Student Affairs Technology

Telling the Student Affairs Story: Answering Big Questions with Big Data

  • Adam Cebulski, Assistant Vice President and Chief of Staff, Southern Methodist University
  • Sara Ousby, Director, Student Affairs Assessment, University of North Texas


  • To discuss trends in big data and the implications for higher ed
  • ID strategies for building data warehouses & analyzing data sets
  • Share successes and challenges
  • Story telling
  • Strategies

Landscape of Big Data

3Vs: variety (lots of kinds of data); volume (more info than we know what to do with); velocity (collecting data at a higher rate than ever before).

There are tons of software packages that “do” big data, but buying software is not going to answer your problem! Big data translates into decision making through different processes, and that’s what we’re going to talk about.


Stories are far better at conveying what your data says than just the data itself. NASPA’s analytics study from 2017 identifies the following entry points for big data for predictive analytics: pre-enrollment > academics > motivation & self-efficacy > use of support services > student engagement

Stories are just data with soul. Stories cross the barriers of time, past, present and future, and allow us to experience the similarities between ourselves and through others, real and imagined.

Create a data story

Data + Narrative + Visuals

Case Study: SMU

We have no centralized data system, and we’re a Peoplesoft campus. We centralized OIT and brought on a new CIO from University of Illinois. We have a large Greek population and we experienced 315% increase in AOD offenses in one academic year. We introduced a number of programs and interventions to address this challenge.

  • Why the large increase?
  • Who is most at risk
  • How and when to intervene?
  • Campus partners: IR, OIT
  • Data identification

We’re a Maxient campus, so we did a lot of ETL (extract, transform and load) processes to make this work from a technical perspective., Maxient offers no APIs.

We built a BEAM model: Business Event Analysis & Modeling

  • Customer focused
  • Flexible design
  • Report neutral
  • Prevents rework
  • Saves time

Goal was to build a data warehouse to assist with our analysis and reporting. We started in 2017 and plan to launch in the next week with a dashboard as part of phase one. We needed to hire a data architect and data visualizer: these were university hires that “live” in OIT. At $125K each, these are not cheap resources (but they are an excellent investment).

A BEAM table consists of events and then we think about related events, i.e. sports game, finals, etc. that could be related. At the top we consider a range of other items associated with the charge/sanction, i.e. weather, did we win the game, what class level is the student, etc. We even pull in data about the students, such as if their parents are wealthy donors. This allows us to create a “star schema” which creates a comprehensive picture of the issue. Some of the criteria allow us to set a ranking for each of the events, which in turn allows us to prioritize items. One of the data points is which offices are responsible for addressing the issues. We started with 100, but grew to 279 unique variables that could be associated with a particular conduct case.

These variables allow us to build dashboards that rationalize the data for our staff (intervention or otherwise). The vast majority of people in the system were actually recruits. It’s mostly 1st and 2nd years that get caught up in our system. We were able to change policy immediately based on the insights our system provides.

Case Study: University of North Texas

We are 38,000 students in the DFW metroplex. We are minority majority, public tier one institution. 1st year residential requirement. Majority live in Denton County.

Our Questions

  • What are the differences in retention for students who are engaged on campus?
  • What are the differences in GPA for students who are engaged on campus?
  • Campus partners: Data analytics & IR, IT shared serices
  • Data Collection

We are going to pull card swipe data into our system soon! We’re going through the data dictionary of card swipes now, primarily using Excel and lots of pivot tables. We’re looking right now at correlation information with respect to retention.

We’ve had a lot of growth in card swipe usage. We have 220,000 card swipes into our student recreation center, and we plan to pull in the Career Center’s info next. There does appear to be a difference in retention of card swipers over non card swipers (81.18% vs. 64.02%).

Telling our story and making decisons

  • Focus on completion
  • 1st year students are those leaving at the greatest rates
  • Most impact on FTIC
  • Higher impact on men

Q: Are you planning an ROI analysis?

AC: We quantified every action with a dollar value. Our interventions have already saved over a million dollars so far. We swipe for EVERYTHING (we use CampusLabs).

Q: What does your data cleaning process look like?

AC: it’s awful! And, it’s ongoing. We’ve had to create many transformation tables, and we had a lot of silo’ed data that needed work.

SA: your data dictionary will go a long way in solving this challenge.

Q: are card swipes weighted equally?

SA: yes (for now). But we’re looking at this. Card swiping is now universal across the campus.

AC: we tie our NSSE and use ID Link to tie our data together.

