As the ACPA and NASPA conferences quickly approach, I am excited to share the findings and recommendations from my doctoral research. One of the main recommendations from my doctoral dissertation was the creation of a technology implementation model for student affairs divisions throughout higher education. The graphic below represents this technology implementation model, illustrating how student affairs administrators could lead departments, divisions and associations implementing digital technology tools (Cabellon, 2016). The complete synthesis of my primary data sources catalyzed this design’s cyclical framework, including what to focus attention on and why this matters in student affairs. Of course, the size and scope of the organization might influence the degree to which student affairs administrators could implement this design (Bess & Dee, 2012).

Technology Implementation Model
Technology Implementation Model for Student Affairs Divisions in Higher Education (Cabellon, 2016)

Step 1: Acknowledge technological biases. The technology implementation model begins by encouraging student affairs administrators to acknowledge their technological biases. Junco (2014) noted that expanding beyond an adult normative perspective about digital technology supported educational and professional uses. As illustrated through the design’s logo, acknowledging and sharing one’s technological biases provides a direction and movement. For example, student affairs directors might lead a discussion at a staff meeting or retreat about technology perceptions and attitudes, seeking to gain a mutual understanding. These discussions might uncover why previous technology was not implemented and inspire new energy to take future action.

Step 2: Explore personal uses of digital technology. Next, student affairs administrators are asked to explore personal uses of various digital technology tools that might have shared meaning in their higher education work.  Given digital technology tools’ complexity for many people, educators must first understand how these tools apply personally if they are to have any professional or educational meanings (boyd, 2014). In fact, personal technology use often drives individual biases towards expanded professional uses (Bowen, 2013). Given digital technology’s ubiquity in the academy, student affairs leaders could create opportunities for divisions to explore how various digital technology tools might have educational or professional purposes. For example, senior student affairs officers might charge a technology committee to regularly explore new technologies, present their value to division leaders, and create a general inventory of how professionals are harnessing technology in their work.

Step 3: Experiment professionally with digital technology tools. Then, student affairs administrators are asked to intentionally experiment professionally with digital technology tools. While Turkle (2011) argued that we must limit our exposure to digital technology tools due to their adverse psychological affects, Cabellon and Junco (2015) noted that specific digital technology uses by student affairs administrators provide important data for increased student engagement (Junco, 2014; Junco & Mastrodicasa, 2007), as well as student retention (Junco, Heiberger, & Loken, 2011). For example, student affairs associations might add a technology marketplace to their annual conferences by inviting a variety of educational technology vendors and student affairs technology professionals to share the latest technology education. Information technology associations, such as EDUCAUSE, already provide a marketplace model that student affairs associations could experiment with, on large or small scales.

Step 4: Share digital technology evidence and ideas. Next, student affairs administrators are encouraged to share digital technology use evidence and ideas within departments and across the student affairs division. Barr et al. (2014) warned student affairs administrators to “beware of the junkyard of next big things” (p. 90), noting the importance of sharing evidence and ideas with colleagues as an important litmus test. For example, when multiple departments seek the same hardware or third-party developed software (e.g., iPads, digital duty logs, content management systems, etc.), student affairs vice presidents should select specific departments to initially conduct a pilot test, whose data could drive future investment. Certainly, new technologies should only be brought on with department heads’ commitment to publicly present and share data annually.

Step 5: Build cross-divisional, innovative partnerships. This sharing process actualizes the next phase of the design, where student affairs administrators are inspired to build cross-divisional partnerships with those in information technology, marketing and communication, and academic affairs. Jones, Harper, and Schuh (2010) argued, “Partnerships have long been stressed in student affairs. However, now perhaps more than ever, our future depends on our ability to collaborate with multiple stakeholders and constituencies inside and outside higher education” (p. 542). For example, executive leaders overseeing these divisions might request an annual presentation during a University Cabinet meeting focused on divisional collaborations with digital technology. Certainly, cabinet leaders could benefit from the data collected, analyzed, and implemented throughout their respective institutions, possibly impacting future budget decisions.

Step 6: Develop communities of practice. In the final phase of this model, student affairs administrators institutionalize their digital technology use through divisional communities of practice. Bliming (2001) noted that these scholar-practitioner communities reflected the collaborative nature of student affairs, allowing for intentional intersections throughout the academy and acknowledging their added value. For example, senior student affairs officers could anchor a divisional technology community of practice with current student affairs technology-related research and ask that community to provide scholar-practitioner education and recommendations for the division on a regular basis.

Finally, as the new technology competency is explored and implemented throughout student affairs, administrators and educators must critically think about how digital technology can expand the reach and scope of their various programs and services. One way might be to ask the following questions along with the use of this model:

  • “How do we deliver this program or service in a digital format, and what type of data could we gain?”
  • “How do we utilize digital communication platforms to share our division’s learning outcomes?”
  • “How do we connect the data we collect to the university’s central student information system?”
  • “How do we reallocate budgetary resources to support our departmental use of digital technology tools to inspire innovative practice?”

My hope is that student affairs divisions throughout higher education can find this model and questions useful in their various technology implementation efforts.

How do your divisions implement various digital technology tools? How do you measure whether or not they are effective? What are your overall thoughts on this model?


Barr, M. J., McClennan, G. S., & Sandeen, A. (2014). Making change happen in student affairs. New York, NY: Wiley.

Bess, J. L., & Dee, J. R. (2012). Understanding college and university organizations: Theories for effective policy and practice, Volume 2: Dynamics of the system. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Bliming, G. S. (2001). Uniting scholarship and communities of practice. Journal of College Student Development, 42, 381-396.

Bowen, W. G. (2013). Higher education in the digital age. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

boyd, d. m. (2014). It’s complicated: The social lives of networked teens. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Cabellon, E. T. (2016). Redefining student affairs through digital technology: A ten-year historiography of digital technology use by student affairs administrators (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. (Accession Order No. 10013238).

Cabellon, E. T., & Junco, R. (2015). The digital age of student affairs. In E. Whitt & J. Schuh (Eds.), New directions for student services, 1997-2014: Glancing back, looking forward (pp. 49-61). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Jones, S. R., Harper, S. R., & Schuh, J. H. (2010). Shaping the future. In J. Schuh, S. Jones, & S. Harper (Eds.), Student services: A handbook for the profession (pp. 535-547). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Junco, R. (2014). Engaging students through social media: Evidence based practices for use in student affairs. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Junco, R., & Mastrodicasa, J. (2007). Connecting to the Net.Generation: What higher education professionals need to know about today’s students. Washington, DC: NASPA.

Junco, R., Heiberger, G., & Loken, E. (2011). The effect of Twitter on college student engagement and grades. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 27(2), 119-132.

Turkle, S. (2011). Alone together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other. New York, NY: Basic Books.

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