I offer this post as a response to the #sachat chat from May 8, 2014 on the topic of “Things they don’t tell you in grad school,” from the perspective of a faculty member in a student affairs master’s program. I don’t speak for faculty in other programs, but only from my own vantage point as someone who’s been teaching for seven years. What I share in this post reflect things I’ve tweeted previously in response to criticisms of #sagrad programs.
“We assume competency based on program and pedigree. ‘oh, you went where?’” Chris Stone-Sewalish @sewalish128
Before I share my thoughts on this #sachat topic, I want to acknowledge my biases on this topic, partly to acknowledge Chris’ point. First, I attended the University of South Carolina for my master’s degree, which many consider to be one of the better #sagrad master’s programs in the United States. Second, I worked in residence life as an student affairs pro for six years. And finally, I am a faculty member in a student affairs master’s program. With that out of the way, it’s time to turn my attention to the topic at hand.
The choice of the topic did not surprise me, as critique of student affairs master’s programs has become a fairly consistent thread on Twitter. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about critique. Critique is good, it helps us move forward. However, much of the critique directed toward student affairs graduate programs might be misplaced. Dr. John Lowery (@drjwlowery) made this point: “As you think about what is missing who the #SAGrad curriculum, think about how much you really know about curriculum elsewhere.”
We make a lot of assumptions about the field based on our own lived experiences. The value in critiques come when they are informed and pointed. For example, in response to a prompt about what’s missing in #sagrad programs, I noticed a number of Tweets indicating that courses in assessment are needed. Well, it just so happens that there are numerous #sagrad programs that feature at least one course focused on assessment.
The question about what’s missing from program curricula is an interesting one. As I read back through the responses in the transcripts, I saw items that are part of the ACPA/NAPSA Professional Competencies. As I’ve tweeted numerous times, development of professional competencies is a shared responsibility between program and student. Consider this: the CAS Standards call for 42-48 credit hours for student affairs master’s programs. Doctoral programs in the field generally require a minimum of 45 hours beyond the master’s, and in my experience, graduates of those programs leave as experts in student affairs in a very focus segment of the field. Look at the CAS Standards for master’s programs, then look at the ACPA/NASPA Professional Competencies.
Should there be standardization across programs? Maybe, but that’s a topic for another blog post. In short, I do advocate for adherence to the CAS Standards. And, I encourage my faculty colleagues in #sagrad programs to draw on a blend of the CAS Standards and the ACPA/NASPA Professional Competencies in their course design efforts. I talk about this approach in my courses, and that my intention is to model an approach to taking ownership of one’s professional development. As I was writing this post, a tweet came across my feed about a piece Dr. Dan Bureau (@danbureau) wrote for AFA Essentials regarding professional development plans. As I read Dan’s piece, I thought it fit well with my point, which is how I conclude this post:
The coursework in your #sagrad program serves as the starting point for your education, induction, and professional development in student affairs. It’s up to you to determine the areas in which you need further education and development.