If we, as student affairs professionals, can create accessible, understandable, and interactive resources that facilitate completion of campus protocol outside the office then the precious time spent with students can be used for developmental conversations and not on mundane processes.
My Masters degree is not in event planning. The degree does not say “Masters of Student Media.” Nor did any of my coursework have brand development designed into the curriculum. Yet I find myself knee-deep in all of these topics as I navigate my first position and start a career. I love all of the varied work I do each and every day but the simple fact does remain that my education does not always match up. Most of the common language and skills that I use for this specific work came from random experiences, internships, hobbies, and favoring technical manuals to fictional thrillers. I still can’t shake the feeling if I didn’t have those experiences I was fortunate enough to have, then how could I truly do this job well? I then wonder about those working in student affairs that have “other duties as assigned” type work that is actually integral to their office, but weren’t trained for those duties.
I started my job at WashU knowing part of my position would be to find ways to integrate technology into our work. There weren’t any specifics to that objective – only the belief that the office could use some upgrading in hopes of raising efficiency. One delightful morning I brewed a pot of coffee, loaded it with creamer, doused it in sweet-n-low, then headed out to work. By the time I reached my office the entire mug of coffee was no more (an infrequent occurrence for me). Thirty minutes later and I had an entire chalkboard covered. What I created was a loose framework of technology systems to support our office. I also realized the impact that taking on this project could have.
The crux of what I created isn’t brand new; the belief that if students came to meetings prepared then more of the time could be spent on reflection and discussing decision-making. The exciting challenge lies in finding systems to facilitate this pre-meeting work in a meaningful way.
One example is the Event Registration Forms that I see springing up at colleges (admittedly, it’s one of the projects I’m working on at WashU). Event forms (such as Campus Lab’s Collegiate Link product they offer or even a homegrown one like UCF’s) can facilitate a great deal of logistics regarding event planning. The system uses conditional logic to invite the right campus partners into an event. It’s basically like a digital event coordination meeting that invites only the people necessary and lets them work on their own time. This frees up advisors to use their meeting time with students to discuss impact, decision-making, congruence with organization mission, or any other topic.
Another great example is using project management software in the office. Couple that with online appointment scheduling (Here’s an example) and you’re chopping out hours at a time that would normally be spent on administrative duties. Those couple hours each month can end up meaning the difference between a newly launched initiative that ends up positively influencing thousands of students and a half-finished proposal where you always seem to say, “It will be a summer project.”
I believe that I can help staff spend more time on the student development aspect of our jobs. If I can do that, I see it as a win. That’s the lens I apply to this search for a new technology framework in our office. It’s the reason I find meaning in that area of my job.