Higher Education Innovation In Action

  • It’s All about Relationships – Relationships 202: My BIGGEST Takeaway: Emotional Intelligence

    by Natalie Spooner, Sales Consultant | Jul 11, 2017

    Relationships 101: Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills
    Relationships 102: Trust and Respect
    Relationships 201: Cohesive Words & Actions

    Throughout this “course,” I set out to explore the importance of relationships. When I first suggested this series, I knew positive relationships were important, but I hadn’t given much thought as to why… Furthermore, I hadn’t thought too much about what makes a relationship flourish, or flop... I learned quite a bit about myself and others while undergoing this assignment, but I have to say my biggest takeaway, and an ever-present theme throughout my posts, was the importance of being able to recognize emotion – both my own emotions as well as others’.  

    In this final post, I’m drawing parallels to what I believe is a common thread – emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence can be hard to define, in fact, psychologists still debate the true definition today. My favorite definition comes from Justin Bariso, who keeps it simple: “Emotional intelligence is the ability to make emotions work for you, instead of against you.”1 What a profound thought… the ability to have a self-awareness compass always nudging you in the direction of self-improvement and growth.

    My BIGGEST Takeaway – Emotional Intelligence

    Within all of the previous posts (recapped at the end of this post), I recognized that being self-aware is universal. Without self-awareness, how do you recognize soft and hard skills in colleagues? How do you assess whether or not they are trustworthy or respectful, or whether they can communicate effectively? BUT – there’s more to it than that.

    Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, authors of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, refers to emotional intelligence as “the other kind of smart.”2 They believe emotional intelligence is made up of four skills under two primary competency umbrellas: personal and social competence.

    Personal Competence

    Personal competence is made up of self-awareness and self-management. At a basic level, self-awareness refers to how you recognize your emotions and stay aware of them, while self-management refers to how you handle your emotions and behave in spite of them. 

    Social Competence 

    Social competence is made up of social awareness and relationship management. Fundamentally, social awareness refers to your ability to accurately understand other people’s emotions, while relationship management refers to your ability to successfully manage interactions with others based on your understanding of their emotions.

    Emotional Intelligence Takeaway

    Then I had this realization: my most valued relationships, in and out of the office, are with others who are emotionally intelligent! These pleasant and rewarding relationships display a give and take – both parties recognize emotion, either within themselves or others, and manage actions, even when the emotions may not be pleasant. Bottom line – both parties adapt and accommodate!

    Relationship Review

    Following is a recap of the first three posts in the series, which traces their common thread: emotional intelligence.

    Relationships 101 – Soft & Hard Skills

    In my first post, I read and wrote about soft and hard skills. It became clear, no matter how skilled your area of expertise, having the people skills alongside the knowledge, is the full package. Being able to interact effectively with others is often possible due to emotional intelligence, which most certainly shapes your relationships.

    Relationships 102 – Trust & Respect

    While researching the first post, trust and respect became clear front-runners in valued relationships, so I focused on these competencies in my second post. Trust and respect are hallmarks of healthy relationships, and if either is lacking, the relationship most certainly suffers.  

    Relationships 201 – Cohesive Communication

    While writing my second post, I discovered another relationship essential – cohesive communication. Relationships thrive when actions match verbal commitments. Effective communication, both with words and actions, demonstrate your emotional awareness. 

    Instead of being at the mercy of the emotional stressors of the day, recognize and acknowledge your own emotions to better control your actions. Attune yourself to how others around you are feeling in an effort to improve your connections and relationships. Through practice, and patience, you can tap into your emotional intelligence and hone in on traits like flexibility, accountability, trust, anger management, communication, and stress.

    1 Inc. (2017). What Is Emotional Intelligence, Exactly? Here’s the Entire Concept, Summed up in 1 Sentence. Retrieved from

    2 Bradberry, T. Greaves, J. (2009). Emotional Intelligence 2.0. San Diego, CA: TalentSmart Publishers.

  • Credentials Explains: Our Approach on Authorization

    by CS Staff | Jun 28, 2017

    Here at Credentials, we offer several authorization options to our TranscriptsPlus® clients. Not every institution utilizes each method – as clients choose methods that work best for their specific preferences and requirements.  

    All methods have been evaluated by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) using FERPA regulations, specifically §99.30, which allows disclosure of education records to any party listed in the consent and §99.31(a), which provides for disclosure without consent to third-party agents, such as outside contractors, that perform an institutional service or function.

    The four methods of authorization here at Credentials are: PIN/SHA Authentication, Automatic Authorization, Mouse Signature Authorization, and Wet Signature Authorization.

