Strategies for Navigating the EDUCAUSE Top 10

min read
EDUCAUSE Rising Voices | Season 2, Episode 4

Hosts Wes and Sarah speak to Susan Grajek from EDUCAUSE and Joseph Caudle from the University of Notre Dame about how young professionals can leverage the insights from the annual EDUCAUSE Top 10 to address institutional challenges and shape the future of higher education.

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Sarah J. Buszka: Welcome to the EDUCAUSE Rising Voices podcast, where we amplify the voices of young professionals in higher education. My name is Sarah Buske and I'm joined by the amazing Wes Johnson.

Wes Johnson: Thank you. All right. Yep.

Sarah J. Buszka: And we're your co-host for the show. We're members and friends of the EDUCAUSE Young Professionals Advisory Committee, also known as YPAC. We are so excited today we have incredible guests on the show. Looking forward to introducing Susan Grajek and Joseph Caudle to talk about the EDUCAUSE top 10. So before we dive in, we love to ask our guests just a few questions to first introduce yourself, your name, bio, maybe your position, and then we also ask you what your superpower is. So Susan, would you be willing to kick us off and introduce yourself?

Susan Grajek: I would be happy to. I'm Susan Grajek, JE the ED'S Vice President for partnerships, communities, and Research. I've been with ED for a little over 13 years and my role has evolved, but really throughout that time I've been responsible for the top 10 project, which we recently renamed from the Top 10. IT issues, and it really is just about my favorite thing to do at EDUCAUSE. It is a thing that I do every year and I can say, oh, look what we did. And I also get to do it with the community. And so I learn an awful lot and I really enjoy that. Before I came to EDUCAUSE, I was at Yale University for over 25 years, and I was in a variety of positions always in technology throughout the campus. I started off in the central campus in academic computing, and then I moved to the medical campus, still in academic computing.

Susan Grajek: I worked part-time for 12 years to start having my kids, my two sons who are now in their thirties. And so I think they're still considered young professionals. And I think my favorite times at Yale were when I was at the medical campus. And what I loved about it was that the problems were tangible and concrete and you would talk with leadership and you'd talk with faculty and you'd say, what do you want? And they would say, this is what I want, how much will it cost? And you'd tell them and they'd say, yes, no, or let's discuss. But you could really get a lot done that way. And I learned just an awful lot about technology and applications of it. While I was at Yale, I had wonderful, wonderful extracurricular opportunities to participate in other projects like working with hr, rolling out the first competencies based performance development program and our first at the medical school, and I think it was the first for the university, also assessment of administrative services.

Susan Grajek: We were the first two rollout project management, and I was one of the evangelists to get people started thinking about it. L and I-T-S-M-I did a lot of projects with the library. And at one point even, and this is actually relevant, I think to some of the conversations, we'll have I got tapped, I don't know how to be an organizational development advisor to the new VP for finance administration at Yale. Now, there was nothing in my background. I wasn't trained in od. I had a lot of projects that I worked on with hr. So I don't know where that came out from, where that came from. But the point in the connection for you all is that sometimes just showing up at your job, doing what you love to do and what you're good at, other people are watching and opportunities will come to you and they will very often be good fit opportunities.

Susan Grajek: So that connects that dot. And I live in Connecticut, north Haven, Connecticut. I have two sons, a stepdaughter, a three-year-old granddaughter, a dog and a cat. And just have a lot of fun in my private life. I love to hike. I'm a swimmer. I love to read. I've got book club tonight and just love to laugh with my husband. So we have a lot of really good laughs. And I think my superpower is, I figure if you ask me my superpower, you're asking me to brag a little, right? So I decided I'm not going to be shy. I think my superpower is probably that I am what I would describe as strategically creative. And what I mean by that is I listen and you can learn so much if you just shut up and listen. I'm curious. And so when I listen, I find it interesting and I follow my curiosity. I always want to know where we're heading, what are we trying to accomplish with this? Whenever I get something new, I'm like, okay, where are we heading? And knowing where we're heading, what problem we're trying to address. I tend to be good at putting things together, opportunities, new data points, and the adjusting, even adjusting sometime the goal to take action. And it also means that I know who I want to become and I want to become someone who is wise and kind and happy. So that's me.

