The web & the offices behind it

More and more, I can see a definite need for institutions to position the web as an institution resource poised for success. No different than say, public relations and its place serving the entire message control for the college or university, is the web and experts devoted to it within an institution’s organization.

Every school is different. Organizational charts are something that each institution has to work out on their own. But I can look at the “job” of the web, from an authoritative perspective and point to several scenarios, depending on the place.

First, is the institution who vests the trust of the web in the hands of a single “webmaster”. This old model worked great when web pages were static and required the knowledge of an “all-knowing seer and wise woman among the masses” who knew HTML better than everyone else. In this declining model, your situation gets thrown into the whims of a single person and when s(he) leaves, you almost have to start over.

Next, is the web by committee. You might have a person in charge of this nebulous force in decentralization, but ultimately, each area is responsible for their part of the web. In theory? Sounds great. No one area has to be in charge of the massive site as a whole, you cobble together a committee of folks to make “web decisions” and everyone is happy, right? Uh, no. Because you need authority. You need someone in charge who has the expertise, the experience and the vision to call the shots and to plot a course. Would you do this for admission? Marketing? Of course not. But for the web, it constantly gets relegated to the backseat or into the corner like a stepchild. Or worse, someone’s pet project.

In the end, it’s all about the quirks of the place and trying to cultivate a structure that works best. And being flexible about that, because not every institution needs more layers of red tape that prevent things from getting done. But there needs to be a web strategy that delineates what decisions are made by who, how and when. As well as who controls the purse strings, no matter how few pennies they may be. When I refer to the web here, I’m talking almost entirely about the web as a marketing and communication tool, rather than the IT parts of things.

College marketing via billboards

I’ve done a lot of driving cross country in recent years. One of the things I’ve always enjoyed, especially in the emergence of my higher ed career is observing college billboards. They’re still a useful resource, I think.

I haven’t done a real study on this, but I wonder how many of them are tying their billboard advertising to what they’re doing on the web. I worked at a community college before my current job and we had a clumsy web address that was hard to tell people to find. They knew how to find us and since our recruiting base was very local, it wasn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things. But for institutions that are competing in large areas, etc., I imagine to find that differentiator has to be the thing that gets to dig deeper.

Not exactly rocket science here, just an interesting topic of overall marketing strategy worth considering.

P.S. I was planning to go to eduWeb this year until I realized that my best friend was getting married the same weekend and I’m his best man. Both are in New Jersey, but nowhere near each other. I’m good, but…that’d be a stretch even for me to pull off.


I started a new blog about text sims called Immersinik. Primarily sports text sims, but others if they’re interesting enough. We’ll feature interviews, stories and more about the games on the market and those upcoming.

It’s still evolving and not that old yet, but…it’s there and I’m hoping to making something semi-interesting out of it.

Role Reversal

I was talking to my summer student worker this morning about how funny it is when you go from being the student to “the boss.” I can vividly remember — first in the Air Force, then in college as a student — how it felt to be on the bottom of the totem pole. Or being in that quasi-official spot between “student who does lame jobs” to “student who we trust to do as much as work as someone who works here…but who is still a student.”

One of the things I never considered when I began working in higher ed, was how I would approach that relationship of working with students. I mean, we have to give them lame work to do. It’s sadly part of the job description. Maybe not “lame” but task that are nonetheless important — even if they are mundane. At least we pay them, though.

Since I arrived in this role, I’ve supervised lots of different types of students and I’ve found it to be interesting. Far more interesting than supervising fellow staff, since that’s a relationship that’s a bit easier to navigate for me, because I didn’t really grow up with any real strong feelings about it. (That said, I’ve had some pretty great examples of supervisors my entire career, so I had a great model to work from, rather than no foundation at all)

But it was just interesting joking with my student today about my experiences, because I remember a few years ago starting out and feeling really bad about giving my student “busy work” to do. I learned to get over it, once my workload necessitated that I do it. What I’d to “compensate” is increase the complexity of tasks over time and explain why I had them doing what they were doing, giving them a sense of ownership over the importance of their work. Didn’t always result in more thoroughness, but it seemed to reflect overall in their approach.

I think the real story here is simply the “all grown up” epiphany that I’m sure lots of folks have (right?) when they have an out of body experience long enough to realize the spot they’re in and how different it is from a reality you wake up and find yourself in.

Then you go back to work and stop thinking about it for a while, I guess. It’s different for me, because as a non-traditional student, I worked and then didn’t finish college until after I got out of college. So agewise, I’m in the right spot for where I’d have been, had I done things more “traditionally” but I relate to my students a lot more, because we’re not that far apart in an academic sense.

So I think I’ve done well to strike a balance between keeping them busy and useful, with finding ways to infuse lessons into their work to make it a more meaningful experience, which I’m glad about.

Small miracles

Near our new office, there is a facility for people who have mental disabilities. When I was a kid, my mother used to drive a school bus for kids like that. So I have a strange feeling of understanding for people who seem to have joy about the most simple things.

I came in today and I just got a whiff of the biggest dose of reality I needed. Sometimes, it can be really easy to get so caught up in your own situation that you can forget how simple life can be.

When I came in today, it was almost like a clarion call to “appreciate the small things.”

So that’s what I think I’ll do. I have an amazing opportunity each day to try to reach out and impact the world in a positive way. No way that I need to get so caught up in the things that don’t work, that I should ignore that fact. Because it’s a real message worth remembering.

11 Songs ~ 7.18.08

Another week comes and ends and I assembled a list of stuff I was listening to, as usual. It’s an extra song this week, because I thought the first song without the second one providing the context for what he was doing, wouldn’t expose how neat it was. Hearing it on phonograph as a kid for years, every time I fire it up, it takes me back to my childhood.

Have a wonderful weekend and be sure not to expose your salary! ;)

1. Rev. James Cleveland – Jesus Is The Best Thing (That Ever Happened To Me)
2. Gladys Knight & The Pips – You’re The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me
3. Sigur Ros – Saeglopur
4. Tegan and Sara – I Know, I Know I Know
5. Metric – The List
6. Camera Obscura – Tear For Affairs
7. Laura Veirs – Rialto
8. The Changes – The Machine
9. Death Cab For Cutie – Grapevine Fires
10. Noisettes – Hierarchy
11. Lori McKenna – Written Permission

Salary Transparency

Especially in higher education, it can be very difficult — more for staff, than for faculty — to find out what their peers are being paid. Let me clarify that. It’s not as hard for public institutions, since that information can be accessed or there are salary bands that make it pretty easy to know what people are making.

But for those of us who are private college or university employees? Not so much.

I don’t think the issue is really so much about knowing what the person down the hall makes. Ok, so maybe a little bit. The real issue is comparing market worth for a position across the board. Sure, there are cost of living issues to consider. But it’s harder in the ‘ivory tower’ to assess comparative worth than in lots of other fields and I’m not sure it ought to be.

The only time a lot of people can find out about the salary of others on a campus without digging through some public records, is when a job gets posted. And even then, it’s not always clear.

I was inspired by a Penelope Trunk post about figuring out how much you should be paid and the consternation that’s caused when people through an office find out what others are making.

I don’t think it’s a problem at all. We almost always know the President makes, why not just make it an open book? It’s not as if it’ll hamper interpersonal relationships on campus, though it might surely make it easier to value people’s contributions in relation to the salaries.

But is that a bad thing?