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Student Success Support Model

What are your thoughts on what makes an effective student success support system that is suitable for the current and future needs of college students?

Can you share your ideas and/or provide feedback on what is missing from the proposed approach I have provided below? This model aims to meet student success (academic, career readiness, preparation for life (citizen), and well-being. Thank you.

Version 2 based on suggestion – Emphasize/separate direct face-to-face connection with staff.

Version 2.
Version 1.

How I Passed My CISSP Exam

I passed my Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) exam on November 20th, 2018. It took me 50 minutes to answer 100 questions.  I am sharing this blog post as resource to colleagues who are intending to take the test and to the cybersecurity profession as my way of “paying it forward” since I received help from vast and free online resources and from advice I received from those I didn’t even know personally.


I decided to take the CISSP exam for the following reasons:

  • Model my commitment towards professional development (one of this year’s four key areas in our department strategic plan by learning topics relevant to our organization (SIS&T) future direction, including 1) improving our organizational resiliency (staffing, information systems), 2) improving processes (governance, operations, devops), and 3) “liberate data” – expose data across campus systems that have been siloed in the past.
  • Given emergent technologies and changing workforce dynamics and demographics, I need new leadership/management and technical knowledge required in my role as an IT leader on campus. Campus initiatives require new knowledge and skills, including cloud adoption, integrated campus cybersecurity, data analytics, and campus data integrations using Application Programming Interface (API) and visualization software for decision-making.
  • Continue my commitment to life-long learning.


Though I had intended to take the CISSP exam in 2017 and my organization had even paid for an online course and books to prepare me for the exam, in retrospect, that I didn’t create the pressure for me to prepare led me to not dedicate the time and effort as I had done these last two months before my exam.

The CISSP exam is often characterized as “mile-wide and inch deep.” The exam assesses the tester’s knowledge in the eight domains, from understanding laws and regulations, best practices, networking/physical/software security, and operations. I am not so sure it’s an “inch deep,” however, as while the exam may indeed provide general questions, the knowledge I felt I had to learn (and acquired) in preparing for the exam went beyond general information.

Since my professional background/experience was mainly in application development and leadership/management, I found those domains to be relatively easier than the other domains. However, given my lack of experience in networking and data center management, I found myself needing to spend more time studying those areas than others. For example, I bought a book called Networking All-in-One for Dummies because I didn’t even know the differences between the networking mediums (cabling) and wireless networking specifications.


Though I read many online resources about the CISSP exam, there were no materials I read about the specific questions themselves. Even if I had come across them, I wanted to honor the integrity of the process and professional, ethical standards by not using them. Given that I didn’t know what questions to expect, I used different study materials (books, iPhone apps, quizzes, videos, websites, and social media). I even tried different study styles to improve my chance of passing the test. I have learned that I comprehended concepts better if I understood the “big picture” and when I saw the relationships among the different areas. I created a mind map of the 8 CISSP domains as my roadmap using a mobile/website called MindMeister. Here is the link to my CISSP mind map.

I also found study methods to maximize the limited time I had between when I registered to take the exam (October 2nd) and the day of the exam (Nov 20th).  I created a schedule that required discipline and dedication. The kindle books and the iPhone apps I used anytime/anywhere during the day  (including between meetings, trips to the mall, and commutes) were useful. My wife’s support and encouragement throughout the process were also very helpful. She provided me with the space and time to study.

As I will share below, about two weeks before the test, I finally realized what methods increased my comprehension of the topics I was studying.


September 2018

October 2018

  • Registered for the CISSP exam (Nov 20th) on October 2, 2018 on the PearsonVue website.
  • Created and completed exam preparation schedule for those seven weeks.
    • First two weeks of October – complete the Sybex book and Shon Harris’ All-in-One CISSP Exam books). This meant spending 2-3 hours a night reading at least one chapter a day and completing the end-of-chapter quizzes.
    • Entire October up to November 19th.
      • Completed CISSP course on Cybrary.It, and CISSP course.
    • Completed at least 200 questions daily from various quizzes (see list below) and improved my knowledge of areas of weakness based on my scores.
  • Five days before the exam
    • Took days off from work. Spent at least 5 hours during the day/night of continued studying. This is when I realized how to improve my understanding of the topics significantly. At this point in the process, I had read books, taken thousands of questions, and watched hours of videos, so the areas new to me became smaller. However, there were still areas I struggled with because of my lack of experience, as I noted above. So, whenever I completed the quizzes, I researched the questions I had missed by re-reading the books and re-watching videos. In the process, I also started understanding/noticing related topics I had missed.
    • Two days before the exam, I continued my routine above, and I also reviewed summary materials I had found online, including the following:
    • The day before the exam, I came across a blog post recommending watching the following videos to have the proper mindset going into the exam. I watched them, and they made a difference in how I approached the test – thinking like a manager and from a risk management perspective, not a techie. I encourage those preparing to take the test to watch these videos at some point in their preparation.

Lessons Learned

The benefit of the CISSP certification goes beyond the recognition of passing the exam. It has given me more confidence with the new knowledge learned about cybersecurity and how to study for future certification exams. In two months, I learned knowledge in areas I did not have opportunities to learn in my 20 years in IT. Passing the CISSP test requires risk and organizational management mindsets AND technical knowledge. A technician’s approach of solving issues through tools only or a manager with little knowledge in the 8 domains will probably have a hard time passing the exam. Even with years of experience, the test requires time and commitment to study the materials and be comfortable with the types of questions.

Personally, I found the preparation process as an opportunity to further assess what works for me in terms of learning style. I used books, videos, apps, and mind maps to figure out what works for me. In the end, I believe memorizing the materials alone was insufficient. It required some thoughtful understanding of how the different tools/approaches in combination should be applied to solve real-life situations. It also requires intuition gained through experience to effectively assess a problem. I believe, therefore, experience is a requirement for the certification.

Like other folks online and colleagues in my organization who have given advice and shared their knowledge for me to pass the exam, I would like to offer you any insight about the process (within the NDA and ethical boundaries), so you may also pass the exam. Please feel free to contact me at


My learning style is different from others. In general, every single resource listed here was helpful to me personally. Still, there were some I relied on more than others and ones I thought were most applicable to the areas and types of questions presented during my exam.

Exam Preparation/Mindset

Exam registration



iPhone Apps

  • CISSP Certification Exam Prep – ImpTrax Corporation
  • CISSP Pocket Prep – Pocket Prep, Inc.
  • CISSP Study Guide by Cram-It – Rooster Glue, Inc.
  • CISSP Practice Questions – Laurie Hocking
  • CISSP Practice Exam Prep 2017 – Recurvo Learning & Educational Apps
  • CISSP Stress-Free: RocketPrep
  • CISSP Practice Test – Mark Patrick
  • LearnZapp CISSP Study Guide




Social media


Importance of Shared Language in Big Data/Analytics Adoption

One of the necessary yet overlooked steps to the success of initiatives involving folks from across campus is the development of shared/common language to minimize misunderstandings and provide clarity. When he came on board two years ago, one of the first campus-wide projects sponsored by the new CIO Matt Hall at UC Santa Barbara was a series of day-long sessions for the 400 IT community members. The aim of these “IT Foundations” sessions is to establish a shared vocabulary and understanding of the campus governance structure, IT infrastructure, and the general campus IT direction. Based on feedback, participants found the experience and the information valuable towards their understanding of the current campus IT layout and the vision of the CIO.

As the campus adopts big data and analytics, I once again realize the importance of developing a shared language for initiatives related to these technologies to move forward. The most significant barriers to adoption have not been technical in nature but rather the lack of understanding of the applications of these technologies, especially as they involve ethics, privacy, and potentially unintended negative consequences. Specifically, predictive analytics (using algorithms) for academic advising may lead to certain student populations (first-gens, etc.) or students who fit certain parameters being inappropriately excluded from certain programs or opportunities. Certainly, the concerns about using predictive analytics are valid. Still, adopting big data and analytics for other campus functions should not be stopped, given that the specific concerns related to predictive analytics may not apply. For this reason, it’s important for campus administrators, technologists, and other folks involved to have a common understanding of big data and analytics as related to higher education.

Ben Kei Daniel introduced a framework to understand big data and analytics in higher education in the book “Big Data and Learning Analytics in Higher Education: Current Theory and Practice” by Ben Kei Daniel. The framework by Daniel and Butson (2013) classifies the different analytics and their uses in higher education. I translated their descriptions into the graphic below.

In addition, Daniel and Butson (2013) also classified the scope of analytics as shown below.

Gartner also developed the analytics ascendancy model below to highlight the different types of analytics concerning their values and difficulty.


The frameworks introduced above should be good starting points in campus conversations as they provide shared language and understanding of big data and analytics for actions that benefit students and institutions in general.

Can you recommend other approaches to introducing big data and analytics in higher education? Can you share applications of these technologies in higher education beyond marketing/communication (web analytics) and instructions inside the classroom?

Productivity Ideas for Busy Managers

ProductiveOne of the difficulties for managers is how to simultaneously meet their responsibilities to 1) manage others, 2) attend seemingly endless meetings, and 3) take care of the work they must also do for themselves. In my role as Executive Director of IT, I became a bottleneck for the organization in that decisions and/or tasks that don’t take more than minutes to complete were left unattended for weeks. The problem is that I was doing too many things all at the same time (time slicing), and I was distracted by technologies that should help me be more productive. I was checking my emails and, at times, social media every few minutes. I’m sure some of my staff were getting frustrated for having to wait on me, and I was also getting frustrated at myself for not being more productive. The frustration led me to finally try different ways to improve my productivity. For years, I resisted using productivity techniques I’ve encountered, thinking I didn’t need them. However, through a change in mindset, technology, and techniques, I’ve noticed noticeable improvements in my productivity. Below is a list of these proven ideas you could consider.

1) Mindset. Focus on one task at a time. I used to think I could “multitask,” but from multiple articles/books I’ve read, I was time-slicing, and the time to transition from doing one task to another is costly. Specifically, the cost of getting back to the original task once distracted is an average of 25 minutes.

2) Use time blocking. I mentioned above that managers must balance managing/delegating, attending meetings, and “creating,” which means taking care of their own tasks. In my case, “creating” means taking care of HR actions, budgeting, or thinking about strategies. Too often, the time for “creating” are short between meetings resulting in low quality and incomplete tasks. The solution to this problem is to block out times in your schedules so you can have continuous hours of time dedicated to “creating”. In my case, I’ve blocked my morning hours (8-12) for these times and the other parts of the day for other tasks. That’s impossible, you might say. I thought the same thing, but this technique has worked for me while it hasn’t been perfect. The key is to inform your staff and others you deal with of your intention so they don’t schedule these blocked-out times. There’s also a transition period to implement this. While these contiguous hours may not be available in the next few weeks for you since meetings have already been booked, you can schedule these time blocks starting two to three months from now.

3) Pomodoro technique. This time management technique aims to promote maximum focus and energy by concentrating on one task for 25 minutes. Using my iPhone, I set the timer for 25 minutes, and I aim to work on the one task I’ve defined to complete within that period. This means I don’t check my emails, browse social media, or tend to be distracted.

4) Manage your energy, not time. I’m a late-night and morning person. This means that my energy is highest at those times of the day. in the past, I had a habit of going through my emails and taking care of “little things” to start my day, but the problem is that I could have been using my peak energy during those times to tackle tasks requiring high energy and focus. Given that I’m a morning person, this is the reason why I’ve dedicated my “creating” time blocks from 8 am-noon. I then try to spend my afternoons meeting with my staff and other tasks.

The techniques mentioned above are fairly new to me, but I’ve found the results encouraging, which has led me to focus on other ways I can be more productive. It requires a different mindset and time management techniques that work for you.

Let me know other ways you’ve improved your productivity at work! If you’re to try the ideas I shared above, let me know if they worked for you.

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Identity is In the Eye of the Beholder

identityIdentity is relative based on perspectives. I’ve come to recognize that how I view myself, all the different components of my identity, may not be the same as how others view me. I view my racial identity as Asian-American as the most salient part of my identity.  My experience in the United States, through the marginalization and the struggles I’ve faced since my family and I immigrated to this country, has been shaped because of my racial identity and physical features. While I have primarily defined my identity as one who belongs to a historically marginalized group, what I have come to realize is that others may not see me as that. I’ve been reminded that as a male in the position I hold at the university, I am seen as a person of privilege. For others, I’m seen through the lens of gender, organizational position, etc. beyond race, and these lenses are relative to the other person’s perspectives.

I’ve been thinking about the notion that while I may feel oppressed in some ways, I also carry privileges because of certain aspects of my identity. I was reminded by a student recently of the privileges I/we carry as university staff (and even students) relative to those who live in their hometown (inner city). This student reminded me that while we do have the struggles we are fighting for, sometimes we live in a bubble and forget the struggles of folks like those who live beyond the confines of the university must go through. This student reminded me that their family is currently homeless and must move from time to time depending on which friends and families are willing and able to house them.

Taking the time to understand other folks’ perspectives and struggles is one of the efforts I’ve tried to make since I can remember. Still, at times, I fall into the trap of just thinking about the issues I face without realizing that while, in some ways, I have been marginalized, I also carry privileges I must be conscious of.

Can you relate to my experience? How do you define your identity, and how do you think others view you?

image credit:

ACPA/NASPA Technology Competency for Professional Development

The technology competency in the latest ACPA/NASPA Professional Competencies(2015) and the corresponding rubric provide student affairs practitioners and administrators guidance on effectively learning and applying technology in their roles as educators and programmers for student success. In addition, the two documents are also useful to the same groups regarding self-directed and formal professional development.

In my role as student affairs IT director, educator, and student affairs administrator, I was very interested in technology competency when it became available and how it could be applied to my organization and for my personal learning. I’ve offered my thoughts in this blog post.

I found the competency and the rubric to be useful for the following reasons:

1) I’m able to identify areas I need to pursue. For example, most of my experiential learning and training has been mostly on “technical tools and software” and “data use and compliance” so when I planned my schedule for the NASPA national conference in San Antonio next week (March 10-15), I purposely planned my schedule to attend sessions on “digital identity and citizenship” and “online learning environments”.

2) As I defined areas I need further development, I began exploring other learning methods. For example, most of my education when it comes to technology over the last three years has been through my job and also through kindle books. This year, I discovered videos and have completed seven data governance and security courses.

3) The techniques and mindset I have developed through the technology competency have also led me to apply them in other development areas beyond technology. I recently completed a 10-course series on people management certification via the University of California online learning system.

4) Given the lessons learned from my experience in applying the competency and rubric, I am developing a training curriculum for our division of student affairs based on the competency and rubric with the support of our Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs.  I hope that by next year’s NASPA conference, we will have implemented the curriculum and presented our experience so other student affairs practitioners and administrators may consider using the competency for their institutions.

Dr. Josie Ahlquist, and I presented via webinar (Infusing The New Student Affairs Technology Competency Into Practice) last month on how the competency could be applied in graduate programs, student affairs organizations, and professional development. Part of the presentation focused on using the competency framework for professional development. I offered how I have used and plan to use the competency and the rubric to guide my learning. Using Excel, I created a template that lists learning activities, when I would pursue them, the format, and which areas of the technology competency rubrics these activities fulfill. The template also provides a link to the rubric.

Attached is the Excel file I developed, and please feel free to modify them for your use. Click on the image to download the file.


I look forward to how other institutions and student affairs professionals apply the competency and rubric. If you or your institution have used these tools, I would love to learn more about them.

Conquering My Fear of Public Speaking


Graduate students’ digital reputation presentation at the Beyond Academic conference at UCSB. [photo courtesy of Don Lubach]

Do you have a fear of public speaking? Do you get anxious and nervous for days and weeks before you speak? I certainly was for most of my life. In elementary school, I pretended to be sick during the days of oral book reports. Throughout high school, I dreaded speaking in front of the class. One of the most painful three months of my life was when I was informed I had to speak at our graduation ceremony in front of a couple of thousands of people because I was the class Salutatorian. The prospect of doing the speech terrified me. Instead of enjoying the graduation ceremony and the months leading up to it, I was very anxious. In college, I had similar experiences. I still remember one particular year how terrified I was days leading up to when I had to speak in front of about 800 or so people at our campus, in front of parents and friends, at our annual show for the Filipino-American student organization.

Throughout my professional career, I felt hampered by my fear of public speaking until I decided to make a conscious effort to finally conquer it about three years ago. I felt as if I had some good perspectives/ideas to share, but I did not have the confidence to share them. I’ve enjoyed public speaking using the steps I share below, and I now look forward to them. In the last four years, I have spoken and presented in several public settings on my campus and even at a couple of professional conferences. I always dreamed of being a “keynote speaker” or doing a webinar, but I never thought I would have the opportunity because of my fear. I honestly would not have imagined being able to speak comfortably in front of many people. Still, by conquering my fear of public speaking, I have realized some dreams, present with colleagues I respect, met new folks, and developed relationships with them.

Here are some of what I did, which hopefully could help you too:


Guest presenter at a marketing course when I couldn’t use my PowerPoint slides. It became an even better session as a dialogue/conversation with the class.

1) Think about the root(s) of your fear and how to overcome them. When I finally started to think deeply about what made me nervous about public speaking through the years, it always came back to the idea that as one whose first language is Ilokano (a Filipino dialect), I was scared of being made fun of because I may “FOB” (fresh off the boat) accent. I was eleven when I immigrated to the US with my family, and I remember being made fun of by other kids because of how I spoke. That impacted me psychologically and contributed to the anxiety I felt before speaking in public. The other fear I had was that when I’m nervous, I had (and still do)  the tendency to speak very fast. So, the possibility of “Fobbing” and speaking fast, especially in the first couple of sentences of my speech, really terrified me. However, as I thought about my past speeches, it dawned on me that once I started speaking, I was okay! Once I got going, I felt comfortable. it was the first couple of sentences that scared me. Given this knowledge, I purposely practiced my introductory statements to be slow and deliberate because I realized that if I could get through my first couple of sentences fine, I would be good with the rest of the speech or even a whole hour or two workshop. This step has saved me from days and even weeks of anxiety.


Panelist on student affairs career development at our campus.

2) Get experience in public speaking. I made it a point to seek out opportunities to speak. When asked to do mobile, social media, and web development workshops or about my personal experiences as a first-generation minority student, I accepted them even as terrified as I was. I have the expertise and am comfortable talking about these areas, so the content was not a problem for me. The more I spoke about these topics, the easier the experience became for me. What helped in my initial effort to conquer my fear, I asked a couple of my colleagues who are very good public speakers to join me for my workshops. By doing that, I felt less vulnerable and gained experience in the process. They became my crutches until I was ready to do events independently. The more I spoke, the more comfortable I became.


Keynote speaker for an outreach program for Filipino-American high school students.

3) Develop a niche area (or areas) you can feel comfortable speaking and understand your natural style. As mentioned above, there are topics I feel comfortable talking about, and the more I had the opportunity to speak about them, the better I got in my presentation styles, delivery, and content. I look back at my first few PowerPoint presentations, and I cringe at the amount of text I had per slide! I was using the slides as my crutches because I did not feel comfortable talking without reading what was on the slides. Nowadays, I’ve come to rely more on slides to augment/enhance my points through visuals and short text snippets. The slides are now intended for the audience rather than for me. There was one time when I was a guest speaker for a marketing course and had my PowerPoint presentation ready, but because the instructor could not log in to the computer, I spoke for about an hour without slides. It was one of my best presentations because it was conversational and free-flowing. Regarding style, I realized that I felt most comfortable and effective when I walked around and not behind a podium. I feel most comfortable when I feel the presentation was a conversation, not a monologue. I’ve developed a cadence in how I speak and how I move around when speaking. Engaging with the audience has become one of my habits when speaking.

There are additional steps I’ve learned along the process of conquering public speaking, but the three pieces of advice above have been the most helpful for me. Try them out and go share your ideas with the world!

Organizational Change Leadership

A mentor once said, “you manage constraints and lead towards possibilities.” Another colleague said, “you manage things and lead people.” When it comes to organizational change, these two principles also apply. Organizational change leadership deals with how one influences other people to buy in and commit to changes and/or new ideas. As one who is in a leadership position and also who has been fortunate to have observed other effective change leaders, here are some principles I’ve come to adopt when I am leading change.

1. Go with the willing first. Realize that different folks in the organization will not be at the same level of awareness and interest regarding new ideas. For folks to buy in, they must first be made aware of the proposed changes and commit to accepting or rejecting the idea. Some folks, given their disposition, personalities, and interests, will be more willing and able to accept the proposed changes. These are the folks who can provide initial positive momentum and interests that will not only advance the implementation of the proposed change but also demonstrate to others the values of the changes as well. I’ve seen it too often, and I’ve experienced this myself when leaders are discouraged with their efforts and lack of progress because they focus too much on those unwilling to adopt the changes and the criticisms levied by those folks. But, progress will be made in focusing on willing people, and positive energy/momentum will be sustained.

2. Engage influencers in the organization. Some individuals in organizations have the credibility and respect of their peers. These are folks who are not always in management positions; rather, these are folks who are liked socially, have a reputation for getting things done, and who management can count on to get things done. These are folks that can be very beneficial in getting the buy-in of others, so when leading change; they should be approached at the beginning and throughout the efforts, so they know what’s going on for them to develop an interest in the new idea, and spread the message with their peers.

3. Use the social network effect. Related to points 1 and 2 above, create/promote a social structure where folks can share ideas in social settings. I’ve learned that department meetings are forums for announcements/awareness, but I’m not going to convince folks in one session to develop an interest in the proposed changes. Realize that when folks go to lunches or go on breaks, that’s when they often have deeper conversations about what’s going on with the departments. For this reason, working with willing and organizational influencers who can advocate for change during these casual and social conversations is important.

Organizational change can be emotionally and psychologically hard on people because it impacts their identity, value systems, reputation, and livelihood. For these reasons, folks leading organizational changes cannot overlook the significance of the individual needs and interests of those involved. In the end, folks are asking this question regarding change: “what’s in it for me?”

What other methods and principles have you used to successfully lead organizational changes?

My Personal Values & Principles and Thoughts on Student Affairs, Technology, and Leadership

I started my blog because I needed a place to share ideas and process my thoughts. Six years after my first post on October 21, 2010, I posted 383 articles on professional and personal topics. As I read through what I have written, it’s fascinating how my perspectives have evolved in some ways, yet some of my core principles have not changed. Below are thoughts on my personal values, principles, leadership, student affairs, and technology.

Personal Values and Principles

Reasons I Value Diversity and Inclusion in The Workplace
I was interviewed for a course on ethical leadership two months ago. One of the questions was what drives my value system and priorities at work.  I suppose I had not thought of this before. Still, during that interview, I realized that providing equal access to opportunities, inclusion, and appreciating diversity are very important values of mine.   As I was asked additional questions about why these were so important to me, I realized it was my experiences feeling marginalized while growing up, in college, and even at work when I did not fit in the norms that drive me to ensure those around me have the opportunities to be included and differences are valued. [More …]

A Reflection on My Career in Student Affairs
Working with students and other activities outside my technologist role is where I find most personal satisfaction. Serving on the student fee advisory committeestudent resource team, reading admissions applications, and serving as a student organization advisor provide me with reminders of who I am ultimately serving, the students, and that I can somehow make a difference in their lives is what motivates me. As an aside, moving forward with new technologies like social media and mobile web, I have also found these activities very critical to my understanding of the culture and trends of students today. [More…]

Reflecting on Why I Love My Job in Student Affairs
If I view my job in student affairs IT as just about computers, I’m missing the bigger picture. Ultimately, it’s about helping students succeed through technology and my roles as a discussion leader, organizational advisor, mentor, and facilitator. My role as the director/leader in my IT organization is about helping my staff and colleagues grow, creating an environment where they feel personally satisfied with what they do and contribute. Ultimately, my job is about helping people and helping build communities. I am also part of the UCSB community. [More…]

Nowhere I’d Rather Be Than in Student Affairs
It is during the most challenging times of my job when I think how blessed I am to have my job in student affairs, specifically as an IT leader within student affairs. The sometimes convoluted nature of higher education bureaucracy, the pressure of delivering critical technology services with limited resources, and juggling competing priorities make it challenging some days. But, even with these challenges, actually, because of these challenges, I feel blessed to have my job. I can easily look beyond the day-to-day frustrations because I know that at the end of the day, what matters is that my colleagues and I, the work we do, have a very important purpose – to help students succeed. [More…]

UCSB STEP Program – Nourishment for My Soul
Personally, the STEP program provides me with the opportunity to build connections with the students. Even if most of them will never contact me again, I consider it a privilege and honor to be a part of their introduction to their new lives at UCSB. My one-week STEP experience is enough to nourish my soul and provide me with the motivation and a sense of purpose for the rest of the year. [More…]

Why I Love My Job in Student Affairs at UCSB
Through technologies, I help serve the UCSB community so students can successfully navigate the university, prepare them for their careers, and develop as human beings. However, the personal connections I’ve made with the few students make me realize how blessed I am to be in a position where I can make a difference in their lives. [More…]

Pilipino Graduation and What My Job Really Means
One of the reasons why I actively seek out opportunities to work with students, in addition to the fact that I do find enjoyment in working with them, is because I do feel that for me to be able to do my job effectively; I need to be reminded of who I serve. These students have come to the university for different reasons and aspirations.  For many of them, attending UCSB required their families to sacrifice. These students must find ways to succeed at the university against increasing tuition and declining resources. [More…]

Thoughts on Leadership

My Professional Vision as Higher Education IT Leader (DRAFT)
How often have you thought about your core ideologies and your future as a professional? I haven’t myself, but as I led my organization through a strategic planning process and learned how to develop successful organizations, I began to think about how I could apply that process personally. Using ideas from a book by Jim Collins called “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies,” I came up with some initial thoughts below. [More…]

IT Organizational Management & Leadership
One of the lessons I’ve learned is that to be an effective organizational leader, you need to be an effective manager, and to be an effective manager, you need to be an effective leader. In short, leadership and management go hand in hand when delivering results. [More…]

Leading in Stressful Times
As managers, don’t lose sight of the idea that our staff are human beings and not just units of resources. If organizations are to be productive, managers must make themselves available and build relationships with staff to build an engaged workforce. Being short-sighted and just giving orders to complete tasks can lead to unintended and counterproductive consequences. [More…]

Assertiveness: My Leadership Challenge as an Asian American
Throughout my career, one personal trait that’s been perceived as negative regarding my leadership style has been my assertiveness or lack of. From the feedback I’ve received, I’ve been seen as not direct and not confrontational when dealing with conflicts. Whether that’s because of my personality or cultural upbringing, I don’t know why I have not been seen as “assertive” as other folks would like me to be. [More..]

My IT Organization’s Guiding Values and Principles
As I’ve been with my organization for more than 15 years, I have a good sense of our culture, strengths, capabilities, and areas of improvement. 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. For these reasons, I strive for the idea that when people think of THE model of higher education IT, they think of UCSB SIS&T!  

I believe my organization’s guiding values and principles must 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. [More…]

Leadership is About Connecting, More than Communicating
Leadership, in my opinion, is about influence, not control. A leader’s ability to influence others ultimately depends on how they are perceived by those they lead. Leaders who can establish connections, which can make others feel like they matter and are understood, are the ones who will have the most influence. [More…]

Leadership – Bruce Lee style
“I can best describe Joe Sabado as the ‘Bruce Lee’ of managers.  People would ask Bruce Lee what his ‘system’ was, saying he didn’t have a ‘system.’  His style was the style of no style.  Likewise, Joe doesn’t have a management style because no single method works with everyone, or at all times.”

