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

Highlight a Woman: Taylor Koch!

Highlight A Woman: Stacy Oliver-Sikorski

By Kathryn Magura

Hello everyone! Today I have the pleasure of highlighting a woman who has not only been a pioneer of advocacy for women in Student Affairs, she is also a good friend of mine. Stacy Oliver-Sikorski has been a mainstay in the Student Affairs community on Twitter. Surprisingly, Stacy has never been featured in this series, so consider that glitch fixed!

  1. Tell us a little about yourself, and how you use technology in your professional role? I currently serve as the Associate Director of Residence Life for Student Success at Lake Forest College, a small, private liberal arts college 30 miles north of Chicago. In my role, I work primarily with housing operations — including room assignment processes , academic programming, and student conduct. Technology is imperative in my role. If our office is a bus, my role is serving as the computer in the engine. I work intently with our student information system, our conduct software, and we recently started the implementation of a housing software solution to assist with assignments and operations.
  2. What advice do you have for women looking to get into a career path of leadership in technology? Very simply, you can’t break it. People, especially women, are intimidated by technology and afraid of breaking something. I jump in, feet first, and start testing the limits of our solutions. I ask questions when I don’t see a function that would be helpful for me. I try new things. I always have a test student in each of our systems so I can run through a series of processes before launching something more widely. I meet regularly with Tonja, my colleague in IT, to talk through what I have going on in my world and what ideas she has for helping. I regularly ask her to teach me things so I can do them for myself, rather than letting her do them for me semester after semester.
  3. SLOWhen you were younger, did you ever see yourself pursuing a career in technology? Absolutely not. I’ve always been a nerd, but in different ways. This position is the first place that all of these separate interests have collided into something that finally makes sense for me.
  4. When you were younger, did you ever see yourself pursuing a career in technology? Absolutely not. I’ve always been a nerd, but in different ways. This position is the first place that all of these separate interests have collided into something that finally makes sense for me.
  5. What are some barriers for women in technology? Women are afraid to ask questions, afraid to look stupid in front of others.  But it’s through asking those questions that we learn. Women are also not always given access to technology in the way men are, even from the time they are young. Open doors for yourself, tear down walls. Even if you don’t have the solutions, asking the right questions is a perfectly valid reason to claim your seat at the technology table.
  6. Who are your female role models (student affairs or otherwise)? Oh, you don’t have time for this list. Deb Schmidt-Rogers at DePaul University is who I aspire to be; Anne Lombard at SUNY-ESF is my cherished mentor of 11 years; Kristen Abell at UMKC is someone whose courage and passion is awe inducing; Kathy Collins at Michigan State University is a force in this field and in my life.
  7. If you were one of the seven dwarves, which would you be and why? Sneezy. I’m allergic to EVERYTHING. I sneeze twice every morning while eating a banana, and I have no idea why (neither does my allergist). 🙂

 

Thank you for sharing your story, Stacy!

Highlight A Woman: Stacy Oliver-Sikorski

Highlight a Woman – Jenny Muschinske

by Lauren Creamer

Jenny Muschinske is one-of-a-kind. She knows what she wants, goes for it, and doesn’t stop until she gets it. She is bold. She is funny and quick to laughter. She puts forth quality work in all aspects of her life. Jenny is one lady I would not mess with.

Jenny graduated from Northeastern University this past May. Like the rest of her cohort-mates, her goal was to have secured a job by the end of the summer. She cast a wide net, as she was set on staying in Boston. Much of her experience lay in student activities and late-night programming, so her aim was to be doing something along those lines. She loves to work directly with students and appreciates the personal interaction that is required when directing and event on the ground. When she wasn’t advising students or doing physical labor herself, she was promoting events through social media – not uncommon for student activities folks. The majority of her experience utilizing technology was focused on developing a following for her events and programs on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

As the summer wandered to an end, Jenny began to apply to jobs increasingly outside of her comfort zone. She was open to trying something new (and really wanted a job… we all did). So, she applied to an administrative assistant position… and was surprised to find she got a call for a completely different job. A few weeks later, Jenny began her position as Assistant Director of the Student Activities Business Office at Northeastern University. (Some stroke of luck, right?!). Jenny wanted to stay in Boston and she got exactly that. (I told you she gets what she wants).

Having spent some years in the field before graduate school, Jenny felt like she was ready to take on this new position. Her job focused changed from heavy student interaction to spending most of her time in front of a computer. When I asked Jenny how she was coping with the increased use of technology (specifically, outside of her wheel house), this was her response:

“It’s a big adjustment going from a role where I was face-to-face interacting with students 90% of the day, to one where much of my interaction happens online.”

Part of Jenny’s role is to approve program funding for Residential Life programs through the still-developing eRezLife software. Instead of spending time brainstorming around a table and submitting paper forms, Resident Assistants are required to plan and track all of their programming efforts in this system.

“I think there are pros and cons to the increased accessibility of doing programming online now.” Jenny says, ” it’s convenient for the students and it helps me to manage my day [instead of running meeting to meeting], but it takes away from the brainstorming that happens when students and staff meet face-to-face to talk about campus programming.”

I asked Jenny how she would like to see eRezLife evolve to encourage more collaboration and she shared the following:

“It’s hard to say so early on, but I’d love to see a message board of some sort where RAs can share successes and challenges. I see so many students submitting proposals for programs that weren’t successful in the past – it would be great to see them sharing these things with each other in the very program they are utilizing.”

And for now? Jenny will keep learning the ropes in her new role and maybe, one day, will get to implement some of the changes she’d love to see.

Highlight a Woman – Jenny Muschinske