About 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”?
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