As student affairs professionals, we’ve experienced both highs and lows related to the (real or perceived) tension between academic affairs and student affairs. When your work is about supporting, educating, and developing students, governance structures and funding formulas matter. Sometimes we’re credited for graduating students and other times we’re accused of doing nothing more than hosting pizza parties.
With such mixed reviews about the nature of our jobs, we have work to do. It is the responsibility of the people in the profession to change some of the negative perceptions of our work. We are neither the savior of our students nor are we the frivolous party throwers. Our work is intentional, purposeful, inclusive, enriching, and extremely necessary on college campuses.
Sometimes it seems that we live in a world of ambiguous soft skills. We are tasked with developing students along a continuum, providing them guidance, direction, and a voice – while helping them find their own voice. Accountability, return on investment, and performance-based funding are becoming the norm in higher education. Are student affairs professionals well-versed and confident enough to exist in this space? Are we developed and supported enough in our own familiar world?
#SAPros across various career stages need help living comfortably and confidently in both worlds. What are we doing to help professionals deal with the challenges associated with a fulfilling yet emotionally, intellectually, and physically exhausting profession? How do we prepare #SAPros to live in a world of accountability, assessment, and return on investment? On our campus, we are increasing competency and evoking confident belonging through several initiatives.
This year-round academy provides our staff with knowledge and resources to assess effectiveness of their department’s programming. Departmental representatives participate in group workshops, online forums, and receive individual guidance. Our goal is to build an assessment culture. This consists of skilled professionals who regularly measure the effectiveness of programming and use data to create programs that support academic achievement.
Guided Pathway Teams
Our campus is implementing the Guided Pathways initiative. As part of this work, we’ve developed institution-wide teams to implement structural and process changes. While on these teams, our staff provide insight to current processes, help design new ways of working, and are given ownership over the changes that are created. Our professionals are learning priorities from other divisions on campus, developing communication and advocacy skills, and are exposed to process mapping activities.
It is a priority for our team to develop a sense of community among our inter-generational professionals. Lunchbox Talks is a casual lunch time experience for current and future #SApros to enjoy a meal together and discuss a monthly topic of choice. Throughout the year, employees at all leadership levels come together to engage in a micro professional-development experience by reviewing current trends and evoking inspiration for the work we do.
Careers in Student Affairs Month (CSAM)
As we’re continuing to professionalize the work completed by our #SApros, we felt it was important to dedicate time and resources for celebration, education and recruitment. In preparation for our inaugural Careers in Student Affairs Month, we announced the event at our division-wide meeting. During the month, #SApros participated in webinars hosted by NASPA, in-person panel discussions with seasoned student affairs professionals, job shadowing opportunities and a resource fair of graduate programs that offer degrees for Higher Education professionals.
Walter Bumphus, President and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges has stated that this is “THE Camelot moment for community colleges – this brief shining moment in time, where the promise of the future that community colleges can provide for the nation’s citizenry has been realized”. We argue that #SApros have greatly contributed to this moment for community colleges and must confidently find their voice to appropriately communicate their contribution. We lead! We support! We inspire! AND…we assess! We measure! We move the needle of student success!
What actions are you taking on your campus to evoke confident belonging within your #SApros? Please share out what’s working on your campus to continue the conversation.
This post was co-authored by Sarah A. Baker.
Sarah Baker serves as Specialist to the Global Diversity and Inclusion Center at Columbus State Community College. She takes great pride in being an #SApro, is highly empathetic, inclusive and determined individual with particular interest and involvement in student development and the creation of meaningful campus movements for both employees and students alike. Sarah evaluates campus and student needs and responds with impactful initiatives. Sarah is an alumnus of Columbus State Community College and a student at The Ohio State University.