 “Joe is a master at understanding people and their current situation.  Joe always looks to adapt himself to the other person, and even to the other person’s mood.” [More…]

My Perspective on IT Leadership for 2012
The demands of our customers and employees are changing fast, and as an organization, our ability to adapt, not react, is critical.  One challenge I see in my position is promoting our core mission while keeping up with the trends. [More…]

Student Affairs and Technology

Student Affairs Digital Technology for Student Success
Academic and co-curricular programs, student services, enrollment management services, and other administrative services offered by higher ed institutions are aimed to support and promote student learning, development, and success. [More…]

Student Affairs Org Technology Leadership Competencies – MindMap
What competencies are required to be an effective student affairs technology leader at an organizational level? This is a question I pondered while reviewing the Technology Competency Area within the ACPA/NASPA Professional Competency Area for Student Affairs Educators. I specifically mentioned “at an organizational level” because managing/leading the appropriate/effective use of technology at the divisional level differs from one who is leading the efforts at the national or individual levels. [More…]

Technology Responsibilities & Qualifications for Senior Student Affairs Officers
Technology leadership must be present at the highest level of student affairs organizations. At the minimum, CSAOs cannot abdicate their roles as information technology managers, and they must either develop the skills, knowledge, and dispositions as described in the new technology competency area and/or include a position that can provide leadership to lead effective adoption, utilization, and assessment/evaluation of technology in student affairs. [More…]

Future of Student Affairs and Information Technology

Dean of Student Affairs Technology – A Proposed Role
How come there are Dean of Academic Technology positions but not a Dean of Student Affairs Technology? This is a question that crosses my mind from time to time. According to Kevin Guidry’s research on the history of student affairs and technology, technology has been a part of student affairs for decades. Still, I’m unsure why such a position has not existed before. [More…]

A Glimpse of Student Affairs in the (Near) Future?
There will come the point shortly when these five forces — mobile, social media, data, sensors (internet of things), and location, as Robert Scoble and Shel Israel call them in their book “Age of Context” will transform student affairs. [More…]
The Need for a Common Higher Education Data Model

It seems to me that until a common structured data higher education data model that can be used as a standard exists, higher education institutions will not be able to develop a holistic assessment of student success and provide services such as advising that use curricular and co-curricular information. [More…]

Technologies, Assessment, and the Future of Student Affairs
The future of student affairs will include consumer technologies including mobile, data, sensors, social media, cloud, wearable computing, and location-based systems. This possibility is by no means a stretch if one is to consider what already exists outside the world of academia and follow consumer technology trends. [More…]

My StrengthsFinder Signature Themes

I’d rather focus on my strengths than dwell on my weaknesses. It’s this personal trait/attitude I find personality assessments like StrengthsFinder appealing when it comes to learning more about myself. Recently, I took the survey as part of my organization’s effort to strengthen our abilities to collaborate and towards a better working community. Here are my top 5 signature themes.

Achiever. Your Achiever theme helps explain your drive. Achiever describes a constant need for achievement. You feel as if every day starts at zero. By the end of the day, you must achieve something tangible to feel good about yourself. And by “every day,” you mean every single day—workdays, weekends, vacations. No matter how much you feel, you deserve a day of rest; if the day passes without some form of achievement, no matter how small, you will feel dissatisfied. You have an internal fire burning inside you. It pushes you to do more, to achieve more. After each accomplishment is reached, the fire dwindles for a moment, but very soon, it rekindles itself, forcing you toward the next accomplishment. Your relentless need for achievement might not be logical. It might not even be focused. But it will always be with you. As an Achiever, you must learn to live with this whisper of discontent. It does have its benefits. It brings you the energy you need to work long hours without burning out. It is the jolt you can always count on to get you started on new tasks and challenges. The power supply causes you to set the pace and define the productivity levels for your workgroup. It is the theme that keeps you moving.

Maximizer. Excellence, not average, is your measure. Taking something from below average to slightly above average takes great effort and, in your opinion, is not very rewarding. Transforming something strong into something superb takes just as much effort but is much more thrilling. Strengths, whether yours or someone else’s, fascinate you. You search them out like a diver after pearls, watching for the telltale signs of strength. A glimpse of untutored excellence, rapid learning, a skill mastered without recourse to steps—all these are clues that a strength may be in play. And having found a strength, you feel compelled to nurture it, refine it, and stretch it toward excellence. You polish the pearl until it shines. This natural sorting of strengths means that others see you as discriminating. You choose to spend time with people who appreciate your particular strengths. Likewise, you are attracted to others who seem to have found and cultivated their own strengths. You tend to avoid those who want to fix you and make you well-rounded. You don’t want to spend your life bemoaning what you lack. Rather, you want to capitalize on the gifts you are blessed with. It’s more fun. It’s more productive. And, counterintuitively, it is more demanding.

Activator. “When can we start?” This is a recurring question in your life. You are impatient for action. You may concede that analysis has been used or that debate and discussion can occasionally yield valuable insights, but deep down, you know that only action is real. Only action can make things happen. Only action leads to performance. Once a decision is made, you can not act. Others may worry that “there are still some things we don’t know,” but this doesn’t seem to slow you. If the decision has been made to go across town, you know that the fastest way to get there is to go stoplight. You will not sit around waiting until all the lights have turned green.

Besides, in your view, action and thinking are not opposites. Guided by your Activator theme, you believe that action is the best learning device. You make a decision, take action, look at the result, and learn. This learning informs your next action and your next. How can you grow if you have nothing to react to? Well, you believe you can’t. You must put yourself out there. You must take the next step. It is the only way to keep your thinking fresh and informed. The bottom line is that you will be judged not by what you say or think but by what you get done. This does not frighten you. It pleases you.

Input. You are inquisitive. You collect things. You might collect information—words, facts, books, and quotations—or tangible objects such as butterflies, baseball cards, porcelain dolls, or sepia photographs. Whatever you collect, you collect it because it interests you. And yours is the kind of mind that finds so many things interesting. The world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and complexity. If you read a great deal, it is not necessarily to refine your theories but to add more information to your archives. If you like to travel, it is because each new location offers novel artifacts and facts. These can be acquired and then stored away. Why are they worth storing? When storing, it is often hard to say exactly when or why you need them, but who knows when they might become useful? With all those possible uses in mind, you don’t feel comfortable throwing anything away. So you keep acquiring and compiling and filing stuff away. It’s interesting. It keeps your mind fresh. And perhaps one day, some of it will prove valuable.

Ideation. You are fascinated by ideas. What is an idea? An idea is a concept, the best explanation of most events. You are delighted when you discover beneath the complex surface an elegantly simple concept to explain why things are the way they are. An idea is a connection. Yours is the mind always looking for connections, so you are intrigued when an obscure connection can link seemingly disparate phenomena. An idea is a new perspective on familiar challenges. You revel in taking the world we all know and turning it around so we can view it from a strange but strangely enlightening angle. You love all these ideas. They are profound. After all, they are novel because they are clarifying. After all, they are contrary because they are bizarre. For all these reasons, you derive a jolt of energy whenever a new idea occurs to you. Others may label you creative or original or conceptual, or even smart. Perhaps you are all of these. Who can be sure? What you are sure of is that ideas are thrilling. And on most days, this is enough.

If you’ve ever worked with me, are they accurate? What are yours?

My Professional Vision as Higher Education IT Leader (DRAFT)

How often have you thought about your core ideologies and your future as a professional? I haven’t myself, but as I led my organization through a strategic planning process and learned how to develop successful organizations, I began to think about how I could apply that process personally. Using ideas from a book by Jim Collins called “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies,” I came up with some initial thoughts below. It’s a work in progress, and they’re a product of quick brainstorming tonight, so I know they’ll evolve as I have more opportunities to reflect deeper on my purpose and aspirations. I’m also revealing some of my honest (and maybe flawed) thinking at this point in my life. Nevertheless, I’m choosing to share them with you to encourage you to also think about your vision.


Core Values:

  • Trust, respect, and value diversity and inclusion of ideas.
  • Deep value of community in the workplace.
  • Question status quo.
  • Lead through trust and collaboration.
  • Committed to helping and making other people’s lives better.
  • Treat people with dignity and respect.
  • Committed to life-long and continuous learning.
  • Find the goodness in others and help them fulfill their potential.

Purpose: To contribute to the betterment of society by promoting student success in higher education through technology and mentorship. Student success means students develop as a “whole person” while at the university and prepare them for their next steps, which could include attending grad school, getting a job, or following their passions.


BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals):

To become one of the most recognized practitioner/scholar experts in higher education due to successful and proven leadership/implementation of transformative practices involving technology leading to dramatic improvement of student success in higher education.

Vivid Descriptions

  • Together with researchers and scholars, will develop new theories or advance existing theories that reflect the current and future needs/interests of the diverse and changing higher education student demographics.
  • Together with researchers/scholars/practitioners/vendors/students/technology professionals, we will design and develop common standards and shared services n higher education that will enable information systems across institutions to easily interface with each other, are easy to implement, and use, and are learner-centered.

What are your core ideologies and envisioned future?

Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG)

dream_bigSetting big dreams is fun, isn’t it? My wife and I commute to work together, and there are days when we discuss all the possibilities ahead of us. We figure it doesn’t cost us anything, and if we’re going to dream anyway, we’ll dream big beyond our imaginations and realities as we see them now.

Personally, the last few months have proven to be fruitful so far. Some of what I consider Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG) have come/or are in the process of becoming realities. BHAG is a term I came across from the book called “Built To Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” by Jim Collins. The idea behind BHAG in this book is that visionary companies used bold and daunting missions to stimulate progress. I just recently read the book, so I didn’t know this term even existed, but it seems the goals I had set for myself would qualify as BHAGs. They may not be audacious goals for other folks, but these goals certainly are for me.

These personal BHAGs may not have been in the form I originally envisioned them, but they’re close to what I had in mind. In addition, some of these goals are personally scary for me. I figured I would have to conquer my fears as I encountered them. Another important note – these goals needed the help of other folks to make them happen! They would have never happened without folks who believed in me and the ideas themselves.

Here are some of my BHAGs that have become realities:

SA_Exec_TeamA seat at the Senior Student Affairs Officers (SSAO) table in my role as IT Director.  I became a member of my campus’ Student Affairs Executive Team in December. In this blog post, Case for Technology Leadership at the SSAO Table, I wrote about the value of having someone in a senior technology management role at the table who can bring technical expertise and perspective as strategic decisions are made.

A campus-wide IT leadership/management professional development program. With the support of our new CIO, Matt Hall, we have begun planning for a campus-wide program to promote community-building, leadership/mgmt, and technical training for IT professionals. Along with our CIO, we have a team consisting of IT Directors as well as HR managers that’s in the process of formulating our goals and program activities. This is an idea I proposed in this blog post – Cohort-Based IT Leadership Program for Higher Education.

NASPA Technology Knowledge Community (TKC) Chair. This is a position that seemed out of reach for me and one that I may not be qualified for, given the significance and scope of the TKC. However, as mentioned in this post (Sharing Our Vision at #NASPA16: Updates from the TKC Chair), I think I can contribute to advancing technology in student affairs by broadening the scope of conversation and those involved in the discussions through the chair position.  With the help of an amazing team, the community members, and the current chair, Lisa Endersby, I can’t wait to see what we’ll do in the next couple of years!

A webcast on student affairs and technology. A couple of weeks ago, the opportunity to do a webcast finally happened with the webcast “What AVPS and Mid-Level Professionals Need to Know About Technology” with Eric Stoller and Stephanie Gordon. It was a challenge for me, given that I am not always sure of how much I know about the topic and how I may come across on a live discussion when folks are watching from all places.

joe_before_afterLose 45 pounds in 10 months. Never in my wildest dream would I ever think I’d accomplish this. After all, I’ve tried in the past to lose weight, but for various reasons, I just couldn’t make it happen. Here is a blog post, How I lost 20 Pounds in 3 Months, of what I found to work (written three months after I started the weight loss attempt).

As I had mentioned, my wife and I have a list of BHAGs, and those shall remain a secret to us, and who knows if they’ll ever come to fruition. It is fun, though, to work towards them and to think about the possibilities. Professionally, I see the next three years as potentially significant for me. With a mixture of luck, preparation, and the help of many folks, I hope they’ll happen.

What are your BHAGs?

Photo of goldfish with shark fin courtesy of:

The Need for a Common Higher Education Data Model

In the current state, the ability of higher education institutions to provide holistic assessments of student learning, development, and success and to provide comprehensive advising (using curricular and co-curricular data) and other student services using disparate systems is virtually impossible. This is because the interoperability between systems may be limited, or they require IT, staff/vendors, to develop interfaces so that data can be moved between the systems through some form of files, including text, XML files, or other means. In addition to the limited interoperability, the lack of data liquidity (the ability to move data from one system to another) I shared in this post is an even bigger constraint. That there is not a single common structured data model in higher education is one of the big impediments to an environment where disparate systems within the institution can have a set of systems working together as one. Even a bigger goal is for multiple higher education institutions to have the ability to exchange information between their systems in cases where students may be attending both institutions or if they transfer from one to the other.

I wrote this blog about a proposal for a Common Learning Portfolio Markup Language in 2013 based on my observation working with several information systems at our university and the inability of these systems to easily exchange data among them. These systems include electronic medical records, student information systems, residential management systems, judicial conduct, and other systems. I observed that these systems could not interface with each other because they were either created by different vendors or our developers developed them. These different systems also did not share a common data model or infrastructure, making it easier for our developers to readily build programs to exchange data without developing additional programs to extract, transform, and load (ETL) the data.

Recently, I noticed different vendors’ efforts to develop/implement their versions of structured higher education data models and infrastructures. I haven’t delved into the details of each model/infrastructure to discuss how they are implemented. Still, given my limited access and understanding of the data models, it seems these efforts by the vendors are specific to their set of products (and their partners, however, that’s defined). In addition, these data models do not seem to include co-curricular information such as involvement with student organizations, career internships, and volunteer activities. The links below provide information about these different efforts:

Oracle Higher Education Constituent Hub (HECH)

“Constituent data is distributed across the enterprise among various systems (e.g., HR, Student Information, CRM, and Learning Management) across the Campus and all University locations. It is typically fragmented and duplicated across operational silos, resulting in an inability to provide a single, trusted Constituent profile to business consumers. It is often impossible to determine which version of the Constituent profile (in which system) is the most accurate and complete. The HigherEducation Constituent Hub (HECH) solves this problem by delivering a rich set of capabilities, interfaces, standards-compliant services, and processes necessary to consolidate Constituent information across the institution. This enables the deploying institution to implement a single consolidation point that spans multiple languages, data formats, integration modes, technologies, and standards.”

Salesforce Higher Education Data Architecture (HEDA)

“Leverage a newly established data standard and managed package to meet the needs of any institution. Institutions can continue to deliver value across campus by building on core objects, fields, and automation and integrating with a growing number of Higher Education AppExchange apps that are standardized on HEDA.”

Ellucian Higher Education Data Model

In many industries standards already exist, albeit with only partial adoption. In the HE sector, however, Ellucian had a unique opportunity to start with a “clean slate” and to create something new…and so we created the Higher Education Data Modal (HeDM). HeDM is a defined standard to illustrate a uniform view of “the world”, so that users can view data and interact with each other. The data model itself creates a defined data object or entity, reaching all corners of an institution, covering Recruitment, Students, Finance, Advancement and beyond.”

The US government has also started its effort to standardize education data through a Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) project. This project seems to be more abstract in that the data model is not designed specifically for any set of vendor products. Still, rather more of a definition of a structured data model, and the adoption is voluntary.

While education institutions across the P-20W (early learning through postsecondary and workforce) environment use many different data standards to meet information needs, there are certain data we all need to be able to understand, compare, and exchange in an accurate, timely, and consistent manner. For these, we need a shared vocabulary for education data—that is, common education data standards. The Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) project is a national collaborative effort to develop voluntary, common data standards for a key set of education data elements to streamline the exchange, comparison, and understanding of data within and across P-20W institutions and sectors.

We are moving in the right direction with the efforts I mentioned above, though we are still years away from having a set of common data models that all higher education institutions can use.

As I noted in my introduction above, it seems to me that until a common structured data higher education data model that can be used as a standard exists, higher education institutions will not be able to develop a holistic assessment of student success and provide services such as advising that use curricular and co-curricular information.

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 about 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 folks are assigned to different roles within these units. For example, in student health service, we have physicians, medical assistants, administrative assistants, business officers, and storeroom staff. We also have an IT unit consisting of technology professionals and administrative staff. In our Disabled Student Services office, we have advisors, adaptive technology staff, and administrative staff.

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


Click on the image above to view the pdf version.

The Benefits of Building/Managing Your Digital Reputation

Reputation can be defined as 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). Eric Qualman coins the terms digital footprint and digital shadow.

This post is about some of the benefits I’ve 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 a 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 to 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 principles that guide how I present myself and 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 others, I always try to maintain respect as I would like to be treated with the same kindness. 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.

I started primarily writing about my personal and professional interests with my blog. I’ve found my blog 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, but I 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 does have some benefits. Please let me know if I could provide you with some ideas on getting started.

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

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Social Justice and Information Technology

Social justice and higher education information technology (IT) are topics typically not associated with 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, social justice as a lens on how information technology is designed and implemented should be considered more. Social justice, in the context of this post, relates to distributive and procedural. Tyler and Smith (1998) define distributive justice as the “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 must ensure the systems we implement are designed to promote access to higher education and enable students to be successful in graduating and meeting their goals in attending college. We must think beyond our privileges (race, ability, socio-economic background, education, etc.) and consider the impact the systems we provide may have on those from underrepresented 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 decide on which school to attend, submit their application, apply for financial aid, reserve orientation sessions, 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, and 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 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 give up or provide wrong information, which may lead to negative consequences in the future.

Another population that may be disadvantaged by careless design/implementation is 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 would prevent 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?

About 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 determine the outcome fairly. 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 determine the outcome?

I also mentioned the financial aid information system as another system that may impact procedural justice. As with the judicial affairs information system above, financial aid officers must have the required and accurate information to decide on the amount of 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 attending college or staying home. All information available to financial aid officers must be accurate and readily accessible.

The examples provided are just two of many I can cite to illustrate the impact/role of information technology in social justice. As I mentioned above, social justice and information technology are often neither discussed nor associated between them. However, as information technology professionals responsible for providing these systems, we must be aware of how these systems impact students and ensure they promote access to higher education and enable students to succeed.


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. A significant amount of my time went to my MBA (IT Mgmt Specialization) course work in 2015; I could not 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 for 2013  and 2014, most 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



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. When I’ve asked higher education professionals on social media and on my campus, a singular definition seems elusive. 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 students 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 described above are applicable today.

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

Admissions Applicant Status Portal:

Applicants can 1) view the status of their application, including personalized messages and a checklist of the steps to enrollment, 2) submit a SIR (Statement of Intent to Register) with eCheck (ACH) payments, and a trigger to the 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 use 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 most 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 the 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 in course waitlists; update contact information;  view new student profile and transfer credits; perform automated progress checks and degree audits; order official and unofficial transcripts.

Student Information Systems & Technology Information Systems Portfolio provides a more comprehensive suite of information systems.

Moving forward, the effective use of digital technology in student affairs must consider the changing demographics of the students and the staff and faculty, 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 the 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 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.


Cuseo, J. (n.d.). South Carolina. Student Success: Definition, Outcomes, Principles, and Practices. Retrieved December 9, 2015, from

Shea, P., & Armitage, S. (2002). Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. Retrieved December 9, 2015, from

Student Affairs Org Technology Leadership Competencies – MindMap

What competencies are required to be an effective student affairs technology leader at an organizational level? This is a question I pondered while reviewing the Technology Competency Area within the ACPA/NASPA Professional Competency Area for Student Affairs Educators. I specifically mentioned “at an organizational level” because managing/leading the appropriate/effective use of technology at the divisional level differs from one who is leading the efforts at the national or individual levels. There are competencies required to run effective organizations and coordinating technology use at the divisional level. So, I combined the outcomes defined within the Technology Competency Area and my experience leading a student affairs IT department and produced the mind map of what I view as competencies required to be an effective student affairs technology leader at an organizational level.


What other competencies should be included? Thanks!

Thoughts on ACPA/NASPA Technology Competency Area

Every time I review the technology competency area, one of the newest areas in the ACPA/NASPA Professional Areas for Student Affairs Educators, I develop a greater appreciation of the efforts and thoughts that went into defining the competency and the outcomes. As an advocate for the effective use of technology for student development, learning, and success, I have high hopes that the technology competency area will have a significant impact in shaping how we, as student affairs educators, will adopt, utilize, and assess/evaluate technology within student affairs now and in the future. At the same time, I worry that while the technology competency area finally exists, we don’t know what to do with it. I don’t want them to be just words on some document that folks will look at once and forget they even exist. In a way, it’s ironic, maybe this isn’t the right word, that while technology is an essential part of student affairs, it’s still being treated like an add-on responsibility and qualification. I recently reviewed several jobs posting for Senior Student Affairs Officers (SSAO) positions on Only 1 out of the 21 job postings I reviewed had the word “technology” in the responsibilities and qualifications sections.

While reviewing the technology competency area and the outcomes again this evening, some thoughts and questions came to mind as to how we can effectively use the technology competency as listed below.

  • Developing the different components of technology competency requires continual learning and application. Training alone is not enough. Student affairs professionals must have the opportunities to apply and develop competency in our daily work.
  • No single person has all the skills and knowledge of all components of the competency (theories, technology, practice), so a partnership with campus colleagues (scholars, practitioners, IT professionals) must happen for professional development and collaboration opportunities to develop the outcomes.
  • Senior Student Affairs Administrators (SSAOs) must embrace and promote the ideologies and concepts behind technology competency. Therefore, they must commit resources for staff and their organization to develop competency. They need to model effective use of technology.
  • Stop talking about the competency and start practicing the outcomes.


  • How do we as a profession in general and at the national and campus levels effectively promote technology competency?
  • How do we assess and evaluate the level of technology competency? What common tools would be required to do this? How do we perform formative and summative assessments?
  • How do we promote technology competency and show relevance to daily work?
  • How can we integrate technology competency into the daily work of student affairs professionals so they’re not just adding things to learn?
  • Who will be the leaders/educators promoting these competencies, and how will they gain the skills/knowledge to be able to teach these competencies? Are their professors at SAHE graduate programs who have these skills/knowledge/backgrounds? Are technology courses even part of core courses in SAHE graduate programs?

What are your thoughts on the ideas and questions I posed above? How about technology competency in general? What are you doing personally to develop the outcomes for the technology competency?

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Technology Responsibilities & Qualifications for Senior Student Affairs Officers

Suppose technology is an essential component of today’s student affairs organizations. How is it that out of the 21 Chief Student Affairs Officers (CSAO) and Senior Student Affairs Officers (SSAO) positions posted on I reviewed today (11/29/2015),  only 1 job posting has the word “technology” in the areas of responsibilities and qualifications?

I reviewed the job postings because of my curiosity about how technology is perceived by student affairs organizations today. I think about student affairs and technology daily because of my role as an executive director for a student affairs IT organization. My curiosity is further driven as I think about my recommendations for a recent external program review of a student affairs and academic affairs IT department and as I think about how the recent inclusion of technology as a professional competency as part of the Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Educators by ACPA and NASPA could shape the future of technology in student affairs. In addition, I’ve been thinking about developing a framework for student affairs organizations to adopt, implement, assess and evaluate the technology.

Technology in student affairs can be viewed from many perspectives. For one, technology should be treated as a set of investments that can enable organizations to be more efficient and effective and transform how they do business. As an investment, technology also needs to be managed holistically from an enterprise level and not as disconnected and silo-ed systems. From this perspective, technology management and leadership require senior student managers to consider sustainable funding, governance structures and processes, and staffing. Technology as a set of resources to be managed is an idea I discussed in the article “CSAO as Information Technology Manager.”

Another view of technology in student affairs is the effective adoption and utilization by student professionals towards their duties as educators responsible for student learning, engagement, development, and career success. The description of the technology competency is the following:

“The 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. This area includes knowledge, skills, and dispositions that lead to the generation of digital literacy and digital citizenship within communities of students, student affairs professionals, faculty members, and colleges and universities.” (Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs, 2015, p. 33)

The description above and the outcomes stated for the technology competency area acknowledge the essential role technology plays in student affairs.

In addition, I was reading a book called Designing for Learning: Creating Campus Environments for Student Success which also highlights the impact of technology on student communities. One of the chapters discusses “digital forms of human environments as they apply to the post-secondary educational setting and focuses on the design and potential of these new technologies to effect the inclusion, security, engagement, and experience of community among students.” (Strange & Banning, 2015, p. xii)

Given the significance of technology in student affairs based on what I shared above, it is then puzzling to me as to why all of the job postings for senior student affairs officers positions I reviewed today, except for one, had no mention of technology as part of the responsibility and/or requirements.

Technology leadership must be present at the highest level of student affairs organizations. At the minimum, CSAOs cannot abdicate their roles as information technology managers, and they must either develop the skills, knowledge, and dispositions as described in the new technology competency area and/or include a position that can provide leadership to lead effective adoption, utilization, and assessment/evaluation of technology in student affairs. Here are two ideas to consider:

What roles and responsibilities should CSAOs/SSAOs have concerning technology?

Note on the cursory review process of the job postings:

I searched using “Vice President Student Affairs,” and the results returned 606 records, but I reviewed the job postings that contained what could be considered SSAO and CSAO positions (Vice President, Associate Vice President).  Some postings provided a link to the institutions’ job boards, but I limited my review to the description/requirements posted on the website itself.

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Highered IT Leadership Responsibility: Understand Customers/Users

I once read a line related to application development that goes something like this “we (application/web developers) design and build for end-users, and we are not the end-users.” One of the biggest mistakes IT folks commit, and I’ve certainly been guilty of this, is designing products and services for ourselves rather than the end-users. It’s too easy to get caught in this trap of designing for ourselves when we never leave the comfort of the office and do not understand those who will use the systems we build. To build effective systems, IT folks need to understand their end-users, those who will either benefit from the IT products/services provided or, unfortunately, will suffer the daily consequences of using systems that are either ineffective or inflict physical/mental pain. If you think I’m being over-dramatic with the last sentence, imagine using a system that requires one to have to repetitively use the mouse to scroll up and down web pages hundreds of times a day. After a while, you’ll develop carpal tunnel syndrome. Or, what about websites that are not responsive and the width of the page is wider than the size of the screens the users are using, which require them to scroll sideways to see the entire page? That could be very frustrating, right? How about websites that are so heavy with graphics that it takes forever to display (yes, there are still folks around the world who are connected to the internet on slow networks), which leads to frustrations? Developers and designers need to keep end-users in mind when building effective applications that satisfy the needs of the end-users.

For higher ed IT leaders (or IT leaders in any industry), the burden of responsibility to understand those they serve and their needs are even higher because when at the leadership level, they are essentially dealing not only with technology but business, organizational, and cultural transformations as well. The quality of service and products provided by IT are influenced and driven by their leaders. Consider the following scenario: an IT leader thinks their organization’s role is to “keep the lights on,” and so they pursue a strategy where they don’t pursue innovation and attempt to introduce new ideas, which at times could lead to disruptions in services, are punished. Consider another scenario where an IT leader thinks the cloud, social media, and mobile computing are all fads. So he/she tells their staff to ignore these fads since they’re wasteful investments.

The scenarios I described above are, unfortunately, not hypothetical. From articles, blogs, etc., and my conversations with other IT leaders, there’s a disconnect between IT and the business units when it comes to an understanding of the priorities and/or how services/products are designed. A big part of this disconnect is the lack of understanding regarding what business users want and need. Without understanding the business needs and the end-users, IT will use technology to drive the business needs rather than business needs defining what technologies are to be used.

How should IT leaders begin to understand their customers/users and their needs? In higher education, I’ve found several ways to do this:

1) Be part of campus strategic planning processes. When IT leaders get involved after technology-related decisions have been made, these decisions often have to be re-visited as factors that are only evident to IT folks may not have been considered. IT leaders also need to think like business leaders instead of technologists to frame how their organizations can best address business problems and not just use technology for technology’s sake. The missions of their campus must drive the efforts of IT organizations, so IT leaders need to understand the missions and priorities of their campus.

