It is November, which is election season in the United States, and during the election cycle annually there is a lot of talk about Political Action Committees (PACs). I think all student affairs professionals should have a PAC, though I think our PACs should be called Personal Advisory Committees. Let me describe my thoughts on this topic by explaining the membership, application, and benefit to our profession and students.
Student affairs professionals all have different trajectories in their careers, but all are inspired by developing students and bettering their communities. In each location that your career may take you, I challenge you to create your Personal Advisory Committee.
These committees should be built to mentor and stretch you professionally, develop cross-functional relationships, network in the community, and most importantly serve as a professional and personal support group. In my opinion, the ideal membership should consist of 7-10 total members and include the following:
- 1-2 Mentors: The mentors should be trusted student affairs or academic affairs elders which could include faculty members, supervisors, or really anyone who has more experience than you.
- 2-3 Campus Partners: Too often, we stick with people who are in our disciplines (i.e. housing, student activities, judicial affairs, first-year experience, etc.). This portion of the PAC should be professionals from campus offices other than your own.
- 4-5 Community Members: The community members should be colleagues who you have met out in the community. Community members could be local employers, civic leaders, non-profit organization employees, or representatives of local businesses that you frequent.
Once your Personal Advisory Committee is established, it is time to figure out how to utilize the PAC to enhance you professionally. The group should be able to add value individually and collectively.
I recommend scheduling monthly meetings with each PAC member (lunch is always a good option) to discuss what is going on your professional world and to continue to look for ways to collaborate. The mentors can spur individual development by acting as sounding boards for ideas or contributing to professional development through reading or additional growth opportunities. The campus members will help you see the bigger picture and avoid getting stuck in your department or functional silos. Again, looking for ways to collaborate is key – their input can help with microscopic and campus development. The community members will help you see the even bigger picture of what is going on in your local community, as well as the needs that they want to be met.
Most student affairs jobs require a programming model that includes the following components: service-learning, career planning, speakers’ series or faculty involvement. Now imagine having at your fingertips a PAC that can contribute to all of these deliverables and benefit you and your portion of the campus community. The campus and your students or staff will have additional connections with the community.
The next consideration is how you will add value for the PAC members. The mentors may appreciate your seeking them out for trusted advice and discussions. Campus member involvement could be validated by your serving on task forces or committees where coverage is needed or by helping to provide students for programming in their departments. Community partners could appreciate the opportunity to interact with students prior to graduation (who may become future employees) and by having a group of driven students ready for internships or externships. Additionally, community members might benefit from students or staff being available for volunteer opportunities within local non-profits or at civic events. If all else fails, take this group of individuals to lunch together so they can network with each other.
Communication, engagement, and a mutually beneficial relationship will keep your PAC active. Now it is time to get started!
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Podcast With Gamification in Higher Ed & Student Affairs with Stacy Jacob & Dave Eng