#SAtech profile: @JoeSabado - Part 1

I like introducing the student affairs community to folks who identify as student practitioners who work with technology and/or have a tremendous amount of competency with technology.

May 6, 2011

I like introducing the student affairs community to folks who identify as student practitioners who work with technology and/or have a tremendous amount of competency with technology. Inspired by the informational tweets that come from the #SAtech hashtag, I reached out to someone who has been tweeting a lot of useful student affairs technology resources. This is part 1 of an interview that I did with Joe Sabado, a frequent #SAtech contributor:

Sabado is the Associate Director for Information Systems and Software Development in Student Information Systems and Technology (SIST) within the Division of Student Affairs at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB).

Unlike a lot of student affairs "techies," you have been involved with Student affairs for a lot of your collegiate experience. How has that influenced your current position?

I was actually hired as the first full-time web developer for UCSB Division of Student Affairs in 1996 because of my involvement with student affairs as a student. As a student, I worked in multiple departments as peer advisor, tutor, intern, volunteer, RA. One of my projects while working for a multicultural awareness program was to develop a CD-Rom using Director in early 1994 and right about that time, the web was starting to become more common. I volunteered to develop websites for some of the departments. Dr. Yonie Harris, the Dean of Students, who I worked very closely with in my role as a student leader in the Asian American student community, knew my interest in student affairs and technology. When I walked up to the stage to receive my diploma, she greeted me, gave me a hug and whispered "Come see me next week, I think I have a job for you."

My collegiate experience with the different units in student affairs provide me with a sense of appreciation of student affairs and how significant it plays in the development and success of our students. From personal experience, I value the importance of learning outside the classroom. I attribute my leadership, communication, management, political, relationship-building, technology skills I have today more to my collegiate experience/training in student affairs than what I learned in the classroom.

Because of my collegiate and professional experience in student affairs, I define myself as a "student affairs professional working with technologies" rather than a "technologist working in student affairs." It's apparent to those who interact with me that I view my duties as a series of relationship building, collaboration, leadership, and using technology as tools to provide services and environment s for students to succeed holistically. In implementing technology solutions, I try to look at them from how a student and/or student service staff might use them, rather than imposing a system that may not be usable for them. For example, in implementing an electronic medical record system for our counseling services, what does it mean for a first generation Asian American student to have to fill out the forms and being asked a series of questions he/she may not feel comfortable answering and must do so within a specified time period? In developing websites, how do we make sure visually-impaired students can use them effectively? Given our efforts towards mobile web services, will some of our students be disadvantaged because they cannot afford the monthly data charges?

I view my work from the perspective of a student service professional whose purpose is to assist students with services and provide an environment so that they may have the space to grow as individuals and to succeed in and out of the classroom. In addition, I see myself not only as a technology provider but as a mentor, an educator, someone who looks for and enjoys the opportunities to make a difference in a student's life. I strive to understand that student culture, their perspectives and the issues they face which is constantly changing and so I believe it is part of my duty to always strive to understand them by volunteering myself as org advisor, reading admissions applications, student committee membership and some other ways to be closer to them so that I may learn from them.

What is a typical week like for you?

Many meetings :) Since I became Assoc. Director last October, I've had to stop developing web applications/ leading projects and have assumed project oversights/leadership roles. Most of my time consists of discussing resource allocation, high level project prioritizations and policy discussions as well as connecting with my staff and departments.


  • Steering committee meetings for multiple projects
  • One-on-one weekly meetings with my four Info Systems managers
  • Info Systems Managers meeting
  • Weekly meeting with student fee advisory committee meeting
  • Coordination with IT group for deployments/process improvements
  • Department senior managers meeting (coordination, policies discussion)
  • Social media/mobile research
  • Meetings with department heads
  • HR-related tasks (e.g. interviews, job description updates, telecommuting policy/flex time policy reviews)
  • Lunch at least once a week with a few of my developers just to connect with them.

Could you describe some of your ongoing projects?

Most of my involvement with projects are at oversight level and not direct project management. I am blessed with an amazing team of developers/designers/managers who are very technically competent, have great customer service attitudes, project management skills and they don't require close supervision. This allows me to spend time researching and thinking about future directions including mobile and social media use in our division (and campus). Here are some of the projects I'm involved with, in addition to my oversight/steering committee participations above.

  • Conversion of mainframe-based student information system to sql/.net technologies
  • Social Media initiative for Student Affairs/UCSB
  • Mobile Web initiative for Student Affairs/UCSB (looking into use of UCLA Mobile Web Framework)
  • Inigral School app for Admissions office
  • Replacement of co-curricular transcript/orgs management system from a homegrown system to vendor product
  • Redesign of multiple websites which includes development of content management system
  • Transfer project management/development responsibilities of projects I used to be involved with to my staff
  • Identity management project

What are your thoughts about mobile web/app development for student affairs?

Mobile web/app development should be encouraged and started now in student affairs based on the preferences/demands of our customers and projected increase of mobile use. Given the skill sets and resources required for native application development and maintenance, my recommendation is to explore mobile web development first because generally, web developers already have the knowledge and tools to develop mobile websites. There are some features provided by HTML 5 like geo-location and offline web capabilities that are closing the gap between native applications and mobile web apps.

There is an increasing expectation from our students that we provide them with information (deadlines, timely info, etc) and applications (lms, course registration, maps, etc) they can access while they are on the go. If we don't build these mobile services, there is a chance they will start building these services themselves because of their needs. Just recently, a group of UCSB students developed an iphone app for moodle for class project. I personally encourage innovative thinking and at the same time, I worry that proper security such as whether the login process is encrypted is implemented.

Gartner predicts an increasing use of consumer technologies such as mobile computing, social media and cloud in the next few years. Morgan Stanley also predicts that by mid 2013, mobile internet user will surpass desktop use. Someone who works on campus does not have to look at the studies above to see the increasing use of mobile devices by students and staff. Web stats logs on our campus also reveal increasing use of mobile devices to access our websites. Looking at the status updates on facebook and tweets posted on twitter reveal that many of them are from mobile devices.

If we are to use social media platforms to communicate, engage our students, advertise our services with links to our websites, and our users are using mobile devices to access social media sites, we better provide our users mobile websites as destinations for these links.

Have you created mobile sites for student affairs services?

Not at this point, but I just recently attended a retreat in UCLA to discuss how UCSB can be part of the UCLA Mobile Web Framework (MWF) project. This is a framework already being used by some of the UC campuses. It provides functionalities like device detection, image compression, caching, user interface templates that saves developers many hours of development/testing. In the next few months, I will be working with stakeholders and developers on campus towards an integrated UCSB plan.

Where do you go for information about the mobile web + student affairs?

As far as mobile web + student affairs, twitter is a good resource, specifically #sachat, #satech. In addition, I also find info at #mobileweb, #mobile.

A blog site by Dave Olsen at http://www.dmolsen.com was my first introduction to mobile web development. I've gone on to discover many more general mobile web development resources and I've bookmarked them here - http://www.diigo.com/user/joesabado/mobileweb. Here are additional resources:

Just last month, I did an Introduction to Mobile Web Development to UCSB developers/managers, in which I shared my research including UCLA MWF.

Part 2 of my interview with Joe will be posted later this week.

Do you tweet? Let's connect. Follow me on Twitter.


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