Sarah J. Buszka: Thank you, Susan. I can't think of a better person to be leading the EDUCAUSE top 10 than a strategic creative mind like yours, which makes me even more excited to dive into today's episode. But before we do that, I would like to ask Joseph to please introduce himself. Same questions.

Joseph Caudle: Thanks Sarah. I am Joseph Caudle. I work at the University of Notre Dame. I am an HR service delivery developer, which means that I work on improving the employee experience using the ServiceNow platform. But in particular, really focusing on how do we bring people into their roles at Notre Dame, how do we help people get the things done that they need with hr, and how do we make all of that less painful than it would be if they were just emailing people? And so that's what I focus a lot of my work on. That's why I'm actually not at home right now. I'm in Las Vegas for the knowledge conference this year. I'll be speaking tomorrow. Really excited about that. And yeah, just a great opportunity to help make the employee experience better at Notre Dame. And Susan, the mention of doing the things that you love is what actually led me to this role is I've always had a deep interest in improving employee experience.

Joseph Caudle: And leadership did take notice of that. And they're like, well, you could make a good fit for this role. Why don't you talk to our group about that? And that's essentially how I got where I am right now. And it's been a great place for me to really work on things that I care deeply about and use technology to do it. I've been at the university for about seven years now, and I've been working in technology for just like a dozen years now. It's hard for me to believe as a young professional. My association with educ cause is largely through the Young Professionals community group. I've been co-chair for I think coming up on three years now. So yeah, really great opportunity to get to know other young people at edu, cause institutions and try to build up a community there as well and try to make people feel comfortable and happy in higher education and in technology, in higher education.

Joseph Caudle: So great, great organization. Really happy to be able to lead that group. As far as superpowers, I have thought about this one a lot and I think it comes from my education. I studied philosophy as an undergraduate and the particular school that I really fell into has a little mantra they say never deny, which I think is hilarious. Seldom affirm, always distinguish. And one of the things that I really try to hone is my ability to make distinctions. So I don't want to flat out deny that somebody is saying something that I think is incorrect. There's always something that you can tease out of what somebody else is saying to you. And so again, Susan, you were mentioning listening, just the ability to sort of distinguish, well, you've said this and you've said that I think there's some common ground here, or you think that you disagree completely. Let's talk about where we do agree and figure out what we might be able to come out of with this. So yeah, making distinctions and distinguishing often is I think my superpower.

Sarah J. Buszka: Well, thank you. I think these are both incredible superpowers to have on the show today, especially for this topic. So Joseph, again, can't think of a better person to make some distinctions for the ed, cause top 10 today. So before we dive in, maybe just to set the stage a little bit, I'll ask a question to you, Susan. Of course, we have young professional listeners who are a primary target, but of course this is really meant for the full EDUCAUSE community. And I personally have been reading your Ikas top 10, formerly top 10 issues for decades. It's really been a foundational document. I think it informs a lot of what we do in higher education technology and beyond. But for folks who haven't been reading that or may not be familiar, I'd love for you to just give us a really quick synopsis of what it is and what the goal of the Ikas Top 10 program is.

Susan Grajek: Sure. The Ikas top 10 is it is a listicle who doesn't love a listicle, right? I want to see what those numbers are, but what they are is they are our best effort working with the higher education community and the edge community to look a little bit further in the future, maybe just around the corner. And to summarize the most important strategic issues that higher education is facing and how technology can help address them. So this was a change that we made a few years ago, and I made it really because I had been listening to folks and there were a couple of people on the panel who were among the people I really highly, highly respect John Campbell and oh, I'm blanking out on his name, it doesn't matter. But I circled back after the work was done and I said to the whole panel, tell me what recommendations you have for us to improve the product.

Susan Grajek: In particular, they said, Joel Hartman, I knew it would come to me if I stopped trying to figure it out. They said, it's okay, but it's not really very strategic and this really won't resonate with my institution's leadership. And so I said, can I talk to you a little bit more? So I did. And they said, really what you might want to think about is figuring out what are the top issues in higher education and then going to the panel and saying, how are we going to address those? So I started to do that. And the way we work is we invite folks from all throughout our membership to, and we look for people who have a record of involvement with Ika so that they kind of have a sense of what they might be in for. And we kind of have a sense that they'll be committed to the project and we ask them if they'll be willing to serve on the top 10 panel.

