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How COVID is Redefining Higher Ed, Tech & Leadership

How are we teaching higher ed/student affairs graduate and doctoral students about technology – and especially social media strategy in higher ed? I’ve been teaching a summer graduate course called Technology in Higher Education at Florida State University for several years – one of the very few (if any) courses of its kind. Every semester I invite higher ed leaders, practitioners, and scholars to be part of the course – like these five forward-thinking pros who joined us in July 2020: La’Tonya Rease Miles, Julie Payne-Kirchmeier, Joe Sabado, TJ Logan, and Jennielle Strother. As one of the panelists put it, COVID-19 is less of a change-maker than an accelerator. You’ll hear how much the pandemic influences their perspective on challenges in the field, and their predictions for the future of technology in higher education. For extra credit, you can check out our class in action on Twitter with the hashtag: #EDH5309.

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Additional Resources from Josie

Twitter Lists


Jennielle Strother, Vice President of Enrollment Management at Concordia University Texas

Jennielle Strother is Vice President of Enrollment Management at Concordia University Texas in Austin. She serves as Concordia’s Chief Enrollment Officer and leads the admissions, financial aid, marketing, enrollment operations, student academic planning, and student financial planning departments. She also leads her institution in Hispanic-Serving -> Thriving initiatives, which includes receiving their designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, but also with the complexities of integrating their HSI identity as a faith-based institution.

Jennielle began her career in higher education as a head collegiate volleyball coach 21 years ago. After a decade of coaching at various colleges and universities, she transitioned into enrollment management, a career that has fed her competitive nature, her love of data analytics, and her desire to serve students.

Jennielle is a first generation college graduate, earning her undergraduate degrees from Lon Morris College and Dallas Baptist University before going on to receive her Master’s in Enrollment Management from Capella University. She is currently a doctoral candidate in the Organizational Leadership Studies program at Northeastern University in Boston, MA. Her research is focused on organizational culture, organizational identity, and the impact leadership has on both at Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs). A natural-born connector, Jennielle founded two organizations, #EMchat and Texas Women in Higher Education: Acting, Reflecting, Transforming (TXwHEART), as a way to help connect higher education professionals with others who have common interests, strengths, and goals. 

She serves the wider higher education community as an Advisory Board Member of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s (THECB) Central Texas Region, and as the sole private institution representative and member of the Legislative Issues Committee of Texas Association of Collegiate Registrars & Admission Officials (TACRAO). 

Jennielle’s role models are her fearless husband, her caring daughter, and her hilarious son.

Joe Sabado, Associate Chief Information Officer (CIO)for Student Affairs and the Executive Director for Student Information Systems and Technology (SIS&T) at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB)

Joe is driven by his personal mission to make positive impacts globally through acts of compassion, inspirations, and education. This mission drives his professional commitment to serve students through information technology, mentorship, and as a possibility model for all students specifically marginalized, minoritized, under-served, and first generation students. 

Joe Sabado serves as the Associate Chief Information Officer (CIO)for Student Affairs and the Executive Director for Student Information Systems and Technology (SIS&T) at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB). He is responsible for a suite of more than 180 information systems and websites serving more than 25,00 undergraduate and graduate students and the 27 units within the Division of Student Affairs, Arts and Lectures, and Graduate division. Currently, he leads the campus’ efforts to replace the student information system, data governance, and digital transformation initiative, and the inclusion of lived names and pronouns into UCSB information systems. He has also developed a professional development program for the more than 400+ IT professionals at UCSB.

Beyond UCSB, he has been an active participant at the national level on the topics of student affairs and technology. He has spoken at various conferences, podcasts, and webinars on digital citizenship, information technology, career readiness, leadership, and public speaking. He previously served as the NASPA Technology Knowledge Community (TKC) and was involved with the development of the ACPA/NASPA Technology Competency. His blog ( was selected as one of Top 50 Must-Read Highered IT blogs for three years.

In addition to his IT leadership role, Joe also currently serves the UCSB community in the following capacities: NASPA Undergraduate Fellowship Program (NUFP) as a mentor since 2013, staff advisor for the Filipinx-American student organizations since 1997, Summer Transitions Enrichment Program Discussion leader, keynote speaker for high school outreach programs, as well as discussion leader for first-year and transfer students introduction to university courses. He has also served as the co-chair for the Asian Pacific Islanders Task Force.

Joe is a first-generation graduate of UCSB with majors in Political Science and Asian American Studies in 1997. He received his Masters in Business Administration (MBA) through Capella University  in 2016.

Dr. Julie Payne-Kirchmeier, Vice President for Student Affairs at Northwestern University

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier

Dr. Julie Payne-Kirchmeier (or JPK as most people know her) is a Senior student affairs professional with over 25 years of progressively responsible and expansive leadership, supervisory, and budgetary experience across institutional types and functional areas. Julie has been asked to spearhead institution-wide new initiatives based on professional expertise in strategic planning and assessment, cross-functional collaboration, student development, and innovative problem-solving. She has a demonstrated history of creating and supervising high-performing teams that deliver results for the institution while also serving and advocating for students.

Julie currently serves as the Vice President for Student Affairs at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, in which she oversees the full Division of Student Affairs, including housing, dining, finance, human resources, counseling, conduct, health service, campus life, fraternity and sorority life, campus inclusion and community, career advancement, university center, technology, marketing, communications, assessment, and long-range planning. Julie also serves as an instructor in the Northwestern University master’s program in higher education (MSHE), where she teaches college student development, and previously taught the same at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She earned her B.S. degree in Genetics and her M.Ed. degree in Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education from Texas A&M University-College Station, and her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, Administrations and Foundations at Indiana State University.  

Prior to joining Northwestern University, Julie has served in various student affairs leadership roles, including as the Assistant Provost for the University College at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC) in which she supervised New Student and Family Programs, Learning Support Services, Career Services, and coordinated marketing and assessment for the University College.  Julie concurrently held the title of Director of University Housing during that time.  She has also held positions of Director of Residence Life at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville, Indiana, Assistant Director of Housing at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, and hall director at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX.  

During her career, Julie has been highly involved in many professional associations. She currently serves as Board Chair-elect for NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. She previously served as the NASPA Region IV-E Regional Director, currently serves on the Editorial Board for the Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice (JSARP), and is a past chair of the Certification Commission for NACAS. She has held leadership roles with GLACUHO and ACUHO-I as well, in which she has been awarded several honors for her work including the Parthenon Award from ACUHO-I, one of the international associations highest honors.

She is a published author, and presents nationally and internationally on authentic leadership, organizational change and capacity, social media and student engagement, as well as on issues important to women in higher education. Julie currently lives in Evanston, IL, with her partner and three cats (who really act more like dogs). She’s an avid indoor cyclist, and a lover of travel, musical theater, science fiction novels and movies, caprese salads, and good red wine. 

La’Tonya ”LT” Rease Miles, Ph.D., Executive Director of First-Year Experience and Strategic Initiatives at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

A proud first-generation college graduate, La’Tonya ”LT” Rease Miles, Ph.D., is the Executive Director of First-Year Experience and Strategic Initiatives at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Her responsibilities include collaborating with various units across campus, such as Student Affairs, Enrollment Management and Alumni Affairs, to strengthen and enhance the experience of first-year students. This includes overseeing signature programs (e.g., Welcome Week); targeting particular populations to increase their engagement at the university; and educating the campus about first-year students. In this capacity, she has pioneered initiatives for commuters, out of state students, and students from rural areas and small towns. Additionally, she is an expert presenter, panelist, and keynote speaker, as well as the creator of the “Empowering First-Generation College Students” national Facebook page, a founder of the University of California First-Generation Consortium, and a founder of the national Black First-Gen Collective.