2) Understand technology trends. IT leaders are often in no position to be technology experts, given their responsibilities as strategists. Still, they should be cognizant of technology trends impacting their campus and higher education. For example, publications/orgs such as Pew Research, Educause, and Gartner, as well as national higher education organizations from time to time, have articles on future technology trends and technology use of different demographics. Attend conferences but not only technology conferences. IT leaders also need to attend conferences attended by functional business users. For example, student affairs IT should attend conferences by NASPA and ACPA, the two major student affairs organizations, and conferences for specific functional units like AACRAO for enrollment management departments.

3) Get out of the office and walk around campus. Observe what devices students are using as they will probably be ahead of IT organizations, especially when it comes to consumer products like social media and mobile computing and the next wave of computing – the internet of things.

4) Get on social media. Some IT folks pridefully tell me, “I am not on social media because it’s a waste of time!” Frankly, I think that’s a misguided way of thinking. IT folks can learn a lot from the network of other technology and business experts/leaders in higher education and other industries. I follow the health care industry because of the similarities between that industry and student affairs. Specifically, the nature of the high-tech/high-touch services must operate.

There are many more ways IT leaders can begin to understand their customers/users, and it’s a continuous process. Technology is evolving faster than ever, but the business challenges/opportunities in higher education driven by the needs of students, the economy, and politics are so dynamic and complex that IT leaders cannot afford to be left behind and fail to understand those they serve.

Intelligent Students of Tomorrow – A Visual Diagram

The prospect of how students will engage and navigate their campus lives in the next few years is intriguing. The general availability of consumer technologies (social media, cloud, mobile, internet of things wearable computing) coupled with advances in enterprise computing practices (big data and algorithms, security, artificial intelligence (bots), application programming interfaces) can lead to students using technology in new ways we may not have even seen. The image below shows how different technologies can work together for students’ benefit. While I titled it “Intelligent Students of Tomorrow,” the reality is that “tomorrow” is now present, but the scenario presented in the diagram will become more common.

click image above to see pdf

click the image above to see the pdf

What’s your vision for tomorrow, and how will students use technology?

My Knowledge System – A Visual Diagram

Learning is fun, isn’t it? It should be. One can learn from anyone, anywhere, and in many ways. Technology has made it so much easier to learn and connect with folks around the world. Through technology with the combination of web, mobile, cloud, social media, and other communication tools, one can pursue self-directed learning. One must also be curious, have a growth mentality, and be committed to improving oneself. Earlier today, I was thinking all the different ways I’ve used to learn about student affairs, technology, and about personal development. I used a mobile app called Mindly to visualize the sources and activities I’ve done in recent years for formal and informal learning. The diagram is as you see below. Click on the image to view a bigger version of the diagram. What would it look like if you were to map your knowledge system?


Blogging as a Medium of Expression for Marginalized Voices

The topic of social media and scholarship came up yesterday in the Research Institute of the NASPA Western Regional Conference in Oakland. One of the questions posed was, “who defines a legitimate source of knowledge?” As mentioned yesterday, when speaking with academic administration or faculty, one would probably cite academic journals, not blogs, as they are not seen as scholarly publications. There are certain standards in the academy of what constitutes scholarly writing. I can accept the idea that blogs may not yet be considered scholarly publications but what I will not accept is the idea is not blogs are not legitimate sources of ideas, whether they are considered scholarly or not, especially ideas from those who have been marginalized and whose voices have not been heard.

As one who has felt marginalized throughout my life and career, my blog offers me the voice to be heard. No one interrupts me when I am in the middle of writing a sentence. I write when my mind is free and when I want to. I often write my posts between midnight and three AM. Dr. Larry Roper, the former Provost for Student Affairs at Oregon State, said this when he spoke at UC Santa Barbara years ago, “Please do not steal my pause…the best comes after the pause.” This is a challenge I’ve faced as one who needs the time to think and finds myself being interrupted in mid-sentence when I’m speaking.

Even worse is that some of my ideas are quickly dismissed when I am expressing my perspective that may not align with mainstream thinking because of my upbringing and cultural background. Social media, especially blogging, has allowed me to contribute to the conversations in the field of student affairs, higher education, and technology. It has also provided me the medium to share my shared experience as an Asian-American. Some of the topics I write about resonate with others as I get emails from others who tell me they can relate, including this recent post on my challenge as an Asian American leader and assertiveness.

I don’t apologize for my thoughts, even as they may sound ridiculous to others. Why should I? I have a perspective like everyone else. Whether they are “right” or “wrong” is in the eye of the reader, but they are perspectives nevertheless. I have gotten tired of waiting for others to allow me to speak because I may not have the three letters after my name or because I don’t sit in a high enough position at the university. I think marginalized folks can relate to the frustration of being silenced or dismissed. Blogging has allowed me to contribute my thoughts and express them how I want to. When I blog, I don’t always know how readers will interpret them, and I know there are consequences to my writing. However, what I write are my ideas shaped by my experience and struggles. No one will tell me, nor should they, that my personal truth as the way I only see them is not valid.

When I started blogging, I intended to share my thoughts and considered it a public personal reflection. One of the unexpected outcomes has been collaborating with other student affairs and technology professionals who share common interests with me. I’ve had discussions with others about the current and future of student affairs and how technology should play in how we serve our students. As I’ve discovered during these collaborations, there are other folks like me who have ideas, yet they don’t have the medium to express them. My blog has allowed me to contribute to conversations and connect with others.

If you’ve felt marginalized and your voice silenced – consider blogging. No one’s going to interrupt your thoughts while you’re writing, and yes, there are consequences to what you write, but at least you’re sharing your unique ideas for others to read. Your ideas are too valuable to be kept in your head!

Reflection on My Days of Student Activism at UCSB


Image courtesy of Carol Dinh.

Student activism was the topic for this week’s #sachat session on Twitter. This is a weekly chat session for student affairs professionals and students interested in the profession. Coincidentally, the event I am facilitating called “The Roots and Identity of the API Community on Campus,” to be held next week, was also announced on Facebook today. The chat and the event reminded me of my student activism days at UCSB back in the 1990s.

Back then, I was deeply involved within the Asian American student community to challenge/work with the administration to improve student services to better serve the needs of Asian American students and the student body in general. Some of the group’s efforts were directed towards making student services more culturally sensitive and for the counseling services experience more accommodating to Asian American students who may have come from cultures and family upbringings where professional counseling was a foreign concept or frowned upon.

Another major effort the students undertook was establishing a physical space for Asian American students to have a place we can call home. After many years of working with the administration, the effort resulted in having a room identified as the “Asian Resource Center,” which led to a building now called Student Resource Building, wherein several student service departments and resource centers for marginalized student populations are located.

One of the most memorable moments as a student was when I called my mom, letting her know I was involved in a student protest. My mom was furious at me for being part of it. She was also scared of what would happen to me. She yelled at me that I would go to jail. Her reactions were because of what we had seen in the Philippines growing up. When we left the Philippines in 1984, it was about the time of the People Power Revolution that deposed Ferdinand Marcos, the President of the Philippines back then. During that time,  we witnessed protests on the street in Baguio City, where I grew up. My parents were never politically active, so I never participated in the protests. My parents were also adamant about me not getting involved because of the fear of being arrested or other consequences.

Looking back, one of the benefits of getting involved with student activism was developing my identity as a Filipino-American. Coupled with Asian American courses, including a Filipino-American Experience course, my involvement within the Asian American community allowed me to learn about Asian American history and develop my racial and cultural identities. Being aware of Asian-Americans’ struggles throughout history, oppressive laws like anti-miscegenation and racial discrimination and segregation practices, and how Filipino-American leaders like Pablo Manlapit, Philip Vera Cruz, and Larry Itliong led movements to fight injustices led me to explore what it meant to be a Filipino-American. I became keener on the portrayals of Asian-Americans in the popular media. I also became more sensitive to micro-aggressions I faced every day. I noticed how I was followed when I entered stores. I noticed how my White hall mates insisted I only got accepted to UCSB because of affirmative action.

While I didn’t know it back then, I was going through an identity development process during my days as a student activist. As Kim’s Asian American Identity Development Theory suggests, I had gone through the following stages, including ethnic awareness, White identification, awakening to social-political consciousness, redirection, and incorporation.

After graduation, I found a job at UCSB; I’m still at UCSB. As a professional, I became a staff advisor to several organizations, including the Filipino-American student organization Kapatirang Pilipino, Pilipino Graduation, and Pilipino Cultural Night (PCN). It’s been interesting to mentor and observe the student leaders and watch them go through the similar identity development process I went through. I hope their experience as student activists will help them find themselves and in their careers as it had done for me.

Assertiveness: My Leadership Challenge as an Asian American

As of yesterday, I had been in my department’s Acting Executive Director role for one year. I lead an IT organization in a higher education institution. The day before, we held our quarterly department meeting to review our accomplishments and upcoming projects. As a typical practice after events, I asked for feedback on how the meeting went and how well I did. The staff I spoke with had positive comments. One staff shared feedback that made me think about my leadership role as an Asian American and the perceptions of leadership in higher education and even in this country. The comment that made me think about these topics was this “Joe,  you were certainly much more assertive and confident yesterday. You’re a lot different from when you started last year. My initial concern was because you’re so nice, I didn’t know how well you’d be able to deal with other directors and those more senior than you when it came to conflict. You’ve adjusted well, and I see you as more confident and assertive.”

Throughout my career, one personal trait that’s been perceived as negative regarding my leadership style has been my assertiveness or lack of. From the feedback I’ve received, I’ve been seen as not direct and not confrontational when dealing with conflicts. Whether that’s because of my personality or cultural upbringing, I don’t know why I have not been seen as “assertive” as other folks would like me to be. However,  when folks assess my assertiveness, they probably compare it to other leaders from their experience or what they see in popular media.

I grew up in a Filipino household that values harmony, and conflicts are dealt with in not-so-direct ways. When it came to conflict, saving face or preserving the dignity of those involved mattered a lot in my family and the Filipino culture. In my career, these approaches have conflicted with how those I work with expected me to deal with issues. Because I have not always been direct in confronting issues, I have been seen as weak and unsure of myself. Perhaps, others have expected me to be dominant and controlling. I’ve been more inclined to use influence and persuasion to lead. The challenge for me then has been reconciling my personal tendencies with the workplace expectations when it comes to being an assertive leader. The challenge has been determining when to use the style I’m more comfortable with vs. what others may consider assertive.

As I think about this issue of assertiveness, I wonder which opportunities I missed because I was not seen as an assertive leader. Moving forward, I wonder how this perception will shape my career. I also wonder about my prospect of moving up the management hierarchy in higher education where there’s a glaring lack of Asian American leaders who can mentor me, where my qualities may not match the Western qualities associated with leaders, and perhaps bias against me because I don’t fit the prototypical leader that hiring committees are comfortable hiring.

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Being Optimistic About Possibilities

I’ve been in far too many conversations when new ideas are immediately met with “that’s not possible because …” and with those conversations come the quick death of what could just transform organizations beyond imaginable. When thinking about future possibilities, ideas should not be framed in how we see things as they are now. Granted that no one knows what the future holds, I do know that the reality we see today is not how it will be in the future. Given this case, why not think of the future as an optimist and consider all that could be possible instead of limiting our thoughts because of the current constraints? A popular Wayne Gretzky quote goes something like “skate to where the puck is going and not where it has been.” Leadership is about the future and not maintaining the status quo.

When having conversations about ideas, I’ve noticed that folks immediately get into the mindset of scarcity and managing constraints. Often, the mindset is about “we don’t have enough resources to do that” or “how can we do that when we need to give up …” While these constraints need to be considered, there are times and places for that level of conversation. When I hear those feedback, my response is “even more reason why we should be thinking differently. We cannot choose to stay on the same path, or situations may become worse.” I’ve also responded with, “was there ever a time when we had enough resources? We will never have enough resources, but it’s about being resourceful with what we have.”

A colleague who’s proven himself to be able to implement innovative ideas on campus once told me ideas often start with “wouldn’t it be cool if …” and sharing them with other folks who share the same enthusiasm or who may be able to provide support.  Keeping this in mind, when I’ve had conversations about new ideas and I’m met with skepticism,  sometimes, I’ve had to say, “I don’t know how we’ll do it, but wouldn’t it be cool if we could do that?”

I used to think, “it’s not possible here in our organization anyway, so why to bother thinking about an idea.” That mentality stopped me from exploring possibilities, and it frustrated me. But, I’ve come to find that while my ideas may not be implemented at my university, there really is no one stopping me from thinking about possibilities and sharing them with the world. Many of the ideas I’ve shared on my blog will never be implemented at my university (now) for many reasons, but they are fun to think about.

On a personal note, my wife and I commute to work for about 30 minutes every day, and we often use those times to dream about possibilities. We dream about an exciting future ahead of us. It’s not costing us anything, so we don’t limit ourselves when we think about the possibilities ahead of us.  Will they happen? Who knows, but I do believe in the idea of self-fulfilling prophecies. One can continue on the path of “it will never happen because …” and things indeed will never happen, but with an optimistic perspective, there’s the chance that what we think about and pursue may just happen.

Senior Student Affairs Officers (SSAOs) on Social Media

I was asked by a colleague once whether it’s worth it for high-ranking student affairs leaders such as deans and other senior student affairs officers (SSAO) to be spending their time on social media given all the amount of work they must do. This question is like asking whether any SSAO should even be attending student activities on campus to engage with students, build relationships, or at the least listen (“lurk”) to get a sense of what students are talking about given the amount of work they must do. Can you imagine any SSAO making any effective decision impacting students by spending all their time in their office and not having any contact with them? One would find that concept ludicrous, right?

One only needs to look at Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and even Yik Yak and Yeti on any given day to see how much college students use social media to express themselves, communicate, and even study together. SSAOs would be wise to spend some of their time just “lurking” to understand what students are talking about. They would see patterns of issues given the time of the year. They would also see the behaviors displayed on social media that should drive the educational programming their campus should be doing. They would see opportunities when they can provide assistance or encouragement to students needing some help. They would also see feedback on programs and services their organizations provide. If SSAOs want real-time and unfiltered feedback, they might want to read students’ reactions on social media from time to time. There are students on social media who are not members of the active and engaged student leaders from whom SSAOs interact and get feedback. Social media provide SSAOs with a wider set of perspectives. even those they may not want to read and see beyond what they typically get from student leaders.

Another important reason why SSAOs should spend some time on social media is. Because of their influential position within their organization, SSAOs can shape their organization’s attitude towards the use of social media and technology. Through their use of social media, SSAOs can message their organizations that social media does have a beneficial role in their jobs and it’s okay to use social media in the workplace. A few years ago, I encountered strong resistance from some people in our student affairs organization about using social media in our workplace. I was frustrated because while I realized the value of social media in communicating with students, I had difficulty convincing my colleagues to accept social media as part of our work. I asked our then Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Dr. Michael Young, to sponsor a divisional social media initiative. As part of that effort, Dr. Young and his office created his Twitter account and a department Facebook page. In addition, he also sent a memo to the division explicitly encouraging the staff to embrace social media as a way to communicate with our students. Dr. Young’s support of social media is documented in this parents newsletter (2012) article about our division’s use of social media. According to Dr. Young,

“We have to try to keep up with our students. We have to continue to evolve so that we can thoughtfully and adequately serve them.” He also said, “Our strength is our ability to communicate with our students where they are and in their language,” explaining that “organizations that are aligned with their interests, instead of the interests of the broader community they serve, will fail.”

In student affairs, we have a saying that “we need to meet where students are.” Our students are on social media. SSAOs failure to engage on social media can mean failure for student affairs organizations to thoughtfully and adequately serve them, as Dr. Young once said.

Feeling Comfortable About Being Uncomfortable

I committed to pushing myself beyond what I think I’m capable of and comfortable with this year. I will try new things that will result in embarrassment, failure, criticism, and feelings of inadequacy. Why? I’m not doing new things just for the sake of trying new things, but rather, I want to challenge myself to get used to the feeling of being uncomfortable. What I’ve come to realize after some reflection is that I have the tendency to give up too soon when things get hard, or when I encounter criticisms. I tend to personalize criticisms, taking them to heart to the point where they paralyze me. I look back at opportunities missed in my career when if I only persisted more than I did, I could have done more. I look back at how easily I gave up in 2009 when I tried promoting the idea of mobile websites, but I could not quite convince my colleagues that mobile would become more common in the next few years. I gave up too soon. Six years later, some of our most used sites are still not mobile-friendly. What a missed opportunity.

I recently started a group on campus called Innovators Community at UCSB. I started the group because I was craving a place to just chat about new ideas. I feel there’s not enough space to just talk about ideas without getting stuck thinking about why things can’t work. I had invited folks to come to our first social. I even offered to buy food. After some feedback, I chose a date. I had expected quite a few people to come. Two other people besides me came. In the past, I would have beaten myself up and considered the event a failure. This time around, I didn’t see it that way. I was talking with a colleague today, and he said, “that’s a bummer.” My response was, “not really. I thought it was great!” Two folks or fifty, I was going to make the most of the result. I had an awesome time having long conversations with my friends who showed up. It was the type of conversation I had been looking for.

There are goals I had wanted to do, but I was too scared in the past to pursue them. I’ve always wanted to do formal research about student affairs and technology, but I gave myself many reasons why I couldn’t do them. This time around, I will find ways to finally start taking steps towards this goal. I will be attending the NASPA Regional 6 conference Research Institute to gain research skills and connect with others who may be able to help me out.

I will be called the “lone nut” I will probably be called some names I may not appreciate, but I will take them on as a challenge. When I attended a student affairs conference this last weekend at UCLA, I attended a panel session of senior higher education administrators wherein they shared their experiences and challenges. One of the panelists, VP of Student Services at Rio Hondo College, Henry Gee, said something that resonated with me. I’ve heard the advice, but it was different this time. He shared how in his position, not everyone supports everything he does. He shared a story where a board of trustees offered their opinion not to renew his contract while he was in the room. VP Gee’s advice is you can’t take it personally. Guess what? I think that sounds like good advice. As I have learned in my position of one year as the acting Executive Director for my IT department, even with the best intention, everything I’ve done so far has not been met with unanimous approval. At least one person tells me I’m doing things wrong or I’m not doing things well enough. I’ve come to learn I cannot please everyone, and so with that lesson learned and with all my plans to try new things this year beyond what I would have done in the past, I will be learning to be comfortable about being uncomfortable. Onward I go!

Be Mindful About “Conventional” Career Advice

I was speaking with a recent graduate who, after two years in the workforce, is exploring the possibility of going back to pursuing a Masters in Student Affairs and Higher Education. She was very concerned about the idea that because she didn’t go straight from an undergraduate to a Master’s program, the conventional path would reflect negatively on her when she did apply. As she told me this, I just had to smile because I was reminded of how, early in my career, several well-intended folks offered me advice about staying put in one place. After all, going from one job to another will not be seen positively when I apply for jobs. I wasn’t following the conventional career path. In retrospect, my experiences in start-up, corporate, and higher education have provided me with varied perspectives that have helped me appreciate and assess the realities of my job. I am glad I chose to listen to my instinct and not be pressured into pursuing the conventional path I was advised to take.

Just as I believe industry best practices have value in improving organizations, one must be cognizant that local contexts must be considered when applying best practices. Local factors like tradition, politics, personalities and other organizational constraints cannot be ignored. I liken best practices to the conventional career paths I was advised to pursue early in my career. Like best practices, advice about conventional career paths must be taken cautiously. I realized that early on in my career. Hence, while I politely listened to the conventional career advice I was given, I knew I had to consider my unique experience, background, skill set, and aspirations. The folks giving me advice were successful in their ways, but there were challenges I faced and strengths I possessed as a first-generation immigrant Filipino-American. My personal attributes and circumstances are analogous to the local contexts I mentioned above. Even beyond my personal attributes and background, today’s economy and job skills have significantly changed from decades ago.

In this world of every so dynamic workplace, how much of what’s considered conventional career paths are applicable? In the past, folks stayed in one job their entire lives, but I’ve read many articles, including this one, that job hopping is the “New Normal” for Millennials. I wonder how many younger professionals and students still receive career advice from well-intended senior professionals based on their experience a couple or more decades ago.

Personally, the prospect of where I may be in my career ten years from now is exciting. I don’t know what careers will be available for me in our field of student affairs in the future. I suppose the best advice I will cautiously provide to anyone asking for career advice is to continue learning, be open to possibilities, and study trends that may provide clues on where we may be heading. In other words, prepare for a career yet to be invented.

What are your thoughts on this topic? What conventional and so unconventional career advice have you received in your career?

Personal Recap of Western Regional Career in Student Affairs Day (WRCSAD) 2015

I attended the Western Regional Career in Student Affairs Day at UCLA this last Saturday, Oct 17, with the UCSB’s NASPA Undergraduate Fellowship Program (NUFP) team. This was an opportunity for our undergraduate students to learn more about student affairs as a profession and to meet other students and professionals in the field. I also attended to be a panelist for a session on Social Media in Student Affairs. As it was with the previous years I have attended, I left the conference with a sense of renewal and commitment to my role as a student affairs professional. The event was well planned, the sessions were informative, and the speakers were knowledgeable. I sensed those involved in the planning and those who participated in a deep commitment to serving students and learning about student affairs. Beyond the learning were also the fun moments getting re-acquainted with friends and colleagues I interact with through social media and meeting new friends. Here are some of the personal highlights (I can remember) of the conference:

Dr. Sumun (Sumi) Pendakur‘s keynote speech (“The Personal, The Political, and The Professional”). Dr. Pendakur delivered a dynamic speech about the intersections of her personal upbringing and her profession. As she said, “we all come from somewhere, ” she spent some time introducing her parents, specifically her dad, and how their experiences informed and shaped her world views and activism. She shared her personal story because, as she said, “personal narrative informs our work we do.”  She spoke about our obligations as student affairs professionals to serve all students and to promote success for all students, not just for some. She asked, “are they graduating and thriving, or are they surviving”? Dr. Pendakur also shared some strategies to get the most out of this conference, which applies to our daily work. For one, she suggests doing some relationship-building – purposeful networking. In addition, she suggested self-care/renewal. Conferences this size can be a challenge for introverts (like me), and it’s okay to find a corner someplace alone to re-energize ourselves on our own. Lastly, she suggested pushing the edge/practicing taking risks. Ask questions and challenge. We need to practice asking questions, and we don’t have to be SSAOs to be asking questions. We can ask questions wherever we sit in the institution.


Reflections from Senior Affairs Officers. Four seasoned administrators (Dr. Jeff Klaus from CSU Long Beach, Dr. Sumun Pendakur from Harvey Mudd College, Dr. Suzanne Seplow from UCLA, and VP Henry Gee, Rio Hondo Community College) along with the facilitator Dr. Mink-Salas from Azusa Pacific University shared some really valuable insights on their experiences, and they also shared important lessons.

Watching two Asian American senior administrators on the panel was a welcome sight. As I wrote in this blog post, we need more Asian American mentors/advocates in higher education. The messages from all of the panelists were valuable, but the messages from VP Henry Gee and Dr. Pendakur spoke to me as an Asian American.


This session made me think about where I am in my career and where I would like to go in my career. During this session, I had this “Eureka” moment of what my purpose in student affairs has been though I never realized what it was. This was to shape my institution and higher ed in general to best, serve the interest of students!

The other important insight I got from this session was the idea that I don’t want to be pigeonholed as an “IT guy” because I’ve primarily been in student affairs IT for most of my career. I have always seen myself as a student affairs professional who works primarily with technologies to promote student success. I have played several roles as an organizational advisor, mentor, FYE discussion leader, multicultural programming facilitator, etc. The challenge and interest for me have been on how to bridge the gap between IT and student affairs and, in general, how to use technology more effectively within student affairs. It is still my goal to be a senior administrator someday to be able to solve the challenge I posed through the position of Dean of Student Affairs Technology, a role that does not yet exist. This role needs to be at the highest level in student affairs organizations sitting alongside other senior student affairs officers (SSAO). As this role still does not exist, I continue to advocate that an IT director or one in charge of enterprise technology initiatives within student affairs needs to be at the SSAO table.

Black Lives Matter in the Ivory Tower: Trials and Triumph in Navigating Anti-Racist Work session. This session was planned to be facilitated by a UCLA senior student affairs official and a panel. Still, due to the ongoing investigation of the “Kanye Western” theme party, which involved racial overtones, Dr. Dougherty, the facilitator, could not attend. The other panelists from other universities were able to attend as well. Two professionals, Diana Victa from Cal State Los Angeles and Patricia Nguyen from UCLA (and UCSB alum), effectively facilitated the hard topics of how to promote anti-racism efforts on campus and the barriers facing these efforts. Participants shared their thoughts about anti-racism challenges and opportunities at their own campuses. Undergraduate students spoke about the challenges of being expected and devoting time towards fighting for social justice while already facing heavy academic work. Some professionals spoke about their personal challenges and how they found their voices in the process. When asked why we attended the session, I shared that I wanted to learn about the topics and, more importantly, to listen to the raw and unfiltered voices of those impacted by racism. I shared that we don’t have enough space to have honest conversations about racism on our campuses. It was a powerful session, indeed. One of the comments shared by a new pro and a former student activist was the myth of resource constraint in response to the idea that we need to be patient in our anti-racism fight. We can’t solve the problem in one day. As the attendee stated, “how is that money magically appearing after a crisis and when the university’s ranking is going down, and donors stop donating as the result of a crisis when students have been talking with the administration for a long time before the crisis.”


photo courtesy of Grace Bagunu

Social Media in Student Affairs session. I sat on a panel with  VP Henry Gee and Jennifer Rodil, with Grace Bagunu as the moderator. We spoke about the role of social media at the personal, campus, and professional organization levels. As VP Gee shared, Grace was the first social media account manager for NASPA Region 6, and she was instrumental in getting VP Gee to use social media. Jennifer also credited Grace as her social media mentor. I first met my co-presenters through social media and have become friends since we met, so this session was fun to participate in.

VP Gee spoke about why he joined Twitter at the urging of Grace and why he joined Facebook (to listen to feedback about his programs). He also provided important responses to questions from the audience on how to appropriately use social media regarding job searching and networking. Jennifer provided insight on how she manages her department’s social media presence and strategies for promoting engagement with the NASPA Region 6 Twitter and Instagram accounts. An audience member asked how to manage time spent posting content and social media accounts effectively. Jennifer suggested having a schedule of postings along with the schedule are the types of content to post. I spoke about specific uses of social media at UCSB. I cited how I used Facebook to share information about the status of our IT services during the power outage since our email server was out of service. Since we couldn’t send messages through our email server, Facebook became the primary medium to communicate with our UCSB customers about our services’ statuses until we could have email service up and running again. The second example I provided was the significance of social media during a crisis. I specifically spoke about the tragic Isla Vista shooting on Mary 23rd, 2014. Social media became the medium for real-time communication (I learned about the shooting the minute shots were fired from students I advised through their Facebook statuses), community building (show of support within the local UCSB community and across the globe on social media), and event coordination (series of events were held that following week along with a memorial at UCSB’s Harder Stadium attended by 20,000+).

I also spoke about the reasons why I blog, including why I started (I was frustrated because I had a lot of ideas but I didn’t feel heard at my campus, so my blog became a platform for me to express my ideas), what my purpose for blogging (promote student affairs technology and leadership), some strategies and tools I use, as well as how I address the common challenge of how to write authentically (I don’t share everything but what I do share are true to my heart).

Some audience members shared their success stories, including how they used social media on campus. One of the stories shared by the creator of the account was the use of Twitter to inform students of food on the UCLA campus. The Twitter account is called @hungry_bruin.

Several attendees spoke to the panel after the session for several minutes, thanking us and exchanging other ideas.

Ethical and Legal Issues in Higher Education session. I was late to this session because of the last session. Still, I am glad I attended as I learned some valuable insights from the panel, which made me think about the value of understanding policies, making ethical decisions, and the increasingly difficult choices to be made as one advance in the management hierarchy. Institutional responsibility and ethics were discussed as they relate to things we probably don’t consider ethical issues. As one of the panelists shared, staff don’t own the money used to run the university. Students are paying for the services, and so when staff comes into work late, they’re taking resources away from the students. A panelist shared his guiding principle when making tough decisions – “Did I follow the policy, and did I practice fundamental fairness in the process?”

