Josie: What’s up Josie and the Podcast listeners and welcome to Season Three. I am Dr. Josie Ahlquist and that you so much for tuning in for this episode. The goal of Josie and the Podcast is to connect tech and leadership with heart, soul, sass, and lots of substance.
Josie and the Podcast is sponsored by Campus Sonar, who is more to me and the show than a sponsor. They have been a true partner, which is actually their approach to the campuses they support through social listening. You see, social listening is the modern higher education professional’s tool to inform strategic, authentic, and consistent engagement efforts. Your campus will immediately see a difference, but the real value is over the long-term. It supports the higher education institution of the future, driving strategic efforts to help you reach your institutional goals.
They have a new ebook, The Higher Ed Social Listening Handbook, and it’s my go to resource. I’ve cited it in blogs, my book, and yes even this podcast, which has tips to conduct social listening including a strategic model, key metrics, and over a dozen campus case studies on things like crisis management, student engagement, brand management, influencer marketing, and audience research. You can download it today at info.campussonar.com/podcast. Now, onto what you tuned in for, this week’s guest.
Our guest this week is Dr. Mary Boyd, Provost at Berry College. Mary received her Doctorate in Chemistry from the University of Toronto. Today, as Provost she also leads numerous federal and foundational grants that focus on topics such as fostering student retention and success, as well as the retention and advancement of female science faculty, particularly women of color. You can tell Mary has an esteemed background within the academy, but also role models how to be an engaging higher ed leader on social media. She has a unique position as a Provost, or what she calls the Chief Academic Officer, but it’s also interesting to get a peek into her vantage point and how she keeps herself grounded and accessible.
You’ll hear this word accessibility come up a lot. Also listen in for how she talked about inclusion and uplifting others. Let Mary and I know you’ve joined us today, I’m on Twitter @JosieAhlquist, the podcast is @JosieATPodcast. And Mary is @MaryKBoyd. Remember, all the resources, people, and content we chat about, they’re all in the show notes located at JosieAhlquist.com/podcast. Enjoy.
Thank you so much for joining me today on the podcast. I’m very excited to have you on the show. We were already talking about maybe having some Friday morning banter, which is just perfect for a podcast. Let’s just start right away, a little bit of a warm up. You use Twitter a lot and you’ve already been tweeting today. Tell me about your latest tweet.
Mary: Sure, and thank you so much for the opportunity to talk on the podcast and talk about higher education, technology, and ways that I find it’s really helpful for a Provost to be engaged in social media and technology to advance their roles and responsibilities. As an early morning person, I mean a really early morning person, I go to our fitness center on campus every morning at 6:00 AM and I encourage others to join me. Last year we started, one faculty member came, and then another one, and if somebody ever missed one of those meetings we started a social media shaming, why weren’t you at The Cage? Our fitness center on campus is called The Cage. Why weren’t you at The Cage this morning? And eventually it devolved into people coming just on Friday mornings.
So we started a Friday Fitness Challenge. Today another faculty member and I were both issued the challenge to each other’s classes on the first year seminar to see who could get the most students to The Cage to work out at 6:00 in the morning. And another person then said that he would make muffins for whichever class came with all students. So we were there at 6:00 AM, one person came a little late so there was social media shaming involved that he wasn’t there at 6:00. Alas, my class I only had one student this morning and the other professor had four. So I have reissued the Friday Fitness Challenge, the faculty member, the other person doesn’t have to make muffins yet, but I’m confident that we will yet win.
Josie: Oh my gosh, that is amazing. A little health and wellness, a little fun, a little sass.
Mary: Yeah, I think that’s really the best of social media, when you’re engaging with people and forming relationships and deeper connections, to use social media through that. So it really is a lot of fun to do that. And I should say, earlier this week I had another student who did join me at 6:00 AM, so we’re working on it.
Josie: That’s great. So talking about fun and pretty epic content, you have a pinned tweet. It’s always fun to see what people choose to pin. But this was pretty epic. It’s something you created, or someone created a meme of you and JJ Watt, who is a football player, we’ll include who that is in the show notes and this tweet, which is both of you erupting in this passionate stance, you welcoming in fall. So tell us more about that. Again, that tweet was literally like, I need to get this Provost on the podcast immediately.
Mary: Thank you. Last spring, in fact I was at The Cage working out one morning and I tore some of my elbow tendons and needed some surgery. And when the splint came off the orthopedic surgeon gave me this brace, this massive elbow brace with these four bands that strap it around your arm. So I went into a meeting wearing this brace and another person there looked at me and then immediately sent me that picture of JJ Watt, which he had seen recently. And it looked exactly the same. So I thought we could have some fun with that. I asked our football coach for a jersey, so that is a Berry College Viking’s jersey. We then recreated the photo in my office. My assistant helped with it, and we kept looking at the JJ Watt photos, and we were in the same position. Took that and then I sent it to my daughter who then photoshopped in the background to make it as close to JJ Watt as possible.
