Student Storytelling

by Kristen Abell

This past semester at my institution, our marketing and communications division embarked on a project about which I have to admit I’m really excited. We are telling the university’s story through the words of our students. How are we doing this? I thought I’d share a little about our digital storytelling process for others who might be interested in doing something similar.

We started by scheduling a four-hour block (which turned into a six-hour block by the end of the day) in our student union on campus in which to recruit students and have them tell their stories. Each student filled out a two-page questionnaire asking them such things as how college has inspired them, what they admire most about the institution, etc. After filling out the questionnaire, students were whisked into a makeshift photography studio with our professional photographer. While they were being photographed in a variety of poses (we even had one student do some breakdancing for us) against a white background, they were also interviewed by our staff to get a richer story about who they were. Once they completed this photography session, they then went onto our second photography session with one of our graphic designers. These photos were more casual with the campus as our backdrop so that we could use them with various social media. Finally, students shot some short videos telling us about themselves, where they hoped to go after our institution and what they loved about the campus.

But this was merely the first step in our process. After getting all the data, so to speak, we then had to process it. Pictures were selected and edited, interviews were crafted into stories, and videos were edited. We then began the process of sharing all of our great student stories with the world.

First, a student Q and A was posted on our university website with pictures. This then got shared on Twitter and Facebook. After that, we posted several images and quotes to a Tumblr site, as well as Vine videos and Instagram shots. We have been using the hashtag #UMKCGoingPlaces to designate these posts.

Overall, the response has been very positive, although we hope to have more engagement with our posts as we continue to build on them. We are actually headed out to do our second round of storytelling today on our second campus. We’ve changed a few things – we scheduled students ahead of time and had them fill out their questionnaires and email them back this time – less handwriting interpreting for us. But I have to admit, I’m really pleased with how this project has turned out, and I look forward to seeing more students as we continue to hold these storytelling sessions. Almost as importantly, the rest of the staff with whom I work is equally excited – this project has been lots of fun for all of us, and it has been a great reminder to us of why we’re here.

How are you telling your students’ story?

Student Storytelling

To the Complicated Women of Student Affairs: Thanks for Having Me

by Niki Messmore


For most of my life I’ve thrived from exposure to ‘strong women’ archetypes. At a young age I witnessed sexism (even if I didn’t quite have the words for it then) and I was in need of seeing someone like me, a girl, be a willful and fearless figure. It helped, of course, if they were awesome at martial arts (Buffy! Xena! My childhood heroes, forever).

As I grew older, female representation in non-stereotypical jobs and in the media became increasingly important. Our society is saturated with men overwhelmingly in positions of authority, from the leadership team of my alma mater while I was a student there to the fantasy books/films I love (…at least Tolkien gave us Eowyn…). It is sometimes very difficult  to imagine what is possible for my life when society dictates that my possibilities are limited.

Student Affairs shocked me when I entered graduate school. Surprisingly, even after being a highly involved student leader and service-learning staff member at my alma mater, I still held this lofty idea that student affairs was all about social justice – one of the core components of our field. I learned quickly that was not completely true.

That’s not to say that the field is not down with social justice, but it’s more so with words than action. Ultimately, student affairs is a profession that operates within institutions that were birthed through injustice (after all, who were the only folk to attend colonial colleges?). It’s difficult to move past that, especially when there are social attitudes that affect higher education. We don’t operate inside a vacuum. Not only does systemic oppression affect the profession, but the profession is made up of individuals who each have unique life experiences influenced by systemic oppression.

Still, I was surprised to learn that even though women make up the majority of student affairs employees, the majority of leadership positions are white and male. It’s frustrating to have this gap between our espoused goals and our enacted goals. And this is just one example of how the student affairs profession does perpetuate systemic oppression rather than tear it down.

This is a difficult truth to swallow when one desires to advance to leadership positions over time and has a love for something that isn’t always seen as women friendly, i.e. technology.

That’s why it is so important that I see other women-identified individuals who take leadership in the profession. Fearless women who challenge themselves and their peers. Intelligent and savvy women who bring new ideas into play and think outside our standard processes. Strong women who balance so much in their lives. Vulnerable women who share their successes and failures. Authentic women who call it like it is. Really, as Maggie Gyllenhall said at the Golden Globes, what is important to see is “complicated women“.

Complicated women-identified folks. (because recognition of the gender spectrum needs to be made)

I’ve had the pleasure of blogging on SAWTT since September 2013 and the opportunity to become introduced into this amazing group of women leaders in blogging and beyond. I am so excited to join Kathryn Magura as Co-Editor, and thankful for Kristen Abell for giving me this opportunity.

I look forward to working with SAWTT crew in this new role and learning more from this wonderful community of complicated women-identified folks. If you’re interested in blogging or just want to chat, tweet me up at @NikiMessmore.

To the Complicated Women of Student Affairs: Thanks for Having Me

New Year New Blog (Well, Kind of)

By Kathryn Magura

Happy New Year! As Kristen alluded to in her post, we have some changes on the horizon for this blog. While Kristen and Brenda remain active bloggers on the site, they have both stepped away from their editorial responsibilities. I am continuing on as an editor, but have a new co-editor (who will introduce herself later this week).

You shouldn’t expect too many changes other than the editorial and behind the scenes staff. We have a great group of talented bloggers who are here to expand your knowledge and understanding of how to utilize technology in Student Affairs.

Thank you for being a reader. Please hit up the comments if you have ideas for topics you’d like to see covered. We like to have a lot of variety to the blog, and want to make sure all voices are represented. Cheers to a splendid 2015!

New Year New Blog (Well, Kind of)

Saying Goodbye – Sorta

by Kristen Abell

Just over four years ago, Brenda Bethman and I had the crazy idea to start up a blog that was all about student affairs women in technology. At the time, there seemed to be a dearth of them – in fact, other than my own, it was hard to find another, especially among mentions of technology blogs. Since then, there have definitely started to be more blogs by women about technology – in student affairs and beyond. It’s been exciting to see this transition – and even more exciting to be a part of it.

After four years of working with some incredible and amazing women, I have decided it’s time to give someone else a shot at co-running this blog. I can’t thank the bloggers I’ve worked with enough – they have all been spectacular to work with, and they are some of the most intelligent, insightful, and crazy awesome bloggers I know. Seriously – if you’re not reading them, you totally should be. So yeah, I’m stepping down from my editing duties on this blog and handing that off to someone else. A pretty fantastic someone else, actually – but I’ll let her tell you about that herself.

Because I’m me, I can’t quite let go completely, so I’ve opted to continue blogging here for at least a little while. And of course, if you miss me, you can always find me on the Twitters and the Facebook. But for now, I’m ready for a step back for me and a step forward for someone else. Thanks for reading us, and thanks to the women who blog for letting me be their editor for four years. Y’all rock.

Saying Goodbye – Sorta