A discussed topic was the issue of individual rights and freedom of expression. As one of the panelists shared, one has the freedom of expression, but one doesn’t have the freedom of consequences. Senior administrators must help frame the consequences of students’ actions in this term “I’m not saying you’re right or wrong, but how is that being perceived? Is that the message you want to send out?”

The three sessions I attended were informative and led me to reflect on my role as a student affairs professional and how I view my role at my university and my career path. In addition to the value provided by the sessions, the most valuable experiences I got out of the conferences came during the breaks and lunch. These were the times when I had the chance to connect with our NUFP fellows and mentors, reconnect with friends I had not seen in a while, and meet new ones. Attending this conference with my fellow and our NUFP team was a wonderful experience we could build upon to further develop our relationships and learn more about each other.


UCSB NUFP Team (photo courtesy of Klint Jaramillo).

The conference was also an opportunity to connect with other Filipin@-Americans in student affairs. We started this tradition of taking a group photo at conferences starting last year, and this photo below is a part of that tradition. Finally, meeting other Fil-Am professionals, I met via social media face to face for the first time was nice.

Pin@ys in Student Affairs

Pin@ys in Student Affairs (photo courtesy of Grace Bagunu)

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Ten Predictions for Student Affairs of 2018

From time to time, I like to think about what student affairs and even higher education, in general, will look like maybe about three or four years from now. These predictions are based on general observations on my campus, reading technology trends inside and outside higher education, and reading about the general landscape of higher education. These are not based on formal research, so I don’t have citations to provide:)  Here are some personal thoughts on what 2018 in student affairs may look like. Some may be considered outrageous and have a low likely chance of ever becoming a reality, but one can explore beyond the realm of reality, right? It will be fun to just look at these predictions in 2019. Here they are:

1.  Assessment will become more important as the need for greater accountability increases. Assessment as part of formal job duties will also become more prevalent. This will require new skill sets for staff, including conducting assessments and using technologies to analyze data. Some organizations may even have data scientists who will explore and design ways to use data for student success.  The use of machine learning, an advanced predictive analytic, will be used in different areas of student affairs and enrollment management services. While big data is the big talk, the focus will be algorithms.

2.  Greater use of consumer technologies in the workplace, including social media, cloud, mobile, wearable computing, and the Internet of Things. I wrote in this blog post about how these technologies could all work together in student affairs. Wearable computing and the Internet of Things will pose challenges to IT organizations when it comes to securing information and protecting networks. In addition, using these technologies for cheating will pose challenges to judicial affairs and academic staff.

3. Outsourcing of student affairs services as the need for 24/7 availability increases. These services could include 24/7 counseling hotlines for suicide prevention. As more online courses are offered, the traditional 8 to 5 local work hours will require extended hours of operations as students from different time zones (global) require instructional technology and student services support.

4. Organizational restructuring will occur to accommodate the needs of the diverse student body, including veterans, undocumented, LGBTQIA, international, and non-traditional students.

5. Health, wellness, and campus safety will become even bigger issues.

6. New student development theories or revisions of existing theories incorporating digital aspects of identities will be introduced.

7. Budget constraints will lead some student affairs organizations to find different sources for funding and/or cost-cutting efforts. These efforts could include the formation of development offices within student affairs as well as the consolidation of multiple offices. Partnership with vendors in exchange for access to student data (hopefully aggregated and not personally identifiable information) and insights may be a path some organizations take.

8. A new controversial social media platform, like Yik Yak, will be created, leading campuses and student affairs professionals to react extremely against the platform. The use of virtual/Augmented reality technologies like Oculus Rift and Microsoft HoloLens with the new platform will make privacy/confidentiality/cyberbullying issues even more significant.

9. With technology finally added as a part of the ACPA/NASPA professional competency area for student affairs, discussions around the importance of technology’s role in student learning, professional development, and administrative use will lead to a creation of a new Senior Student Affairs Officers (SSAO) position focusing on technology such as the one I proposed here – Dean of Student Affairs Technology.

10. An additional role that may be created in some student affairs organizations is that of Chief Innovations Officer or a role dedicated to exploring new ideas. Given the lack of resources, increasing demands to be more effective/efficient, and the need to respond to the fast-changing needs of students, some student affairs organizations will move towards disruptive instead of incremental innovation efforts.

Bonus prediction: New technologies will confuse higher education staff even more on the appropriate use of FERPA.

What other predictions do you have?

Random Thoughts About Identities and Organizational Roles

I once read that identity is an intersection of how others see you and how you see yourself. As much as we want to define how we want others to see us, I think that’s pretty much impossible. We can certainly try to influence others’ perceptions of us but ultimately, what matters is how others see us. I believe that’s called reputation. The concept of identity is a complex one. It’s even more complex when one considers the role of identity in the context of social settings. When we are associated with groups, such as the organization we work for, we assume the organization’s identity and identity are shaped by its members. Actions by individual members reflect the organization and other members, while the organization’s identity impacts how its members are perceived. Have you ever walked into a meeting where you’ve never met anyone before, yet they’ve already formed an impression of you?

Those in leadership positions must sometimes have to negotiate and reconcile their identities and values with that of their organization as they don’t always match. So, how do leaders authentically represent themselves when representing their organization? What does it mean in this context to represent “themselves”? Are they representing their identities independent of the organization, or are they representing identities defined by their role in the organization?

I think about the questions above when I hear from individuals who maintain that they want to be authentic to themselves and the values they represent. Considering the possibility that there probably isn’t an organization anywhere that completely aligns with the values of every single one of its members, how will those individuals deal with this reality?

Organizational Health

org_healthConsider organizations as organisms consisting of living beings whose level of effectiveness and productivity rely on the health of those who are part of them. Organizations, specifically higher education, are referred to as “institutions” They project the idea that they are machines, consisting of processes and structures, and forget that higher education is made up of human beings working together. The reality is that for “institutions” to be effective and efficient, the members of their workforce must be individually healthy so the organization can be healthy.

One of the topics often discussed in the world of student affairs is the concept of work/life balance. The issue revolves around the idea that because the staff is overworked, emotional, mental, and physical stresses take their toll, leading to individual and organizational problems. Often, the discussion is framed as workers’ rights vs. management issues. But, if framed in the way I had suggested above, this should not be the case. For the organization to function effectively as a whole, it needs to consider its workers’ health, and it should strive to create an environment where the staff is engaged, meaning they both feel like they’re contributing to the organization. They feel satisfied in doing so. As a leader of an organization, I don’t claim to know the answers on how to create this environment, but I do seek ways towards this effort. What I know is that the demands and pressures from mandates, customer expectations, taking care of the staff, and keeping the organization running are often too much for the current staffing level. I scoff at the idea of administrative bloat, especially when it comes to the idea that there is way too many technical and administrative staff at universities. However, consider the ending of the Perkins Loan program and the new Prior-Prior Year change in the financial aid application process. The are just two changes in the financial aid system that require universities to respond to accommodate them immediately. In an ideal world, there would be sufficient time and staffing to meet these demands, but unfortunately, that is not the case. These changes require staff to work above and beyond regular hours, including evenings and sometimes weekends. By no means are these complaints but rather a statement of the reality of the pressures experienced by staff, potentially impacting their health.

The management and the staff must share the challenge and responsibility of keeping the organization healthy. For management, efforts must be made to provide an environment where staff feels like they’re thriving and not merely surviving or even worse. Different folks have different motivations, and it’s up to the management to determine how each employee feels valued. Some like a job that allows them to make enough money and they don’t have to work beyond 8-5 to enjoy their lives away from work and with their families. Some are motivated by intellectual challenges and a sense of accomplishment. Some also see their work as beyond work – their passions drive them to make a significant difference in this world. Then some are motivated by all of the reasons mentioned. The challenge and responsibility then is for management to meet those motivations to the best of their ability while meeting the demands required of the organization.

The staff themselves need to be responsible for their health as well. They need to be their biggest advocate when it comes to making sure their needs are met. This means communicating with their supervisors about their boundaries and recognizing their limits. Sometimes, staff may feel the need to be heroes/martyrs, sacrificing themselves for the sake of the organization. In the long run, this is not the most effective way to contribute to the organization. For one, heroes who take on more responsibilities than they should sometimes prevent others in the organization from growing. Also, they become the only individuals the organization must rely on. While this may be a good feeling to have, the reality is that heroes may not be able to enjoy their lives outside work because they are always in demand, even during their vacations. As for martyrs who feel the need to suffer to show their value to the organization, it is not sustainable as working long hours and spending emotional energy can just lead to burnout. They are also just hurting themselves by setting expectations that are not sensible. For example, a person who constantly works 70+ hours a week may set themselves up for scrutiny when they start to lessen their work to a manageable 40 or so hours a week as their productivity level will decrease.

Staff must also take care of their physical and mental health. These include taking on activities to promote wellness, such as exercising, hobbies, and interests that take their minds off work.

Organizational health is a shared responsibility between management and staff. For organizations to be effective, they must view themselves as more than institutions consisting of tasks and processes but rather as living organisms consisting of human beings who have emotional, mental, and physical needs.

How are you promoting a healthy organization?

The Importance of Being Heard

not-being-heard-by-friendsI have read employees leave organizations because of their managers. One of the most frustrating situations that lead to employees looking for other jobs is because they don’t feel heard by their managers, who expect to guide and protect them. As managers, sometimes we are too focused on getting the tasks done that we fail to notice the cues (subtle or overt) our employees share to let us know of their concerns. And when we do notice their concerns, we fail to realize that they may not be looking for answers from us but just to say, “I hear you.” Acknowledgment is a very powerful action, yet as managers, we don’t do enough of this. I’m guilty of that sometimes, and it’s a shortcoming I’ve realized that I’m now conscious of in my relationships at work. Have you ever observed yourself or others doing this in your workplace?

  • An employee brings up a concern to their manager and is told they are being too sensitive.
  • An employee is in the middle of stating their concerns to their manager, who is cut off by the person they are talking with.
  • An employee proposes an idea to their manager, and their ideas are immediately met with “yes, but…” instead of “yes, and ….”

I’ve been that employee whose ideas have not always been acknowledged, and I’ve also been told I’m guilty of being the not-so-receptive manager. Because of the pressure of having to complete tasks, we forget the human element of our work which include building positive relationships with those we work with and showing they matter and are valued. Part of this relationship building could start by taking the time to acknowledge others.

Image courtesy of ExtremeHealthRadio.

Getting Caught Up in Our Own Worlds

It’s easy to get caught up in our world and the challenges we face, which could lead to thinking we are the only ones going through difficult times. Sometimes, we might think we’re the only ones working after hours and the only ones who must face so much work for our inadequate resources. This could lead to thinking we are unfairly being asked to take on the burdens of our organization on our own. This kind of thinking happens when we don’t take the time to connect with other folks in other parts of our organization. In IT, we are often asked to work after hours and on weekends because that’s the only time we are allowed to do some maintenance work and not disrupt the work of our customers during business hours. I personally don’t do much technical work anymore, given my management role, but for years, I worked after hours and on weekends to complete parts of my job. There were times when I got frustrated, but there was one thing I did that gave me perspective on my situation. It’s a practice I still do today – talk to other folks in other units in my organization about the challenges they are going through.

Admittedly, there have been times in the past when I have over-valued the importance of my role in IT when it comes to providing services to the students and the campus community. As an IT organization, we’ve created significant systems that have improved the efficiency/effectiveness of how the staff does their work. We’ve also created systems that helped students learn and assist them in their lives outside the classrooms. As the dependency on technology grew over the last few years, so did the demands on IT. At the same time, the resources to meet the demands have not been able to keep up. This is the daily challenge I face now as the director of my IT organization. It’s daunting, indeed.

However daunting my challenges are, when I speak with other colleagues in our student affairs organization, I gain perspective on how my challenges compare with others. As I am reminded, we are all facing a not-so-unique challenge of too much work and dealing with much more complicated situations but with insufficient resources. But, on the other hand, I am also reminded that I don’t have to deal with the aftermath of tragedies, not at the personal level at least. When I speak with my colleagues, I am reminded that they are the ones that must make the calls to parents to inform them their child just committed suicide, or they must be the ones the campus community must look up to as the strong ones to lead them through a crisis when they are suffering at the same time. During these conversations, I am reminded that as challenging as my job is, I cannot even imagine the impact my colleagues’ jobs must have on them. I am dealing with computers; they sometimes must deal with human tragedies.

Employees’ Sense of Ownership for Better Customer Service

chinois_2My wife and I had lunch at Chinois in Santa Monica last week for my birthday. The food was as delicious, and the portions were served family style. We were very impressed indeed! The customer service and the sense of teamwork I observed amongst the staff were more impressive. Frankly, I’ve been to some fancy restaurants, and I don’t mind paying a lot of money for quality food, but it’s the experience and customer service that determine whether we go back to the place.

As one who leads a higher ed IT department and always looking for ways to provide better customer service, I observe and try to learn from watching how the staff works at restaurants and other business establishments. Here are some of my observations:

  • The staff worked as a team. We initially had a server take our order; she was very enthusiastic and welcoming. Other staff delivered our food, water, and whatever we needed. This observation from other restaurants is nothing unique but how they all seemed to treat us as their customer, not the “other stuff” that stood out. They were conversing with us, and there was a sense of continuity of service, not disjointed as I’ve experienced with other restaurants.
  • The staff were cheerful and took the time to talk with us. Even though the restaurant was busy, the staff took the time to talk with us. They didn’t seem rushed or feel like they were forced to talk with us.
  • The hostess and most staff seem to know many customers who came in that lunch. As soon as the customers walked through the door, they were greeted with hugs and/or pleasant greetings as if they’d known each other for some period of time. The hostess was particularly nice and welcoming. She was very cheerful and seemed to enjoy what she was doing.

After our lunch, my wife and I spoke with the hostess, Natalie, complimenting her and the other staff on how well they treat their customers, including us. She was gracious, and we spoke for a bit about why the staff seemed to work well together and the reason behind the good customer service. Here’s what she told us:

  • Most of the staff have worked there for years, including her. She mentioned she was in her mid 30’s and started working there when she was 19. She also mentioned she wrote her thesis on the restaurant for her grad school.
  • The attitude comes from the top, Wolfgang Puck. The hostess also mentioned that Puck often visits the restaurant in the late hours before closing and genuinely interacts with the customers. As she told us, he enjoys talking with customers, and it’s not a chore for him to do so. Puck sets a tone and example for his staff to follow.

From our conversation, one thing that stood out to me was the following:

  • The staff feels a sense of ownership. The hostess feels like this is her restaurant, even though it’s owned by the famous chef Wolfgang Puck. She says the staff has strong pride in their work and the restaurant. This was their place.

I was thinking about this sense of ownership the hostess shared with us and how it relates to my work. Looking back at my experience and my observations of my colleagues through the years, I feel employees contribute more to their work if they have a sense of ownership in what they do and, even better, of their organization. Part of that sense of ownership is the idea that their voices are valued and what they say matters in how their organization is managed and its future direction. They are also allowed to take action as trusted employees. This also means they are given the leeway to make decisions without always waiting for management approval.

Based on our good experience at Chinois, we will definitely go back again to try the other dishes. We are also looking forward to dining at Spago in Beverly Hills, another restaurant owned by Wolfgang Puck.

IT Organizational Management & Leadership

IMG_2201As the acting Executive Director for my IT organization for the last 7 months, I have learned a lot. While I’ve held management positions for over a decade, I have learned more in this position when it comes to organizational change dynamics and leadership/management because of the significant scope/depth of the responsibilities and the challenges of the position.

One of the lessons I’ve learned is that to be an effective organizational leader, you need to be an effective manager, and to be an effective manager, you need to be an effective leader. In short, leadership and management go hand in hand when delivering results. I’ve seen quotes on the web that goes something like this “culture eats strategy for breakfast/lunch” or some variation of that as if one is more important than the other. I get the sentiment that an organization can implement strategies and processes all day long, but it won’t work without a culture that supports these strategies. One thing I’ve learned, though, is that ultimately, what people want from their leaders/managers are results. As a few staff members reminded me after our initial department retreat soon after I took on this position, I can talk all I want, but the only way I can prove my merit and effectiveness is by following through and delivering on what I/we had intended to accomplish. I spoke with a colleague who said, “Joe, you’re doing a great job setting the culture of collaboration and transparency, but we need you to provide a clearer strategy towards the things you want us to accomplish as a department.”  That conversation reminded me that as a leader, I need to influence and shape the organization’s culture and, at the same time, provide a sense of direction, and clear direction for folks to follow, especially when going to an unfamiliar place.

A mentor of mine once said, “manage constraints and lead towards possibilities,” I also read somewhere that “you manage things and you lead people.”  I’ve led enough projects to understand that scope, time, and cost are variables that must be managed when delivering projects. These are all constraints that need to be managed. But I’ve seen too often when project managers treat people as merely project resources and sometimes like factory robots just expected to follow orders. Any effective project manager would recognize the need to treat people as more than units of resources but as human beings whose motivations and personal satisfaction cannot be ignored. Treat people as robots, and they will give you the bare minimum, treat them with respect and as human beings, and you’ll get more productivity out of them. That’s from personal experience anyway.

The credibility of an organization’s leader is based on the consistency between their actions and words and their ability to deliver results. To be able to deliver results requires the skills to manage constraints and leadership competencies to get the maximum effort out of people towards achieving intended goals.

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Feedback: The Motivation Behind Them Matters

I have come to trust a couple of mentors in my career. I trust them based on the many interactions; they’ve shown me that they come from the right place when they provide me feedback.  What I mean by “a right place” is that the feedback is genuine, and they are to help me become a better professional and a person. My mentors are honest with me and can offer their observations about myself that I may not want to hear, but nevertheless, I readily accept them.  I’ve come to realize that the intent (perceived or real) behind the feedback from others does matter in terms of how well they are accepted. To effectively provide feedback to others, we must earn the trust of those we seek to provide feedback.

While feedback about my performance/behaviors sometimes hurts, I still seek them as I think in my role as a leader, it’s important for me to understand how I am perceived by those I lead and serve. Just recently, as a part of a departmental survey about my department’s organizational health, I included a couple of questions about my areas of strengths and improvements. I presented the result at our department meeting and thanked my staff for providing helpful recommendations on how I can be better.

I’ve received feedback in the past when I’ve had to question the motivations behind them. There have been times when I found out the “friendly criticisms” were based on professional jealousy and less than noble intentions on those providing them. Unfortunately, I became skeptical about the feedback I received from these individuals who broke my trust. I’m still open to them and I do consider them, but not to the extent I do with my trusted mentors.

Trust is a key component that must be considered in an effective professional relationship. The effectiveness of the messages we provide to others and the actions we take depends on how we express them and how others perceive our level of trustworthiness.

Cohort-Based IT Leadership/Management Program for Higher Ed

This post contains some ideas I will propose to our HR department as an officially endorsed training program to address two issues I see present in our campus IT community. These two issues are 1) lack of a cohesive community among the different IT units (and leadership), and 2) needed training on IT leadership and management knowledge and skills. As it is, our campus has a decentralized IT environment, and there are minimal opportunities for planning and communication among the IT leadership themselves as well as between the IT leaders and the campus business leaders. As for community building, there aren’t too many opportunities for IT folks to get to know each other as there are only two campus-wide IT events: a once-a-year holiday party and a summer beach party. Training makes it very common for technically adept staff to be placed into management positions without management and leadership training. It is not a surprise when these staff struggle in their new roles. Even with previous management experience, the campus bureaucracy can be daunting and confusing for those new to the campus.

The idea behind a cohort-based program is to promote community building among the participants, a selected group of campus IT managers with varying degrees of experience and positions.  The community-building process happens as they complete a set of training curricula on areas related to IT leadership/management. In addition, a mentorship component could also be part of the program that pairs up more experienced with new IT managers and/or IT managers with senior campus executives.

I’ve experienced the benefits of a cohort-based mentorship program through my participation in our Division of Student Affairs Management Development Group (for mid-level SA managers), a campus-wide program called GauchoU, and through a new professional program within the Division of Student Affairs called Foundations.

I envision the curriculum as a mix of formal training and monthly IT leadership/management discussions.  A schedule could be something like this:

* Two-day institute that could include the following topics:

  • Introduction to campus organizational structure and politics
  • Budgeting
  • Introduction to HR processes (hiring, onboarding, performance evaluations, etc.)
  • Policies (Security, PCI, FERPA, HIPAA, etc.)

* Monthly sessions (discussions/training) that could include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • IT Project Management
  • Employee Engagement
  • Technology Trends (security, cloud, infrastructure, etc.)
  • Career Development
  • Leadership/Communication Styles
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Change Management

Beyond community building and leadership/management training is the benefit of the cheaper cost of training for the campus. By bringing trainers and having the training done on campus to a pool of participants, the campus can save a significant amount of money spent on travel and accommodations.

Would you have a campus-wide IT leadership/management training program on your campus? Anything you’d add to the curriculum?

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Complexity of Identity and Appearance

The saga of Rachel Dolezal and her claim to be an African American despite her upbringing reminds me of a couple of learning experiences about the complex issues behind identity and appearance. Her appearance, which seems to have changed to what could be considered African American features, is one aspect that is interesting to me. This post is not at all about Dolezal or an analysis of why she chose to pursue her life the way she did. But, I referenced her issue because it reminds me of two experiences related to identity and why I am now more careful to assign a person to ethnicity/race based on their appearance.

When I was a discussion leader for an international students’ First Year Experience course at UCSB a couple of years ago, I made the mistake of assuming one of my students was from Japan. In my eyes (very subjective eyes), she “looked” Japanese. So, I asked her what part of Japan she came from. Her response was, “I’m not from Japan.” She seemed offended by how she looked at me, so I apologized to her for making that assumption. She then explained that she is from Chile and considers herself Chilean. She spoke fluent Spanish and told me she didn’t know any Japanese.

I also have friends who are South African Indians. Their families have been there for generations, and they grew up in the age of apartheid.  I would have assumed they were from India if I had not known this before meeting them through my wife. Luckily, I did not make the same mistake of asking them how India was since I think they’ve only gone there to visit.

On a related note, I wonder how the adopted children (African-Americans) of friends of ours (Whites) will identify themselves growing up.

From what I’ve learned, race, culture, and ethnicity are social and political constructs. So, who decides and defines who belongs to a certain race/ethnicity? Is it by appearance? What if that person doesn’t conform to what have generally attributed features of a certain race? Is there a formula to determine which group a person should belong to? What about a multi-racial person?

I don’t have the answer to this, but rather more questions.

The Quantified Life

bodyMonitor_collage-filtered-1024x800Cloud, mobile, social media, wearable computing, and the internet of things are now making it possible for those who see the value of being able to quantify their lives for the sake of improving themselves. Devices and applications measuring financial, health, work, and social activities are available today. I’ve found that the data themselves don’t create change, but they do play in changing one’s behavior. There’s an adage that “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” and that applies to me. There are elements built into these apps, such as timely alerts and gamification, which involve rewards and social interactions to encourage positive changes. Of course, whether those using these devices and apps know the security implications is another topic to be discussed. With that said, below is a partial list of apps and devices I’ve personally used as part of a movement called “quantified self.”

  • Automatic driving system. This is a combination of hardware (car adapter) that is plugged into vehicles and is accompanied by a mobile app to measure driving performance and vehicle diagnostics.
  • Mint mobile app. This app provides financial data and activities that is real-time and easily accessible.
  • Toggl time tracking tool. This app allows the user to track time spent on any activity. Some co-workers have started using this app to analyze where they spend their time at work. I’ve started using this recently, and I use it mainly to analyze how much time I spend studying and doing physical activities.
  • Fitbit activity tracker. This is a wearable device that tracks activities. It has an accompanying mobile app that can be synched in real-time to provide data such as several steps and reminders of progress towards daily and weekly goals.
  • iWatch. I like many features of this new device, including notifications of text, emails, etc. A set of features I like are health-related. It has sensors that can measure heartbeat and physical activities like walking. It also has reminders (via haptic feedback) to encourage certain good habits like standing up every hour.
  • Weightwatchers mobile app. This is an app that tracks food intake, activities, and weight. Given a stated weight loss goal, the app provides the user with several “points” per day. It also has a built-in real-time chat app that provides users access to support, so if there are questions about food and activities, a user can easily connect with staff using the mobile app.

Ultimately, a person has to be motivated to change for these apps to work. I remember a quote from an Anthony Robbins book called “Awakening the Giant Within” which I read way back in the mid-1990s as I was going through a breakup that still sticks to me today. The quote goes like this, “A person will only go through a change if the prospect of change is so good they’ll want to change or their circumstance is so bad they are forced to change.”

What apps do you use?

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Leading In Stressful Times

I read somewhere that one manages constraints and leads towards possibilities. Certainly, as a manager, getting things done and delivering services and products with the constraints of finite resources, including staff, within the time frame and the level of quality expected is a core of our duties. This responsibility gets even more difficult during stressful times brought on by budget cuts and increased mandates, but with no additional staffing to support the increased demands. However, It is too easy as a manager to get caught up in trying to get the most out of our staff in ways that may not be the most productive and produce unintended consequences. For example, to become more efficient during busy times, managers begin to micro-manage details, ensuring that staff are focused and are following procedures to minimize waste.

In some cases, new procedures are implemented to promote efficiency without realizing the additional time, energy, and effort to implement new procedures. Activities that are not considered part of completing projects and tasks are discouraged. For example, one-on-one meetings with the staff are eliminated as they are a waste of time and take time away from projects. However, treating staff as machines and robots as units of resources may not be the most productive strategy. After all, our staff is human beings, driven by intrinsic motivations, with emotions, and in my opinion, more productive when engaged. This is where leadership is needed. There are many definitions of leadership, but ultimately, leadership is about people.  As I read once, you manage resources; you lead people.

As leaders, one of our roles in the workplace is cultivating an environment that promotes engagement which should lead to increased productivity and improved quality of work. As I learned in one of my leadership workshops, engagement is the maximum level of personal satisfaction and productivity in the workplace. One without the other is not engagement. For example, one can be personally satisfied doing work that does not contribute to the organization’s goals. On the other hand, one can contribute to the organization’s goals, yet they don’t feel personally satisfied.

As leaders, we cannot lose touch with the idea that we must be available and build relationships with our staff. Managers must take the time to recognize their staff, acknowledge their contributions, and resolve staff issues. Having one-on-one meetings when staff have the opportunity to be heard and listened to is a very important activity to have on a manager’s schedule.  Having lunch, taking a walk, or doing an activity with staff without talking about tasks are good examples of how to be available and how to build relationships.

How we also delegate matters. In my opinion, giving orders in a command and control style does not really work. Not when working in an environment that requires independent thinking and creativity. This style of managing only leads to resentment and staff not wanting to do more than what is expected from them. I’ve found that staff will go beyond what is asked of them if they know their managers care about them. Even small actions to show managers do care about their staff matter. Stopping by to say “how are you?” means a lot to some. Taking the time to explain what is being asked of them in person instead of in an email that can be misinterpreted also helps.

As managers, don’t lose sight of the idea that our staff are human beings and not just units of resources. If organizations are to be productive, managers must make themselves available and build relationships with staff to build an engaged workforce. Being short-sighted and just giving orders to complete tasks can lead to unintended and counterproductive consequences.

Keeping Your Seat at the (Virtual) Table

seat-at-the-tableAs a leader of an organization and an advocate for students and staff alike, I have the responsibility to convey the concerns and issues facing my constituents to the campus at different levels of conversation. As part of the responsibility, I am always careful, though not always successful, in making sure I carry myself in a way that, even when I disagree with colleagues and those I deal with, my presence and what I share add value to the conversations. While I certainly play the role of agitator at times, I try to be respectful and carry myself in a way that others do want to engage me in conversations. Each interaction with another person is an opportunity to build relationships and trust, or it could just be when others decide they’d rather not deal with you because you’re perceived as a “smart jerk,” “know-it-all,” rude,  or just simply too unreasonable. What good am I as an advocate for students, for my organization, and for myself if I am not at the proverbial table to be part of the dialogue? Understanding the proper moments when to push buttons, how to communicate, and battles to fight are part of one’s political acumen that contribute to one’s reputation and influence.  This is the same perspective I carry with me on social media.

