Graduates should be able to demonstrate their understanding of student populations and sub-cultures within varied higher education settings. In meeting this competency, students should demonstrate their knowledge of. . .
- Transitional issues faced by students before and after their tenure in higher education settings;
Notes: Theory course – Tinto, and others who focus on transitions. What are the key issues and how do we provide assistance in student affairs?
Jessica’s Student Development Theory course introduced me to entire fields of research that I never knew existed. I had no idea that theories of student development had been conceived, and was even more surprised to find that there are multiple theories to choose from! Of those various theories, I became most interested in Tinto’s theory of Individual Departure. According to Tinto, students transitioning into college progress through a series of stages before integrating into their new life as a student. First, a student goes through some level of separation from their past. This detachment generally includes breaking ties with membership in once-familiar communities. Second, the student becomes aware of, and engages in, a transition from an old life to a new one. Third, the student is incorporated into the new environment by learning and adopting entirely new norms of behavior. And finally, our student reaches some formal and/or informal stage of academic and social integration. In this final stage, we may find the student relying more on academic than social integration, or vice versa. But both aspects of integration will have taken place if the student successfully made the transition into college life.
As you can see, there are numerous other theories that address the challenges that traditional students face transitioning into college. I learned to consider this stage of life with special care so that I can best assist the students that I serve. However, and most important of all, I discovered that no one theory can realistically be used to help all students. My approach is to tap into the findings of a number of different theorists as their respective theories best fit a particular situation.
The transition out of college continues to be a less-studied phenomenon. After students are assisted with the transition into college, they are often left to fend for themselves from their sophomore year through graduation and during the transition out of college. Fortunately, Career Services and other student offices on college campuses provide crucial guidance throughout a student’s tenure. But this support must be sought out by the student, and is not as “force-fed” as the assistance provided to students during the transition into college. I am thrilled to see senior year experience courses making appearance to assist our graduating seniors. It is not enough to post career fair fliers all over campus and call it good. Career fairs are fine, but we don’t need an entire generation of college educated insurance agents to propel this nation into the new millennium. Students today, more than ever, need to realize what it means to have completed an undergraduate education program and the many options that are available to them as educated citizens in the global society.
During my first term in the CSSA program, I did some research on the challenges faced by Asian students who choose to study in Western educational institutions. I learned language barriers, cultural differences, prejudice, and vastly different education systems are all factors that cause complications for students from Asian countries studying at English-speaking colleges and universities.
Document: Unique Challenges of Asian Students
Comment: What are some of your suggestions for how to better serve [Asian] students?
Response: It is important to be aware of the challenges that are specific to Asian students studying at Western colleges and universities in order to determine the best ways to serve them. However, I think that a general understanding that what we say and do should be especially thoughtful and intentional when working with a student from another country. Speaking casual English and using colloquialisms or slang is not an effective way to communicate with a person who has likely learned English via a lifetime of studying textbooks. It is also helpful to learn what it is about American culture that defines us as we need to recognize that others may not naturally come to understand our own cultural norms. For instance, something as simple as a hug, which we may think is a universally understood human behavior, can make a student from an Asian country very uncomfortable, and possibly even scare them. As with most areas of student affairs, a good professional should study the population that they serve. A general understanding of cultural norms, language differences, and educational systems can go a long way when attempting to assist a student who is so far from home.
- The various and changing needs, goals, affinities of students within varied higher education settings (e.g. community college, private, public, religiously affiliated, tribal colleges, historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic serving institutions, etc);
Notes: Multiple institutions – Programs and Functions course – How do the needs of students differ depending upon the type of institution they attend? How does the type of institution cater to that student’s needs? Where is student affairs playing a part in achieving the goals of the various institutional settings?
