Tag Archives: student affairs

Respecting Our Uniqueness & Multiple Dimensions of Identity

“Millennials are tech savvy” was a statement mentioned in a training session about working in a multi-generational workplace I attended.  “Prove it to me” attitude was attributed to Gen Xers (1965-1980).  I equate these statements to the model minority myths associated with Asian Americans. They are general statements applied to groups that may or may not be true. One limitation of assigning traits to groups using one variable (generation) in my opinion is that it is too simplistic.There are also implications to these statements in that by accepting these generalities and neglecting to see the  uniqueness of the individuals we deal with, we may just be making inappropriate assumptions. The other limitation of just using generations to assign attributes is that it pigeon holes individuals into categories that may not be accurate or limiting. I took this “How Millennial Are You” quiz and I appear to have many of the characteristics attributed to Millennials. I’ve joked in the past that I am “millennialesque”.

I remain open to the idea that given the experience and events that shaped the different generations, there are general differences/similarities I need to be cognizant.  For example, while I do not believe that all Millennials are tech savvy, they are exposed to technologies  that were not available in previous generations. These technologies then influence how the generation conduct their lives, per Marshall McLuhan’s quote – “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us”.

Going back to my point of the uniqueness of individuals, should I attribute my “prove it to me” attitude to the fact that I am a member of Gen X or is my cynicism borne out of my negative experiences growing up as an immigrant in the United States and/or my experience in the workplace? Is it part of my Filipino culture?   Is it just my personality? I took a DISC personality test recently in which I scored high Dominance/Influence.  Apparently, some of my attributes include: demanding, strong-willed, determined and ambitious. I also like to challenge status quo.

Fact of the matter is that human beings are multidimensional shaped by our own unique experiences and backgrounds.  In my case, my world view was/is shaped by many things including my immigration experience (I came here as 11 years old in 1984), my religion,  my socio-economic status, educational experience,  gender, and the values my parents instilled in me.

As student affairs professionals, we deal with many student populations and while we may assign students into categories (first generations, international students, …), it is important that we go beyond the generalities and respect the uniqueness of each student, shaped by their own backgrounds and experiences.


Innovathon in Student Affairs

Ideas to solve real-life business issues  can come from anyone in the organization. These ideas need to be heard.  Many blogs and  social business books  discuss the benefits from tapping in the collective knowledge of employees within an organization. Books like The Social Organization: How to Use Social Media to Tap the Collective Genius of Your Customers and Employees and Smart Business, Social Business: A Playbook for Social Media in Your Organization emphasize the idea of  learning, adaptive organization built on collaboration and communities to promote innovations.  The diverse work that we do and the collaborative culture we promote in student affairs leads me to believe I think we should/need look for opportunities to involve all staff in finding ways to improve how we serve students towards their learning and personal development.

One opportunity that comes to mind is to have friendly competitions called “innovathon”. By no means is this idea new or unique. Companies such as Facebook and Google have hackathons designed for fun and social purpose but also with the goal of producing usable products. Universities like UCSB have contests for budding entrepreneurs to build new products/services.  While not a novel idea, I think it does provide some tangible benefits Here are some initial thoughts on this concept:


To promote sharing of ideas from any/all student affairs employees (staff, students) with the end goal of solving actual business problems.


  • Coaches/Mentors   – These could be Senior Student Affairs Officers (SSAO) or those familiar with university processes. Their role is primarily to guide the individuals/teams and serve as resources. They should have minimal input on the ideas themselves.  The ideas need to come from fresh or different set of perspectives.
  • Teams  – These teams shall consist of student workers and professional staff (number of team members can vary).
  • Selection Panel  – A panel consisting of students/staff responsible for the initial and final selection of ideas/products  to be implemented.
  • Executive Project Sponsor – Vice Chancellor or a SSAO.


  • Development of innovative but implementable products & services
  • Provide students and staff insight on how the university process works as part of their professional development.
  • Opportunity to work with other employees/students  in the division beyond the scope of their job responsibilities.
  • Opportunity to work with senior executives and managers (coaches) which could lead to mentor/mentee relationships.
  • Morale booster for the organization and those involved.

Required Resources:

  • Funding to implement selected ideas.
  • Department’s approval for employees to work on their projects.


  • Invitation to the competition will be communicated to the organization  (email, social media, posters). Invitation will include rules and guidelines.
  • Teams submit a proposal (general description) of their ideas and submit it via email to the selection panel.
  • Selection panel reviews and choose ideas to be considered for further evaluation phase.
  • Selected teams and their proposals are assigned coaches. The teams will be provided some time (tbd) to work on their ideas and prepare for a presentation.
  • Selected teams will present their proposals to the selection panel and the Executive Project Sponsor.