    PIN/SHA Authentication

    PIN/SHA authentication takes place when the student signs on at the school’s web portal and accesses the TranscriptsPlus online order form via his/her web portal; because of this, the requestor’s identity is authenticated during the initial log on and passed to Credentials in a secure and locked down method.  

    Automatic Authorization

    Participating institutions configured with our automation tool, RoboRegistrar®, have the option to work with automatic authorization, which takes place when a predetermined set of data elements entered on the TranscriptsPlus order form match the information within the Student Information System. When automatic authorization requirements are not met or automatic authorization isn’t offered at an institution, requestors are required to sign an Authorization Form.

    “Mouse Signature” Authentication

    Credentials now supports mouse/electronic signatures through our Self-ServicePlus™ application. When institutions work with this option, Credentials provides the option to sign our Authorization Form electronically, using a mouse, touchscreen, or stylus. This method is very convenient and can be offered based on the school’s written approval.

    Wet Signature Authorization

    A wet signature authorization takes place whenever any of the above options are not used or requirements were not met. At the end of the transaction, a barcoded PDF is sent to the student that requires a wet signature to authorize the order.  In most cases, the signed Authorization Form can be uploaded, faxed, or mailed.

    Most schools choose to have Credentials receive and process the Authorization Form, however, we do have some institutions that prefer to receive and process the Authorization Form themselves. These signature authorization forms are handled on a first in, first out basis by our Customer Service Representatives (CSRs). Our CSR group processes between 40,000 and 62,000 Authorization Forms each month, which doesn’t even include the number of automatic or PIN/SHA authorizations!

    Because the authorization process is a serious legal matter, we treat it as such! Each CSR spends a total of 15 hours learning the authorization process with a qualified trainer before he or she is allowed to perform the function unaccompanied. Once the form is accepted and saved, a different set of eyes performs a quality assurance audit on the received authorization to ensure FERPA guidelines are strictly met.

    We’re proud to offer such a comprehensive offering of authorization methods!

  • It’s All about Relationships – Relationships 201: Cohesive Words & Actions

    by Natalie Spooner, Sales Consultant | Jun 09, 2017

    Relationships 101: Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills
    Relationships 102: Trust & Respect

    In this series, I’ve been writing about the significance of relationships, in and out of the workplace. In my last blog post, I focused on trust and respect being core components in your successful relationships. Today, I’m building upon that idea, as I further explore the importance of words and actions working in cohesion.

    I doubt any of us actually think we’re saying one thing and doing another… That means somewhere along the line, our perspective must be askew. So let’s start by looking inward. I know, I’m frequently asking you to self-reflect… perhaps emotional intelligence is another fundamental attribute amongst happy, healthy relationships (stay tuned for more on that topic). Once we know our areas of improvement, we can take steps toward aligning our communication with our actions. 

    Take a look at these questions and answers to determine if you really practice what you preach.

    1. Do you keep your commitments?

    Yes – Great! When you consistently keep your promises, you’re slowly building the trust and respect others have toward you and proving you’re someone who can be counted on.

    No – Work toward keeping your obligations. Explore whether or not you bite off more than you can chew or need to delegate better. As a piece of advice, don’t take on more commitments than you can handle. Before you commit, be sure that you have the resources to fulfill the obligation. For example, if you are lacking the funds to complete the project, you are in danger of not meeting your commitment. This unintentional situation can impact your reputation negatively, especially over time.

    2. Are you able to offer constructive feedback and support?

    Yes – Wonderful! Knowing what to say is just as important as knowing what not to say. Treating others as you’d like to be treated helps you keep that person’s perspective in mind. Be sure the feedback is information specific, issue-focused, and based on observation, not hearsay.

    No – Remember, everyone makes mistakes. When giving feedback, first offer up praise, then discuss areas of improvement while being compassionate of the other person’s point of view. Refrain from giving blunt or unsolicited advice and focus on encouraging others, not criticizing them.

    3. Are you capable of realizing the value others deliver?

    Yes – Keep it up! We all appreciate being acknowledged for a job well done. Sincere appreciation goes a long way toward making others feel a sense of belonging. Don’t forget to say “thanks” – the simplest way to recognize the value he or she offers.

    No – Recognize you can’t do it all (and why would you want to?)! Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, even you. Observe your own areas of improvement and distinguish others who excel where you don’t. An honest sense of your own shortcomings can really dish out a serving of humble pie, when necessary.