Social media can be a place for productive dialogues. Experts and novices alike can express their opinions in ways that can reach significant numbers of people and engage in dialogues with those who may share their perspectives and those who may have opposing opinions. Social media offers those who may not have avenues to express themselves in their non-digital worlds a place to be part of conversations. In the world of student affairs, #sachat and the weekly chat session with the same hashtag have become a place for lively discussions amongst student affairs professionals and students on personal and professional topics. In a sense, participants have a seat at the proverbial virtual table, a place they may not have at their campuses.

Just as it is on non-digital interactions, how one acts on social media may lead to others wanting to continue engaging with or choosing to disengage with you. This disengagement can be in the forms of unfollowing on Twitter, unfriending on Facebook, or blocking on Yik Yak. It may only take one message/interaction to lead to the actions above. I’ve had to do the above actions to a few individuals because I found them too difficult to deal with. It isn’t because I disagree with their perspectives but because of their arrogance and sometimes vulgar messages that led me to stop interacting with them. I’ve also noticed that individuals who may develop a negative reputation for being argumentative, a smart jerk, know-it-all, or just plain rude are ignored. I will not cite specific examples, but anecdotally, I’ve observed that even when a post/message comes from these individuals is ignored.

Having a seat at the (virtual) table is a position I value. As mentioned above, each interaction is an opportunity to build trust and relationships and to continue having a seat at the (virtual) table. However, losing that privilege just takes one message, post, or interaction.

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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. Still, I believe that there are certain attributes/actions we should consider as we engage on social media and in other forms of interactions. It seems to me that being kind, helpful, and not harmful even when we are engaged in highly charged conversations are basic principles we should consider and practice, regardless of whether others recognize us. Perhaps, we need to remind ourselves more of how to act and 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 persona and how we choose to present ourselves to our colleagues, students, and future employers. Can we 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 are based on how we want others to perceive us. We craft ourselves as mavericks, radicals, out-of-the-box thinkers, innovators, non-conformists, 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, so one cannot build a reputation. What is interesting, though, is that even on 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 the need for support. For example, several times, I’ve seen yaks from individuals who are depressed or considering suicide. Immediately, other users reply, sharing their experience and 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 Facebook because those involved in these debates can be honest about their perspectives without 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 a 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 its customers’ dynamic wants and needs 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. So the transition was short (one month), and within that time, I had to define and communicate my concepts and vision for our organization. I prefer that we as our organization go through a process of defining these guiding principles and values. Still, given the circumstance, some staff members wanted me to share my 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, strengths, capabilities, and areas of improvement. 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. For these reasons, I strive for the idea that when people think of THE model of higher education IT, they think of UCSB SIS&T!  

I believe my organization’s guiding values and principles must 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.


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



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


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


    • We are 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 toward our goals of being 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 has resulted in honest/frank conversations from different parts of our organization. I have welcomed and encouraged these sometimes uncomfortable conversations as I believe this is a sign of a healthy, evolving organization.

– I expected some missteps in my attempt to implement some changes, and I have. But, I acknowledged this at the retreat, and 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 – the internet of things, wearable computing, big data, analytics, social media, mobile, and cloud. Of course, some of these technologies are already in place. Still, the internet of things, big data, and wearable computing will become even more significant in how student affairs organizations 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 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 amid increasing tuition costs, and technological 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 using new technologies. This blog post will explore some of the challenges of using new technologies. It will also discuss some considerations regarding the effective use of technology in student affairs.

One of the challenges in predicting the future of anything is that does anyone 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 determining at what point to adopt new technologies as part of the way we do business. Of course, for the adoption 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 institution’s goals. In some cases, these individuals might not 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 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, I think we can learn from past lessons. 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 websites for? They’re fads. We have brochures.”
~2007 – “Social media? They’re fads. Security risks.”
~2009 – “Mobile? Students don’t use 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 technologies mentioned above may change (remember MySpace, Second Life), it seems 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: security risks are involved in making data available online, so as technology providers and end-users, this risk must always be considered. Furthermore, the use of technology introduces issues related to ethics and privacy. These must also be addressed.

As incorporating the internet of things and wearable computing into student affairs becomes a wider discussion, I suspect I will receive the same reactions as above – “They’re fads. Security risks. No one uses them. They’re toys.” The problem with that response is that rejecting the possibilities (maybe even inevitability) takes time to learn about these technologies and even longer to implement them. The design and approach to new systems must also change from an IT perspective. 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, and geo-location like iBeacons.

Even a more significant challenge is that there’s a mindset, practical skills, and knowledge within the organization that must evolve along with using 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 technology’s sake. Perhaps the most important aspect of how technology is used in student affairs should be why we are using it first. 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 new technology in our organization is a difficult challenge. Perhaps, one way to approach the challenge above is to 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 must maintain the core mission and keep up with the trends.

This week, the proposed technology competencies were made available by NASPA/ACPA to the general public for feedback. That technology, 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 how technology can be used in student affairs. The proposed competencies are constructed at a level that can be used simultaneously and is not geared toward specific technologies.

“The educational technology competency area focuses on using 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 efforts ACPA’s Digital Task Force and NASPA’s Technology Knowledge Committee put forth 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 requires technology leadership at the senior student affairs officers’ table. These technology leaders must know/skills that include 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 of 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, 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 its use of it by some student affairs professionals attending the NASPA national conference in New Orleans. I read through the comments, and different types of comments were posted from what could be considered sexist, unprofessional, and provocative. There were also other comments that some would consider 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 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 student’s reactions to our joke. What I noticed was 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 your 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 shows, “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 the 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 about their lack of personal confidence (body image), sex, and other topics that I would guess would not be shared if they were not anonymous.

As I read through the comments, I find most of them to be of a positive tone though I read some crass comments from time to time. Another thought that also comes to mind is – 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 their use based on our personal biases? Certainly, as I mentioned at the top of my post, there are different 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 and its 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, 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 complimented me, but one 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 some folks 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 could do. So, they hopped on a boat with the dog onto the middle of a lake. The positive farmer shoots a duck, and the duck lands 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 returned to 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?

Random Thoughts on the Yik Yak at NASPA 15 Controversy

As I read the reactions on Twitter and blog posts by student affairs folks on the comments made on Yik Yak, random thoughts/questions came to mind. This post by Paul Gordon Brown provides a good collection of the reactions to this incident. A session was held at the conference to discuss the incident, and here are the tweets from the session. They may be wrong/right from your perspective, but here are some random thoughts that came to mind.

  • How much of the strong reactions against the Yik Yak posts are based on the need for validation/proof of the credibility of the student affairs profession? From time to time, I read the frustration of how those outside student affairs don’t seem to understand what we do, and that’s why we need to do a better job telling our stories. For some, is it about protecting the reputation of the student affairs profession?
  • When students make mistakes, some folks talk about these mistakes as teachable/learning moments and opportunities for growth. I think there’s a sense that students are still developing as people. What if we apply the same mindset to professionals? It’s not like we all become perfect individuals once we become professionals or when we get the letters after our names. No one is perfect, and the development process lasts a lifetime, me included.
  • Even before this Yik Yak controversy, I’ve heard of the topics of “hooking up” at conferences and participants using conferences as paid vacations. It’s not as if Yik Yak introduced these issues, but it just made them more public, and when I mean public, the whole internet to see.
  • With the topic of “hooking up,” I’ve also seen moral judgments on another person’s sexual activities (“slut shaming”) before Yik Yak, and I think there’s a sense that it’s happening here as well.
  • Even professionals must understand how to be good digital citizens -by understanding the pitfalls and opportunities provided by social media and how their participation (positive/negative) impacts themselves and their communities.
  • Not all comments were negative.
  • I can’t believe anyone would even post some of the comments I read. SMH.
  • How many of those comments came from student affairs attending the conference? Is there a chance that there are individuals who posted comments to further exploit the situation for fun or malicious intent?
  • I refrained from providing my reaction on Twitter as I wasn’t quite sure how it would be taken. I didn’t feel safe offering my opinions. Sometimes, Twitter isn’t always the best place to have productive conversations, even in a community that promotes itself as being open to conflicting ideas.

I’m also reminded of a conversation I had with a student on one benefit of Yik Yak. I asked this student about social media and how students view and use social media. We came to the topic of Yik Yak. She responded that Yik Yak, because of its anonymity, is a good venue for students to express their opinions honestly. She talked about masturbation and how students shared their opinions without feeling judged.

Six Ways to Build Confidence In the Workplace

As a manager/leader, one of our most important responsibilities is to build leaders and productive colleagues by providing them the environment to think for themselves and grow. The confidence to pursue ideas and actions beyond their comfort zones is a big part of this process towards leadership and towards our co-workers’ ability to do their job. I also believe having an environment where people can confidently do their jobs is part of having an engaged staff. Engagement to me means a staff feels maximum personal satisfaction with the work they do. Secondly, they also contribute to the organization to the best of their willingness and ability. From experience, here are some ways we can build the confidence of others:

  1. Communicate goals clearly but leave room for staff to find ways to accomplish them. Do not micro-manage, especially when working with talented and creative folks. Unless we work in an environment that doesn’t require much thinking, providing our co-workers room to explore ideas and come up with their own ways to accomplish the goals you’ve given them is the way to go. However, those goals and expectations must be communicated to save those assigned the tasks from spending emotional energy and wasted time and effort.
  2. Allow room for “failure” as part of the learning/growth process. The world is changing rapidly, and we encounter new experiences/ideas every day, and we may not necessarily know how to always respond to them in the right ways. Personally, the biggest moments of growth I’ve experienced have been through my mistakes. These mistakes encouraged me to re-evaluate my approach, and these mistakes helped me improve the quality of my work. Luckily, I had bosses in the past who understood that making mistakes is all part of the learning process. So while they helped me understand how to eliminate those mistakes, they also did not admonish me to the point I stopped trying new ideas. Don’t rob your co-workers of these opportunities to grow by not allowing them to make mistakes.
  3. Set higher expectations and standards beyond their comfort zones and abilities. This requires that you are intimately familiar with your co-workers’ skills, knowledge, and interests. Understand their areas of strengths and weaknesses and challenge them to further utilize their strengths and improve their weaknesses. You may encounter resistance as this will require more work from them, and they may not understand why you are challenging them, but growth isn’t always comfortable.
  4. Praise in public and criticize in private. How demoralizing is it to have your ideas interrupted by your boss in public settings because he/she just happens to believe their ways are better, and does it look incompetent? There are situations when a manager does need to intervene because the information is incorrect. But even then, there’s a diplomatic method to point out the error and/or to suggest different ideas. This point relates to point 1 above in that, as leaders. managers, we need to be clear about our expectations and goals. If our colleagues don’t understand what they are, they may share their ideas contrary to what we have in mind. In these cases of confusion, it’s best to speak with your colleagues behind closed doors, clarify your expectations, and understand their perspectives so you are both on the same page. As I wrote in this blog post, as a manager, your words matter. You can use them to “praise or curse” your colleagues.
  5. Lead via influence, not command and control. Treat your colleagues as human beings and not machines or resources. Build relationships with them, so they feel they matter. While ordering your colleagues to perform tasks may yield short-term results, the command and control approach can result in a workforce that will not go above and beyond what is expected. This approach could also lead to unhappy employees and, worse, emotional and physical ailments. However, by leading through influence, you can build a work environment that is more positive and sustainable in the long run. You have a workforce that will go above and beyond what is asked of them because they feel a sense of autonomy, growth and a sense that they are respected.
  6. Model confidence. As a leader/manager, your co-workers watch your actions and words. You play the role of the victim/complainer, and soon, they will adapt your attitudes and behaviors. Work is not always ideal, and we are all presented with challenges from time to time. While I’m not suggesting that we always look and feel invincible, we must display the attitude of solution seekers and optimism, even in the lowest moments.

What other methods have you used to build the confidence of your colleagues?

Student Affairs Conferences & Higher Ed – Some Parallels

As I sit here at home in California and participate on the Twitter back channel for the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) 2015 national conference in New Orleans, it dawned on me that this conference and other higher ed conferences are like higher education in some ways. This post is not an analysis of what’s right or what’s wrong with higher education or the NASPA and other similar conferences. They’re just observations.

The purpose for attending varies. For some, it’s to get a job by interviewing with campuses at The Placement Exchange (TPE) or connecting with potential employers at other universities during the conference. For some to learn new ideas via the sessions, for some to network and build their social capital, and maybe for some, they were asked to attend by their organizations, and yet for others, a chance to vacation and visit a nice city.

The cost of attendance can be considered expensive. I can’t attend this year because of the combined cost of attendance. There are no shortage of literature and stories about the rising cost of tuition and attending higher education. Also, a big portion of attendance costs is travel, accommodation, food, and clothes. Some folks paid independently, while others received assistance from their organizations or sponsors.

The conference is bound by time and location. While there are virtual sessions and recorded sessions are available after the event, it’s not the same as being in New Orleans. The sessions are generally presentations for about 50 minutes, just like lectures, and the level of interaction between the speakers and the audience can be limited. Technology is used to extend the conference but as it is used, is it considered transformative when it comes to using it for learning/education?

Learning is hard to measure. If one of the conference’s goals is to learn new ideas, how does one know how much and what they have learned? What’s the proof/measure of learning? Colleges provide diplomas as proof that the students met the course requirements, and while tests may provide some assessment of what they’ve learned, is there any definitive way to measure learning? How about personal development, which is one of the goals of student affairs?

The benefits you receive are based on how much effort you put into it. I am guilty of skipping sessions in past conferences (not NASPA) because they didn’t interest me or I had other activities planned. I felt guilty for doing that, given that my campus paid for my trip. This is not to suggest that learning also doesn’t happen outside those sessions. For this conference, I’m taking advantage of Twitter to learn and engage with those in attendance.

As I mentioned above, these are just observations. What do you think about the state of higher ed and how conferences are held?

My Professional Reading List 2014

Below is a list of books (kindle books except for 5 or so) I read in 2014. I didn’t quite get to read as many books as I did in 2013 because I went back to school to pursue my MBA with a Specialization in IT Management. I also got promoted to a new position with much more significant responsibilities. Finding time for leisure reading was a challenge. Here’s a list of books I read in 2015. Please feel free to ask me for any recommendations.


Change & Innovation:

General Reading:

Higher Education/Student Affairs:

Information Technology:


Technology (Social Media, Big Data, Wearable Computing, Cloud, Mobile, …):

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Case for Technology Leadership at the SSAO Table

How many IT professionals attend student affairs conferences like NASPA and ACPA? I would guess not too many. When I attended the first NASPA Technology Conference in Rhode Island a few years ago, only a few IT professionals were in attendance. Those who attended expressed frustration with the limited topics at the conference, as most of the sessions revolved around social media. Why is it that while information and communication technologies span student affairs organizations, there seems to be such a big disconnect between IT staff and student affairs practitioners? Let me add another question, how many Senior Student Affairs Officers (SSAOs) have technology backgrounds to make strategic and tactical decisions for effective and cohesive technology investments for their organizations? How many student affairs organizations have IT, directors on their senior directors’ board?

As mentioned in this article about CSAO as Information Technology Managers,  SSAOs don’t necessarily have to have the deep technical knowledge to be able to act as IT managers, as long as they have the technical staff to be able to provide them with the strategic and tactical guidance when it comes to technology investments and usage. However, suppose IT directors (or some technology leadership position) are not involved in strategic discussions held at the highest student affairs management level. In that case, opportunities for valuable input from those with deep knowledge of the opportunities and pitfalls related to enterprise technology implementations and use are missed. As mentioned above, technology spans all units of any student affairs organization. As such, technology investment and use must be approached from a holistic perspective and aligned with the purpose of student affairs.

I had previously advocated for a Dean of Student Affairs Technology position, and I firmly believe this position will need to exist in the future of student affairs. At the core of this position is the understanding of the philosophies, theories, and organizational framework that guide the work of the student affairs profession and the role technologies play within student affairs and the campus.

I have read the goals of the  ACPA Digital Task Force and NASPA’s Technical Knowledge Community and the work they’ve done, and I am so grateful these two groups (as well as other similar groups) exist and for their work. I think these groups are framing the right questions and leading the profession towards better use of technologies for student development and learning. I wish more IT leaders were involved in these important strategic discussions. This lack of involvement of IT leadership in conversations being held at the national level mirrors what I think goes on at the campus level.

The gap between technology professionals and student affairs practitioners needs to be eliminated, starting at the top of student affairs organizations. There needs to be a better understanding of how student affairs as an organization can best effectively serve students through technology and better partnership. Hence, technology implementations result in effective use. Technology leaders need to understand what student affairs is about so they can, in turn, influence their organization to think in the right framework. This understanding must go beyond business processes. Unfortunately, I think this gap will persist as long as technology leaders are not included as a member at the highest level of student affairs management and leadership.

What Defines Student Affairs Professionals?

This question of “what defines student affairs professionals?”  probably has an obvious answer, and maybe I’m overthinking it. This happens in the middle of late at night when my mind wanders and thinks about random ideas. As a reader of this post, how would you answer this question? My personal answer is anyone who is working in the field of student affairs in a paid capacity and not just as a pastime. This is probably an inadequate, perhaps even a wrong definition. But that’s how I interpret what student affairs professionals are.

This question came to mind following the ACPA national conference via Twitter, where several thousands of student affairs professionals convene to network and share their research, case studies, and work-related topics. This is an assumption, but many participants probably hold an advanced degree in education, specifically in student affairs and higher education. I ask this question because when I think about the folks who work in my student affairs division, many of them, including me, probably don’t fit the demographics of those who attend conferences by ACPA and NASPA, the two major student affairs organizations. Based on my general knowledge of the folks who work in my division, most of us probably don’t have master’s degrees in higher education and student affairs, and we’re probably not familiar with student affairs and student development theories. A large number of us hold administrative, support, and other roles. In our division, two of the largest departments are the central student affairs IT group and student health services. The folks who work in these departments are specialized in the technology and medical fields.

Why am I asking this seemingly obvious question? Regardless of whether we belong in the camp of those who attend NASPA/ACPA conferences or the other folks I mentioned above, we all have a common goal: providing services for student development and learning. Collectively, through our roles, we contribute to helping students succeed. We interact with students in different ways and at different degrees of interactions, from direct contact to behind the scenes. I have read/heard this concept that our practice should be driven/informed by theories. But, how many of us who work in student affairs even know the theories and concepts that drive our practice? If we don’t know theories, does that mean we can’t effectively do our jobs? As administrative and support folks, do we need to know what student engagement means and how it relates to student success?

For those who have formal educational experience in student affairs and who are familiar with student affairs theories and models and how they apply to their jobs, how are you sharing this knowledge to your colleagues?

Technology (Big T), technology (little t)

Using technology without a sense of purpose/direction leads to wasted resources and could even derail organizations from their missions. I came across a concept called Big M (Marketing) and little m (marketing) in a book (Marketing Management) for my marketing class. The idea is that in marketing, where the customer is at the core of the business, two elements must be considered – strategic (Big M) and tactical (little m). According to the book, strategic marketing is “a long-term, firm-level commitment to investing in marketing – supported at the highest organizational level – to enhance organizational performance.” The tactical element (little m) “serves the firm and its stakeholders at a functional or operational level.” As the book notes, since the customers are at the core of the organization’s business, all parts of the organization must play in the marketing efforts.

I see parallels between marketing and technology as they are used in organizations. Big T (strategic) and little t (tactical) must be considered for technology to provide value to the organization. Without a strategy, an organization may just be chasing “shiny objects” and/or using technology in less optimal ways. It may even be used counterproductive to the mission of the organization. Likewise, without execution, the best technology road map will be just a piece of document.

In education, one topic that surely illicit strong responses from different groups are using technology for educational purposes. One notable example of such a project that may have been caused by a lack or unclear vision is the Los Angeles Unified School District’s attempt to integrate the iPad as a tool in the classroom which somehow ended up in a fiasco. As this article would suggest on why LAUSD canceled the “pads-in-the-classroom” program, it’s not because of the technology, but rather, it’s because of lack of vision.

Another topic of discussion about educational technology revolves around the perceived lack of curriculum design and pedagogy when technology is introduced in the classroom. I believe technology can be beneficial or a distraction to the learning process. When technology is used in the classroom, the question must be asked is how does technology add value to the learning process?

Regarding student affairs, information and communication technologies play an integral role in how student services and enrollment services units conduct their business functions and communicate with students. With students at the core, the different functional units must work as integrated units instead of silos to effectively serve the students and their needs. The information and communication systems used in these units also cannot exist in silos, and neither should there be duplicates, as this could only lead to wasteful spending of tuition and tax money. Furthermore, these siloed/duplicated systems could also lead to inaccurate information and prevent student affairs staff from viewing a holistic view of the students they serve. From the student’s perspective, the lack of unified systems could lead to frustrations and hindrances to their success.

As I noted in this article about Chief Student Affairs Officers as Information Technology Managers, technology requires folks at different levels of the organization to be involved in the strategic and tactical levels. Technology use in student affairs (or any organization) is more than software/hardware as organizational and personal dynamics are involved. For technology to add value to the work done in student affairs, student affairs organizations must ask about the role of technology in student development and learning and, in addition, what would be needed to implement technology for this purpose.

In your organization, is the purpose of technology clear? What are the driving forces behind their uses? Is your organization providing resources/training so technology can be used to its fullest?

Don’t Forget the Big Picture

How we view our work may just make a difference in how engaged and motivated we are. There are portions of our jobs that we don’t particularly enjoy. Some are mundane and not very exciting at all. There are conflicts with personalities, politics to be navigated, and too much to do with insufficient resources. Suppose we forget why we joined student affairs in the first place, what motivated us to go to graduate school, and/or spend countless hours honing our skills/experience to get into our positions. In that case, our jobs may become something we need to do to pay our bills. For some, we may just get to a point where we dread coming to work. There’s a story about The three stone cutters, and it goes something like this:

One day, a traveler, walking along a lane, came across 3 stonecutters working in a quarry. Each was busy cutting a block of stone. Interested to find out what they were working on, he asked the first stonecutter what he was doing. “I am cutting a stone!” Still no wiser, the traveler turned to the second stonecutter and asked him what he was doing. “I am cutting this block of stone to make sure that it’s square and its dimensions are uniform so that it will fit exactly in its place in a wall.” A bit closer to finding out what the stonecutters were working on but still unclear, the traveler turned to the third stonecutter. He seemed to be the happiest of the three and, when asked what he was doing, replied: “I am building a cathedral.” (Leadership Quality)

The story resonates with me, and it’s a story I try to remember during some trying times because it reminds me of why I’m in student affairs. My goal is to help students, especially the ones who may have extra challenges similar to me when I was a student – first-generation, low-middle-income family, and one who may not feel like they belong. For me, thinking about the big picture and why I joined student affairs gives me a sense of direction and a sense of purpose. It’s too easy to get down and get frustrated with the day-to-day challenges of our jobs. But, if we think that the paper pushing we do, the crucial conversations we have to do, and the meetings we dread attending are all part of a bigger purpose, it may just change how we view our work.


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Reflecting on Why I Love My Job in Student Affairs

I came across several blog posts and tweets on why it’s not a good idea to love one’s job. It made me think of how I approach what I do in student affairs. I’ve concluded that to do what I do; I need to care and love the purpose of my contributions and the folks that impact them for me to put the effort and thoughts all these years. By no means am I suggesting other folks who don’t share the same level of care/love can’t/don’t do their job as well or better than I do? Nor am I suggesting that my job is all fun and games. I share my stories not to suggest other folks approach their jobs like me but because I genuinely feel blessed to work for an organization that provides me personal and professional satisfaction.

The bureaucracy, the lack of resources to do what needs to be done, and sometimes difficult personalities are challenges that make my job hard at times. At times, I feel I’ve been treated lesser than others because of my skin color or background. But, they are all worth the effort to deal with them, given the reasons why I’m in student affairs. To me, it’s about helping first-generation students who don’t have parents and family members who can help them navigate college, struggling financially to attend school, and trying to find themselves in a society that is not fair at times. The satisfaction in my job is just seeing these students succeed. They may not even know I exist. That’s okay. I’m not asking for anything in return from these students personally. I’ve been fortunate to have built relationships with some students that have lasted beyond their years at UCSB.

If I view my job in student affairs IT as just about computers, I’m missing the bigger picture. Ultimately, it’s about helping students succeed through technology and my roles as a discussion leader, organizational advisor, mentor, and facilitator. My role as the director/leader in my IT organization is about helping my staff and my colleagues grow, creating an environment where they feel personally satisfied with what they do and contribute. Ultimately, my job is about helping people and helping build communities. I am also part of the UCSB community.

As I reflect on why one should not love their job, I came across these blog posts I’ve written in the past that remind me of why I love my job.

Nowhere I’d Rather Be Than in Student Affairs:

The Significance of Possibility/Role Models:

UCSB STEP Program – Nourishment For My Soul

Why I Love My Job in Student Affairs

UCSB Community – We’re All In This Together

Pilipino Graduation and What My Job Really Means

What Do You Want For Your Staff?

As managers, how often do we ask ourselves, “what do I want for my staff?” Sometimes we focus so much on getting deadlines met, and tasks completed that we fail to ask and consider what we can do to help our staff grow, learn, and frankly to make sure they are satisfied personally and feel they’re contributing to the organization.

How often do we spend time talking one-on-one with them, and I mean talking with them, not talking at them? It’s easy to focus on what projects they’re working on and how much they’ve accomplished towards their tasks, but how often do we ask “how are you?” and “how can I help you?”

I write this as a personal reminder to take the time to fulfill my responsibility as a servant leader to my staff and ensure they are taken care of.

Nowhere I’d Rather Be Than in Student Affairs

It is during the most challenging times of my job when I think how blessed I am to have my job in student affairs, specifically as an IT leader within student affairs. The sometimes convoluted nature of higher education bureaucracy, the pressure of delivering critical technology services with limited resources, and juggling competing priorities make it challenging some days. But, even with these challenges, actually, because of these challenges, I feel blessed to have my job. I can easily look beyond the day-to-day frustrations because I know that at the end of the day, what matters is that my colleagues and I, the work we do, have a very important purpose – to help students succeed.

My wife and I were watching a tv show this evening; it might have been Dinners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on the food network. The host asked a chef, “how much of what you do is work and how much is love?” My wife asked me the same question. My immediate answer is 100% love. That may sound corny and overly sentimental, but I truly believe it. Yes, my job provides my wife and me with income to live a life we enjoy, but frankly, if I were paid the same amount working outside student affairs, I don’t think I would have the same personal and professional fulfillment. The public may hear and read about UCSB at times that we are a party school. The reality is that I know many students who came from challenging backgrounds growing up, and they have had to fight through some adversities to get to the university. I also know that these students take their studies seriously as they have the burden of creating a future for themselves and their families. These students drive me. They motivate me to do my part to make sure they succeed.

I don’t think about this often, but from time to time, I look at our portfolio and the body of work our team has done through the years, and it’s amazing how technology impacts the lives of our students way before they even step on to our university. I think about how our online disabled student program system enables our students with disabilities to get accessibility resources (note-takers, proctors, adaptive devices), how our student health service and counseling and psychological service information systems help our clinicians and psychologists provide timely and effective service to our students, and how our other systems and applications assist our students from the application process and after they graduate. When I think about the value of these systems,  I realize how important our roles are to the success of our students.

Sometimes I read/hear others complain about the demands of our jobs as student affairs professionals, and I think I can sympathize with some of these complaints. But, personally, if one is to think about the amazing opportunities we have to make a difference in the lives of our students and their families, how blessed are we to be working in student affairs?

Own Your Story. Share Your Story.

