Do you work in Student Affairs or Higher Education?
What about the Business World?
Here are 5 ways these worlds collide.
This is a brief introduction post to future posts I intend to delve deeper into, so read on and comment below!
1) Organizational Behavior = Team Building
Don’t think some of the skills you gained running all of those icebreakers over the years translates elsewhere? My first class in the MBA program was Organizational Behavior. OB (for short) is the study of individuals and their behavior within the context of the organization in a workplace setting. It is an interdisciplinary field that includes sociology, psychology, communication and management. As a ropes course facilitator and trainer, I cannot tell you how much I lit up when our professor told us we were going to be spending a day at the local ropes course where I work. Let me just say the rest of the apprehensive class was excited about team building once the day was done. They had done little to none at their current places of employment which were not in Student Affairs or HigherEd.
The Collision: It is about how you frame the activities you already do, No Peanut Butter Lava Pit, push yourself to learn a new way to frame your activities. Who knows, you might even be able to consult for that work! For example, my favorite ice breaker/energizer is “Gotcha”. The activity involves trying to grab someones finger while not getting your finger caught when the keyword is said. You can frame this a myriad of ways, from simply saying the keyword to telling a story. I challenge you to tell the story. however, because the power of storytelling is incredible for both the teller and the listener. The best part is your story can directly relate to the metaphor you are attempting to create in your work, Business of Student Affairs.
2) Running “Lean” (Lean Manufacturing, Lean Thinking) means “build-measure-learn.”
Lean manufacturing is a business model and collection of tactical methods that emphasize eliminating non-value added activities (waste) while delivering quality products on time at least cost with greater efficiency. Its components involve building a minimally viable product (MVP). It does not need to be perfect. Get that MVP to your customers/market, collect feedback, and apply that learning to the next MVP.
The Collision: How many times have you run that same program with no new effect? Did you try something new (flyer, social, icebreaker, event) and learn something from it? Did you apply that learning to your next process? A recent example in my work involved an attempt at integrating social media better in my work. Previously I had invested tons of time into a website for my hall that had approximately 10 views a day (who knew if those were students). I wanted to be where the students were but wasn’t sure how that would work. By using some of the great integration tools out there like TweetDeck, I was able to post to both Twitter and Facebook. Just a few posts asking questions and I waited for responses and to my surprise Facebook took the win for my students. I focused on developing our page and on increasing not just posts but interactions with my students (after all it is “social” media). I was able to test something and then apply that knowledge. Yes, it’s simple, but it does not need to be overly complicated to be effective. Get your MVP in the hands of your customers/students! Get it 40% done and then launch it.
3) Marketing 101
Marketing is the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising. In order to do this marketers go through the following process:
- Pick a Deliverable
- Identify a Target Audience
- Develop a Campaign/Ad/Survey/Etc.
- Evaluate the Information
- Incorporate New Learning
The Collision: Isn’t this the assessment cycle? A Deliverable (see below for definition) is your assessment question, your audience is your students, your “Ad” is your survey or assessment tool that you are promoting, and the your last 2 steps are identical to the assessment cycle to that many of us do (or should) follow.
How are you justifying programs? Better yet are you assessing them? Assessment is challenging, but good marketers have taken advantage of it for years. We should take a look at their work for some inspiration. Increasingly, assessment is becoming a required part of our work. We are being asked to justify for money, space and time. It can seem complicated but it doesn’t need to be. Adding an evaluation to the end of your programs, walking around with a survey are all manners of assessing student learning, and justifying/validating the work you do. And if you are lacking inspiration, take a closer look at the next TV ad you see; it went through this same cycle.
4) In the Project Management (PM) world a “deliverable” defines any product, process, service, or innovation.
Project Management is the process and activity of planning, organizing, motivating, and controlling resources, procedures and protocols to achieve specific goals in scientific or daily problems. You can become certified as a Project Manager (PM) through the Project Management Institute, a highly desirable certification in the business world but also in Student Affairs. Hop on indeed and type in Project Manager and see what pops up, the amount of jobs might shock you. Furthermore, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has additional information that’s equally interesting- namely more of these jobs are being created.
The Collision: You manage deliverables everyday. Do you create new programs? New flyers? Do you run a committee or manage a hall council? Do you balance a budget? All of these fall under the world of Project Management. I encourage you to take a class in basic PM principles. You never know how it might help your daily work. Our department requires a bi-weekly newsletter placed in each of the bathroom stalls. I’m not a great planner and I’ve always struggled to figure out content and more importantly sequence the newsletters. After taking an introductory PM class, I was able to map out the entire year practically with easily sequenced content for my readers. PM is a framework that can easily be placed over your existing work, in truth I think it is a bit over involved if you follow its concepts to the fullest but its concepts are very helpful.
5) Student Development = a “deliverable” = Customer Service.
The business world considers Customer Service a deliverable based on the definition above. Customer Service is the assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services. Student Development has been defined as
“the ways that a student grows, progresses, or increases his or her development capabilities as a result of enrollment in an institution of higher education” ~Rodgers, 1990. (Great PowerPoint Review of theories here, in case you been away too long)
Enter Theorists Alexander Astin (1984) & Vincent Tinto (1987): Both determined that students’ social integration within a university is key to their development and decision to reach graduation (paraphrased). Enter the Student Affairs professional. I know this might seem hard to swallow but we SA Pros provide direct services to our students to aid in the college/university’s greater recruitment and retention strategy. At the end of the day, public or private, colleges and universities are businesses. If that statement leaves a foul taste in your mouth reminiscent of corporate America (Walmart, Enron, etc.) I encourage you to shift your perspective a bit, for they serve a much more altruistic purpose: education. Nevertheless, there are budgets, bills to be paid, services rendered, and products sold. How many of you own some overpriced apparel from your alma mater? Money is exchanged for a deliverable each semester.
The Collision: You ARE a piece of the business supporting the bottom line of recruitment and retention. Student Development is a service deliverable that we provide to our students (a.k.a. Customer Service). Ultimately, great customer service helps retain customers for a business and it does the same for our students. Some institutions are more transparent about this than others, so you might have to ask around. Your institution might expect you to support this goal that is often defined clearly in an institutional strategic plan. Are you? Did you even know about it?
My most recent example of this involved a guest speaker at a staff meeting. Our guest works for a small private college. The speaker was talking about professional development and taking next steps in young professionals careers. He pointedly stated that knowing about assessment, ROI, and retention are the hot topics in our field and will continue to be over the next few years. He honed in on ROI (Return on Investment) and delivered a harrowing tale to my colleagues about the potential for many small private colleges to close their gates within the next 5-10 years unless they can find a way to increase their ROI. Now more than ever, cost is driving students decisions to attend and remain in colleges and universities. To be even more clear, few students means requiring less staff, which means more competition in an already crowded Student Affairs job market. Our guest was prompt in sharing that understand even basic concepts of recruitment and retention can help increase your likelihood of an interview and he recommended to my colleagues that they started yesterday in learning about it. The bottom line is that we support the bottom line and truly that is the biggest collision of all.
Agree? Disagree? Comment with some of your thoughts.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Clare Cady on Access to Higher Education