life, I’m in stage 5 of Kim’s model (incorporation stage) wherein I’ve come to terms with some aspects of my identity. I will note however that while my views and reactions may be less extreme, there are still many things around me today that really upsets me and I deal with them in my own way. For those who read my blog, you would have read some instances of what  I perceive to be personal experience of discrimination and unfairness. So, the struggle continues.

What’s your identity development process as it relates to social media? What role do social media play? Also, does Kim’s Asian American Identity Development Model resonate with you (if you’re Asian American)? If not Asian American, what model could you use for yourself?

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My Professional Reading List for 2013

kindle_joe_listThis year has been an intense learning experience for me. It was a year of learning driven by curiosity, the need for background information for projects with folks I met via social media, and in preparation for major projects at work. In addition, a significant portion of my learning came through reading, mostly on my iphone and kindle app. The topics I read include the following:

For the most part, I went through these books by skimming and scanning them. I then went back and deep read those I found really interesting and/or those requiring more analysis. There are some books who could have been better written, but I always start a book with an open mind so I try to find new ideas from them. However, there have been some books I have had to return (Amazon allows electronic refund within a couple of days after purchase) as I either found them to be too hard to read (author uses too many big words I don’t understand and I fall asleep/get headaches), or ideas are not well thought out, or just not very interesting. I found that in reading enough books of similar topics, I came to find themes. It is during times when I could combine themes from across disciplines/industries and analyze them as they relate to my current work and future of higher education that I find myself thinking about possibilities of where my world could be heading.

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Disrupting My Own Thinking

I don’t know about you, but I’m so busy at work just trying to keep up with what we need to build and maintain existing systems for our customers, it’s hard to see what’s coming ahead even a year ahead of us. Projects I work on take months, even a couple of years to build and I’m working on many of them at a time. I’m very busy managing. I think this is the issue posed by Clayton Christensen about disruptive innovation. Organizations miss emerging technologies/opportunities beyond their horizon because they’re too busy trying to meet the demands of their current customers. I can definitely relate to this.

If I don’t read books, blog posts, tweets, collaborate with folks outside work, I don’t think I would not even know about the larger issues and trends impacting higher education like MOOC, online learning, and student financial debt crisis. I work to satisfy the needs of our university students and our customers  but I read/communicate outside my university work to keep up with larger issues.

In a way, my interactions/experience with my personal learning network (PLN) which consists of higher education professionals and those outside higher education are what I use to disrupt my day-to-day, localized thinking. There are many ideas, programs I would like to implement at work but the reality is that I first need to satisfy what our customers demand and need. Does that mean I don’t think about new ways to meeting these demands? i absolutely think about new/improved ways, but they cannot be disruptive to a point where what I do severely impacts how they serve their customers in the process. They are incremental improvements. I believe in the idea of learning through failing, but “failures” do cost resources and money so when we implement or try new programs, we better start out with some thoughtful approach and define what we need to accomplish, we just can’t be trying new things just for the sake of experimenting. After all, our salaries and resources we use come from students and their families.

So, I go back to the idea of using my PLN and my experience outside my work to explore new ideas, to dream beyond possibilities, and to disrupt my own thinking. I was in with a twitter conversation about technology and graduate programs earlier tonight that got me thinking about the future of student affairs profession. I write this post, I am looking at my Pebble smart watch and waiting for my invite for a Google Glass. I’m thinking about buying this Estimote Beacon and combine it with Leap Motion to experiment with the idea of geo-fencing in my home. These are wearable and sensor technologies that I can’t see us using at work anytime soon (though I think they’ll be as common as smart phones the way it is now). But, it does not mean I can’t dream about what it may be like a few years from now either and imagine a campus so different from what I see now.