Susan Grajek: We let them know, here's the work that you'll be doing, here's about how many hours and when it's going to happen throughout the year. But one of the first things that we ask them to do is to introduce us to a leader at their institution whom we can interview a senior leader, ideally President Provost, CBO. And so we interview these leaders, usually two dozen, 30 different leaders for half an hour. And we ask them, please try to put your head in next year and what are the most strategic issues, problems, challenges that you're going to be addressing? And we ask them a few other questions, but we say to them, we really want to hear your perspective. Another question we ask is, where do you see higher education going over the next five years or so? A little bit longer. And what is technology going to need to do at your institution to help you prepare for it?

Susan Grajek: So then we get all that and get the transcripts and summarize the data, do content analysis on it, extract particular verbatim comments that the leaders made and give the IT issues panel a document that says, here are the priorities that your leaders mentioned. We de-identify them so that people won't maybe be biased in favor of or against or anything like that. And really to encourage them to step back and think about the field overall. And we also highlight for them the issues that 30% or more of the leaders mentioned. And then we put the panel to work with a couple of exercises to get them to say, okay, these are the big things that our leaders are facing and worrying about. One might be affordability for students, and then we ask them to ideate about how technology can help address that issue. So it always starts with a higher education issue, but then leads right into what can it do for that?

Susan Grajek: And then we work with the panel to refine the issues, narrow them down a little bit, and then we send out in the summer a survey to our members and ask them to prioritize those issues. And what we come out with is the top 10 for the next year. We go back, we interview the panelists and about those issues, and we ask them a few questions. And that forms the basis of the tuck that I give at the annual conference, the article that I write, and a commitment that I make to the leaders and the panelists to leaders. I say that what you tell me is off the record, we will de-identify it. If we ever want to come back and quote you or anything, we will, but you will know. So we're not going to misspeak on your behalf or share anything that you're not comfortable with our sharing. We say the same thing to the panelists, but we also say to the panelists, you will see the writeup of the article. Your name will be listed as an author for anything that we interviewed you on. And so we want to make sure that you are comfortable with what we write. Different years, I think in covid, things got a little dark. I was getting a little dark. And so my initial intro to the article was quite dark, and the panel was like, no, don't go right.

Susan Grajek: I said, okay. And I went back and I revised it. But that gives you a sense, I think that was the biggest change. But it gives you a sense of this really is a dialectic between me and the panel, but also the members. Maybe that makes it a tri, I don't know. But it really is an effort to reflect back to the community and summarize and help them see. And what we want is we want this to be relevant to people. And we've gotten feedback that you all use it in your strategic planning, that some of you share it with the senior leadership. In fact, one person last year, I think one of the issues was hiring, resilience, recruiting or retaining IT talent under adverse circumstances. And a couple of people said, I'm going to take out the IT talent. I'm just going to say talent because this is relevant for my whole institution and that's the level at which I want to work it as a leader.

Susan Grajek: So you can make the list your own and do with it what you want. A lot of folks will use that, the list at their annual IT retreats. And then another way that we've evolved over the years is that year before last, I started to get feedback and I started to pick up on the fact that people were like, this is too strategic and I want to know what to do about it. So what I did last year was we added questions to the survey and we said, is there anything that you're doing related to this issue that you're particularly excited about that you might be willing to share with higher ed? And we got all kinds of suggestions and stories and the like. And so did very light editing on that and published a whole long section of the article that we called from strategy to practice to help people give them ideas. One of the things that we've learned is that, yeah, you want the thought leadership, you want what are the big themes and everything, but what you really value the most is examples of what people are doing and how to do it. So hopefully we're always trying to optimize this product. So I answered the question that you asked in a little bit more. I

Sarah J. Buszka: Was just going to say, you've just answered so many of our questions already, which I think is helpful. It's a great introduction. I know this is a massive lift and a huge community engagement exercise at the minimum. So thank you for giving us that really robust overview. And I'm a little curious, I'll ask my question to Joseph now too. Because Joseph serving in his capacity as a co-lead of the YPCG, he has the privilege of engaging with so many new folks working in higher education, so many young professionals working in higher education who are just chomping at the bit to try to figure out, well, how do I get engaged? How do I learn more about what's happening not only at my institution, but higher education overall and what do I do with it? So I'm curious, Joseph, from your lens, how you might be using the Ikas top 10 either in your personal work with the YPCG or beyond, and maybe what you're doing with it right now.