Dr. Miles has established two successful programs for first-generation college students—one at UCLA and the other at Loyola Marymount University (LMU)—both regarded for national Best Practices and recognized as First-gen Forward Institutions by NASPA. She regularly consults with institutions nationally concerning first-gen students and also has advised local high schools about developing programs on their campus.  Prior to this current position, La’Tonya was the Director of the Academic Resource Center at LMU where she spearheaded campus-wide initiatives that led to the campus Food Pantry, and she worked closely with the Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education to create travel abroad pathways for students of color and first-generation college students and the university’s first HBCU domestic exchange partnership with Morehouse College and Spelman College. 

During her tenure as Faculty In Residence, La’Tonya helped establish a number of Living Learning Communities, including Afrikan Diaspora and Chicanx/Latinx.  She also has mentored and collaborated with a host of undergraduate and graduate students to develop special topics courses, including The Black Student Experience at UCLA and a two-quarter seminar about marginalized experiences in the academy for Ronald E. McNair Scholars.  Miles’s own innovative course on contemporary gender studies, “American Beauty: The Cheerleader in American Literature and Popular Culture,” was featured in American Cheerleader magazine.  

LT obtained her Ph.D. in American literature from UCLA and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland College Park in English language and literature.  She particularly is interested in first-generation college narratives and the hidden curriculum in higher education. Further, she is passionate about NBA basketball, college football, “The Flash” and “Friday Night Lights.”

T. J. Logan, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs at Temple University

Dr. T. J. Logan currently serves as the Associate Vice President of Student Affairs at Temple University, where he oversees the department of University Housing and Residential Life, Student Center Operations, and Division-wide assessment and strategic planning efforts. Previously, T. J. served as the Director of Housing for Administrative Services at the University of Florida; where he supervised occupancy management of the largest single-site housing provider in the south-eastern United States, as well as marketing and brand management, customer service operations, safety and security, conference services, the university-wide office for youth protection, and corporate sponsorship programs. As a student affairs professional, T. J. has presented internationally on the topics of social media in higher education, innovation in university housing operations, enrollment management trends, occupancy management, and business operations.

He has keynoted the CUBO annual conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, and the AACUHO annual conference in Melbourne, Australia. He has also served as the Business Practices and Enhancements Director for the ACUHO-I Executive Board, a panelist for the ACUHO-I webinar on COVID19 response in higher education, and a faculty member for the ACUHO-I Chief Housing Officer Institute. In addition to formal speaking engagements, Dr. Logan has been published in a variety of trade magazines, books, and journals; has written blogs for and; and is the host of the Placemakers Podcast on the future of higher education. T. J. earned his Doctorate of Education from the University of Florida, and his B.A. and M.B.A from Kent State University.

About Josie

Dr. Josie Ahlquist

Dr. Josie Ahlquist is a digital engagement and leadership researcher, speaker, and consultant. She teaches teens, young adults, education professionals, and campus executives how to humanize technology tools and prioritize building online community.

She also serves as a research associate and instructor at Florida State University, creating curriculum to build digital literacy and leadership skills for undergraduates up to doctorate level students. She is extensively published and maintains an active blog and podcast (Josie & The Podcast), which have received accolades from EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. Her book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education: Purposeful Social Media in a Connected World, comes out in September 2020.

Josie received her doctorate from California Lutheran University in Higher Education Leadership, Masters in Education from Northern Arizona University. She majored in sociology and human development at South Dakota State University.

About Josie and The Podcast

In each episode, Dr. Josie Ahlquist – digital leadership author, researcher, and speaker – connects tech and leadership in education. This podcast will bring you leaders on-campus and online.

From Senior Vice Presidents on Snapchat, YouTubers receiving billions of views and new media professionals. All through the lens of social media and leadership. Josie hopes you will not only learn from these digital leaders but also laugh as we all explore how to be our best selves online and off.

Thanks for listening! Please subscribe to receive the latest episodes, share widely and let me know you’d checked it out!

Josie Ahlquist: Hello and welcome to Josie and The Podcast. This is Josie, and I am grateful that you’re joining me today. This podcast features leaders who share everything from their latest tweet to their leadership philosophy. My goal is to connect tech and leadership with heart, soul, and lots of substance.

Josie and The Podcast is sponsored by Campus Sonar, your partner in social listening. The internet, it’s real life, which means the perception of your campus online is reality, so the question is do you know what your reality is and if it actually aligns with your strategic initiatives? Social listening can help answer questions you have about your campus’ online conversation, both what people say to you when they tag you as well as, well, when they don’t and how to incorporate insights from that conversation into your institution’s goals and strategies.

Getting started doesn’t have to be a huge investment of time or money. Campus Sonar, a higher ed social listening agency, has the goods to help you get started. Whether you’re just looking to read up or want to try a low cost introductory project, learn more at

All right, y’all. I am doing a happy dance because this is it. We are celebrating the release of my book Digital Leadership in Higher Education: Purposeful Social Media in a Connected World. That is a mouthful of a book title as we do in education. So I’m just going to refer to it as Digital Leadership going forward. It’s been a labor of love. All started in the spring of 2016, and I am thrilled and humbled and every other descriptor word that you can fit into that sentence because we are finally here.

Next week on the podcast, I’ll be sharing way more about the book, my journey, and giving you some sneak peeks into the major framework and philosophy of the text. If you’re listening to this during this book launch week, the book came out on September 15th. Well, I hope that you are keeping your eyes out on my socials for lots of fun stuff. I’m announcing events and things, which I’m sure more will be to come.

I would, of course, be very thrilled and appreciative if you consider picking up the book for yourself, a colleague, or your entire team. There are some discounts. So make sure you pay attention to those. Again, just depending on when you are logging on to listen to this episode. But you can check out way more about the book and where to buy it at my website My publisher Stylus also has a location directly you can grab the book right from there. But please, please let me know if and when you do it, and of course, that can be through an email or whatever. But if you choose to maybe celebrate with me posting on social media, use the #diglead D-I-G-L-E-A-D and/or tag me @JosieAhlquist.

So for today, I’m excited to be featuring another panel on the podcast. From a course that I have taught every summer for about the last four years at Florida State University called Technology in Higher Education, it is a grad-level course for grads and doc students, and I’m kind of saying it’s a bit one of a kind. Of course, the course focuses on tech and higher ed as the name says, talking about emerging technologies, challenges, and opportunities, all with a lens of living in a very fast-paced and connected world. But we also talk about theory and application, grounding our conversations about technology in scholarship of student engagement and success, as well as many other learning modalities and conversations.

And to bring the course material out into other spaces while the course is online, we activate lots of other places to get connecting. We have a course hashtag, a course Twitter chat that is live. We have a Facebook group where we do prompts two to three times a week. I invite in panels that are live streamed into that Facebook group and then incorporated into our LMS, and then continual Twitter interaction throughout the week. So I try to pack in as much as I can so students can interact not only with each other but with me and with other experts from the field.

So again, that is why I’m excited to include this panel today, which was live streamed at the very end of the course, at the end of July 2020. And it was titled The Future of Higher Ed and Tech definitely through the lens of leadership, but also the obvious challenge and lens of what that looks like during a pandemic and what will it look like going forward.

Another reason why I bring in these panels is the other philosophy and lens of the course isn’t just teaching them a whole bunch of technology skills and tools, but the human element of technology planning, social media strategy, and our own discernment and navigation as individuals in topics like digital identity, reputation, branding, and of course leadership.

