President Tom Wojciechowski delivered this address on March 30, 2021.
President Tom Wojciechowski:
Good morning, afternoon, evening everyone. My name is Tom Wojciechowski, my pronouns are he and him and I am the president of the Higher Education Web Professionals Association. I wanna thank you all for taking time out of your day to join me for an update from the association. Think of this as kind of a state of the association.
Those of you who attended the annual conference in the past know that we usually do this update in person. Sadly, we were unable to get together in person this last year, as you all know. As a result, this update will be covering two years of work the association has done.
My intent with this update is to let you know how the association is doing, some of what we did last year to support our members, what new things we were going to offer, and how we as an association are advancing higher education.
I really looked to start this whole presentation off by reading the associations mission statement. HighEdWeb educates digital professionals who work at higher education institutions. We provide educational materials and opportunities that develop knowledge, skills, and abilities. As a result, we advanced higher education. So that, if you’ve never heard or read before is the mission of the association.
The mission is very important, it helps us to stay focused, and it gives us direction when we’re making decisions. In addition to the mission, we also have three core values. These values help us in advancing our mission, and they are:
Trustworthy. Ooh, trustworthy. We are ethical in doing our decision making. We strive for transparency in our actions.
The second one is openness. We embrace open access to knowledge and resources. We value and respect the contributions and feedback of our members. And we seek diversity and promote inclusion.
Our third value is collaboration. We encourage collaboration above competitiveness. We foster a culture of service within the organization. And the reason why I wanted to give you… or recap these two — the mission and the values — is as I do this presentation I want you to realize we take them very seriously. They permeate the association, and a lot of our decisions are based, or all of our decisions are based, with these things in mind.
This is a great quote from Janice Cheng-McConnell, and I feel it really encapsulates a sense of community that a lot of us feel. I wanna read it to you right now. “HighEdWeb’s values are implicit in every branch of the community. Being a member has taught me that there are people who care about what I do and how I feel. It has given me tools to alleviate the anxieties of being a young professional of color and higher education.” Just wanna thank Janice. Her quote that really sums up what the values and what the mission statement of the association is, and it’s great to hear that it is having a positive impact on other people too.
To help guide us in accomplishing our mission, the association has created a strategic plan that will take us through 2023. Currently the draft is in its final stages of review. We welcome your review and comments. You are our community. We have this plan. Ee have the association. We have our mission and values to help us all as members and part of the association. The final stages of the review… we’re ending the review on March 31st, which as you may or may not know is tomorrow. I know we’re last-minute people, but go ahead and give yourselves time to review this. That’s very important, and give us your feedback.
As a lot of you know, we are volunteer driven, run year-round by dedicated professionals who coordinate the Annual Conference, Accessibility, and the brand new Analytics Summit, publish our Link online journal, staff various and numerous association committees, and also work to support and maintain Higher Education Web Professional Association’s non-profit mission and status. Our community is HighEdWeb. You are our community.
This spirit of community and collaboration is exemplified by the Association’s board of directors. This group of dedicated volunteers meets monthly and works continuously to advance HighEdWeb’s mission. The directors oversee our financial and legal obligations, do regular strategic planning, and lead the work of implementing that planning. They do all of this as volunteers. And thank you all on the board for everything you do.
The association also does have one employee, that’s our Operations Director Sara Clark. While she is not a volunteer, we would be a lesser association without her, her amazing work and outstanding dedication. The association, and more specifically our committees, could not operate as well as they do without her. If you’re interested in helping to shape the direction of HighEdWeb, we hold board member elections every year. We just recently closed nominations for our new board members for this coming year, and we look forward to announcing them this summer.
Speaking of volunteers, all in all we had over 252 wonderful people volunteer their time and talents over the last two years. That’s an amazing number. We exist because of our community, our sense of belonging, and our overwhelming kinship. If you wanted to get involved with HighEdWeb you can go to this address www.highedweb.org/volunteer to get more information, to see what committees we currently have openings on, what we’re looking for help with, or just to volunteer in general and just to get involved. It would be really appreciated.
So last year was a challenge. And if I know one thing about our people is that we love a challenge. HighEdWeb is no different. We had a decision to make last year. We could’ve canceled our events, hunkered down and tried to come back the following year even stronger. Or we could challenge ourselves and hold true to our mission and values. We chose the latter. We moved our planned events online.
