Category Archives: Student Affairs

What Defines a Student Affairs Professional?

What is a student affairs professional? This seems like an easy question yet I haven’t found a definitive answer. When I see questions such as “do student affairs professionals need a Master’s degree?”, I wonder even further as to what folks are referring to as professionals. In a typical student affairs organization, there are different classifications of jobs that make up the organization. For example, in UCSB Student Affairs Division, there are more than 30 units and within these units are folks assigned to different roles. For example, in student health service, we have physicians, medical assistants, administrative assistants, business officers, and store room staff. We also have an IT unit consisting of technology professionals as well administrative staff. In our Disabled Student Services office, we have advisors, adaptive technology staff, and again, administrative staff.

Given the sample of roles in our division mentioned above, I have to think that not everyone in the division needs Masters degree to do their jobs. However, I must ask, “if student affairs professionals do need Master’s degree, what qualifies one to be a student affairs professional?” That a staff works in a student affairs organization, does that qualify them to be considered “student affairs professional”, are there particular roles within student affairs organizations that are “professionals”,  or does one need some educational credential to be considered one?

What do you think?

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Click on image above to view pdf version.

 

The Benefits of Building/Managing Your Digital Reputation

Reputation can be defined as other people’s perceptions of a person’s character. In the realm of digital space, including social media, reputation is built on 1) the content a person produces or shares (tweets, blog posts, photos, videos, …) and their interactions with others (digital footprint) and 2) what others share about a person (digital shadow). The terms digital footprint and digital shadow are coined by Eric Qualman.

This post is about some of the benefits I’ve personally received by having an intentional digital presence through my blog, twitter, linkedininstagram, pinterest, goodreads, slideshare, and facebook.  When I joined the social media platforms I mentioned a few years ago, I could never have imagined the folks I would meet which led to professional collaborations and opportunities that have come my way. I’ve also developed some friendships along the way. I share the following list to illustrate how a person such as myself who, in my opinion, is no different than most folks in my professions (student affairs, higher ed IT) can benefit from having a positive presence online.

  • Elected as NASPA Technology Knowledge Community Chair (2017-2019).
  • Hired as consultant by two universities to lead an external program review team.
  • Co-present sessions on social media at a couple of conferences.
  • Invitation to NASPA Technology Summit in Washington, DC.
  • Invitation to contribute an article on NASPA Leadership Exchange Magazine.
  • Invitation to co-author a chapter on Student Affairs technology.
  • Accepted as an assessor to a UC Leadership program based on my blog posts about leadership.
  • Invitation to speak to student affairs grad students on digital reputation.
  • Invitation to be a guest on a podcast to talk about student affairs technology.
  • Opportunities to speak on digital reputation and alternative professional development for multiple groups at UCSB.

When I share my perspectives online, I’m not always sure how others receive my message. Even with the best and clear intentions, my messages are received in many ways. Given that realization, I’ve developed some principles that guide how I present myself and how I interact with others online. Some of my main principles include:

  • Be honest.

When folks including my Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, our campus CIO, my colleagues, students, my family and friends, and other professionals I respect follow me on social media, I better be consistent and honest with what I share.

  • Be kind in how you relate with others.

Even when I’ve disagreed with other folks, I always try to maintain respect as I would like to be   treated with the same kindness myself. One of the limitations of social media is that one does not get the full context of what is being shared or how a person may act.

  • Aim to provide value to others.

With my blog, I started primarily writing about my personal and professional interests. I’ve found my blog as a way to release my frustrations related to my experience as a person of color and share my visions of what I think student affairs and technology may hold in the future.  While I still primarily write for myself, I’ve found that others do relate to the topics I write about. I get messages from folks who tell me how a blog post prompted them to re-frame their thoughts or how they can relate to my experience, specifically about racism and discrimination.

Another way I’ve found myself to be of value is by connecting folks from different circles of my life. Just like I do in conferences or parties, it’s fun to be able to introduce friends and colleagues who may share interests and then gently step away so they can have the space to continue the conversation themselves.

I do have some missteps from time to time and I don’t always follow my principles, I’m human after all, but I do strive to apply the principles I mentioned above.

I hope my post has convinced you (if not already) that building/maintaining a positive digital presence do have some benefits. Please let me know if I could provide you some ideas on how to get started.

How about you? How are you managing your digital presence and what principles do you use?