And putting that out there has gotten really tremendous response. My brother, who’s also on social media, just said who knew his tiny sister had so much rage in her. But students have really resonated with it in my freshman first year seminar class. They have all seen that photo and so that’s the photo that they use for their GroupMe chat, the same photo of me in the JJ Watt pose. It was really … I think again, it’s sort of the best part of social media is stop taking yourself too seriously. A visual image here really captured exactly what we were trying to say. It was terrific.
Josie: That reference that you just called yourself was literally passing through my mind as you said it, about not taking yourself too seriously, which based on personality and position may come counterculture in academics. And on the Provost academic literally side of the house, I could see how your students would be really drawn to you, but how many others around you or in the industry that would be a big jump for them to take.
Mary: Yeah, I think that that’s a good point and I think it’s especially hard for women who are starting out in the field. But at any point, to be taken with a certain credibility academics need to present themselves with this level of gravitas, or very serious. I find that this is the same way that I would teach my classes. My disciplinary background is Organic Chemistry, and we would go into this class and build this learning community of students where we really … I just said, this is gonna be a great class, we’re gonna have fun in this class, and not being afraid to laugh at myself when I made mistake, which happens a lot when you’re writing things or preparing material. Owning up to that, and I think it forms points of connections with students.
When I was teaching and now in social media, it’s really a conscious decision I have to present myself as a whole person. Both as an academic, as a professor, as a chemist, but also as a wife, and a mom, with three cats and a dog. These are my hobbies, these are the things I like to do, I want students to feel that they have this connection with me. And through that relationship that we can develop, they’re more willing to share about themselves. So I find that I can help students and work with them more, advise them better, if I know what they’re willing to share with me. They are more willing to share if I’m also willing to share something of myself. Part of that is just being light hearted, connecting in with pop culture as much as I can, so that I can relate to students on their level.
Josie: We really do have to show up in that vulnerable front in the classroom, to how you’re integrating social media. You’ve used the word community a few times already, and I just absolutely love your description of the whole person as it relates to wherever you’re showing up and all those different identities that you hold. Because that really is the goal, right? To be able to connect with for example your role with students.
Mary: Yeah, absolutely. And so I think it can be difficult for younger faculty, and especially women and persons of color who have to develop an authoritative presence in the classroom and with their students. And trying to balance that by also representing who they are in their entirety, that is I think a difficult balance and one that I think you can become more comfortable at the more you’re doing it. Of course, you have to still have appropriate boundaries when you’re engaging with the internet and with students, but I think it’s possible to do that being aware of where is an appropriate line and how much can I share with students to make them feel as though they know who I am as a person and that I care about them as individuals?
Josie: I think you’re a great example to learn from, that’s why I got you on the podcast. I’m sure will talk about maybe others folks can follow later on. Maybe since we’re talking about the classroom we can jump to this questions about … well, you’re my first Provost that I’ve had on. I’ve had faculty on before, those that have taught. So for those that aren’t familiar with that role, because we may have listeners that are newer to higher ed or just tuning in, maybe explain what that role provides for your campus or for general in higher ed, and how your career involved into that position.
Mary: Oh thanks, that’s a great question. The Provost is the Chief Academic Officer of an institution, so is responsible for everything concerning academics at an institution and on campus. So that would be all of the faculty, schools, departments, divisions, majors, minors, the library, for some institutions the Chief Information Officer reports to the Provost, not here at Berry but some institutions. Really everything to do with the academic enterprise at the institution reports up under the Provost.
And for me, I certainly didn’t set out to move into academic administration. Began my career, I was a professor of Organic Chemistry and did that for a while, for many years, 15 years, before moving into a Department Chair role. And then when you start working at a role like that and collaborating across departments, you can see what type of impact you can have then. I was nominated to apply for a Dean position, applied for a position as the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of San Diego. And when I was nominated I remember asking one of my mentors, I’m pretty happy as a Department Chair, should I even respond to this? And her response, which I thought was really very insightful and thoughtful, she said whenever she applies for a job she learns something about herself.
And I thought that was a great response. I’m gonna apply for this job and see what I learn about myself. And so by researching the institution, what it meant to be a Dean now responsible for all of Arts and Sciences, I realized that that was something that was really very compelling for me. Because while I’m in Chemistry, I love the Arts, the Humanities, Social Sciences, and so it was really this chance to work across all those disciplines.
And then from there moving into a Chief Academic Officer role, now has the opportunity to really work across all of the academic areas. So here at Berry College I also have … there’s a School of Education, there’s a School of Business, there’s also a Nursing program. And so the traditional Arts and Sciences, but then also these other really great pre professional programs, and connecting what the student experience should be across all of those, and the opportunity to work really closely with Student Affairs. I have really wonderful colleagues who served in Chief Student Affair Officers positions, Vice President for Student Affairs or Dean of Students, and then creating this seamless experience for students. Because I think that students don’t look at their college experience as, here’s what I do in the classroom and here’s what I do outside the classroom. To them it’s just the college experience.