I watched a clip of Dr. Victor Rios’ interview about the adversities he faced growing up and how he overcame them to obtain his Ph.D. Dr. Rios is a very highly regarded Sociology professor at UCSB. He is also known for his work in the community working with youths. In his interview, he said the words, “Own your story. Share your story.” This resonated with me. I never felt like I had anything remarkable to share for most of my life. I can’t speak about the struggles other friends have had in their lives. I’ve encountered racism, discrimination, and struggles throughout my life, but even then, I never felt as if they were at the level worthy of talking about. But I’ve come to realize that as unremarkable as my life may have been to this point, I have some perspectives to share.

My family and I came to the United States when I was 11. While I spoke some English, I was teased in the playground because of my “fresh off the boat” accent. Because I feared being teased, I sometimes pretended to be sick during those days when I had to do oral book reports. I became self-conscious about my speech for most of the high school and even for the first year or so in college. I feared public speaking because I expected to see someone in the audience laughing at my accent. So, I stayed quiet. I had ideas, but I chose not to share them. I finally got tired of staying silent. I became more vocal in my latter part of college. I finally gained some confidence.

I soon discovered my voice would be drowned again when I became a professional. I felt the same struggles as when I was growing up. At meetings, I felt as if my ideas were ignored. When I spoke about my perspective as a person of color, I felt I wasn’t taken seriously. I lost confidence and found myself trying to express my perspectives once again.

Through my blog posts, I’m finally able to express my thoughts, and share my experience growing up about the sacrifices my parents made and the value systems I learned from them. Through my blog posts, I can share my concepts of leadership and the influences and philosophies that shape my leadership style.

When  I started my blog, I didn’t have expectations regarding who will be reading them or if people would even find my posts interesting enough to read. What I have found though, is that in sharing my stories, I’ve developed some connections with folks I have never even met in person before. As I’ve discovered, I am not alone in how I see the world and with my struggles.

While my life may not be remarkable enough worthy of a movie or a book, it’s been liberating to be able to share my story – to own them and to be able to share them.

Intent vs. Impact

“Don’t steal my car!” a total stranger, an older white man, told me this morning. He said this while we were in a restaurant when I walked past him to get an item from my car. We had arrived at the same restaurant parking lot earlier, and he had parked his car, an older model Porsche, next to my car, a Prius. It’s not every day a total stranger tells me not to steal his car, so I was a bit startled by it. My initial reaction was, “did he just really say that?” As soon as I heard what he said, I responded, “Excuse me. What did you say?” Maybe he had thought he wasn’t going to get any response from me or if he did, he expected a more positive one. He looked startled when I said that to him. Because I was with a group of co-workers to celebrate the retirement of one of the school administrators, my personal mentor actually, I chose not to continue my exchange with this stranger.

Whether this stranger said this as a joke or whatever his intent was, he probably didn’t expect the impact on me, based on my reaction. Maybe he was expecting me to laugh and go along with the humor. I didn’t see it that way. I later posted this incident on Facebook, along with my sarcastic comment that maybe I look like a car thief even with my professional attire (dress shirt, slacks, and tie). I also commented that he was an  “SOB”. The reactions ranged from that it was a joke to racial profiling and the possibility that the stranger was posturing, that as males, this was a display of competition.

In the most objective analysis, I can suggest the idea that intents do not always equal impacts. I can give that stranger the benefit of the doubt that his reasons could be just that he was joking, as suggested by a couple of friends who responded to my Facebook post. I wouldn’t say that to a total stranger because I am cautious of what I say, and I was raised to be respectful. But what makes this incident somewhat complex is that as the recipient of this comment, I carry experiences that formed my emotional reaction to it.  While I suggested in my Facebook post today that the stranger’s comment was more of a reflection of himself than mine, my reaction is also based on my perception. The incident today triggered an experience I had a long time ago. When I was younger, I had a similar incident happen to me. I was waiting for my parents in our car, with the window open,  while they were in a doctor’s clinic, and this older white male just came up to me and told me, “don’t steal my car,” as he pointed to his car parked a couple of stalls away. I didn’t know how to react back then; I didn’t dare to respond to him like I did today.

There have been several times in my life when I’ve been in situations when I felt like I was treated with lesser respect than others. For example, there have been times when I’m shopping and either an employee follows me closely, or at other times, I am offered no help.  One unpleasant experience was at Nordstrom in Santa Barbara. Two employees, a few feet away from me, did not even acknowledge me or offer their help. I was the only person in that store area at that time. I was alone until an older white couple, dressed like they would have money, joined me. The two employees immediately walked and greeted them and cheerfully offered their help. This is when I went through a process of posing questions in my head, trying to understand why this just happened. It’s a process I go through more than I would like, given the number of similar incidents in my life. Was it because I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and I probably looked like I had no money to spend? Is it because of my age, my look, my race, or maybe something else? I have had similar experiences at Best Buy in the past, where I was ignored.

Interestingly, when I described my experience to a co-worker who once used at Best Buy, he mentioned that when he worked for the company, he was trained to look for people who may not look technically knowledgeable. These are the customers whom they could potentially sell extra warranties because that’s where the store makes money. I had not considered that perspective before. After hearing this, I added another possibility as to why I’ve gotten the treatment from Best Buy. Maybe I look like someone who may know about technology, so they don’t bother taking the time helping me. Of course, it still doesn’t make sense why a store would not treat every customer, no matter how they look, as potential revenue.

I once brought some friends of mine, young Filipino-Americans, to a nice restaurant in Montecito. Montecito is a very affluent town and not a diverse community. How we were treated was one of the most blatant displays of discrimination. The waiter ignored us the whole time we were seated, and when he attended to our table, the cheery and friendly disposition he treated the other customers, all white folks, suddenly turned to a  look of annoyance. It was a disappointing experience, to say the least. I can cite other incidents similar to this experience as well.

The incidents above lead me to question the motivations behind how I’m treated and the realization and disappointment that I will encounter these situations throughout my life because of how I look, speak, and have a socioeconomic background.

Going back to the incident today, I can look back and either accept the idea that the stranger was just a bad comedian with no ill intent or that his comment was driven by malice. I don’t know his intent, and I’m certainly not going to excuse his action, but all I know is that as the recipient, the impact was not a positive one.

IFTTT for Integrating Cloud, Mobile, Wearable, Social Media, and Internet of Things

IFTTT for iPhone - Intro Screen 01I like gadgets and discovering how I can use them beyond how they come out of the box. One fun part about having these gadgets is figuring out how to integrate them with other devices and services. This is where IFTTT (If This Then That) comes in. IFTTT is a service that, through triggers and actions, can enable different devices and services, including cloud, mobile, wearable computing, social media, and the internet of things, to work together. I use Evernote, Dropbox,  iPhone/iPad/Samsung Galaxy Note, Fitbit, Pebble watch, Google Glass, Nest Thermostat, Automatic app, and various social media platforms. I’ve experimented with some IFTTT “Recipes,” a combination of triggers and actions, just for fun and to see what I can use for productivity. Listed below are a few of the recipes I’ve used:

1) Fitbit activities to Google Drive. This recipe saves daily activity summaries to a spreadsheet on Google Drive.

2) Automatic/Nest Thermostat – turn on Nest with the car. This recipe turns on the Nest thermostat when my car, which has Automatic, is detected within a certain distance from home.

3) Automatic/Nest Thermostat – turn on the fan for 15 minutes when the car is home. This is similar to #2 above.

4) Twitter favorite creates a note in Evernote. This recipe creates an Evernote containing the tweet I marked as a favorite.

While this post is about IFTTT, I also want to mention an application I have used to issue commands to my Nest Thermostat using voice commands from my Google Glass. As this page shows, this app called “Google Glass App for the Nest” can be used to issue different commands, which include adjusting the Nest thermostat temperature to a certain temperature.

Klout recently gave me a Parrot mini-drone as a “perk.” Currently, there are no IFFFT recipes published for it, but just like the Google Glass App for Nest, I wonder if I can control the mini-drone with Google Glass. It seems some companies, including this one, have tried it.

It’s fun trying to integrate these technologies through IFTTT and other means. I do them mainly to explore what is possible for entertainment’s sake. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they do. But, I do explore these possibilities as part of my thinking of what the future may hold. There are ethical and privacy considerations with these technologies, and so as I do these experiments, I think about the implications. As I mentioned in this blog post about why I decided to buy Google Glass, to truly understand how these technologies work and the implications behind their use of them, one must have real-world experience with them. Just like golf, there’s no substitute for actually swinging a golf club to understand how a swing works.

Going back to IFTTT, there are thousands of recipes for you to try. Check it out and have fun with it!

Photo credit:

Changing Oneself Before Others

changeOne important lesson I have learned in life, a lesson learned from moments of frustration, is that it’s probably easier for me to change myself rather than change others. As I wrote in this blog post about working effectively with my boss, I realized that I needed to adjust my communication style and perspective so we could work better.  The idea of changing myself first rather than asking others to change is one I’ve come to apply to my personal and professional relationships. I can perhaps influence others to change, but I don’t think I can force others to change. Especially in a position of leadership, this is one of my key beliefs when helping others grow.

I read somewhere that in academia, we are quick to offer suggestions on how others could change but asked to change; that’s a different story. I’m sure this is not universally applicable, but one of my colleagues who work with faculty told me this – “faculty are quick to profess about change but ask them to change their parking space, and you’ll get a lot of complaints.” As I wrote, I’m sure this is not universally applicable to all faculty, and staff and administrators are probably just as guilty of this reluctance to change.

As I learned to accept the idea of looking to change myself first over others, I realized I needed to practice self-reflection of my actions, my values, and my emotions. I suppose it could be considered emotional intelligence, but I’ve learned (and still learning) to be aware of my reactions and thoughts, especially in emotional moments, and to react appropriately.  In addition, I’ve come to be more considerate/appreciative of the perspectives other folks bring. I look for these perspectives’ validity and positive aspects instead of offering quick criticisms.

In taking the approach of changing myself first before seeking to influence the change in others, I’ve become less stressed, and I think it has led to improved personal and professional relationships.

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What’s In It For Me?

There is one question folks are probably wondering about but won’t explicitly say when changes are introduced that may impact them. That question is, “what’s in it for me?” As an organizational change leader, this is a question that you need to be ready to answer and spend some time explaining to those impacted by the change. This is to create buy-in to make the change and transition process smoother. It’s also the right thing to do.

I’ve worked on and have led several campus information systems projects at UCSB since 1996, including an electronic medical records system, a system for managing international students and scholars (SEVIS), and an advising system used across the campus. One lesson I’ve learned in implementing these systems is that change can be emotional and psychological. When a new system or process is introduced, it can pose a threat to the people impacted. The threat can be to their livelihood and, even worse, a threat to their identities. Some folks are attached to certain processes and certain systems. These systems and processes can represent their reputation as experts, part of their daily routines, and areas of ownership. When those systems and processes are changed, their identities are challenged.

So the next time you have the opportunity to introduce changes to your workplace, think about this question of “what’s in it for me?” from those impacted by the change. Take time to understand them. Get them involved in the process. Don’t make a mistake as a project manager of neglecting the human aspects of change. It’s not all about tasks, budgets, and deadlines.

Technology as Enabler of Student Network Development Through Information Sharing

About a couple of weeks ago, I bought some lunch from the UCSB Filipino-American student group to support their fundraiser. While eating, a student introduced himself to me, and we started talking about my association with the organization through the years. He also shared with me that he knew about me and, in particular, that I helped develop our online portal (GOLD) used by students to register and manage their courses, among other functions. He then asked me a seemingly simple question but one that I had to think about for a bit. His question was, “Can you tell me what’s different now with UCSB compared to how it was back then?” I responded with something obvious like, “these buildings you see around you weren’t here back then.” But, I also mentioned to him how technology has transformed how students find information and conduct their business with the campus. For one, when it comes to general information, students no longer have to rely solely on on-campus staff to obtain it.  Second, students no longer have to physically visit the departments to find information and conduct their business as they can now do many administrative (e.g., financial aid, billing) and academic transactions (course registration) online.

As I shared with the student when I was a student at UCSB in the 1990’s we had to visit the departments physically and speak with the staff to find information. They had a monopoly on the information since it was not readily available beyond their offices. There were printed course catalogs and pamphlets, but students could not share information they knew on a mass scale.

With social media and the web, students have become consumers and information producers.  Just observe the activities on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and other social media platforms, and you will notice students exchanging information amongst themselves. Information students share includes deadlines, orientation, financial aid, housing, courses, and other campus services. Most of the time, the responses are accurate. Sometimes, other students will chime in and offer corrections when a wrong answer is provided. They offer advice to each other, including how to waive health insurance, how to get to the airport or bus stations, how to fill out forms, and which courses to take for their majors.

What I find interesting as I observe these information exchanges is that relationships and social networks are also being created. I’ve also seen some students assume roles as community leaders and credible sources of information. What is missing in all of these interactions is the campus staff. In a way, these online interactions somewhat change the dynamics of interactions between students and staff. I don’t have data to prove this point, but I wonder if the frequency of physical contact between staff and students is less now than how it was back then before the age of the web and social media.

There was one time not so long ago when I observed a student who seemed new to the campus since she was trying to figure out a campus map. I offered to help her and asked her what department she was looking for. She told me she was looking for the Registrar’s office. I asked her if she was new to the campus, and her response surprised me. She told me she was a second-year student but never visited the Registrar’s office.

As I think about how social media and the web have become platforms for information sharing amongst the students and not relying on staff, I wonder if there are still some staff who still see themselves as the sole source of information and maybe not be too appreciative of the idea that students do exchange information and provide help amongst themselves. I think it’s great that in sharing information, they develop networks and social relationships that may contribute to their success at UCSB.

The Significance of Possibility/Role Models

mdyI attended a campus event to celebrate the retirement of UCSB Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Dr. Michael Young yesterday, January 23, 2015. Dr. Young will retire at the end of this month after 25 years as the VC for Student Affairs starting in 1990. It was an event attended by former and current students, staff and faculty, campus administrators, and local politicians. Throughout the three-hour event, speakers on stage shared Dr. Young’s accomplishments, the differences he made to the community, and most importantly, the differences he made to them as human beings. During the 24 years I’ve known Dr. Young, he has had a profound impact on me, greater than he will realize, as a student, professional, and human being. As I shared in this post dedicated to Dr. Young as my mentor/role model, I admired how he led, his integrity, and how he made others feel special. Even as a student new to UCSB, I saw Dr. Young as my possibility model. Dr. Young embodies the possibility that I, too, a person of color (PoC), can hold a leadership position at the highest level of the university. And, I can do so without compromising my value systems and my experience – my identity.

The event yesterday reminded me of the significance of possibility/role models and the impact  Dr. Young has had on others. Dr. Young inspires others through the virtue of his accomplishments and how he handles himself, especially with other folks who share similar experiences and backgrounds.

I became student affairs professional because of Dr. Young. Two primary reasons led me to my career path. For one, I had a positive experience as an undergraduate student, a student leader, and a student worker at UCSB because of the support many student affairs professionals provided. I chose this profession because I saw how Dr. Young effectively used his experience and value systems to create positive changes for the students and staff at UCSB.  At times, these changes needed principled leaders, like Dr. Young, who brought a sense of dignity and respect to the process leading to the appropriate outcomes. At times, these changes needed strong leaders, like Dr. Young, who was not afraid to challenge the institution. As one of the speakers said yesterday, Dr. Young brought conscience to the institution. Through him, I saw how a PoC could overcome racism and other institutional obstacles to get to its position. In addition, I saw how a PoC could bring their unique perspective, experience, and value systems only persons of color can only understand and use to promote the benefit of others.

My positive experience as an undergraduate student at UCSB was due to the help of many student affairs professionals during times of personal struggles and in helping me develop my sense of self. As a first-generation Filipino-American student, I faced many challenges during my times at UCSB from culture shock, limited financial resources, micro-aggressions, academic challenges, and just going through the process of growing up. How these professionals viewed, their work was shaped by Dr. Young.  Collectively, the student affairs professionals shared a common set of values of putting the needs of students first and treating them like they matter. These are value systems that were developed under the leadership of Dr. Young. Throughout the division of student affairs and the campus, his value systems were on display through the work of his staff and his relationships with students. These are values that matter to Dr. Young. These include freedom of speech, student activism, mental health and wellness, sustainability, technology, professional development, teamwork, and treating others with dignity.

I worked for a corporation that owned/managed hospitals a few months after I graduated from UCSB as a web developer. A few times, I was invited to meetings attended by hospital CEOs. I still remember walking into those meetings looking at the room and the folks sitting at the table. I sat in the corner of the room. They were all white males, middle-aged or older. I was the only person of color in the room. It was very intimidating. There were a couple of times when I joked to myself how I could never be one of them because I would fail one of the requirements – that I needed to be a white male. After a few months, I left the position to go back and work at UCSB in student affairs. I just didn’t feel like I belonged in the corporate world.

My experience in those meetings highlighted the significance of having folks in leadership/management positions who share similar backgrounds/values/experiences. At the very least, having persons of color at the highest leadership positions in an organization could suggest the org values diversity, or it could be just tokenism. So, as I describe the significance of Dr. Young and possibility models to PoCs like me, it goes beyond skin colors. It’s also how those folks like Dr. Young conduct themselves. It’s about how they overcame obstacles and how they can use their value systems and positively influence them to provide opportunities for others. Dr. Young embodies the qualities I was looking for in someone I admire and why he’s profoundly impacted my personal life and career as my possibility/role model.

Making the Best Out of Opportunities

In my career, I have been told a few times that I wasn’t the first choice for a seat on a committee or a role in my organization. I’ve been told I was given the position because there was either an extra seat or that other people didn’t want the role that was eventually given to me. At this point in my career, I am grateful for the opportunities that come my way, albeit not always how I may have wanted them.  My mentality nowadays is that I will make the best out of my situations and the opportunities given to me. I use this information to fuel my motivation to show others what I can do.

This was a different perspective from when I was younger. Back then, I took offense to the idea that I was not the first choice and was deemed not as qualified as others. I had a conversation quite a while ago with a colleague about the idea that I was added to a committee because I’m Asian. I was told I made a good addition to the group for diversity. This colleague was laughing when he said this to me, so I wasn’t quite sure if it was true, but there was some probable truth. I was very offended, and it took me a while to get over the idea that I was chosen not because of my abilities but because of possible tokenism. However, I’m glad I was on that committee because I think I made some contributions, and I was able to meet new folks along the way.

However opportunities are given to me, I’m grateful for them. At the end of the day, it’s what I make out of them that matters.

Some Random Thoughts About “Student Affairs Platform”

I read Eric Stoller’s post about Connecting Technology Buckets in Student Affairs. It reminded me of some random thoughts I had a couple of months ago about what a “student affairs platform” would look like. I use an iOS mind mapping mobile app called iThoughts to document my ideas, and below is a pdf with my random/not-so-complete thoughts on what would be included in such a comprehensive/integrated platform. I would love to read your thoughts on this topic.

Student Affairs Platform

Student Affairs Platform

Self-Nomination for UCSB VCSA Search Committee

Our current Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Dr. MIchael Young, announced his retirement a couple of months ago and formed a search committee consisting of faculty, staff, students, and alums. There was one spot available for staff to be chosen by the Chancellor through a recommendation by a staff committee. I submitted by nomination but, unfortunately, I was not selected. I’m confident, however, that committee will choose the best person for the position. I’ve chosen to post my self-nomination on my blog to share what I think are the issues facing student affairs at UCSB (and in general) that the new VC will need to address.


September 17, 2014
Re: Call for Nominations – Search Committee for the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
To Chancellor’s Staff Advisory Council:

I am Joe Sabado, Director for Student Information Systems and Software Development Services in Student Information Systems & Technology (SIS&T). SIS&T is the central computing department within the Division of Student Affairs, providing technology services to both the Graduate Division and the Division of Student Affairs. In my role, I oversee 34 staff and 10 student employees/interns organized as teams dedicated to serving the departments’ and their customers’ specific technology needs. These units include: Financial Aid Information Systems (IS), Admissions IS, Graduate Division IS, Registrar IS, Student Services IS, Counseling & Psychological Services/Student Health Service IS, and Marketing & Communication.

I am interested in serving on the search committee because of my personal and professional interests as a student affairs staff and a student advocate. I firmly believe in the mission of student affairs to promote holistic student development and learning to complement classroom education. My campus involvement listed below demonstrates my dedication to serving the needs of our students and the campus community. It also shows commitment to learning and understanding the perspectives and issues of those I work with, including students, staff, and faculty. I would like very much to have an input and contribute to discussions throughout the search process to select the best candidate for the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs position, working with the other
members of the search committee.

Vice Chancellor Michael Young has built a strong culture over the past 25 years, a culture committed to the well-being of our students, commitment to staff growth through professional development, and campus partnerships. I look forward to the next chapter and welcoming a new Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs.

I believe the next VC for Student Affairs will need the skills, knowledge, and experience to provide strong management and leadership to address the following issues and topics that impact our students, the Division of Student Affairs, and the UCSB community.

  • Access to higher education, affordability, and financial aid
  • Mental health and physical wellness
  • Alcohol and other drugs
  • Student engagement
  • Technology
  • High touch/high-tech concept as technology is increasingly used to complement/replace methods
    of student services delivery (e.g., virtual advising, online training, video interviews)
  • Recruitment, retention and persistence, particularly with underrepresented groups
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Town and Gown (Isla Vista)
  • Budget and decreased state funding for public education / alternative sources of revenue
  • Professional development and succession planning
  • Assessment
  • Partnership and integration of student services and information systems with academic affairs and administrative services
  • Accommodation and resources for “non-traditional” students (beyond 18-24 years old) and populations including first-year generation, low socio-economic and underrepresented groups, international students, Veterans, Dreamers, foster youth, and students with disabilities
  • Research and scholarship about student development and learning in the digital age

While my formal title is IT Director, I consider myself a student affairs professional first and foremost. I have used technology and participated in many programs, committees, and projects within student affairs and across campus to contribute to the goals of student affairs. Through my current divisional IT leadership role and my experience working in the Division of Student Affairs and at Housing and Residential Services since 1996, as well as a student leader at UCSB before that, I have gained perspectives on issues and trends impacting our students, student affairs, and the campus. In addition to my IT duties, my current and previous activities within the division and on campus include:

  • Admissions applications reader
  • First Year Experience (Freshmen, Transfer) discussion leader
  • EOP STEP Facilitator
  • Student Fee Advisory Committee (SFAC) staff representative
  • Staff advisor to multiple student organizations
  • Veterans Resource Team member
  • Judicial Process Advocate
  • Graduate Student Support Network (GSSN) member
  • Gaucho U participant, mentor, Steering Committee member
  • Foundations: New Student Affairs Professional Development Committee member
  • Student Affairs Management Development Group (MDG) graduate
  • NASPA Undergraduate Fellowship Program (NUFP) mentor
  • UCSB Social Networking Policy chair
  • UCSB Web Standards Guide co-chair
  • UCSB Student Email Governance Committee chair
  • Campus speaker on professional development, building digital reputation, social networking, and mobile web development

I also try to keep current with contemporary higher education and student affairs trends and issues through my membership with National Association for Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) and collaborations with other student affairs professionals from other higher education institutions. I continuously study higher education topics, including organization and governance, management and leadership, technology, contemporary issues, trends, philosophies, and history. This page includes my higher education/student affairs reading list.

My interest in student affairs issues and trends and contributions to the discussions through my student affairs and technology-focused blog ( led to an invitation by NASPA President, Dr. Kevin Kruger, to participate in a national student affairs technology summit. Along with 12 student affairs professionals and administrators, we discussed the future of student affairs in Washington, DC, last February. A document intended to provide a foundation for discussions about the future of student affairs and its implications for the profession is in the final revision. It will be available shortly.

For more information about my current job responsibilities as SIS&T Director and UCSB professional
experience, please see my Linkedin profile at
I hope I have demonstrated my strong interest in serving on the search committee and what I can contribute to the process. I look forward to hearing about your decision.

Joe Sabado

Student Affairs and Innovators DNA

I have been reading a book called The Innovators DNA, and I find myself thinking about how the concepts related to innovation described in this book apply to student affairs. The book’s premise centers around the idea that innovative leaders lead innovative organizations. The book talks about delivery (questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting) and discovery skills (analyzing, planning, detail-oriented implementing, and disciplined executing) used by leaders to find new ideas and convert them to tangible solutions and products. While these discovery skills may be through genetics, they can also be learned by understanding and practicing them.  Innovative leaders, they found to possess more discovery skills, while other leaders (professional managers) have more delivery skills. Dyer, Gregersen, & Christensen (2011), when they interviewed high-level executives, found:

“In contrast to innovators who seek to fundamentally change existing business models, products, or processes, most senior executives work hard to efficiently deliver the next thing that should be done given the existing business model. That is, they work inside the box. They shine at converting a vision or goal into specific tasks to achieve the defined goal. They organize work and conscientiously execute logical, detailed,data-driven action plans.” (p. 31)

This passage also notes the difference between innovators and managers.

“The key point here is that large companies typically fail at disruptive innovation because the top management team is dominated by individuals who have been selected for delivery skills, not discovery skills. As a result, most executives at large organizations don’t know how to think differently. It isn’t something they learn within their company, and it certainly isn’t taught in business school. Business schools teach people how to be deliverers, not discoverers.” (p. 36)

 In contrast to the professional managers as described above,  Dyer, et al. (2011) note that disruptive innovators are motivated by these two common themes, “First, they actively desire to change the status quo. Second, they regularly take smart risks to make that change happen.” (p. 24) In addition,  innovative leaders, like Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos (Amazon) look to hire those with similar attributes they possess. They build their companies by hiring innovative people, establishing processes that promote innovation (experimentation), and having guiding philosophies that support a culture that encourages employees to try new ideas. These philosophies include 1) innovation is everyone’s job, 2) disruptive innovation is part of our innovation portfolio, 3) deploying lots of small, properly organized innovation project teams, and 4) taking smart risks in pursuing innovation. According to the book, these four guiding philosophies reflect the courage-to-innovate attitudes of innovative leaders.

While Dyer, et al. (2011) focus on disruptive innovators/companies and discovery skills, they do see the value of companies having teams that include members who have delivery skills. Ideally, these teams should consist of members with complementary discovery and delivery skills and those with business, technical, and “human factors” (behavioral sciences) expertise. Collectively, they should be able to view problems from multiple perspectives.

Reading this book with the themes described above led me to the following questions:

– Are student affairs graduate programs designed to prepare future professionals to be “deliverers” and not “discoverers”?

– Is student affairs designed to work within established boundaries (mandates, legal requirements, guidelines, etc.) and within “inside the box”? What are the incentives/punishments for going “outside the box”?

– Are SSAOs more focused on delivery than discovery, and do they hire people with the same philosophies?

– Are the guiding philosophies in student affairs like/unlike those mentioned above regarding innovation?

– Are student affairs professionals generally more “deliverers” than “discoverers”?

What is your take on this topic? Do you agree with the premise of the book?


Christensen, Clayton M.; Jeff Dyer; Hal Gregersen (2011-07-12). The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators. Harvard Business Review Press. Kindle Edition.

Digital Lollipop Moments

“We all have changed someone’s life – usually without even realizing it.” This is a message in Drew Dudley’s TedX talk on Everyday Leadership. The video resonates with me because 1) I work with and for students at my university, and 2) I don’t see myself as a “leader” in the sense that I don’t think I have made a significant impact in this world, not in the way of social activists, politicians, artists, educators, etc. I go about my daily professional and personal lives just by making a living, pursuing goals, trying to help others, and enjoying the company of those I care for. However, sometimes I’m reminded that even when I don’t realize it, what  I do and write impacts others. Generally, I do think about the potential impact of what I write. After all, I know my supervisors, students, and other folks in my professions do read them. But, it’s when others tell me in person, like a colleague did this week,  or via email and social media, how a blog post I had written gave them a sense they’re not alone in their thoughts, a sense of connection, or a sense of direction that reminds me what I write and what I do matter.

