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.


What is the Student Affairs Technology Competency on Paper?

Starting in 2010, NASPA and ACPA developed and implemented a common set of core professional competencies for student affairs professionals. Competencies include knowledge, skill as well as disposition (attitudes) of educators on a variety of themes. These standards of professional practice have appeared in professional development curriculum from professional association conferences, job descriptions, graduate preparation programs and more. There were both stand alone competencies, as well as skills that were said to be part of every competency called “threads”. Technology was one of these, once defined as a thread.

Technology Defined as a competency for Student Affairs Professionals

Fast forward to  2015, the two associations released an update from the work of a joint committee called the Professional Competencies Task Force, and as a result Technology finally had established itself as its own category of competencies for the field.

The definition of technology as a competency is the following:

[The Technology Competency] focuses on the use of digital tools, resources, and technologies for the advancement of student learning, development, and success as well as the improved performance of student affairs professionals. Included within this area are knowledge, skills, and dispositions that lead to the generation of digital literacy and digital citizenship within communities of students, student affairs professionals, faculty members, and colleges and universities as a whole. (ACPA/NASPA, 2015, pg 15)

Professional development was defined as the following:

Professional growth in this competency area is marked by shifts from understanding to application as well as from application to facilitation and leadership. Intermediate and advanced level outcomes also involve a higher degree of innovativeness in the use of technology to engage students and others in learning processes. (ACPA/NASPA, 2015, pg 15)

In other words, the Technology Competency is not a list of tools, platforms or software you need to download or even what is “technology” or “leadership.” Rather, it is a set of standards designed to guide student affairs professionals’ growth and development regarding how they utilize and understand technology and digital platforms.

Quickly after the 2015 competency update, a number of student affairs technology bloggers wrote the addition and ideas, which you can find below:

Some of the critiques of the competency is that it is a bit more aspirational, and may leave those tasked with development professional development for their staff (or self) or graduate student courses still without precise direction.

What is the Tech Competency, Really?

Without going into the laundry list of skills and dispositions listed out in the foundational, intermediate, and advanced levels of the competency, there are some themes and even tasks to quickly take away from this seminal document:

  • The philosophy of technology in student affairs is first and foremost for student learning, development and success – second is the improvement of the professionals serving those students.
  • At minimum, professionals should be knowledgeable about technology, especially technological tools and platforms that are actively used by students. However, personal adaptability to change, especially related to technology is a requirement in the field.
  • Curriculum for students as well as professionals should include topics such as: digital identity, digital citizenship, digital literacy, digital leadership, personal learning communities.
  • Student affairs professionals should look to infuse programs beyond brick and mortar into hybrid and blended community learning experiences.
  • Tech interventions need data, not just quick adoption, from social media platforms to vendor-based software. This data will ensure accessibility, ethics and legal compliance.

There are definitely more overarching takeaways from this important document, so I suggest you take a look at the entire set of competencies found here. For the sake of this series, we will be focusing specifically on how technology shows up in our profession. Further, how do individuals in a variety of student service roles in the field of higher education make sense of the competency, implement tech, and seek out the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that the competency calls us to posses.

How is technology (and the tech competency) really showing up for you?

Because it has has been two and half years since this update and the release of the Technology Competency guidelines, what has really changed? Of course technology has changed, but how has our field or our institutions recognized tech as a cornerstone to student affairs? Since the Technology Competency was released, what are tangible examples from programs, training, or even professionals perceptions/skills/knowledge that demonstrate these competency standards?

To answer these questions and more, the Digital Leadership Network wants to hear from you! This series will feature voices throughout the field, where writers will respond to two of the three prompts:

  • How does technology show up in your role, and how important is using technology when engaging with students? What about professionals on your campus &/or throughout the field of student affairs?
  • In what ways do online networking spaces and other technology allow or prevent you from developing and maintaining genuine relationships and meaningful interactions? What skills/resources/experiences can you share for others in the field?
  • How do you define and model the concept of digital leadership, and/or leadership qualities that the technology competency calls for?

All you have to do is complete a short form, which will include your submission here. Submissions will be accepted until April 22 and released throughout the spring and summer. We look forward to sharing how you are making meaning of the technology in student affairs!

