Some #SATech Picks for #ACUI14

I did not get around to my usual Wednesday blogpost this week, particularly because the 2014 ACUI International Conference is coming up very quickly, starting Sunday, April 6th down at the Marriott Grande Lakes in Orlando.  ACUI being the Association of College Unions International, a professional association focused on building campus community through opportunities of leadership, service, and engagement on campus.

As I finish up presentations, pick out clothes for ACUI’s 100th Anniversary Celebration Gala, and watch the backchannel overflow from NASPA (in Baltimore) and ACPA (in Indianapolis), I started crafting my conference schedule, paying particular attention to technology-based sessions at ACUI 2014.

…oops… wrong Orlando.

Crafting this blog post after Eric Stoller’s #NASPA14 post highlighting his tech picks for that conference, here are some of my picks for this year’s #ACUI14 conference out of the numerous awesome technology and other educational sessions available this year:

Educational Session 1 – 8am Monday:

Schedule Me Wirelessly – Justin Durham, Middle Tennessee State University

Unions are multi-faceted entities, encompassing performance spaces, food and catering, custodial services, and community partnerships.  Getting everything and everyone on schedule can be a tough job, but the tech exists to help you get it done.

Educational Session 2 – 11:30am Monday:

Using Technology to Integrate Building Systems – Bill Cox and Stephen Senkel, Texas A&M University

Fresh off the rebuild and renovation of the Memorial Student Center at Texas A&M, this session should provide valuable insight into how to integrate tech into the renovation conversation, and lessons learned from the process.

Computer Lab Tech Session 2 – 5pm Monday:

Communicating with Students – Mike Makoski, Fitchburg State University, Kim Pho, University of Notre Dame and Casey Van Veen, The College of William and Mary

Having heard Mike Makoski of Fitchburg State speak on how he keeps his student staff engaged and informed via social media, this session should be a good primer on how to create and engage student communities via technology.  The variety of schools represented gives attendees a better chance of finding a connection to their own work.

Educational Session 3 – 12:45pm Monday:

Integrating New Software and Procedures – Neela Patel, Rutgers University and Marcus Williams, The George Washington University

If your office is looking to go from paper to digital processes, that transition can be fraught with obstacles, difficulties, and learning curves.  Learning from two institutions gives attendees a better chance to connect the information in this session to their home institution to better implement new technology in their offices.

Educational Session 4 – 2pm Monday:

Photo and Video Editing 101 – Filip Pongratz, Temple University

ACUI celebrates the best in design and visuals with the Steal This Idea opportunities at international conferences, and this session may offer the opportunity to create eye-catching graphics to folks not in our marketing departments.  Sometimes, conferences allow us to get back to the basics, and these design skills are essential in today’s digital unions.

Educational Session 5 – 9:15am Tuesday:

Using Digital Signage in the Student Union – Mandi Bryson, College of Charleston and Jeff Taylor, The University of Southern Mississippi

Digital signage is quickly replacing bulletin boards and room reservation sheets in our bustling union buildings.  Come learn from two institutions how they implemented digital signage and what change and benefit that brought to their students and community.

Educational Flash Session 7b – 4:45pm Tuesday:

Social Media Assessment – Jennifer Keegin, Binghamton University

We get so drawn into ensuring our content is fresh and engaging, we may forget to look at the data behind all our work.  Plus, how do we show that the social media presence of our unions is helping foster community on our campuses?  Get into the assessment discussion to see if your digital work is paying off.

Computer Lab Tech Session 7 – 2pm Tuesday:

Moving Your Annual Report Online – Steven Wein, University Student Union, California State University, Northridge

Annual reports may be a required part of our jobs, and may just get stacked on a bookshelf to collect dust by those we give it to.  Ensure that your annual report informs and celebrates your union and your story with this session – check out USU’s 2012-13 Annual Report if you need convincing.

Educational Session 8 – 8:30am Wednesday:

Creating a Social Media Strategy – Eric Heilmeier, University of Michigan

Eric has been connecting student development theory and student involvement to social media for years now, and so this session on creating a winning strategy is probably a good choice if you are looking to jump in the deep end or dip your toes into the social media pool.

Video Training for Custodial Staff – Ryan Green, Southern Oregon University

We may be focused on social media strategy or maintaining our digital bulletin boards, but how can we help ensure our staff can do their job as well as possible?  Video training, especially for our hands-on custodial staff members, can help introduce and familiarize staff with the details of their job, so they know how to get things done right away.