    4. Do you display the behavior you’re seeking from others?

    Yes – You are setting an ideal example! Your behavior sets the tone for how you’d like to be treated and reinforces the respect and trust you’re seeking from others. Continue showing others your commitment to integrity by projecting respect at all times.  

    No – Remember, your good and bad behavior influences others. Harsh words and behaviors can seriously damage your relationships, so realize your actions cannot be easily undone. Treating others in a disrespectful way only drives a wedge between you both and further perpetuates animosity. Worst of all, it creates an atmosphere where ill-mannered behavior is acceptable.  Don’t forget the little things; for example, if you don’t allow your supervisees to use social media during work hours, hold yourself to the same standard.  

    5. Are you able to forgive and move forward?

    Yes – Compassion is key. Just because you forgive, doesn’t mean you’re easy to fool. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – we all make mistakes! Be quick to forgive and you’ll find you’ll be quick to be forgiven at your next slip-up.  

    No – Identify any areas of resentment you’re holding onto and work on letting them go. Hanging onto negative feelings over previous mistakes creates toxicity in your relationships, so focus on solutions, not problems. Stop playing the blame game. Forgiveness is a commitment to a process of change and takes time and self-reflection.

    Positive relationships are critical to your success, not to mention your happiness, so make sure your words and actions are in alignment to exemplify trust and respect. Without consideration for others, trust and respect most certainly will fall by the wayside. Enhance your personal and professional relationships by nurturing them!

  • Cybersecurity Awareness - Educating Staff and Students About Phishing

    by CS Staff | May 25, 2017

    Two major security breaches have been in the news in recent weeks: a phishing attack that targeted millions of Gmail users, and a ransomware attack that hit dozens of countries, including the UK where it crippled the National Health Service (NHS) for a time. Although cyber-attacks don’t always make the headlines, they happen with alarming frequency at colleges and universities. Higher ed has long been an attractive target for hackers due to its information-sharing ethos, a wealth of sensitive data on file, and a BYOD (bring your own device) culture that keeps technology decentralized and difficult to regulate.

    But technology can only go so far. No matter how secure your network may be, your end users are the first line of defense in an attack. That’s the main message behind leading cybersecurity awareness programs, and it’s why colleges and universities around the country have stepped up efforts to educate staff and students about phishing. Last month, University Business magazine took a look at what some institutions are doing to raise awareness.

    Simulated Phishing Attacks

    One of the most popular ways to educate students and staff is through simulated phishing, according to the article. Some schools develop phishing campaigns in-house – IT staff send out a fake phishing email with an embedded link, and any user who clicks the link is taken to a web page that informs him or her of the simulation and offers further educational information.

    Other schools partner with outside vendors like KnowBe4, which specializes in security awareness training and phishing simulations. The Florida-based firm offers videos, games, posters and other products that can be customized to fit the needs of many types of organizations.

    Additional Techniques to Raise Awareness

    The article also suggests a few other ways that schools can communicate the importance of cybersecurity. For example:

    • Schedule annual presentations for incoming freshmen
    • Send out campuswide email alerts any time there is suspicious activity
    • Hold a “security awareness day” with engaging and fun activities for students

    Bolstering the Technology

    Of course, technological security is still an important piece of the puzzle, and while schools are educating users, they’re also requiring multifactor authentication for logins, reinforcing firewalls, and monitoring spam filters to ensure malicious messages are caught.

    Phishing Simulation Tips

    If you’re interested in launching phishing awareness training at your school, whether it’s in-house or through a third-party, keep in mind that a well-designed simulation should:

    • Present users with a realistic type of cyber-attack
    • Include a follow-up meeting for end users and IT personnel to discuss the results of the campaign (for example, the percentage of users who fell for the simulation) and how to avoid scams in the future
    • Prompt further security training based on the results

    The ultimate goal of a phishing drill is not to trick or embarrass your staff or students, but to educate them so they can better protect themselves, and, by extension, your systems and network.

  • It’s All about Relationships – Relationships 102: Trust & Respect

    by Natalie Spooner, Sales Consultant | May 11, 2017

    I recently wrote about the importance of self-reflection, so I sat down to do just that and make sure I’m holding myself accountable. After all, I’m a stakeholder in my relationships so I need to do my part too. As I reflected on all the positive relationships in my life, I realized they share two things in common: trust and respect.

    Trust and respect go together like milk and cookies… but what happens when someone burns the cookies or puts the empty milk carton back in the refrigerator? In line with my cookie analogy, we’ve all been burned before and it’s not always easy to clear the seared smell out of the air. Damage to the trust and respect you have in others and the trust they have for you can have long-lasting residual effects, but so can letting go of the past in an effort to move forward.