So let me tell you a little bit more about the panel that we’re going to be featuring today. So you’re going to hear me introduce it of course live streamed into our student class. Students had questions. We integrate those a little bit. But overall, we have a whole heck of a lot of fun with these panelists. When I bring in a panel, we usually would make that live on a Monday and then the panelists would interact with the students on Twitter for that week with additional questions they have, which always allow the learning, interaction, and community to go beyond just one livestream session. And I encourage you to do that today as you listen in as a student to this course. As a student of tech in higher ed, of course, you can interact with our panelists on Twitter as well.

You are going to be hearing from La’Tonya “LT” Rease Miles, the Executive Director of First-Year Experience at UCLA, Julie Payne-Kirchmeier, the Vice President for Student Affairs at Northwestern University, Joe Sabado, Executive Director Student Info Systems and Technology and the Associate CIO of Student Affairs at UC Santa Barbara, TJ Logan, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs at Temple University, and Jennielle Strother, Vice President for Enrollment Management at Concordia University Texas.

What I’m also pumped about is all of these panelists in some way are included in the book and the work that I do, getting at what digital leadership looks like in higher ed. And you’re going to hear them in this panel talk deep thoughts on issues and opportunities that we were facing in July and honestly that we still are today as I am uploading this in mid-September. Reality, y’all, the impact of COVID-19 has weighed heavily on that conversation and is still going forward.

We talk about dreaming up tech innovations for the fall semester, addressing the digital divide, and technology gaps for remote learning. You’re also going to hear us talk about the future of work and giving advice for job seekers that connect with the alignment of personal as well as institutional values.

It’s been fun to stay connected with these panelists, even since our recording, as they continue to show up online in the variety of roles and realities and resources and scenarios that they are running on their campuses and in their lives. I’m so appreciative that they were willing to show up then and allow me to share this recording here today. They are authentic, vulnerable, emotional, and I am all here for it.

So let us know if you are checking out this episode today. Of course, all the panelists are on Twitter and many other social media platforms. So check out the website for the show notes for this episode. where you can find all our dets. Of course, I’m @JosieAhlquistthepodcast, JosieATPodcast.

And now how COVID is redefining higher ed, tech, and leadership. Enjoy.

We are live. Welcome, class, to our final panel for technology and higher ed course at Florida State. I can say I think I saved the best for last, and that’s why I stacked it with so many people that I think are so smart and innovative and forward thinking. I also like to think of them a little bit as instigators. So they get some hard questions, which you also asked them hard questions too, which should be fun to get to.

Let me give you a breakdown of who is on this panel, and then I’m going to turn it over to them. So we’re going to start out with Jennielle Strother. She’s a Vice President of Enrollment Management at Concordia University Texas in Austin. She serves as a Chief Enrollment Officer and leads admissions, financial aid, marketing, enrollment, operations, student academic planning, and student financial planning department. She’s also a first generation college graduate and is currently a doc candidate in the Organizational Leadership Studies Program at Northeastern. And her research focused on organizational culture, organizational identity and the impact leadership has on both at Hispanic serving institutions, HSIs. Some fun stuff because we got to throw that in for each of the panelists. Her role models are her fearless husband, her caring daughter, and her hilarious son.

So glad to have you on the panel today.

Jennielle Strother Glad to be here.

Josie Ahlquist: Yeah. Next up, Julie Payne-Kirchmeier also known as JPK. Currently serves as a Vice President for Student Affairs at Northwestern University in which she oversees the full division of student affairs, and it is very full. Julie also serves as an instructor at Northwestern’s program in higher education where she teaches college student development. During her career, Julie has been highly involved in professional associations. She is the board-elect for my professional association home called NASPA, student affairs administrators in higher ed.

Julie’s actually one of your assigned authors to read in this course. So her name should be familiar, and she also is an avid indoor cyclist, a lover of travel, musical theater, science fiction novels and movies, caprese salads. I can definitely attest to that from her social media feed. And some good red wine.

So good to have you.

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier: Great to be here, and I’m sorry you had to read my stuff. Kidding.

Josie Ahlquist: Oh. It’s good.

Proud first generation college student, La’Tonya “LT” Rease Miles is the Executive Director of First-Year Experience and Strategic Initiatives at University of California Los Angeles, in my backyard, UCLA. Additionally, she is an expert presenter, panelist, and keynote speaker, as well as creator of Empowering First Generation Students national Facebook page. Definitely a recommended Facebook group to check out.

She’s also the founder of the University of California’s First-Generation Consortium, and a founder of the National Black First-Gen Collective. You can also find her on Instagram, Twitter, and I’m sure all the other things First-Gen and Juice, and she’s back to blogging again, which I’m excited about.

Further, she’s passionate about NBA basketball, college football, The Flash, and Friday Night Lights.

Welcome, LT.

La’Tonya Rease Miles: Thank you. Representing for Ravenclaws today.

Josie Ahlquist: Represent.

All right. Up next, TJ Logan currently serves as the Associate Vice President of Student Affairs at Temple University where he oversees the Department of University Housing and Residence Life, Student Center Operations, and Division-wide assessment and strategic planning efforts. Previously, he was the Director of Housing of Administrative Services at the University of Florida, and you might get a little pushback since this is Florida State students. So be prepared for that.

TJ is also a host of a much recommended podcast called The Placemakers Podcast, which is about the future of higher education.

Something fun about TJ, there’s many fun things, but the fun thing we’re going to share is at the start of quarantine, he started using his undergraduate degree of fine arts and started painting every single day at least one portrait. And he’s up to 126 paintings from MLK to the Notorious B.I.G. and these are all going to be auctioned off at a very good cause. So follow along on his paintings on Twitter and you could… I think I’m going to need some of those. I have lots of empty spots.

TJ Logan: Just got to donate to a good cause.

Josie Ahlquist: Oh, there you go. Welcome, TJ.

And last but not least is Joe Sabado. Also another West Coaster. He serves as the Associate Chief Information Officer for Student Affairs and the Executive Director for Student Information Systems and Technology at UC Santa Barbara. The longest title ever. But you do a lot, all the things. He’s responsible for a suite of more than 180 information systems and websites.

Beyond UCSB, he’s been an active participant at national level topics of student affairs and technology. He’s spoken at conferences, podcasts, webinars on digital citizenship, information technology, career readiness, leadership, and public speaking.

You can find his blog, which has been given a shout out by higher ed IT blogs for the last three years. Joe enjoys making connections, exploring the physical and virtual worlds through golf, virtual reality like Griff Quests and Pokemon. He’s achieved a level 40 two years ago. I don’t know what that means, but I knew we should include it because I think that’s really good. Probably in online games like Rebel IO.

Welcome, Joe.

Joe Sabado: Thank you.

Josie Ahlquist: I have collected each of you over the years as colleagues, maybe first meeting on social media or at a conference or through mutual connections. So this is really cool to be able to bring you all in one collective space. So I ask the students for their questions. I had my questions. We’re going to start off soft. Don’t worry, we’re not going to get into too big stuff about what the future of higher ed is, let alone the future of tech.

But as we know, we are problem solving like crazy, and if we could have all the access to things to make and create and solve problems and gaps, if you could create one tech to implement by the fall, what would that be?

La’Tonya Rease Miles: This is a soft question. I just want to point that out.

