Why is student affairs so difficult? [graph]

by Jess Samuels (@jessmsamuels)

A few years ago I was reading my favorite geek comic, xkcd and came across this one graphing fruit – items that have no business being on a graph.


Immediately I thought of another thing that has no business being on a graph – the work we do as student affairs professionals. So, what did I do?  Graph it of course!  As with any humor, it’s meant for a little laugh at ourselves, so take it lightly (and don’t forward it to any parents at my institution) 😉


 <Click on image to enlarge>

What did I miss on the graph?  Let me know in the comments!

Why is student affairs so difficult? [graph]

Productivity Tech Tip: Images that POP off the page!

by Jess Samuels

In the business of student affairs you wear many hats.  For those of you who sometimes find yourself making flyers for events, you are likely looking for the quickest way to get something done without sacrificing visual appeal.  As someone who regularly makes graphics for my office, non-profits, and the NEACUHO Navigator newsletter one of my most utilized tricks has been Instant Alpha.

Instant Alpha is a Mac only trick, so you PC folks can do things the long old fashioned way in photoshop (or you can buy a Mac 😉 )

Here’s how it works:

1. You find a image you want to go on your flyer that doesn’t have a transparent background.  White or black backgrounds works best, but anything without a lot of variation can work.


2. In Mac Pages, Keynote, or Preview you select “Instant Alpha” from the format menu.


3. Select the space around the object and expand the circle to to make the area transparent.


4. Voilà! You have a wonderful image that really POPS off the page.

Instant alpha 0

Productivity Tech Tip: Images that POP off the page!

From Annual Reports to Invitations, it’s always better to say it Visually

by Jess Faulk

As an occasional infographic creator and lover of graphic design I am always on the lookout for ways that companies and universities are using visual design to communicate their message effectively.

It’s worth pondering, would we all go to Facebook as often as we do if all Facebook had was words with no pictures?  Why is Tumblr so popular with Millennials? Pictures.   Would we stop and read flyers if they didn’t catch our eye with beautiful design?  Visuals matter.

Despite knowing this information, we still produce wordy emails, and pages of written reports.  I want to present to you some innovative alternatives that are certainly ‘outside of the box.’

Annual Report using Data Visualization or Instagram

MSU Annual ReportMichigan State University is just one of the many institutions rethinking how they share their institution’s annual data.  This year they chose to present some of their most interesting statistics in a visual dashboard, with clickable links to drill down into each area.  This engages the readers because it is interactive, but most importantly, it also make data worth checking out.  It’s interesting!

Calgary Zoo did something even more shocking when it turn it’s annual report into a digital format on Instagram.  Gathering photos taken by staff and visitors, the Calgary Zoo administration presents information about the zoo’s achievements in the comment section of each photo.  The photos themselves paint a picture of the what the zoo offered, and what was most appreciated, while also allowing space for more details attached to each image.

Chart your data to tell your story

Often people are intimidated by creating visuals because they feel they need to be an expert in Adobe products in order to create great graphics.  Luckily, when the need arises, from the internet rises a solution.  Two data visualization tools that might fit the bill – Infogr.am and Piktochart.  Both offer some free templates with minimal customization. The website create.visual.ly also has some tools available for making your own graphics.  New options are popping up everyday, and we should be using them to make our information pop!

Tell a story, and invite people to an event with visuals

Perhaps you’ve sent one too many paperless post ecards and are looking for something new.  Or perhaps you would like your event to feel more meaningful to your audience by giving them a little history.  Have you ever thought of creating a simple infographic to invite students to a historically significant event at the college?  It’s a whole lot more tweetable/”like-able” if you make it interesting enough to pass on.  One simple example is an infographic I created for my wedding.  After viewing this graphic, my hope is that potential guests know a little more about both of us, laugh a little, and remember it more than they would with a regular email or paper invitation.

faulk samuels infographic

Want to know more? Check out these articles:

From Annual Reports to Invitations, it’s always better to say it Visually

Linkage Love: Design, Marketing, & Connection

by Jess Faulk

When I write a linkage love blog I usually like to connect it to a theme.  This is the same as when you give a present; all blue, all relaxation items, all baseball related, etc.  It gives a reader a sense of connectedness with what you are talking about.  This week, my theme is merely ‘my life.’  The only connecting thread is what I am experiencing in my world, what I am learning, and what I want to share with you.

