Every Student Affairs Hero Needs a Sidekick

by @jessmsamuels

Yes, the academic year is wrapping up, but as you know, important emails go year round.  In some ways, email is a fantastic invention.  It allows us to work asynchronously with our colleagues, replying when we have the time between meetings, and communicating with several people simultaneously.  Email however can also be very frustrating.  Not only for the sheer volume of it, but because you send email out into the ether and sometimes never receive a response.  You don’t know whether your colleagues or students have opened it, or clicked on a link.  You just have to take it on faith that your emails are being read.  No more!

Let me introduce you to your own email Sidekick.  Sidekick (by HubSpot) is a browser plug-in that can be used with Gmail, Outlook and Apple Mail.

Sidekick allows you to:

  1. Track emails and clicks
  2. See profiles for the people you are emailing
  3. Schedule emails for later (coming soon)

Here is how it works –

  1. Track emails

    Sidekick does this by embedding a small invisible image in each of your emails.  When someone opens your email you will be able to see a pop up window next to each email when it was opened and if any links were clicked.  Be aware however that when you send the email to multiple people at once it only tells you that “someone” opened it but not who specifically.

Sidekick email example

  1.   See profiles for the people you are emailing

    Want to know a little more about the person you are emailing?  Sidekick pulls in twitter feed, mutual contacts, prior emails and more.  All you do is put in the person’s email address and the information will pop up on the right hand side.  If you are sending to multiple people you hover over each name for it to show up.

Continue reading “Every Student Affairs Hero Needs a Sidekick”

Every Student Affairs Hero Needs a Sidekick

ACPA Digital Task Force Report

by Kristen Abell

Last year around this time, ACPA announced that they would be convening a Digital Task Force to look at digital technology in higher education and explore what we needed to do in order to move the field forward. A group of people from the field was pulled together to conduct research on and provide recommendations to the association specifically in the area of digital technology. A year later, this group has released their report on their findings and recommendations from four core subcommittees: Proven Practices, Knowledge and Skills, Research and Scholarship, and Informed and Responsible Engagement with Social Technologies.

Rather than rehashing the report here for you, I’m providing the link to it below. I served as the co-chair for the Knowledge and Skills subcommittee, so I’m going to refrain from analyzing this report at this time. However, I’d love to hear your thoughts about this – whether in the comments below or in an email to me directly at kabell96@gmail.com if you’re comfortable. I believe that both ACPA and NASPA have started to make great strides when it comes to recognizing the impact of technology on our field, and I’m excited to see the advances we make over the next year in this area.

ACPA Digital Task Force Draft Report and Recommendations

ACPA Digital Task Force Report

5 steps to avoid design malpractice

by @jessmsamuels

PowerPoint presentations can be extremely boring.We have all sat through incredibly dry, mind-numbing, and visually unappealing presentations.
Common mistakes include:
  • Presenters jam pack slides with text and then read from the slides.
  • If there are images at all, they are usually pixelated.
  • The font size and colors make it hard to read.
A graphic designer friend of mine, Robbii Wessen, would call these types of presentations “design malpractice.”
Presentations are suppose to convey ideas, and what many people fail to realize is that design is incredibly important to making sure your audience absorbs your message.  With the right design you can direct them where to look and you can help them remember the most important facts.
Recently I had the privilege of listening to and viewing a class presentation about the CEO of Amazon that took all the right steps.  As a graphic design buff, I can honestly say it was one of the best PowerPoints I have ever seen.  I want to share with you the top 5 reasons it won my heart.


1. Theme
The designer of this PowerPoint, Lydia Hardy, clearly took her design inspiration from the Amazon logo.  Using black, white, and yellow exclusively throughout the entire presentation created a visually appealing theme.  The text, images and blocks of color repeated over and over in each slide, and made it easy to know what to read and what to focus on.
Presentation 1


2. Design consistency
This happened to be a group presentation. Every other group in class did what you would expect –  created a PowerPoint that was inconsistent in style and the amount of content per slide.  Having been in one of these groups myself, what I don’t know yet is how Lydia’s group created a process that resulted in such a consistent design. From my experience group members often differ in how much content they think should be on each page, so this result required great leadership skills.
Presentation 2


3. Simplicity
Selecting simple black silhouettes for the images on each slide gave the audience a specific image to focus on while the group was speaking.  Similarly, she made a few words on each slide pop in a bold yellow font.   This made their group presentation much more memorable.
Presentation 3


4. Focus
Lydia worked with her group to select 3 bullet points or a single quote for each slide.  Each group member had more to say than what was illustrated on the slide, but the images and words focused on the major themes. This worked really well. When there is too much text the audience wonders whether they should read or listen. When it’s too little text they wonder if the presenter has forgotten to forward to the next slide.
Presentation 4
Presentation 5


5. Integration of Infographics
In addition to bold images, Lydia used infographics to relate information that the group was presenting.  This is a visually interesting way to illustrate numbers and percentages.
Presentation 6


Immediately after the class ended I went directly up to Lydia to ask her for a copy of the presentation in order to share it with this blog.  I hope you were as inspired as I was by seeing her presentation – if so, there will be a lot less design malpractice in the world.
5 steps to avoid design malpractice

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

Google Drive for the Workplace

By Kathryn Magura

I’ve been using Google Drive apps personally for quite some time. I find that it’s more convenient for saving documents – especially if I’m working collaboratively on something with other people – to use a Google Doc or spreadsheet than sending an attachment via email.