About the Author

Dr. Josie Ahlquist is the founder of the digital leadership network, as well as a independent speaker, consultant and author on digital leadership in higher education. She also serves as research associate at Florida State University teaching undergraduate and masters courses based in technology and leadership. Her research and writing can be found in the Handbook of Student Affairs Administration textbook, The Journal of Leadership Studies, and New Directions in Student Services, “Engaging the Digital Generation” volume.  For the third year in a row she has been named to the “Top 50 Must Read Higher Education Technology Blogs” by Ed Tech Magazine.  Her podcast, Josie & The Podcast was featured by The Chronicle of Higher Ed as a podcast to subscribe to. You can find her blogging and podcasting at www.josieahlquist.com.

You can connect with Josie on the following platforms: Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube.

Student Affairs Tech Competencies on Paper, in Practice & Possibilities

Attention Student Affairs & Higher Education professionals!

This spring, the Digital Leadership Network (DLN) is launching a brand new series of blog posts highlighting all things technology. How do you use technology in your role, on your campus, or with your students?

Join the DLN by submitting your blog post responding to any (or all!) of the questions below between now and April 22, 2018 to share your insights, stories, questions, and advice with colleagues of the field.

1. How does technology show up in your role, and how important is using technology when engaging with students? What about professionals on your campus &/or throughout the field of student affairs?
2. In what ways do online networking spaces and other technology allow or prevent you from developing and maintaining genuine relationships and meaningful interactions? What skills/resources/experiences can you share for others in the field?
3. How do you define and model the concept of digital leadership, and/or leadership qualities that the technology competency calls for?

Visit our submission form here to submit your blog post draft, brief biography, and a photo of yourself to be featured on our blog. Submissions will be considered between February and April 2018.

Questions? Contact digitalleadershipnetwork@gmail.com.

Check out our submission form to submit your ideas around technology in the field!

DLN_Design B_Final

#SocialMediaSoWhite – May Edition


Laura Mack is a Community Director with the Office of Residential Life at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC).  She also serves as the Advisor of UMBC National Residence Hall Honorary.  Laura’s areas of passion are student mentorship and advisement, residential curriculum, student conduct, and social justice & equity work.  When she is not leading the charge for staff or students, she is at home with her husband and their triplet boys.  Today she weighs in on her experiences navigating social media.

I used to be very much on the Twitter scene in my former life as an avid sneaker collector. Twitter was, and still is, a must to stay in the know with shoe releases, sneaker news, and the personalities that kept our niche community going.  Many other groups existed in their silos and eventually those silos broke apart when some populations realized that we are more alike than not. Enter the collective known as “Black Twitter.”  My Twitter account became a mixture of sneakers, pop culture, the occasional dip into Black Twitter topics, and many other things.  However when I got hired for my first professional position one of the first things I considered was my social media footprint and how that would translate into my work and others perception of me. I asked myself “how I would explain my use of colloquialisms and vernacular?” “Could I?”

I never had to answer that question because 1. It never came up and 2. I got bored with Twitter and started using Facebook more.  While Twitter is indeed more fun and speak to the nature of the instant gratification that so many millennials need, it’s not as careful as I would like.  My Twitter followers weren’t in a place to understand some the problematic use of their words or ideologies and they do not want to be.  They don’t understand their use of possible triggers and would not understand how their tweets made me wince and to me that was more hurtful to me than the possibility my supervisor could see a misunderstood colloquialism.

So what does any of my rambling have to do with the topic at hand?  Easy. My Facebook page is the platform in which I choose to show my authentic self.  My Facebook is how I show up.  There is no witty @ name.  There is no possibility of anonymity. It is just me.  As is the case with the people I choose to engage with.  We have to show up as ourselves. So when someone says something problematic, they can’t hide behind jokes and followers.  That reassurance is refreshing and it allows me to be freer with my thoughts and freer with regard to calling in and calling out.  I’ll engage online with anyone whether I agree or I stand opposed, which is a luxury I do not feel like I have outside the space because of my identities.  I’ve been in situations where I attribute something to my marginalization and someone who doesn’t fit my identity dismissed my experience.  I cannot speak for all marginalized people but for me and those I know, it is not only hurtful but in the moment it caused me to free and internally ask “did that really happen?”  And while I’m stuck questioning the person who dismissed me and their dismissal, the person opposite me doesn’t see anything wrong and gets to go on about their day and their life.