As many folks in my life know, I have always been attracted to beautiful design.  For years I have collected books, magazine clippings, and website links to pages with fabulous design layouts.  I’ve never thought of it as much more than a hobby, something I do in my “spare” time, that also comes in handy in my ResLife day job.  But now, since being accepted into Simmons College Master of Communication Management program, I can blend the practical knowledge of this program with my passion for learning. I am on cloud 9, finally learning the technical side of design in my visual communication class.

Below are several links inspired by this class.  I hope to share much more of what I learn throughout the semester with the SAWTT community, as I believe many of you, whether design fans or not, will find the lessons I am learning as helpful in your day job as I am in mine.

Adobe Kuler ImageAdobe® Kuler®

The web-hosted application for generating color themes that can inspire any project

Tonight in class, my professor Jane Hayward showed us this website that helps you pick out matching colors for your project.  Sure, many of us will just stick with the template provided for us by Microsoft or Apple, or even pick out colors at random hoping they look good, but this website will help you create those color palates that really make your design pop.  The best part of this site is its “create” feature, which allows you to upload a photo and pull out specific colors from that photo.  This is especially helpful if you are planning a poster or a creating an infographic around a large image.

FutureM Boston & The 10 rules of Modern Marketing: Creating “Customer Love” in the Digital Age

Future-MToday I received an email from The Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange (MITX) about an upcoming event in Boston, the FutureM conference, bringing “together marketing and technology innovators to contemplate and celebrate the future of Marketing.”  The conference will integrate debates, demos, hackathons, meet-ups, presentations, unconferences, and every other sort of learning style.  The idea of stepping outside of student affairs and learning something new that I can bring back into the field is exciting for me.  It helps me break out of one way of thinking, gets me excited about innovation, and helps me network with professionals outside of the student affairs field.  The article I linked to above is one of the conference advertising pieces that shares a perspective on using modern marketing to create customer connection.  I invite you to read it and think of what you are doing to create connection between your office and the students you serve.  Are you creating “Customer Love”? Note: FutureM is FREE for students!  Share the link if you work in the Boston area, or want to visit for the week!

Campus to Community: A project of Socializing for Justice (SoJust.org)


SOJUST.ORGGetting out of my Student Affairs bubble is a huge value of mine.  Not only because it expands my knowledge base, and gives me fresh new ideas, but it also gives me perspective on the work that I do.  There are wonderful, caring, interesting activists out in the non-university world who are doing the work that we do with students on a much larger scale – like the entire city of Boston.  Campus2Community is a project born out of Socializing for Justice (SoJust.org) as a retention initiative for engaged and motivated recent grads to find new communities, a way for faculty and staff at various universities to meet, and as an opportunity to create a web of connection for progressive faculty and staff in the Boston area.  While the organization is Boston specific, the idea can be replicated anywhere in the country.  Yes, it requires time and dedication to organize, but it can start simply as a happy hour at a bar or coffee shop.  Make it open and welcoming, give it room to grow into whatever its regulars want to make it, and do it regularly.  I hope some of you in the Boston area will join me at the next Campus2Community Happy Hour for Progressive Faculty, Staff and Grad Students on Wednesday, October 17th at Lir, or at one of SoJust’s upcoming skillshares or socials.

Linkage Love: Design, Marketing, & Connection


As I was preparing for my NEACUHO presentation “Breaking through the firewall: #womentech” I was very excited to find a number of videos and articles that highlighted fabulous female technologists, shed light on the gender dynamic in the industry, and opened my eyes to a new ways of thinking about the growing online world of women 2.0.

In this week’s linkage love, I would like to share with you some of my favorites.

When I began my search for articles on my presentation topic was incredibly impressed with the enormous number of pieces aggregated on the Huffington Post “Women in Tech” page.  I am definitely book marking this page and coming back often!


This article raises some interesting questions about technology company trends, and technology companies downward movement in regards to women in leadership positions.  The article shares 2010 Reuters data and at the bottom has a series of video clips from a “Women in Tech” series.  One of my favorites is Marissa Mayer, the first female  engineer at google.


The first thing I noticed about this website when I arrived was how beautiful it was.  In particular, I was drawn in by the header, which really made being a “women who tech” seem so fun and whimsical.  On the front page they share the why it is important to have this space for women.  These three ideas are becoming my own mantra as I begin to talk more and more about this important topic:

  • Women are underrepresented
  • To Break Down Barriers
  • To Mobilize a network of Women

Easily my favorite part of the website of course of their <fact> Women Rule. </fact> infographic!


