Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The UnConference - Entry #16

Earlier this month I attended the annual #satechBOS UnConference for student affairs administrators.  It was a very good conference for information and networking purposes.  More importantly, over the two days we met, a number of student affairs professionals, myself included, were able to come together and, by working totally in sync with each other, were able to create a resource that will benefit the student affairs profession.  My notecards went to a number of the individuals I worked with on this project.  More on this later.  First, let me explain more about the UnConference concept. According to Wikipedia.com it is “a participant-driven meeting…that tries to avoid one or more aspects of a conventional conference, such as…sponsored presentations” or an organized agenda.  Held at Boston University, the broader purpose of the two-day meeting was to look at the impact of technology, primarily, within student affairs.  But, more specifically, the UnConference was designed so:

Participants will not only engage in peer-peer learning around topics they have chosen, but also will be asked to “create” something in those smaller groups through “creation stations.”  Participants will be asked to create, foster, or develop an idea that they can take back to their respective campuses and communities and use immediately.

After the opening keynote, the 100+ attendees split up into breakout areas with topics voted upon by the group.   I attended a session that was billed as “Professional Branding and Managing an Online Presence.”  I didn’t really know what to expect but, if my memory serves me correctly, the 20 or so people in our group started talking about how using social media can build an on-campus presence.  Allison Stinson from Merrimack College spoke about their Pic[ture] of the Day.  Students, Faculty and Staff can submit a photo with some relevance to the school.  One picture is chosen each day (and linked off the institution’s home page).  Allison stated this daily activity had driven traffic to their website and, more importantly, created a buzz on campus.  I thought it was a great idea and lamented there was no repository of social media ideas that individuals could tap into.  Heads began to nod and we all began to brainstorm such a site.  What about developing an administered blog?  A Website? 

After lunch we reconvened into our incubator setting, broke down into subgroups and continued to fine-tune the idea.  We came up with a name—satechSHARE—registered its domain and created a Twitter account.  The impressive aspect of our endeavor was how a gathering of total strangers were able to quickly come together, agree on a direction, and begin to implement it.  There was no grandstanding, no posturing, no glory-seeking.  It was all for one and one for all.  I had never encountered such a collective experience.  We were bees in a hive; ants in a colony with one sole purpose.

Fast forward—there is still work to be done for satechSHARE to become a viable tool for student affairs administrators.  We are hoping to have a finished product by the end of Fall 2012.  The notecards I sent to a number of the main contributors to this idea summarized our experience and expressed my joy of being part of such a collaborative group.  In my 30+ years in this field I have never been involved in such an intense, time constrained undertaking.  I think the saying is catching lightning in a bottle.  We surely did and I wanted to share my euphoria, my glee with these individuals. 

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