However I feel safer online in certain spaces because I know I’m not alone. I know that if I talk about an experience that I have that occurred because of my identity, they will understand.  I know that if someone tries to dismiss my experiences that someone else will stand with me in solidarity. My advice to new professionals regarding how they choose to engage, is say would you think you need to say but be willing to stand in that truth.  I post a lot of social justice related things in addition to the musings of life and I make sure things I post correspond to my values and belief system.  That is what authenticity is to me.

-For more on this topic, click here

#HireMe: Maximize Your Digital Presence During Your Job Search

Typing on laptop closeup, chatting in Facebook

The student affairs job search season is in full swing! The typical cycle for hiring for many new professional positions happens in the spring, so this is a perfect time to start reflecting on what your digital presence says about you.

Your digital presence is a significant part of your identity. Whether you use it for personal connections, professional development, or a blend of the two, who you are online can play a significant role in how you approach your job search.

Cidnye Weimer, one of the founders of the Digital Leadership Network, is in the midst of her job search process as she finishes her graduate program.  Cidnye shared some of her thoughts on how she’s integrated her digital presence into her candidate presence, and how she’s leveraged her connections to assist in her job hunt.  As an employer who regularly hires entry level professionals, I was curious to hear how Cidnye saw her digital presence interacting with her job search.


Charlie: How have you used your social media presence in your job search?

Cidnye: I have used it in a couple of different ways:

  • Being mindful of what my bios say and what I am posting as I am aware that employers may look at them, and I want that information to be consistent with who I am as a person and my values. So, almost an extension of myself.
  • Looking at the school’s social media accounts and the people I may be working with. Based on whether or not they have accounts and also what they are posting, I am able to see more of their values come through other than what is listed on their websites. It also helps me stay up to date on events or things that are happening on their campuses!
  • I also use it to talk about building relationships with students. I talk about how I let my students follow me on every platform and this allows me to post and share their events and support them, but also allows for a personal connection if I am tweeting about something we can bond over, like current events or pop culture.

Charlie: Have you altered your presence at all leading up to the search?

Cidnye:  No, because I am always mindful of my digital presence and how it represents me so I haven’t changed anything from what I was already doing. I am always thinking about how my students will perceive what I post or share.  I also think about how my family members will perceive it, as my grandparents and a lot of other relatives follow me. So I am already always aware of my presence.

Charlie: How do you use social media in the job research process?

Cidnye: I have used hashtags like #SAgrad, #SAchat, and #SAsearch to follow tips and tricks and seek advice. I also have been personally using the hashtags #hireme and #jobsearch2k17 in a lot of my posts.

Charlie: Have you seen any major mistakes using social media as a candidate?

Cidnye: One thing that I have noticed is candidates posting in the Student Affairs Facebook group or asking on Twitter for advice about creating presentations for on-campus interviews. While I understand they are trying to prepare the best they can and want advice, I would also be conscious of the fact that your future employer could be in that group or see that Tweet and might think you can’t come up with it yourself.  It might make them view you differently. So I would ask people on your campus first and then maybe private message other professionals or ask less specific questions.

I would also say not posting specifics about your on campus or getting offered until it is officially official like a written and signed offer from both parties, and they have told you that you can announce that information, because you don’t know if they have told the other candidates yet and you want the other candidates to find out from the employer that a position has been filled and not from your social media posts.

Charlie: Any tips or tricks for others as they use social media in the search process?

Cidnye: Just know that people are ALWAYS watching! Ask yourself if your social media is authentic to who you are.  If someone met you in person would it be who they thought you were based off of social media or someone completely different? You can still have fun and be yourself on social media, but also show that you care about what is happening in the profession and how you are engaged. And look at the social media from the institution you are applying to, as well! I do that for every position I apply for.

Charlie: Thanks for your thoughts, Cidnye! Great advice for other new professionals as they approach their job search and reflect on their digital presence.

