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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

 

Blessed and Privileged Beyond Belief

There was once a time when I was a young kid in the Philippines when my family, four of us, lived in a one bedroom, probably no bigger than  a size of a typical dorm room. I remember my sister and I having to wake up early and take a bath outside, early enough, before our neighbors even wake up. But through it all, I never felt poor. I never felt as if I was deprived of anything in my life. We’ve always been a close-knit family and I think for me that’s what mattered the most. We didn’t have much money yet somehow my parents were able to give us things we needed. When my sister and I had to buy school uniforms, when I had to get a new boy scout uniform, they always seem to find ways. My dad, he’s very resourceful and a very hard worker. As far as I can remember, he always found ways to get side jobs. Oftentimes, he held more than one. When we moved to the United States in 1984, my parents immediately took jobs available to them at the local mall in Salinas. Throughout high school, my dad always worked two almost full-time jobs and still found the time to have his own janitorial service and mowed lawns during his time off. They never asked for anything from my sister and I. To this day, they have not asked for anything in return for what they have given us.

It’s times like this, three o’clock in the morning, when I get the time to reflect about my life that I realize how blessed I am. How privileged I am beyond belief. It’s all because of my parents’ sacrifices. Who would have thought I would have the career I have had to this point. I’m happily married to a wonderful partner. We’re enjoying life.

I’ve had challenges in life,feeling like an outcast at times, feeling like I’m not smart enough, like  I don’t belong but frankly, those challenges don’t matter as much anymore. I suppose, I can look back at them and in the bigger scheme of things, they’re trivial. I look at opportunities ahead of me and I’m just excited. Changes are happening and life is good. Life is good. I feel blessed. I feel privileged beyond belief.

 

 

This or that – Life is too short.

Life is short. So cliche, but so true. A friend and colleague passed away just the other day and it’s during these times I am reminded of how valuable my time really is and where I should focus my time and energy. Some of the thoughts that came to mind:

  • I can spend my time worrying about what I can’t control or put my efforts and enjoy towards those areas  I do have control.
  • I can be depressed about things I don’t have or be grateful for the things I do have.
  • I can think about how life is so unfair because I wasn’t given opportunities or just suck it up and move on.
  • I can spend time criticizing others for their shortcomings or reflect on mine and work on improving them.
  • I can spend my time getting frustrated about what happened in the past, which I can’t change, or focus my attention towards the present and the future.
  • I can get mean people get to me or just ignore them.
  • I can keep on talking about things I’d like to do or go ahead and do them.
  • I can ask keep on asking for permissions or just ask for forgiveness later.
  •  I can keep on making excuses or just do something about it.

Life really is short. Life has been good. I just need to remember how good life really is.

 

 

Adversities as Catalysts to Growth and Opportunities

We can use adversities to open doors to opportunities, provided we have the right attitude when dealing with them. It’s easy to sulk and complain about how life is unfair when we’re going through hard times, but we can learn about ourselves, our resiliency, and capabilities if we just change our mindset and recognize these adversities may just be opportunities in disguise. As I look back at the major difficulties in my career, I realize these were the times when I experienced significant growth.

Some of my biggest professional growth and opportunities happened as a result of challenges I was presented with. These challenges became my catalysts to think hard about my future and what sacrifices I needed to make as well as skills I needed to develop to get to where I wanted to go. As I will share below, these three challenges gave me a “kick in the butt” to change direction and in turn led to opportunities I could not have even imagined.

My first significant adversity happened about a year into my first job, I had to deal with daily frustrations at work because of conflicts I had with a co-worker. For every web project I worked on, my co-worker took it upon himself to change my work before it went into production. We were peers so I did not understand why he seemed to have the authority to make the final decision and why he changed my work without asking my permission. I was inexperienced dealing with work conflict at that point in my career so I went home angry and frustrated. There was a couple of times when I was so frustrated I punched walls in my apartment and my work situation started to affect my relationship with my then girlfriend. After months of frustrations, I made the decision to leave my job as I didn’t think my relationship and health weren’t worth sacrificing. However, I knew I needed to build my web and database programming skills before I could leave. For about six months, I spent many hours almost every night, going until 3 am, learning how to develop and design web applications. I bought at least 50 books on Active Server Pages, Visual Basic, and Access database from a local Borders bookstore and went through almost every exercise in these books. This was a time when there was no remote access so I had to drive to work every night to use my computer. Interesting enough, when I was ready to start looking for work, my co-worker decided to leave and I remained with my job. The six months of intensive learning provided me with skills that led me to building more complex applications at work and led to consulting jobs as well.

My second major period of growth happened several years ago, our department had a major re-organization and my web development team was dismantled to fit the new structure. I was “asked” to switch position from a manager of the team to a new role of web architect. I had a close relationship with my team and considered them my family. This was one of the few times in my life when I felt depressed. It even came to  a point when I couldn’t concentrate and almost hit a pedestrian while driving to work. I did not enjoy my new position because I no longer met with customers and I had no interaction with my old teammates. I wasn’t also learning new technologies that were becoming popular at that time like ASP.Net and SQL Server. After long conversations with my wife and with her approval, I made the hard decision  to move to a new organization accepting a pay cut. I made the move because the new organization had the reputation of providing abundant training opportunities and I wanted to prepare myself for the future by getting formal trainings and experience working with ASP.Net and SQL Server. I went to several trainings and I was given opportunities to develop more sophisticated applications. However, after about nine months, my former department had another major re-organization and they had created a new unit that needed a manager. I was offered the manager position managing my previous teammates as well as new employees. The formal trainings and experience I gained in that short nine months proved to be beneficial in my new position.