The first one being the Accessibility Summit. I wanna thank George Sackett as the chair and his committee for shifting extremely quickly to an online format. They did an amazing job when the decision was made to move all our events online, and they only had a few months to make adjustments to this event. The summit was a fantastic event this year. It consisted of 12 sessions plus community groups. The new online format allowed us to expand content and opportunity. We were also able to get presenters from across the US. Oh and attendance quadrupled for the event. All because it was made online. Many people were able to attend, all because it required no travel. And it was just a fantastic event.
No less impressive was shifting the Annual Conference to a wholly online event. It took a monumental amount of work and planning to adapt the new annual conference to this format. None of this would have happened without the hard work and dedication of our co-chairs Tonya Oaks Smith and Waylon Baumgardner, and their amazing conference committee that volunteered. Thank you all for all you did, and allow us to get together and share the learning experiences we did during the Annual Conference. We saw similar results to the Accessibility Summit with this shift to an online conference. Registration for this event almost tripled. Our keynote energized our attendees, we had 11 poster sessions, three community group discussions, five lightning talks, and over 30 sessions. We danced. We sang. It was a much needed way to recharge our batteries within our community. It was a wonderful event, and I thank you all who were able to attend and everyone who made it happen.
We pulled some quotes from feedback we got from our attendees of both these events, and I wanted to use them to illustrate how the events accomplish our mission and also encapsulate our values. I just wanna read those for you right now.
“I really loved all the focus on accessibility. That’s something I think a lot of us have been struggling with. So I think it’s great that it made it to the top of the list of conference options.”
“Everyone in the same industry, sharing problems, solutions and ideas, just a great community.”
And lastly, “I’m blown away by this community and their willingness to share knowledge and help each other out.”
It’s great. Those are wonderful quotes, and I just wanted to show them to you all and share them with you.
Last year was a challenge for our community for many reasons. We realized early on that all of our budgets at our institutions were being stretched incredibly thin. We’re all being asked to do more with less. As a result, we tried something new. We reached out to our sponsors to ask them for more support than ever before.
This support allowed us to deliver last year’s conference for free. This partnership allowed us to deliver a conference that everyone involved could be proud of and resulted in our largest attendance ever. And I just wanted to take a second to recognize and thank our sponsors over the last two years. We wouldn’t have been able to operate without your support, and it meant a lot to us to be able to have these events that affected so many people positively.
We’re also always exploring potential partner relationships with organizations that align with our mission. And as previously, we still couldn’t be happier with our current partner WPCampus and what they do to support higher education moving forward.
We really value hearing from our members and attendees. We ask for your input and I want you to know that information is listened to, and helps us make decisions.
And the example is this feedback, this quote from Joshua Charles, director of web governance and communications for the Rutgers Business School. “HighEdWeb, for me, is about learning, sharing, ideas, and experiences, and giving back to a wonderful community of professionals who inspire me and respect and welcome people who look like me with open arms. The relationships I’ve built along the way and that I’ve leaned on throughout the year and have made me a better marketer, leader, and person.”
Again, it’s another example of quote, where people are finding the community, kinship, and like-mindedness with everyone else. And we all lifting each other up. You may have heard me say this more twice already in this presentation, but our members are our community. Without all of you, we would not be able to do the wonderful things we do.
Our members now represent 663 colleges and universities across the globe. That’s crazy! That is a large number that blows my mind. It is a wonderful stat. Last year we introduced institutional memberships. I’m happy to report that we now have  institutional members. Those numbers are listed right there. I just wanted to illustrate that and point them out. It is a wide range of institutions. It’s a diverse list of institutions, and we couldn’t be happier.
Again, if you’re interested in becoming an institutional member, we do have that information available on our website, and we would love to hear from you. You can go to www.highedweb.org/institutional for find more information and to apply. Because of institutional memberships, because of us offering every conference, making ourselves more available, since 2018 our membership has grown 26%.
This growth has allowed more people access than ever to our wonderful and growing Professional Development Library. The library currently consists of more than 200 recordings and videos. It’s a huge benefit of being a member of the association. We added 100 assets in 2019 and 117 in 2020. The library gets paid memberships access to all of our post event materials, trainings, and recordings. It’s a great thing.