TJ Logan: It’s funny, I actually did have this conversation the other day, and I’m not making that up, LT, with a colleague, actually the producer for my podcast who runs his own startup in production. He does a lot of virtual events. And one of the things I said to him is what we need to solve that we have not solved yet is providing distributed technology access related virtual events in a way that makes sense. So right now Zoom is our best solution. Zoom is not the best solution for anybody. People are not engaged, and not just in educational opportunities in the classroom but beyond the classroom. So what are we doing in student activities? What are we doing to bring students together?

And I know there’s been hits and misses of things, but there’s not overwhelmingly a technology that does not have a requirement for some sort of high production value that has come up with good virtual events quite yet. And I said, “If you can solve that, if you can get over that hump, I think you can make a huge difference.”

I just saw Rara announce they got $2.8 million investment recently to do some things with community engagement online with college campuses. I’m really interested to see how that goes, and I’ve got a conversation coming up with their founder this week to talk about that.

There’s an app out there called Mmhmm, M-M-H-M-M, that’s invite-only right now that does a lot with video and game controllers and things like that to be a little bit more engaging. But I don’t think we’ve solved it, and I think if we could solve it, it makes all of this a little bit more attainable in terms of distributed virtual community.

Joe Sabado: Well, I’d like to add, I’m kind of knee-deep in this project right now. We returned to campus. So I’m coming from an IT perspective here. So I’m leading a project related to COVID-19 honestly, and if I could introduce a technology by fourth quarter, it would be a cheap, easily accessible, 24 hour turnaround mass testing because that’s something that I think is a requirement for the university now. With all the talks about is it safe, social distancing, all these kind of things. Really the bottom of it is testing. And as it is, it’s now easily accessible. The cost is pretty prohibitive unless you have a medical center, but even that costs a lot of money. I think UCLA is one of those campuses that have medical center, but for UC Santa Barbara, that’s a big problem. So at the core of what we need to do is how can we get an easily accessible, cheap, effective testing that you can get a turnaround in 24 hours.

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier: And I’m going to add to that with you, Joe. It’s not just the testing in 24 hours. I want something that sticks on a person, that tests them, that tells me what that test result is. And then however many days later, it does it again because then it’s not a, “We have to have a tent over here. You got one over here. We’re going to give you the brain biopsy with the swab,” which is not pleasant if you haven’t had it done. And then it comes back. I realize that’s a, to your point, Joe, a very practical solution to a problem we have right now, but it’s a huge problem. And it’s going to have ripple effects on return to campus, on the finances of a campus for a long time.

TJ Logan: JPK, if you’re going to put wearables in the mix, I’ll go ahead and add contact tracing [crosstalk 00:19:11]-

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier: Contact tracing.

TJ Logan: Wearable. Sure.

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier: Yup.

TJ Logan: But I think we run into a big issue, and this is an issue beyond higher education but it is a technology issue, and it’s we’re at an impasse of this with technology and culture. And that’s privacy-

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier: Privacy and agency.

TJ Logan: Right, right. So how are we going to navigate that not just as a culture but as an industry. I think it’s a really interesting thing for us to get our arms wrapped around.

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier: Well, my magic tech that you let me create with all the skills in the world and all the magic in the world, it takes care of that problem too, TJ. All of it’s managed. Yeah.

TJ Logan: Cool. You’re fixing culture with your magic wand. I love it.

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier: Amazing.

La’Tonya Rease Miles: I’ll just add because it all relates or ties together where my head is is just technology access period for the populations that particularly I’m working with, first-gen students and now related to that are students from rural areas and small towns. It’s so basic. The stories we’re hearing from students who are in the Chick-fil-A parking lot just to get online. Forget the platform. Forget that it’s Zoom. Just to have access. So trying to communicate to our Vice Chancellor to raise technology to a basic need on our campus to say that that’s what it is, and he’s like, “Yeah, that makes sense. But what now?” We still don’t have good information, good distribution.

Josie Ahlquist: Well, these are big dreams that need to happen. It’s not even like, “Well, this will be nice. I would like Snapchat to update this one little component.” Some serious problem solving. So thank you for dreaming with me but even beyond dreaming. Hopefully we can even get close to what some of those elements are.

LT, since you brought it up, I’ll actually pull this question up about technology apps. Students really wanted to talk about how we’ve always had access. We’ve always had skill gaps for digital. COVID and the pandemic amplified those and brought those to light for those who maybe didn’t see them before. So what are ways that from services support to instruction, have you observed campuses… It may or may not be your campus rising to the occasion, but overall, what do you think is still needed to come both pulling off the fall but even going forward?

La’Tonya Rease Miles: Sure. I’ve observed other campuses being able to provide laptops to students and hotspots. So UCLA is doing something similar. The key is making sure that it’s widely known that you can get them. What’s the point of having a back stock in the library if they don’t know that they exist? It’s not intuitive I think for a student to know to ask a library for a laptop. I’m not convinced of that, but I have seen Amarillo College, they’re just so amazing at what they do in Texas. Two-year institution. Just right front and center, go to their webpage, and you can find out what’s available for students.

I understand all the cost that come along with it, but this is an… I hate to use the term, but it really is an unprecedented time. And funding streams just have to shift to account for that. You mentioned that digital divide. We’re going to see a huge, huge chasm right now.

TJ Logan: And to comment on that and just to get real for a second. It’s a little disheartening to me, we talk about the cost in closing up that digital divide a little bit. And the reality is if we look at what institutions are investing in terms of trying to get people back face to face and had they taken… As an example, I know of a campus that just spent $3.2 million to try to retrofit a half dozen classrooms that now they’re not even really going to be able to use because their restrictions just got a little bit tighter. Imagine had we made some different plans back in March and really focused on closing that gap, how exceptional we would be at technology for all students in terms of engaging them in an online space. But we chose not to do that.

I’m an ROI guy. I’m all about what is the return on investment, and I really worry. Today The Chronicle’s been updating this every single day, more than 50% of institutions are still saying, “We’re going to open in some sort of face to face capacity.” But also today, two more institutions said, “No, just kidding.” It is July 22nd. How much lost opportunity and cost have we now exposed ourselves to in the months leading up to July 22nd that could’ve been invested in closing that gap.

And so I get a little bit concerned that we’re making decisions on a 24 hour period right now, and it’s taking away our opportunity to do good work in that regard. And I know that’s probably a very unpopular opinion for people that really want to get students back to campus and save higher education.

La’Tonya Rease Miles: Just real quick, TJ, just add onto that. Josie, you may remember my daughter completed her senior year of high school at an online institution, PUB3, public, and all materials were provided to her. So we sent them back at the end, but she got her laptop, the headphones, everything provided. She said it was her best experience in school in K-12.

Josie Ahlquist: Jennielle, how has it felt on the admissions enrollment side of the house? I know the spring was probably quite a rollercoaster, even now as you’re looking into the fall.

Jennielle Strother: Oh yeah. I mean, the rollercoaster, I’m still on it. It’s a day-to-day, and I have decision fatigue for sure. I think every day there’s something that is crisis and critical for us to make a decision. I think one of the things that I have seen a lot of institutions do, including my own, is pivot very quickly and been very innovative on how to reach students. I think the conversation we’re having here, and like TJ was talking about with Zoom and engagement, in that platform, authenticity is difficult to create in that environment. I think the thing that I keep encouraging my team, because they’re trying to do it every campus visit, every… So the team is fatigued with that as well on coming up with new ideas.

But what I keep trying to remind them is that we’re actually reaching students that could not have come to visit our campus, just could have never made that… We are a tuition-driven institution. We don’t have a fly-in program. We don’t have things like that. So this is really opening that up, and to be able to have the conversation with the team and say, “Hey, let’s think of it in this way. Let’s frame it with this lens. And how are we accessing students and how students are accessing us?”

