How to Benchmark Best Practices in Student Affairs

by Kathryn Magura

I have been thinking a lot recently on how to benchmark best practices in Student Affairs. How do we know if the work we are doing is the best way to serve students? Do we even take the time to ask others how they handle certain situations? As educational professionals, do we take the time to learn from those who set the path before us, so we aren’t constantly reinventing the wheel?

There are many days in my work that I feel like no one truly understands the delicate balance of the work I do. Finding ways to please students, parents, coworkers, and University partners can often lead to impossible situations, yet I revel in the strategic challenge of it all. Days when I’m feeling particularly stuck or hopeless, I turn to my saved Twitter searches, and exhale with relief when I see I’m not alone. There are others who truly understand what I’m dealing with, and what’s more, they would love to help me!

I find myself setting time aside each day to check the #ACUHOI and #sachat hashtags to see what issues are salient for my peers. If I feel like I can add something to a conversation, I will provide my 140 characters. Sometimes this proves a bit challenging, seeing as how I’m a late night west coast tweeter. My voice may be a little late in joining the party, but I’m there!

If I am working on revising a policy, I will take time to engage a professional list serve, to see if people are willing to provide their insights. So long as you are strategic in sending out requests at a time of day people are actively on email (this means before 2:00 pm on the west coast, to have a chance of catching the east coast audience), or at times of the year when they may have a few extra minutes (don’t bother asking Housing professionals for feedback in August), you are usually likely to receive a wealth of resources.

As a member of the ACUHO-I association, I also have all the resources from the ACUHO-I central office staff at my disposal. In particular, Emily Glenn, the ACUHO-I librarian is a rockstar in sending documents and presentations from peers when you request help. I am always amazed by the range of resources Emily provides, and the speed with which she gets them to you. Such an amazing asset!

So how do you benchmark best practices? How can we help make life a little easier for each other as we navigate the ever-changing landscape of higher education administration?

How to Benchmark Best Practices in Student Affairs

Let Me Tell You A Storify

Let Me Tell You A Storify

Meet the Blogger: Anitra

By Anitra Cottledge

I’d like to think of myself as somewhat of a technological late bloomer. I’ve bought nearly every gadget of the last 10-15 years significantly later than other people I know: cell phone (let’s not even get into when I got a smartphone), desktop computers, digital camera, laptop computer, e-reader, etc. At the same time, I consider myself a really fast learner and a very tech-savvy woman. I’m also really interested in exploring technology as a topic: how it enhances and detracts from our lives, who has access to it and what kinds of access they/we have, and how the view of technology changes depending on who’s interacting with it. In other words, what does technology mean when seen through the lens of race, gender, and class (and other identities)?

For me, technology is connected to being a writer and avid reader, being a nerd, and being someone who loves information. I always say that if I wasn’t the Assistant Director of the Women’s Center at the University of Minnesota, or in some other women’s and gender equity-related position, I’d be a librarian. Or an intellectual property lawyer. Or a librarian. Do you see where I’m going with this?

Of course, being techy serves me well at my day job, too. One of the things I’m responsible for is managing our website, so learning HTML in the mid-90s has served me well. I was an early blogger, although I haven’t blogged in a long while. Despite occasionally thinking that some of social media is a bit sketch (yes, I mean you, Foursquare), I do see its value and love working with folks in my office to figure out how we, as an organization, can best utilize things like blogs, Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about what we do and why it’s important.

Technology is even all over my bookshelf. Right now I’m reading Digital Diploma Mills: The Automation of Higher Education and Digital Dead End: Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age. It evens finds its way into the fiction I’m reading: Soulless, which is all alternate history and steampunky.

So I have questions, as a student affairs practitioner, as a sometimes instructor, as a black woman, as someone who is fascinated and repulsed by the Twilight phenomenon: how does the digital divide manifest itself in the classroom? How can Women’s Centers best use social media? Wouldn’t the world be a sad and empty place without the Buffy vs. Edward video?

I’m looking forward to answering these and other burning technology-related questions and very glad to join the fabulous women bloggers here at Student Affairs Women Talk Tech!

Meet the Blogger: Anitra

Guest Post: Microsoft Makes Big Promises at CES, But Will They Deliver?