Social Justice and Information Technology

Social justice and higher education information technology (IT) are two topics that are typically not associated or discussed. However, given the impact and the role of information technology in the daily lives of students (as well as prospective) and the campus community at large, social justice as a lens on how information technology are designed and implemented should be given more consideration. Social justice, in the context of this post, relates to distributive and procedural. Tyler and Smith (1998) define distributive justice as “distribution of limited goods and resources based on principles of equity, need, or equality” and procedural justice as the “influence during the decision-making process.” As information technology professionals, we have the obligation to ensure the systems we implement are designed in a way that promotes access to higher education and enables students to be successful in graduating and meeting their goals in attending college. We have the obligation to think beyond our privileges (race, ability, socio-economic background, education, etc) and think about the impact of the systems we provide  may have on those who are from under-presented and disadvantaged communities.

As I think about my experience as a first generation college student in 1991, the process of choosing which school to attend,and how intimidating and confusing the admissions application (including financial aid) was back then, I only wonder how much more complicated the process is now for students and their families. Not only do they need to understand the application process in itself but they must also navigate through multiple websites to get the information they need to make the decision which school to attend, submit their application, apply for financial aid, reserve orientation session, apply for housing, and many more steps depending on their backgrounds. Even at our university, I must admit that we can and need to do better in consolidating/integrating our websites (currently with different navigation, design, information structure) so applicants should not have to access several websites during the application process. I brought up the situation above because it relates to the topic of access to higher education. I think about how many students from low socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds with low digital literacy are disadvantaged by how confusing the systems are which could lead them to potentially give up or they provide wrong information which may lead to negative consequences in the future.

Another population that may be disadvantaged by careless design/implementation are students with disabilities. Websites that are not designed with accessibility in mind have negative impacts on these students. Imagine having a blind student complete an application form on a website that is not accessible. Not only would it be frustrating for the student but it also prevents them from completing the required process to be admitted to the university. In another example, what if a disabled student cannot use a  website form to provide personal/medical information for accommodation (notetaking, proctoring) that may prevent them from receiving the services they need to compete and succeed academically?

With regards to procedural justice, I cite examples of judicial affairs and financial aid information systems to highlight the importance of information systems in providing a fair process. Students who are accused of academic and/or behavioral misconducts and must go through the judicial process are in critical moments in their lives. As such, judicial affairs officers and those involved with the case must have all the required and accurate information to make a fair determination of the outcome. Imagine a poorly implemented judicial affairs system that incorrectly presents wrong information about the student to the judicial affairs staff? What if that incorrect information was used to make the determination of the outcome?

I also mentioned financial aid information system as another system that may impact procedural justice. As it is with the judicial affairs information system above, financial aid officers must have the required and accurate information to make the proper decision on whether and how much financial aid to award to the students. Given the high cost of college attendance (tuition, room & board, books, etc), the amount of financial aid offered may mean the difference between a student even attending college or staying home. As such, every information available to financial aid officers must be accurate and readily accessible.

The examples provided are just too of many I can cite to illustrate the impact/role of information technology as it relates to social justice. As I mentioned above, social justice and information technology are often not discussed nor the association between them. However, as information technology professionals responsible for providing these systems, we must be aware of how these systems impact the students and to make sure they promote access to higher education and enable students to succeed.

Reference:

Taylor, S.H. “The Impact of College on the Development of Tolerance.” NASPA Journal, 1998, 34, 281-295.

My Professional Reading List 2015

thumbAnother year of professional growth and learning. As a significant of my time went to my MBA (IT Mgmt Specialization) course work in 2015, I was not able to devote as many hours to reading about other topics I enjoy such as higher education and student affairs. Nevertheless, I still managed to enjoy reading the books below. As it was with my professional reading lists of 2013  and in 2014, the majority of the books below are kindle books I read through my iphone and ipad. The beauty of mobile learning. Please feel free to ask me for any recommendations.

Business & Productivity

Change and Innovation

Higher Education / Student Affairs

Information Technology

Management/Leadership

Technology

 

 

Student Affairs Digital Technology for Student Success

How does digital technology contribute to student success? To answer this question, one must first define what student success means as a singular definition seems to be elusive when I’ve asked higher education professionals on social media and on my campus. Cuseo (n.d.) offers some commonly cited definitions which include:

  • student retention
  • educational attainment
  • academic achievement
  • student advancement
  • holistic development

The last definition, holistic development, is the idea that a student develops as a “whole person” and they include multiple dimensions. These dimensions include development in the following areas: intellectual, emotional, social, ethical, physical, and spiritual.

Academic and co-curricular programs, student services, enrollment management services, and other administrative services offered by higher ed institutions are aimed studentlifecycleto support and promote student learning, development, and success.Throughout the entire student life cycle from prospect to alumni stage, technology is used by staff and faculty to communicate and engage with student and for administrative operations and technology is used by students for activities inside and outside the classroom as well.

