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Social CIO Series: Kelly Walsh, The College of Westchester

“If you’re not paying attention to social media, you might as well stick your head in the sand.”

“If you’re not paying attention to social media, you might as well stick your head in the sand.”

Name: Kelly Walsh
Title: CIO
Organization: The College of Westchester

1. Tell us a bit about your organization and what it is trying to accomplish.

The College of Westchester is a small, private college offering accredited Associates and Bachelors Degree programs and Certificates. We’ve been career-focused since our inception nearly 100 years ago (we’ll celebrate our centennial anniversary in 2015!). Our academic programs are carefully designed to provide the skills and competencies most desired by employers. Our campus environment is highly personal and our culture centers on service to students. The College's technologies and web-enhanced learning tools give students anywhere, anytime connectivity to courses, professors, classmates and services.

2. Tell us a bit about you and how you view your role as CIO.

I believe today’s CIO must to strive to provide transformational leadership.

“Organizations need to have their CIOs at the table as part of top level management and CIOs need to deliver solutions that can help to transform how a business or organization seeks, services, and retains their clients and other stakeholders.”

While traditional objectives like increased efficiencies, high systems availability, controlling costs, and robust systems and data security remain fundamentals, it is innovative business thinking that can allow CIOs and CTOs to deliver the true potential of today’s incredible technologies (and secure that ‘seat at the table’).

I also have taken a somewhat unique approach to leveraging social media in that I started a website and blog in 2009 focused on education technology. This positioned me to learn about instructional technology uses across the spectrum of education, and to use a wide variety of social tools to share my experience and attract a large audience of teachers, technologists, students, vendors, and others to communicate with and learn from. EmergingEdTech.com now has a huge international audience and over 50,000 unique visitors a month. The opportunities for synergies between this work and my role as CIO at The College of Westchester are many, and I’ve learned so much about how to leverage social media successfully and productively.

3. What were the key reasons you started to drive social into your organization?

Like all modern organizations in the 21st century, the college works to reach our constituents via social marketing. Connecting with prospective, current, and prior students via Social Marketing just makes sense, and we leverage Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogging, YouTube, and other social marketing and photo sharing venues to share, connect, and to stay in touch. The same applies to other key stakeholders like the many employers in the community who look to us to provide outstanding career-ready graduates to the workforce.

4. How did the arrival of social interplay with your organization's culture?

I wouldn’t really say it’s had a significant impact on culture other than being perceived as a positive development and we’re all interested in seeing it continue to evolve and succeed. We’ve implemented a gradual adoption of social media tools over the last few years, in targeted areas, managed centrally by our Media Resources team and by select individuals within various departments who create and manage content and respond to requests for information and feedback. This focused approach to adoption has helped to keep it manageable while we consider and experiment with having more staff roles using social media tools as part of their regular processes.

5. How did you mitigate the change management aspects of introducing social?

This is really a challenge that keeps evolving as the use of social tools continue to evolve, both here and with the larger community we interface with. This is really such a new concept that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of best practices out there to tap into.

“We have to keep learning and evolving policy with regard to personal devices and personal accounts and their relationship to equipment that we provide and social media accounts that should be used exclusively as part of an employee’s professional role.”

One of the lessons we’ve learned early on is that the more separate these things are, the easier things are to manage, and the less potential for the ‘collision’ of personal and professional content and activities.

6. What do you see as your biggest social "win" so far, inside your organization?

Narrowing it down to just one is hard. One win inside the organization would be our use of the “My CW” CampusCruiser portal for students, staff, and faculty, which leverages some media tools and techniques to help provide a central point of communication. Our ability to post news and events and use it as an internal public relations tool has been very helpful to share information throughout the organization quickly and with one tool. Facebook might be used the same way in another company. Also, the use of Facebook by the college’s Admissions Team has been real win. It has helped them keep in touch with students who utilize Facebook like an email service. We have also been able to post updates to Alumni enabling us to keep in touch more on “their terms.”

7. What is your advice to traditional CIO's that are leery of "going social"? Any important lessons learned you would like to share?

If you’re not paying attention to social media, you might as well stick your head in the sand. Technology evolves at a rapid pace and staying informed and looking for opportunities to make new tools and ideas like social media (or cloud apps or virtual servers or tablets or smart phones, etc., etc.) make an impact in your organization are essential to your role.

8. What question did you want to answer that we failed to ask?

How do you handle the use of personal social media accounts versus business social media accounts? There are a number of ways to approach this, and it is one of the trickiest things about social media use (more on that in question 5 above). I think this is something that needs continued focus - we can all learn from each other as work our way through it and discover what works best in different circumstances.

About Jostle’s CIO Series

At Jostle we recognize the importance of leadership in making social collaboration work inside of organizations. In fact, we are so passionate about it that we sought out some of the top social CIO’s in North America to participate in a Jostle Blog series that focuses on the challenges and successes of applying social tools. We are happy to share these success stories with you and we hope it inspires the social champion in all of you. If you know a Social CIO you feel should be included in this series, please contact us at CIO@jostle.me. There is no requirement that they be using the Jostle People Engagement® platform.

About The College of Westchester

Since 1915, The College of Westchester (CW) has focused on the career success of its students. CW's academic programs are carefully designed to provide the skills and competencies most desired by employers. Our campus environment is highly personal and our culture centers on service to students. CW faculty is selected based on experience, credentials and a caring attitude to bring real world knowledge to the classroom. The College's technologies and web-enhanced learning tools give students anywhere, anytime connectivity to courses, professors, classmates and services. The College of Westchester offers an exceptional experience that can lead to a lifetime of achievement and success.

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