But the digital divide, as we were talking about is one thing that keeps me up at night. Our institution is something that in the spring we did do a laptop loaner programming. Communication, making sure the students… And we’re a small institution. But making sure they even know it’s available. All of those things, I worry about too much communication in email. It is so much, and we’re trying to figure different ways of reaching students when all we have is a digital means.

So that was a lot. I kind of went back and forth to different questions. But…

Joe Sabado: Kind of building on those two comments. We did a survey, undergraduate remote learning survey at UC Santa Barbara in spring quarter. And so part of the digital divide is not just technology access but the socioeconomic part of this, which is the learning context matters. Many of our first-gens and folks in need are in houses where there’s multi-generation. They don’t have space where they can study. So to me, as a [inaudible 00:26:59] idea of wanting to get students back to campus because it’s revenue. There’s also a real need to provide students with a space where they can actually study.

Now of course, the dilemma there is that you see this on the news is the behavior of students. Again, some students were here at COVID party. I don’t know if that’s real or not, but how do you balance that where… What’s the safer place to study, on campus or at home? So that’s part of the digital divide I think is technology, also knowing what services exist, but the learning context, where they’re located.

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier: Yeah. I think this is interesting, Joe, because if you see LT and I, we’re over here just like, “Yes,” to everything that you’re saying. But I also take to heart what TJ said about if we knew three months ago what we know right now, what could we have done differently around technology, around access, around looking at this as a higher education system, not as individual campuses? Why could I not have reached out to LT and said, “Hey, we got 200 students who are in and around where you are right now. Integrate for them in their home. So you got to spot on your campus where they can get there very quickly and study and access our program?”

I’ll give us a little bit of an out here, nobody knew it was coming. Nobody really I think expected a second wave. We were making decisions as we were executing them, and then we had to flip into a planning mode while responding. So it was the confluence of all of that, and that makes it almost impossible to sit back and do that future planning when you’re constantly trying to keep up. But I think about it now. I’m like, “Wow. That would’ve been a really cool thing to try and do is to leverage those partnerships and say, ‘How can we help our students collectively and still accomplish the goal?’” Joe, what you’re talking about, giving people a good place to learn and study.

A real small tech example of that is Eduroam, right?

Jennielle Strother: Yes.

La’Tonya Rease Miles: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Just two points, Josie. I’ll make them quick. I forgot one of them so it’ll be really easy. My husband is IT Director for a high school, and I’ve watched… TJ, this is affirming right now. I’ve watched him all summer, his campus pour all this money into bringing people back, and I said, “I’m not even going to charge you for this consulting right now. None of that is going to happen.” You’re going to build all these things and talk to all these other tech folks, and you’re not going to have students on your campus. And just like you said, every day school’s announce that that’s not going to happen, and it’s the end of July.

I’ll come back to the other point when I remember it.

TJ Logan: I just like the framework that JPK put that in, which is the hindsight framework, and that’s what’s so painful is that we’re always working from the hindsight framework. So what are we going to learn from this experience and working from the hindsight framework so that in future challenges we’re more strategic than we are in this moment in history in higher education because I don’t think history’s going to look favorable upon the way that we’ve responded to this pandemic. People are going to look at it and go, “Wait a minute, you were really bad at online education in the spring. You delivered low quality. By and large, generally, you delivered low-quality online education. We all complained about it. We all wanted lower tuition. You had the entire summer to pivot, and you didn’t.” It’s not going to feel very good to a lot of people, and again, I know that’s not the most fun opinion or the most uplifting opinion. But I do struggle to make every day we wake up on fire making decisions.

Josie Ahlquist: Yeah. Well, the decision fatigue, which Jennielle mentioned, and the rollercoaster and the looking back and the quickly looking forward. All of you are in some way a public facing position on your campus. What you say matters. I mean, what anyone says matters, but you have team members. You most likely are leading initiatives. But also, all of you are somehow making the conscious choice to be a voice at least on one platform on social media. And this course has really nudged students along to think about not just Google yourself but what’s really your purpose to be online and then how does that weave into, “Well, we’re already forced into these digital spaces pretty much full time. How do we make use of that?”

So my question is for you, how has your use changed since COVID? What maybe you’ve learned, what you plan to do going forward? Because I’ve also seen campus executives shrink during this time or go way more prescriptive fearing to be authentic from public messages or just status updates. But I also have found brand new people I never saw tweeting or posting live on Instagram who have fully gone in. So I would love your insight about social media as a tool for connection, especially for campus leaders.

La’Tonya Rease Miles: I can start. I’ll answer in two ways. First for my staff is first to go in our social media platform. So the primary way we have been communicating with our first-gen students is through our Instagram for UCLA First-Gen, and so we were already there. So that’s nice. We didn’t have to build anything brand new. But I was encouraging that team to really lean into the moment and think about what the needs are right now. And they just reported back to me that their most shared and saved post was about how to collect unemployment, and they said they got the tracking for how much it was disseminated. So that’s just a matter of keep doing the great work that they were already doing.

But then I’ll say for me, I did have a moment where it was the confluence of the Black Lives Matter protests along with the pandemic and just all… You had said the decision fatigue. That was all getting to me, and so I kind of shut down First-Gen and Juice. I was tired, and I started wondering, “Why does this matter right now?” Because First-Gen and Juice is more about pop culture and fun. So it was really good that I took that break.

And then I also reached out to people who I trust, who’ve been following for a while, and they gave me such great feedback to help remind me of what my identity is. And they just kept saying to me, “Lean into that identity. Keep it fun. That is your lane.” So that was the primary takeaway that I have was just lean into your lane, and then after that meeting, I just feel like a renaissance. I just had so many ideas started to flood from me whereas the week before I couldn’t think of anything. I was like, “I’m just going to stop this platform. It doesn’t mean anything right now.” So it was a good moment for me. I feel like I got my mojo back.

Jennielle Strother: LT, I echo a lot of when everything went down and we were just in emergency meetings constantly, I pulled way back. There was I think from my perspective, and social is the way that I cope with the decisions and the work, all of that, and it’s how I connect to people and the industry. And I turned everything off, and I didn’t turn it off. I just didn’t log in.

I was surprised at, and it was self care for me. And also, in my mind, I’m like, “I feel like I need to focus on making sure our students are getting what they need, and that we don’t…” It’s a lot here in Texas. People are laying people off. So if we’re going to be real, this is the most challenging summer of my 21 years in higher ed. And it was a lot. So I was like, “I don’t know that I would be the positive person that’s part of my identity on social.” I mean, we’re all in it together and cheering. I needed to pull back.

But I was surprised at how many of my friends reached out to me and was like, “I haven’t seen you on social. Is everything okay?” And so you don’t realize the impact of that either by… And I didn’t make an announcement or anything like that. But that’s what I struggled with too. So I appreciate you mentioning that.

Joe Sabado: The script for me during the pandemic is that I typically would go on Twitter, that’s where I engage. But I switched to Facebook because that’s where I found myself connecting with students. I’ve always been driven mission, this idea by our former vice chancellor and current vice chancellor that says, “If you’re not engaging digitally, you’re professionally negligent, and if you’re not engaging online, you’re missing half the conversation.” So on campus, I am known as Teacher Joe, which is Uncle Joe to a lot of the students, and I actually went beyond what my comfort level of just announcing things that they should know and just making myself known. I’m available. I’m available. I’m available. And whether folks saw that as there’s some hidden motivation or not, I needed the students to know that I’m there as an administrator, as someone that they can come and talk with.

