“What you see depends on how you view the world. To most people this is just dirt, to a farmer it’s potential.”~Doe Zantamata
As a local farmer in New Mexico, dirt is the raw material for planting. Farmers invest their passion and energy to create growth. Student affairs professionals are the farmers of growing student success. In an effort to build sustainability within student affairs, it is critical to plant ‘seeds of change’ within the organization to promote future growth and prosperity. The field of student affairs has gone through many transitions over the past decade due to shifting student demographics and policies. These educational farmers have to make time to understand the unique environmental conditions and adapt their practices to ensure growth.
Student affairs professionals have a powerful handle on the world as they consistently adapt to changing environments with precision and dedication. Our college campuses are the raw material for growing student success. However, ‘seeds of change’ in the form of programming are critical for positive outcomes. Prior to instituting any of these ‘seeds of change’, organizations need to have the flexibility to adapt to changes. In an effort to do this, student affairs professionals need to make time to self-reflect and conduct strategic planning. The critical components of vision and mission and goal setting are an integral process for ensuring student affairs organizations are on track for promoting student success. Tending to these key components will help provide a more refined focus and direction, which is influenced by our college campuses and their respective needs. The process of strategic planning is the tilling of the dirt and preparing it for planting.
As student affairs professionals, strategic planning is the tilling of our raw material, and this is our potential to create a strong foundation for sustainability in the organization. Sometimes we want to rush into planting without tilling, and this can severely impact our overall outcomes.
We often forget about employee morale and burnout. It is lost in the process of tending to our students and everything else. Focusing on continued learning for professionals is an important practice to prevent burnout. Harvesting student affairs leadership is a byproduct of the above processes. The sustainability of our educational environment is to prepare future student professionals for leadership within higher education. Student affairs needs to have the ability to provide water to help the ‘seeds of change’ grow; this includes professional development for employees. Without the raw material, tilling, and water, ‘seeds of change’ cannot thrive, student success will have limited growth, and harvesting student affairs leadership will become difficult.
My grandfather said, “agua es la vida,” which translates to “water is life”. It is the important factor in maintaining what we possess. In student affairs we are educational farmers; with precision and conscientiousness, we build future leaders who can continue the often difficult labor to sustain our mission as an organization. Allowing employees time to engage in professional development via NASPA, ACPA, etc. provides a strong return on investment as well as a connection to other campuses that can support one another as we farm the landscape of higher education. Providing a space, either formal or informal, for emerging student affairs leaders to discuss current issues in a coffee chat or fellowship format promotes communities of practice. Harvesting student affairs leadership and growing student success is the light that will get us through those dark and difficult scenarios that many of our colleagues have experienced recently. College campuses are undergoing a lot of changes, and student activism is a driving force for the future. Let’s not forget to pay close attention to these conditions in order to better support the growth of our students and student affairs leadership. Enjoy the video from the water that supports my farm and remember that this is what keeps us going. Let’s continue to be there for one another as we harvest student affairs leadership in changing conditions…
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Podcast With Tony Doody on Unconventional Leadership