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.