As I wrote in this post, my blog has become a place for personal reflections and a part of my identity development and exploration. It’s become a place to express my perspectives that I don’t often find represented in what I read. I don’t find many mainstream media articles talking about Filipino-American immigrants’ experiences and what it all means. But, if what I write positively impacts others, even just one,  I find that idea very humbling and gratifying.

There was a chat session on Twitter last week about blogging, and I tweeted that maybe I should look at my blog’s activities and audiences through Google Analytics to grow and shape my posts. Maybe, I should spend more time publicizing my posts. Still, I’m satisfied with knowing that even if my posts don’t attract hundreds of thousands of readers, if there’s one person who was positively impacted by what I’ve written, that is rewarding enough.

The Power of Empathy In Student Affairs – My Personal Experience

The ability to understand and share the perspective of our students plays a very important role in how effective we are as student affairs professionals and educators in building relationships and helping our students.  Personally, while I fully acknowledge the fact that I can never fully understand today’s students’ perspectives due to our differences in age and experience, some of my experiences and background help me not only understand what their needs and opportunities may be but build relationships as well.

I was a discussion leader for a First Year Experience course for international students three years ago. Most of them were Chinese, with one student from Brazil. Most had only been in the United States for about two months. In addition to adjusting to their academic lives, they also had to adjust to the cultural norms and language and navigate their environments. Their discomfort with their new environments was apparent during the first few weeks of the course. In my one-on-one discussions and in class, they shared their issues in trying to understand how the university works, the habits of their American roommates, and difficulties with activities we take for granted as Americans. The language was one of the main barriers during their times of transition. Some even going to the grocery stores or taking the bus proved difficult. I would not have been able to appreciate their difficulties to the extent  I did if it was not for my experience traveling to Italy with my wife only a month before this course. Through my experience preparing for the trip and during our time in Rome and Florence, I could feel some of the issues these students faced. The fact that this was our first time traveling to Europe became a source of stress for me for a couple of months before our trip. I did not know how to speak Italian, and while I researched as much as possible through the web, perusing travel sites and reading stories from travelers, I could only speculate how our experience would be.

I had difficulty learning Italian even with the multiple translation and language apps I downloaded on my iPhone. This difficulty added to my concerns about the trip. I was also worried about being pick-pocketed in Rome. Stories about different tactics used and the prevalence of thieves out in the streets became my focus during our preparation. During our trip, the local Italians we interacted with were very accommodating to our limited Italian, but nevertheless, even ordering food or asking for directions proved challenging. When I met with the students, I shared some of my experiences and issues with our Italy vacation to connect with them. I could have genuine discussions with them and reassure them that they were not the only ones who have had to experience the difficulties of adjusting to a new culture and location.

Last week, I facilitated a transitional course for a one-week summer bridge program for first-generation and low-income first-year students. Having gone to the program myself and as a UCSB alum, I could relate to what they may be experiencing and anticipate/address some of their concerns. As a first-year generation student from a low/middle-income family, I was also able to relate to some of their family values and views on education. While each student certainly brought their unique and individual experience, there were also common topics, including financial concerns, first-time away from home, and the lack of directions with their intended majors I was able to share because of my personal experience.

As I had my orientation class for my online MBA last week, I found myself experiencing/feeling the same concerns the students shared during the summer bridge program. One of the students expressed doubt about whether she belonged at UCSB. As she mentioned in class, she realized high-achieving students surrounded her and wondered if she could compete with them. I also wonder if I have the aptitude and intelligence to complete my MBA. What was interesting as well was that one of the lectures was on critical thinking and research, both of which are topics in my orientation class. I have seen the same lectures a few times but found myself more interested this time. During our class discussion, I was able to share some of my perspectives and provide additional information on the topics.

From personal experience, I find it easier to relate and build relationships with others with similar backgrounds and experiences. In my interactions with students, especially Filipino-American students, our shared cultural background has proven to be important in building relationships.

UCSB STEP Program – Nourishment for My Soul

There’s not a week I look forward to in my job more than STEP Program, a summer bridge program for incoming first-year, first-generation, and under-represented students at UCSB. I have served as a transitional facilitator for the last four years, and it’s one of the most fulfilling personal/professional experiences I have ever done in my career. STEP Program has a special place in my life. I was a student in the program in 1991, and I was also a Resident Assistant in 1994. I met some of my life-long friends through this program and became friends with some students who have also considered me my mentor.

A few years ago, this program was for two weeks, and unfortunately, due to budget cuts, the program was reduced to one week. Even so, it is remarkable how much transformation happens with the students. I enjoy watching their confidence grow and their connections with other students within this short week. It’s a testament to how well the program is designed and the dedication of the staff and volunteers.

STEP Program facilitation is not one of my responsibilities as an IT Director. My job description does not mention working with students in a classroom setting, nor does working with first-generation students. But my interaction with the students through my role as a facilitator drives my purpose. It reminds me of why my job matters and who I work for. I don’t work for my supervisors; I work for students. In the end, while the systems I help develop with my technical teams enable our business staff and departments to be able to serve the personal development and learning of thousands of students at a mass scale, I would like to believe the personal interactions our faculty, staff, and the relationships our students develop with their peer’s matter as much towards a fulfilling college career.

When I read the students’ reflections of their STEP experience at the end of the program, I get the sense of how much they value the program and how much more confident and comfortable they are with their transition into UCSB. Personally, the STEP program provides me with the opportunity to build connections with the students. Even if most of them will never contact me again, I consider it a privilege and honor to be a part of their introduction to their new lives at UCSB. My one-week STEP experience is enough to nourish my soul and provide me with motivation and a sense of purpose for the rest of the year.

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Technologies, Assessment, and the Future of Student Affairs

Technology is already a significant component in all facets of student affairs. As Kevin Guidry shares in this blog post about student affairs technology competency, technology has played a role in student affairs for several decades.  The new types of technologies and how quickly they evolve will pose challenges and opportunities. 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 to 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 constraints.

The future of student affairs will include consumer technologies including mobile, data, sensors, social media, cloud, wearable computing, and location-based systems. This possibility 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 few blog posts about possible future scenarios for student affairs using the technologies I mentioned above. This blog post 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, privacy, policy, and ethical considerations 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 retrofitting 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 are now through a graphical user interface (GUI) like websites. However, developers must also consider 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 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 part of the Natural User Interface (NUI) approach. Consider 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 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 considered before. For example, one data set 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 are 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 and to show the value of the work student affairs do. This is in addition to efforts by departments to improve how they conduct their business (operational) and how effective they are towards meeting student learning outcomes. A major obstacle to 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 must be a way for these separate systems 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 a common data format that these systems can use, similar to a common transcript 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 learner-centered approach 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 and IT departments providing support to student affairs units to lead the discussion on how vendors should design their systems to overcome the constraints above. As it is, there are not too many vendors focusing on student services who are developing systems that can accommodate the needs of student affairs as a whole. A company that can do this would need domain expertise in areas within student affairs that are so distinct (student health vs. residential life) from each other to develop systems beyond just a department or two. I think NASPA and ACPA, the two national student affairs organizations, should lead this charge as they should better understand the general needs 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 are not limited to  AACRAO, ACUI, ACUHO-I, and NACE, to name a few.

There are many more topics and questions to discuss regarding 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 with 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 seems 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 think of their needs and place their value systems first instead of those they serve. There are those whose minds cannot be changed regardless of countless pieces of evidence 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 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 argue that not every student uses social media and not every student uses mobile devices. That is true; 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 our students’ high use of social media, mobile, and other technologies.

I hear this type of thinking too many times, what I call “legacy thinking,” wherein folks reminisce and try to impose/apply them today. This is not only limited to how they approach social media but to 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 open to examining the potential benefits and pitfalls of social media, how can we educate and model to our students how to take advantage and conduct themselves appropriately using these tools? As student affairs professionals, regardless of our personal beliefs and biases against social media, we should probably try to understand what social media means in terms of our professional responsibilities and consider them from students’ perspectives.

If there’s a message I would like to tell these folks, it would be to learn a little bit about social media, if not for themselves, but for the sake of the students they serve.

Higher Education and Data Liquidity

There is a lot of value in studying other industries outside higher education to gain perspective on issues we face and how we may adapt practices and technologies for our use. Amid rising student debt, claims of administrative bloat, call for higher accountability, and questions about the value of higher education, there seem to be more discussions about assessment within student affairs to improve the quality of services and provide evidence of our contribution to student success. A key component in assessment is data and the ability to aggregate them from different data sources and perform analysis for different purposes. Information systems within the same campus do not communicate with each other leading to siloed data. Regarding assessment, this issue of systems’ inability to communicate and exchange data leads to less than accurate analysis and evaluation. In addition, the quality of service provided to students and other customers suffer. As one who oversees our campus suite of student health and counseling information systems, I see some parallels between higher education and the medical care industry regarding data-related challenges.

One concept I came across from reading a book called Connected Health: How Mobile Phones, Cloud and Big Data Will Reinvent Healthcare by Jody Ranck is “data liquidity,” which the author describes as “the ability to move data from one part of the health system to another.”  Another definition offered by this article is “more ways and more choices for patients to own their computable health data, thus enabling patients to use their data to get help and advice.” Conceptually, data should be able to move freely from health providers and be accessible to patients.

The idea that students/learners should own their data and be portable across institutions is a topic I discussed in this blog post, “Common Learning Portfolio Markup Language (CLPML) – A Proposal.” One of the major challenges to this concept I proposed is the lack of a common standard in how data can be shared across student information systems in terms of data format and interfaces (how different systems communicate). What I know is that an interface standard exists in the medical industry called HL7 used for clinical applications to communicate. Furthermore, older legacy systems designed to be stand-alone require modifications/enhancements to interface with other systems. These enhancement projects may require significant financial and human resources.

For “data liquidity” to improve, other obstacles beyond technology must be overcome. Data privacy rules and policies exist to protect student data. Still, it seems so convenient for some to use the same rules and policies as inappropriate reasons not to share data, even to students who have the right to view their data. Furthermore, some existing data policies must be revised to reflect current needs and technological advances, including cloud and mobile computing. In addition, designs of information systems must be designed from the customers’ perspective. It’s too convenient to design systems without consulting with those we serve, leading to silos instead of an integrated set of student information systems and services.

It will be interesting to follow how the medical care industry will address the lack of data liquidity and how solutions they arrive at within their industry can be adapted for higher education.

Some Folks You May Want To Follow – Real People/Fresh Ideas

Social media, specifically Twitter and blogs, have become key components of my personal learning environment (PLN). For as many books I read, social media provides me information and, more importantly, access to a variety of experts/up-and-coming thinkers and their ideas that none of the books provide. While books may provide thoroughly examined and edited concepts, theories, and even real-life case studies, I find it refreshing to read the experiences and ideas of my contemporaries in student affairs and technology fields. These are folks whose ideas may not have been heard if they were not through social media. One of my core beliefs is that everyone has something to contribute. Specifically, in our field of student affairs, I value the insights of students and new professionals. Their voices need to be heard more regarding the current and future states of student affairs and higher education. I also value folks who are not afraid to challenge conventional thinking. Here are just some of the folks I’ve come to follow:

– Josie Ahlquist (@josieahlquist). Brilliant writer as she can present academic concepts about digital leadership and student development theories that are enjoyable and easy to understand. She is one of the few folks I know researching digital leadership and the use of social media in student affairs. Check out her blog at

– Trina Tan (@trinastan). It’s refreshing to read Trina’s adventures as a Filipina-American graduate student. She shares some of her personal and career challenges and lessons learned along the way. Check out her blog at

– J Chase (@JChase_). Do you want to follow someone who’s not afraid to call things the way we all should? Follow this guy. He makes a lot of sense, too. From assessment to critically looking at the principles/practices of student affairs, his commentaries provide different perspectives. Check out his blog at .

– Josh Kohnert (@joshkohnert). Josh is one of the emerging leaders in using social media for digital identity development amongst students and staff. I like the fact that not only is he writing about his ideas, but he is also actively sharing his knowledge through his presentations and his work as well. Check out his blog at

– Joe Ginese (@joeginese). Joe is full of ideas and innovative ideas. What I respect about Joe is that he is a thinker and a doer. He will provide some ideas when he identifies an issue, like how conferences can be improved. Too many folks, I think, can say “here’s the problem” and stop there. Joe will present some possible solutions. Check out his blog at:

I could add so many more folks to the list above, and the ones I mention represent the folks I enjoy reading for their unique and fresh perspectives.

Who are the folks you follow who bring new ideas and even challenge you?

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Reframing Technology in Student Affairs

Technology can be scary for some. The prospect of technology potentially replacing one’s position in an organization is even scarier. This is one of the reasons why advances brought upon by technology are not always embraced by all. From my experience working in student affairs IT for more than fifteen years, obstacles to implementing new systems are not always about the shortcomings of the technology themselves but rather, the bigger challenge lies with the resistance of those impacted by the new systems based on fear, unwillingness to embrace change, refusal to learn new skills, or the belief their current practices are superior to what technology can offer. When implementing new systems, as a project manager, a few of the questions from the staff I know I have to address are “what’s in it for me?”, “Will it replace me?” and “how do I fit in?” The reality is that technology has changed manual processes that may have existed in the past. Technology has made certain processes more efficient through automation. In some cases, this has led to eliminating positions that used to perform these manual operations. For folks in these positions had to learn and adapt to the new ways of doing things, move to new positions, or leave.

One of the concerns about using technology in student affairs, particularly when dealing with students/customers, is that certain services requiring face-to-face communication should not be replaced with technology. I generally agree with this sentiment. Not every process can be replaced with technology. If that is the case, there would be no need for staff. However, consider that technology may provide staff with more operational efficiency and effectiveness so they can devote more face-to-face interaction and provide more time to students who need extra attention. Given our students’ global nature and increasing online presence in higher education, physical face-to-face may not be an option. Here are some examples of how technology complements and improves our work:

– Knowledge base systems like Intelliresponse that can answer most commonly asked questions can minimize the number of phone calls and emails to staff, thereby providing more time to deal with special scenarios.

– Electronic medical records and case management systems provide student affairs practitioners with relevant student information from different parts of the campus they can use to assist students. Institutions without these systems probably still need to gather information on paper from different places. Imagine students having to wait during an appointment as the counselor must wade through files, which may contain outdated information, and synthesize the information in front of them.

– Web-based self-service systems can delegate some of the tasks to students themselves. For example, disabled students could register for services provided by disabled students programs by providing their health information and requesting services (proctoring, notetaking, etc.) online. Given some business validation to ensure all required documentation is provided, these self-service systems save students and staff unnecessary steps and time going over required documents.

– Virtual conferencing tools such as Adobe Connect to provide webinars to incoming students who may not be able to visit the campus (international students, out-of-state, etc.) are saving institutions time and money for travel. They can also accommodate the different time zones when students are available. I know colleagues who have held web conferences at 2 am for students in China.

– Digital x-ray systems in student health centers have significantly reduced the time required to diagnose a patient. In the past, the process would have involved sending these x-rays to facilities outside the university for a couple of days. Student health centers with digital x-ray capabilities can now do the same process in minutes.

– Automated degree audit systems can assist students and advisors with information to monitor academic progress. The efficiency and accuracy provided by these systems are tremendous compared to manual processes, which require staff to enter and process volumes of student academic records.

With the topics I introduced above, including staff’s attitude to change and looking at technology as a tool for efficiency and effectiveness, we must also look at the subject of technology competency. What does technology competency mean? As I wrote in this blog post, I define student affairs technology competency as:

“Technology competency includes the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to use, design, evaluate and implement technology to support the goals of functional units and towards one’s work.”

Competency is not solely about the mechanics of using the technology itself but how technology is applied intentionally. Technology competency involves technical and business aptitudes as well as the right attitudes. In analogy, one does not develop competency with money but rather how money is used.

How do we then develop staff’s technology competency? Graduate programs must include technology as part of their curriculum, either as a component in other courses offered or as a course on its own. Not all student affairs professionals have a degree in student affairs, so opportunities to develop technology competency must be available to all staff. One such opportunity, which is also applicable to graduate programs, is a course on technology in student affairs. This would be in addition to any training provided by institutions such as and sites available to individuals, including codecademy and I also think our profession could encourage and promote discussions about effective technology use in student affairs by bringing the topic to the forefront and not just as an underlying component of other competencies. Perhaps, the next version of Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Professionals by NASPA/ACPA could include technology as a competency area and not as a thread.

Anyone to deny the idea that technology is an integral component of student affairs today has not worked in student affairs, and/or they have not spent the time reflecting on how technology impacts our work and our students. The question is no longer about whether technology should be a part of how we perform our jobs but how we best use technology in whatever capacity we contribute towards our mission of supporting student success. Student affairs professionals do not have the choice of accepting technology as part of their job.  This article, “You 3.0: The Most Important Evolving Technology“, says it quite aptly:

“The focus will be on the relationship between the evolving technology and the user—that is, on You 3.0.”

To be successful at what we do in providing service requires our willingness to adapt, not react, to the realities of the world of our students.

What are your thoughts on how we should frame technology in student affairs? Do you agree/disagree with my assertion that technology is a critical component of student affairs?

Note: Products mentioned in this post should be considered references only and not an endorsement by the author.

Thinking About the Future of Student Affairs

Thinking about the future of student affairs and exploring ways to “predict” what the next few years hold for my profession -are two topics that have occupied some of my thoughts lately. As a student affairs professional, I’m anxious/excited about how higher education and student affairs will be, even a couple of years from now. The technological advances over the last few years, including social media, cloud,  mobile, and wearable computing, have changed the landscape of higher education. Rising student debt and tuition costs lead to questions about the value of college degrees and affordability/access and accountability. The changing demographics bring new expectations and needs. Newer forms of instructional delivery, including blended and distance learning, specifically MOOC, introduce debates about the role of technology and the faculty. As more higher education institutions offer online courses,  the role of student affairs professionals in providing student services must also be explored. Given all the different factors driving changes in higher education, I am intrigued as to what the next few years hold.

Can anyone truly predict the future of student affairs? I certainly can’t, but it’s fun to think about the possibilities. While the services we will need and how we will provide them will change, the needs of students outside the classroom will not go away. The questions we should ask are “what is our preferred future of student affairs?” and “what are the possible scenarios we must prepare for, and how can we prepare ourselves?”. How can we use information like Pew Research, ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, and the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) to inform us about current and future issues/trends? What prevailing beliefs/ideologies, if any, do we need to change? At this point, I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I do know that as we think about our future, we must not be confined by our past and how it’s been done. As much as we would like to reminisce about how wonderful our college experiences may have been way back in the day, we are not designing/providing services for ourselves. As we think about our future, it’s probably a good idea to expand our local campus perspectives by having conversations with colleagues outside our institutions and including those who will ultimately lead us in the future – our current students and new professionals.

What are your thoughts about the future of student affairs?

Why I’m Taking a MOOC on Student Affairs

This MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) entitled “Exploring the Student Affairs in Higher Education Profession” may just be the closest experience to being in a formal student affairs course for those who have not taken a course in student affairs and higher education. This is one of the reasons why I chose to enroll in this MOOC. While I have more than a decade of student affairs professional experience in my formal role as IT staff. Through volunteer positions (FYE discussion leader, summer bridge program instructor, org advisor), it is only through self-directed learning that I have been able to learn about some of the fundamental principles/theories and history of student affairs. I’ve always believed that to be an effective student affairs IT professional; I need to have the practical experience and theoretical knowledge to be able to contribute to the mission of my university and the purpose of student affairs, which I understand as creating the environment and providing support towards holistic student development and learning.

There are other reasons why I am in this MOOC, which include the following:

  • A better understanding of MOOC. I need to experience MOOCs firsthand to determine the values and pitfalls of this form of online learning. I read enough articles about the merit and shortcomings of MOOCs, and it’s personally intriguing. As a higher ed professional, online learning (including MOOC) is an area I need to be more knowledgeable about to better prepare myself and my department to provide infrastructure and services to support online learners, instructors, and student service staff. In addition, I am interested in learning theories, computer-mediate communication, and how technologies factor in/impact learning and communication processes.
  • Create connections with other students. Much of my “alternative professional development” has been through social media, mobile, and e-books, as well as my virtual Professional Learning Network (PLN)  consisting of folks I met through Twitter. These folks share my professional interest in student affairs/higher ed, technology, and leadership. Beyond the resources (videos, documents, web pages, etc.) provided by the course,  I expect that the biggest value I will receive from this MOOC is the new connections and interactions I will have formed during this course is over. I can’t think of any other venue that provides me with a platform to discuss with many aspiring and current student affairs professionals. Tap into their mindsets would be one of the biggest values from this experience.

I completed the first module (out of eight) this evening, and since students can go through the course at their own pace, I hope to complete it in the next few weeks. Given that this is my first MOOC, I am excited about this experience and to be able to learn about student affairs in a topic I am comfortable with.

What’s your experience with MOOCs? What’s your take on it?

Exploring Google Glass for Higher Ed and Student Affairs

google-glassA student saw my Google Glass the other day and asked me, “Is it worth it?” It’s no secret the price of the device is $1500. My short response was – “yes, I consider it an investment.” I’m not rich enough to have bought Google Glass to show off and to have a new toy. I have several reasons for committing my money to this device. It’s the same reason I spend so much time on social media and mobile devices. They are integral to my work and my life-long learning. I believe wearable computing and the internet of things (pervasive/ubiquitous computing) will be part of the next wave of technologies that I will need to be ready for as a higher education technology professional. I bought Google Glass as part of my preparation and learned more about these technologies that will become more common sooner than we think. These technologies will bring new opportunities and challenges in higher education in how we conduct our business and provide support and an environment for student learning. Privacy, ethics, and confidentiality issues must be considered, and policies must be adjusted. I don’t know what to expect as I learn how Google Glass works. I know that part of learning involves encountering new ideas that will lead me to questions that will (re)-direct me to new topics I may not have considered before. Google Glass provides me with hands-on experience to help me in the learning process.

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No Accomplishment Is Done Alone

I’m always puzzled as to why most winners of award show like Golden Globe claim and act like they had not prepared a speech when they accept their awards on stage. Maybe it’s a Hollywood practice to not prepare a speech as part of superstition. I’m not in the movie industry, so I wouldn’t know. What I do know is that for most of these winners, this may be the only time in their lives when they will get this type of accolade, and not preparing for it doesn’t make sense. Here’s my other take, this would be an amazing opportunity to express their gratitude to those they work with. They must have someone to thank and so why not make sure to use this maybe once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to highlight the work of others and what they mean to them?

Personally and professionally, I have had many folks help me, and open doors for me, to get to where I am now. My family, friends, teachers, co-workers, and mentors are just some of the folks to whose I am very grateful. The way I look at it, no accomplishment is done alone.

My First Days with Google Glass

“Is that Google Glass? Does it recognize my face and can you see my criminal records?” These are the first questions I received on my first day wearing Google Glass as my wife and I walked toward the Monterey Bay Aquarium during our holiday break. I figured this would be a good place to wear them for the first time since picking up the device from Google’s Venice Beach office the week before.  I felt self-conscious and unsure of how folks around me would react. I was pleasantly surprised that while folks at the aquarium gave me a look of curiosity, I didn’t hear any negative remarks. From what I’ve read online and from my conversation with the Google employee who provided me with hands-on training, people’s reactions vary. I also expected at some point to be called a “glasshole“. What  I didn’t expect was that I’d be called by this name by another higher ed technologist I really admire after posting a picture of my wife and me on Facebook, a platform I had found to be a safe place for sharing my personal experience. The comment made me think twice about bringing the device to our family holiday party so I ended up keeping them at home. I did regret that decision just because I wasn’t able to capture many of the fun moments we had as a family throughout the night, especially during the white elephant game.

My initial experience with Google Glass is in some ways similar to when I started speaking about wearable computing, mobile, social media, cloud, and even the web way back in the mid-1990s. Some folks were excited and there were those skeptical of the new “fad//toy/useless/wasteful to business” technologies. Given how visible Google Glass is on one’s face, the potential benefits as well as potential ethical/privacy issues it represents, I think opinions on both sides will be stronger this time. In a conversation with a friend, I mentioned how Google Glass could be used for photojournalism, and immediately, his response was “or voyeurism” to which I immediately agreed with this unfortunate possibility.

I bought Google Glass for professional and personal reasons. Professionally, I want to explore how this device could be used in student affairs and in higher ed. I’d like to connect with other folks who are already thinking about the applications of Google Glass in higher ed. The ability to play around with the device itself has certainly helped me think more about the possibilities. One function I’ve found useful is the ability to take photos through the wink feature while I’m on the go. It’s really convenient to take photos without having to take my iPhone out of my pocket.

I also bought Google Glass for personal reasons, primarily for golf. I’m curious as to how I could use it to improve my swing at the driving range. Apparently, I have a tendency to sway and move my head a lot and this is not a good thing. Using Google Glass to record my movement while I’m swinging should help analyze these problems. Another use is for GPS on the course. Two days ago, I tried using it with the available golf glassware on the course, with not much luck. Given my limited experience with Google Glass over the last two weeks, here are my initial observations:


-Easy to learn. While there’s some learning curve involved, I was quickly able to figure out the basic gestures (back, forward, down swipes, tap) and voice commands for the device to be usable. Connecting the device to my iPhone (personal hotspot/Bluetooth) and with my wi-fi weren’t too difficult either. There were very specific steps involved, which includes pointing the Google Glass to a QR Code to connect it to the network,  so I just made sure not to miss any steps.

– It fits comfortably and adjusting it is very easy. The frame is made with titanium and so it’s strong and malleable.

– The wink feature, just recently added, is by far my favorite and most convenient to use. That  I didn’t have to take my iPhone out nor did I have to issue a voice command “OK Google take a picture” to take photos is nice.

– Social media sharing. There are two ways to share photos/videos. The first option is to “Send” to an individual who is in your Google+ contact. The second option is to “Share” on Twitter or Facebook. I’ve been able to share a photo via Twitter (tagged with #throughglass) but I’m still figuring out how to share on Facebook. I suspect this is because I have two-factor authentication enabled.

– Screencasting. The guest feature, which allows a Google Glass owner to share the device with others without exposing their personal information, has been disabled with the newest version. Screencasting, a feature that allows the display of what is on the Google Glass screen on a paired mobile device on the same network, is very convenient for demos.

– Google Support. My experience with the support team has been superb since I first inquired about how to be in the Explorer Program months ago. Whether through their Twitter account (@googleglass), via e-mail, phone calls, and the staff at the Google office, I’ve received very timely, professional, and friendly support.


– I wear prescription glasses without them, the smaller text is hard to see as they are blurry. I will now have to use contact lenses for me to use the device. Another option, which I’ve already signed up for is to get a prescription eyeglasses for Google Glass.

– Wink feature doesn’t work with the shades on. While this should have made sense to me, I had to laugh at myself for not realizing this would not work since the camera could not detect my wink behind the shades. The problem with this is that I will most likely need the shades to see the screen better when I’m outside, like playing golf. I would like to use the wink feature, but it will not work.

– The case is a little bulky. The device doesn’t fold like a regular pair of glasses so it’s stored in a

Given my limited experience with Google Glass, I have many features to learn and I will be sharing them in the future as I use them.

As I’ve done with new technologies I’ve come across during my professional life, I look at Google Glass not only from a technologist’s perspective but from one who is curious about the sociological implications of this device. How will folks interact with me and what concerns will they bring up? I also try to look at this device from a student affairs perspective. As wearable computing becomes more prevalent, how will these devices change the way students communicate, how they build relationships, and how do they impact their identities in the way they represent themselves to others? How can we use these devices as part of our work? What ethical/legal/policy/privacy issues need to be considered?

