In a recent #SAChat on “What is Higher Education for?”, I pondered the following as a final thought:
“I don’t think we can ever define the value of Higher Education for our students, but we can help them find the value for themselves.”
As Student Affairs Professionals, we pride ourselves in creating environments on our campuses to enhance and facilitate the learning environment, in the classroom and outside of it. We also hold dear the credo that it’s a student’s experience and each student has a unique and individual journey they undertake. Additionally, during our #SAChat, we were actively acknowledging that not every student should or needs to attend college in order to fulfill their desires in life or to get them where they wish to be.
So, consider this: We strive to allow them to create and define their experiences while at college, so shouldn’t we allow the students to define the value of college then as well? (From an Admissions point of view this probably is sticking a knife in their recruitment efforts, and I thusly apologize to my friends in Admissions…but I still love ya all!) 🙂
This reminds me of the phrase “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” and the phrase “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” Take your pick, but each gets to my point. We could tell them what we see as the value of higher education, but until they experience their journey at our respective campuses, they won’t truly know what the value of higher education is for them. We can only provide the opportunities and environments for them to experiment and discover themselves in.
Perhaps rather than just sharing the stories of our students, we should also share what the value in their experiences in higher education has been. Was it worth it coming to college? Was deciding to attend our institution worth the money and time? Were the experiences worth the effort you put into your journey?
No doubt like many of you, for me, the value of higher education turned out not to be what I was told when I first entered into my undergraduate institution. When I entered college, I was told that my degree would be the most valuable thing that I would get from college. I was told that the college experiences and opportunities were key and valuable assets to my future. However, by the end of my undergraduate career, while I accomplished all of those benchmarks, the value I found in higher education was finding family. For me, growing to understand that my family was my college friends and my fraternity, was the value of higher education that I discovered. I continue to hold this value of finding family closely as I enter into the Student Affairs Profession and am discovering the #SAPro Family.
We can share the value of our own and others’ journeys in higher education, but we cannot promise nor tell our students what they will find valuable in higher education; all we can do is provide the opportunity and environment for them to discover it on their own, all the while showing them how to find value in life no matter the situation.
Brian D. Proffer currently serves as the Coordinator of Student Involvement, Leadership and Greek Affairs at Marygrove College in Detroit, Michigan. Prior to this, he has held positions in the areas of Academic Resources, Orientation and Campus Events. Born in South Korea, Brian was adopted and raised in a suburb of Flint, Michigan. Brian earned a B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint and VERY recently was granted his M.A. in Educational Leadership-Higher Education Student Affairs from Eastern Michigan University. He enjoys movies, music, and spending time with his partner, Michael, and volunteers his spare time serving as state president for his fraternity, Kappa Sigma Fraternity. He can be found on Twitter @BDProffer.