By Jenn Prentice

Whether you love them or hate them, Microsoft was certainly the belle of the tech ball that was the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week.  The company, (which announced a few weeks prior to the tradeshow that after this year it would be discontinuing its involved in CES) pulled out all the stops for their last keynote address, even bringing TV personality Ryan Seacrest (I wonder how much they paid him for that) to the stage to host a Q&A session with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

For his part, Ballmer was his usual exuberant self. And if you watched or read anything about the keynote address and some of the products Microsoft unveiled (including the much anticipated Windows 8), it’s easy to see why.  While so many of the products revealed at CES have an as yet undetermined launch date (if they will launch in the US at all), all the products Microsoft demoed will launch in the United States later this year.

It’s my understanding that many of the people who read this site are Apple enthusiasts, and after using an iPad 2 to do most of my reporting from CES last week, it’s easy to see why you all love your Macs.  That being said, with Windows 8 and 2012’s rebirth of the Windows Phone, Microsoft might give all you Apple people cause to give them a second look.  Here’s three reasons why:

1. Emphasis on design

With Windows 8, Microsoft seems to be going after consumers who value aesthetics as well as sheer computing power.  The ubiquitous tiled design and bold colors that I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of gives Windows 8 devices (both PCs and mobile phones) an eye-catching, sleek look and feel.  In fact, I think the New York Times described Windows Phones (all of which will run Windows 8 either before or directly after the OS is released) as “gorgeous, classy, satisfying and coherent.”  Both Nokia and HTC debuted Windows Phones at CES.  The Nokia Lumia N900 and the HTC Titan II are 4G LTE phones that should be available in the US by the end of Q2.  Unfortunately, every Windows 8 mobile device unveiled at CES will run on the AT&T network–at least at first.  Though, I did corner Nokia CEO Steven Elop in an elevator and asked him if there was any hope of the Lumia phones coming to Verizon this year and he told me to “keep my ears open.”

2. Connected, consistent experience

As someone who has an Android phone, Windows 7 PC and iPad 2, I find using disparate devices that don’t sync information with one another frustrating.  Sure, you can upload files to Dropbox or access Gmail from your browser rather than an application, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a smartphone, PC and tablet that talked to one another and shared information and files without manual labor? Windows 8 will do just that.  All Windows 8 devices will automatically sync with one another, putting the information you need on your device and in your hands immediately.

3. Socially savvy

Microsoft has named the tiles I referred to earlier their Metro-Style interface.  Each of those tiles represents an application or website that you load onto one of your devices, and each tile can be grouped into topical hubs.  This is particularly important when it comes to social networking. Windows 8 lets you group your social networks into one hub and will automatically update each app (eg- Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) so that notifications are pushed your way as soon as you log on.  In addition, Windows Phones take each of your contacts and sync their names with all of the social media sites you are connected with them on.  So, for example, if I were to pull up “Brenda Bethman” on my phone, I would not only see her phone number, but also her Twitter, Facebook and Google + information and a recap of all the conversations the two of us have had on each of those social networks.

Indeed, if Steve Ballmer’s CES keynote was any indication, Microsoft seems to be on the right track with Windows 8 and their new Windows Phone devices.  That being said, I realize that Microsoft has a history of over-promising and under-delivering.  In my opinion, if Windows 8 does not live up to the hype, it could be the final nail in the company’s coffin.  Let’s hope 2012 is the year Microsoft truly resolves to do things better.

So what do you think? Are the Windows 8 previews enough to intrigue you? Do you plan to purchase a Windows 8 device or make an upgrade to your current Windows OS? Do you even use Microsoft products at all?

Editor’s note: This is labeled a “guest” post because while Jenn was formerly one of our regular bloggers, her schedule no longer permits her to be a regular contributor. We were able to convince her to do a guest post from CES, however, and are hopeful that we will be able to convince her to write more in the future.

Guest Post: Microsoft Makes Big Promises at CES, But Will They Deliver?

Weekly App Highlight :: Evernote on iPad

by Jennifer Keegin

Here’s the funny thing about Evernote for me. I was asked to present at ACUI’s Annual Conference doing a quick tech demo type session during the Vendor Expo a couple of years ago and I chose Evernote. I didn’t actually use it – I used OneNote at the time but knew they were similar, etc. I learned a ton about Evernote and the session came out great. Fast forward two years – and I LOVE using Evernote – but I have to say it’s because I love using it with the iPad.

We purchased two iPads for our Campus Activities area. We had intentions of using them for quick demos for student groups (where to access info, how to get things done), Student Voice assessment applications, Scanfob/Attendance Record purposes etc. and we do use it for all those things. But I adore the iPad for meetings. Light, easy to carry, silent typing AND Evernote as an app.