Joseph Caudle: Yeah, I think the top 10 provides a really great lens for understanding the broader landscape. I mean, Susan talked about the methodology pretty clearly there, that it really does capture what a lot of our senior leaders are thinking about. And for young professionals, I think especially people who are new to higher ed, it can be confusing how decisions are made or why certain strategic priorities are chosen and something like the top 10 can really explain a lot of how those decisions are being made. I mentioned my involvement with our HR group and the focus on employee experience. A lot of that is explained by a number of items in the top 10 from this past year that we really do have to focus on employee retention, institutional resiliency, and sort of what is going to keep the people that keep our institutions running happy. And that's one of the things that I think a lot about is the work that I do on a day-to-day basis. It might feel like it's just configuring a form or a case workflow or something, but end of the day, it really is sort of essentially tied to some of these biggest issues in higher ed. And being able to do that with your own work can also help with seeing how your work ties into the mission of your institution, the mission of higher education in general. And you can do this all throughout any area of higher ed, it and really just a higher education in general is.

Joseph Caudle: And one of the things that I talk about with other young professionals, people that I meet through the community group is sort of trying to find a way to make that connection. Because in many ways, working in higher education is a very mission-driven sort of career. And being able to make that connection back to why you're at the institution and why the institution you're at exists in the first place is very important. And using a tool like the top 10 is a great way to maintain that connection and also help you think more strategically about your own work, which leadership will notice if you are able to tie yourself back to strategic purpose on a regular basis. That's something that is very valuable in any member of an institution.

Sarah J. Buszka: That is Joseph, I just want to put in a little anecdote and a story before I turn things over to Wes because I know he has some great questions queued up. I'm going to just share a young professional story with the ed. Cause top 10, and I'm having a great full circle moment, Susan, because I feel like I've wanted to share this with you for honestly almost a decade, but when I was, maybe this actually was almost a decade ago, I was working in a help desk and seeing so many opportunities for improvement and so many things that we could do or change or tweak and just I was filled with the kind of optimism of, well, what can we do? What might we do? How might we do this? And the student help desk at the time was run by students all student labor.

Sarah J. Buszka: So it was a lot of energy, a lot of fun, a lot of buzzing, and everyone wanted to do something, and we all had been learning so much in our respective areas. So there's just so much kind of just creativity, strategic creativity oozing out. And I remember I wrote a proposal to our director at the time of user services. So we were a help desk among, gosh, maybe six different verticals reporting up to the user services umbrella. And I wrote a proposal to our director for an idea. I had to establish kind of a student leadership team to start really bringing those ideas together and start doing something about them pulling together a small team to start just taking action and piloting some potential projects or ideas. And I had never met our director. I barely knew his name, but I wrote something and I felt really nervous, but I sent it to him and lo and behold, he replied and he asked to get lunch with me.

Sarah J. Buszka: And I'll never forget, I was sitting in our student help desk and he came down the three levels. He was way at the top, and he came down and walked into our help desk to come kind of grab me to walk over for lunch. And I remember feeling like, wow, this person really is listening and heard me. But as part of my proposal development, I did a lot of research to see, well, what are people saying? How do I know what I'm even talking about? Is this a thing? And I remember stumbling upon KO's content and some of that ended up being top 10 other articles related to the top 10 other things that you have written and other folks in KO have written and who I'm friends with now to this day. So it was one of those really kind of fun opportunities where I had no idea that reading this content, seeing something that was more strategic focused and aligning my ideas with it could be an answer to solving a problem.

