Reflections on 2.5 years in NASPA’s Technology Knowledge Community

NASPA Technology Knowledge CommunityThis weekend, Leslie Dare and I are stepping down as co-chairs of NASPA’s Technology Knowledge Community. It’s a relief for me as the overwhelming emotion I feel is guilt: guilt that I didn’t do more, didn’t involve more people, and didn’t give more to the community. However, we certainly did some neat things and I know that Candace and Chris, our new co-chairs, have a solid foundation upon which to build.

To the best of my knowledge, this organization is unique in its composition and focus. There have been and continue to be ad hoc groups formed to examine issues related to student affairs and technology and some of the more specialized professional organizations like ACUHO-I have an ongoing focus on technology (although their focus is changing as they recently decided to discontinue their annual IT conference and merge it into a Business Operations conference).  But this Knowledge Community appears to be the only standing organization that transcends the specialties and focuses on the student affairs community as a whole.

But that broad focus brings unique challenges. For example, there appear to be (at least) three groups of NASPA members interested in technology:

  • Technology managers and implementers: Those who are tasked with doing technology by maintaining webpages, administering databases, providing various levels of technical support, and supervising others who perform these tasks. This group is probably a small group within the entire NASPA membership but may be highly concentrated or interested in this KC.
  • Technology hobbyists: Those who are interested in technology but don’t have significant professional responsibilities related to technology. This group is certainly the largest of these three groups within the broad NASPA membership and likely the KC.
  • Technology scholars: Those who study technology in student affairs. This group is certainly the smallest of the three and likely includes faculty, practitioner-scholars, and graduate students. The majority of these persons appear to be more interested in how students use technology (with a disproportionate amount of time and energy still being spent on research related to Facebook) than in how student affairs professionals and organizations are using technology.

There’s certainly a significant amount of overlap between these groups in both their compositions and interests. The challenge for the KC is figuring out how – or if – to meet the needs of each group. In my opinion, identifying the members of these groups in the KC and figuring out how to meet their varied interests are the biggest challenges facing the KC. The previous incarnation of the KC dissolved because it couldn’t adequately address these challenges and I sincerely hope that this KC won’t follow the same path.

There’s hope. We’re on the right track with our ongoing membership assessment survey (if you’re a KC member and you haven’t participated yet, please do so!). There may be an opportunity for this KC to shine during our economic troubles as technology is perceived to be a cost-saving measure by many universities and colleges.

I must acknowledge and thank some of the wonderful people with whom I worked in and out of the KC. Leslie, before stepping into this role I didn’t know you or what I was getting myself into but I’ll jump off other cliffs with you any time. Sandra and Joey, your calmness and patience with me as I grew in this role helped immeasurably; I hoped that when I pushed back I did so without pushing you around and further I hope you know that I only did so because I know that you’re both as passionate about what we do as I am. Stephanie, Zafer, and the rest of the NASPA staff: I appreciate your forbearance as I know that occasionally strange requests made their way from our KC to you and you always bore them with grace and never failed to provide us with support and encouragement. Christina, Suzanne, Kirk, Elahe, Gail, and all of the other KC volunteers too numerous to mention: You made and continue to make the KC a community and I’m forever in your debt.

I’m ready to step down and eager to move into the background of the KC to continue working. I wish I had done more but we have intelligent, experienced, and very motivated members stepping up to lead us now. I look forward to seeing this community grow and evolve under Candace and Chris’s leadership. I know they’ll do wonderful things as they’ll have the support of many of the same people that helped Leslie and I and you can’t help but do great things with those wonderful people behind you.