Student Affairs Technology

Collegiate Esports: The Biggest World You’ve Never Heard Of


  • Eugene Frier, Texas Wesleyan University
  • Kathy Chiang, Arena Coordinator, University of California, Irvine

“Esports have grown WAY beyond “kids playing video games in the basement while drinking Mountain Dew and eating Cheetos.” The events are geeing bigger and bigger; the industry is becoming more professional; and audience and revenue growth are big and growing fast. Brand are involved in a big way: sports teams, broadcast media, mainstream brands, and Esports teams all field competitive Esports teams. What’s still “kind of weird” to some of us is normal for our students.

Timeline: student organizations > independent leagues > developer leagues > varsity programs

Origins – Community

  • Student clubs: independent, grassroots; unofficial support from developers
  • Collegiate Starleague (CSL): founded in 2009; modeled after South Korea’s StarCraft ProLeague

Origins – Developers

  • TESPA: founded in 2012, acquired by Blizzard in 2013, heroes of the dorm 2015
  • College League of Legends: NACC in 2015, uLOL in 2016, College League of Legends in 2017.

Origins – Colleges & Universities

  • Creation of varsity programs: started in 2014; Three active in 2015, six active in 2016, 27 active in 2017

Current Day Colegiate Esports

It’s a Multi-Layered Ecosystem

  • Student orgs: focused on member development; some of the biggest and most well-funded orgs on campus
  • Varsity programs: 100+ programs in 2018, often built like athletic teams. Scholarships range from a couple thousand per year to full-ride.
  • Twitch student: huge advocate for student voices; pathways to create and monetize streams.
  • Collegiate leagues: 3rd party and developer/publisher leagues; advocates for students, varsity programs; competitive league + support infrastructure.
  • Scholarships and prize winnings.

Student-led vs. Varsity

UCI case study: 2011-2019: LoL pushed the boundaries of what we could do at a university. Top two accomplishments: world-viewing party in 2013 (a highly social event – over 800 attendees at our first event, then 1,800 at our next one!); we expanded into an umbrella organization that ended up being the largest group on campus. We currently give scholarships for League of Legends and Overwatch.

Texas Wesleyan University case study 2017-2019: what can we do to stay relevant and competitive and engage with students? I spoke with over a dozen universities and companies to figure out what we could do. After speaking with Athletics, we realized it would fit better into Student Affairs programming. We based it on the three pillars of Competition, Creation, Community. What made it land with senior administration was how this program connects with “the murky middle,” or students who don’t fit into traditional modes of student engagement. This program can be the “hook” for students who aren’t connecting in other areas. Most of our students do a lot more than gaming!

Benefits to Current Generation

  • Old expectations: local, segmented (age, gender, region), static, trusting in authority.
  • New expectations: global, segmented by ability, dynamic, democratic.

More Opportunities

  • Involvement beyond competition: production, content creation, shoutcasting, management, digital marketing, event planning
  • Soft skill development
  • Meaningful involvement for students who don’t always see their interests represented on campus


  • College esports are here
  • Meet expectations of a digital age
  • Opportunity to engage with students
  • Growth

Student Affairs Technology

Applying the Technology Competency on Your Campus



  • There’s a Google Drive link coming that contains all the information
  • #ApplyTechComp

Pretty good turnout for this session, considering it’s at 8:30 and down in the convention center’s basement ūüôā Got an opportunity to finally meet Lisa Endersby in person and catch up with some #SATech friends. Let’s see what Jeremiah has in store for us…

Lisa introduced Jeremiah and made a few shameless plugs for other sessions at the conference.



  • Competency Background
  • Michigan Tech Background
  • Our Process
  • You and Your Campus

Competency Background

  • Provides a game plan and establishes what we should be doing
  • Tech was incorporated into many different areas in bits and pieces, and talk about a standalone technology competency began in earnest in 2010
  • Special thanks to: Matthew Brinton, Joe Sabado, Josie Ahlquist, Lisa Endersby
  • Established rubric in October 2016! This is a tool that will help members of the student affairs profession to utilize and engage with the competency areas on their campuses.

Michigan Tech Background

  • 7,000 students, founded 1885
  • Our Student Affairs division contains advancement, which is a bit unique.
  • January 2012: a charge from Dr. Les Cook to form a committee to address the 2035 vision of “High Tech, High Touch.” Central idea behind the group to consider how we embrace and push the technology agenda.
  • Technology Advance Committee: multi-member group from all areas of SA and Advancement; research & present seminars/trends and work with professional development committee and leadership team to provide recommendations.
  • Challenge: small surveys work great, redundancy of seminars, needed a plan