 

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Maintaining Your Sanity By Managing Your Expectations

sanity-insanity-road-signI believe one of the sources of our frustrations is when our expectations do not match the realities of our situations. I’ve learned through the years to recognize what I can control or influence and those I just simply need to accept as I’m in no position to change them. I’ve also learned it’s easier to change my perception and my emotional response than changing those around me. By re-framing or recognizing the boundaries of my control/influence, I’ve come to learn how to minimize my frustrations and even make the best of my situation.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life is that it’s probably easier to change myself (or my attitude) than to change other people. For example, some folks are just more naturally outspoken and have more dominant personalities than I do and during meetings, I’ve gotten frustrated when I’m not to be able to express my thoughts/ideas when the discussions are happening. Maybe it’s because I’m introverted and it takes a lot of energy for me to be in these situations or that I’m just not eloquent enough to be able to verbalize my thoughts. Sometimes, these folks are way above the organizational hierarchy or from other organizations and asking them to change their ways would probably not the wisest, nor the most effective move on my part. Given that I can’t change these folks, I’ve learned to change my attitude and expectations when attending these meetings. I’ve learned to relax and accept that these meetings are sometimes monologues and I’m there to just listen. I’ve come to realize when decisions have already been made and I wasn’t going to waste my effort and energy having to argue my points. If I do need to convey my ideas, one of the things I do is to write them down and email them to the group before or after the meetings. I may also just share my thoughts to other folks individually so they know where I’m coming from and they can help me express them during the meeting. Just a side note, when I facilitate meetings, I definitely make the effort to encourage other folks to participate and acknowledge their ideas.

Another scenario I’ve come to accept is that formal positions don’t always mean being in a position of authority. Throughout my career, I’ve led several committees and projects at our university ranging from departmental, divisional, to campus level. For the most part, my position as chair/leader of the committee/project meant I’m able to have a fairly high level of influence and I’m able to shape the discussions because of my expertise and/or position in the organization. However, there have been times when I find myself having the position in name only. Based on the politics, personalities, or the expertise of those involved, I find myself in the position in a role with limited authority. In the past, this would have bothered me and took it personally.  However, I’ve come to realize that as long as the objective of the project is being met and the process is generally what I consider respectful and productive, I will contribute in the way I can, even if it means just scheduling the meetings. This doesn’t mean however that I don’t exert my “authority” as a chair/lead and adjust the direction of the discussions when needed. What it does mean is that I’ve learned to “pick my battles” and not to take my situation personally.

It’s easy to get lost in the messiness we encounter along the process. Keeping the bigger picture and end goal in mind gives us compass to guide us along the way.

We all have ideas on how things should be. Personally, I’ve read so many books on leadership, communication, and organizational management and I sometimes forget these books are about what and how things should be in an ideal world. The reality is that these ideals could be far from our realities. Because of our value systems and experiences that shape our views of the world, we also set our own expectations. When these expectations are not met, it’s when we get frustrated. Keeping in mind that our ideals are not always shared by others and accepting this fact may just prove to be the difference in how well we maintain our sanity.

image credit: http://blog.tangocard.com/2012/12/28/definition-of-insanity-and-a-real-solution-for-gift-cards/sanity-insanity-road-sign/

 

 

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Challenges with Change and Innovation – More Than Technology

innovation_changeThe topics of change and innovation, specifically those related to technology intrigue me. I read about concepts of disruptive innovation, diffusion of innovation, and continual improvement process and at this point, I’m still trying to wrap my thinking as to how these relate and when can/should they be applied in higher education. Frankly, I have more questions than answers and so I continue to seek new knowledge and perspectives to make sense of it all.

I work in the technology field within higher education where I’ve witnessed and implemented business processes, enabled by technology, since the mid 1990′s. In the last few years, it seems the pace at which technologies change have become even faster. Who would have imagined the growth and impact of social media, cloud, mobile, and big data just five years ago?  In the last year or so, I started noticing more articles about wearable computing and “internet of things”. The blurring of the lines between computing services and products only available via IT departments years ago and those readily available to consumers , also known as “consumerization of IT“, have only become more pronounced in the last few years. These changes have provided opportunities and introduced new challenges. All these observations have led me to become more interested in trying to anticipate where the future of higher education and technology may be heading.

If change and innovation in higher education is only about technology, maybe, just maybe, it would be easy, if not for the fact that change involves culture, politics, traditions, paradigms, and personalities. Technological changes happen within the context of how higher education views itself in terms of its perceived roles (preparing students for careers,  to provide civic service by molding students as productive citizens, research) and how it operates (shared governance, teaching methods, funding priorities, etc). There is not a consensus on these views. The role of faculty and teaching methods are now being challenged in light of new learning opportunities provided to students because of technology, including Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) and personal learning networks. Current technologies have also added a new spin to the old debate of how individuals learn (objectivism vs. constructivism).