Asian American Identity Development In the Age of Social Media

I sometimes wonder how my ethnic identity development process would have been if social media were available during my college years in the 1990s. This was a formative time for me, when I may have been in the midst of Stage 3 (Awakening of Social Political Consciousness) and Stage 4 (Redirection) of Kim’s Asian American Identity Development Model. I wonder about this when I come across tweets and blogs that remind me of these stages of my life when learning about discrimination against Asian-Americans and from personal experience of what I perceived to be discrimination led me to be more politically aware and active. It was a time when I went through a period of discovery/exploration about my Filipino-American ethnic identity. Some may have perceived me as being angry while some may have viewed me as extreme in how I shared my pride as a Filipino-American.

As I think back to my time in college, I remember the times I watched movies and how I analyzed them from different perspectives.  For me, movies were more than entertainment. They were social and political commentaries. For example, why is it that white male characters are made to look bigger (camera angle points up) and Asian males are made to look smaller? There’s this one time we watched a Bruce Lee movie and a scene of Chuck Norris coming out of a plane was shot at an angle that seemingly focused on his crotch. While watching this scene, I expressed to my then-girlfriend that it’s Hollywood’s way of showing white male virility and proceeded to share my frustration about the portrayal of Asian men as geeks and asexual.  As the movie went on, I provided commentary on the significance of the characters and how the movie was made in relation to the history of racial discrimination against Asian Americans. By the end of this movie, she was very frustrated that she could not enjoy it. I think she even refused to go to the movies with me for a while. I had taken a course on History of Asian Americans in Media where I learned about the portrayals of Asian Americans throughout American movie history (Fu Manchu, White Peril, dragon ladies, asexual males, …).  What I learned from that class and my discussions with classmates led me to my extremely pessimistic view of the media, specifically when it came to portrayals of Asian Americans.

In relating to this day and age of social media where I see racism against Asian Americans like this or this or this, I think about how I would have reacted and expressed my views if social media were available at that time. As one who understands the capability afforded by social media as a platform to broadcast opinions/ideas to a large audience and to be able to do it anytime/anywhere with a mobile device, I wonder how my identity development during college would have been impacted by social media.

I suppose at this stage in my life, I’m in stage 5 of Kim’s model (incorporation stage) wherein I’ve come to terms with some aspects of my identity. I will note however that while my views and reactions may be less extreme, there are still many things around me today that really upset me and I deal with them in my own way. For those who read my blog, you would have read some instances of what  I perceive to be personal experiences of discrimination and unfairness. So, the struggle continues.

What’s your identity development process as it relates to social media? What role does social media play? Also, does Kim’s Asian American Identity Development Model resonate with you (if you’re Asian American)? If not Asian American, what model could you use for yourself?

My Professional Reading List for 2013

kindle_joe_listThis year has been an intense learning experience for me. It was a year of learning driven by curiosity, the need for background information for projects with folks I met via social media, and in preparation for major projects at work. In addition, a significant portion of my learning came through reading, mostly on my iPhone and kindle app. The topics I read include the following:

For the most part, I went through these books by skimming and scanning them. I then went back and deep-read those I found really interesting and/or those requiring more analysis. There are some books that could have been better written, but I always start a book with an open mind so I try to find new ideas from them. However, there have been some books I have had to return (Amazon allows electronic refund within a couple of days after purchase) as I either found them to be too hard to read (the author uses too many big words I don’t understand and I fall asleep/get headaches), or ideas are not well thought out, or just not very interesting. I found that in reading enough books on similar topics, I came to find themes. It is during times when I could combine themes from across disciplines/industries and analyze them as they relate to my current work and future of higher education that I find myself thinking about possibilities of where my world could be heading.

(continue reading…)

Disrupting My Own Thinking

I don’t know about you, but I’m so busy at work just trying to keep up with what we need to build and maintain existing systems for our customers, it’s hard to see what’s coming ahead even a year ahead of us. Projects I work on take months, even a couple of years to build and I’m working on many of them at a time. I’m very busy managing. I think this is the issue posed by Clayton Christensen about disruptive innovation. Organizations miss emerging technologies/opportunities beyond their horizon because they’re too busy trying to meet the demands of their current customers. I can definitely relate to this.

If I don’t read books, blog posts, tweets, collaborate with folks outside work, I don’t think I would  even know about the larger issues and trends impacting higher education like MOOC, online learning, and student financial debt crisis. I work to satisfy the needs of our university students and our customers  but I read/communicate outside my university work to keep up with larger issues.

In a way, my interactions/experience with my personal learning network (PLN) which consists of higher education professionals and those outside higher education are what I use to disrupt my day-to-day, localized thinking. There are many ideas, programs I would like to implement at work but the reality is that I first need to satisfy what our customers demand and need. Does that mean I don’t think about new ways to meeting these demands? I absolutely think about new/improved ways, but they cannot be disruptive to a point where what I do severely impacts how they serve their customers in the process. They are incremental improvements. I believe in the idea of learning through failing, but “failures” do cost resources and money so when we implement or try new programs, we better start out with some thoughtful approach and define what we need to accomplish, we just can’t be trying new things just for the sake of experimenting. After all, our salaries and resources we use come from students and their families.

So, I go back to the idea of using my PLN and my experience outside my work to explore new ideas, to dream beyond possibilities, and to disrupt my own thinking. I was in with a twitter conversation about technology and graduate programs earlier tonight that got me thinking about the future of student affairs profession. I write this post, I am looking at my Pebble smart watch and waiting for my invite for a Google Glass. I’m thinking about buying this Estimote Beacon and combine it with Leap Motion to experiment with the idea of geo-fencing in my home. These are wearable and sensor technologies that I can’t see us using at work anytime soon (though I think they’ll be as common as smart phones the way it is now). But, it does not mean I can’t dream about what it may be like a few years from now either and imagine a campus so different from what I see now.


Maintaining Your Sanity By Managing Your Expectations

sanity-insanity-road-signI believe one of the sources of our frustrations is when our expectations do not match the realities of our situations. I’ve learned through the years to recognize what I can control or influence and those I simply need to accept as I’m in no position to change them. I’ve also learned that changing my perception and emotional response is more accessible than changing those around me. By re-framing or recognizing my control/influence boundaries, I’ve learned to minimize my frustrations and make the best of my situation.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that it’s probably easier to change myself (or my attitude) than to change others. For example, some folks are more naturally outspoken and have more dominant personalities than I do. During meetings, I’ve gotten frustrated when I’m unable to express my thoughts/ideas when the discussions are happening. Maybe it’s because I’m introverted, and it takes a lot of energy to be in these situations, or tha,t I’m just eloquent enough to verbalize my thoughts. Sometimes, these folks are way above the organizational hierarchy or from other organizations, and asking them to change their ways would probably not be the wisest nor the most effective move on my part. Given that I can’t change these folks, I’ve learned to change my attitude and expectations when attending these meetings. I’ve learned to relax and accept that these meetings are sometimes monologues, and I’m there just to listen. I’ve come to realize when decisions have already been made, I wasn’t going to waste my effort and energy having to argue my points. If I do need to convey my ideas, one of the things I do is to write them down and email them to the group before or after the meetings. I may also share my thoughts with other folks so they know where I’m coming from and can help me express them during the session. Just a side note, when I facilitate meetings, I make an effort to encourage other folks to participate and acknowledge their ideas.

Another scenario I’ve come to accept is that formal positions don’t always mean being in a position of authority. Throughout my career, I’ve led several committees and projects at our university, ranging from departmental and divisional to campus level. For the most part, my position as chair/leader of the committee/project meant I was able to have a relatively high level of influence, and I was able to shape the discussions because of my expertise and position in the organization. However, there have been times when I find myself only havingplaceition in my name. Based on the politics, personalities, or expertise of those involved, I find myself in a role with limited authority. This would have bothered me in the past, and I took it personally.  However, I’ve come to realize that as long as the project’s objective is met and the process is generally what I consider respectful and productive, I will contribute in the way I can, even if it means just scheduling the meetings. This doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t exert my “authority” as a chair/lead and adjust the direction of the discussions when needed. What it does mean is that I’ve learned to “pick my battles” and not to take my situation personally.

It’s easy to get lost in the messiness we encounter along the process. Keeping the bigger picture and end goal in mind gives us a compass to guide us along the way.

We all have ideas on how things should be. I’ve read many books on leadership, communication, and organizational management, and I sometimes forget these books are about what and how things should be in an ideal world. The reality is that these ideals could be far from our realities. Because our value systems and experiences shape our world views, we also set our expectations. When these expectations are not met, it’s when we get frustrated. Keeping in mind that our ideals are not always shared by others and accepting this fact may be the difference in how well we maintain our sanity.

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Challenges with Change and Innovation – More Than Technology

innovation_changeThe topics of change and innovation, specifically technology-related, intrigue me. I read about concepts of disruptive innovation, diffusion of innovation, and continual improvement process. At and at this point, I’m still trying to wrap my thinking as to how these relate and when can/should they be applied in higher education. Frankly, I have more questions than answers, so I continue seeking new knowledge and perspectives to make sense of it all.

I work in the technology field within higher education, where I’ve witnessed and implemented business processes enabled by technology since the mid-1990s. In the last few years, the pace at which technologies change has become even faster. Who would have imagined the growth and impact of social media, cloud, mobile, and big data just five years ago?  Last year, I started noticing more articles about wearable computing and the “internet of things.“. The blurring of the lines between computing services and products only available via IT departments years ago and those readily available to consumers, also known as “consumerization of IT,” have only become more pronounced in the last few years. These changes have provided opportunities and introduced new challenges. All these observations have led me to become more interested in anticipating where the future of higher education and technology may be heading.

If change and innovation in higher education are only about technology, maybe, just maybe, it would be easy if not because change involves culture, politics, traditions, paradigms, and personalities. Technological changes happen within how higher education views itself in terms of its perceived roles (preparing students for careers,  providing civic service by molding students as productive citizens, research) and how it operates (shared governance, teaching methods, funding priorities, etc.). There is not a consensus on these views. The role of faculty and teaching methods are now being challenged in light of new learning opportunities provided to students because of technology, including Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) and personal learning networks. Current technologies have also added a new spin to the old debate of how individuals learn (objectivism vs. constructivism).

Beyond philosophical debates about the role of technology in higher education, from a practicality perspective, it takes time and resources to introduce and implement new ways of using technology. It’s a process, and the process involves human emotions. As one who works in IT, my role is a service provider to my university’s communities of staff, faculty, and students. At the core of my responsibility is ensuring the systems they use work appropriately as they would expect. Network outages and disruption of applications/web services are what we try to avoid. Given that failures, trial-and-error, and not-so-perfect systems that lead to disorders of services are all part of the process when introducing new systems, how do organizations balance the need to manage for stability and provide room for transformational (and potentially disruptive) innovations? How do organizations gain buy-ins from faculty, staff, students, and administrators to adopt new systems and ways of doing things? I suppose, more importantly, the question is when and how do we know when to apply incremental improvements vs. introducing a radically new way of doing things and disrupting the system?

I’m hoping someone in higher education has figured out the answers to the questions I pose above because I have yet to figure all these out. Let’s talk if you have figured it out or have some ideas.

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Reminders of My Inferiority as a POC

I write this post with the acknowledgment that I own many privileges as a male, heterosexual, college-educated, Christian, able-bodied, employed, and a person living in America. Even with these privileges, there are times when I am faced with situations that remind me of my inferiority as a person of color. It was only last week when I went to a Best Buy store, and the salesperson would not even acknowledge me when I was just a couple of feet away from him. It probably took more effort to ignore me than to say hi or say the words “how may I help you”? Did I not look like I had any money to spend? It bothers me when a server ignores my table and treats my friends and us like we don’t belong there. When a salesperson at a Nordstrom store goes out of their way to help a white couple, looking affluent, across the store and ignores me while I’m standing next to him, it bothers me. It bothered me enough I went and spoke with the store manager. I asked myself, was it my age, my look, the way I dressed? Today, a person at my university told me, unsolicited, “I didn’t wear my tie today just to feel important.” a reference to the fact that I was wearing a tie like I do most days. I half-jokingly pointed to my arm and told him, “I have to wear ties just to be equal to others because of my brown skin.”  This person says, “Oh no, I didn’t mean it that way, not at all.”  When another person jokingly, I think, asked me, “whose ass did you kiss to get to where you are?” my immediate reaction at that moment was that they were kidding and laughed it off, to wonder later on what they meant. Did they think I got to where I am through some exception or tokenism? Maybe I don’t need to prove myself, but I feel I need to prove my worth by working harder and longer hours. When a vendor I invited to demo a product chose not to look at me during his one-hour presentation and focused on my two white colleagues the entire time, I wondered why that was.

As a person of color, and an immigrant, there are things I notice that maybe my other colleagues or those around me probably don’t. It’s hard to explain, but there’s a gut feeling that things just don’t seem right where things happen. I’ve gotten a response when I’ve questioned situations: “I was too sensitive.” Am I too sensitive? I don’t know. Maybe. At some point, I stopped sharing some of my concerns so as not to hear those words. What I do know is that I sometimes find myself trying to find reasons to justify the actions of others directed at me and leading me to ask myself why was it that I was treated in a certain way. Is it simply because of how I look, act, and speak, that I’m short? Is it because of my skin color, my race? Maybe it has nothing to do with me. It’s just them.

When I was a freshman at UCSB a couple of decades ago, several of my hallmates discussed how we were accepted to UCSB. One of them told me I was born because of affirmative action and that he had other white friends who had better grades than me and did not get in. Somehow I still remember this situation probably because throughout my life since this occurred, I am reminded of the fact that I am still seen as inferior, and my accomplishments may have just been a result of tokenism. Maybe somehow, I did not earn them.

These negative experiences I’ve had pale compared to what other friends have told me. I’m fortunate I didn’t have to go through what they’ve gone through as persons of color, and here I am again, trying to minimize the negative impact these experiences have had on me, but sometimes, they get emotions out of me. Individual incidents probably don’t amount to anything, but when these things happen often enough in one’s lifetime, they become hard to ignore.

Experimentation Within Student Affairs

My “day job” as a service provider (IT) includes keeping the lights on, which means making sure the vendor and home-grown applications are functioning, managing several projects, fulfilling my leadership//supervisorial responsibilities to my staff, planning department/technology roadmaps, making sure my staff and our customers are happy, meetings, and dealing with emergencies in between. This is the reality of our daily work for many of us, not only in IT but as student affairs practitioners.  From an IT perspective, any changes we introduce must not have a disruptive and negative impact on our departments and their customers; this means changes must be incremental. Indeed, new projects present opportunities to think about and implement business process transformations. These projects take time, people, and resources and require navigating the university’s politics, personalities, and cultures. These all lead to the fact that we rarely have time to spend on experimentation to explore what may be considered radical ideas. Given the constraints and realities of our work, how can we find the time and place to experiment and explore new ideas?

I spend enough time on various social media platforms (Twitter, Linkedin, blogs, Facebook, etc.) to read exciting ideas from professionals in and outside higher education. Following twitter back channel conversations from the conference can be exciting because this is when folks share ideas to return to their campuses to implement what they just learned. I do wonder how many of these ideas ever come to fruition. Personal interest is one thing, but promoting ideas as part of one’s formal job responsibility/authority is more challenging. Even grassroots initiatives that may succeed at a small scale, at some point, will require institutional support for these initiatives to grow at a larger scale.

To student affairs and higher ed colleagues reading this post, how have you managed to find time to do your “day job” and experiment simultaneously?

Work/Life Balance Discussion – A Privilege?

This post reflects on this concept of work/life balance and how my upbringing in a working-class immigrant household whose father worked three or four jobs to support his family shaped how I view my work and life.  It also led me to consider whether this discussion is a privilege afforded to those with enough financial resources to have a conversation. This reflection is a result of observing conversations about this topic and wellness on social media amongst a group of student affairs professionals and, at the same time, painfully watching the devastation brought on by the typhoon in the Philippines and watching those lucky enough to live through the gale go in survival mode. This post is no longer a commentary on other people’s thoughts and their definition of proper work/life balance; ultimately, work/life balance is a personal decision. I grew up thinking I’m fortunate to have a job, and I do what I need to do to succeed, including working long hours, more than anyone else, to be considered equal to my peers.

When my family and I immigrated to the United States, my parents, educated in the Philippines, took jobs at the mall. My dad worked as a janitor, and my mom worked at a pizza place. They needed to get the job they could get to support us. When I was in high school, they established their janitorial business and their full-time jobs, and my dad also mowed lawns. I don’t remember discussing work/life balance growing up. This is the environment I grew up in. It wasn’t as if we were poor; maybe we were middle class, but we certainly did not have the material belongings and other opportunities my wife and I could afford now. So, thinking about how I grew up, I ask these questions: Do folks working in manual labor, working two or three jobs at minimum wage, ever have discussions on work/life balance when they’re trying to feed their families? How about single parents who need to work more than 8-5 to survive and at the same time must schedule their lunch breaks to accommodate their children’s activities? How about folks who are just trying to get jobs?

I’m not saying folks’ work/life balance should not happen because it has real implications regarding mental/physical well-being and relationships. I wonder if this discussion is a privilege not afforded to all.

Learning Student Affairs Through IT

One of the benefits of working for a central student affairs IT department is that I get to work and learn about the different business processes of the various units within student affairs. I also know about other teams on campus, like academic departments, who are often our partners regarding the information systems we provide. More significantly, I learn about the subcultures and issues specific to each department and those they serve. Working with these units for many years, I’ve witnessed and participated in these evolutionary changes and business transformations on our campus. These changes span the entire student life cycle, including enrollment management units, student services, academic services, and residential life.  Most of these changes have been responses to issues faced by the departments and the university. By looking at when systems were placed into production and the reasons behind them, it’s possible to figure out the campus’s political, cultural, student demographics, and environment, or beyond, at that particular time. An example is the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), a program to track international students and scholars in the United States. It was a program we had to implement on our campus by 2003 because of a federal mandate. This holistic perspective of student affairs is a unique view that is probably only available to Senior Student Affairs Officers (SSAO) as their positions are at the level where their scopes of responsibilities span multiple units.

Understanding the business processes is the window to my education on what student affairs are. My view of student affairs is that, as a profession, we provide support for students in their personal and learning development while at our institutions. To understand student affairs, knowing what these units do is not enough. One must seek to understand the reasons behind them. This process involves learning about student development theories, the history of higher education and student affairs, administration, governance, professional competencies, and topics specific to each section of student affairs. Because I did not attend a graduate program in student affairs and higher education, this process has been through self-directed learning, most of which comes from reading textbooks, journals, social media, and materials I can get my hands on.

To get a broader perspective of student affairs meant extending my experience and knowledge beyond UCSB student affairs, where I work. Social media has made it easier to connect with colleagues from other institutions. It is through social media that I’ve developed my Personal Learning Network (PLN). I work for a research university, and it’s been enlightening to learn from colleagues from community colleges, small liberal colleges, private, and other public institutions. While the theories and topics I read in textbooks may have come from decades ago, the lessons I learn from my other colleagues are present and often involve discussions about the future of higher education and student affairs. I even recently had the opportunity to visit another campus to do an external review of a student affairs IT department, which further gave me a different perspective.

Learning about student affairs through IT may not be the conventional way, but I’ve come to appreciate the value of my experience working in IT when learning about student affairs. I also realized a long time ago that I needed to combine my practical experience with theories to understand student affairs fully. It’s an exciting time in higher education, and technology is a significant component and a driver of the changes happening in our field. Social media, mobile, cloud, big data, and distance learning are technologies that have introduced new issues and opportunities to students and student affairs staff as well. It’s fun to learn these new technologies, but it is essential to understand the implications behind using them. What do these technologies mean when it comes to how we perform our work, how we communicate with students, and how do they impact student development and learning? Working in student affairs, IT is an excellent place to be a witness and be part of these changes.

Student Employees in IT and Learning Outcomes

Higher education IT departments’ indirectly support student learning, development outcomes, and student success by providing technical support to the departments. In addition, by employing students, higher education IT departments have opportunities to directly impact student success by providing them with experiential learning opportunities to learn soft and technical skills in preparation for their careers. Given thoughtful consideration, students could be provided with learning opportunities that complement/enhance the lessons they learn in the classroom. This mindset is consistent with the values of student affairs, the belief that learning happens within and outside the classroom.

Maximizing these learning opportunities requires re-examining technical job duties (code, troubleshooting) to include non-technical activities, so they may learn how to communicate, work in teams, lead, and develop critical thinking skills. One of the typical comments from computer science students we’ve hired is how much they learn about working collaboratively and in teams from their experience working for our department. They only get to work in teams in one or two of their computer science classes. As supervisors, how do we ensure that learning happens in the technical and soft skills areas? With career staff, we have performance evaluations based on job descriptions. We can extend this practice to students by providing them with performance evaluations and also defining learning outcomes, using assessment techniques to measure their progress towards these learning outcomes along the way. These learning outcomes could be grown in areas of technical and non-technical competencies.

By being intentional with the areas of competencies for our students to develop by defining learning outcomes, I believe they would be more effective in their positions. At the same time, we are contributing to their learning process and preparing them for the careers ahead of them.

Reflections from WRCSAD13 – Social Media and Student Affairs

wrcsadI attended the Western Regional Career in Student Affairs Day (WRCSAD) at Long Beach State University last Saturday as a member of the UCSB NASPA Undergraduate Fellowship Program (NUFP) group. This was my first student affairs conference aside from a student affairs technology conference (satech) in Rhode Island two years ago.  I met a few folks I have known via Twitter in person (face-to-face) for the first time. I was also pleasantly surprised to meet a few student affairs pros who told me they’ve been following me on Twitter. The sessions I attended, including “Reflections from Senior Student Affairs Professionals,” “Professionals of Color,” and “Research in Student Affairs,” really invigorated me and validated the work that I do with students and through technology. The opening and closing keynote speakers were dynamic and provided personal perspectives on why they chose student affairs as a career. Another session I attended was “Social Media in Student Affairs.” The panel provided insights on their personal/professional use of social media. The students and professionals in attendance also asked questions about issues/concerns they have about social media, and one even shared their hesitation about using it. As I listened to the discussion, I thought about the different ways I use social media and how student affairs use it. I was also thinking about the message from the opening keynote speaker, Dr. Dyrell Foster, Dean of Student Affairs from Rio Hondo College. Here are some of the topics he shared and how I think social media relate:

Congruence of personal and professional values:

Dr. Foster spoke about how his personal life experience and the values he learned from his family are consistent with his professional value system. I think the topic of “authenticity” comes up from time to time when it comes to how one represents themself on and off social media. Do we share/relate with others online as we do “face-to-face”? In addition, how much can we separate our personal and professional lives on social media? Similarly, when it comes to our work, how much can we separate our values/perspectives from our work?

What is your reputation/legacy?

Dr. Foster asked the questions of what will be your reputation and the legacy we will leave behind. I think reputation is subjective; it’s how others define you from their perspectives. As personal as it is, I believe through our consistent actions and what we share, we develop a reputation(s), and we do have the ability to shape how others view us based on how we act online or what we share through our Facebook statuses, Instagram photos, Vine and YouTube videos, tweets, Linkedin profiles, and our blogs. With regards to legacy, what we write has the potential to be read and shared by more folks than we probably intended and, in some cases, even become the foundation for new projects at individual and institutional levels.

Who are your mentors/who will you mentor?

Dr. Foster also reminded the audience that student affairs are a tiny field and that the student/pro we are sitting with may be the one who will hire you or will connect you to the person who will be able to help you. Thank your mentors, he also said. I’ve met a few folks via social media who I’ve come to respect and follow. These are folks in student affairs, higher education, and technology fields. Since joining Twitter on August 9, 2010, I’ve had the opportunity to share some of my personal experiences and advice with graduate students and other student affairs professionals. I consider mentoring a relationship, so my experience with others on social media may not be defined as “mentorship.” However, the potential for conversations that started via social media could lead to meaningful mentoring relationships.

 As student affairs professionals, our identities and value systems are very much related to our work. I think the enjoyment and satisfaction we receive from our jobs relate to how aligned our value systems are with our work. The folks around us and the communities we work with also matter. Our communities have become more extensive in this digital age than on our physical campus. Social media also changes our identities and the impact of what we do.

A Glimpse of Student Affairs in the (Near) Future?

future_of_student_affairsThere will come the point shortly when these five forces — mobile, social media, data, sensors (internet of things), and location, as Robert Scoble and Shel Israel call them in their book “Age of Context” will transform student affairs. As with every technology, the applications of these technologies have negative and positive consequences. Privacy is undoubtedly at the forefront of concerns. For example, this article concerns proposed legislation on cell phone tracking in retail stores. Consider these probable scenarios: (continue reading…)

Preparing for a Career Yet to Be Invented

Even the most skilled and brightest futurists in the 1990s could not have predicted the upcoming massive changes in the first decade of 2000 in higher education by consumer technologies such as the web, social media, cloud, and mobile computing. I still remember a job interview in the late 1990s for a university web director position. I was asked to present my vision of the university in the next decade and the role of the web and other technologies. Nowhere in my mindset were the consumer technologies that changed how we in the universities and students now do our day-to-day activities and business processes. I am intrigued and curious about what the higher education of 2020 would be like. I read predictions such as this “Higher education in 2020: three key forecasts from new report” and this (“College 2020”)  as well as Gartner IT Predictions for 2014 and Beyond to get a sense of what to expect. However, the accuracy of these long-term predictions remains to be seen. However, even as I remain cautious about the validity of these predictions, I know that I better keep up with the trends, even if these trends are not part of what could be considered part of my job.

Yesterday, I spent a few hours with some student affairs directors brainstorming about communications in our division. I’ve been told in the past that our role as IT is to provide the tools, and the departments are the ones who communicate with students. Frankly, I’ve never believed in the idea that IT is just a tool/utility provider. I think the value of IT comes not only from the infrastructure we manage but also from the innovation and transformation of business processes that became possible because of our partnership with our business units to develop new systems and methods to do our business. With this mindset, I approach communication and the role of IT. It is also with this mindset that I view my role as an IT manager/leader. To be an effective IT leader, I need to keep up with the preferences and demands of our students, our staff and other customers, including how they would like to communicate. I need to keep up with technologies and the mindset that come along with them.

I was recently asked if IT should be involved in communications and marketing, to which I responded, “I don’t see any reason why IT should not be.” Traditional thinking of IT probably does not include communications and marketing as part of their responsibilities. Still, the way I see it, given that technology is such a big part of communication these days (as it has been in recent years) and in the future, IT folks better start re-considering this traditional view.

The increasing convergence between IT and marketing/communication led me to think about what my career in the future would be. A few years ago, the idea of a social media/communication/marketing position and a videographer reporting to me in IT would probably not have been an idea well accepted. After all, that’s not what IT does. It’s perhaps not a conventional arrangement to have these positions in IT in many organizations, even to this day. Thinking a few years ahead from now, I wonder how the role of IT will evolve.  Will IT, as an organization, be combined with other departments, like marketing and communication, and be seen as part of a digital service organization? With this evolution, how will my role and responsibilities change?  Ten years from now, will I have a career I would never have envisioned as it does not exist today?

As I think about the possibilities and the uncertainties of the future, what I do know and what I’ve committed myself to is to continually learn and understand emerging technologies, the changing nature of higher education, the changing demographics of our students, as well as their preferences and demands. Learning is a process, and it takes time. Learning is a journey that’s not always a straight line. Along the way, I’ve been introduced to ideas and people I did not expect to meet. So, while I do not know what my career holds in the future, I will continue to prepare and learn towards whatever the destination will be.

Reframing Our Professional Purpose

frameAbout 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 on 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 we implement/support systems. We enable student affairs departments, as well as the campus, to do their business functions.

I view my position in student affairs and IT is a bit different. I see myself as a student affairs professional serving students through my work in IT. I see myself as a university community member, 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 to learn about technology-related topics and understand student affairs practitioners’ perspectives. It was an 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 want to think that given the critical role technology plays in student affairs and the lives of our students and other customers, we need to be viewed both as a utility, providing the required infrastructure (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 must go beyond the boundaries of what we see when we come to work every day. We are a part of a more extensive system.

Ultimately, we need to ask more critical questions beyond what we do. We must ask, “what is our ultimate purpose?” and “why do our roles exist”?

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