Mary: So being able to cross all of these disciplines and boundaries, forming connections with people, all to ensure that students can be entirely successful in their undergraduate career and then also in graduate school. How can we create the best academic environment for students to be successful?
Josie: What is your favorite part of being a Provost?
Mary: I’m gonna take two though. I would say the first one, I really love working with faculty, getting to know faculty, providing the resources and professional development that faculty need to do what it is that they do. So I don’t know if you remember this old ad for a BASF chemical company. They would say, we don’t make the things you use, we make the things you use better. So I like to think that I don’t do the things that faculty do, not all of them, but I make it possible for them, or I want to make it possible for them to do those things and do them better with whatever resources that they need in order to connect with their students in their teaching, in their scholarly and creative work, and in their service both within the college and the larger community. And I would say that’s first one, is working with faculty.
And then my second one is really working with my colleagues on the cabinet, especially in Student Affairs, to create the student experience but also with enrollment management to understand how do we communicate to prospective students the type of educational experience that with can offer. So I really love working across boundaries as well.
Josie: Creating that cohesive and even wholistic experience, you’re right. You mentioned earlier, students don’t see the separation and difference, it’s just the one piece, even though we might hide ourselves out in different offices and divisions. It sounds like you’re a great collaborator across campus to do that.
Mary: Yeah, absolutely. Those are boundaries that we have designed on a functional level. What are the things we need to do in the classroom? What are the things we do in the co-curriculum? That’s just for us in terms of our transactions and functional work, it doesn’t necessarily relate to what the student experience is or should be.
Josie: Technology is another component of your lens, which is a perfect fit for this podcast. And I learned you have seven Cs for technology in higher ed, can you share what those are with us and why they’re so important?
Mary: I think, and worked with colleagues too to really help develop and refine this, I think that it’s important for higher education to provide experience for students so that when they graduate they’re able to communicate, collaborate, create, and compete in the Cloud for their community and their careers. And I think that then we have to model for students how it’s possible to do those things. So I try very hard to be 100% digital in my workflow and practice. I think it’s pretty … I can get to 95% and even 98%, but those last couple of percents to get 100% digital is pretty hard. But I think that that’s the world that students are graduating and going out to, where they’re expected to be able to operate at this level of technology whatever they decide to do in the next phase of their lives and their careers.
So as much as we can do to help provide those opportunities for students to see how they can use technology to assist their learning, to communicate with other people, to collaborate, so it gets back into those seven Cs. Every time I think about what it is that we want to do when we’re educating students, of course it’s learning the foundation knowledge and how to become critical thinkers, it’s about how to become really strong and relationally intelligent with students, with each other, and also to develop what is it that’s important to you, what your mission in life and how do you want to go forward doing that. And part of that can be showing students how important technology will be for them in the future and how they can use that to achieve their goals.
Josie: For you to even say, to bring up what’s your mission in your life when we’re talking about technology, you’re speaking my language.
Mary: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s part of … at Berry College that’s very important to us, is how do we help students develop that. What’s their mission and how can we help them to graduate and develop that track and keep going forward so that they can take that on really strongly as they graduate whether that’s going onto graduate school or professional school, moving into their first position after graduation. Technology is gonna be there wherever the student is, and so how do we make sure that they’re able to use that and embrace it.
Josie: Again, you’re my first Provost on the podcast, you were an easy pick as in talking about football culture. I don’t do the drafts, or when you pick your different players that you’re gonna have for the season.
Mary: Right, absolutely.
Josie: I would be so horrible at that. But anyway, I think I do pretty good for who I pick to be on the podcast. So again, you’re one of the few Provosts I see really active online, even though I’m starting to see more. If we were to compare to Vice Presidents or Presidents that are really active, and especially the way that you show up, because when I go to a campus and if I am asked and tasked to speak to faculty specifically about social media and those that are at the executive level, a Provost or a Dean, I tend to get quite a bit of pushback about that value add. Even in the classroom, but especially for their own integration, for their own Twitter account, or a blog, or something like that.
Maybe a multitude of questions, maybe this is selfish for my own understanding when I get up in front of faculty, is who else, who other Provosts or other faculty are you finding that are really showing up in this whole way, in this lens to build community? And then what advice do you have, or insight would you have for faculty, for academics, that have that pushback or that resistance about social media in their roles?
Mary: Yeah, I think I would go back to the first time I entered social media. This was back in 2006, maybe 2007. I was teaching a class or Organic Chemistry, and there’s a lot … students come to office hours, but I wanted students to know that they could email me any questions. If there was something they were working on they didn’t have to wait for the next office hour, they could just email me. And every day in class I would go in and say, don’t forget, you can email me any questions. And nobody would email me.