 

WCET (2002) classified student services offered for online learners in the following categories:

  • academic services suite
  • communications suite
  • administrative core
  • student communities suite
  • personal services suite

While technologies have changed and new ones have been introduced since 2002, the general categories as described above are still applicable today.

At UC Santa Barbara, digital technology has become an integral part of how student affairs and the campus provide effective student services in all phase of the student life cycle and in the student services categories above. Just some of the online services offered at UCSB include the following:

Admissions’ Applicant Status Portal:

Applicants are able to 1) view the status of their application, including personalized messages and a checklist of the steps to enrollment, 2) submit an SIR (Statement of Intent to Register), with eCheck (ACH) payments, and a trigger to creation of the student record, 3) update personal information, and 4) navigate to different web sites outside of Admissions (such as Statement of Legal Residence and Financial Aid Status) without having to re ‐ authenticate.

Electronic Medical Records (EMR) System:

Counseling Center and Student Health Service uses the Electronic Medical Record for client/patient scheduling, reporting, case notes, client surveys and holistic student healthcare. The system is also used for practice Management, electronic health records (EHR), medical claims processing, insurance management and reporting.

Transfer Evaluation and Articulation System

The ‘Transfer Evaluation and Articulation System’ is part of a suite of ‘Progress to Degree and Advising’ applications. It is used by Admissions’ staff to apply UCSB transfer articulation rules to incoming coursework, to evaluate the coursework as transferable or not, to adjust or limit unit amounts, to set course indicators and attributes, such as repeats and honors, to apply courses toward General Education requirements as exceptions, and to produce a ‘New Student Profile’ audit report (using the DARS ‘Engine’ (see ‘Darwin’) behind the scene) and archive it as a snapshot of the student’s status toward General Education and University requirements completion at the time of matriculation. TEAS is mostly commonly known for creating New Student Profiles and Credit Memos.

Financial Aid Portal:

The My Aid Status Financial Aid Portal allows students to manage their financial aid, including viewing their FAFSA status, downloading dynamically ‐ generated documents required for processing financial aid, viewing their award letter, accepting student loans, viewing the history of disbursements from the billing office, and printing Federal work ‐ study referrals.

Graduate Education Application Review (AppReview) System:

This system is the staff/faculty counterpart to the online student application. This system is used by academic department and Graduate Division staff to administer applications, and by faculty to review and score incoming applications. Using this application, department staff can modify applications, categorize and otherwise prepare applications for review by faculty, and submit application decisions to Graduate Division. AppReview also supplies the administrative capabilities for department staff involved in financial recruitment offers. Such features include nominating applicants for the Central Recruitment Fellowship Competition, reviewing award results for the same, and reviewing NSF Extension awards. Graduate Division staff use this application to process admissions decisions, review/approve admissions exception requests, manage/reconcile application payments, and review fee waiver requests.

Gaucho Online Data (GOLD) Student Portal:

Gaucho Online Data (GOLD) is used by over 22,000 current and former UCSB students, and provides them the ability to: view their schedules, important deadlines, messages, grades and academic history; find and register for classes; manage their enrollment on course waitlists; update contact information;  view new student profile and transfer credits; perform automated progress checks and degree audits; order official and unofficial transcripts.

A more comprehensive suite of information systems are found in Student Information Systems & Technology Information Systems Portfolio.

Moving forward, the effective use of digital technology in student affairs must take into account the changing demographics of the students as well as the staff and faculty and their needs and expectations of how they use technology and the availability of services offered by institutions. With social media, cloud, mobile, wearable computing, and internet of things, students and staff are now expecting technology to provide them access to their information anytime and anywhere. Student affairs practitioners,higher ed staff, and faculty in general must develop technology competency, like the one offered by ACPA and NASPA as part of the Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Educators to utilize the benefits offered by technology in ways that are ethical and secure . Senior Student Affairs Administrators and other campus administrators must be play a more active role in managing and leading the use and investment of information technology. Research and scholarship which reflects the realities and possibilities of the digital world of higher education, including this dissertation by Dr. Josie Ahlquist Developing Digital Student Leaders must also drive and inform student affairs practice.

References:

Cuseo, J. (n.d.). South Carolina. Student Success: Definition, Outcomes, Principles and Practices. Retrieved December 9, 2015, from https://www2.indstate.edu/studentsuccess/pdf/Defining%20Student%20Success.pdf

Shea, P., & Armitage, S. (2002). Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. Retrieved December 9, 2015, from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED536193.pdf