I hope the general concept  shared in this post can spur some creative opportunities for your organization.  I would love to know if you have done a similar concept in your organization or if you could add more details to the ideas in this post.


Public Speaking and Professional Development

I have only attended one student affairs related conference (NASPATech – Nov 2011) in my career and so my experience when it comes to regional and national conferences is very limited.   Blog posts by Joe Ginese and Eric Stoller and others about the need to improve the quality of student affairs conferences and the presentations themselves provide me some glimpse of what it would be like if I was to attend them.  If I read the blog posts correctly, one of the intent is to provide suggestions on how to improve the quality of the conferences/presentations leading to a more productive experience for the attendees who took their time out of their busy schedules and spent their institution’s money or their own.

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My Adventures in Social Media

credit: http://www.trektraka.com/

I presented on the topic of social media along with some colleagues at UCSB twice last week, one for the Professional Development Conference for the Division of Student Affairs on Thursday, March 22 and for a whole-day workshop called “Diving Into Social Media at UCSB” on March 23.  My presentations focused on overview of social media use in higher education. The Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Dr. Michael Young opened both presentations in which he talked about the role social media in how we communicate and serve our students. In his words, “we need to evolve and transform so that we can thoughtfully and adequately serve our students.” He acknowledged that in moving forward with social media as part of our university business, we will make mistakes but that he would rather us move forward and make mistakes than stagnate. Personally, the Vice Chancellor’s declaration of social media as a part of our future was an affirmation of what I had observed a couple of years ago, that social media will be an integral part of how we in student affairs conduct our business.

Truth be told, there was a time when I felt like I could not even utter the words “social media” as those words were met with smirks and rolling eyes by the few skeptics who viewed social media as nothing more than a waste of time, a fad not worth investing, and risks not worthy of any benefits. These reactions reminded me of when I started developing websites in 1996 when I was asked “Why do we need websites for?” I realized when I started promoting social media to be formally adopted in our division that it would need the support of the Vice Chancellor.  I used to joke around with a few colleagues that the skeptics who view social media as “stupid” can always talk to the Vice Chancellor about his “stupid” idea.

I joined twitter in August 2010 in part to satisfy my curiosity about this “waste of time” and I have been wasting my time since then. That is if wasting time means creating professional networks, expanding my views of what the future may look like for higher education, including student affairs, and coming to realization that my technology leadership role will have to evolve to keep up with the changing demands of our students.

I’m excited about the future of social media and how we could use it in student affairs.  We’re just starting to figure out how to use social media beyond marketing. I’m looking forward to the point when we will start using social media as part of  social business. I don’t exactly know how we will evolve to get to that point, or how it will look like a year from now.

I asked VC Young once how he sees social media a year from now and his response was “We’ve got to find ways, across the division, to get to our students and constituents in ways that are effective. I don’t always know what that will look like, but this is my view:  if I wait until I fully understand what it looks like, we’ll never get a damn thing done.” I concur.

Failure To Change

credit - piedmontwebdev

I suppose it’s so easy to get comfortable when we reach a certain level of success at personal and/or organizational level.  It is important to celebrate our accomplishments and all the things that got us to where we are, but there’s a danger in stagnating, being conservative.  But the world does not wait for anyone.  Specifically in student affairs, our world is changing quickly. Driven by our changing student demographics,  economic difficulties and technologies, the way our organizations operate must change, at least try to keep up, or we fail to serve our students.

I spend a lot of time following trends in how higher education and our students use technology, including social media and mobile computing.   This comes from the realization that if my organization (a student affairs IT shop) fails to realize the demands and wishes of our constituents, I would not be doing my job as a leader in my organization. Does that mean that we can and will always meet our constituents’ demands and wishes? Of course not. There are always more work to be done relative to our resources. It’s hard enough to provide day-to-day support and “keeping the lights on”,  tasks that while our users may not always see are critical. As difficult as it is to change our ways, to go beyond what we can support, the reality is that if we fail to look at what the customers demand of us, our organization is in danger of being replaced with other options. We no longer live in the world when our customers must go through IT for every single technology requests. Cheap or even free cloud based services are now viable solutions. Our customers use their mobile devices  to access the web and social networks.  As an IT organization, do we take the role of the department that is seen as obstructionist to a point where customers no longer want to work with us or one that is a willing partner to progress?

I feel considerably lucky that we have a person at the top of our organization, Vice Chancellor Dr. Young, who is a champion of change and a true student advocate. He is a visionary who will freely admit that while he may not always know how to get to where we need to get to, he does know when it’s time to change, to take a new direction.  An organization’s ability to be open and accepting to change is rooted in its culture and leaders like Dr. Young plays a huge influence on how the culture is shaped. As those working in our organizations, I also think we have personal responsibilities to be open to change. Failure to change has its consequences.