What is the Student Affairs Technology Competency in Practice?

As a self-embraced millennial, technology has been a part of my personal life for quite some time—particularly revolving around new communication devices such as computers and cell phones, as well as engagement with social media. As a professional and doctoral student, the technology competency has emerged in my life in several interesting and profound ways.

As mentioned in a previous post, NASPA and ACPA released the combined competencies with Technology as its own competency in 2015. Being close to completion of my master’s degree, the competencies were not a major focus of my program and my knowledge of competencies, particularly technology, was limited. Due to its timing, the technology competency emerged during my transition from a graduate student to beginning full-time employment in student affairs.

In my first position, technology emerged in an unexpected way. As a Program Coordinator for an emerging office, I was expected to be familiar with setting up and managing social media accounts. However, the institution had strict and extensive branding guidelines. While they were cumbersome at first, their guidelines were absolutely phenomenal (and yes, I do think the guidelines make a difference in the way in which offices/departments engagement with their audiences). Check out The University of Tennessee’s Brand Guidelines. During my time in this position, I was able to step out of my comfort zone in social media and engage with technology in another way. Spearheading the initiative to implement resources, programs, and services for the over 19,000 off-campus and commuter student population, I had the opportunity to coordinate a contract with Off Campus Partners to establish an online off-campus housing service. As a part of this project, I was able to work with Off Campus Partners, the Office of Information Technology, and the Office of Communications and Marketing to integrate the sites in order allow a 3rd party contract to use a “utk.edu” uniform resources identifier (URL) as well as install a user authenticator to secure use of the site by University of Tennessee affiliates only, and lastly, ensure that the branding of the site matched other university sites. Following the implementation and launch of this new system, managing the site became a primary responsibility in my role. This opportunity aligned with the outcomes of the technology competency in a new way that was a phenomenal opportunity for professional growth.

Since transitioning from that role into my current role, technology has continued to show up in my work. Whether it’s learning to use Visual Zen or managing several social media accounts, technology is and will continue to be a major component of my career portfolio. This excites me as I learn more about technology and the impactful ways in which it can assist me to meaningfully engage with students. More recently, two major occurrences have stimulated my interest and engagement with the technology competency:

  • In my first semester as a doctoral student, my EDH 6836: Seminar in Student Development Theory course required us to rethink theory through deconstructive and reconstructive lenses. I choose to focus on the very limited content about technology provided in the Student Development in College: Theory, Research, and Practice text by Lori D. Patton, Kristen A. Renn, Florence M. Guido, and Stephen John Quaye. I challenged that while being considerate of the ad infinitum nature of technology, the competencies support the notion that a consensus has been reached—contrary to the text’s assertion that The competency recognizes the “use of digital tools, resources, and technologies for the advancement of student learning, development, and success” indicating that perhaps these tools will be necessary to explore how students develop digital identities (ACPA/NASPA, 2015).
  • As a Program Coordinator responsible for the training of Orientation Leaders, I am still learning new ways to meaningfully engage with students to contribute to their learning. My role includes supervision of an Editing, Writing, and Media (EWM) Intern. Whether it is redesigning our blog, writing for our newsletter, or managing our social media, engaging with her on a daily basis has allowed our office’s platforms to transform. In addition, we have been able to brainstorm ways in which to make our platform meaningful and engaging. Through is celebrating our institution’s birthday and creating a space for orientation leaders to congratulate newly admitted students, our engagement has created a community. This approach was inspired by Dr. Ahlquist’s work that reminds us to not just tell students what not to do on these platforms, but engage with them in what to do on these platforms.

Engaging with the technology competency appears in my practice frequently. The frequency is partly due to my passion for tools such as social media, but also because of its significance and relevancy. As technology continues to advance, it will be imperative for professionals to continue to advance its use in practice as well as assess the measures we are using to ensure we are meeting the needs of our students.


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