So I mentioned this to one of my younger colleagues and he said, oh Mary, email, nobody uses email, you have to be on Facebook. Why do I have to be on Facebook? And he said, because that’s how students communicate. And I said, but that’s just … it’s online, it’s still digital or electronic, what’s the difference between sending me an email or asking somebody to Facebook me. And he said, just trust me.
So I set up a closed Facebook group for my class and I went into class the next day and said, remember you can email me or I set up this group, you could Facebook me. And the class just exploded. Oh my gosh, we could Facebook you. And they were so excited. Remember, this was 10 years ago. Before I was back in my office, half the class had already joined this closed Facebook group. And I thought, somehow this was different for students than email now. I didn’t know why, but I read somewhere and I wish I knew where the source was, that back then asking someone to email you was like asking them to meet you in a coffee shop. But Facebooking somebody was showing up at their residence hall room and handing them a cup of coffee.
So it’s really about meeting students where there are, but still appropriately, not being intrusive in their lives. And so for me, that was my watershed moment, in understanding that in order to be where students are, I have to be using the platforms that they’re using. So a couple of years ago when I heard that for our freshman class coming in their preferred … 23% of the students said that they only used SnapChat, and for all of them this was their preferred method of social media. I went, okay and I went right back to my office and I formed a SnapChat account, because that’s where students were. And I realize that I don’t have to be there, I don’t think SnapChat is really my thing, although I do use it.
So I think that convincing people, faculty, administrators, this is where students are, this is where your students are, it’s where prospective students are, it’s where their parents might be, it’s where other institutions and how other institutions and people might want to connect with you, that I think is the value of social media. It makes you accessible and it provides this other method for communication that students really value because that’s how they communicate. Now of course, official class posts and everything still go on email. But for those other ways of connecting with students, I think that social media is enormously important.
Josie: That visual comparison between showing up with a cup of coffee, that is true. These platforms are looked at differently. Even for you to jump onto SnapChat, to be willing to engage there if that’s where they are. I remember my early days as a new professional, the only way to get some of my students to reply was through … it wasn’t AIM, but it had to have been MSN Messenger or something, one of the chat applications. But for my Director at the time he’s like, where are you communicating with your students? Why are you doing that? I was like, hey I’m getting the answers that I need. They’re not replying. So that’s a really great example, I really appreciate that. Are there other examples of Provost or faculty that you enjoy following on social?
Mary: There are a lot of other faculty, certainly in Chemistry community. People have different personas and ways that they use social media. I’ve seen some Provosts use it more as headlines, promoting something great that’s happened at their institution and linking to an article, I think that’s one of the great values of Twitter, but share less about themselves. Some use it really well to communicate actively and as a way of flock leadership. They’ll use their social media platform to do that because they know it has much bigger reach than if they just publish in traditional academic journals or by giving presentations at conferences. That it has this enormous reach across social media for other people to engage with them.
Why don’t other Provosts use Twitter or any form of social media? I think partly it’s not understanding how to do it or what are the ways that you can … how does it benefit both you and your institution and your role in the institution. Part of it is just not knowing how to do it, and so a little bit of intimidation towards that. I’ve given presentations at Chief Academic Officer meetings on engaging in social media, and the rooms are always fully, but I don’t know how many of them actually follow it afterwards.
Josie: So for you, is this built into your DNA? Have you put in any support systems to stay active? What would that advice be after they do at least have a sprinkle of knowledge? What would be your hope in keeping them active all year long?
Mary: I think part of it is understanding that it doesn’t take a lot of time to be active if what you want to do is just post certain things. You can just schedule short windows during your day to either, you could certainly schedule your posts ahead of time so that they come out during the day, or just checking at different times of the day for when you want to engage. I think it’s understanding. When people understand that the value of social media is not just in how many followers or how ever many likes you have, but the depth of the engagement you have, that I think can seem a little intimidating. So if I put something up, then I have to keep engaging with people. Of course you do, that’s the value of social media.
I think that mostly when people are not it’s because they don’t know how to do it, so they’re little wondering. They’ll often say to me, but what would I post? And then they’re afraid of how much time it might take out of their lives. It doesn’t have to take very much time. I think everybody can find 10 minutes a day, 20 minutes a day. And I remember that first question, but what am I gonna put on social media? I would think by my second or third tweet I think I’d figured it out.
Josie: So we talked about Twitter a lot, we even brought up a little bit of SnapChat. You’re also on LinkedIn. I do believe you have an Instagram, we’ll list all these in the show notes of the podcast so folks can find you. What do you like most about Twitter or what are you doing on those other platforms?