Navigating the job search process can be difficult, time-consuming, and stressful.  Don’t make your digital presence another reason for stress.  It is a privilege for many to be their authentic selves online – to not have to worry about how they look or how they identify will influence an employer’s first impression.  Find ways to “professionalize” your presence during the search for whatever that might mean for your given field – add a professional headshot, take the opportunity to share resources, engage in conversations using professional hashtags, etc.  Find ways to tap into your digital support networks, and take advantage of the strength of your digital networks to put yourself in a position to be a desirable hire for that first job!

Resources/Additional Reading:

How Social Media Can Help (Or Hurt) You in Your Job Search (via Forbes.com)

Social Media Success: A Guide for Job Seekers (via Business News Daly)

Job Search Blog Postings (via paulgordonbrown.com)

#SocialMediaSoWhite (Part 8)


Today, Pearson checks in with her take on the discussion.   Pearson calls Memphis, Tennessee home. She is a Program Coordinator for New Student & Family Programs at Florida State University. She received her Bachelor’s in Secondary English-Education (2013) and Master’s in Higher Education/Student Personnel (2015) from the University of Mississippi. Pearson will begin her Doctor of Philosophy degree in Higher Education-Student Affairs at Florida State University in Fall 2017.

Technology has been a part of my life for the majority of my life. As a 25 y.o. Black, new professional, I identify very heavily, but also very positively and passionately, with being a millennial.

My earliest memory of technology is slightly different as I obtained by first email address when I was in middle school. My parents had divorced a few years prior and my dad was about to, for the first time in my life, move really far away. My father has been in the military my entire life so not seeing him for long periods of time due to deployment was pretty normal. But this time (perhaps due to the divorce, distance, and deployment), my mom set up an email account for me so that I could write to my dad. It was my first taste of digital messaging.

Later on, Tagged, AIM, Yahoo Messenger & MySpace emerged. By the time, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, & SnapChat emerged, there wasn’t a big learning curve for me. I knew how to use the tools, but perhaps the biggest learning curve was determining what my digital identity was going to look like. This didn’t mean much to me until, in 2012, I participated in an interview with Don Lemon on CNN where he shared my Twitter username on national television. My social media presence and digital identity took quite the turn when I was elected homecoming queen at the University of Mississippi (affectionately known as Ole Miss). Being the first (and currently only) black woman to hold this position, I received a lot of media attention (sometimes not always positive) which, in my opinion, required me to be more sensitive to my digital identity.

It wasn’t just about my digital identity and potential future employers, but more so about my family and my church. My family is huge (this is not an exaggeration)! And how I represented them was important to me. They purchased over a 100 tickets to Ole Miss’ Homecoming Game to see me. Every article, interview, magazine, etc. that I was featured in was shared and probably is still somewhere in their homes. I was also born and raised AME (African Methodist Episcopal) and was (and still am) very passionate about that identity and how I represent my God, my faith, and my church. Saint Andrew AME in Memphis, Tennessee is where I gave my life to Christ when I was 15 or 16 years old and it is still, to this day, one of my favorite places in the world.

Those are the aspects that really provide my standard operating procedures online and with technology. I learned very quickly (due to a really degrading YouTube video) that how I represent my God and my family was all I cared about and regardless of how much effort I put into my digital identity, much would be left to interpretation as well as criticism. I think that’s what makes my digital media use authentic.

As a professional of color, it’s really important for me to be authentic in all spaces. I realized just how authentic my digital media presence was when I transitioned to Florida State. New to my position, I did not talk a lot and to some students my vernacular made it appear that I was “not woke” (aka “You talk white”–but that’s an issue for another day). When this particular student followed me a Twitter though, he pronounced me as “radical” the next time he saw me. My views aligned with many of his own and my engagement in Black Twitter was genuine. I shared stories of injustice and privilege while also contributing to the comedic nature that is often embedded within Black Twitter. Since then our relationship has been dramatically different. His level of comfort to discuss his identity and his experience increased. His desire to gain my opinion and advice heightened. It was interesting because he didn’t allow my skin color to immediately determine his comfortability. My twitter feed was vetted first. While I think my actual voice is the same in person as it is on twitter, he was able to decipher something different in that digital space. He was able to learn a lot about me without asking a lot of questions. That’s how that relationship was established and really that’s how it continues to develop. My students favorite and retweet a lot of my feed and I am cognizant of what that means. Mirroring how I navigate these spaces could be how they are learning to navigate their digital identity.

