Highlight a Woman: Taylor Koch!

Graduate Student. Leader. Innovator. Friend.

When I was asked to highlight a woman in technology, I immediately thought of Taylor Koch and her work in establishing the IUSPA Virtual Conference. Taylor is a second-year masters student in the Higher Education & Student Affairs (HESA) program at Indiana University and her assistantship is at IU Career Services Center. Most recently she was the 2012-2013 President for our HESA student organization, Indiana University Student Personnel Association (IUSPA).

During her tenure Taylor created and implemented the IUSPA Virtual Conference in October 2013 alongside a small group of dedicated volunteers; advancing technology as a tool to link graduate students and professionals across the country. I am thankful that she allowed me to interview her about the experience.

Creation of the Conference
Taylor’s inspiration for the conference began in learning IUSPA history. In 1976 IUSPA sponsored the first Midwest Meeting of Graduate Students in Student Personnel (MMOGSISP) which became an annual event in the field. This event originated with George Kuh, who had “the idea of bringing graduate students to interact with students from other programs.” Unfortunately the last MMOGSISP was in 2007 at IU because grad students had lost interest in traveling to short term conference; time and money were limiting factors.

So why a virtual conference? Taylor explained. “This <money and time> was the reason behind suggesting a virtual format- to allow for a free meeting of students, that could happen any time, in a variety of locations.  Additionally as technology becomes an increasing tool for student affairs professionals, I thought it would be helpful for SA professionals both experienced and new to the field, to engage with newer forms of communication.”

Taylor’s Personal Purpose
It is no easy feat to create a conference that is centered on technology and institutional partnerships – especially as a busy graduate student. So why is Taylor so invested?

“I think that IU HESA prides itself on being a leader and strong program in the field of Higher Education and Student Affairs. For this reason, I wanted to create a program that would allow IU to bring together other graduate students, and provide an innovative method of engagement. I became very interested in the history of the program and I was dedicated to reviving this part of IUSPA’s history.”

Structure
Google Hangout was selected as the platform for the conference due to its inclusive nature (Google+ accounts are free) and widespread use. More so, the platform provided an opportunity for sessions to be small and interactive.

Partnerships & Promotions
The challenge of creating a virtual conference that works across multiple campuses is promoting the event to recruit both presenters and attendees. Taylor reached out to programs throughout the Midwest, focusing on this area as MMOGSISP once did (although presenters also represented the south and west coast). Social media marketing was implemented by Niki Messmore (me, your friendly author).

Program Content
There were 11 one-hour sessions provided over a 4 day period. A variety of session topics were included, such as “A Thousand Paper Cuts: Students of Color Speak on their Experiences in the Academy”, “Breaking Down Silos: Building Connections Across Functional Areas” and “You Ask, I’ll Answer: A Virtual Fireside Chat with an Alum in the Field”. Presenters included grad students and professional staff from 9 institutions. The conference booklet can be found online here.

Challenges
“When using a virtual setting there is a certain degree of control that is lost.  Some technical issues, such as a frozen Power Point, do not allow for trouble shooting during the session.” Taylor recommended that future conference planners make time for a ‘practice run’ for presenters and facilitators to practice using the technology.

Successes
Taylor was proud of the variety of session topics and number of institutions involved. “It was great to have not only graduate students, but experienced professionals involved in the conference.  It has also been wonderful to see a strong response for those at other institutions that would like to help plan the conference in future years.”

Looking to the Future
Marketing
“Marketing is one area that I hope will greatly increase in the (hopeful) future of this conference. With the foundation of at least one year of the conference the hope is the conference will be simpler to promote and explain to potential participants.”

Participation from Partnering Institutions
Now that there is groundwork for the conference, Taylor knows that investment from other institutions will be key. “I hope that this conference can continue through both IU in collaboration with other institutions, and continue to spread to other graduate programs.”

Theme
“I think there is also potential to either create a theme for the conference, or create a list of requested/suggested topics that most interest current students/alumni/professionals. I also think that it would be great to engage more faculty both from IU and other institutions.”

Final Thoughts
What do you think, Gentle Reader? Would you be interested in participating in a Virtual Conference? Do you see this conference as a logical next step for technology, student affairs, and graduate school? Leave a comment or tweet me at @NikiMessmore

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Highlight a Woman: Taylor Koch!

It’s OK to be a Technology Nerd

By Kathryn Magura

Hi, my name is Kathryn, and I am a technology nerd. Phew, that felt good to say in this safe space. Is this a safe space? Can I share what I’m thinking here? I’m going to go ahead and say yes.

As I confessed above, I am a technology nerd. What does that mean? It means I enjoy discovering new technology and really learning the ins and outs of a new system. Have a recommendation for a new scheduling software tool? Let me check it out! Want me to look at a new social media site? Don’t mind if I do! I enjoy the challenge of discovery in trying out a system I don’t know, and rejoice in feeling like I truly understand it.

Over time, my role within student affairs has taken on more of a technological spin, and I’m just fine with that. I have blogged before about how I sort of fell into a technology role after years of convincing myself I was no good with technology. Now I get super excited to test out new technology. I even get jazzed about finding the technology vendors at conferences and starting up a conversation!

As we go through some changes at work, it appears that my love for testing out new technology will soon be put to the test. I am nervous, excited, and a bit scared for what this can all mean, so I am choosing to take comfort and pride in knowing that I am a true technology nerd, and will learn a lot about a variety of software packages (and probably myself) as I go through this process.

So tell me, who else is a technology nerd? Or do you prefer the term technology geek?

It’s OK to be a Technology Nerd

Sharing is Caring

by Kristen Abell

There’s been a bit of discussion on the interwebs about vulnerability, TMI or general sharing and social media (check out posts by Vijay Pendakur and Valerie Heruska). Naturally, as someone who shares quite a bit online, I feel the need to weigh in.

Here’s the deal for me and social media – the people I connect with online are my friends. They’re not my “friends” or even just my “followers,” they are people I’ve connected with and with whom I’ve established relationships. Do I seek feedback from them from time to time? Absolutely – just as I do from the friends I see face to face. Do I share with them what’s going on in my life? You bet. Sometimes that’s in the form of pictures, sometimes it’s sharing that I’ve been suffering from depression, and sometimes it’s just that I’ve made it to the gym today. And I admit, I check back to see if anyone has liked my posts or responded – sometimes it gives me a little boost. Sometimes it just lets me know someone is listening.

Does this make me shallow? Perhaps. But it also means that when I disappear from social media for a time because I’m not feeling well, people notice – and they care enough to ask me what’s going on. It means that people who are also experiencing difficulty similar to mine have a touchpoint, someone else who is experiencing the same thing. It means that when I am struggling with making it to the gym, the promise of that extra cheer or push from someone gets me there when nothing else will.

Maybe I’m not the greatest example, but I think we’re all still feeling our way through communicating using social media, and we’re bound to make mistakes. I think we need to have patience with each other as we continue to develop our own styles of building relationships and sharing online. And I think we need to appreciate that the relationships we develop online are just as real as those we develop face to face and deserve the time and energy we put into those.

All that being said, I reserve the right to be annoyed by your posts – and to unfollow you if I find myself spending my energy on being more annoyed than interested or entertained. Just like I reserve the right to walk away from you or not be friends with you if I find you offensive face to face. See how that works?

What are your thoughts on how we use social media for sharing?

Sharing is Caring