Educational Session 10 – 4:15pm Wednesday:

What’s Hot in Technology – Mike Coleman, Tallahassee Community College and Brian Lind, Salisbury University

This session is becoming an annual tradition at ACUI, and is always a solid choice.  Mike Coleman brings the latest and greatest apps and pieces of technology to showcase at this session, some of them unrelated to union work and student affairs, but valuable for every professional on and offline.


As I write this, I have a Prezi open in another screen, where I am finishing up one of my presentations, #ACUINext: Digital Community Building, which takes place on Monday at 8am.  Taking a look at the past few years and the MOOC sensation that has washed over higher education, ACUI needs to take a look at where it can go in it’s next 100 years, and commit itself to being a thought leader in not only community building on the residential campus, but in digital spaces as well.

The Internet… it’s all we can talk about.

Also, be sure to download the ACUI App on your digital devices, powered through Guidebook, which offers updates throughout the conference, social media information, maps of the Marriott complex, and more.

Pencil in times for these tech meetings and meetups as well so you can get all the latest ACUI tech info and meet up with your fellow ACUI techies:

Tweet Up: Monday – 730-9pm -

Technology Community of Practice Meeting: Tuesday – 415-515pm


Looking forward to seeing everyone there in Orlando, don’t forget to bid high and bid often when you have the chance, and when you see Marsha, give her a big hug.

adulthood will kick your…

This morning, while this is auto-posting, I will be sitting in a Boston courtroom representing my condo association, because the City of Boston decided to sue us for not being safe enough.  If this isn’t a sign of adulthood, then I don’t know what is, nor do I want to find out.

Adulthood… right in the face bro.

Nevermind the fact that the city failed to ensure the development company followed existing fire code only 7 years ago when they rebuilt our building, when it had the appropriate fire systems installed, but that the development company did not reinstall, and that we are now having to pay for.

Nevermind the fact that the city continues to ignore continuous outreach about the abandoned lot next to our building that poses a major safety and community issue, has a Police notice pasted over its front door, and if it were to catch fire, no fire alarm system would save us or our building.

Nevermind the fact that the city is suing us for not being safe enough because we have only paid the $9000 deposit for this system and the labor already, because we haven’t taken “significant steps” to remedy this issue.

Freaking adulthood man.  I’ll take any gin and tonic donations at this time.  Thank you.

on overloading the twitter warp drive…

Social media and Twitter in particular are great tools for introverts in our field, offering a way to build a network in a more stealth mode than the super crowded cocktail hour where chit chat must progress beyond how the weather is just fabulous and how we all can’t wait until summer break.


That sentiment, which has been expressed numerous times in numerous blog posts from blogs like SA Feature, Amma Marfo, and others, was again brought up yesterday during an extensive Twitter exchange about #NASPA14, this year’s NASPA Conference in Baltimore.  And I generally agree with it.  Most of the time, I am that sentiment. I make connections via Twitter which I often am able to follow up on IRL at conferences or at events with a much lower fear and anxiety level and in a more comfortable sense of self, leading me to be more authentic.

I’m on an ACUI webinar today where I praise this process because it’s how I made my connection to the Boston higher ed scene, primarily via Tim St. John, or Tim St. Awesome as I just said out loud to myself.

Me… at a conference… without connections… and actually everyday of my life.

So, what spurred this blog post then? I usually keep Hootsuite open as a tab on my browser throughout the day to pay attention to my feed, interactions, and searches.  Just watching my main twitter feed this morning, I had to shut off Twitter for awhile.  It was just overwhelming, and it was mainly spurred by the tweets coming through from NASPA.

It was a little bit of “it’s that kind of week” in our office (Spring Break is next week, so the campus is wound up pretty hard), a little bit of just too much coming down the pipes, and a lotta little bit imposter syndrome.

The Warp Twitter Drive has been overloaded, Captain.

Like, I’ve gotten annoyed with #sachat in the past and have completely deleted it as a search feed on my Hootsuite, only to return it later as a far off column that I have to scroll to, only to let it creep back to my main screen.  But, this was different today.  I literally went into overload.  As ACUI comes up and I’m prepping my own presentations, the imposter syndrome of seeing all the great work that colleagues around the field are doing shut me down rather than inspired me.  I had to say goodbye for a bit just to recharge and recenter, something I’ve been working on a lot since the fall.


