Having just asked a student, “so, use ‘on fleek’ in a sentence for me?” after watching professors try to hash out millennial slang, I am beginning to feel my ten years post-college.
*scours Buzzfeed for pop culture references to use in conversation*
*questions whether Buzzfeed is still relevant*
As professionals in student affairs, in order to remain relevant and effective, we are tasked with keeping a pulse on our current campus population. Slang aside, we must ensure the programs and services we offer are meeting the needs of our dynamic, eager, ever changing student body. The start of every year brings a new class who will inevitably create different expectations and traditions for their time at the institution, and it is important we are a part of that conversation.
This is one of the reasons I particularly love this field: change is not only good, it is necessary. Because change is not always welcomed in higher education and can, in fact, be very slow moving, we must be its greatest advocates. In order to best serve our students, our offices must grow with them.
As someone who thrives in a dynamic environment, this gives me energy. As the child of a consultant, I am always looking for ways to advance programs and services – make them more efficient, gain a broader and/or more committed audience, be more inclusive of student needs, ensure a program’s relevancy. Thankfully, my coworkers think in a similar way, so my office commits to casual assessments after each program – what went well? what to change? – and has a defined process for brainstorming new ideas and reporting on established goals. With a small office of three, offering intentional services is important, and, from these conversations, we have been able to cut less effective programs, freeing up time for more high impact, high touch practices, offering a more personalized approach to career services. While our strategy may not work for those on larger campuses, with a small, sub 1,000 student body, this works well for us. More importantly, it’s getting more positive results with our students which, isn’t that the point?
As this month’s #SACareer theme considers how to best serve our multiple audiences, I recall a presentation I attended during ACPA 2013 where Vernon Wall spoke of completing routine population audits. With these, he would spend time looking at the programs and services offered by his division through the lens of a particular affinity or identity group, gathering feedback from members and ensuring their needs were being addressed. I appreciate this approach as it is both student focused and inclusive, empowering the student voice and making changes where necessary.
So, instead of offering basic (millennial definition: boring; mainstream) career services, let’s instead work towards exciting change by listening to the voices of our student populations. Who knows: you just might be using bae by the end of your conversation.
September starts our Stakeholder Series where contributors reflect on best practices for serving one or more of our many audiences. Find inspiration and ideas all this month!
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services or the #SACareer blog series, contact Cristina Lawson at email@example.com.