Okay, so what’s the big deal? For me – it’s the idea that everything syncs from iPad to iPhone to desktop seamlessly AND I can grab my info from anywhere. Yes, there’s a shared drive at work and yes, I put anything super important on the shared drive. I’m talking about meeting notes, scribbles to myself that I don’t need shared with everyone – but I do need shared between mobile devices and the desktop.

A feature that I’ve used many times as well with this app is the record button. I can record meetings if I’m concerned I’m going to miss something. Big plus.

The Evernote team is always adding new features as well. They have a new guy on staff that is focusing on using Evernote to help you lose that weight that you promised on January 1. There’s a new function (Evernote Hello) for iPhone that allows you to make a directory/phone book of sorts with your contacts, which you could access on your iPad.

So here’s a video highlighting everything about iPads and Evernote.

Have fun and if you have questions or favorite ways you use Evernote – share it below!

Weekly App Highlight :: Evernote on iPad

Does our constant connectedness kill our creativity?

by Jess Faulk

Commuting. Walking. Waiting. We are never alone.  We have angry birds, plants vs. zombies, and Facebook to keep us company. Whether we are sitting completely alone in a room, or waiting in a room full of dozens of others, our phones are our pacifiers and our safety net.  If you have 20 minutes until the next bus comes, you don’t fret because you know you have something to occupy your time.  If you are caught in a space with people you don’t know, you don’t have to reach outside of your comfort zone and awkwardly talk to someone else, you just pull out your phone.

I know you have heard it all before.  Pundits tell you to unplug from technology.  Authors write about how it is hurting our ability to get work done.  We feel guilty for being allowing a dependence on our techno gadgets.  It’s easy to rationalize our relationship with technology (and specifically our smart phones) because you see so many others around you with the same approach.

I am no different.  I never leave home without my iPhone in my pocket and my iPad in my purse.  However I read an article a while back that planted an idea in my head that has been eating at me.  Does our constant connectedness kill our creativity?

As a techie, your mind probably does the same thing that mine does – instantly defends the stance that constant technological connectedness ENHANCES our creativity.  We share ideas, we build communities, we are exposed to new perspectives!  What could be bad about that?

But consider this; what did you used to do in all of those moments commuting, walking, and waiting before you had a smartphone?  Daydreaming, list making and absorbing information about your surroundings.  You were taking in the world in a different way.  Perhaps it was just to see an exciting new font, a shoe style on the person next to you that reminded you to call your brother, or read a magazine that had an article that spurs your next blog post.  The article I read proposed that without these moments of daydreaming, the unstructured time in our lives not invaded by videogames, facebook, and TV shows, we don’t allow ourselves to make the random connections that become a fully formed thought, which in turn can become an idea that leads to a true creativity.

I am not proposing that we cut all technology out of our lives.  I am certainly not suggesting we throw out our smart phones (my iphone isn’t going anywhere!).  I am simply suggesting that instead of pulling out a smartphone the next time you are on the subway or waiting in line, you consider using those precious minutes in your life to just take in the world around you and see what creative moments it might inspire.

Note: I do want to acknowledge that I am writing this article aimed at the privileged folks in student affairs who are able to afford a smartphone and other fancy pieces of tech.  If you are not one of those people, consider my article as a good way to rationalize enjoying this freedom from the smartphone world, and how much more thoughtful you have the potential be without the distraction 🙂


Does our constant connectedness kill our creativity?

Linkage Love

By Brenda Bethman

Happy 2012! We are 11 days in and things are picking up. Don’t know about y’all, but we’re halfway through the first week of the semester. Before that, I was off for two weeks (some vacationing, some conferencing at the Modern Language Association), so I’m in a random mood. With no further ado, here are the random links I’ve been reading so far this year:

Did you make resolutions this year? If so, Lifehacker explains the Science Behind New Year’s Resolutions while Mashable introduces us to Gympact, a new startup that incentivizes your exercise by making you pay when you skip the gym and rewarding you when you go. iMore (formerly TiPB) tells you how to resolve to review your social network privacy settings.

Apple announces an education event for next week. Rest assured that we will it covered here at SAWTT!

As I mentioned above, I was at a conference last week. One with a very lively Twitter backchannel. In the Chronicle of Higher Education, William Pannapacker argues for Twitter as scholarship.

Finally, here’s a link to a story that tells you something that we here already knew: women buy more tech than men.

What have y’all been reading over the break? Share your links in the comments!

Linkage Love