We’re excited to welcome another guest blogger this week: Shane Dunn. Shane is a higher education alumni engagement and fundraising professional with five years of experience at three different private research universities in the Greater Boston area, plus a significant amount of regional and national alumni volunteer experience with his own alma mater, Cornell University. Shane has worked in annual giving at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and in alumni relations at Tufts University. Last September he left Tufts for his current role as assistant director of student engagement in alumni relations and annual giving at the MIT Sloan School of Management in Cambridge, MA, where he is creating a student strategy and developing a lifecycle of engagement to foster lifelong connections with the School. He is also active with the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). Shane is a graduate of the Cornell Class of 2007 where he majored in Communication and earned his master’s degree in higher education administration from Boston College in 2010. He hopes you’ll connect with him on Twitter @shaneadunn and on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/shaneadunn.
I love and appreciate professional development. It’s integral to the work I do and want to do. But I appreciate it even more now that I have access to so much more of it through social media.
In the five years I have been working in higher education, I have been fortunate enough to attend five CASE (Council for the Advancement and Support of Education) district conferences, one four day-long CASE Summer Institute in Alumni Relations, and participate in a number of webinars and other short-form in-person and online professional development sessions. I’ve even served on two conference planning committees as a way to challenge myself and meet new colleagues from other institutions. As a Gen-Y fundraising and alumni relations professional, networking to meet colleagues and peers from other schools is very important to me and the work I do, not to mention the benefits of learning other ideas. Even though I relish in-person experiences in a digital age, there are 350 more days per year that I’m not at conferences or sitting in on webinars.
In an era where many colleges and universities put professional development on the chopping block when the economy soured (I know it happened to me in my first job), professional development has become more important to ensuring a marketable, mobile, and effective workforce, including in higher education. Indeed, in this blog posting, Kevin Crockett of the consulting firm Noel-Levitz describes the benefits of professional development to colleges and universities, and why professional development should be a part of everyone’s work experience. In an era when time and financial resources are finite, it has become increasingly clear to me that social media (specifically Twitter and LinkedIn, but Facebook, too) add tremendous value. Social media is the fringe benefit that we all have access to, no matter where we work or study.
Social media transforms professional development by transcending boundaries and providing unparalleled access to our own unique interests. One of the most basic benefits of social media in education is actually following other people and organizations more passively to find out what others are saying. I have found that beyond the personal enrichment I have gained from tweeting about education and other (yes, mundane) things, I have gained ten-fold from following thought leaders, organizations, and colleagues in higher education and business. Social media provides us with a variety of perspectives that we might not get from other traditional forms of media. This is the essence of the purposes of professional development in the first place: PD provides us with outsiders’ perspectives and experiences that we can then use to inform and enhance our own work. No one at any university has the resources to attend every conference or even every webinar; but everyone out there has the budget to follow others online, even if it requires focusing on just a select few due to time constraints.
If you’re like me, you have your own “Personal Network List” on Twitter that I spend most of my time following and sharing. From Harvard Business Review (https://twitter.com/HarvardBiz) to Andrew Gossen (https://twitter.com/agossen), the people and organizations on my PNL provide original or shared insights, news, information, and resources that benefit me and the work I do, as well as the work I want to do. The best thing is that my list grows over time as I continue to meet or be introduced to people, or find new people and organizations to follow. Another way to learn about others to follow and to learn without being at an event is to follow an event’s hashtag, which will (hopefully) be promoted on the event’s website and included in its marketing.
Importantly, as David Williams states in an article about social media use among corporate CEOs, “Social media is becoming the ‘universal university’ that allows all of us to learn from each other through comments, feedback and spirited dialogues, even when we may not agree.” David hit the nail on the head: social media is the “universal university” that we should all be taking advantage of, no matter which industry we work in. Because of the availability of new resources delivered to me through social media, I am now in the driver’s seat of my own professional development. I don’t need permission or funding from anybody to take advantage of the new opportunities social media has opened up to me. All I need is the drive, discipline, and curiosity to follow and connect with new people and ideas. Thankfully, that is what I have, and I know most other professionals in higher education do, too.
Now, with a smartphone in my hand and Twitter always accessible, I feel like I’m getting professional development wherever I go. There may not be a need to shell out $1,000 for that next conference, unless it’s to finally meet that one person you’ve been tweeting at for two years who you must meet — I know I have a few of those in my PNL. (Read: Dan Klamm, Kevin Grubb, Shannon Kelly, among others.) As an educator and networker, I have an obligation to stay connected to others so I can be better at my job — not just my current job, but also my future jobs.
So go ahead and take a look at my PNL and let me know who I’m missing. Who else is influential or prolific in sharing professional news, tips, and insights that we educators should be following?