Regional Conference

Going West: A look back at HighEdWeb’s first California conference

HighEdWeb, the wild, wild, West

 A committee of comrades, whom had never met before, banded together to host the first regional HighEdWeb West. Debra Goldentyer led the charge and, with all hands on deck, the one-day conference brought together web professionals from Idaho, Washington, California and many more to Chapman University.

Here’s the part where you get jealous: conference sessions included game theory, social media in 15 minutes or less, and many Star Trek references. We also had the pleasure of bringing Tales from Redesignland out of retirement and welcoming its author Tony Dunn as our keynote.

See more photos on flickr for #hewebwest
See more photos on flickr for #hewebwest

Mission Seemingly Impossible

Tony Dunn is well known for his cartoon series that poke fun at the disconnects and miscommunications of the people in suits and the people behind the computer. He opened his keynote realizing “it’s not fun to talk about what’s right. It’s fun to talk about what’s wrong.” He satirically illustrated silos and communication barriers are funny, but unproductive for everyone. His presentation challenged attendees to transform the culture at their higher education institution.

The #1 organization dysfunction is silos. Political, functional, physical, social, and habitual silos influence our relationships with each other and senior-level administration. However, “on the plus side, silos allow us to muffle the sounds of our screams.”

Habits are hard to break, but they can be broken. We’re familiar with “we’ve always done it this way,” and the perpetual naysayers. Bad managers, avoiding change, and autonomy are universal challenges in and out of higher education, but we can be the change we seek. Tony emphasized leading by example is key to creating a culture change.

He empowered us to be leaders… Identify behaviors and culture elements you wish to change. Determine how to transform those behaviors. Most important, do it.

Other important things we learned from #hewebwest:

  1. The social part of social media begins when brands lose the control issues and trust user-generated content. Take a lesson from Abraham Lincoln and invest in people, information, and accessibility.

  2. We get by with a little help from our…. students. Student interns are secret weapons to design and develop interesting and relevant projects.

  3. Dream big first, even if your team is small and your time is little. Be flexible, take chances and make mistakes. Side projects or personal projects are important to creative thinking.

  4. Keep track of your time. Managing expectations of yourself and others begin when the entire team is sensitive to time and labor. Tools like can help you build awareness and understanding with time-sensitive projects.

Random, yet still important things we learned:

1. “I so sad.”

2. Breakdancing has everything to do with project management.

3. Disneyland fireworks start promptly at 9:30 p.m. each night.

4. Learn skills. Level up. Slay the dragon. Save the village.

A full day of presentations was exhausting, but rewarding. I think I speak for everyone when I say the sessions and presenters were interesting and well versed in our specific line of work. Their lessons and leadership set an example for all of us as we return home, inspired to make change and try new things. To view the presentations from HighEdWeb West and dive deeper into the lessons mentioned above, visit Speakerdeck.

In closing, I believe Rebecca Blakiston said it best: “Inspired to play games, project manage lightly, build responsive sites, and lead a culture shift at my organization. Thanks, #hewebwest.”

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By Liz Gross

Liz Gross is the Director of Campus Sonar. Her professional super powers include designing and analyzing market research, applying social media strategy to multiple areas of the business, explaining difficult concepts in simple language, and using social listening to develop consumer insights and assist with reputation management. She received her Ph.D. in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service in Higher Education at Cardinal Stritch University.