However, I do think that the level of authenticity depends on the platform. On twitter, it is easy to retweet someone’s 140-character response that I agree with. However, on Facebook, I am much more intentional. Because Facebook tends to have lengthier articles—I use caution before I just share an article. Did I read the whole article? Do I holistically agree with everything in the article?

As I navigate social media as a young, black, and new professional, I often find that I am at a crossroads. Because I share a lot on social media, I unfairly have that expectation of others. Because of the heightened climate in our country, I wonder (again, unfairly) that if you’re not speaking out against the injustices, do you care? Do you know? Are you even attempting to understand? I constantly have to remind myself (for the sake of others and myself) that while social media is a great platform for sharing injustices, that we can also share trivial things. It’s okay to post a funny story, something related to pop culture, or a fun trip I went on. It doesn’t mean that I (or anyone else) has forgotten or is overlooking the world’s injustices. It means that we can do both—we have the capacity to denounce something inhumane and share that really funny meme.

But at the same time, there are barriers and limitations to how I navigate social media. There are articles that are sent to me or I send privately because white fragility is real. But in the same breath, so is black pain. I am 100% comfortable sharing an article about the unjust killing of a black man or child, but when it comes to sharing the Root’s 2016: Wypipo Awards, I hold back. I haven’t discovered why yet.

One of my favorite tweeters, Blair Imani (@BlairImani) once tweeted, “If being vocal about injustice will tarnish your career, it is a career worth pursuing.”

I hold on to this sentiment very strongly when I am engaging in social media and while my family and my faith provide my standard operating procedures, this statement is also my foundation when I consider my standard operating procedure for social media as it relates to my profession.

Pearson’s social media:

  • Twitter, Instagram: @pearson_ality
  • Facebook: Pearson Person
  • Pearson’s LinkedIn
  • Pearson’s Blog


#SocialMediaSoWhite (Part 7)

A lot has already been written about tone policing.  If you are unfamiliar, start here.  In reading the blogs in this #SocialMediaSoWhite series so far, I am struck with the amount of effort it takes to consider ones digital identity when the color of your skin impacts your practice.  I have mostly been unaware of the impact this has had on my colleagues as I navigate my own digital space.

In addition to being a student affairs practitioner, I am also discovering my own internal journey to deal with my own emotions.  As a man, growing up, I was told to fight my emotions.  Like Spock from Star Trek, I was told Logic wins the day.  If you make a good point, you don’t need emotions to win.

Well, being married for the past (almost) 15 years, logic doesn’t always work when it comes to relationships.  When I say something that hurts others, and they share that hurt with me, I have some choices to make.  When my significant other comes to me and shares that something I said or did hurt them, and I don’t believe what I said or did should have hurt them, I have a few options to respond:

  • Argue with them and convince them they are wrong for feeling hurt by my actions.  Explain what I did was actually the right course of action and explain if only they had understood my intent or had better facts, they would not have been hurt by my actions. I would make a logical argument and they would, of course, see that I was right and their feelings would no longer be hurt.
  • I can call them a snowflake and tell them to toughen up. I can tell them they need a thicker skin.
  • I can throw my own belief out the window and just accept what they are saying is true.
  • I can listen to them with empathy.  Don’t argue or try to solve the problem in that moment.  Think about my behavior, action, or words, and determine whether I am ok repeating that behavior and having them continue to be hurt, or whether I should change my behavior so that I avoid the hurt in the future

Now, consider my first response above.  Let’s now imagine every time I say something that hurts my significant other, and they confront me, this was my response.  At what point would it make sense for them to get angry?  When someone continues to hurt you, and doesn’t seem to care that they hurt you, we could understand the anger, right?

So imagine the 100th time this interaction occurs and I hurt them.  They respond out of anger.  And my response is “whoa whoa whoa!  Why are you so angry?  Ya know, you’d be more effective if you were calm in how you confronted me!  You catch more flies with honey!”

THIS IS TONE POLICING.  Except on the interwebs it is happening on a broader scale, and our colleagues of color continue to communicate that they are hurt by our actions, and we continue to respond in every way above EXCEPT empathy.