So to me, that applied a sense of normalcy for me. I couldn’t have lunch with them anymore. That’s a way to connect and actually engage with some students. Funny enough, they were intimidated with me having lunch with them in person, but because there’s a Zoom, some of them actually said, “Oh, I don’t know why I waited this long to have a conversation with you, Teacher Joe.” But it feels so much safer. Just like this sense of intimidation factor decreased.

So I went to Facebook as opposed to Twitter, and for folks of you who are friends on Facebook, you know that I post a lot of things I did personally, my partner and I. My parents are on there. They see what I do. My bosses are on there. My staff are on there. So I’m kind of modeling that sense of vulnerability, authenticity, and my own person, which I think students need now as opposed to here’s administration making decisions on our behalf and here’s us.

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier: Joe, thank you for that, and I love that for those of you that are watching this, you can’t see. We have this little private chat going on over here, and all the praise for Joe right now, which is really great.

I found myself doing something similar to many of what’s been said. When it just became meeting after meeting and I was getting mentally exhausted, and I pulled back. And then when the murder of George Floyd happened and that social awakening occurred and continued to. It’s painfully obvious to me that I did not have the luxury to lean out anymore. Even if it was self care, I had to step back in it and lean in really hard. And so that’s what I did.

But focusing on platform, again. At that point, Twitter wasn’t as effective. I couldn’t engage and connect in the ways that I wanted to, but Instagram and Facebook were better in those ways. On Instagram what I would do is find the work that was being done by some experts, not just necessarily at Northwestern but across the board and elevate that and potentially add a thought here or there.

But I tried to lean into it in a way that wasn’t being afraid of it because I think as a white identified person in a position of privilege and has a ton of privilege, it is so easy just to go, “I’m going to forward this and say, ‘This is great.’” As opposed to read it, think about it, offer a comment on it, push it out there, challenge somebody else, ask a question about it, and be okay when somebody comes back at you and says, “You totally missed the mark on this.” To me, that’s that level of vulnerability that, interesting enough, this digital platform is providing now in a way that is, other than the gaps we talked about earlier, more accessible.

And I’ve got students calling me out, not calling me in, but literally calling me out. One of them just tagged me a minute ago because we had layoffs on Monday in our dining partner. And we have a group that is adamant that should never happen, and they leaned into that and have called me out on it. We’ll have a conversation about it, and okay. That’s okay. But I think that’s how I’ve been navigating through digital platforms.

And then also my mother and I bake every two weeks and we post stuff up there on that, and it’s really cathartic and fun and a very different way to engage so that people see you differently.

TJ Logan: I personally would like to request Uncle Joe’s lunch Zoom link. I would like to be a part of that if I can.

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier: Yes. Yes.

TJ Logan: I’ve been secretly calling you Uncle Joe for a long time, and I’m glad that we can all publicly do it now.

Now when you asked the question about platforms and I think JPK, you’re an amazing example. You were actually somebody I was going to point to. I think in this moment in higher education we’re at this really interesting impasse that Gen Z is very, very, very much about brand alignment and brand alignment from a values perspective. And actually, JPK when you were on my pod, you talked about values and values-driven decisions, things like that. And you can see right now on social, so vividly, so clearly which university leaders values, personal values and institutional values are in really great alignment and how they are then a megaphone for those values.

JPK, you’re a beautiful shining example of that. Michael Sorrell is a beautiful shining example of that.

And then you can see the places where that’s not happening, where either the university leadership goes a little bit quiet, and I don’t think it’s necessarily because they don’t have values or a little bit disingenuine. I just think that maybe their values might not be as in alignment with what the university’s comfortable saying out loud. So I’ve learned as much about those leaders and those executives. I mean, I feel like I’ve learned a lot about Northwestern through Julie because I go, “Wow. She’s in a role where she can espouse the values that she’s able to espouse in such a passionate and real and raw way and represent those values, and her institution loves her and supports her for it. That’s a pretty cool place.”

So that’s how I look at it is through the lens of, “Wow. What are we learning about universities and their values, and more importantly, what are our students learning about it?” I think watch very carefully because I think this could be a little bit of a turn in terms of how people make some decisions in the future. It’s really interesting to me.

Josie Ahlquist: Absolutely. And for the students in the course, they may not know you as well as I do. And many of you are featured in my book where I’ve told your stories that you’ve already brought out these values, these ethos that you have that makes your decisions on social not just this checklist, and it helps explain choices. Like Jennielle, I’ll offer you to pull back. I know you value authenticity so much. So much you research it, and that making a congruent choice for you. Like Joe, mentorship is like way, way high on your values list, and that’s why you would go to Facebook or Julie to speak. The list goes on and on. So having these deeper conversations, even about a social media tool, and you could take this into any type of from digital communications to what we do in real life I think is important, especially for this course. So I really appreciate y’all taking that to a deeper meaning for sure.

So that one was also a little bit softer. So we can now talk about the future again. So hopefully the heart rates came down a little bit because that’s what this panel is called The Future of Higher Ed and Technology. And this one may go in a variety of different ways. So TJ’s got this podcast The Future of Higher Ed. I didn’t steal this panel topic based on his podcast, but he asked some pretty tough questions. And we have current ways that we’ve always done things, and we had to completely shift things in the spring and continue to change courses now in the summer. What do you see as existing structures that are going to sustain us going into the fall? Maybe give an example of what you already have explored, completely unpacking to make things work in the fall. But what potentially going into the future isn’t going to be realistic? And I can tell TJ’s just like warming up, like ready to go. No, he’s not going to go at all.

So now again, we’re talking about a little bit like structures, what’s going to work, what’s not going to work. What have you learned?

TJ Logan: I was warming up ready to go. No, I think I have so much to say on this because I talk about it every single week with guests on the pod and have a lot of fun in doing that. And I’m so lucky to have smart people, and you’ve been one of them Josie, and you’ve been one of them JPK to appear on the pod and say things that I get to learn from.

In terms of things that are sustainable, and I tweeted this the other day. Gosh, I hope that we learn a lot about the nature of work in higher education. I hope that we learn about… We, particularly in student affairs, but really across the board, are notoriously an industry that is input-based rather than output-based, very rules-based organizations. And I think we’ve learned a lot about who needs to be in the office, who doesn’t, how many hours they need to be in the office, how they can connect with students in different ways and why that might be healthier, more cost effective, more cost efficient.

I posted this on Twitter the other day. If you were to recast your entire organization based on what you learned during COVID, what percentage of your workforce would be virtual versus face to face? And some of the answers I got were 50%. And now you think if I had 50% of my workforce, I’ve got a staff of about 200. If I had 100 people that I can hire in a virtual manner, think about the talent pool I could open that up to. Literally anybody in the world, and I’m going to get them at the best rate because they don’t have to commute and they don’t have to park and they don’t have to do all those other things. And their job satisfaction would be through the roof because they don’t have to see me every day.

So it’s one of those things that I hope that we learn a lot about the nature of work and the nature of being in input-based versus an output-based organization, and can we move the needle on that? That’s one of my top things that I think we’ve learned and I hope we can take that away and actually execute it in the “new normal”.

Joe Sabado: I think beyond the nature of work, and adding onto what TJ said, I tweeted this the other day. As recent as a couple years ago, still having this debate, your conversation with other SA pros, on this idea of high touch, high tech. What does that even mean? So it even goes beyond the idea of practice but the mindset that as a student affairs professional, we have to be on premise. We have to be next to the student to be able to do our job effectively. Now this pandemic just pretty much whether we like it or not, that blew the idea out of the water. Again, leaving the effectiveness part of it. But really I think it comes to the mindset and redefining how we provide services to students.

