A Recap of Batten's Forays at Dreamforce

Earlier this fall, the Batten School was recognized for trailblazing leadership in academia to an audience of more than 170,000. Not at a policy event, not at an economic forum or higher education conference, but at the mothership of tech conferences in America: Dreamforce.

Dreamforce is an annual user conference hosted by tech giant Salesforce in downtown San Francisco, bringing together thought leaders, industry pioneers and thousands of IT professionals from more than 90 countries around the world. Members of Salesforce’s customer base attend the conference to hear keynote addresses, learn about new products, attend training sessions, network with peers and earn certifications. It is the largest conference in America and the largest nonprofit tech conference in the world. This years’ keynote lineup included former Vice President Al Gore, Golden State Warriors star and tech investor Andre Iguodala, the musician will.i.am, and Batten.

While Salesforce continues to be the number one CRM provider worldwide, there’s also another side to the tech behemoth—one that focuses on creating software exclusively for higher education. Today, higher education institutions are finding that they must evolve in the way they engage with students to meet ever-changing constituent expectations and connect with a new generation of alumni and donors. Creating and maintaining high-value relationships are challenged by disconnected business processes, data silos and missing or inaccurate data. Salesforce Higher Education Cloud enables institutions to connect with their global network of constituents intelligently and effectively to build lifelong, trusted relationships and gain access to the resources needed to help students succeed.

Batten is the first-ever school to deploy Salesforce Advisor Link (SAL) and remains one of the few higher education institutions to utilize the software. In fact, some of the functionality within SAL was tailored to meet needs identified by Batten’s IT and student and career services teams. This early collaboration—made possible by Batten leadership’s willingness to question ingrained systems and explore uncharted territory—led to an invitation from the Salesforce Higher Education team for Batten staff to not only attended Dreamforce but also serve as the Education Cloud Keynote speaker.

Prior to keynote remarks from Batten’s Dreamforce representatives, which included Dean Allan Stam; Director of Information Technology Scott Adams; Director of Career Services Hannah-Rose Hintz; Director of Academic Program Amanda Crombie; and Salesforce Application Manager Diane Biesecker, the Education Cloud moderator Jason Belland said of Batten, “When I think about schools that are really putting students at the center, one of the schools that comes to mind is the UVA Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. I think what they’re doing there, it is really exciting because they are transforming the student experience across recruiting and admissions, as well as student success.”

Making students the center of the Batten vision with cutting-edge technology like SAL is not only exciting but also underscores Batten’s original mission to transform students into change agents prepared to address the most pressing societal problems. SAL makes that possible, and according to Batten’s Scott Adams “SAL has truly transformed the student experience.”

Looking back on his time at Dreamforce, Adams said his biggest takeaway was just the sheer amount of enthusiasm people had for the technology. He pointed out, “No one is as advanced as us in SAL, which felt great. While we were speaking (and also networking), you could tell that a lot of people were rethinking how they could use SAL. They had tons of question and would come to us—it was thrilling to speak them and help them generate new ideas. We also learned about different ways in which people are using the software—in this very extensive, mind-boggling way. It was fascinating.”

For Amanda Crombie, “To be part of a conference of that scale was amazing. The Batten team rocked the Higher Education Keynote, and for the rest of the week, I ran into people who wanted to know about our use of SAL.”

The following week, Crombie presented along with the Salesforce Higher Education team at NACADA: the Global Community of Academic Advising.  On her experience, “I was overwhelmed by the number of people attending the conference focused solely on professional academic advising and student success. These are the people from around the country who love working with students just as I do. It was invigorating. During the conference, I was able to present with the SAL team about the cool things that the Batten School is doing to integrate a 360-degree view of students from Admission, through Academic Advising to Career Services and beyond.”

As moderator Jason Belland said, Batten has truly transformed the student experience with SAL and stands as a trailblazer in this field—as well as a school to emulate. Batten’s Hannah Rose Hintz pointed out that by serving as a “one-stop shop for all of our students,” SAL allows students to better manage their own success.

On their newfound fame, Diane Biesecker said, “While the Higher Education division of Salesforce is a small portion of the 175,000 conference attendees, the project that we recently completed, Salesforce Advisor Link, which was presented at the Education Cloud Keynote on day one of the conferences garnered us a lot of positive attention. Afterward, conference attendees recognized us and approached us for the rest of the week. While many people are familiar with the University of Virginia, some did not know about Batten. Now, they definitely know about Batten and the great things we are doing with Salesforce.”