Finally! Recognition for all the higher-ed professionals who work in social media/digitial marketing!

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has recently started to update the governments Standard Occupational Categories – the categories that are used to identify how Americans work today. This is an amazing step in getting “new” positions and careers in social media to be categorized and counted in government data!

The BLS update is a great step for anyone who works in the realm of social media and tech and these sectors are especially popular in higher education. Just from personal experience, my current office has gone virtual, with both a Facebook and Twitter presence maintained by a newly hired Social Media Director. However, before the BLS update, these social-media positions that are now considered to be essential were not even listed as on the current list. Definitely time for a much needed overhaul and update!

I also believe that including social-media related occupations as employment categories on government data is an essential step in getting the respect and awareness from the general public that these positions earn.

For more information feel free to check out the Wall Street Journal’s article on the categorical overhaul.

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Grad School Student Life – Does it Exist?

enhanced-buzz-11454-1381933050-11Recently I have been reflecting a lot about the differences between student life for undergraduate and graduate students. I’ve wondered what the role could be for higher education administrators to ease this transition, and the role that technology could play in making this a possibility. I would say that the general consensus through both my experiences lead me to generalize that grad school is characterized by a lack of student life enrichment, especially in comparison to undergraduate education.

In my particular program of study, classes meet nights and weekends. The daytime hours are typically spent working, as most people have full-time jobs, or at least a part-time position or internship. With fuller plates of responsibilities and commitments, this makes connecting outside of the classroom to be difficult. Evening classes often mean that many students have already had a full 8 hour workday, and the little energy they have left goes into being awake and on-point for class discussion, with little left for forming deeper bonds beyond the weekly topic.  What can we do as higher education professionals to bridge this gap in student life engagement? Well, I think this particular challenge is exactly where technology and social media use by program administrators could come in handy.

With the many levels of personal and professional commitments the average grad student may be juggling in addition to a heavy academic workload, social media is the perfect channel for helping busy students to engage with each other. From my own experiences, I credit my particular graduate program with being very social media savvy. The program has its own page on Twitter and Facebook, and also has a Facebook “group” created to provide a virtual space for interaction among currently enrolled students and alumns. Using these social media channels, relevant events are posted, articles are shared, questions and concerns are voiced, and a virtual community of student life engagement is created.

I highly recommend for universities and the departments within them to go virtual. While having a Facebook or Twitter may seem initially childish to a more senior program administrator, it is absolutely essential to connecting with students in the ways that they are already connecting with each other. Most importantly, I argue that social media use is crucially essential for graduate programs, where students often have many commitments outside of the classroom that keep them from connecting in person in the more traditional ways such as extracurricular clubs or sports, the dining hall, the dorm lounge, etc. While such connection-points may be essential in the undergraduate experience, they are outliers on the radar of a graduate student. Social media is an effective way to bridge this gap, and the sooner higher education administrators embrace this the better!

The Meaning of (Student) Life – Huffington Post

Reflecting on the highly competitive job market of 2013, I feel that higher education related discussion has been very focused on employment-readiness, salaries, and the job prospects of graduates. While I am by no means downplaying the importance of these categories, I sometimes wonder if the intense focus on the collegiate ROI will ultimately change and redefine the stereotypical “student life” experience.

Student life is synonymous with student engagement and in a university learning takes place both inside and outside the classroom.  The Huffington Post’s The Meaning of (Student) Life asks this difficult question – As colleges and universities scramble to cut costs and keep down tuition, what does this mean for support of student life services?

One thing that is certain is the fact that college students come to campus having learned differently than the generation of administrators, trustees, and faculty, as Brian Mitchell points out to the Huffington Post. Today’s students are impacted by technology, frequently working in group settings, and influenced by experiences that exist far beyond the walls of a lecture hall. The college education experience is shaped by learning that occurs inside and outside the classroom, which is what makes student life and extracurricular focused programming so crucial.

Mitchell’s call to action for university administrators is as follows:1 – Student life staff must be better respected for the critical role they play in the life of the college. Student life staff often feels under-appreciated among senior administrators and faculty.
2 – Student life staff must be more effective in defining residential life. There is a need to correct the public perception that plush luxury dorms and organic dining options are the sole factor for rising tuition prices. Student life staff must connect their services to tangible and valued outcomes, such as graduation rates or post-grad employment.
3 – College leadership must understand student life as a teachable moment for the college community and must rethink how they approach and fund student life.

Most of all – I agree whole hardheartedly with Mitchell’s conclusion – that American higher education institutions will not achieve their desired levels of graduation rates and ultimately post-graduation success without recognizing and supporting the student life services that help students get there.

What do you think about making sure student life services retain adequate funding in a culture of increased budget cutting?What about the role of technology?

I think we have some room for serious growth and innovation!

Mobile Technology on Campus – University Apps Gaining Popularity

One of the things I love the most is instances in which the strengths and benefits of technology are creatively utilized in a meaningful way. While the typical challenge for professors and higher education administrators is the fact that students are always on their phones, California State University at Northridge decided to use this potential difficulty as a way to engage with their students. Ten weeks before their largest freshman class to date was set to enroll, the university took a leap of faith into mobile technology.

With an investment of about $75,000 and a partnership with a company to develop the app, it was unveiled in late August for both iOS and Android devices. Overall, the investment into the mobile app has been a tremendous success for California State University at Northridge, with about 16,000 downloads of the app and that number still increasing.

