I was cheering when I read the announcement of the ACPA Credentialing Implementation Team. After spending a long time this year in my doctoral program reading the literature about “student affairs as a profession” and the quest for legitimacy, it’s about time that someone took the lead on either making credentialing a reality or forcing its death.
I have big dreams about the role that credentialing can play in our field and rather than spend these 550 words criticizing a process that hasn’t even started yet, please indulge me for a minute in exploration of three questions that are on my mind when considering the credentials idea.
Is the master’s degree in student affairs/development/administration the only route into our field?
My answer is no, but my answer is also based on my belief that if our profession seeks to advance its identity as a discipline and set of core competencies we need to reconcile conversation. A credentialing program will never replace the level of inquiry expected of graduate study, but it could add to the knowledge of someone with an M.B.A. who arrives to our field with a strong content understanding of leadership development from a business program. With credentialing, that person can pursue a credential in student leadership education through a curriculum endorsed by our profession and arrive with both the content and the context needed to work in a leadership office. In absence of the credential, I’m not as confident that this candidate understands working with college students.
Is the pre-service educational preparation supposed to last a lifetime?
A couple of projects so far in my doctoral program have explored professional education and the attempts at the scholar/practitioner balance as well as the attempts at creating professional development experiences on campuses in light of travel funding cuts. Long story and long papers short – we haven’t figured this out yet. I think a credentialing program will be an opportunity for us to pick up where our graduate programs leave off.
Given multiple points of entry into the field, some of our educational backgrounds have nothing in common. With a new set of core competencies for our field we now have a viable “road map” to our standards on the job. There now needs to be a common framework for how to get from the standards for entry into the field to the standards for mastery of the competencies that can be consistent across campuses.
Could credentialing support those who want to change functional areas?
As our field becomes more and more specialized, it seems harder and harder to switch functional areas after you have accumulated some level of experience. I envision a technology credential for someone working in a residence life position or a diversity education credential for someone working in a campus center management position. In both of these scenarios, there is relevance for skills in both the current and future areas of work. On the resume, the addition of the credential tells me as a hiring manager that the content of that person’s background is more than just a passing interest or a short-term committee role.
As ACPA’s team begins its exploration of the idea, what questions do you have regarding the process?