Mary: I think probably that I’m on Twitter may reflect a little bit about perhaps my age, that I’m very comfortable with using words to convey things. And I’m slower to use Instagram because a lot of what I want to do is more than just visual, but also includes written language. SnapChat I just find the app to be incredibly non-intuitive, so it’s always a struggle for me because I haven’t used it enough to really get into it. And I’m not really sure that there’s a lot of value for me. I think I could be a lot more active on Instagram, I tend to just put pictures on Twitter. And so if there was a way that the Instagram would also show on Twitter as a photo, not just as a little link, then I’m sure I would be doing it a lot more often. Otherwise, I have to remember to put it on Twitter and then also put it on Instagram. And so I often will just go to Twitter as my default because it’s where I connect the most.
Josie: And you mentioned earlier about your class, that you created a Facebook group, which is a really great idea. I think for faculty, even on that platform, or academics, or anyone higher ed working with young adults, of the both personal and professional. I don’t want to friend my students, so that was a unique case, maybe being able to keep those boundaries even on a platforms where a lot of individuals might struggle a little bit, how that could happen.
Mary: Yeah, certainly on a Facebook closed group you don’t have to have friended somebody. You can join the closed group without having to see all of their posts. I agree, I don’t accept Facebook requests from students until after they’ve graduated, and I think because students sometimes will post things on Facebook that they really don’t want me to know about. Which is a separate issue because I think that students need a lot of education on how to maintain … how to be professional on social media. So we are still seeing every week some celebrity who years before posted something inappropriate on social media and it’s come back to haunt them. So how can you be looking at your social media?
You have to be really thoughtful about what you’re willing to post there for others to see unless you have a closed group. And even then, somebody can always take a screenshot and then distribute it. So that I think is also part of the seven Cs, how do you use social media appropriately to both build your own personal brand and to be sure that you are thinking in the future of how any post might come back later on and haunt you.
Josie: I like the word you used, thoughtful, which is still a reflective, supportive words. A lot of other words can be used as we talk about educating young adults or society about social media that might feel a little bit more heightened or shameful. That’s what my research has found at least, that sometimes kids and college students can describe how they feel they’re getting educated. But I would also say that you had mentioned earlier about role modeling and how important that is. They’re paying attention to how their faculty members show up or other folks across campus that are in these academic roles. So that can be also really powerful education.
Mary: Yeah, so I think that it’s still role modeling to students how you can have a social media presence, how you can use technologies in ways which are helpful to you in learning how to connect with people, because that’s where everybody is, and do it in ways that are beneficial to you in a thoughtful way. So sometimes it’s for me, creating a social media post and then saying, I wonder if that’s really a good idea to put that out there or not? And so I usually ask my husband, he sometimes is my filter. Is it okay if I post this? And then we’ll talk about whether or not that is a good post or not. And sometimes I might think something is pretty funny to put out there and he’ll say, no here’s how it could be misinterpreted.
Josie: Sure, I like that filter descriptions. Just like the filters on Instagram, we might need some filter family and friends that help us through.
Mary: Yes, I really like that idea of comparing it to an Instagram filter, absolutely. What are you gonna do to make sure that what you’re putting out there is what you want the world to see?
Josie: Let’s do a couple throwback questions because we talked about what you’re on right now. This didn’t just start yesterday or a couple years ago even with different platforms. What was your earliest memory of tech, since now it’s kind of a priority for you from social and having those seven Cs of tech in higher ed? What was maybe the early memory?
Mary: Earliest technology, or the way I would start to use it in the class, was probably that story I told a little bit ago about using Facebook, creating a Facebook group for an Organic Chemistry class in order to foster student learning. To really form this community of learners so that if it’s the night before the test and you’re still studying at 2:00 in the morning, I’m still sleeping but many of your classmates are probably up and they’re also studying. So it was helping students how they could build supportive study groups in this learning environment. I think that that was really … that was probably my earliest way of technology.
Now it’s moved into, how can we use learning management systems and platforms, but still to foster student learning? An early way I remember people talking about, which I thought was really tremendous, you have some students who may be very hesitant to share an idea in a class of people, because that can be pretty intimidating. But when they have online discussion boards, students were much more willing to engage. Students who might be very quiet in class would now start sharing things, so it helped those who were either shy or introverted really be part of the discussion.
Especially if you’re talking about something which might be difficult. I was just talking to one of our faculty who taught online course this summer at Berry College on Human Sexuality. And some of those topics are pretty difficult, and she felt that students because it was online would be more willing to share thoughts or concerns they had, rather than in a class of people when they’re looking at you. And it also allowed students to be more thoughtful in responding because they didn’t have to respond in the moment but could think a little bit before sending a reply to another post.