Beyond philosophical debates about the role of technology in higher education, from practicality’s perspective, it takes time and resources to introduce and implement new ways of using technology. It’s a process and the process involves human emotions. As one who works in IT, my role is a service provider to my university’s communities of staff, faculty, and students. At the core of my responsibility is to make sure the systems they use work properly as they would expect. Network outages and disruption of applications/web services are what we try to avoid. Given that failures, trial-and-error, not-so-perfect systems that lead to disruptions of services  are all part of the process when it comes to introducing new systems, how do organizations balance the need to manage for stability and provide room for transformational (and potentially disruptive) innovations? How do organizations gain buy-ins from faculty, staff, students and administrators to adopt new systems and new ways of doing things? I suppose more importantly, the question is when and how do we know when to apply incremental improvements vs. introducing radically new way of doing things and disrupting the system?

I’m hoping someone out there in higher education has figured out the answers to the questions I pose above because I have yet to I’ve figured all these out yet. If you have figured it out or have some ideas, let’s talk.

image credit: http://www.innovation-post.com/what-is-the-difference-between-innovation-management-and-change-management/

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Reminders of My Inferiority as a POC

I write this post with the acknowledgement that I own many privileges as a male, heterosexual, college-educated, Christian, able-bodied, employed, and a person living in America. Even with these privileges, there are times when I am faced with situations that remind me of my inferiority as a person of color. It was only last week when I went to a Best Buy store and the sales person would not even acknowledge me when I was just a couple of feet away from him. It probably took more effort to ignore me than to say hi or say the words “how may I help you”? Did I not look like I had any money to spend? When a waiter so obviously ignores my table and treat us and my friends like we don’t belong there, it bothers me. When a sales person at a Nordstrom store goes out of their way to go help a white couple, looking affluent, across the store and ignores me while I’m standing next to him, it bothered me. It bothered me enough I went and spoke with the store manager.I asked myself, was it my age, my look, the way I dressed? Today, a person at my university told me, unsolicited, “I didn’t wear my tie today just to feel important.” a reference to the fact that I was wearing a tie, like I do most days. I half-jokingly pointed to my arm and tells him “I have to wear ties just to be equal to others because of my brown skin.”  This person says “Oh no, I didn’t mean it that way, not at all.”  When another person jokingly, I think jokingly, asked me “whose ass did you kiss to get to where you are?” my immediate reaction at that moment is that they were just kidding and laughed it off, just to wonder later on what they meant. Did they think I got to where I am through some exception or tokenism? Maybe I don’t need to prove myself, but I have the feeling as if I need to prove my worth by working harder, longer hours. When a vendor I invited to demo a product chose not to look at me during his one hour presentation and focused on my two white colleagues the entire time, I wondered why was that?

As a person of color, an immigrant, there are things I notice that maybe my other colleagues or those around me probably don’t. It’s hard to explain, but there’s a gut feeling when these things happen that things just don’t seem right. The response I’ve gotten when I’ve questioned situations was “I was too sensitive.” Am I too sensitive? I don’t know. Maybe. At some point, I stopped sharing some of my concerns so as not to hear those words. What I do know is that I sometimes find myself trying to find reasons to justify  the actions of others directed at me and leading me to ask myself why was it that I was treated in a certain way. Is it simply because of how I look, how I act, how I speak, that I’m short? is it because of my skin color, my race? Maybe it has nothing to do with me. It’s just them.

When I was a freshman at UCSB a couple of decades ago, several of my hall mates had a discussion about how we were accepted to UCSB. One of them told me I was accepted because of affirmative action and that he had other white friends who had better grades than  I did who did not get in. Somehow I still remember this situation probably because throughout my life since this occurred, I am reminded of the fact that I am still seen as inferior and my accomplishments may have just been a result of tokenism and maybe that somehow I did not earn them.

These negative experiences I’ve had pale in comparison to what other friends of mine have told me. I’m fortunate I didn’t have to go through what they’ve gone through as persons of color, and here I am again, trying to minimize the negative impact of these experiences have had on me, but sometimes, they really do get emotions out of me. As individual incidents, they probably don’t amount to anything, but when these things happen often enough in one’s lifetime, they become hard to ignore.