I allowed myself to fall down that rabbit hole of believing that what I had to say would be overshadowed, outshone, and ridiculed by the highlight reel of NASPA that was coming through on my feed.  This post was supposed to be centered around a tweet I thought I had favorited awhile ago, and I can’t remember who said it.  But, the conference back channel, more often than not, is the highlight reel of a conference.  It’s the bold ideas, the ideas we want to adopt and adapt, the methods and activities that impress us that make our feeds.  In the thick of it, at an ACUI conference, it is my everything, because I can engage in more conversations about the field I enjoy than just the session I’m in at the time.  It also allows me to venture beyond my small introvert bubble.

When I’m not at the conference, when I’m sitting at my own desk at work with work stuff bearing down and students coming in every couple of minutes as my Twitter feed updates, it’s overwhelming.  The backchannel is a lot, and when we aren’t careful, it can take us by surprise and take us down for the count.

Didn’t see that shutdown moment coming, did you, Joel?

I’m not blaming everyone as NASPA for tweeting so much… the complete opposite.  Nor do I think they should filter and limit their tweets because me back at home at my desk is going to feel too overwhelmed.  By all means, these conversations need to happen and each person should add their voice via the means they find easiest, in this case via social media.  NASPA is a huge entity, so the backchannel is going to move at warp speed (so let’s just imagine that potential NASPA/ACPA merger conference…)

Conferences offer that time away from the daily grind of the office environment- we are in a different place, exploring ideas, concepts, and possibilities that represent the highest reach of what we want to and hope to explore in the field and areas we so enjoy and commit our energies to.  While ACUI and NASPA is not exactly a zen rock garden, for our minds in taking time to think beyond our Outlook Calendars and our next meeting on event policies, it represents that zen, that ability to think about the greater picture.

I fell into a trap yesterday, allowing myself to be brought down rather than lifted up by the backchannel.  I had to step away.  It led to this blog.  Social media is so important and has shifted how we do business irreversibly and for the better, but we have to stay aware of what it represents and when we’ve had too much. I’ve hit the reset button, and I’m ready to step back into that stream.  I may not position myself under the waterfall again today, but at least I can still listen to the sounds of the stream as it rolls by.

Don’t go chasing waterfalls… or at least don’t stand under a Twitter waterfall… just hang out in the stream downriver… with the @bears looking for #salmon… or something.

on traditions and environment…

Humpday Grumpday post time.

Oh my goodness, I am about to write a blog post that utilizes student development theory… luckily not about Chickering though.

Campus ecology and campus environments was sort of a guilty pleasure interest of mine in grad school, and I didn’t get enough of it while there.  This is probably why I’m so interested in the design and community building obstacles of urban campuses, especially for campus centers/student unions.

Not you Karl Urban… urban campus environments.

One of the key environmental elements of MIT’s campus is the Infinite, a long hallway that connects numerous academic and administrative buildings that essentially serves as the spine of campus.  It’s a key piece of MIT’s history, culture, and visual look, and was a part of my campus tour during my job interview.

And I hate it.

I hate it.  There, I said it.  I hate The Infinite.  It’s crowded, too narrow, crowded, is not efficient, narrow, and too crowded.  One tour group, one couple wanting to stop and chat, one slow walker, and you are done for.  For such a key part of MIT culture and environment, it makes me want to run screaming out of the building and into the Charles… which is not really what the ideal campus building should be doing.

Pre-breakdown-drugs Macaulay is how I look trying to walk through the Infinite.

I now take either the second floor hallways above the Infinite, or most often, the fun network of tunnels that snake underneath campus to bypass the traffic and narrow build of the Infinite.  Both of these options have little to no foot traffic, and are smooth sailing, both in walking speed and for my nerves.

Awww yisss, we’re moving now.

So, class, let’s turn in our Green Books, you know, Student Development in College, for some campus ecology theory thoughts on this subject.  A couple pieces from the pages on the subject stand out to me, particularly Barker’s (1968) behavior-setting theory, which boils down to people seeking to maintain settings they find pleasant and vacate settings they do not enjoy.  The Infinite is the most direct path across campus, so it will remain popular.  I don’t particularly like the Infinite, it stresses me out, and I’m willing to take stairs and a couple extra turns in the tunnels below it to be more relaxed coming to or leaving work.

The Green Book also expands on Barker’s theory, stating -

In theory, if enough is known about students, environments, and the behaviors that those environments elicit, then student affairs educators – “milieu managers” (Helsabeck, 1980) or “campus ecology managers” (Banning, 1980a, 1980b)… might predict student behaviors and take steps to manage the setting to elicit different behaviors.”