So when someone shares with me that they are hurt by systemic power and white privilege, AND they express that hurt in a way that is angry I have a few options:

  • Argue with them and tell them they are wrong, and argue how we are all the same, or actually class is a bigger deal than race, and if they understood the research they would see it my way
  • I can tell them to suck it up – people are successful regardless of the color of their skin
  • Throw my own belief out the window and just accept what people are saying is true
  • Listen to them with empathy.  Decide whether I want to change my behavior to avoid future hurts. Decide to look to dismantle systems I am a part of.

I’d argue one of those options is likely better towards harmony.  But here is the secret;  our colleagues aren’t wrong.  If anything, this blog series should communicate the impact the color of one’s skin has on their practices as a Student Affairs professionals.  The bigger question to my white, cisgender, heterosexual colleagues is “what are WE going to do about it?”  We are the ones who created the problem.  We need to lead the way in fixing it.  We cannot put the responsibility on those negatively impacted to fix the system WE BUILT.  We built the system to give our children an advantage.  Our children look a certain way.  You can argue things may be “better” now, but they are NOT equitable.  Here is the (literal) million dollar question – are we ready to sacrifice the advantages we have built into the system (for the benefit of our children) so that OTHERS can succeed?  That is what we need to wrestle with.

#SocialMediaSoWhite (Part 6)


For today’s blog, Crystal Lay weighs in on her experiences with social media.  Crystal is an Assistant Director of Residential Education at UC Berkeley.  Her life motto is God first, family second and career third.  She has been in residential life for 15+ years.  Crystal’s professional passion areas include Residential Curriculum, Social Justice and Inclusion, and Professional Development.  When she isn’t working she enjoys spending time with her husband Jake and their two children, cooking, and traveling. You can find more of her writings at https://clayonlineblog.wordpress.com/


What You See Is What You Get

I am very selective with how I manage my facebook profile and postings. Very rarely do I post anything publicly.  Very rarely do I post anything unsavory in my status updates. When it comes to who gets to be a part of my facebook world; I usually only add people who I have met in person which includes family, former colleagues and students, and folks who I have met at conferences.  Generally I post things about my family and my values, along with the occasional memes and political rants.  There are times when I post more personal things out of wanting to vent or wanting prayer or advice.  When you look at my page I think it is safe to see what my values, priorities and passions are; what you see is what you get.  I am very comfortable with my online presence. If you have a question about what I have posted I am fully prepared to respond.

I remember the saying, “if you do not want anyone to know it, don’t write it down”.  I also remember being asked the question, “would you say that in front of your Grandmother?”  I use these things to guide most of the things I do in my life.  I am also finding that I use this when it comes to how I manage my social media presence. I think my brain is on automatic filter because it wasn’t until I began writing this that I realized how this factors into my facebook presence.  I am also a Mother and I think about what would I want my kids to think of the things I am saying.  And lastly as an Administrator, a black Administrator, what example will I set. So, today I feel pretty good just being me; a black Christian Mom who is an administrator who is comfortable in her skin.  I also think being myself has come from being at the point in my career and my life where I am confident.  I know that I do good work and I also know that worrying and stressing over what people think of me is unhealthy.  Don’t get me wrong, I need my job!  I have a family to support BUT my wellness is tied into pleasing God and taking care of my family.  When I go to work I remind myself that I work for God.  I use the phrasing, S.T.O.P;  Spirit Take Over Please, before I enter situations where things may be difficult because like I said, I need my job.

You see I used to live my life differently.  I was told that I had to walk better, talk better, and dress better than Whites.  I was told that I needed to work twice as hard.  These are the messages that I received for quite some time.  In my workplace I noticed several things that reinforced that idea.  I got a masters and that wasn’t enough, then I got a second masters, nope.  Then I started my Ph.D. because I was told that I would then get a bigger seat at the table.  But it seemed I did all these things and I felt incomplete. As a Black women, who at times identifies as Multiracial, I am very aware of the fact that my tone or my facial expressions somehow mean something different than when my white counterparts speak.  My tone can be perceived as angry, aggressive or as challenging.  Early on in my career my evaluations from my students would say, she is unapproachable or aggressive.  Somehow I was always the problem.  When did asking someone to do their job or providing them with feedback become a problem?   I remember crying in my office after several evaluations.  I remembered the evaluation where my staff said that I talked about race too much.  I addressed the issue with my staff but that wouldn’t be the last time or staff.  I also began to notice how I was often confused with the other black woman in the office.  This has happened at 3 different institutions whether it be through face to face name mix ups or receiving each other’s mail.  And then there are the parents who wanted to speak to someone above me and you could see the relief whenever my supervisor was white.