Sarah J. Buszka: And the outcome of that proposal was me getting a job on the leadership team working for this director, doing some of the things I proposed, namely what I'm most proud of was establishing a student leadership council for the entire department. So that was one of those beautiful outcomes, but I share that because the top 10 and resources from EDUCAUSE really are an opportunity for people to do things with it. And so maybe with that, I'll turn it over to Wes to see how he wants to follow up the lines of questioning. But it's been a really great opportunity to be able to share that story with you, Susan. So thank you. Oh,

Susan Grajek: Thank you. That's a wonderful story.

Sarah J. Buszka: Yeah,

Wes Johnson: Excellent story, especially for our fellow help desk worker. So

Sarah J. Buszka: Shout out to you to represent.

Wes Johnson: So Susan, particularly because we're normally talking to young professionals and kind of like what Joseph mentioned earlier, higher ed careers are mission-driven in a lot of ways. And as someone just coming in, there's usually like 20 missions. If you look up strategic plans, there's the campus one, there's your administrative unit one, there's your org one, your team might have one, and then you also have this ed cause top 10 and a couple other things. So as someone coming in that's hitting the ground, they got a narrow field of view. They want to do more, they want to get noticed, they want to be more strategic, but they have no idea how because they're just taking calls at the desk, but they want to figure it out. What is it that you would want that young professional to take from the ED'S top 10?

Susan Grajek: Oh, that's a great question. I would like them to read it.

Susan Grajek: I would them, I'd like to say, and I would also like them to sort of follow it as their interest is peaked. So there is a hole from strategy to practice section, and that may help get them crafting some of these big ideas and to have them think, well, gee, number 10 is cultivating institutional agility, or one is cybersecurity as a core competency or whatever. And I'm getting all these calls at the help desk about cybersecurity and the like. And I read the advice there and it made me think that maybe we should do more training or something. It made me understand the extent to which our users are the biggest vector for cybersecurity issues, but then also the best way to actually safeguard the institution. And maybe I want to suggest to my help desk folks that I do some in-service training of the help desk staff so that they become a little bit more aware of cybersecurity issues and things like that. Because that way when you're working with somebody on the help desk, I mean that they'll tell you their problem and your first job is to figure out what their problem really is.

Susan Grajek: And so you have these wonderful conversations with the people you support and it gives you opportunities to maybe influence them to maybe learn a little bit more and share back. So I think that those opportunities to kind of get that wider perspective on your field are really, really helpful because being a young professional is just this wonderful time of life because your paths are still forking and you have so many maybe some days, and I'm at the other end of my career where I've taken those forked paths and it's led me hopefully out of the maze, but a lot of those maybe some days, and those possibilities have really shut down in ways I'm perfectly comfortable with. So I'm like that, oh, it sucks to be old. It's cool to be old. It's cool to be any age, but should be the age. You should understand where you are in life and what the possibilities are. And as a young professional, you have an enormous amount of possibilities and you also have constraints. Everybody has constraints in their lives. But what you want to do is, I think as a young professional and with these issues at the help desk is you kind of want to understand what your boundaries are.

Susan Grajek: And the way you can do that is test them a little bit. So figure out where does this get me thinking? How can I help make this a better help desk? How can I learn and grow as a professional? How can I help the users? How can I, or whatever you call them these days, constituents, clients, whatever. But also, how can I learn and grow? How can I help my colleagues? That might give you some ideas. And you may get to a point where Sarah, you're like, I'm going to make this suggestion. And so Sarah did a bunch of things.

Susan Grajek: She wrote it down, she did her research because a lot of times when you have a great idea, you do your research and you find out, oh, people have already solved this. I wasn't the first time come across it. This is just the first time. But that saves you from wasting a lot of energy, but you also, and then you share it with your boss and you show your boss, I know how to think. I know how to figure my way through a problem. I know how to convince myself and therefore your boss, why this is a problem. And also what you can do about it. Because one of the things you learn early in your career hopefully, is don't come with a problem until you can also come with a solution. Because just like such a pain, I am actually usually pretty okay about it. But if somebody says, this is a real problem, then I go right into, oh, how am I going to solve it for you?

Susan Grajek: Versus, Hey, I have some thoughts about this. But anyway, throughout this, you're going to be building your critical skills, you're going to be building your networks, and then it really is important to build your network both within your institution, within your department, and that is just so, so important. But find those opportunities to start to build your professional network more broadly. And I know the professional dollars are very, very limited and that maybe it's once every four or five years that anybody who's early in the career can go to an in-person conference, see if there are local opportunities that you can find things within your institution. But also webinars get involved in ed's community groups. Community groups are abundant and they're free and they really are where you can meet your peers and you can have an impact too. So I've kind of wondered, was there anything else that I shoulda have answered with this?