So I think technology can really help to foster student learning, and help to mediate student learning in a lot of ways that promote all of the students, not just the ones who in class might be really active and engaged and aren’t afraid to raise their hands, but really help all of the students. Back when I was an undergraduate student, I never, never raised my hand in class. I was the shy person who was always afraid to raise my hand, so clearly you can see that I’ve changed over the years because now I’m very happy to share my thinking. But really, technology can be this tremendous aspect to helping to engage all students who might otherwise be intimidated to do that in a face-to-face environment.
Josie: Having different learning styles and means of expression, even though I host this podcast sometimes I need a moment to reflect and think. And what comes out sometimes when I’m writing I’m like, this sounds way better than if I tried to say it in the moment, right? Also have the majority of my teaching experience which is online. It’s again one of those things where if you haven’t maybe really given that learning modality an opportunity to really see what community you can build even within an LMS, it is possible. You do have to really put your heart into it and be creative to get that quote unquote “classroom interaction” going.
Mary: Yeah, absolutely, because then with the class you put a question out there and it’s sometimes hard to get a discussion going in the room. On social media I think it can be easier for students … excuse me, not social media but through discussion board, through an LMS, it can be easier for students then to do that. And it can, not always, but it can also provide more time and space so that there’s not as much emotion attached to it because you don’t have to reply instantly. You can pause, and then think about it, and then craft a more thoughtful response, perhaps more than one that you might just be coming out if a discussion becomes too heated and there’s too much emotion involved. Using an online approach can help to soften that type of too assertive a discussion that might happen in a face-to-face setting.
Josie: So in addition to technology being at the forefront of how you lead as a Provost and as a faculty member, having that in the back of your mind, you also shared with me social justice and inclusion in the academy is a priority to you. And without even knowing that, based upon our earlier conversation about how you get to show up or how I get to show up on social media or on campus based on our identities, we have the ability to express ourselves maybe more easily than those that might have a minoritized identity. So I was not surprised, I already know that social just and inclusion is important to you. Could you tell us a little bit more about how that drives your work? Are you encouraged by progress? Does Twitter help or hurt that viewpoint? Or any other thoughts to share with the listeners?
Mary: So let me just step back and talk about being a Provost or being in administration. When I am on social media, while everybody has that ubiquitous statement that these are my views and they don’t represent the institution, I also know that when I am out on social media I am still representing the institution. And the more you go into administration, the less you’re able to separate out your personal self from how you represent your institution. So I think I had to think a lot about what is it that I can share out there that’s important to me, but do it in a way which invites dialogue and conversation? And that can be a really difficult line to walk.
There were a couple of times that I would say, post-Charlottesville I thought, what is my role here and how do we talk about what happened there? Because it was more important I think for other voices to be heard than for my voice from my own position. And so I believe that then my role was really to help amplify the voices of others. In the #MeToo movement, that’s a place where I’ve been very active within the chemistry community and also online and helping to foster those discussion, helping to gain a deeper understanding of what the #MeToo movement means. So I think that there are some places where it’s appropriate for me, with my positioning, to be there. But also other times when my role is to help foster conversation by amplifying the voices of others.
Diversity is something that been important to me throughout my career. It’s finding opportunities for those who have been underrepresented in chemistry, chemical sciences, and other sciences. I think through social media is another way to help advance that. So there are lots of ways I think that those in administration or faculty can be part of those convos. It can again, require a very thoughtful consideration before posting some things, but I think it’s possible for a Provost and anybody to still help to advance those conversations and engage with others to seek greater understanding.
Josie: So follow-up question, a macro moment that you shared about #MeToo within a micro community that you said you mentioned you were showing up for the organic chemistry community, what did that look like for you? What does it still, as you shared that you were kind of amplifying specifically for that community? I just thought that was interesting.
Mary: Sure. And the #MeToo movement within the chemistry community, there have been a number of reports that came out. Our weekly American Chemical Society magazine, Chemical and Engineering News, did a massive cover story on sexual harassment in academic chemistry, which came out three weeks before Harvey Weinstein. And I’m quoted in that article, and so then I became known as somebody that people could come to to ask questions of, to be part of that, to help others understand what it is like to be in academic chemistry. What are the things that we can do to try to combat sexual harassment. So I think that that’s been important and I’ve spoke at conferences on that a number of times.
But also to have people understand that the #MeToo movement that came out of Harvey Weinstein and Hollywood is really much more widespread than that by sharing the stories of those and sometimes retaining their anonymity because they don’t feel comfortable yet being comfortable about their experiences. I think that that was a place for me, with my own experiences then as a woman in chemistry, that I could contribute in a way which felt really authentic. But it wasn’t my place to talk about what it was like to be a woman of color or a person of color in academia because I don’t have those experiences. I’ve heard them from others, I can relay the experiences of others, but it wasn’t my place to now put myself out prominently in those conversations, but to make it possible for others to ensure that they are able to share their stories.