Students choose their educational institution for as many different reasons as there are institutions to choose from. The particular needs of a student are often being directly met as a result of the choice of institution. Students who attend community colleges are often in need of practical training to jump-start their career; or wish to complete core university requirements – in an equally challenging environment – at a lower tuition rate. At private colleges, students may have a specialized program of interest that is offered in a different format than public schools. Many private schools, being funded in large part by student tuition, may offer a more personalized education program to fit each student’s needs. Public colleges offer students the opportunity to engage in various degree programs within an institution being funded in part by the state or federal government. So, often a student will choose a particular state school due to that institution’s involvement with research grants in particular fields, or because it is well known for certain academic programs. Students of a religious faith might feel most comfortable studying at a school where all faculty, staff, and students essentially adhere to the same basic belief system. If a student feels the need to study at an institution that has historically served underrepresented student populations, they may want to study at a tribal, historically black, or Hispanic serving institution. These schools serve students from all racial backgrounds, but the historic connection to the service of particular racial groups provides a context where increased institutional knowledge of race informs the curricular offerings, faculty, staff, and student population.
As a project during my first term in the CSSA program, I partnered with another student to do research on multicultural student organizations at three different types of institutions. We conducted interviews with organization leaders at a community college, private, and public university. I learned that at all three institutions, a multicultural organization provides key support and services with the intent of promoting healthy dialogue across campus that celebrates and enhances awareness of diverse student populations. These organizations are often run primarily by students and they help meet the needs of the institution, as well as the students they serve.
- The diversity of student populations including, but not limited to, age, socioeconomic status, gender, gender identity, race and ethnicity, language, nationality, religion or spirituality, sexual orientation, ability, and preparedness;
Notes: Who is going to school these days? What are the demographics like? How are student populations changing over time? How is student affairs, in its various functional areas, accommodating these various student populations? Are there still populations that are under served and misrepresented or misunderstood? What are we doing to create an atmosphere of equal opportunity and understanding?
More students are attending our colleges and universities than ever before in this country. That means more non-traditional, as well as traditional, students are in need of our support. Students are coming to our educational institutions from all walks of life. One of the greatest challenges in the field of student affairs is being prepared to effectively serve an infinitely diverse population of students, all of whom have very different needs. Our older than average students may be in need of a flexible schedule in order to, perhaps, work full time or care for a family while pursuing a degree. Student affairs may be able to help alleviate some of the stress through a non-traditional student program by, for example, providing referrals to child care services or providing advice on time management techniques. Those coming to us from families with a low income may be first-generation students in need of services provided by TRIO or CAMP programs that are specially designed to help with the difficult transition into a collegiate career. The student affair programs for these students target the specific challenges that are common to the populations in order to ensure academic success. Today we are also finding many LGBTQ students in need of support from student affairs programs as more individuals choose to openly share and express their gender and/or sexual identities. These students are in need of programs that provide targeted support services; but, perhaps more importantly, student affairs professionals are looked to as educators of the community to ensure that LGBTQ students, regardless of peoples’ individual beliefs, are given an equal opportunity to an education in a supportive, positive, environment. Special programs and cultural centers should also be provided through student affairs for our students from underrepresented races and ethnicities. Education of the community is once again the desired programmatic outcome. The majority race, as well as other minorities, need to be aware of the specific challenges faced by members of a particular racial group and recognize their own privilege and/or histories of oppression. We also have a duty to create programs that expand the globalization of higher education by encouraging students from other countries attend our colleges and universities while receiving support from English as a Second Language (ESL) services and/or institutional international programs. Finally, student affairs professionals also are responsible for an office of disabilities services on every campus. Our students with disabilities, whether the disability be visible or invisible, need us to be advocates for accessibility and educators of the masses. Disabilities services staff, while navigating the complexities of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), provide access the support that students with disabilities need in order to enjoy the ever-important equal opportunity for a quality education.
I engaged in a group project where we researched the history, challenges, and opportunities of racial minority students in multicultural Greek chapters of fraternities and sororities. I learned that Greek organizations are historically white, and that even after many generations of measures created to achieve inclusiveness, there are still problems with exclusionary racial practices today. However, students of racial minority groups are joining historically white chapters and some minority groups are creating their own chapters that are racially inclusive. The sense of social belonging synonymous with Greek life is available to many of our racial minority students; but there are many challenges yet to be overcome before Greek life can truly be considered racially inclusive.
In order to better understand the challenges faced by students with disabilities in our educational institutions, I reviewed four articles that explored the topic in some depth. I learned that there is much that can be done in our roles as student affairs professionals to encourage inclusiveness for our students with disabilities. We must take it upon ourselves to do some amount of research into particular disabilities so that we are well informed and able to help students when they come to us in need.
