Author Archives: Joe Sabado

Owning My Privileges

There’s a certain level of privilege when we start telling others to conform/adopt our beliefs. When we tell others that they “should” do things in certain ways because that’s how we think things ought to be, sometimes we forget not everyone may not have the same level of resources, same experience, and have the luxury we do. I know I’m guilty of it, and I’m working at checking my privileges when I catch myself imposing my beliefs to others. Let me give you some examples:

  • We tell desperate job seekers to be selective about where they should work when these folks just want a place to work for.
  • We tell folks who work a lot of hours to practice work life/balance when they may need to work those extra hours to feed their families.
  • We tell others to approach their career paths to mirror our own and because it’s the formula for moving up when that may not work for them.
  • We tell folks to challenge the system when this could mean this could get them fired.

By no means am I saying the advice above are wrong but I do keep in mind the options I may not be available to others. What works for me may not work for others.

Celebrating the Success of Others

Wouldn’t it be nice if the success and accolades given to others are not taken as threats to our own? One of the wonderful things about social media is that I get to read about the personal and professional accomplishments of my friends and colleagues. Life can be hard at times for everyone and so I welcome and enjoy the good things that happen to folks I know. I have so many colleagues who work hard behind the scenes and they unfortunately never get the recognition they deserve. I also think we live in a world wherein we don’t share our appreciations of others enough.

In a perfect world, we’d all be cheering for each other and we should be able to freely share our successes. Unfortunately, we live in a world of scarcity where the success of others can be seen as taking credit away from someone else. This can lead to crab mentality, and as described on wikipedia - “members of a group will attempt to ‘pull down’ (negate or diminish the importance of) any member who achieves success beyond the others, out of envy, conspiracy or competitive feelings.” In my life, I’ve been on both sides. I’m not perfect after all and there were times when negative emotions got the better of me where I became jealous of other people’s success.This is something I’ve worked on as I matured and  I’ve learned to adopt the mentality that people should get the credit that they deserve. I’ve also been a victim of crab mentality in my career which almost caused me a job.

Given the negative reactions folks receive when they share their accomplishments, I think this has lead some to either stop sharing them and/or sharing them in self-effacing manner so as not to be seen as bragging. There are those who definitely can be excessive in how they talk about their good fortunes and possessions but there are also others who I think are genuine in appreciating about their accomplishments and they are excited to share them with their colleagues and friends.

We all need some encouragement from time to time and I do hope that when folks are recognized for the work and contributions they truly deserve, let’s just congratulate them.



Technologies, Assessment, and the Future of Student Affairs

Technology will increasingly become a major factor in future of student affairs. 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 limitations.

The future of student affairs will include consumer technologies including mobile, data, sensors, social media, cloud, wearable computing, and location-based. This 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.

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.

Self-Reliance and Career Development

I have had several mentors and sponsors who have guided and advocated for me throughout my career. For this, I am very grateful. There is no way I would have advanced in my career without the help of many.   However, at times, I also fell into the trap of relying on others for my career advancement and lost a sense of self-accountability in terms of proactively planning for my future, learning new skills, and promoting myself along the way. Somehow, because I had gotten help from my mentors/sponsors, I took for granted that they may not always be able to help me all the time. In some cases, I assumed they knew the direction and opportunities I wanted but as I later found out, they had no clue.  I came to realize even when they did want to provide opportunities for me within the organization, there are other factors in play that prevented them from doing so. Organizational politics, personalities, and my career interests not aligning with organizational priorities are just some factors that prevented me from moving on to areas I wanted to progress into. I can recall key moments in my career when I was disappointed when opportunities came and passed me by and I unfairly expected others to come and advocate for me. I fell into the victim mentality, blaming others for my missed opportunities. Gradually, I came to the realization that I may just be relying on others too much, failing to take ownership of my career development. This shift in attitude, taking personal accountability, has become more empowering and has provided me with a sense of control when it comes to my career.

One constant message I share with others with regards to career development is that they have to “own their career”. One should not have to wait for others to learn new skills and knowledge. I firmly believe professional development is a personal choice and a commitment. One should create professional networks and develop relationships before they are needed.

It is conference season in student affairs and one of the topics discussed during this time is how to network online and at the conferences. I personally make the effort to provide opportunities for others to connect via introductions and I also take it upon myself to make the first step. I tweeted this a few days ago as part of a conversation about this topic:

My point about the tweet above is that, if we rely on others to help us out, that help may never come. We must take it upon ourselves to make the first move or we end up watching others while we sit on the sideline. Do you want that opportunity? Prepare yourself then take steps for your interests, skills, and accomplishments to be known. I grew up in a household and a culture that discourage talking about ourselves and our accomplishments. But, I realized at some point in my career, this was not always helpful. There’s a fine line between self-promotion for the sake of ego and advocating for ourselves because we need to. But, there are times when we do have to talk about ourselves or no one else will. Others will interpret this several ways based on their perspectives of us, some positive and some negative, even with our best intention.

I sometimes hear others complain about their jobs feeling as if they have no their choices but to stay where they are. Frankly, I think there are always choices, some choices harder than other. Does it take time and effort to make a change? Absolutely! I do believe life is too short to be in a job without joy and satisfaction. When one’s not happy at work, it does impact our personal lives and the folks we care about.

Ultimately, we have to be accountable for our own career development and be our biggest cheerleader.