The following is a deeply personal expression of the very real impact that Salesforce Advisor Link (SAL) could have had on my life as an undergraduate student in a time when neither it, nor Salesforce, yet existed. I originally shared this story with some of our business partners last year, and was encouraged by them and my colleagues at Salesforce.org to make it more broadly known.
For me, going to college was a foregone conclusion: it was a deeply-ingrained expectation of my family based on my academic performance in grade school and high school, and the fact that no-one had achieved a “real” four-year college education unless it was through the military or a trade school. However, because of this upbringing, there were only a few actual or perceived options for my college education path: doctor, lawyer, engineer, or the armed forces. Much like my father, because I could simply, “figure out how things worked,” I chose to become an engineer, and made this choice part of my identity and aspirations from a very early age.
Ultimately, I was the first person in my family to attend a four-year, non-military institution for my education after high school. And, Ivy League as well. For me, college was a way of escaping a very small, rural, and conservative upbringing and life, and I finally had the freedom to embrace some fundamental elements of who I was, and who I wanted to be in the future. Or so I thought.
Enjoying a reflective moment in nature
My freshman year went off the rails almost immediately. Despite being a solid “A” student in high school, I was unprepared for the level of sophistication and complexity in the necessary prerequisite classes for my chosen major in engineering. I was in deep trouble in chemistry, physics, calculus, and materials science engineering – literally all my classes except for my required writing seminar. It took me many subsequent years to realize that I have a form of dyscalculia, and that I was doing OK in these topics in high school because I was memorizing everything instead of doing actual math and chemistry calculations. Getting by this way broke down in the world of triple-integral calculus, organic chemistry, and metal-ceramic triple-point calculations.
I was devastated, and I knew I wouldn’t be an engineer – which was until then, my life ambition and dream.
Freshman year I also came out of the closet. And, my family at the time gave me an ultimatum: voluntarily drop out of college and subject myself to “conversion treatment,” or completely lose their support. I chose my own freedom, and on top of facing a crisis of scholastic performance, I was facing a raw emotional and fiscal crisis.
The Pain of Paper and Data Silos
I was suddenly navigating internal transfer out of my college’s school of engineering, arranging to bolster my work/study hours, working a job outside of college, desperately applying for financial aid, needing support from residential services due to harassment I was experiencing because I had publicly come out to other students, and hoping that my status as a student would be able to continue in the spring semester. The bottom came out of my entire world less than three months into my freshman year.
There were tears of frustration and rage as I explained myself, and my circumstances, office-by-office, person-by-person, to the college financial aid, bursar, student housing, academic transfer, employment, and other departments, each time anew, each time to my immense fear and humiliation that I was the source of all of these problems. It felt like no one was connecting the dots except for me, and that I couldn’t get anyone to see the bigger picture of my life because I was too busy justifying myself in the first place. My entire future that I dreamed of was in jeopardy, and I withdrew from the world around me in anger and pain. I wasn’t sleeping, I was starting to fail my classes, and I was suicidal.
The author (3rd from left) enjoys a fun team moment with the NPSP community.
In short, the only persons fully aware of what was going on were me and a few close friends, and I had very little emotional reserve to understand how to ask for help, where to ask for help, and what kinds of help was available to me at my school. I needed my college to be an ally, and through no fault of its own, it couldn’t, and it was because its systems and services were functionally disconnected from each other.
What does all of this have to do with SAL? I imagine it being used by my school in the era of dial-up modems, before cloud computing was born. I wish that instead of having to spend time explaining myself, I could have spent time getting more of the support I needed.
At a panel discussion on technology
The promise of creating a truly connected campus is to holistically understand and support students’ needs, hopes, and dreams. The basic premise of SAL is that students should be able to have close connection to their institutions, and schools should have a better, earlier, more consistent, and visible window in to their lives. If SAL had existed when I went to college, it may have left me with a radically different experience: my academic performance issues better tracked, the loss of my family’s support more easily shared, and my initial fear of who I was being an obstacle to receiving support reframed to finding the right support to meet me where I was at.
This story has a happy ending. In the decades since this experience, I’ve reconciled with the most important people from my family. I have a career, life, and love, and this very hard moment in my life helped to temper me for future experiences. But at a time when I believed my life to be ending, I know that had SAL been in existence in those days of paper filing cabinets and data silos, I would have had a better ecosystem of support when I needed it most. My alma mater has also since become an acknowledged leader in integrated student services, as well as specifically for LGBT students – and yes, it uses Salesforce.
Salesforce Advisor Link (SAL) provides a 360 degree view of a student.
This is the promise of SAL, part of Salesforce.org Education Cloud, and why we work in the ways we do today. So that today’s students, facing new challenges, will have better support to focus on their dreams in the years to come.
My colleagues have put together some great resources on how technology can transform student success for higher ed advisors and beyond. Check them out here:
- Video: Education Cloud keynote at Dreamforce 2018 (see 21:43 for a discussion of student success)
- E-book: Introducing Salesforce Advisor Link
- Video: SAL 2.0 Demo from Dreamforce 2018 (40 min)
About the Author
Tracy Kronzak, Senior Manager, Success Engagement at Salesforce.or, brings over 20 years of experience working as an employee in or consultant to the nonprofit and philanthropic ecosystems. They hold a Master of Public Administration degree from NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service, and are a Salesforce MVP alum. Tracy began their Salesforce career in 2009 as an administrator for a national racial justice nonprofit in the United States, and started consulting to nonprofits implementing Salesforce in 2011, culminating in co-founding a nonprofit-serving consulting partner in 2014.
They have implemented Salesforce for over 60 nonprofits, ranging from small volunteer organizations, to multi-office international NGOs. Tracy has presented on nonprofit technology management and strategy, CRM and Salesforce for over a decade at venues such as Dreamforce, NTEN NTC, NetSquared, and Raising Change.