Another new thing we did last year was our community groups. These group discussions are opportunities to discuss and learn about specific topics. They’re led by members. These groups interact throughout the year through Slack and video meetings. I like to specifically thank Brian Piper and the Membership Committee who have done a great job in organizing a wide variety of events. Topics released discussion that range from analytics, accessibility, web governance, Drupal, social media, management and leadership, project management, and email marketing. In fact, our most recent one, project management, just occurred a few weeks ago.
And to remind you as I said, all the recordings of these community group discussions are available in the Professional Development Library for all of our members. They can go in there and see them whatever they want to. And I recommend you go do that.
That was a lot of stuff we did last year, and we have to be done with all of the things now, right, there couldn’t possibly be anything else we had done.
This is the funny part. And I just love this one, Mr. Paul Rudd, I agree, “don’t stop me now.” We got way more to cover. Let’s keep going.
Last year one of our most popular community group discussions — in fact, we did it twice — was around metrics and analytics. The success of those discussions, and listening to our members feedback, prompted us to create a second summit: the Analytics Summit. Registration is currently open and costs $35. If you’re a paid member of the association, you also get a $10 discount to your ticket.
Again, I’d like to thank Brian Piper and the committee for coordinating the summit so quickly. The schedule looks amazing, and I really recommend it. It’s taking place in April 29th this year. Please register and come to this event. It’s open for everyone and it’s fantastic. The content is really great.
While they aren’t new this year I do wanna do a quick plug for the Accessibility Summit chaired by Karen Hackett and vice chaired by Erin Jorgensen. This takes place this year in July 20th. The call for proposals is currently open and it closes April 5th. So again, please submit a proposal if you wanna talk at this event. And if not, please schedule time to attend it. This event has been fantastic the last few years, and we’re gonna continue to support this event as accessibility is a huge driving factor of the association.
Don’t forget the Annual Conference. This year it’s chaired by Colleen Brennan-Barry and vice chaired by Tom Wojciechowski. I know that guy. It’s a little self-serving, but it’s okay. And this year’s conference is taking place on October 4th and 5th. The call for proposals for this ends April 19th.
And I hope you can join us for all three of these events this year. They’re all fantastic. They’re all gonna be online, and all the recordings for these events will be in our Professional Development Library.
Another quote, “I love HighEdWeb year after year, and it was just great to open my head to new ideas and listen to others talk and learn from their success and mistakes.”
“A great place for people to show their work and get into presenting if that’s the goal. By far the most fun group.”
It’s really great. Like we have lots of this feedback, and it just shows and it makes us realize we are on the right track with all the things we are doing. With our events, with our communications, with all the things we wanna do with our community. And it’s just great to get this positive feedback.
One thing that we got delayed in our programming due the pandemic last year were the academies. For those of you who don’t know what an academy is, the HighEdWeb Academies provide interactive learning experiences in small group settings, featuring workshop style presentations from leaders in the field. We’re moving these academies to an online format in 2022 starting with the Leadership Academy. We are really excited about this. Note there’s lots more information about them in the coming months. I’d like to thank Kaitlyn Goodall for volunteering to be our academies chair and help us with this evolution in the academies format.
So how do we continue all these great conversations year round? You saw these quotes repeatedly. It’s great to connect with people. It’s great to talk to them. It’s great to share knowledge – successes, failures, then feedback. How do we do that?
All of our members have access to our Slack. I wanna take this time to highlight some conversations that have recently happened in some of our channels in Slack. It’s a tool that’s available to you to continue these conversations.
So in our content channel, Alex asked, “Anyone have a good content calendar site they use with others outside their team, aside from a Google Calendar? Looking for something that allows others to add events so we can plan our social.”
We have lots of other channels. Our next channel was in the random channel Sven asked, “I’ve been asked to look into how other institutions are handling the hosting and supporting of our faculty websites, for those faculty who want to maintain a public website for the research, teaching, or other professional reasons, in addition to materials they host in the LMS. Do you offer generic WordPress or similar sites or more specialized service like CampusPress? Do you support static HTML sites or shared hosting? Do you host locally or externally? Who employs the staff who supports this?” So, you know, you got a lot of questions in there, but the idea is that he’s using the channel to reach out like we would in person.
Another example. In our accessibility channel Jory wrote, “Let’s say you want to use a definition/description list for something and want to include examples of what you are describing. Is there a way to include an example in the and if not, how would you handle that information?”