I think about the administrative offices that live on the Infinite, with one door between small lobbies and office work and the milieu of foot traffic, and I wonder how harried people feel entering those office spaces and how there isn’t much room in these offices for a calm-down moment.  Offices like Admissions, Dean of Student Life, Dean for Graduate Education, and many more all branch off this hallway, and whenever I visit them, I always need to take a couple extra breaths when I get in and get out of the Infinite.  I can’t be the only one, and I just wonder how others feel entering those spaces under different contexts.

Not the Infinite. Although if Matt Damon were in the Infinite, that would be the mother of all traffic jams.

The Infinite isn’t going anywhere, I know that, nor should it. My reaction and thoughts on it are probably an outlier.  But if there is a space on campus that makes me think about campus environments and campus ecology theory, it’s The Infinite.  It also brings up thoughts about my first ever ACUI presentation with Colette Masterson when I was at the Ohio Union, on keeping students involved without a student union, and how an under-construction union may facilitate drastic changes to a campus’s student traffic patterns, like it did at Texas A&M and Ohio State.

getting gif-y with it…

I wrote over the summer about Vine, Twitter’s 6 second video making service that debuted right around the same time as Instagram Video, neither of which have completely taken off, even though YouTube compilations of funny Vines are pretty awesome.  However, I no longer stand by much of the stuff I said on behalf of Vine, as it has been taken over by trolls, spam, and the ‘like for a like’ crowd, to the point where you have to do more wading through that swamp than you actually get to do in watching good Vines that can tell a story or can get a laugh.  Additionally, Vine has never fixed some of the issues with their platform, making it glitchy, annoying to use, and not a seamless experience.

I’m running away from Vine unfortunately.

Which is what a gif is supposed to sort of be about.

So, I was excited to see this project from the MIT Media Lab called GIFGIF, which they describe themselves as:

GIFGIF is a project to capture that magic with quantitative methods. Our goal is to create a tool that lets people explore the world of gifs by the emotions they evoke, rather than by manually entered tags.

They give credit to the Place Pulse system, another MIT Media Lab creation, which I stumbled upon via Twitter last year, and which asks you to pit urban scenes against each other along different factors, such as “Which place looks more boring” or more wealthy.

Go to Place Pulse and vote on the pretty city pictures.

GIFGIF looks to rate gifs based on the emotions they elicit, 17 emotions to be exact, as allows users to vote here on how well they feel gifs represent a certain feeling.

I can’t… with all these emotions.

They are starting slow, allowing their 1000+ gifs to get rated and categorized well before opening it up to an onslaught of poorly rated/categorized gifs.

So, maybe rather than Reddit, you should spend some free time exercising your right to vote… for gifs.  Also, make sure you check out Giphy, a great gif engine of sorts to explore the wide world of gifs that relies on tags, unlike GIFGIF, but is still fun and has lots to explore.

I said, get out there and explore.


on video games and creativity…

Having no cable, and only subscriptions to Hulu and Netflix, it leaves a lot of time in the house for Reddit, YouTube, reading, and video games.  I recently started playing Fallout 3 again, a post-nuclear fallout look at Washington DC and the chaos that reigns.  Fallout is a wide open world role playing game, where there is a primary mission that the game follows and if completed in order, triggers some sort of ending sequence based on your choices.  However, Fallout presents a wide open world full of numerous missions of their own importance, scale, and length, and there is no need to directly follow the path that the game’s story wants to take you on.

This is probably… my fourth time playing through the game, as it is really enjoyable, and in previous versions, I have stuck to the story, although I thought I ventured onto side quests quite a bit and spent tons of time off the main storyline.

However, I would also see things pop up on the Fallout subreddit that I had no idea about or had never seen/heard of, and Eugene would ask me about certain elements of the game, and I would be like

So, this time, I’m taking my time, and I’ve completed a bit of the main storyline, but my main focus has been exploring the map and doing as many side quests as I’m able (and inadvertently jumping ahead about 3 steps in the main storyline when I discovered an area that was key in the story that I hadn’t gotten yet to in the main arc… oh well).

This commitment to not just going status quo and playing safely along the main story arc got me thinking about conversations I’ve been having in my own job and the thinking I’ve been doing on my job and career and future.  I’m a total status quo professional in many ways: you give me x event and I will make sure it happens.  I may throw some pizzazz in there every so often to get it a bit different from the last one, but overall, my focus is on the strategy, process, and details of planning that event.  I do idea generation, but I’m always in my ‘element’ on gameday during a big event, making sure things go smoothly, and if they aren’t, trying to get them back on track.

