This question of “what defines student affairs professionals?” probably has an obvious answer and maybe I’m over-thinking it? This is what happens in the middle of late night when my mind wanders and think about random ideas. As a reader of this post, how would you answer this question? My personal answer is anyone who is working in the field of student affairs in paid capacity and not just a pastime. This is probably an inadequate, perhaps even a wrong definition. But, that’s how I interpret what student affairs professionals are.
This question came to mind after following the ACPA national conference via twitter last week where several thousands of student affairs professionals convene to network and share their research, case studies, and work-related topics. This is an assumption, but a large number of the participants probably hold an advanced degree in education and specifically in student affairs and higher education. I ask this question because when I think about the folks who work in my student affairs division, a large number of them, including me, probably don’t fit the demographics of those who attend conferences by ACPA and NASPA, the two major student affairs organizations. Based on my general knowledge of the folks who work in my division, most of us probably don’t have masters degree in higher education and student affairs and we’re probably not familiar with student affairs and student development theories. A large number of us hold administrative, support, and other roles. In our division, two of the largest departments are the central student affairs IT group and student health services. The folks who work in these departments are specialized in the technology and medical fields.
Why am I asking this seemingly obvious question? Regardless of we belong in the camp of those who attend NASPA/ACPA conferences or the other folks I mentioned above, we all have common goal which is to provide services towards student development and learning. Collectively, through our roles, we contribute to helping students succeed. We interact with students through different ways and at different degrees of interactions from direct contact to behind-the-scenes.I have read/heard this concept that our practice should be driven/informed by theories. But, how many of us who work in student affairs even know the theories and concepts that drive our practice? If we don’t know theories, does that mean that we can’t effectively do our jobs? As administrative and support folks, do we need to know what student engagement means and how it relates to student success?
For those who have formal educational experience in student affairs and who are familiar with student affairs theories and models and how they apply to their jobs, how are you sharing these knowledge to your colleagues?