I have a job that combines two of my interests – student affairs and technology and the NASPATech conference is the only one I have ever attended that combines both. I have been to technology conferences but never in the context of student affairs. I am excited to meet the folks the student affairs professionals and students I have met through social media (twitter via #sachat, #satech, facebook, and linkedin) in real life. I am also excited to learn how other organizations and professionals utilize technology in student affairs beyond the IT perspective. While my formal position is in IT leadership, I do consider myself as a student affairs professional first who works with technology and not a technologist who works in student affairs, having spent almost 20 years in students affairs in multiple capacities, including non-technical roles.
In this transformational period in higher education when technology has become an integral part of every function in the university and consumerization of IT has changed the technology landscape, the role of IT department and professionals are changing. In addition to the role of technology providers, IT departments must now play the role of brokers, playing the role of consultants between departments and vendors, campus units within and outside of student affairs as the push for combining services to cut cost continue, and with other campuses as collaborations between campuses expand. In addition to having to adopt a new role, there is also the challenge of having to keep up with the faster pace at which technology is introduced and the expectations of our customer that go along with it.
IT is often recognized as a utility, providing the network/server infrastructure, software and services. Given the scarce resources and dwindling budgets, the challenge of “keeping the lights on” by providing reliable and secure services while being innovative is very difficult. However, in my opinion, IT must go beyond being a utility provider and become a strategic leader by embracing new technologies and practices along with the expectations/attitudes and apply them in the context of the mission of our university and student affairs. To be able to do this, IT leadership must not only continue to understand the current/future needs of our customers, but to also learn from the experience of others, and to be aware of relevant technology trends and consider them in our strategic planning.
When NASPATech was announced a few months ago, I was not sure if my department would have the funds that would allow me to attend the conference and so I offered to review some program proposals. I also spoke with Joseph DeSanto Jones who was kind enough to spend some time sharing the purpose of this conference as well as to listen to my thoughts on student affairs and technology. I realized after reviewing the proposals and from my correspondence with Mr DeSanto Jones that this conference was too important for me to miss. I wanted to come, not only to meet the folks I’ve met via social media, but also to understand the current/future needs of our customers, learn from the experience of others, and to be aware of future trends.
For those at the conference, I would love to be able to share our experience/ideas on student affairs, either technology or in general. Whether you’re here or joining us via social media backchannels, what would you hope to get out of this conference?