Wes Johnson: No, that was a great answer Susan. So thank you for that. I'll add to that plus a million to everything that you just said. Also add too, one of the things that I've shared with my staff in the past, particularly when I was at the help desk, which tends to be very much young, professional entry level roles, is one of the beautiful things I see in strategic plans is they quite literally tell you where your top level folks are thinking or wanting to go, and you can roadmap that to your career. A lot of the folks who come into higher education, they don't actually know exactly what they want to do. They just know they want to work in it, or they just want a stable job, or they want a mission-driven working environment, whatever that is, but they don't actually know what specifically they want to do.

Wes Johnson: So there have been times where I've been in meetings where I've pulled out not just the ED top 10, but my university's plan, my department's plan, and said, all right, well, here's the three areas our CIOs focus on for the next three to five years, which one's most interesting to you, and let's get you trained up for that. So even beyond just pushing forward the mission, it's like an opportunity to push your own brand and self forward, particularly if you don't know what exactly you want to do. So I just wanted to add that in there as a plus to everything you just said.

Susan Grajek: Oh, that's really, really true. And your CIO probably loves you for that because nothing's more depressing than a strategic plan that nobody can remember or nobody, right? It's strategic plan right there.

Wes Johnson: Yes.

Susan Grajek: On one page. Yeah. Yeah,

Wes Johnson: One pages are great. Yeah. So Suzanne, how long has ika been making the top 10 list? I know it's had different titles, but how far back are we talking?

Susan Grajek: Oh gosh. I think we may be coming up on the, for as long as Ed has been in existence, I think over 20 years, we're probably approaching the 25th anniversary. And it has always been an evolving product. So when I got the job at EDAs, it was a newly created position and a newly created area, and my boss brought in things that had been in other parts of EDAs, including what was called, I think it was called current issues at the time. And at the time it had been led by my dear colleague Catherine Yang, who's now ed's vice president for digital communications and content. And really from the start, she worked with a group of members, but the group of members actually wrote it and they picked the issues. And we really did need to evolve from that. Partly I put the research spin on it, but also partly because one of the things that we see is that as you all get busier and more stressed and had more to do than you've got headcount to do, you have less time to contribute to your profession. So one of the things that we are really trying to do is to help make your experiences contributing to the profession at acas as efficient and rewarding as possible. So we don't ask you to write stuff anymore. A lot of people with fabulous ideas who choke when it comes to writing, but they're so eloquent when you talk to 'em.

Susan Grajek: And so we really try to say, what can we do that they don't need to do and what do we need them for? So yeah, it's been around for a long time.

Wes Johnson: Thank you for that. And I'm curious, so it's been around for dang near over two decades it seems like. Has there been any particular topics over that timeframe that stood out to you and that's continued for most of the time you've been doing or working on the top team?

Susan Grajek: Well, there's always something about money, whether it's budget or funding models or this or that. And my tip for any professional is follow the money because if things don't make sense, decisions don't make sense and choices don't make sense to you. If you figure out where the money's coming from, it's amazing how much sense they will suddenly start to make. And so there's always something generally, always something about money. There's very often something about the workforce, about staffing. There's something about ed tech, academic technology students, and those issues change over time. But that is a thread going through. Another thread I think is the workforce recently to me, it's still recent that cybersecurity is a thing.

Susan Grajek: I remember when at Yale we said, oh, we have to bring in somebody to lead. And then we called it information security. And so that was a new thing and we gave it part-time to somebody. But since then, cybersecurity just, we can't not have it near the top of the top 10 for very, very important reasons. Some issues come and go, and even though those are really big categories, so you dive deeper into the categories and that really tells you the story of what is happening. Enrollment is a great example of an issue that was not on the top 10 until about four or five years ago, and that's because all of a sudden people did see enrollments start to soften and it was right. I think it's no coincidence that it was around the time that student debt really became what we now know it to be a crisis.