When I read posts on social media where folks voice their frustrations, confusion, and pain; I get it.  I have had facebook since 2005 and I have watched it turn into a place where folks share everything.  At the time I did not post things, that I can recall, on facebook about the racist things that were happening to me but  I found ways to turn it into an article or I would send it out to a listserv to folks who would get it and me.  I did not think that me speaking my mind or sharing my experiences would equal me not getting a job.  Or that employers would question my emotional intelligence or professional maturity.  At some point I realized that yes, it could have an impact and I had to be okay with that.  And guess what?  I was and I knew that if I had a story to tell then it had better be founded and worth a listen.  I began to think about data, experiences, and also solutions.  The average person struggles when there are problems listed but no solutions.  I became a part of people of color focus groups and we were focused on addressing the issues and concerns.  But the one thing that was constant was the awareness that there could be consequences for our actions.

I want there to be space to share our experiences and our voices.  Safe spaces to really be who we are should and need to exist.  Social media can be that place but know that one of the risks of showing up authentically is people may not like us. People may not want to hear us BUT that is about them; not us.  We may be put on a “blacklist,” but there is more than one list.  On my list I remember that people make rookie mistakes and I also remember that there are some people who are sharing their stories about being marginalized, oppression.  There are people who are tired of feeling defeated and unheard and they are desperate for hope and for action.
The sad and unfortunate reality is that there will be a different set of consequences for brown people.  The stakes are different.  Some people aren’t ready to deal with all that comes with my black face.  I love my black face.  I love being myself.  I own my words and my actions.  It took some failures, some reporting, and a whole lot of courage to take off my mask.  So, please just remember that you need to be able to own what you have said and to be prepared for folks to ask for an explanation.


To see more, please click here for the full series

#SocialMediaSoWhite (Part 5)

Once again, I wanted to share thoughts on my white perspective of this issue:

In thinking about Digital Leadership, there are some concepts I wanted to bring to light in order to dismantle the systems at work that keep white, privileged colleagues in their comfort zones and marginalize other voices:

One concept I have written about already at length is the concept of racism itself.  As a white kid growing up, I learned at a very early age that racism meant looking at the color of one’s skin.  As long as I didn’t see others as being “different” I was protected from being labeled a “racist.” We (as white kids growing up in the suburbs) were taught that Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was critical because of this very important line:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

What I was taught about MLK was this; if I look at someone’s skin color, I am judging them by the color of their skin.  I need to IGNORE skin color and look past that so I can see what is inside them.

Sit with that for a moment.  That SOUNDS great on the surface, doesn’t it?  I mean, better than the alternative of judging someone to be “less than” because their skin color was different than mine.  That seems like a great place to start in teaching kids not to be racist.  The problem is I was never challenged to go beyond this view of racism until much later in life.  And, we have a society of white people who have remained stuck in “I am a racist if I see skin color” mentality.

The impact of this?  I don’t see how people are treated differently based on the color of their skin.  I ignore any data given to me that tells me people are treated differently based on their skin color.  What this does is wipe out hundreds of years of lived experience.  It would be like Germans in 1950 Germany saying “I don’t see Jewish people.  I treat Jewish people exactly the same as those who subjugated the Jews and put them in concentration camps!”  I say this, As. A. Jew.  To ignore race in America is to ignore the lived experiences of those who are not white and make the oppressor morally equivalent to the oppressed.

How does this translate to Social Media?  We ignore race in our social media conversations.  When an issue comes up (for example on Facebook) and someone makes a controversial comment or post and most of the white professionals react one way, and most of the black professionals react completely different, we don’t stop for a moment and say to ourselves “Hm.  There are two sides of reactions here.  One side is mostly a group of professionals who we recognized as having marginalized/oppressed identities.  The other side is mostly a group of professionals with privileged/oppressor identities.  MAYBE those two sides aren’t morally equivalent?”  Instead those with power and privilege look and say “I guess the issue isn’t settled – we will just have to agree to disagree.”