Josie: Thank you for giving that insight, and I’ll make sure to find that article or maybe you can send it to me and I can list it here. I’m out in Los Angeles, not originally, surrounded by this Hollywood culture. But yes, it is much more of a significant issue than just in the hills of Los Angeles and on studios, so thank you for sharing that. And I think hearing those stories or amplifying others, the stories or reflections that they have, I think is really powerful, especially for those that serve in executive roles, to just create space for that.
Mary: Yeah, I think that we can all decide for ourselves where are the places where we feel that we can … where can we make a difference in the world. So I think the #MeToo movement was one, helping to as I said before, amplify the voices of others. And then I think one that I’m more interested in, that I’m moving into now in a greater way, is addressing questions of ableism in academia and how technology can foster student learning, student development, for anybody with a disability, broadly defined disabilities. So I think that that is a new place where I’ve started to contribute as well.
So students for example may have an accommodation because of some type of disability which enables them to use technology in the classroom, whether that is a recording device, or using a keyboard. And there are stories of course … I should say research, which says that students can be distracted if there are laptops open in class. And so you can use a laptop, but only if you have an accommodation that we’re required to grant to you, which really in some ways outs those students who have disability. They’re now forced to demonstrate to everybody, I get to use a laptop, or I get to use a recording device because I have a disability, without seeing that part of the seven Cs we talked about earlier, is how do we teach students how to have a laptop and to be engaged in the learning that goes on in the classroom without being distracted.
Because I think if a student might be distracted on a laptop, those were students who might have been distracted by doodling or doing crossword puzzles on paper. So technology is really this great way of leveling the playing field for students with disabilities and others to achieve the same type of learning that somebody who is able bodied might have been able to do that quite easily or quite naturally without the technology.
Josie: That’s great, I look forward to seeing what you advance conversations around that topic, really critical. A more broad question and then we’ll start to do some wrap up questions based on specific topics or research. What’s really just your hope for higher education in the future? It could be related to social media, Provost, faculty. What are you really aspiring for in your career right now?
Mary: I love the value or the beauty of social media and technology as a way to help make higher education accessible to more people, to understand the value of higher education, and to form [inaudible 00:42:33]. I think it also is a great way to just build community within institutions, as well as forming connections with people outside your institution where you have a shared goal in mind.
Much of my social media connections, I’ve connected with people in all manner of different areas just because I saw something they posted, or somebody else retweeted or liked a post and then it appeared in my feed. And so I’ve developed this really broad network of people. So I think it’s seeing the value of social media and technology and how we can become much more interdisciplinary and much more connected so that we can all take the value of higher education and ensure that everybody sees that and is able to benefit from higher education.
So I hope that more people will find ways to use social media or technology broadly in their teaching and in their classrooms. It’s a way of certainly promoting what your institution does and how it helps students. But really, it’s overall as helping in the larger society, so I hope that more faculty, more Provosts, become engaged in technology and social media, because I know there are just tremendous benefits there.
Josie: Well, I’ve heard a few different themes that I think again are just this essence, and maybe why, not only because of your personality that you’re drawn to social media, but you’re desire to level the playing field. And again, this wholistic, integrated perspective which has come up in past podcasts episodes too. And especially as you move up in the field too, as a Provost you’re still going to be accessible. Going and creating a Facebook group because at the end of the day you just want to answer students’ questions, you don’t care where that happens.
And I think going back to the intent, it’s not just because it’s bright, shiny, new piece of technology, it’s actually gonna solve a problem and serve people. So again, just a couple of reflections that happened to pop into my head that was great to hear in our chat today.
Mary: Yeah, and that technology and social media is just another tool for us to use. Students today are different than they were 30, 20, even 10 years ago. And so meeting students where they’re at also means helping them to understand how these other forms can foster their own learning, how they can build connections, how they can be relationally intelligent with others. So if we want … students graduating today need to be able to use technology broadly defined, so it’s up to us to help them learn how to do that by modeling.
Josie: Yeah, let’s get them graduate and job ready.
Mary: Absolutely, absolutely.
Josie: And you mentioned you’ve done workshop, maybe at different conferences. If folks have questions for you, how can they find you to connect?
Mary: Sure, so they can email me. My email address here at Berry College is firstname.lastname@example.org, that’s berry.edu. They can also find me on Twitter, @MaryKBoyd. So it’s @MaryKBoyd. Mary K Boyd. K, is I would say a difficult middle initial because people think you said Kay and is K-A-Y, but it’s not.
Josie: Awesome, and I’ll make sure to include those in the show notes. People can quickly find you there. So last two questions I always end every podcast with as we think about life and legacy and honestly making a difference on and offline. If you knew your next tweet was potentially gonna be your last, what would you want it to be about?
Mary: I think I would want the last thing that I would say is to let everybody in my life know how much they meant to me and how much I loved all of them. And I think that that’s just probably how we should end every conversation then, and the end of every day, is to let the people in your life know how valuable they are to you, how important they have been. I think that’s a good reminder and that goes for so many people I’ve connected with, many of whom I’ve never met face-to-face, on social media. How tremendously important they have been to me in helping me to understand how to develop as a person, how to be a better person.