    In this blog post, I’m exploring what trust and respect are all about, how to build a solid foundation for both, and how you can move forward when things don’t go exactly as planned.

    Trust & Respect Basics

    Trust is defined as “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something,” whereas respect is defined as “the quality or state of being esteemed.” While we understand the meaning of these words, the true definition lies within the way we feel. Our emotion and intuition express a subjective impression on something that can be difficult to measure.

    Both trust and respect take time to earn, so try not to rush the process. While you’re working to build the trust you have in others, they’re doing the same of you so be sure to inspire both trust and respect by allowing the time it takes to display your own character and capability. Accept the challenge of earning the trust and respect of others and remember to be consistent in your actions, be honest, honor your commitments, and practice good judgement.

    Building the Foundation

    The old adage of “do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t go far in terms of building a solid foundation of trust and respect. If you want the trust and respect of others, and want them to reciprocate, you’d better practice what you preach. Take a look at the following guidelines I believe are necessary in building long-lasting, valuable relationships.

    Take your Commitments Seriously

    It’s just that easy. If you say you’re going to be somewhere, show up. If you assume responsibility for a project, make sure it gets done (and done well). If you expect others to work hard, be a good example. Show others you deserve their trust and respect by holding yourself accountable.

    Practice Humility

    Work hard in silence and let your hard work speak volumes. While you should be proud of your accomplishments, don’t brag about them. Instead, focus on praising others and their successes! It’s very rare that we complete a project without the help of others so when you’re praised for a job well done, be sure to give credit to others when credit is due (more to come on this later).

    On the flipside, no one is perfect, so never make others feel badly with respect to areas of improvement. Offer up friendly advice or constructive criticism using yourself as an example. Don’t fret about showing others your own flaws; admitting your blunders reminds others it’s acceptable to make mistakes from time to time.

    Above all, when you’re wrong, say so, and apologize wholeheartedly. Forgive others for their mistakes and the favor will likely be reciprocated.

    Be Open-Minded

    Show respect for other people’s opinions and try to see things from the other person’s point of view. Never criticize what’s obviously important to others. Nothing shuts down mutual respect faster than making people feel badly about what they value.

    Stand up for The Right Thing

    Show your respect for others by behaving with integrity. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in, even if that isn’t always the easy path. Displaying your respect for other individuals shows your friends, family, and peers that you care about the well-being of others and treat people fairly.

    Repairing the Damage

    Mutual trust and respect are the cornerstones to all successful relationships. When these essentials are absent, they’re replaced by anger, frustration, anxiety, and fear. It isn’t always easy to fix relationships that have been damaged due to lack of trust and respect, so patience and understanding on all fronts is critical. Just as the damage didn’t happen overnight, neither will the solution. Focus on these areas of improvement.

    Talk Honestly

    Rebuilding trust and respect must come from an honest place, so start with the truth. The truth can be liberating, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply a filter. Know when and when not to share. Ask yourself, “Is this information helpful in repairing our relationship or is it hurtful?”

    Be Empathetic

    Throughout history, has there ever been a time where attempting to see things from another’s point of view was a bad idea? Sincerely acknowledging a person’s experience exemplifies respect for their feelings and an attempt to connect. Don’t argue with others for feeling the way that they do – listen and put forth effort to understand.

    Take Responsibility

    If your previous behaviors lead others to mistrust or lose respect for you, admit your wrongdoing and apologize sincerely. Avoid becoming defensive or downplaying other’s feelings. If you’ve lost respect and trust for others due to their actions, let them know how you feel without placing blame. Calmly explain that you were hurt and ask them to understand where you’re coming from. When you make others feel understood or feel understood yourself, you’re more likely to keep calm, hear the other person out, and ultimately forgive. When all else fails, focus on the solution, not the toxic blame game.


    Truly repairing a relationship means forgiving yourself and others easily. When someone else has wronged you but accepts responsibility, apologizes, and wants to reconcile, follow their lead in the right direction! Just as I discussed practicing humility above, one person is rarely responsible for the brunt of the work… the same applies here. It’s highly unlikely one person is responsible for the state of the relationship, so take responsibility for your own actions too. Focus on the positives about the person and look to the future in an effort to let go of the hurt or disappointment from the past.  


    Whether it’s your best friend who trusts your advice, your boss who respects your opinion, or your own team members who look to you when things become unclear, exemplifying trust and respect for others makes others want to reciprocate. When all else fails, remember this: treat others as you’d like to be treated.

    Relationships 101: Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills
    Relationships 201: Cohesive Words & Actions