Susan Grajek: And so people said, I can't afford this. Also, when certain voices in our society started to evangelize against higher education and to try to defund it so that it wouldn't work as well as it needs to, there is definitely some cause and effect going on there, I think, and people describing higher education as elitist and excessively liberal and the like. And certainly there is that thread. And certainly as somebody whose politics tend to be liberal, I know that that is one of the flat sides of I'm smart and I'm proud of it and you're not. So I guess maybe it's the revenge of the nerds or something like that. But anyway, way off topic, but these sort of societal issues have really grown, I think in the top 10 as higher education has gotten higher stakes and also become more influential. Like I saw with my own institution, Yale, I doubt I could get admitted into Yale as a graduate student now because you just have to be absolutely extraordinary. And there's a lot of really extraordinary people out there. It is really cool and amazing, but higher education, particularly the elites have become more powerful and power attracts criticism and detractors.

Wes Johnson: That's fair. And Susan, based off your superpower intro, I would admit you in the yell if that counts for anything here today. So I got one more question if y'all entertaining. This one's for Joseph. So Joseph's, in a previous episode, we had some guests on, I think it was our ed at ed episode, and we talked about it was shared during that episode that sometimes young professionals tend to only get tapped for the future facing problems. So if it's a new technology, there's an assumption that young professionals, y'all know technology, you grew up with technology, so you're the one I assigned for the future stuff. With that in mind, what would you say to young professionals that were looking to find ways to push forward the cost top 10, which as Susan just shared, some of these issues carry 20 years of legacy on the top 10, so they're not just future facing technology, it's just hard institutional problems like cost. What role do you see young professionals playing and furthering those efforts, finding new ways to tackle those efforts, whatever. What are your thoughts on that?

Joseph Caudle: Yeah, I think this is something that we often will even do to ourselves. Well, we're young professionals, so let's talk about the new technology. And sure, that's a thing that you can do, but as Susan mentioned, there's all of these different sort of categories into which these problems fall. And if you go back and give it another listen, the thing that I was hearing throughout this is just how institutions work. Somebody has to worry about the money. Somebody has to worry about enrollment, somebody has to worry about employee experience, somebody has to worry about technology. And so if you came to technology in higher ed because you really care about technology, keep focusing on the technology and where you can push things. But if you came technology in higher ed because you care about enrollment and ed tech, there's a place for you for that.

Joseph Caudle: If you care about the finances, there's a place for you for that. And focusing on how this tool sort of parses out some of the bigger problems in those areas is a great way as a young professional to insert yourself into those conversations like Sarah did earlier in her career where she was able to use these sorts of tools and inform herself on what are people at the highest levels thinking about. And then making yourself a more valuable member of whatever space you want to see yourself in. A lot of people will talk about this need to be self-directed and finding the work that you want to do. And sometimes it can come off as they like, well, you've made it already what you want to do, but the people who make it, typically, that's how you make it right, is you find the thing that really drives you and you invest in yourself to be better at that.

Joseph Caudle: And in so doing, you make your institution better in that space as well. So I think, yeah, sure, if you want to focus on the student experience because you are a recent graduate, right? Great. Use that to your advantage and keep in mind you're going to get further away from that student experience as you grow in your career and continue going back to the people who will know more. You might be interested in the technology. Great, that's fine. Or you might be like me and I don't really care so much about the tech, I care about the experience for the people I work with, or I care about what it looks like for the instructors or whatever it is, the finances. I find the finances fascinating. I don't have the financial background to really dive into that, but it's a thing that you need to be able to understand how that money's flowing and what is driving decisions. So that's how I would counsel other young professionals to approach something like this. Don't pigeonhole yourself into the young professional spaces because we are just other professionals who happen to be younger and at the earlier end of our career, which actually opens us up to way more possibilities. We haven't made some of those decision branching choices.

Susan Grajek: Yeah, that's great. Two other things that this makes me think of, and one is that I would really encourage you, and the sooner you can learn this lesson the better, but it's really a lesson you have to learn and relearn and relearn your whole life about, I don't know, 20 years ago, maybe more than that, I was part of a group of professionals in IT support where I was at the Ivy plus institutions, and we got together a couple times a year, and one of them as a part-time gig, he was doing Stephen Covey seven habits training. And so over dinner one night, he was telling me all about it. And I said, that's really, really interesting. And I learned more about it. And I actually had him come and train, put the whole IT support group through a seven habits workshop. And people loved it.

