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Tag: student affairs

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



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.

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?

Multilingual Leadership in Student Affairs

I was at a  meeting with the Deans and the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs (VCSA)  at my university a few weeks ago. At that meeting, we talked  about the role of  social media in how we communicate with our students. One of the Deans  noted that, in addition,  we can also use data to communicate the value of our work to the campus. She  specifically spoke about the use of assessment to demonstrate the student service units’ contributions to student learning and success. It was at that moment when I realized the need for student affairs leaders to be “multilingual” in order to be effective in building relationships and in collaborating with the campus  community. I’m not talking about multilingual just in the sense of having the capability to speak multiple languages but rather, the ability to communicate in ways that resonate with who we work with.

(continue reading…)

Students As Our Teachers

My wife and I visited Rome and Florence last September.  It was our first trip to Europe. To prepare for our trip, we downloaded iphone apps to learn Italian. We also went to several travel sites to read reviews, watched videos and tried to learn as much about the history of Italy and the sites we planned to visit. I got the impression from reading the reviews of other travelers that Rome was a very dangerous city for travelers. So, I read many articles on how to protect my wife and me from being pick-pocketed. After the anxiety of not knowing Italian and having no clue of what to expect from the locals before our trip, I have to say it was one of the most memorable experience of our lives. The places we visited were even more magnificent than any of the pictures and videos I saw on the internet. The locals were friendly and with some common sense, we were not pick-pocketed. One of the most memorable and unexpected surprise for me was meeting several Filipino-Italians. They were not mentioned in any of the travel sites and the books I had read in preparation for our trip. They are working class Filipinos who formed their community in Rome. One dinner, my wife and I spent several minutes talking with a Filipina mother who had not gone back to the Philippines in more than 20 years. There was sadness in her eyes as she told her story about not having seen her kids in those many years.  She supports her family by sending money back home.

What I learned from that experience is that no amount of reading could have prepared me for the actual experience. To truly learn about the culture, the people and the place, I had to be there myself.

How does my Italy vacation experience relate to my work as a student affairs professional? It is important to read about student affairs theories, higher education general trends and issues, and studies about the populations we serve to get some perspective on how to approach our work.  However, I think it is as important is to spend time, immerse ourselves with the students and customers we serve where they are.  Literature is not enough to provide us with accurate picture of the individual experience of our students. This is particularly more significant for those like me, a mid-level manager and technologist, who may not have the opportunity to have consistent daily interactions with our students and customers.

I try to gain as much perspective about student affairs and higher education from reading books, learning from colleagues I meet via social media and blogs I come across about our work. I read Pew Research Studies and ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology in addition to other studies to get some sense of what our students are generally into nowadays. However, just like the websites and reviews I read to prepare my wife and me for our trip; these studies do not provide the individual stories and experiences. Only through my interactions with students do I get the real sense of the unique lives, the aspirations and struggles,  of the students I serve.

Last quarter, I was a teaching assistant for a First Year Experience (FYE) Intro to University course to freshman international students. Most of the students were Chinese.  I had read admissions applications of international students and that was the extent of my limited knowledge of the population and specifically Chinese students prior to this course.  I had several students visit me for my weekly office hours throughout the quarter. I loved our conversations. Some students shared their difficulties adjusting to the American culture, the language, and the demands of the university and as the quarter progressed, I observed their comfort levels increase.  There was one particular student who visited me in my office several times during the quarter. We really had engaging conversations from his views on American and Chinese politics, literature, and philosophy. Before he left for China, he visited me to say goodbye (he was only here for a quarter as an EAP student) and with him were two books on Buddhism. He asked me to pick one to keep.  We spent several minutes talking about the topics we discussed all quarter and going over his first short story he wrote in English.  Somehow, I think we will cross path again.

One lesson I have learned in my career is that our motivations and perspectives as service providers and student affairs professionals may not even align with our students.  When we stop seeking the perspectives of our students, spending time with them, talking with them about their needs and wants, there is the danger of going down the road of satisfying our needs as oppose to theirs. For example, one general measure of student success for universities is the retention rate. These are generally measured by graduation rates. But this measure of student success is from the institution’s perspective.  If a student leaves our institution without graduating but instead transfers to another institution and completes their degree (or other objectives), would that be considered a student failure?

There are many lessons to be learned from literature. The general theory and studies provide general perspective on how to approach our work in student affairs.  Personally, the greatest lessons about the value of my profession have come from the students I have had the privilege of working with throughout my career.

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