Author Archives: Joe Sabado

The Need for More Conversations on Character

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

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

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

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

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

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

My IT Organization’s Guiding Values and Principles

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

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

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

Mission:

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

Three Components: PEOPLE, PROCESSES, PHILOSOPHY

PEOPLE:

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

PROCESSES:

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

PHILOSOPHIES:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Issues and Considerations with Evolving Student Affairs Technologies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

On Social Media – What Resonates Gets Our Attention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Head Scratching Incident at the Golf Course – Is It About Race Again?

It seems silly for me to be complaining about this given where this happened – at a golf course. It is a privilege to be playing a sport/activity that costs quite a lot of money. So, in that sense, I do recognize the socio-economic privilege I hold. But, this incident I will share below is one of those head scratchers on how I am treated in a certain way. Maybe it’s all in my head, but experience tells me, probably not.

I was playing golf with a work friend of mine. He’s one of the top administrators on campus and he’s white male. We were riding on the same golf cart. At one of the holes, one of the golf marshalls approached us from afar and asked if one of us had left a golf club. As I looked in my bag, I realized that it could have been one of mine. I responded, “yes, I think it’s mine. Does it have a blue/black grip?” He responded with “where did you leave it?” I responded with “I’m not sure. ” I also provided him with another piece of detail about the club. He still had that look like he didn’t believe me based on the look on his face and he wasn’t going to give it to me. It is that very moment when the thought of “if I’m white, would he be asking all these questions?” My friend, after noticing my reaction, immediately said something like “I wonder if you’re white, he wouldn’t have done that to you.”  Again, it could just be all in my head, but it’s these kinds of moments that trigger some thoughts about other incidents in my life when I wonder why I’m treated differently.

We actually wanted to do an experiment to see if the same marshall would react differently if my buddy had left his club and how he would act when he returns it to us. But, we continued to play on.