And what’s great about this, and what’s great about our community, is we can ask soft questions, soft-skill questions, like previously kind of calendar or what kind of experiences do you do. And then we have technical discussions too. So really our community replies; they’re very supportive. Don’t think that your question is either too technical or not technical enough. We have a variety of different channels and different ways for you to get involved and talk to people.
Link. Link is the Journal of Higher Education Web Professionals Association, and as the official publication of the HighEdWeb Association. Link is how we do a lot of our publications.
Last year, the Link journal #HEWebHero series asked members to answer the question, “who is your HEWeb web hero?” The HighEdWeb community offered well-deserved shout outs to members who support their fellow Higher Education Web Professionals, all while responding to COVID-19 on their campuses. What we wanted to do with this is… We have a lot of folks who had to deal with a lot of new issues last year, and this year has allowed us to give shout outs, kudos, congrats to people who’ve done wonderful things. So nominations – and there was a great, outpouring from our community, submitted through Twitter – turned into a series of member spotlights on Link.
In a Q&A format, the series highlighted members navigating a new world of virtual admission events, social media listening, web performance, and enrollment marketing. And what I wanna do is I want to highlight some of these responses because I wanna make sure that these conversations continue.
So this was, “When the need for COVID-19 communications first began, many of us were sharing our emergencies/COVID-19 sites in the HighEdWeb Slack. While reviewing a number of sites to see what others were posting and how content was being organized, I noticed several performance issues. Given the importance of web performance, especially in emergency sites, I decided to offer free assistance.” And this was Erik. Erik Runyon is a great community member, technical director for marketing communications at the University of Notre Dame, and he was offering free COVID-19 web performance consultations. He got nominated by someone else who doesn’t work at Notre Dame, just someone else knew that he was doing this, and they thought that they needed to be highlighted as a hero. Again, it’s that sense of community. Other people recommending other people, recognizing that work, making sure it gets shared.
This one is Liz Gross, founder and CEO of Campus Sonar on the benefits of social media listening plan during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Find and share the good. There are still happy and hopeful stories taking place during the pandemic. Alumni, students, faculty, and staff who are helping their communities, providing vital information or services or simply offering a moment of hope should not be overlooked. If you’re not listening, you may miss opportunities to amplify their contributions to society and promote a feeling of goodwill and cohesion within your campus community.” Again, it’s a great comment, a great quote. Again, Liz was nominated by someone else that does not even work with her or for her.
And third one, “It’s okay to not have all the answers, none of us do. It’s important though, to control what you can control. Students, parents, and families want to keep in the loop and they want to feel valued and heard. No matter the medium of communication to use, be personal, be empathetic, lead the conversation and be a good listener, be intentional with your questions and just be there to help and guide them in any way you can.” It’s by Jeremy, director of admission services for Tudor Collegiate Services on what higher education professionals should keep in mind when communicating with students and parents.
And our last one, this is about Dave, Dave Olsen, assistant director of digital marketing technology at West Virginia University on designing a virtual admitted student day. “It was like a trip down CSS memory lane. Myself and our lead writer also wrangled loads of new content from stakeholders. They were great about buying into this vision for a reimagined Decide Day. Concept to delivery was about three weeks!” Which is crazy to think about delivering a new concept in three weeks for a virtual admitted student’s day.
Thank you all for all the work you do. Thank you for everyone who nominated these folks and just continued to share your stories.
I hope that one thing has been made abundantly clear, as I’ve been babbling on for the last 20 plus minutes, is that we are a volunteer-powered organization. We would not exist if it wasn’t for the selflessness every one of our volunteers demonstrates with their time and their talents. We’ve always been appreciative of and humbled by the dedication of our volunteers.
To help show that appreciation, we created the Volunteer Rewards Program. Our volunteers can earn points in 2021 for their services which can be spent on rewards in 2022. These rewards can range from anything from a ceramic mug to one year of paid membership, waivers to either the summits , and then all the way up to a full waiver for the Annual Conference. So if you wanna learn more about these values and these rewards, you can visit www.highedweb.org/rewards We wanted to say thank you to all of our wonderful volunteers. And we wanted a way to give back to them, to actually receive some recognition for all the wonderful work they do.
All right, thank you all very much for making time to listen to my update. I’m now gonna do my best to answer any questions or address any feedback that came up during the presentation. If I don’t get to talk to you again, please everyone have a wonderful spring and a wonderful summer. Have a great time, and thank you all again for tuning in.