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When it's time to Change...

This morning, housing professionals across the country met in Pittsburg, PA for the “State of the Profession” gathering. On social media, pictures began to emerge of data being shared with housing professionals about where we are at as a field. There is a lot to process, but this one chart (which I recreated) is pretty incredible, especially in the context of thinking about digital leadership.

What is most glaring is the shift in social media engagement from 2007 to 2016. Moving from 19% of our students engaged for more than six hours a week in social media to 41% tells us this is becoming more and more of a reality for students as a viable community for them.

We are also beginning to see, given the world around us, which of our students may be more likely to engage in these worlds – women more than men (in regards to sex*) and LGBQ students more than their non-LGBQ counterparts. Why might this be?

One reason, I believe is the ability to connect with a larger community online as opposed to face to face. Another reason is online communities might provide safer spaces for these students to engage in without dealing with micro or macroagressions that they might face on their actual campuses.

What are we doing as a field to engage with students who are more and more engaging online? What if a campus looked at this data and saw it as an opportunity? Some ideas:

Digital Resident Assistants:

Maybe having student staff who are trained with the entire Resident Assistant population, have all the same resources, conflict resolution skills, and programming/community development skills. Instead of giving them a “hall” or “floor” to manage, maybe explain to them; “your community is digital.” As an RA, you wouldn’t get a hall list, or a birthday list, but your job would be to engage in social media and build your OWN community!!!

How would we measure that RA’s success? One metric might be getting students from these digital spaces to engage face to face? Meet ups, campus scavenger hunts, a points system to “level up” during the year and provide prizes for the highest ranking students? Another metric might be the amount of students engaged in a particular online community; Instagram followers who are ALSO followers of the housing Instagram would be an example. Another metric might be referrals to campus resources.

Digital Peer Counseling:

This is already happening on many campuses. But what if your counseling center hired a group of counseling students (or had grad assistantships) whose job it was to engage in social media spaces with the knowledge and training they have from the counseling center? What if we were able to connect students to 24/7 digital counselors?

Digital Academic Advising:

Again, already happening on many campuses, but what if resources were allocated to providing students or professional staff who could engage and build social media spaces in which students could gain access to resources without coming through the front doors of the advising office?

We really need to look at the campus design from a Three Dimensional Perspective. We tend to focus on buildings, facilities, etc. But you could telecommute and do some critical work with the 40% of students who are engaged more than 6 hours a week in social media circles and really end up providing more resources to groups of students who may not have the same opportunities face to face on campus.

I’d love to see the data broken down by race on digital engagement, and I’d also like to see the data on our trans students. I think this would provide richer opportunities for us as a campus to support students with marginalized identities. We are missing opportunities to support groups of students on our campus!

What are some other ideas to engage digitally with our students? Comment below!

*Please note, the data above are very centered around a gender/sex binary, and erase our students who do not identify as being male or female. I want to acknowledge this in providing the data to you. This is something our field in general needs to really consider. It is also a way for us to become three dimensional in our leadership!

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