So as we think about the future of higher ed and as we come out of this pandemic, it’s not just about budget cuts, framing it in terms of budget cuts, but how do we shape, how do we take opportunities and challenges that we’ve learned from this? Some folks, some of the universities still don’t want to use the word online education, and I get that. We look at it as remote learning or some kind of form of that. So my question, and I think TJ kind of brought this up earlier, is that what are we learning from this experience? Are we getting better at mission continuity? But at the same time, are we getting better at what online education and online student services could be?

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier: I agree with that, Joe. But I think we’re also learning about what we need to be in person for.

Joe Sabado: Yeah.

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier: So how we build up, to your point, what’s working really well in this environment right here, but I think about things, like we’re questioning everything. We’re doing tele-mental health right now with our counselors. Okay, that’s good. But when you can’t sit in a room with somebody and see the full effect and be in a space where they’re not worried about somebody walking in, it’s a different kind of conversation. And it doesn’t have to necessarily be mental health. Our career advisors are saying the same thing. That, “Yes, we can do online, and we’re doing it really well. And there’s something missing.”

But the biggest group that’s telling us they’re missing something are the students themselves. And so this is I think another huge driver about why campuses, those that are really thinking this through well, are pushing a return in some way, shape, or form because our students are telling us they need it. And not just from a, “I need to be in a room and a space where I can learn,” “I’ve not been around people really other than my family for this long, and I need to be around others that I am forming relationships with and I am leaning into connections with and learning from in different ways. And I need part of that to be in person.”

So I think when you ask about what we think is going to shift, all of the leveraging of what we’ve learned for technology… And I am just as hopeful as TJ and Joe and others that we’re going to take that and we’re going to maximize it. We’re going to use it really well for different types of access. But I also don’t want to lose what we know we need from those in person interactions.

Joe Sabado: I think you said something important, JPK, which is the end statement. Sometimes we approach this as one or the other. There’s another option. So there are things that are best suited, as you said JPK for in person, and we can never lose sight of that. Because as a technologist, we’re not 100% online but then also things that we can learn as far as example telemedicine. For some people, that may be the best option, but that’s the only option. Jennielle said this earlier, there are some folks who may not be able to go visit campuses. So how do we provide virtual tours? I think you said something that’s really important, which is the end statement. Sometimes you go like this or that.

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier: Both/and is my trademark.

La’Tonya Rease Miles: I’m ordinarily a glass-half-full person, but I’ll share a concern that I have and it goes back to I’m concerned my university is not paying attention, which was also mentioned earlier. So while on our campus we’re having all these conversations about students returning and public health and safety, we’re not communicating that out to our students. I know this because I’m looking at the class of 2024 Facebook group, and students are saying, “Hey, I’m looking for five guys to room with me in the fall somewhere.” I’m like, “First of all, if you’re on campus, there’s not going to be six of you in a room.” And then we’re not doing a good job of talking about proper physical distancing because we’re delaying.

I also say that people had underestimated Facebook, and I think a year ago we would’ve said, “Young people are not on Facebook. They’re not paying attention. They’re on Instagram. They’re on Twitter.” What I’m seeing is Facebook being a place where students are connecting, and then they take it somewhere else. So they might meet and say, “Oh, I want to put in your Instagram handle, and I’ll follow you there,” or, “Can you come join this podcast with me?” And it goes back, JPK, to that both/and thing too. It’s not one or the other. It’s like start here, and then go somewhere else. And it just challenges all those old notions we had about who is where and generations and where Gen Z is. Gen Z is wherever they want to be. So the rest of us just need to catch up to be honest and stop putting things in boxes.

Josie Ahlquist: Well, the willingness to go out there and listen and to really hear what they’re saying and then do something with that information, and one could argue that with all of assessment. How I’ve had horror stories of people trying to disprove data because they know better than the students that took the survey. So Julie, I’m glad you had mentioned that about listening to students and what they want and what not. And I think we’ll continue to have to look for creative ways to get that pulse be on just what their COVID test results are and the innovation of maybe some wristbands that test them every so often.

So the students in the course are all grad and doc students. Some of them are full time. They already have jobs. At some point I would say though that a career search is on the horizon, and I know we’ve got budget cuts. We’ve got layoffs. We’ve got furloughs. We have new positions coming about and new needs for potentially fully remote to also on campus. What advice would you give right now for those that are potentially in this time of their education and their careers but also related to prepare themselves potentially to be quite nimble and flexible in a variety of scenarios and some skills and even how they can communicate? They took a course like this that would be very valuable to someone, like a hiring manager like yourself.

Jennielle Strother: As the enrollment management rep here, I would tell your class to consider a career in enrollment management. I spend a lot of years saying, “Hey student affairs, we do the same work. Hey, this is super fun. Let’s all talk about it and let you know.” I just think really consider it because… And if you want to know all the ins and outs and the pros and cons, I’m here to talk through those with folks, have them reach out to me. But that would be my advice, think outside of what you think your path should be and what titles and what departments they should be. Think outside the box.

TJ Logan: Oh, today’s Wednesday. So two days ago when we recorded the pod, we had Clayton Mitchell on from Jefferson. He’s the Senior VP for Facilities and something else. And a really great guy. He has something smart to say about everything, and one of the things that he talked about, he has a military background, and he says, ‘The military and higher education are very similar in that historically the things that are rewarded, the people that get promoted are the people that take orders and fulfill orders.” He goes, “I’d like to think that that’s shifting a little bit where it’s less about being able to take orders and fulfill orders and more about being able to innovate a little bit.”

So I’m hopeful higher ed is turning a little bit of a corner because I think the future of work is more about how can we have people solve problems we don’t even know we have yet? The best job interview I ever did with anybody, not be as the interviewee, be as the interviewer. I interviewed a guy who said, “So what do you want me to do with this job?” And I told him all the issues. He said, “Great. I should be able to make that right within a year.” He goes, “My plan would be to eliminate my own job.” And I said, “Great. I want to hire you now. If you can eliminate your own job, you will always have a job with me.”

So if I can find more people that think in ways to not just keep their head above water and have their job forever but to solve their job, there’s always more work to be done. So I would love to instill this skillset of solving your job because if you solve your job, don’t worry. There’s a lot more out there available for you. So hopefully we can instill that skillset in whomever is out there doing job search right now, I would love to hire you if you’re going to solve your job. So come see me.

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier: I love this. Oh, go ahead, Joe. Go ahead.

Joe Sabado: Yeah. So to me it’s more of a mental mindset. As we challenge the old models that are based on certain populations, the theories that drive us, I would offer you the challenge to say rethink about all the things we’ve been passed to this point. For every generation, it’s unprecedented. TJ said, how do you think about the future? Because all the things we’ve learned in the past, even for me, I was an undergrad 20 years ago. So our experience back then isn’t going to be the same thing as it is now, and LT said, Gen Z… Or Josie said, Gen Z is wherever they want to be. So challenge the mindset of how is it… Forget about what we learned. Think about the future, think about the students of today, and let them guide us. Not what we think should’ve been or should be, but have students… That’s the reason why I love talking with students because they’ll tell you exactly what they need.

