From June 20-23, over 600 Canadian student affairs professionals gathered in Edmonton, Alberta forShine 2010, the annual Canadian Association of College and University Student Services (CACUSS) conference.
For those not accustomed to your northern neighbour, think of CACUSS as our NASPA/ACPA and adjust for the fact that student affairs in Canada:
- Is primarily comprised of publicly funded institutions
- Has around 1/10th the population of the States but has 4/10th the comedians and 8.66/10th the hockey players
- Doesn’t require a graduate degree to hold an entry level position (though the placement exchange system is really, quite amazing and kinda energizing/intimidating); and
- Can actually fit our conference on a campus which means a large group of us can relive our residence days…
The Shine theme was quite appropriate, not only for the 19 hours of brilliant daylight during the summer solstice, but also for the illuminating opening keynote – Susan R. Komives.
Now, Dr. Komives needs no introduction to this crowd, being a Legend and all but her comments were timely, thought provoking and worth sharing (plus, I tweeted a couple of posts which seemed to resonate).
Key Komives Comments Condensed
1. Why do we do what we do?
Clearly we want to help students grow and learn but in the realm of the institution, what do we own and how intentional are we in relation to this? Further, how does this impact the impact the student experience: after all, we call it curricular and co-curricular, students simply call it college.
Dr. Komives noted that one of the roles for student affairs is to proactively build upon collaborative leadership that is future thinking oriented thinking (such as our aboriginal peoples who consider decisions that will impact 7 generations).
Student Affairs and its role with sustainability is a good example of this.
2. Paradigm Paralysis and Positive Psychology
Given our role as dashboards for our institutions, we have an ongoing responsibility to encourage/force reflection amongst our departments. To this end, we need to be able to abandon old practices/ideas. A good method for this is to create a ‘going out of business list’ which identifies core functions vs. supplemental activities.
Another method is to adopt some good ol’ positive psychology and shift the concept of “doing more with less” to “doing more with more”. This made me think a lot of Roger Martin’s Opposable Mindconcept and the shift of thinking from conventional to integrative.
3. Key Komives Questions
Dr. Komives asked us to consider a number of reflective questions:
a) What capacities do I need to focus on for development and what capacities do I need to park for development?
b) What are you doing to ensure your organization is a learning organization?
c) How healthy is your workplace – what is your role to ensure it is healthy
d) How would you rank yourself in relation to other areas on your campus
e) Where do you think your President would rank you?
f) How do you know your ranking – what are your key indicators?
So, with all of this in mind, what are your thoughts on the comments and questions raised?
Ross McMillan is Assistant Director, Student Community at York University, Toronto