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This post is about the role of  social media, specifically twitter, in my professional development as a student affairs technologist.  It is about how I have benefited greatly in the short amount of time I have been on twitter from the information I learned and professional connections I have made, resulting in opportunities I could not have imagined.

I envy those in student affairs who are able to attend annual professional conferences and other regional events/ trainings to network and learn about what other universities are doing. Personally, the closest I could be at these conferences are through twitter backchannels where attendees provide some glimpse of what’s going on, what issues are being discussed. This morning, I came across this article by Eric Stoller about alternative professional development on that talks about professional development opportunities in light of budget constraints. I am very familiar with the challenges of not being able to attend trainings and conferences. The last time I attended a week-long professional development conference was an Educause Institute Management Institute a few years ago (maybe 2007) . Because I have not been able to attend conferences/trainings, social media (including twitter), has been my primary tool for professional development.

I joined twitter on August 9, 2010 not knowing how it works beyond that a tweet has a limit of 140 characters.  I joined because 1) I was told by a tech colleague that twitter is an application that poses security risk so I had to understand what the security risks are,  2) I was hearing more and more about twitter from some of my student affairs colleagues and I thought as a technology provider, I needed to keep up and 3) I wanted to satisfy my personal curiosity.

Through twitter, I have been able to develop a personal learning network (PLN) to expand my knowledge about student affairs, technology trends, management/leadership, and social media. Because of the nature of my work (I work for a central student affairs information systems and technology department), most of my discussions center around technologies and business processes.  Through twitter and other forms of social media, I found an outlet to learn and have discussions about topics I am really passionate about, topics that rarely come up with my technical colleagues. These topics include: diversity, student development, gender,  race, culture, social justice issues and the “millennials”, our current generation of college students.

The following is a list of twitter hash tags (keywords/topics) I follow and sometimes participate in:

– Student Affairs/higher education

– IT Trends, Technology, Mobile web, Social Media

– Leadership, Management

Any tweets that have links to information I find relevant/interesting are saved in my twitter favorites. In addition, these twitter favorites are copied daily to a social bookmarking site called along with other web pages I find. Here are some of my bookmarks:

Through those hashtags mentioned above, I was introduced to other professionals who own the following blogs/sites:

In addition to learning from the aforementioned blogs, a few of the student affairs professionals I’ve met have shared their graduate course syllabi, thesis and dissertations including a very thorough history of technology in student affairs and in residence halls.  As I shared with the author of the papers, I had never seen the information included in these papers collectively anywhere.

Just like the professionals who share their ideas with the blogs above, I have also been able to share my personal perspectives on student affairs, leadership and technologies through the following:

The results of what I have learned and the connections I have made include the following:

  • I introduced Inigral’s Schools App on facebook  to UCSB Student Affairs executives who approved it for our university use.   Together with our tech staff, admissions, registrar’s office staff, we were able to place it into production for admitted students’ use last week. I discovered this product through a tweet about Inigral receiving a grant from Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation.
  • Together with a developer, I did a presentation to introduce mobile web development and the UCLA Mobile Web Framework (MWF) to approximately 40+ UCSB departments. The majority of the presentation materials came from links I found via twitter.
  • I presented and facilitated social media presentations to UCSB Student Affairs (pdf) and to the campus via our UCSB Web Standards and Content Working Group.
  • Presented a plan of a divisional level social media and mobile web coordination effort early this year. The opportunity to create a position of a Marketing, Design and Social Media Coordinator presented itself when a long-time graphic designer retired and we also had another staff that is very knowledgeable and passionate about social media and marketing.  That position now reports to me. Through twitter, I learned about how other universities were implementing their social media strategies and so I had some ideas on how our division could implement our own strategies.
  • I became involved with NASPA as a technology representative, as a program reviewer for a NASPA regional conference and providing technical asssistance to NASPA Undergraduate Fellowship Program (NUFP) mentors/mentees at UCSB. Prior to joining twitter, I had not heard of NASPA but I was introduced to this organization via the discussions on #sachat about consolidation of NASPA and ACPA. I was also interested in joining ACPA but on the application form, there did not seem to be a place for a technology professional.
  • I participated as a judge for’s virtual case study competition with social media in student affairs as the topic. I had the opportunity to work with amazing professionals in the judging process as well as in writing the judge’s reflection. I learned about this opportunity through a tweet by the Stuart Brown, owner of asking for judges.
  • I connected with some student affairs technology leaders through the effort of Leslie Dare, Director of Student Affairs Technology Services at North Carolina State University.
  • I was invited to speak to graduate students enrolled in a seminar on Higher Education Administration about innovation and technology trends in student affairs by our Vice Chancellor Dr. Michael Young, the instructor of the course. I had multiple discussions with Dr. Young about technology trends in student affairs, including the consumerization of IT, the changing role of our IT organization and our changing student populations. I had learned these topics via the links I found in tweets.

My intention in mentioning the results above is not for self promotion, but rather to illustrate the power of twitter and social media when it comes to professional development as well as how institutions can benefit. I would hope institutions that think social media is not valuable for their employees/or organizations would reconsider given the potential benefits as I have experienced.

I would love to hear your experience using twitter and social media. How has social media played a role in your professional development? Beyond what I shared in this post, how else could twitter be used for information and professional networking?