And this is fine, because I enjoy it.  But I also know that somehow, in the back of my little LinkedIn Professional Brain, I want to create things, develop new things, and have my hand in forging new paths.  Now, this honestly scares the crud out of me, because I quickly equate this to things like being an entrepreneur or a full-time consultant, all of which are not in my wheelhouse of comfort.  Would I love to go out and start my own coffeehouse somewhere? Yeah. Do I not because I don’t know how and where and when and who and what and uhhhhh?  Yeah.

I do get out of the status quo when I can in various ways, particularly I think in opportunities to write for CronkNews in particular (although one could argue that my articles follow a pretty standard set-up and delivery status quo at this point) or getting out to try my chops at student affairs comedy at events like HigherEd Open Mic, where I first introduced MOOCZilla, or BUConfab, where he made another appearance.  But, overall, I’m a pretty status quo sort of professional, and I don’t say that in a bad way, but it makes me appreciate professionals like Jason Meier from Emerson or Leah Wescott from CronkNews, because from them I get that challenge to think beyond the box.

A couple books that I’m also reading (yes, reading for creativity, do ittttt) are also providing some helpful unique insights that I’m excited to develop.  One I’m reading on the train right now is Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley, which is pretty good so far (much better than the letdown Play at Work) and then at work, which is Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie.  There will be a lot to reflect on between these books and conversations I’m having with fellow staff and hopefully students along the way.  And that’s a process I hope I can make status quo.


when, where, and what to worry about…

Humpday Grumpday blog post time.  I forgot to take a picture of the angry polar bears Eugene drew me.  Updates later.

Having gotten through almost a year and half at MIT, I still have no clue what the student culture is at MIT, and if you ever hear me say differently, I’m lying to you, and I’m terrified about having to answer these questions in future job interviews, because I honestly think this may be one of the most odd, frustrating, educational, and definition-defying positions I’ll ever hold.

… I don’t…

So, when #satech, the weekly (biweekly?) chat about student affairs, higher ed, and technology, chatted about face to face v. tech communications today, and Tim St. John tweeted this answer out, I needed to step back and take a look at what was going on with my happiness, stress, and frustration at MIT.

My initial reaction was panic, because I’ve gotten these emails or been in a similar situation fairly often while I’ve worked here.  My next feeling was frustration, because I feel like my emotions and my day get taken over by the moments (which I’m working on), especially the ones that involve yelling students storming in and out of my office.  The next reaction… was remembering this Calvin and Hobbes.

What are we getting worked up over? What's the context?

What are we getting worked up over? What’s the context?

With this comic, I’m not trying to imply that a poorly worded tweet or inappropriately toned email is not a teachable moment or is something that can be brushed off as something small.  But, its also based on context, and the environment you are in, that determines how much capital you can use on that conversation.  I guess, now that I think about it, it’s pretty sad that a conversation with a student about the tone of their email is something that I think would hurt my attempt to continue to connect with them in the future or maintain a connection that would keep them coming back.

Me in my 1:1s with my supervisor after a tough couple of weeks.

I used to get worked up about each perceived slight against my work, my office, or student life at MIT from both the student realms and the fellow staff/faculty realms.  That made for way too many angry days at work.  But, in trying to see the larger context of these situations, I am getting better at picking my battles and figuring out what to expend my energy on that might have the chance to create the most influence.  While the student culture and the administrative and academic culture of silos here at MIT still baffles me, I’m at least using them to understand myself better, as a professional and a person.

I think that what I’m trying to say is that every situation will be different, and it is part of our development as professionals to figure out what merits a battle that is worth fighting.  I work in a division that is still trying to establish its identity on campus, that is still making inroads and trying to get students to simply talk to us, rather than think they need to hide things from ‘the administration.’  My battles are certainly different from Tim’s at Clark, and his are very different from mine, but I think that reflects the overarching theme in thoughts about higher ed these days, that there is no one-size fits all solution to the numerous problems our field faces.  It’s all about that gut feeling and trying your darnedest to understand what student culture entails or at least the philosophy and approach of the students you most closely work with.  And that, kiddos, is something your grad program won’t teach you, that’s something even the most seasoned of professionals I would assume are continually developing to the day they retire.