 

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Experimentation Within Student Affairs

My “day job” as a service provider (IT) includes keeping the lights on, which means making sure the vendor and home-grown applications are functioning, managing several projects, fulfilling my leadership//supervisorial responsibilities to my staff, planning department/technology roadmaps, making sure my staff and our customers are happy, meetings, and dealing with emergencies in between. This is the reality of our daily work for many of us, not only in IT, but student affairs practitioners as well.  From IT perspective, any changes we introduce must not have disruptive and negative impact on our departments and their customers, this means changes must be incremental. Certainly, new projects present opportunities to think about and implement business process transformations. These projects take time, people, resources,and require navigating the politics, personalities, and cultures of the university. These all lead to the fact that we rarely have time to spend on experimentation to explore what may be considered radical ideas. Given the constraints and realities of our work, how can we then find the time and place to experiment and explore new ideas?

I spend enough time on various social media platforms (twitter, linkedin, blogs, facebook, etc) to read exciting ideas from professionals in and outside higher education. Following twitter back channel conversations from conference can be exciting at times just because this is when folks share ideas and intentions to go back to their campuses to implement what they just learned. I do wonder how many of these ideas ever come to fruition. Personal interest is one thing but to promote ideas as part of one’s formal job responsibility/authority is definitely more challenging. Even grass roots initiatives which may succeed at a small scale, at some point will require institutional support for these initiatives to grow at a larger scale.

To student affairs and higher ed colleagues reading this post, how have you manage to find time to do your “day job” and experiment at the same time?

 

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Work/Life Balance Discussion – A Privilege?

This is a post reflecting on this concept of work/life balance and how my upbringing  in an immigrant working class household whose father worked three or four jobs to support his family, shaped how I view my work and life.  It also led to me to thinking on whether this discussion is in itself a privilege afforded to those who have enough financial resources to have this conversation. This reflection is a result of observing conversations about this topic and wellness on social media amongst a group of student affairs professionals and at the same time painfully watching the devastation brought on by the typhoon in the Philippines and watching those lucky enough to live through the typhoon go in survival mode. This post is by no means a commentary on other people’s thoughts and their definition of proper work/life balance as ultimately, work/life balance is a personal decision. For me, I grew up thinking I’m fortunate to have a job and I do what I need to do to succeed, including working long hours, more than anyone else, to be able to be considered equal to my peers.

When my family and I immigrated to the United States, my parents, who are both educated in the Philippines, took jobs at the mall. My dad worked as a janitor and my mom worked at a pizza place. They needed to get the job they could get to support us. When I was in high school, they established their janitorial business in addition to their full-time jobs and my dad also mowed lawns. I don’t remember having any discussions about work/life balance growing up. This is the environment I grew up in. It wasn’t as if we were poor, maybe we were middle class, but certainly did not have the material belongings and other opportunities my wife and I could fortunately afford now. So, thinking about how I grew up, I ask these questions – do folks who are working in manual labor, working two or three jobs at minimum wage, ever have discussions on work/life balance when they’re trying to feed their families? How about single parents who need to work more than 8-5 to survive and at the same time must schedule their lunch breaks to accommodate their children’s activities? How about folks who are just trying to get jobs?

I’m not saying folks work/life balance should not happen because it definitely has real implications when it comes to mental/physical well-being and relationships. I do wonder if this discussion in itself is a privilege not afforded to all.

 

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Learning Student Affairs Through IT

One of the benefits of working for a central student affairs IT department is that I get to work and learn about the different business processes of the different units within student affairs. I also learn about other units on campus like academic departments who are often our partners when it comes to the information systems we provide. More significantly, I learn about the sub cultures, issues specific to each department and those they serve. By working with these units for many years, I’ve been able to witness and be participate in these evolutionary changes and business transformations on our campus, changes that span the entire student life cycle including enrollment management services units, student services, academic services, and residential life.  Most of these changes have been responses to issues the departments and the university were facing at that point in time. By looking at when systems were placed into production and the reasons behind them, it’s quite possible to figure out the political, cultural, student demographics, and environment of the campus, or beyond, at that particular time. An example is the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), a program to track foreign students and scholars in the United States. It was a program we had to implement on our campus by 2003 because of a federal mandate. This holistic perspective of student affairs is a unique view that is probably only available to Senior Student Affairs Officers (SSAO) as their positions are at the level where their scopes of responsibilities span multiple units.