This is problematic because it keeps power and privilege in comfort as opposed to challenging and making people uncomfortable and motivating change.  If we are going to grow the knowledge base of digital leadership, we need to include social justice lenses when engaging in digital leadership work.


#SocialMediaSoWhite (Part 4)


Before you begin, if you are new to this series, please read the introduction blog here.

For today’s blog, Ashlee Roberts, the Assistant Director in the Office of Student Involvement at the University of Missouri-St. Louis weighs in on her experiences navigating social media:

How do I navigate social media? Somewhat carefully and somewhat openly. I operate from the space that being connected on social media doesn’t mean we’re friends, so I will engage socially but keep many things for people who I know in real life and/or have built personal connections. I have a Facebook and two Twitter accounts. I’ve seen some [white] professionals comment on the inauthenticity of having two accounts, but in considering how I navigate social media as a black professional, those two accounts are best for me. I initially started with a single Twitter account. Facebook is my most personal use of social media. That’s a space where I share my family, friends, and professional life. It’s a conversion of all of me. I can’t say that I operate on that platform differently than my white colleagues. I rarely, if ever, add professionals with whom I’ve not built a rapport, as friends, regardless of their race. I am mindful of the things I say and do in regards to reputation, but that mostly shows up in how I operate in professional groups. I typically show up as a helper-I’ll share opportunities, advice, or insight where it’s fitting, but I don’t see the groups at-large as my friends so I don’t really indulge in being snarky or shady. I’m sarcastic and no-nonsense in person, but online, I mostly abide by my mama’s life advice that I don’t I have to say everything I’m thinking. Plus, I have friends and colleagues who I know offline with whom I can vent and make snarky commentary, if I feel so compelled.

As I thought of this topic, that idea of “digital codeswitching” came to mind. Twitter is where I switch it up and have two accounts. Once upon a time, I had a single Twitter account. I reluctantly created an account shortly after I graduated and was applying/waiting for a job. As it goes when most people initially join Twitter, I only had a few followers and offered random musings. I knew most of the people who followed me, including three white professionals with whom I worked closely and knew from grad school. I probably posted a couple of times on Facebook sharing that I have an account. Even though I only had like 30 followers, my account was locked because I was on the job search. I eventually learned how that reduced my engagement with people, so I opened it. Fast forward to a year and half into professional life and one of my [black] students followed me. I blocked her and kept it moving. I’m not really crass or vulgar on social media, but it felt as if my personal space had been infringed upon and I wanted some separation from work.

As I gained more followers and engaged more with “Black Twitter,” I didn’t feel like I could wholly be myself with white SA pros who I don’t personally know, so that, coupled with the potential of students following me, prompted me to make a professional account. I also don’t know my “Black Twitter” followers like that and didn’t want to explicitly share about my career, especially as I grew to know more people in my city, closing the degrees of separation between me and my students (this was also critical to me as a professional who was barely older than my students).

On my personal account, I can tweet a Yo Gotti lyric or line from The Players Club comfortably and know someone will finish it for me. I also don’t have to concern myself with my character being negatively judged because I indulge in entertainment with heavy themes of misogyny, drug use, etc. On my professional account I give a glimpse into my musical preferences, but it’s to a lesser degree. I still display my personality and share my non-work interests and happenings, but I don’t feel compelled to share much of the aspects of my “ratchet” side. I do think I’d be judged harshly and that those things could overshadow other aspects of my character with white professionals, especially. Black tax is real.

No one taught or instructed me on how to navigate social media and I’ve not read much on it, but I do present to student organizations about the topic. I’m a naturally guarded person and while I’m naturally helpful and want to see people win, I’ve never been concerned about being Miss Popular or having a ton of friends. Considering that, I honestly don’t feel suppressed in this decision to have two accounts, though, because everyone in the world doesn’t need to know everything about me. If they have the pleasure to meet me in person, they’ll likely learn those things about me, but I don’t feel like I have to give anyone all of me to be an authentic person or professional.