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Recently I had the privilege of visiting the University of Macau where I served as a faculty member for a ten-day Macau Student Affairs Institute. For those not familiar, Macau has been a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China since December 20, 1999 – prior to this time it was under the governance of Portugal. Macau’s government functions with its own constitution-like charter, much like Hong Kong, which also enjoys SAR status.. Macau is an island of about 11.4 Square miles.
Institute participants were student affairs professionals from Macau, Mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. The focus of the Institute was to “introduce faculty and administrative staff to student affairs practice in higher education.” The Macau Student Affairs Institute was May 21- June 1, 2012 and was the first of its kind in China. Among the specific knowledge the curriculum was designed to deliver was: student development theory; basic helping and community building skills; student affairs organization and functions; the role of research, evaluation and assessment; and residential living-learning center design and implementation. Upon successful completion of this program, the University of Macau awarded participants a certificate in student affairs training. The specific focus of my 1 ½ days of facilitation were: Designing Student Affairs Programs and Services; Functions/Roles and Organizing for Student Affairs Success; How We Work Together. Participants
The Dean of the University of Macau’s Faculty of Education initiated the Institute because the university is at a momentous transition in its history. In 2009 the central government of Macau allocated financial and real estate resources to the university so that it can construct a new campus. The new campus will allow the university to dramatically expand its academic programs and support for the needs of its students. Among the significant changes in the student experience will be the construction of a residential college system and the requirement that all 6000+ students reside on campus and participate in residential programs. The residential college system will be reliant upon the integration of curricular and co-curricular programs and be facilitated by faculty-in-residence. The University of Macau is committed to a philosophy of “whole person” education.
The Institute was designed to provide Macau teaching faculty and student affairs professionals with and opportunity to enrich their knowledge and skills so that they can be meaningful leaders in the institutional transition. While it is clear that a ten-day institute would not be sufficient to provide all of the needed expertise, the Institute did provide access to a network of resources and exposure to necessary grounding concepts to advance the educational work of the university.
There were approximately sixty participants in the Institute. All of the participants were fluent in English and as either student affairs professional or teaching faculty were directly involved in direct service to students. The attendees were incredibly enthusiastic about the issues we discussed. They became most animated when discussing issues of advocacy and access to education. The participants from Mainland China were especially concerned about the role mental health screening plays in limiting access to China’s colleges and universities.
I was especially struck by what emerged as a deep hunger for continuing education in the area of student affairs professional practice. It certainly led me to consider how we might make our CSSA Program accessible to student affairs professionals and others outside the United States who want and would benefit from our course offerings.
While the purpose of my trip was to provide instruction as part of the Institute Faculty, I found myself leaving the experience inspired by the commitment of the attendees. The challenge of being advocates while having limited freedom of speech was not lost on me. Many of the leaders had a vision for their roles that required courage and deep commitment to the success and well being of young people. Most importantly, regardless of institutional context, the student affairs professionals with whom I spoke were dedicated to holistic education of students and their own professional development.
My visit to Macau was enriching, inspiring and energizing. I was privileged to participate and will work to sustain my connection to the new colleagues I met. Given the shifting student profile and our focus on internationalization, I think it is crucial to cultivate networks with student affairs professionals in China and other regions of the world.