Susan Grajek: They just loved it. And that has really been one of the things I've learned more lessons from that. But one of the concepts from that that I think is really helpful is a concept called circle of concern and circle of influence. And the notion is what are the things that you really have influence and control over? And then what are all the things that are bothered about, interested in, concerned about, but you don't really have any influence over? And the first thing is, can you tell the difference? Do you know the difference? So start to understand the difference. And if you really try to focus your energy in your circle of influence, your circle of influence will over time just tend to grow where you can actually get things done. But there's a lot of times in our lives and a lot of people who find themselves really more in that circle of concern all the time, all the time.

Susan Grajek: And that's really where you are limiting things. So then especially if you are trying to maybe get something done, influence those higher ups or whatever, do it from your circle of influence and really do your homework like Sarah did, come up with something that is feasible, state the problem, do your research, everything else. So I would really suggest that. And then my other piece of advice is that life is, it's developmental. Now I happen to have my PhD in developmental psychology, so of course I might think that, but it just really is remarkable to me how the things that bother you, the things that you're passionate about, where you want to put your energy are so often a factor of where you are in your life, but also where you are in your mental emotional development and maturity. And so there's a whole bunch of things that you care about right now that I don't care about at all anymore, but there's a whole bunch of things I care about that you don't.

Susan Grajek: And it really is developmental. So if you worry about what is it going to be like 15 years from now, blah, blah, blah, don't worry, you'll be ready for it, right? But it's also advice for people of my generation to remember that not everybody's at this point in their life, in their career, and we have to meet people where they are. And you are in a wonderful high energy, special time of your career. You really are the future of our world. You're the future of your institution. And so it is so important, and I'm so grateful that you are part of EDUCAUSE, and please know that I'm always eager to hear from you. And it might be, Hey, can you help me figure out how to do something? Or it might be, I don't see myself in this and here's some thoughts about how I could or whatever. But I think that if you understand that we're all on our journey, we're kind of on different journeys very often, but at different points in that journey. And if you can just have respect and appreciation of that fact, I think you'll get a better sense of how to relate to leadership and how to have those conversations. And hopefully leadership and others will get a sense for how to involve you because it's critical.

Wes Johnson: Wow. Well, I think that is a mic drop right there, A beautiful place to end this amazing conversation. So thank you both Susan and Joseph for joining us. Clap it up. I think this was a great episode. We're honored to have y'all. Sarah, any final words? Are we ready to close this thing out?

Sarah J. Buszka: Thank you. We're ready to close this thing out. We had two mic drops, one from Susan and Joseph. Thank you both so much for your insights and just sharing your wonderful perspectives and advice for all of our listeners, including us. Thank you.

Susan Grajek: Thank you.

Wes Johnson: Absolutely. And I want to point out real quick for the end that I caught that Joseph literally used his superpower in our last question. I just wanted to call that to attention. I dunno if we've seen that one yet. He used the red laser eyes in the middle of the Thank you, Joseph. Thank it.

Speaker 6: Just comes out, you can't help it.

Speaker 7: Thank you for joining us for another episode of Rising Voices, a podcast from Ed College Review.

Sarah J. Buszka: To learn more about tips for work life balance, please listen to episode number four with Wes Johnson and Sarah bca.

Speaker 7: This episode was produced by Jerry Bain, Chris Bradney, and Joseph Caudle with help from Ryan Lattie and Monica Rosen. Our music is from Wes Johnson.

Sarah J. Buszka: Please find us on the EDUCAUSE Platform, YouTube, and wherever you get your podcasts. Be sure to subscribe and rate us.

Speaker 7: Also, email us at Rise and Voices


This episode features:

Joseph Caudle
HR Service Delivery Developer
University of Notre Dame

Susan Grajek
Vice President, Partnerships, Communities and Research

Sarah J. Buszka
Senior Relationship Manager
Stanford University

Wes Johnson
Executive Director Campus IT Experience
University of California, Berkeley