The most significant challenge and growth I experienced started about three years ago. Our organization had a major project converting a legacy system. This project required most of my staff’s participation. It was a critical system so it had to succeed even if it meant stopping all other projects, which we did. It was the right thing to do. Unfortunately for me, I was not part of this major project and I did not have the resources to work on other projects. It was a frustrating few months because as much as I wanted to contribute to our organization, it became impossible. It was an order not to work on other projects and I was told not to meet with my staff. I looked for tasks to work on, but after a while, I even ran out of things to do. I started questioning my value and whether I had a future in the organization.With the prospect of an uncertain future, I began to spend my thinking and working towards my goal towards a senior management position in student affairs. My plan was to use my IT background and student affairs experience to work towards a senior student affairs administrator position like Dean of Student Affairs Technology. Typically, senior student affairs positions require advanced degrees, but as unconventional as my background may be, I was and still am convinced there’s a need for a technology strategist at the senior student affairs level. I hope my combined experience/interest in student affairs and IT knowledge will lead me to a senior management position somewhere in the future.

With the available time I had and driven in part by concern of not having a place in my current organization, I committed to spending as much as I can to learn about student affairs and IT management. I began to learn about student affairs and higher education history, contemporary issues, and the skills/knowledge taught in grad schools,  by whatever means available to me. It was during this time when I dedicated myself to reading many student affairs textbooks and becoming involved with NASPA to network with other student affairs professionals. I also became more involved on campus as a NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program (NUFP) mentor and a planning member for a professional development program for new student affairs professionals. In addition to learning more about student affairs, I also spent a lot of time learning about IT leadership and management.

I also became more active on social media (twitter), specifically on #sachat and #satech which are virtual communities of student affairs professionals and graduate students. I began to write more on my blog about student affairs, technology, and leadership. Because of my active participation on twitter and my blog posts, I was contacted by a fellow student affairs IT director for a university in Texas to serve as an external review team leader to do a program evaluation of their IT department.

After the major project was successfully completed, fortunately, my worries about my future within my organization disappeared as my responsibilities increased, my leadership role in my organization became more significant, and the units I oversee also expanded with more staff reporting to me.

The last three years have been a period of significant growth for me. It has been a time of opportunities I could not have even imagined. As I look back at the career challenges I faced, I am now grateful for them. Without these adversities, I probably would not have had the motivations to make some hard choices and to commit my time towards preparing myself for the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blogging as Part of Identity Development/Exploration

When I started my blog, my goal was to share my professional thoughts. After two hundred blog posts and almost four years later since I posted my first post, my blog has become a part of my identity development and exploration. In part, it’s a documentation of my personal and professional growth, but it’s within the the process of reflections and thinking when I write my posts that gave me the opportunity to examine my value systems that drive not only my professional aspirations but leads me to question how and why I think the way I do. In sharing my thoughts through my blog, my posts have led to conversations and exchange of ideas beyond social media.

Most of my posts were written between 10 pm to 3 am in the morning, and it’s because those are the times when I can have the focus to be able to think deeply about my life and my career. I wish I can write whenever I want to, but the reality is that I can only write about topics that really interest me and when events or people get emotions out of me. I’ve come to admit long time ago, my blog posts are not always grammatically correct and I rarely go back and review/edit them. I’ve come to accept this may be bad practice as a writer, but I find there’s authenticity when I write raw words just coming out of my head and driven by emotions. There have been times when I’ve written posts as tears flowed because I was so emotionally invested in what I was writing about. I get emotional when I think about the sacrifices my parents made and how blessed I am because of them. I get angry when I think about those times when I felt treated lower than others for whatever reasons. I am happy when I write about students who remind me of why I am in student affairs.

As I look back at my posts, I realize they have also become documentations and reflections of my past life. My family and I have come a long way since we immigrated from the Philippines in 1984. Through hard work and dedication, and mostly from my parent’s support, our family has done well. We have endured challenges that to this day still make me upset and have received blessings beyond my expectations.

My posts have also become a place for me to explore my future. In sharing my vision of student affairs like this post or this and this, I inevitably begin to think about the directions my wife and I would like to pursue. I begin to think about our hopes and aspirations and what it would take for us to get to where we want to go.

I’ve considered my blog as my place to express my thoughts without interruptions and where I’m free to think how I think. Some of my thoughts are stuck in draft mode and they may never be published as the tone and content of those posts may not be perceived as being appropriate, but I do look at them from time to time to remind myself of my thoughts and mindset when I wrote them. While I didn’t intend for my blog to be a reflection place and a documentation of my past and future lives, my blog has served a purpose greater than I had ever intended.