From the womenwhotech.com website I also found the #women2follow hashtag, created in 2009 in response to the lack of women profiled on top 10 tech and social media lists.  I look forward to using this one in the near future.

On the women 2.0 entrepreneurial-focused website I stumbled upon a enjoyable keynote speech from Kara Swisher, Co-Executive editor of All things D, on “4 Reasons why females will rule the future.”  Her message about “pushing harder” when things get tough instead of making excuses as to why you shouldn’t step it up really resonated with me.


Be an Infographic Designer for Your Office

Student Affairs Detox

By Jess Faulk

As an avid infographic fan and semi-regular creator of Student Affairs themed infographics myself, I am often asked for tips on where to start from people wishing to create their own.  While still just a beginner myself, I love teach others, and I will do my best to guide those who are up for the challenge to making you own wonderful infographics.

You can use many different programs to create infographics, and the ones you choose should be the ones you feel most comfortable with.  Personally I use a combination of Pages (for the mac) and Photoshop.  While the entire thing could be designed in a program such as Adobe InDesign or Adobe Illustrator, most student affairs professionals don’t have access to these specialty programs. I use pages because it has a tool called “Instant Alpha” which is one of my favorite tools (see the tools section).  It’s also is easy to move items around, create image masks (invisible frames that allow you to see only pieces of a picture), frames, and graphic fills, and is generally a great program to work with.  If you are stuck using a PC and don’t have the Abobe suite available, you can work in Publisher or Word, although you may be limited by the design capability.

LGBTQ YouthData:
You can’t begin designing without the data.  Depending on whether you are doing a numbers based infographic (such as LGBT Youth) or a concept one (such as Signs you need a Student Affairs Detox) you may approach your design differently.  Gather all of the data you think you may want to use in one place.  This will likely mean a list of statistics and a variety of sources.  Keep that source list close because you are going to want to use it for reference at the bottom of your infographic.

One of the biggest tips I can give about the graphic design itself is to pick a theme and stick with it.  That means consistency in fonts, colors, and images. It doesn’t mean that everything has to be in two colors, but it does mean you should stick with a specific pallet of colors.  Is everything going to have a faded/aged look?  Will everything look bright or pastel?  You decision will likely be guided by the overall theme of the project.  Say for example you were going to do a Infographic on how living on campus is more beneficial than living off.  Perhaps you know you plan on having a large house in the graphic.  Pick a couple of large graphics you feel will be anchors to the piece, and then choose the colors off of the graphics you have chosen.  You can work from there choosing the rest of your images.  Most programs actually allow you to use a magnifying glass tool to choose the exact color and use it elsewhere in your graphic.

Sa ZombieDesign:
As with any graphic design work, I suggest you pick two fonts, three at most, and stick with those fonts.  It’s even better if you work within variations of the same font (italics, bold, all caps, etc.).  It will make the piece feel more cohesive/consistent.

On images – there are several ways you can obtain images for your graphic – you can head to sites like Flickr and look at the license section under each picture you find.  If it says “Some rights reserved” you can use the image as long as you attribute it to the owner.  Check out the creative commons site as well. There are also a fair number of free clip are sites on the web you can find via google search.  My suggestion is that you pick a style and stick with it as much as possible, whether that is cartoony images, or real ones.  One way you can help is by using frames and or masks to make the images feel more consistent.  For example, on the SA Detox Infographic, I knew I needed to use some real photos that could not have a background removed easily.  To keep them consistent, I rounded all of their corners and made the graphics the same size.  Just this small change can make a big difference to the overall design.

Several Apple Pages tools I use often for my designs:

It Gets Better Simmons

There are a variety of tools to help you with infographics, and many new ones popping up everyday. I’ll list a few for you to check out:

I am sure I could write a full blog post for each of these various areas, but I hope that this small overview has gotten you excited about the possibility of creating your own infographic design. Yes, good infographics take time, but in the end, I believe they are worth the work and they are a fabulous way to share the message of your department or organization with the world!  Good luck!

Idea links and more details on how to create your own infograhic:

See all @jessfaulk‘s infographics in one place through Pinterest or Visual.ly

Be an Infographic Designer for Your Office