This post in a continuation of a Final Thought (FT) I shared in a previous #SAChat:
“We will always be playing catch-up and that has to be ok. As our students’ needs continue to change, we must also evolve”
The pursuit of post-secondary education is a reality for many students graduating high school. While a great deal of importance is placed on higher education being a stepping-stone to future success, more significance and attention is currently being directed towards the student experience and retention rates. After working in a University setting for several years, it seems to me that the current generation of students relates less to an identity with shared characteristics, but instead to a mosaic of personalities, traits and needs. Along with this, students are impacted by countless influences such as culture, media, peers, and technology to name a few. Due to the diversity of needs in our student population, remaining current and effective has become a challenge for many institutions.
Anyone who has spent time working at a post-secondary institution is most likely familiar with the gauntlet of Boards and Senates that must be consulted with and approved by before enacting significant change. While we could talk about that fact as a hurdle for those working in Student Affairs, it may be more productive to discuss the aspects of change we can realistically impact. One facet that is most under our control is our own attitudes about change. Students will continue to change and as such so will their needs and requirements from the institutions they choose. As Student Affairs professionals it is important for us to recognize this fate and accept that we will always being playing catch-up when it comes to our students. This does not mean that we should rest on our laurels, but instead, quite the opposite. I believe this should be a major point of motivation for those of us working in this field, and it should push us to continue to be innovative and perform with students’ interest at the centre of all that we do.
To some it may sound like a pursuit of the impossible. Alternatively, I challenge you to view this as a never ending opportunity to better yourself and your performance. Fortunately in Student Affairs, we have an enormous variety of possibilities when it comes to professional and personal development. In my career I have benefited a great deal from attending conference, participating in webinars, joining committees and volunteering on Boards. I take the approach that every experience is not only a learning opportunity for myself, but will also provide me with a skill or tool that I can bring back to positively impact the students I work with every day and my colleagues.
Through maintaining an open mind and recognizing that every day I need to be better than I was the day before, I find more satisfaction in my job. I am less overwhelmed with what could be seen as a daunting task keeping up with students, and more excited to continue to learn. While the familiarity and security of a job outside of Student Affairs can be attractive, I know that I would forever miss the personal reward I get from working with students and constantly trying to improve and “catch up”.