Our Process

  • Large doc; how to apply, how to inform, how to standardize?
  • Break down the competency
  • Assess the areas: technical hardware/software; professional dev (networking); technology like SoMe and collaboration tools.
  • We let our IT division know we were planning to do this assessment. Bring them into the conversation!
  • Use your professional networks!
  • Every department has its own SoMe accounts; we needed to figure out what was going on and who was in charge of things. Transition was a concern .
  • How to evaluate? Create a baseline evaluation and rubric survey for all staff members. NASPA HAS DONE THIS FOR YOU!
  • Our survey: questions a user can self-rate; comfort levels; open questions; 50 questions in total including department identification.
  • Our VP helped to hype the survey, including how we planned to use the information to inform increased resources/training.
  • CampusLabs is the backbone of our survey.
  • 39.75% response rate; largely mid-ranged responses; additional areas of professional development needed
  • Wanted to figure out where our people were uncomfortable. It turned out that a lot of our people didn’t know where to turn for help.
  • You can use our assessment for your own campuses, and we encourage you to use it!
  • Next Steps: present findings to SA and Advancement directors; meet with professional dev committee for recommendations; assist in professional development; reassess one year from initial survey.
  • We’re right in the middle of this process…we hope to¬†see improvement next year!

You & Your Campus

  • This is very accessible, and the model we think is useful for any size campus
  • Join TKC
  • Self-assessment:Figuring out what you’re comfortable with is important
  • Training resources: YouTube, knowledge base, ticket database
  • Reach out and ask! People out there have had the exact same problem as you in the past.
  • What to do at the campus level? ¬†Join the TKC; create a committee (does not have to meet on a regular basis), talk to others; use the rubric/create an assessment; training resources; reach out and ask.
  • To get people to complete your assessment, tell them¬†what you’re doing and what they’re going to get out of it.
  • The main thing is to TRY SOMETHING! Now is the time to jump on this!


  • How were the survey results shared with your IT division? How were¬†they¬†received, and did¬†it result in changes in service/collaboration between divisions? Our IT department gets 250 tickets a day, they’ve been able to use our assessment to help streamline some processes and develop some training materials to help improve services.
  • Did you have others in your division who were interested in participating in the competency area? Yes, but we were able to use this assessment and model as a starting point.
Student Affairs

Dr. Estela Bensimon – Making Race Talk Routine


Welcome message from Dr. William Watkins

  • This is the fifth annual Terry Piper lecture!
  • It’s our pleasure to host development and enrichment programs such as this, and it’s wonderful to see such a turnout.
  • Shout outs: ¬†Cheryl Spector, Shellie Hadvina, Ben Quillian, Frank Stranzl, Randy Reynaldo, Abraham (didn’t catch last name – sorry Abraham), Matt Perez, Meryl Simon, Shelley Ruelas-Bischoff, Michael Clemens
  • Purpose of this lecture series: ¬†gather faculty, staff, and administrators to acknowledge our work together and interconnected responsibilities for student learning and success.
  • Terry served as VP of Student Affairs at CSUN from 2001 – 2010.
  • Terry’s mission: ¬†to forge and amplify the work that we all do in support of student success: ¬†we ALL have a role in helping our students make it to the finish line.
  • Terry would want us to remember the amazing work of Dr. Jose Luis Vargas, who passed away late last month.

Forward by CSUN Provost Dr Yi Li

  • Though I did not know Terry, his legacy at CSUN is deep and it influences my work.
  • One outcome of Terry’s legacy are multiple collaborations between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs; this lecture series is just one example of that.
  • US Census Bureau: ¬†“majority minority” is a coming reality for the United States. ¬†By 2018, 45% of all jobs will require a higher education…so our work is incredibly important.
  • CSUN has already arrived at this point! ¬†It is important for us to lead the way for our sister campuses, and campuses across the nation.
  • Dr. Bensimon is a Distinguished Professor of Higher Education at the USC Rossier School of Education and Co-Director of the Center for Urban Education, which she founded in 1999.
  • Race, empathy and student success are the themes of Dr. Bensimon’s work. ¬†Recommendations based on¬†her work have been implemented at over 40 campuses across the country.
  • Dr. Bensimon spent a few moments thanking the folks who helped make this event happen.

It’s important for us to mobilize our power on behalf of others…we have so much more power than we realize: ¬†social networks, authority to make change in our institutions, and more.

Has much changed between 1964 and 2016? ¬†Sometimes it’s hard to see…

Why is Race Talk So Difficult?