Understanding the business processes is the window to my education on what student affairs is. My view of student affairs is that as a profession, we provide support for students on their personal and learning development while at our institutions. To understand student affairs, it is not enough to know what these units do. One must seek to understand the reasons behind them. This process involves learning about student development theories, history of higher education and student affairs, administration, governance, professional competencies, and topics specific to each section of student affairs. Because I did not attend a graduate program in student affairs and higher education, this process has been through self-directed learning, most of which comes from reading textbooks, journals, social media, and materials I can get my hands on.

To get a wider perspective of student affairs meant extending my experience and knowledge beyond UCSB student affairs where I work. Social media has made it easier to connect with colleagues from other institutions. It is through social media that I’ve developed my Personal Learning Network (PLN). I work for a research university and it’s been enlightening to learn from colleagues from community colleges, small liberal colleges, private, and other public institutions. While the theories an topics contained I read in textbooks may have come from decades ago, the lessons I learn from my other colleagues are present and often involves discussions about the future of higher education and student affairs. I even recently had the opportunity to visit another campus to do an external review of a student affairs IT department which further provided me a different perspective.

Learning about student affairs through IT may not be the conventional way, but I’ve come to appreciate the value of my experience working in IT when it comes to learning about student affairs. I also realized a long time ago that I also needed to combine my practical experience with theories to have a fuller understanding of student affairs. It’s an exciting time in higher education and technology is a major component and a driver with the changes happening in our field. Social media, mobile, cloud, big data, distance learning are technologies that have introduced new issues and opportunities to students and student affairs staff as well. It’s fun to learn these new technologies, but what is important is to understand the implications behind the use of these technologies. What do these technologies mean when it comes to how we perform our work, how we communicate with students, and how do they impact student development and learning? Working in student affairs IT is a good place to be a witness and be part of these changes.

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Student Employees in IT and Learning Outcomes

Higher education IT departments’ indirectly support student learning, development outcomes, and student success by providing technical support to the departments. In addition, by employing students, higher education IT departments have opportunities to directly impact student success by providing them with experiential learning opportunities to learn soft and technical skills in preparation for their careers. Given thoughtful consideration, students could be provided with learning opportunities that complements/enhances the lessons they learn in the classroom. This mindset is consistent with the values of student affairs, the belief that learning happens within and outside the classroom.

To maximize these  learning opportunities require re-examining technical job duties (code, troubleshoot) to include non-technical activities so they may learn how to communicate, work in teams, lead, and develop critical thinking skills. One of the consistent comments from computer science students we’ve hired in the past is how much they learn about working collaboratively and in teams from their experience working for our department. It seems they only get to work in teams in one or two of their computer science classes. As supervisors, how then do we ensure that learning happens both in the technical and soft skills areas? With career staff, we have performance evaluations based on job descriptions. We can extend this practice to students by providing them with performance evaluations and also defining learning outcomes, using assessment techniques to measure their progress towards these learning outcomes along the way. These learning outcomes could be growth in areas of technical and non-technical competencies.

By being intentional with the areas of competencies for our students to develop by defining learning outcomes, I believe they would be more effective in their positions and at the same time, we are both contributing to their learning process and preparing them for their careers ahead of them.

 

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Reflections from WRCSAD13 – Social Media and Student Affairs

wrcsadI attended the Western Regional Career in Student Affairs Day (WRCSAD) at Long Beach State University last Saturday as a member of the UCSB NASPA Undergraduate Fellowship Program (NUFP) group. This was my first student affairs conference aside from a student affairs technology conference (satech) in Rhode Island two years ago.  I met a few folks I have known via twitter in person (face-to-face) for the first time. I was also pleasantly surprised to meet a couple of student affairs pros who told me they’ve been following me on twitter. The sessions I attended including “Reflections from Senior Student Affairs Professionals”, “Professionals of Color” and “Research in Student Affairs” really invigorated me and validated the work that I do with students and through technology. The opening and closing keynote speakers were dynamic and provided personal perspectives on why they chose student affairs as a career. Another session I attended was “Social Media in Student Affairs.” The panel provided their insights on their personal/professional use of social media. The students and professionals in attendance also asked questions about issues/concerns they have about social media and one even shared their hesitation for using it. As I listened to the discussion, I thought about the different ways I use social media and how student affairs are using it. I was also thinking about the message from the opening keynote speaker, Dr. Dyrell Foster, Dean of Student Affairs from Rio Hondo College. Here are some of the topics he shared and how I think social media relate:

