Graduates should be able to demonstrate their understanding of the role of student affairs in higher education by being able to articulate current and past issues shaping the field and the implications these issues have on students’ lives. In meeting this competency, students should demonstrate their knowledge of. . .
- The historical and philosophical underpinnings of student affairs;
Notes: I learned the History of Higher Education and I learned Student Development Theory, but did I learn the “philosophical underpinnings of student affairs?” Do I know what led up to the identification of student affairs as a profession? Why do student affairs exist? What is the key purpose? Why and how did it lead to the functional areas of student affairs that we see today?
One thing I will never forget as a result of taking the history course is that Harvard was established in 1636. I found it very interesting that universities had already taken root in the colonies of the early Americas over 100 years before the United States became a nation. During the years from 1636 into the late 1800′s, the university was the parent (in loco parentis) and anything that might look like what we call student affairs today would have been performed by the university president and his professorial faculty. It is very interesting to note that it wasn’t until the 1900′s that the role of the president changed from parent to administrator, and this change, along with dramatic increases in college enrollment, led to the professional field that we now call student affairs.
As my term paper for the History of American Education course, I decided to explore the origins of the study abroad functional area of student affairs. I found that while studying at foreign institutions is certainly not a new idea, it wasn’t until 1924 that a group of students were taken abroad to study in France, that study abroad became an established academic program at the University of Delaware. This initial voyage was the first to be sanctioned by a university; and while this first trip was organized by a professor, the path had been laid for upcoming generations of student affairs professionals who would become specialists in international programs.
Document: Study Abroad Research Paper
The history course would provide me with my first exam in the CSSA program. This was an excellent opportunity for me to exhibit my learning in a controlled academic environment. I learned so much while studying for this exam. This was not a simple case of memorize, regurgitate, and forget! Because I write with my hand upside down (I was born left handed and trained to write with my right hand), taking this exam was a physically painful reminder of my earlier high school and undergraduate years. But I made it – and even scored a 98%!
- Standards of good practice in student affairs and ethical responsibilities of the student affairs professional;
Notes: CAS Standards – Overview. Review here. What are my own personal standards for good practice? How do ethics inform my decision making in my role as a student affairs professional?
The CAS Standards are something of a bible to student affairs professionals. Here’s a link to the website: here. However, I also have my own ideas of good practice and ethics in this profession.
First, I see myself as an advocate for students. Sometimes that means that I need to put myself in confrontational situations in order to stand up for the rights of students. At other times I advocate by simply being a supportive presence, while allowing the students to use their own voices. Last fall, when a certain agency decided to enforce policies in such a way that many students would have been denied their scholarship funds, I was the confrontational advocate. I fought tooth and nail with that agency until the situation was resolved and students received what they had been promised. Through that situation, I learned that my intensity can put others on the defense, and even result in negative consequences. Fortunately, everything ended in a positive light, but in the future I will be careful not to overstep the boundaries of decency and respect.
Second, I am a protector of student records and each student’s right to confidentiality. Assisted by FERPA regulations, I believe in enforcing strict privacy standards in support of our students as adult learners. I often receive calls from parents or other individuals who seek information about students that is protected as confidential. I have learned that it is not appropriate to simply say “FERPA prohibits the release of this information,” but to briefly explain that certain parts of a student’s records are off limits because once a student enters an educational relationship with an institution, the student is treated as an adult. The student is welcome to share this information with the parent or other party, but I am not going to access protected information and share it on the student’s behalf. As an adult, the student can choose who the information will be shared with and when.
Third, I am an advisor and mentor to all students with whom I come into contact. Whether I realize it or not, the things that I say and do are duly noted by students, as well as my colleagues. I should always be aware of the appropriateness of my words and actions since, as a student affair professional, I am a teacher outside of the classroom. It is my goal to help students succeed in their academic and professional endeavors. As a mentor, counselor, and advisor, I can play a direct role in helping students to realize their ambitions.
Fourth, I believe in supporting a truly inclusive learning environment where all individuals are extended equal opportunities to educational resources regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, first language, political beliefs, weight, height, mental and/or physical ability, and any of the other various traits that make us each unique individuals. This belief ties in with advocacy. However, often when I am supporting an inclusive learning environment, I am not advocating as much as I am making services accessible. Sometimes there is a physical artifact that can be changed or adjustment to language used describing a program that might make the difference between being inclusive and excluding a particular population. I have learned that this is not an easy ethical standard to adhere to, primarily because I often am not aware of the fact that something has been made unavailable to a certain population. It takes a concerted amount of effort to be sure that all populations are considered and inclusiveness exists. However, even when we are caught on our failures to be inclusive, most people will forgive us if we can show that efforts are being made to be inclusive, and excluding a particular person or people was truly an unintentional oversight. We then must act fast to make adjustments that will increase accessibility.