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier: Every time they will, and I would just add to everything that’s been said. I think for me one of the things that I remember… God, I feel like I’m that old lady on the porch like, “When I was a kid…” I mean, please, right? But one of the things I remember as a grad student was really thinking about, “Oh, we had to defend the field and defend the work.” That somehow… And I’m speaking of Student Affairs, and I’m glad, Jennielle, thanks for nodding your head there. That we’ve got to lean into this and prove our worth. I’m telling you right now nothing has been as critical, maybe other than IT, than Student Affairs work right now. I mean, every time I’m in a meeting people are looking to us, going, “What are we going to do here?” We’re all being pulled into spaces. We’re all being tapped for our expertise. So I’ve reframed it for the team to say anytime somebody asks you what you do, you say you do mission critical work for the education and student success of our entire community here. And that has gained some interesting traction.

So when you go into these places, these job searches, don’t do it from a defensive point of view. Don’t justify the existence. Tell them why it’s important and why it’s there and how mission critical the work is because we’ve seen it play out with our students every single day. I mean, we’re all now public health experts. We’re operations experts. And we really are. I mean, these are the folks that are getting pulled into these discussions, right? And then the faculty and the staff are sitting there going, “Oh, wow. Okay, great. Thanks for the help.”

Josie Ahlquist: So as we think about the future of higher ed and all of you that’s serving a variety of leadership positions, how do you see these positions needing to evolve, being redefined? One could say social media never should’ve been optional or some kind of online presence or engagement. So for yourself, what are you finding you’re needing to shift your leadership, or what would be your message to higher ed for what’s actually going to be needed for campus leadership going forward as quickly as the fall?

TJ Logan: I want to hear from Julie. I think she’s got all the good answers.

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier: That’s just mean, TJ. [crosstalk 00:58:36]

TJ Logan: No, you do. Every time I get to talk to you, I walk away going, “Well, she made me think I’m wrong.” That’s what I love about you.

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier: Nah, I don’t make you think you’re wrong. I just like to push back on what you say.

TJ Logan: I love it. I love it.

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier: Part of it I said just a minute ago, right? And I also think that how these positions evolve, that’s an interesting question again because as we’re sitting here trying to plan and execute at the same time, sometimes we don’t know. But I think Joe said something earlier about how you use both to truly connect and engage, whether it’s with students, whether it’s with other staff, whether it’s across the campus, whatever makes the most sense. And I think that scale has to be there. So your preferred platform is fine on social media, but we’ve got to have… No matter what your functional area maybe, and I would also say the functional areas are probably going to go away. We’re going to get a little more generalist about this because we’re seeing people getting pulled out of functional areas and put in places where their skills are matching. So much more skills-based.

But that flexibility and the ability to really challenge yourself to figure out how you can do really good, meaningful–and I’m going to say it again–mission critical work in all of these spaces I think is a fundamental redefinition of how we’ve been brought up in this field. And I always welcome people to completely disagree with me, which TJ will do momentarily given–

TJ Logan: No, I won’t. No. I particularly love when you talk about being mission critical, being value-centered in the way that you work. I don’t think COVID has changed this a lot. If anything, maybe it’s accelerated a little bit. I tend to think COVID’s not really a change maker as much as an accelerator of all the things that were eventually going to happen anyway. They just happened a lot more quickly.

And when it comes to leadership, I think it exposed maybe just that. I think it’s really going to take people who take leadership very, very seriously. If I’m a university president with an academic… Like I see people put in chairs all the time, and from the book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. We put people in chairs because they were successful at job A. Well, being good at job A does not make you great at job B, and what I want to find are people that are maniacally obsessed with leadership and culture and values and leading with love and leading people and understanding that every person on your team is a unique individual that comes to work.

It’s why Gary Vaynerchuk has changed his HR role to the Chief Heart Officer. Things like that. People that understand that we’re not leading machines or things. We’re not managing. We are leading. And I think that’s a discipline, and I think you have to be maniacal about it. I think you have to eat, sleep, and breathe it. And my hope is that we can find some dynamic people that can put themselves in that space and be humble leaders who can do that hard work of thinking about leading every single day.

La’Tonya Rease Miles: I’ll just add a little bit onto that. So really a message to the students in the class. You really have to manage up in this situation. You cannot wait for your supervisor to have an epiphany. Whether that’s you deciding or saying, “My role needs to shift.” But you have to show the way as opposed to someone telling you what it is. I’ll use myself as an example. So we’re seeing UCLA all of a sudden we’re a different type of institution. A year ago we were saying, “98% of our students live on campus. We’re a residential campus.” And I have always been asking, “What about that 2%?” I’m First-Year Experience. What about that 2%. Six months later, now the group on the margin are most of our students right now. So now I’m telling my boss, “I have to reinvent what First-Year Experience means at this moment.” I can’t wait for my boss. My boss is too busy putting out fires all around. So I encourage people to feel empowered to do something similar, to say what it is that you’re seeing and then provide a solution to that as well.

Joe Sabado: I think an extension to just leading a… Building on what TJ said, you have to be I think obsessed with learning and learning yourself, destructing yourself. I believe in learning a lot. I think some friends of mine know that I’m obsessed with just learning about anything and everything. I just don’t know when I’m going to use it, but at some point, I know I’m going to use it. And that’s just been my career is that I may not know what’s coming up next, but back in the day, this is when Borders was still physical a space. I’d go to bookstores and look at the IT section of the bookstore and start looking at the kind of topics that’s coming up. So I started seeing a pattern there, and online, I’d be on Twitter, Facebook, and all these other places. I tend to follow people on Twitter, leaders in the field. And so you have to be a really passionate leader. You can’t just stand alone and say, “You know what,” like TJ said, “What got you here isn’t going to get you to the next level.”

So you got to learn about this concept called T Employee where you know an area that’s deep but then you know a lot of things in horizontally. And I think that speaks to the idea of you have to be a generalist somehow but you also have to be specialist in an area.

Josie Ahlquist: And Joe, if I remember correctly, didn’t you teach yourself how to code or do websites? That was your first campus job. Obviously, big throwback. But the ability to go out, seek the information, teach yourself the skills to fit the needs. Anyway, yeah. Uncle Joe, as LT just said in the comments. Love it.

Well, we are at the top of the hour. I want to thank the panelists who have come from all pockets of the country in the evening to show up to do this. I appreciate you all so very much. I probably will go out and do three more hours of work today for as much inspiration that I just got. I hope the students… Don’t do three more hours of work unless you’re inspired too. But I hope you got a lot out of this as well. They are going to be joining us through Tuesday next week on Twitter. Send them your questions, get more information from them.

Next week is about digital leadership, so that was really what my last question was about. What is leadership going to look like for campuses going forward, not just using social media or crisis communication? So again, thank you to each of you a million times over. I appreciate you so, so very much.

Thank you so much for checking out this episode. Getting a little nerdy, bringing in some course content from my class at Florida State, Tech in Higher Ed. If you enjoyed this episode and/or if you enjoyed this show, make sure that you’re subscribed. And don’t forget, I would sure appreciate a review on iTunes or any of your favorite podcasting platforms and get sharing this thing pretty, pretty please. Of course, you can join the conversation tweeting at me @JosieAhlquist or the podcast Twitter @JosieATPodcast. Also, that Instagram is there too also @JosieAhlquist. Remember, the show notes and additional resources can be found at my website

If you are interested in learning more about my speaking consulting work on digital engagement and leadership or my brand new book Digital Leadership in Higher Education, check me out at

Thank you again to my podcast sponsor Campus Sonar. Learn more about them at

I’m sending digital hugs, loves, and waves to whatever corner of the world you’re listening in from. This has been Josie and The Podcast.

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