  • We’re fearful we’ll say the wrong thing, we’re afraid of being called a racist.
  • Fear of conflict is an obstacle to discussing and addressing racial/ethnic inequity.
  • In higher education, we’re overly polite at times (collegiality)
  • Shared a comic to highlight disparities in the accumulation of generational differences
  • “The Diversity Agenda” makes it easier to NOT talk about race. ¬†The history of the word is tied to the 2003 Supreme Court decision about the University of Michigan (could race be used as one of the admissions criteria? ¬†Answer: ¬†yes).
  • Diversity Misunderstood and Misused: ¬†Chief Justice Roberts asks: ¬†“Why does diversity matter in a physics class?”

Details of Racial Inequality

  • Wealth gap is real.
  • Mortgages are the primary means of wealth for the middle class; mortgages are denied to black and latino families than whites.
  • Black and latino students are more likely to attend poorly funded school. ¬†On average, these students are shorted $733
  • Affluent schools have AP courses, which helps students with access to advance more quickly.
  • Grad rates at CSUN: ¬†4 year 14%, 6 year 48%, 8 year 55%
  • Aggregate data doesn’t tell the whole story! (Will need to see if the slides will be made available…I’ll post if I find it).
  • Detailed slide of CSUN’s Student and Faculty Representation by Race/Ethnicity, Fall 2014. ¬†Big takeaway: ¬†white students are the minority (26%), and white faculty are by far the majority (65%). ¬†However, this “is fairly typical and not something for us to feel too bad about.”

Language Used To Talk About Race

  • Avoid ambiguous term like At Risk, Non-Traditional, Minority, URM (Under Represented Minority)
  • The CSU does this a lot and I really think it shouldn’t. ¬†People don’t identify themselves like this, neither should we. ¬†I to personally agree with this in a big way
  • Caucasian, European, American; why are these terms not ok? ¬† A German Anatomist (Johann Friedrich Blumenbach) who was into racial classification identified these “races” as a measure of Christian perfection.

The Meaning of Equity

  • Diversity != Equity
  • The antidote to diversity, rooted in civil rights principles.
  • Redistribution of resources to provide for those with the greatest need
  • Financial aid is a form of equity.
  • Racism is created by structural inequality.

Structural Racism

  • Important to recognize and name it
  • Institutions are molded to certain values and certain people. ¬†They have historicity associated with them.
  • “Neutral” often masks structural racism
  • We need to be equity-minded to help be more systemically aware; need to focus and put the emphasis on the institution.
  • Understand inequity as a dysfunction of structures, policy, and practices
  • Question assumptions and take action to eliminate

Example:  Euniversity of Wisconsin Eau Claire

  • Honors program was 100% white
  • Criteria: ¬†ACT test scores
  • NOW: ¬†they use multiple entrance criteria

Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine

  • Faculty experience the institution differently
  • A series of slides highlighted the differences between perceptions of campus racial climate, depending on your own race
  • We typically think that “Student Commitment + Student Effort = Student Success”
  • Cultural practices may not exist in some schools and households
  • Inequitable outcomes != emerge from deficits in: ¬†motivation, direction , engagement, effort, discipline, study skills, time, commitment. ¬†NEED TO REFRAME THIS
  • We need to focus on what we can control within the institution. ¬†Require new: ¬†institutional structures, cultures, practices, routines
  • We need to look to the data to notice racial inequities. ¬†Go course by course, section by section! ¬†This is hard work, and sometimes there is fear by faculty that it may unearth uncomfortable facts.
  • Essential Equity Practice: ¬†Disaggregate > Report > Set Goals.
  • Report the state of equity by department. ¬†The numbers that result are manageable!

Can You Make Race Talk a Routine?

  • Yes / No?
  • What will it require?
  • Who will lead it?
  • What stands in the way?