Finally, I am a provider of opportunities and accurate information. When students come to me to explore the options available to them, I need to be an expert on the programs for which I am responsible. If a student seeks information about a program that I am not an expert on, then I need to know who the best person would be to refer the student to. Students often come meet with me in person to talk about College of Agricultural Sciences scholarships or New Zealand study abroad opportunities. I have made it my professional goal to know as much about these programs as possible so that students can be confident that they are working with a university employee who can effectively provide expert advice and guidance.
Adhering to these ethics has taught me that “walking the talk” is of paramount importance. I hear many people speak of lofty beliefs and then watch them fail to follow through with action. I have learned to be very intentional in the information I provide and the work that I do. I need to consider the implications of every action and be sure that I am always in alignment with my ethics and personal standards for good practice.
- The primary challenges and opportunities being presented to student affairs professionals; and
Notes: What are the challenges that I have faced in my experience? What are current issues challenging members of the greater community of student affairs professionals? What sorts of opportunities are there for me to help students? What does it mean: “opportunities being presented to student affairs professionals?” Is this question asking what kind of jobs are out there for us? Is it asking what types of opportunities for experience students make available to professionals in student affairs due to their unique needs and the challenges they present?
One challenge is that many of us will enter a profession where we work on a yearly contract with little, if any, job security. Student Affairs Professionals, although they clearly educate students through their work, are generally not teaching course content in a classroom environment. Therefore, at most colleges and universities, tenure is unavailable to professional faculty. However, this is not entirely negative. There are times when a services is no longer needed at an institution or a person is no longer deemed a good fit. In these cases, employees on a yearly contract may be provided with an opportunity to expand their horizons by exploring new employment options. This may seem facetious, but it should be a strength that we recognize the constant need to be scanning our horizons and broadening our networks so that fulfillment of one contract results in the beginning of an even better contract the next year.
Many of the challenges and opportunities in our professions are directly related to the students who we serve. Promoting a diverse, inclusive environment that is a welcoming learning space accommodating all individuals is the overall goal of the profession. Many of us truly believe that a primary job responsibility is to work ourselves out of a job. If institutions were fully accommodating and considerate of the infinite variety in student populations, half of the student affairs field would cease to exist. However, since this is not a realistic expectation for our schools, job security will remain intact. Numerous challenges also exist as we attempt to work with faculty and staff to achieve a healthy environment for our students. In this regard, the opportunities are present in the form of continual occasions to learn from colleagues who are also experts in their respective fields.
- Goals, trends, and key issues related to the future of the student affairs profession.
Notes: What role do I see us playing in the lives of students in the future? What are the problems of today that will be solutions in the future? Are there recurring themes in student affairs that can never fully be resolved due to some persistent aspect of our work?
The profession of student affairs changes over time alongside the needs of the students. The traits accompanying this generation of college freshman, such as “helicopter parents” and a heightened sense of entitlement, will not necessarily be the same traits evident in future generations of students. Tracing the trends in recent attitudes and beliefs of our traditional students may be beneficial in the short term. However, anticipating the needs of the greater student population ten years from now is impossible. This is greatly due to the fact that the very definition of “college student” is changing over time. The average college student profile is shifting away from the “traditional” student who is 18 years old, fresh out of high school. We are now seeing greater than ever numbers of distance learners, older than average students, English as a Second Language students, and part-timers. As the population continues to change over time, the very nature of our profession necessarily adapts. The overarching goals may always remain, but the methods employed to reach those goals should be constantly revisited, re-envisioned, and revised. It is of paramount importance that student affairs professionals remain the litmus paper of the institution by keeping current on issues and trends not only affecting our colleges and universities, but also those that are shaping and informing our students, and therefore, the very nature of our future profession.
Comment: Can you give any examples of how you have adapted the way you work to serve the ever changing student population? What do you do differently now than you did just a few years ago due to differing student needs?
Response: The most notable difference that I can think of today compared to, say, five years ago, would be the technological forums in which we meet students where they are at. Five years ago a static, informational website with some helpful links was enough to maintain a presense and provide assistance via the internet. Today, a static website is simply not enough. In order to meet students where they are at, we must be aware of the ways that students are making use of current technology. Social networking is extremely popular. So, it can be quite effective to have a Facebook group page where students with accounts can participate in a student affairs program within this social networking application with which they are already familiar. Student affairs blogs are also a relatively new way that we can communicate with students, and allow students to communicate with one another, via interactive web technology. Students today look to blogs when researching colleges and universities as a window into the current happenings at that school or in a particular program. So blogs can serve multiple purposes by not only changing a static website into an interactive application, but also by the very nature of the application, the blog becomes a remarkable recruiting tool. It will be important over the following five years to keep abreast of popular technological applications so that we can continue to communicate with students via currently unforeseen, but likely very complicated, new electronic avenues.