Josie: I feel that love right through the air waves here. That really showing up in a whole way, that appreciation, I think is pretty beautiful. So for now you’re active, you’re making a difference on your campus and beyond. How do you want your digital presence to impact the world today and going forward?
Mary: My immediate goals or ongoing goals are always to make it possible for people to reach me, to be accessible, and to communicate with others, to build connections across what might be boundaries or division lines. And so I want to have that be my ongoing theme, is social media is so important to have people find me accessibly. I would want my digital presence to help build community.
Josie: Well, I surely want to thank you for your willingness to jump on the podcast. I know it is a very busy time of the year. We’re recording in August, this will come out in a couple weeks. I’ve been following you for a long time, I just really enjoy how you do choose to show up, and it’s so wonderful to learn more about your intentions and even these other places where you’re creating opportunities for access. I think it’s such a wonderful example for me to be able to amplify out into the world all the cool work that you’re doing.
Mary: Well thank you so much for the invitation to be on the podcast. I’ve also been following you for a long time, so another way of how Twitter and social media helps to bring people together. I very much appreciate how you are encouraging leaders in higher education to use social media and what all the benefits are. How that can benefit them as a person, benefit their institution, benefit the larger community, and benefit their students. And I think that you’re just doing a magnificent job at helping everybody to understand how important technology and social media can be in higher education.
Josie: I appreciate that. Now we just need to see a few more memes like you created, and then we’ll be-
Mary: Right. Well we had another pretty funny one earlier where we have a lot of deer on campus, and so one of my colleagues had a picture of this deer on his hind legs reaching up to try to eat the flowers out of a hanging basket. And so we created this, really it was a photoshop battle of what different things that could be inside that basket, so there were lots of really adorable photos there. I will send you the hashtag for that one so you can see how funny some of those pictures were. People were enormously creative.
Josie: Oh my gosh, that’s really funny. Again, it’s not taking ourselves too seriously, seeing those simple moments out in life, that could bridge community, right?
Mary: Yeah, absolutely.
Josie: From a quote, inspiration, something funny, that can bridge and build.
Mary: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that it’s about building connections and building community.
Josie: Mary is fascinating, captivating, and a brilliant academic and administrator. She is a Provost I see worth meming. She created one for herself, after all. Talk about a scholar who doesn’t take herself too seriously. She calls herself an intrepid chemist turned Provost, who’s leveraging technology to build community in higher ed. It’s not just for herself, but for her students. Sometimes it’s as simple as making a Facebook group and letting them run it, or just have that extra access to you. Making a little bit of time each day, even just a slice, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes, creating that social engagement with relevant content. It’s respecting the tool, adding value to it, and moving beyond seeing it as a chore or obligation.
I loved the words that kept popping up in our conversation; community, accessibility, engaging, and values. What were the other themes that you heard? The way she mentions her willingness to jump into Facebook several years ago or SnapChat today, because at the end of the day she wanted to open herself up to her students. And I think that’s what we need a little bit more of in higher ed. The benefits are apparent when she spoke about bringing in a little bit more fun into our worlds, as well as keeping our community of learners so they can help each other succeed.
Mary is also making sure she actively educates students on what she calls the seven Cs of tech. She wants students to be able to communicate, collaborate, create, and compete in the Cloud for their career and communities. And I love these. That’s powerful and definitely spot on for what we need to be advocating for to integrate digital literacies into our curriculums. As Mary shared, with students it’s crucial to develop what your mission is, and part of that can be showing students how important technology will and actually is to achieve their goals. It’s not just about using tech to accomplish that next paper or project, but making it applicable for their careers and personal competencies.
I want to thank Mary so much for living out her mission, from memes to the seven Cs of tech, and honestly just being a joy to talk to. I loved having this Provost on the podcast, while it was the first I know it won’t be the last. I hope this podcast episode will inspire and influence other current and future Provosts, or even other academics, scholars, faculty, educators listening in, how we can push beyond our classroom walls and truly meet students where they are, where they need us, in order to be successful.
Please subscribe to Josie and the Podcast so you don’t miss any future episodes. And click that share button to share it with your colleagues, friends, heck maybe even your family. I would also be thrilled if you enjoyed to episode to leave a review in iTunes or any of your favorite podcasting platforms. If you’re interested in learning more about my speaking, coaching, or consulting work on digital leadership and higher ed, or my research or publishing, check me out at JosieAhlquist.com. Find me on Twitter or Instagram @JosieAhlquist. You can also connect with me on Facebook and LinkedIn, just search my name. Send digital hugs, loves, and waves to whatever corner of the world you’re listening in from, this has been Josie and the Podcast.