Reactions / Q&A

  • Catherine Stevenson (director of dev math at CSUN): ¬†parallels between developmental education for students and for faculty are profound. ¬†Students can succeed if you can show them what they need to do and then provide “do-able actions.” ¬†How do you help institutions find those practical steps. ¬†Dr. Bensimon: ¬†we use data to inform actions; we train faculty on the protocols to use to help implement those changes. ¬†Example: ¬†work-study students may not have been trained to understand and identify student help-seeking as a cultural practice (some cultures do no encourage reaching out for help and view it as a personal failure). ¬†Another example: ¬†syllabi can be modified to help facilitate learning. ¬†This has been a powerful tool for faculty in reviewing and re-stating pedagogical philosophy.
  • Nicole Olson (graduate student): ¬†I think we can make race talk a routine, but it will require awareness of biases. ¬†Senior administration, departments, faculty and student working groups can help to address this. ¬†Dr. Bensimon: ¬†can you give an example when race was NOT discussed?
  • Catherine, Financial Aid: ¬†I think it can be done, I see it in my own department. ¬†You have to have the courage to talk about it! ¬†My director has done this without fear – we talked about the Mizzou situation, and was a safe space for us all to talk about things.
  • Dr. William Watkins: ¬†have we ever actually talked about race directly on this campus? ¬†Yes, particularly during CA proposition 209. ¬†Dr. Bensimon: ¬†sometimes laws are made to be broken ūüôā
  • Admissions & Records: ¬†we recently went into full impaction, and race often hasn’t come into play in the discussions we’ve had in A&R (personal note: ¬†this has been discussed extensively¬†among Student Affairs leadership…what this tells me is that we need to do more active outreach on our own campus!). ¬†Dr. Watkins: ¬†we’ve been so focused on the public, we haven’t provided enough education internally. ¬†We’re going to change that right away via internal focus groups.
  • SAP (Satisfactory Academic Progress) is often a barrier. ¬†Dr. Bensimon: ¬†we have a tool that analyzes the language used on university web sites…and number of clicks it takes to get to certain info.
  • Becky from Library: ¬†if white is preferable to “European,” does this apply to Middle Eastern students? ¬†How does that break down and is it useful when speaking about race? ¬†Dr. Bensimon: ¬†we don’t address that issue specifically, but we’re clear about the basis of research, which is that equity and status in this country have a basis¬†in slavery, racism and economic barriers. ¬†I don’t actually know how Middle Eastern students identify themselves.
  • Vanessa Bustamante: ¬†goals are important! ¬†My studies on gap analysis re: faculty hiring were not easy in Academic Affairs. ¬†When I moved to Student Affairs, my studies opened up dramatically. ¬†Dr. Bensimon: ¬†we’re doing work with CLU ¬†right now. ¬†Another audience member – didn’t catch her name: We cannot have real clear goals on hiring due to proposition 209.
Student Affairs Technology Uncategorized

Student Affairs and Social Media

Warning: ¬†I’m about to sound like a curmudgeon. ¬†I’ve held my tongue (so to speak) on this topic for several years now, but¬†Eric Stoller’s post today in Inside Higher Ed was the straw that broke the camel’s back. ¬†And to be clear, this has nothing to do with this specific¬†post, or with Eric¬†personally. ¬†I’ve never met Eric, and I find many of his posts thought-provoking and entertaining. ¬†I just had to put what I’ve been thinking about into words.

Maybe I need to broaden my online reading horizons, but whenever I see¬†posts about technology in¬†student affairs, nine times out of ten it’s¬†about social media. ¬†Social media and leadership. ¬†Social media and identity. ¬†Social media and the admissions process. ¬†Social media and emergency notification systems. ¬†Social media and campus climate. ¬†Social media and why you’re missing the boat¬†if you’re not on¬†the latest platform. ¬†Enough already! ¬†Without a doubt,¬†social media is important, and there are interesting ramifications for students with this new “permanent record” that we older folks haven’t come to grips with yet.

Many¬†rising stars in the student affairs profession¬†are brilliant¬†at using¬†social media as a platform for self-promotion. ¬†An irrepressibly upbeat attitude coupled with a¬†positive message goes a long way in this field. ¬†If you have an EdD, you’re probably also an unstoppable force of nature and you don’t give a damn what I think. ¬†Popularity contests don’t bother me. ¬†What bothers me is the¬†implicit connection being made that somehow social media IS technology.

That’s wrong, and it really grinds my gears. ¬†Mastery of social media is not the same thing as mastery of technology.

Legions of IT pros in student affairs support an incredibly diverse range of systems, services and infrastructure. ¬†Most of them work behind the scenes and don’t draw any attention to themselves. ¬†It just so happens that the¬†things they work on aren’t perceived as being as sexy as “SoMe.” ¬†But the¬†systems they manage are an integral part of what makes a university run.¬†¬†And if any of those systems¬†fail, boy howdy.

What makes social media interesting as a technology (at least to me) is that they’re¬†platforms designed from the ground up AS PLATFORMS. ¬†They’re easy to integrate with and can “talk to” virtually any system you can shake a stick at. ¬†But this isn’t what student affairs social media evangelists talk about. ¬†They instead use it as a fulcrum to leverage against current hot topics in the field.

I usually don’t complain without bringing some sort of solution to the table, but in this case I’m annoyed and need to vent a bit. ¬†Maybe the quiet techies¬†need to speak up more and participate in standards-making bodies. ¬†Maybe they should be¬†more active in (gasp) social media. ¬†The only thing I can say for sure is that I’d really like to see the student affairs social media evangelists slow their roll¬†a smidge.

Frankly, I doubt this post will resonate with anyone.  Hardly a surprise, given my massive double-digit readership.  Maybe I should take the hint and use social media more effectively << sighs >>

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