Congruence of personal and professional values:

Dr. Foster spoke about how his personal life experience and the values he learned from his family are consistent with his professional value system. I think the topic of “authenticity” comes up from time to time when it comes to how one represents him/herself on and off social media. Do we share/relate with others online as we do “face-to-face”? In addition, how much can we really separate our personal and professional lives on social media? Similarly, when it comes to our work, how much can we separate our personal values/perspectives with our work?

What is your reputation/legacy?

Dr. Foster asked the questions of what will be your reputation and the legacy we will leave behind. In my opinion, reputation is subjective, it’s how others define you from their perspectives. As subjective as it is, I think through our consistent actions and what we share, we develop reputation(s) and we do have the ability to shape how others view us based on how we act online or what we share through our facebook statuses, instagram photos, Vine and YouTube videos, tweets, Linkedin profiles and our blogs. With regards to legacy, what we write have the potential to be read and shared by more folks than we probably intended, and in some cases, even become the foundation for new projects at individual and institutional levels.

Who are your mentors/who will you mentor?

Dr. Foster also reminded the audience that student affairs is a very small field and that the student/pro we are sitting with may just be the one who will hire you or will connect you to the person who will be able to help you. Thank your mentors, he also said. I’ve met a few folks via social media who I’ve come to respect and follow. These are folks in student affairs, higher education and in technology fields. Since joining twitter on August 9, 2010, I’ve had the opportunities to share some of my personal experience and advice with some graduate students and other student affairs professionals. I consider mentoring as a relationship and so my experience with other folks on social media may not be defined as “mentorship”, though the potential for conversations that started via social media could lead to meaningful mentoring relationships.

 As student affairs professionals, our identities and value systems are very much related to our work. The enjoyment and satisfaction we receive from our jobs I think relates to how aligned our value systems are with the work that we do. The folks around us and the communities we work with also matter. In this digital age, our communities have become larger than on our physical campus. Our identities and the impact of our what we do are also changing because of social media.

 

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A Glimpse of Student Affairs in the (Near) Future?

future_of_student_affairsThere will come a point in the near future when these five forces — mobile, social media, data, sensors (internet of things) and location, as Robert Scoble and Shel Israel call them in their book “Age of Context” will transform student affairs. As with every technology, the applications of these technologies have negative and positive consequences. Privacy is certainly at the forefront of concerns. For example, this article is about a proposed legislation related to cell-phone tracking in retail stores. Consider these probable scenarios: Continue reading

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Preparing for a Career Yet to Be Invented

Even the most skilled and brightest futurists in the 1990′s could not have predicted the upcoming massive changes in the first decade of 2000 in higher education brought upon by consumer technologies such as web, social media, cloud, and mobile computing. I still remember a job interview in the late 1990′s for a university web director position in which I was asked to present on my vision of the university in the next decade and the role of web and other technologies. Nowhere in my mindset were the consumer technologies that changed how we in the universities and students now do our day-to-day activities and business processes. I am intrigued and curious as to what the higher education of 2020 would be like. I read predictions such as this “Higher education in 2020: three key forecasts from new report” and this (“College 2020″)  as well as Gartner IT Predictions for 2014 and Beyond to get a sense of what’s to expect, though the accuracy of these long term predictions obviously remains to be seen. However, even as I remain cautious about the validity of these predictions, what I know is that I better keep up with the trends, even if these trends are not part of what could be considered as part of my job.

