by Meghann Martinez
As a young SA tech professional I am constantly seeking women leaders in SA tech. Today I’d like to spend sometime talking about my fellow NC Triad neighbor, Leslie Dare. Leslie is the Director of Student Affairs Technology Services at North Carolina State University.
Leslie is originally from West Virginia but has called North Carolina home since 1989 with her spouse and 15-year old daughter. Leslie’s biggest hobbies are reading and genealogy.
You can find a wealth of knowledge about Leslie here. I recently connected with Leslie and she was nice enough to answer a few of my questions.
1) What inspired you to work in technology? Was it your original plan when attending college?
Gosh, no! I was a business major as an undergrad. It’s really my experience as an RA (resident adviser) that got me back in to higher ed. I worked in banking for a couple of years, then I decided to go for a master’s (and eventually doctorate) in higher ed and have been in the field ever since.
I just naturally morphed into a technology position over time. I’m a geek, I’ll admit it.
I will say that sometimes people call me “an IT person” and I really don’t think of myself that way. I am proud to say that I am a student affairs professional, and my area of expertise and responsibility just happens to be technology…like it might be career counseling or residence life for others. (I hope my IT colleagues don’t take offense! But I do think it is one thing that makes me somewhat different from the other IT directors on our campus.)
2) SA Tech is still a novelty with few dedicated positions. With that said, how do feel the evolution of SA Tech has grown during your professional career?
It’s been fun to watch. One benefit of the novelty of the position is that we are a somewhat small community, which makes for great working relationships and friendships. I have a few thoughts about technology in student affairs — I guess you could call it my philosophy about tech in SA. I think the evolution I have witnessed is that more and more administrators in student affairs are finally dedicating the necessary resources to the efficient use of technology, instead of just letting it happen.
Also, a great benefit is that talking about tech gets you access and visibility that you might not otherwise have. My responsibility to represent our division on the technology front has opened up other doors for us as well, and I feel that I’ve been an ambassador for the entire division with the rest of campus. Given that SA folks sometimes feel like second-class citizens as compared to their academic counterparts on campus, this has been really helpful for us.
3) What role do you feel women play in technology within higher education and in the corporate world?
It’s interesting being one of the very few females in my role. The vast majority of the time, my gender plays zero role in my ability to do my job. When I think about my role as a woman, I mostly focus on how I can be an advocate for any individual who may be marginalized — whether that’s due to race or gender or sexual orientation or disability (and the list goes on!). I spent almost 8 years as our university’s sexual harassment prevention officer (yes, a very big career change from that to tech!) so I feel like I have a great insight into the lives of our students, faculty and staff who may be having a negative experience on campus. So these days I focus on ways I can be an advocate for others. I admit that I could do more on this front, and so your question is a good reminder that I need to get back to it!
4) Is there a project you’re currently working on in your division that has you excited?
There are a couple of projects along those lines. One is ramping up our asset management system. That sounds a little dull for many folks, but being able to have data at our fingertips means we can help departments make strategic budget decisions regarding technology. We’ve been trying to get away from that model where you buy new computers when there happens to be lapsed salary from a vacant position, and instead make a long-term plan to have a very clear life-cycle replacement plan. Everything flows better from there — the end user experience, and our ability to support faculty, staff and students. Not to mention a huge savings!
The other project that has me juiced is mapping out the technology needs of our student organizations on campus. We are meeting with student leaders to see what resources they are using or would like to have. Our campus does provide some services and tools to student organizations, but we could do a better job and delivering those. We also know there are several unmet needs, such help with organization websites. So I’m leading the charge with a group that includes students, our student affairs professional staff that advise student organizations, and representatives from our central technology units.