Last week, I attended a retreat for the executive board of a professional association that I serve on. Our facilitator began with the question,
“How were you socialized in this organization?”
This question is often used in trainings on diversity, with the question phrased in terms of our identities or the identities of others. We were using it to begin a strategic planning brainstorming session, as we embarked on the journey of setting the course for the organization’s next three years. The conversation was fruitful. The question evoked memories, people, and places that had led each of us to a leadership role in the association.
I visited my parents’ house on the way home from the retreat. While there, I took the opportunity to go through some boxes I was storing in their basement: a collection of notes, articles, and written work from my graduate studies in educational leadership. As I looked through the materials on supervision, budgeting, organizational theory, and change management, it reminded me of the question from our retreat. The coursework I completed exemplified many of the ways in which I was socialized in the field of student affairs. It built a foundation on which I have grown my career. I was struck by how much of this work I am now doing as a director, nearly ten years later.
The ACPA/NASPA Competency of Values, Philosophy, and History calls on us to understand what it means to be brought up in student affairs.
We must identify the roots of our profession, and to engage in activities that further develop our institutions and the field. In doing so, it’s important for us to reflect on the ways in which we’ve grown up in student affairs. Reflect not only on coursework but also the experiences, roles, and relationships that taught us what it means to be a student affairs educator.
Regardless of your stage in the development of foundational, intermediate, or advanced skills in this competency, reflect on the following questions. You can then identify where you are and what the next steps are in your journey.
What was your first exposure to the scholarship of student affairs? In what ways have you utilized it in your work?
What values of student affairs are most meaningful to you? How have you taught others about the philosophy of our profession?
Who helped you see and understand the nature of student affairs work? How have you brought others into the work?
What limitations does past student affairs work impose on current issues in higher education? How have you called attention to narratives that prohibit inclusive and global student affairs work?
What elements of a legacy do you hope to leave on your institution and in the profession? What can you do to accomplish this?
In reflecting on my own answers, I’m reminded of the tremendous support and resources that I received to grow up through student affairs. I’ve tried to pass that on throughout my career whether through direct mentorship, supervision, or leadership in professional organizations. This commitment to bringing others along is, to me, the deepest value embedded in the competency of Values, Philosophy, and History.
There is much more growing up for me to do in student affairs. I’m on that journey with a deep appreciation for what I learned in the classes whose notes I still keep and the experiences that have provided learning opportunities around every corner. The work that we pursue while we continue strategic planning for our association will shape the history of the profession. This history is a web of interconnected people and values. We each have a responsibility to understand ourselves within it and contribute to the future our profession. It is one of the many privileges of this work.
This post is part of our #SAcompetencies series for February. Ever wish you knew then what you know now? #SApros pay it forward to #SAgrads looking for advice on soft skills and professional competencies before they job search this spring! For more info, please see Kim Irland’s intro post. Be sure to check out the other posts in this series too!