Yesterday, I spent a few hours with some student affairs directors brainstorming about communications in our division. I’ve been told in the past that our role as IT is to provide the tools and the departments are the ones who communicate with students. Frankly, I’ve never believed in the idea that IT is just a tool/utility provider. I believe the value of IT comes not only from the infrastructure we manage but as well as from the innovation and transformation of business processes that became possible because of the partnership we have with our business units to develop new systems and new processes to do our business. It is with this mindset that I approach communication and the role of IT. It is also with this mindset that I view my role as an IT manager/leader. I personally believe, to be an effective IT leader, I need to keep up with the preferences and demands of our students, our staff and other customers, including the way they would like to communicate. I need to keep up with technologies and the mindset that come along with them.

I was recently asked if IT should be involved in communications and marketing, to which I responded “I don’t see any reason why IT should not be.” Traditional thinking of IT probably does not include communications and marketing as part of their responsibilities but the way I see it, given that technology is such a big part of communication these days (as it has been in recent years) as well as in the future, IT folks better start re-considering this traditional view.

The increasing convergence between IT and marketing/communication led me to think about what my career in the future would be. A few years ago, the idea of a social media/communication/marketing position and a videographer reporting to me in IT would probably not have been an idea well accepted. After all, that’s not what IT does. It’s probably not a conventional arrangement to have these positions in IT in many organizations, even to this day. Thinking a few years ahead from now, I wonder how the role of IT will evolve.  Will IT, as an organization, be combined with other departments, like marketing and communication and be seen as part of digital service organization? With this evolution, how will my role and responsibilities change?  Ten years from now, will I have a career I would never have envisioned as it does not exist today?

As I think about the possibilities and the uncertainties of the future, what I do know and what I’ve committed myself to, is to continually learn and understand emerging technologies, the changing nature of higher education, the changing demographics of our students as well as their preferences and demands. Learning is a process and it takes time. Learning is a journey that’s not always straight line. Along the way, I’ve been introduced to ideas, people that I did not expect to meet. So, while I do not know what my career holds in the future, I will continue to prepare and learn towards whatever the destination will be.

 

 

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Reframing Our Professional Purpose

frameAbout a year ago, I wanted to attend a student affairs technology conference that did not necessarily focus on IT (application development, networking, security, enterprise software) but rather on topics like social media, engaging students with technology, and digital identity. I shared my hope to attend with a colleague in IT and the response was “that’s not what we do. That’s what the other departments do.” I would say, given my job description and what I would consider the role of traditional IT, my colleague is correct. Traditional IT is seen as a utility and what we do is implement/support systems. We enable student affairs departments as well as the campus to do their business functions.

How I view my position in  student affairs IT is a little different. I see myself as a student affairs professional serving students through my work in IT. I see myself as a member of the university community, and not just an IT employee. Because I see myself as a student affairs professional, I also view myself as an educator, a student mentor, advisor, and advocate for their success and I’ve demonstrated these through volunteer positions outside my formal role in IT (First Year Experience teaching assistant, organizational advisor, applications reader). Given this perspective, I saw the conference as an opportunity for me to learn about technology-related  topics and to understand the perspectives of student affairs practitioners. It was my opportunity for me to understand the purpose of why we, in student affairs IT exist.

I also wrote this blog post about my view of the role student affairs IT should play. As I mentioned earlier, IT is traditionally seen as a utility provider. I would like to think that given the significant role technology plays in student affairs and in the lives of our students and other customers, we need to be viewed both as a utility, providing the infrastructure needed (network, servers, hardware, software) as well as partners in defining how we can use technology to transform how we do business in student affairs and on campus.

We have formal job titles with given job descriptions and we get paid to perform these responsibilities. I think it’s important to re-frame our purpose beyond what is listed as job responsibilities on our job descriptions. Our organizations, as they exist,  probably need some examination to determine if we are current with the times. We need to go beyond the boundaries of what we see when we come to work everyday. We are a part of a bigger system.