Needless to say, when I found out our campus was partnering with Google to bring Drive to campus, allowing us to create and share documents with our University credentials, I got very excited. We’ve been a Google Drive campus for about 6 months now, and it’s been great!

Here are some of the ways I have been utilizing Google Drive on campus. Some of these techniques can be helpful for you, even if you are not currently using Google Drive on campus:

  1. Edit a document collaboratively with colleagues across campus: Not only can I track changes made by other user accounts, I can ensure FERPA guidelines are enforced by restricting access to either specific accounts, or to those within my University who have the link.
  2. Share documents across units or departments: I have found over time that we have made our share-drive for our department so locked down and restricted, that it is impossible to share documents across units or departments without sending massive email attachments. Through Google Drive all I have to do is send a link, or personalized email to a user, and they can either see or edit the document.
  3. Multiple users can edit a document simultaneously: Have you ever tried to access a document only to find that someone else has it locked for editing on their machine? So annoying. Good news though, with Google docs you can allow for users who have access to a document to edit the document at the same time. Or better yet, if you only want people to look at a document but not edit, you can;
  4. Allow collaborators to look or comment but not edit: There have been times I’ve wanted people to look at a document, but didn’t want them to make any edits. Thankfully Google anticipated this by allowing you to give various access levels to users. My favorite is to allow people to make comments on a document but not edit it entirely. This allows people to share thoughts but not accidentally make changes. If you do allow people to make edits, and something goes wrong;
  5. You can revert back to old versions and see what content has been edited: Again, Google seems to have anticipated a common occurrence in the workplace: someone accidentally edits a document or deletes a key element you needed, and it saved before you had a chance to stop them. Good news! Google Drive tracks edits and allows the originator of the document to revert back to previous versions.


So these are just some of the ways I have benefited from the use of Google Drive at work. In fact, Google Drive has been so useful, we used the spreadsheet function for our end of the year residence hall check out process (leave me a comment below if you’d like to know more about how we used Google spreadsheets for closing). How have you utilized Google Drive on your campus?

Google Drive for the Workplace

When Did August Get Here?

by Kristen Abell

Hello and welcome back to another academic year of blogging by the fine folks at Student Affairs Women Talk Tech. I think we have all been enjoying our blog vacation, and we are ready to be back and writing scintillating posts for your reading pleasure. We recognize that summer is a good down time for many student affairs professionals, and August for many of us is, well, August.

As for myself, I am in the middle of my second year of my current position as a web developer for student affairs and the university, and I’m still getting used to the fact that my schedule looks quite a bit different from your average student affairs practitioner. Think about it – how many of you wait until the students are gone to turn attention to your websites? I know at my institution that is certainly a trend, and it has resulted in quite a few projects cropping up at the beginning of the summer and winter breaks, as well as at spring break. This means that when many of my student affairs colleagues are enjoying some downtime, I’m deep in the throes of a number of projects. Try adjusting to that after 15+ years on a student affairs schedule!

But this also begs the question why we only think of our websites when the students are gone. As I’m sure I’ve argued before, we need to make websites more of a priority in our offices and make sure they are up-to-date and well-maintained. This is often the front door to our office as far as students are concerned (not to mention other staff, faculty and parents). We should take the same care with our websites that we do in making sure our front desks are staffed with trained individuals and kept neat and orderly.

As I have visited different universities, I have found that one of the main things we need to shift when we are strategizing about our websites and our social media for our offices is our overall approach. These can no longer be those things that we do as we have time. These need to be priorities, and they need to be addressed on a regular basis – whether the students are gone or not.

How often do you update your website? When is the last time you got a new look for your website or refreshed your content? I’m curious to hear how other institutions handle their web presence.

When Did August Get Here?

Keeping Organized – The Old-Fashioned Way

By Kathryn Magura

I love technology and gadgets. I think I’ve made that clear over my time blogging here. I’m usually someone who could be considered an early adopter of technology, social media, and fun gizmos to use. That said, the one thing I haven’t really found a way to utilize technology for is keeping organized.

What do I mean by organized? All the things I need to get done: work, life, whatever. I use an iPad for work, and keep my work to-dos fairly organized on my iPad, but I’ve never really found a good app anywhere that’s helped me keep track of all the things I need to do in a way that makes it easy and intuitive enough for me to want to keep using. I’ve dabbled in apps like Evernote, but I’ve never really been able to make it stick.

As I’ve grappled with trying to figure out why I haven’t found a good way to organize my life via technology, I’ve noticed some colleagues who have gone back to a more traditional/old-fashioned route to keep organized. One of my coworkers uses a notecard system to keep everything she has going on with work and life organized. Each notecard is broken up into categories, and then stored by topic. I am continually impressed with how well this system seems to work for my coworker, but have also felt intimidated trying to see if I could adapt her system for my needs.

I have spent most of the last two weeks on-boarding a new staff member. One of the first things I noticed was the black notebook my new staff member carried around with her everywhere. During meetings and conversations, I’d see her make note in the notebook, and it got me curious. During our 1-on-1 this week, I finally asked about the notebook, and how exactly she used it to keep organized. Apparently the method she used to keep organized is called bullet journaling. I didn’t know what this was either, so she explained it. Thankfully, the person who devised this method created a video to help explain: 

Pretty cool, right? I decided I wanted to give bullet journaling a try, to see if I could keep all the competing priorities in my life organized in a way that keeps me as productive as possible. I will be sure to keep you all posted on my progress along the way.

So tell me, how do you stay organized? What tips do you have?

Keeping Organized – The Old-Fashioned Way