The CSAO as
Channeling the Power of
BY JOE SABADO
Technology has enabled higher education institutions to provide services beyond traditional working hours and to extend the boundaries of physical campus space into the virtual space. In some cases, technology has transformed how student services are delivered and innovations are introduced.
Social media and mobile computing further demonstrate
the power of information technology (IT) to facilitate
connections and build communities.
Technology complements and improves student affairs work
in a number of ways, including:
➤ Knowledge-based systems, like Intelliresponse, that
answer most commonly asked questions can minimize
the number of phone calls and e-mails to student affairs
staff, thereby freeing staff members to deal directly with
students requiring extra attention.
➤ Electronic medical records and case management
systems provide student affairs practitioners with
relevant student information, collected from different
parts of campus, that they can use to assist students.
➤ Virtual conferencing tools, such as Adobe Connect,
provide webinars to incoming students who may
not be able to visit campus for admission tours or
The increasing role and impact of technology in higher
education has been driven by the needs of the institutions
to accommodate changing student demographics; to
meet accountability demands from various stakeholders,
including the government, employers, and parents; to address
affordability and access; to provide service cost efficiently; and
to comply with public policy.
Student affairs divisions are components of the larger
college or university ecosystem; student affairs divisions
operating in isolation and in silos, separate from academic
and administrative units, cannot adequately serve students.
Technology planning, implementation, and use must be
approached from this holistic perspective.
Chief student affairs officers (CSAOs), given their knowledge
of student issues and their awareness of campus politics, can
best provide the leadership and management to use technology
efficiently and effectively in student development and learning.
Technology implementations involve politics, cultural shifts,
and financial considerations, and CSAOs must provide
guidance in reconciling and negotiating these complex and
sometimes competing priorities.
This article explores how CSAOs can best facilitate
technology solutions for needed services, measure the
effectiveness of services, and ensure access for all students.
Building the Technology Expertise
CSAOs must provide transformative leadership and the
necessary oversight to ensure their organizations are taking
full advantage of technology investments while appropriately
balancing risks. Implementation details may be best left to
technology and subject matter experts. Ideally, a divisional-
level technology expert(s) can assist them in making proper
technology-related decisions. CSAOs, given their divisional
responsibilities, often find it challenging to keep pace with the
latest technology advancements. Gage Paine, vice president
for student affairs at the University of Texas, Austin, describes
the challenge: “I am not very knowledgeable about IT, so I
have to trust the experts. The challenge is sorting out the right © I S t