Last month, over 75 leaders from institutions around the country gathered in Chicago for ListenUp EDU, our first conference focused on improving how we listen to students and alumni and improve service and success, co-hosted with our friends at Campus Sonar (who are pioneering the the insights gleaned from social listening to inform institutions’ strategy). The gathering exceeded our expectations. We hope to live up to the assessment of Matt Duncan, Academic Digital Engagement Strategist at the University of Colorado Boulder, who called it “The future of higher ed conferences.” We’re hosting the next ListenUp in Portland, OR April 17-18 with Campus Sonar.
With so much change ahead, career centers need to rethink outdated career training models. Career centers’ primary focus should not be to prepare students for linear careers anymore. Instead, they should prepare students for a lifetime of career changes. Navigating these ambiguous career paths requires students and alumni to embrace upskilling and lifelong learning. This same advice applies to careers services staff too.
The flaws in higher ed conferences aren’t the fault of the attendees, the speakers, or the organizers—they’re the fault of the format. If we want to truly serve students and alumni, we need the courage to innovate and try something new.
It's a challenge that we who serve alumni tend to take for granted: We have to serve them all.
But that mandate, when you think about it, is a bit absurd. How can we, however large our team, possibly serve every one of our thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of alumni? What can we possibly offer that will appeal to everyone?
After experimenting with a variety of programs and trying to serve all their alumni, Erin Erwin, Senior Associate Director of Career & Professional Development at the IUAA, and Emili Sperling Bennett, Associate Director of Career & Professional Development, decided instead to focus on a smaller piece of the pie: older alumni who need mid-to-late career advice.
If you’ve attended a conference or read articles or, well, done anything, really, in the past few years you’ve likely heard of something called “design thinking.” And if you’re anything like me, you’ve turned your nose up at what seems to be the latest fad out of Silicon Valley.
But design thinking is not business-school jargon. It isn’t pretentious, or fake, or overhyped. It’s actually useful—yes, even to higher ed, with all its quirks.
Change is hard. (See: Newton’s first law of motion). And humans are inherently lazy and creatures of habit. If there is more than one way to do something complex, we will almost always take the easy route. That, or shove it in a drawer so we won’t have to look at it.
So when I decided I wasn’t happy with the way I was looking and feeling about my weight for the umpteenth time, I held on tight to my inertia until a friend invited me to a Weight Watchers meeting.