Document: Working with Students with Disabilities
Comment: “We also have a duty to create programs that expand the globalization of higher education…..” Why?
Response: Whether we like it or not, we currently live in a world where our decisions and actions affect the rest of the world to an extent unprecedented in human history. The internet, free trade agreements, access to travel, study abroad programs, and countless other international phenomena are creating shorter distances between what had, in earlier generations, been lands that were worlds apart. Today we have no choice but to recognize that each product we buy, blog entry we post, and even food that we eat, has somehow impacted the life of someone in another country. As a result, our educational systems need to be promoting an understanding of how we are all interconnected in this globalized era. Rather than allowing programs to focus purely upon domestic issues, we must always consider the implications of our actions from a international, rather than purely national, perspective.
Comment: “The sense of social belonging synonymous with Greek life is available to many of our racial minority students; but there are many challenges yet to be overcome before Greek life can truly be considered racially inclusive.” What suggestions do you have for overcoming the many challenges?
Response: Staff and faculty should actively attend conferences, subscribe to current publications, and network with different campuses in order to gain a functional understanding of the challenges faced by racial minority students at multiple institutions. Advisors and staff must have an understanding of the past, present, and future of Greek life practices. It is important that staff also be current with student needs as they evaluate rules and policies pertaining to Greek life. Greek leaders need to regularly assess the mission and goals of Greek life so they can provide appropriate services to a diverse student population. However, the invitation for multicultural students needs to be consistent in practice and policy, not just in rhetoric. Additionally, staff needs to consistently encourage multicultural students to explore opportunities in Greek life. As more students of color become involved, this will break down stereotypes and barriers in the Greek community.
- Theories related to student development and potential practical applications.
Notes: Theory course – theory into practice. Where are the various student development theories being showcased today via practices in student affairs? What theories have become the poster-children of student affairs? What theories have not caught on as universally?
An in-depth understanding of the various student development theories provides ample opportunities to apply the knowledge in professional practice. When a student comes to us in one of our various functional areas, we can tap into a favorite theory (or theories) to assist with assessing where a student is at in their development. Applying a theory to a student and their particular situation can help to provide direction and inform our actions. If a student is struggling with the transition into college, it may be useful to think about one of the transition theories and identify challenges that are common to students at that specific point in the student’s development. A different student who is finding it hard to develop interpersonal relationships and find out who they are may be best served by considering a theory of identity development. Whatever the case may be, while realizing that students are progressing toward some end goal of comfort with themselves or their respective social and/or educational environments, it is helpful to know where students are at right now in order to provide guidance toward the appropriate next step in their development.
During the Student Development Theory course, I interviewed four Japanese women in order to create my own theory of Japanese intellectual development by modifying William Perry’s Scheme of Intellectual Development. I found that in order to consider the intellectual development of a Japanese person, it would be necessary to modify Perry’s theory, which was based on the research of young male students at Harvard and Radcliffe. I learned that due to cultural and language differences, Perry’s theory cannot be applied directly to a Japanese person’s process of development, but that many elements of Perry’s theory could be modified and re-arranged into a four stage model. I also discovered that when working with Japanese students, it is important to know some of the cultural norms of Japan in order to best communicate with the student and understand their relative stage of intellectual development. The four stages of my theory are: 1. Relational Respect, 2. Relational Relativism, 3. Hierarchical Integration, and 4. Sensitivity to Harmony.
Document: Japanese Intellectual Development Theory
For my theory into practice paper, I looked at my own position as Student Services Coordinator in the College of Agricultural Sciences for opportunities employ the various theories of student development. Much of what I learned came in the form of understanding how some of the seemingly mechanical aspects of my job can become student development learning opportunities by changing my perspective toward my duties. For instance, being the scholarship program coordinator gives me a chance to encourage students to get involved, which nicely aligns with Astin’s theory of student involvement. Also, every time I make contact with a student, I am able to assist with a positive transition and help a student realize that they matter to me and the college, all of which alludes to Schlossberg’s theories. In the end, I realized that how a person views their job responsibilities largely determines their potential to find opportunities to put student development theories into practice.
Document: Theory Into Practice Paper