Overall, this story has inspired me to pause and reflect on how I can harness mobile technology to make campus services more accessible to the students who will utilize them. Currently in the office I work in (career services), our on-the-go outreach to students is limited. In recent years, we discontinued online appointment scheduling due to reasons I am not quite sure of, but that basically it wasn’t working out. The majority of the scheduling and counseling with students and alumni takes place in person or by telephone. Skype can be used in rare instances if a student has a unique circumstance (ex: studying abroad) but in general we shy away from mobile or even online reach. Based on the interactions and feedback I have received from students, it would be beneficial to bridge this technology gap.

A Letter to Career Services Professionals | Inside Higher Ed

Since this blog is meant to address the topic of higher education and technology, especially in regards to its use by university faculty and staff I thought it would be worth while to blog about the importance of higher education professionals to be on the forefront of technological advancement because IT IS YOUR JOB.  Mostly, I found this sarcasm laden letter to Career Services Professionals worth reblogging:

From A Letter to Career Services Professionals | Inside Higher Ed

“Dear Career Services Professional,
Let me begin by stating that I have the utmost respect and empathy for your office. There will always be more students at your school than there will be of you. Understaffed and often under-funded, your office has a monumental amount of responsibility. As the frontline for employment for your students, you have a task that is exceptionally challenging. Helping students with everything that’s related to a job search takes patience, knowledge, empathy, networking, and a tolerance for ambiguity. Seniors show up to your office during their final term of school and hope that you can make magic happen. Employers give you feedback that your students aren’t fully prepared. And you absorb their critiques and continue doing amazing work. You put on workshops throughout the year, a career fair every now and then, and do your best to educate and inform your students. It’s a sisyphean task. The majority of your students are using your institution as a stepping stone to their future careers.

Career services is a pressure cooker of a functional area in student affairs. Perhaps the most anxiety-ridden and exciting aspect of your department is that you have to be engaged in lifelong learning so that you are ready to fully serve your students. For example, let’s look at social media. Social media channels are frequently used by students as conduits for networking, research, and job acquisition. What does this mean for you as a career services professional? Well, I think that it means that you no longer have a choice about being “on social media.” It’s not an option. Is email an option? How about having a phone in your office? Do you talk with students? Social media is part of the job. If you don’t want to increase your fluency and competency with Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, etc., you’re basically telling me and your students that you are okay with limiting the way in which you help them. That’s unacceptable. It’s like someone saying “that’s not my job” when asked to do a task that could help their office. That type of behavior isn’t tolerated in the workplace and it surely shouldn’t be okay in your office.

So where do you go to find out more about how career services offices are using social media. Here, let me Google that for you…sorry, I couldn’t resist. But, seriously, if you can’t search for examples, you’re basically starting from square one. And, square one is not where students need us to be. A couple of quick queries on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn result in a plethora of higher education career services accounts.

And, if you’re thinking about exploring what your career services office can do with Google+, go ahead and check out how Syracuse University is connecting SU alumni with current graduates on G+ Hangouts.

I realize that the hardest part about being great at using social media is that it takes a bit of time to get over that initial learning curve. However, when you’re better at using social media, you’ll be better at using it with your students. And, at the end of the day, being fully-equipped to help your students is the raison d’être of your work. I know that you can be better at using social media. Get your entire team on board. Maybe you will take the lead in your office. Showing your colleagues how this “stuff” works. Take your time, experiment, and continue to do great work.”

Do University Assistantships for Graduate/Ungraduate Students Qualify as Professional Experiences? The Debate is On

In the world of higher education, a popular opportunity for students to gain experience working in the field as come in the form of graduate assistantships. Graduate assistantships are usually a paid experience where an up-and-coming student affairs professional works on a part time basis (20 hours per week) in a student-focused office on campus. For both undergraduate and graduate students looking to gain valuable experience in the higher ed/student affairs field, graduate assistantships are a coveted opportunity.

However, a recent blog by Eric Stroller featured on Inside Higher Ed reflected on the possibility that potential employers do not value the graduate assistant experience as a “professional work experience”, especially when meeting the requirements of a job that requires “1-3 years of related professional experience”. For undergraduate students and even graduate students who enroll in their masters program directly out of undergrad, this notion is troublesome.

What I found even more telling about the debate over graduate assistantships was the comments left by readers. One of my favorite aspects of blogs and the technology that allows them to be possible is the near immediate feedback that can be left by the readers, creating a space for dialog rather than the personal soapbox of one individual. In the comments section, the debate waged on, with one user going by the name AK commenting that “I’m afraid I agree with the hiring committee. You are not a professional until you have earned the professional degree. Before that, you are a trainee”. On the other side, a user by the name of Niki stated that “My institution values graduate students as professional peers and assigns work that credits this value. I see graduate students as young professionals – learning as anyone else would during the first 2 years of their position. Citing graduate students as ‘trainees’ is demeaning”.

How do you feel about graduate assistantships or internships in general? Should these experiences be satisfactory examples of professional experience?
I tend to think so! While such positions are typically part-time in nature or for a shorter duration of time, they are held by busy students who have many additional academic and extracirricular commitments. Part-time employment or internship experience should only reflect very favorably on the students who pursue them – as when you consider the hours worked combined with the hours spent in class and preparing homework assignments, these students are usually working MUCH longer than the average 40 hour week. Such a full plate of commitments shows the ability to manage time efficiently and balance multiple commitments – a skill that any employer should be on the look out for in a potential employee!