Does student affairs usually bring to mind working in student activities, orientation, or residence life? Do we often consider academic affairs as a pathway that we highlight to new professionals pursuing work in the field?
I recently read Kathryn Angeles’ post “Bridging the Gap Between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs: A Student Affairs Professional in an Academic Center #CSAM17” and was reflecting on my own experiences at the intersection of student and academic affairs. Somehow, I’ve discovered a career interest along the way that I didn’t even realize was on the road map. My first position out of undergrad was serving in a student affairs unit within a health professional college at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry. This was textbook academic/student affairs partnership – check! I then pursued a graduate assistantship with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at The University of Connecticut, and am also working in a practicum within the School of Social Work. Boom, boom – two more academic/student affairs experiences that I’m thoroughly enjoying. I seem to have found a niche in this area for a few reasons.
I find meaning in understanding a student’s academic and curricular experiences when working with them in co-curricular ways.
My professional roles working with students alongside their academics have been extremely fulfilling. I loved knowing what my students were learning and doing in the clinic and classroom in the dental school, and using that knowledge to better support them through student affairs was very powerful. Helping to improve the entire educational experience can be accomplished through academic affairs units and partnerships. And, I feel that my investment in and ability to do better work is improved through understanding my students’ entire academic and co-curricular experiences.
I enjoy the challenge of working alongside academic affairs colleagues, faculty, and administration to advocate for my students, and in learning new ways to communicate the value and necessity of student affairs work in higher education.
It’s fascinating to reflect on the differences in approach and advocacy that work (and sometimes don’t work) with different colleagues. I have learned to tailor the arguments that I propose for different ideas based on what I know about academic affairs folks in general, or on past interactions with individuals. It has taught me to be more articulate and intentional in how I communicate the worthwhile impacts of student affairs work in relation to student success. The experience of working alongside academic affairs is also a vastly underutilized opportunity for the student affairs field to create change from within, both inside and alongside the classroom.
I appreciate the work-life balance and boundaries when working mainly within academic affairs.
Often, I’ve found that academic units have a standard work day, with programming outside of the “9-to-5” being fairly sporadic. I appreciate and respect the work that many student affairs colleagues do for students in the evenings, late nights, and weekends, but that’s not ideal for me at the moment. The boundaries that many SApros wrestle with in terms of work-life balance/blend/personal philosophy can sometimes be negotiated into more regular or consistent expectations within an academic affairs environment.
I was fortunate to reflect on a piece of advice for my younger self during #CSAM17, and NASPA Region 1 shared the following profile:
“Great work in student affairs is also being done in academic departments, student support services, graduate and professional schools, and many more areas in higher education. Talk to people across the field about what they like about their positions, and tailor your interests based on the work that you’ll be doing rather than only focusing on the office or title that you will hold.”
Do any of these reasons that I enjoy working within academic affairs appeal to you? I encourage all student affairs practitioners, graduate students through seasoned professionals, to think outside of the student affairs box and explore the area of academic affairs! You might just find that this is the next challenge that is calling out to you to help make a difference in students’ lives.
This post is part of the Emerging SA Pro series following four awesome people: Michelle, Sara, Thalia, and Holly. Join us as they blog monthly about a year in their journey as a new SA Pro or SA grad. We are proud to help them share their stories.