Ultimately, we need to ask bigger questions beyond what is it that we do. We need to ask the questions “what is our ultimate purpose?” and “why do our roles exist”?

image credit: http://reframemedia.com/about

 

How I Lost 20 Pounds in 3 Months

For the last three months, I committed myself to losing weight towards better fitness and as a challenge. In the past, I had gone through two separate personal challenges when I ate at least 1 salad for a meal/day for 100 as well as 40 consecutive days. I had set out to lose 20 pounds by the July 31st when I started on April 28th. I did meet that goal one day later than I had planned, but nevertheless, I consider it a successful attempt. This post is about some lessons I’ve learned the last three months that contributed to meeting my goal of losing weight. Overall, I needed to have the motivation and attitude to want to lose weight. I also needed some support, strategies, and tools to lose weight. Wanting to lose weight without the tools and strategies to go through the process and vice versa would not have worked.  What I will share below seem to be common sense and they are. The key is to actually committing through the process. Here are some lessons learned:

Find motivations/inspirations that will drive you to start and maintain your effort. Why are you trying to lose weight in the first place? For me, it’s because I hated hearing my doctor tell me I have to lose weight every time I went for a visit. He warned me about potential health issues if I maintain or increase my weight. I also got tired of not being able to find clothes that fit me. I just didn’t like the way I see when I looked in the mirror.I remember Anthony Robbins, the author, write something like “people will only change  because their situation is so painful they want to change or the perceived benefit of the change is so great they want to change.” In my case, I found my situation “painful” enough for me to change.

Find supporters. My wife’s support was key in my weight loss. She and I love to eat and try new food. She can also cook some amazing dishes I request. These dishes are not always healthy but nevertheless, she accommodated my requests. We both committed to changing our eating habits which involved some extra work and opting not to eat what we had enjoyed. For one, she prepared fruits and vegetables which I brought to work for snacks. She also prepared breakfast (scrambled egg white with spinach) I ate before leaving home. This was in place of donuts and pastries I bought at work. While we both enjoyed eating rice and desserts, we chose to minimize the portions we ate or just stopped eating them altogether. During the last three months, we rarely ate rice and even if we did, it was measured so that it was no more than 1 cup per meal.

Develop strategy. Maintaining a sustained effort, which includes daily routines, in the last three months was key. As mentioned above, I was mindful of what I chose to eat and it required some preparations. When my wife and I wanted to eat at restaurants, we looked at their menu online first to plan what to order. Also noted above is the preparation of healthier food to snack on throughout the day. I also found opportunities throughout my work day (and weekends) to have some physical activities. For example, instead of sitting at my desk during my lunch break, I would walk around the campus and go to the beach. Instead of driving to meetings across campus, I opted to walk instead. I also went to the golf course, either just by hitting some balls at the range or playing a couple rounds of golf with some friends. In short, I ate more of the right food at lesser portions and committed to more physical activities.

Use tools to support your effort. I also used Weight Watchers system and its mobile app.  Weight Watchers assigns a number of daily points to use and different foods have corresponding values based on their nutritional values. For example, fruits and vegetables are worth 0 points while meat, pastries, and processed food are worth more. To me, Weight Watchers is more than being aware of what I ate but rather, it was a behavior modification system. By keeping track of what I ate and also guiding me towards food that are healthier (and smaller portions), this changed how I viewed food in general. Another app similar to Weight Watchers is LoseIt! This app doesn’t assign points but it does count calories for the food you eat as well as calories lost from activities.I also use my iWatch and MapMyWalk mobile apps to monitor my daily activities.

Don’t expect results overnight. I didn’t see much result the first week or so and I almost gave up. I didn’t lose any weight that first week and I became discouraged but my wife kept on encouraging me to not give up. After the second week, I lost a couple of pounds and that gave me some hope and motivation to continue.

Have fun doing it/Don’t suffer (too much). To be able to sustain an effort that is not easy to do for an extended period of time without having fun along the way probably doesn’t work. In my case, I made a game out of the process. If I knew I had a planned big dinner, I planned what I could eat during the day so I don’t go hungry and still save my points for dinner. I do have to mention one significant change I made is that I began to snack between meals. When I felt hungry, I ate fruits, vegetables, or cinnamon rice cakes. I’m not sure if this change resulted in how my metabolism works.I also kept track of my activities, such as number of steps for the day, and I tried to meet the goals I had set for the day. As mentioned above, I also started playing golf more or just walking around the campus more often as I knew these activities contributed to my weight loss. A side benefit to these activities was that I felt mentally better. I used the time to relax and think about ideas and dream about the ideal future for my wife and me.

My motivations and the methods I used worked for me though it may not work for you reading this post. So, find what works for you using the general advice I shared.