Summer Professional Development - The Future of Student Affairs

During the academic year, I struggle to make time for “learning” in the sense of professional development. What I have started to do, to address this gap, is create a folder on my desktop of reports or research projects I want to read in the summer. Even with orientation commitments, I am better able to block off a little time in my schedule to advance my knowledge of the work we do but reading about the great work and research of others.

I, OBVIOUSLY, focus on AHEPPP blogs, newsletters and resources that I have flagged but did not get a chance to really dive into. In addition, some of what I file away are the research projects that come from other higher education professional associations. Many of these are free to access. These types of publications can help inform us of the work of close colleagues or even guide our practices moving forward.
One publication in which I was particularly interested was the recently completed The Compass Report: Charting the Future of Student Affairs which was shared by NASPA.  This report is free to download if you provide NASPA your contact information (email address). The report focuses on issues or trends within higher education that will most influence student affairs professionals in the next 5 years.

The NASPA Future of Student Affairs Task Force identified four areas as having the most influence on work with students:   

  • Student Needs and Expectations

    - Including mental health and basic need support, changing technology usage, focusing on student learning and critical partnership for student engagement

  • Social Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

    - Including building inclusive campus environments and providing staff the training and tools to do this work

  • Professional Preparation and Development

    - Including finding time for staff to gain the knowledge and skills needed to be successful with evolving work, including the complexities of supervision, preparing staff for these changes, and balancing what is often “specialist” roles the require “generalist” skills. 

  • Workforce Satisfaction and Retention

    - Including how we provide reasonable expectations for positions keeping mind these emerging trends and limited resources while balancing the desire for flexibility and remote work

In addition, five strategic imperatives are presented for consideration:
1. Strengthen data capacity and highlight evidence about the impact of holistic student support programs and activities

2. Operationalize student-centered commitments to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion

3. Optimize use of technologies to deliver high-quality in-person and virtual student experiences

4. Approach the need for greater staff care systemically

5. Align student affairs preparation and talent management approaches with the evolving needs of the profession

For each of these strategic imperatives, recommendations are provided for institutional leadership, practitioners, graduate preparation programs and professional association on how we can assist in this work. The article is a lengthy read but a great piece for generating discussion amongst your teams of how our work will continue to evolve and how we plan to meet these challenges.

Whether your work is centered in Student Affairs / Student Life, or you report through another unit at your college or university, the report is a great read about the changing landscape of work with students on our campuses. As we know, these issues will not just face students but also will involve their families and supporters who continue to be a guiding presence in their student’s experience (and we know for some families, saying “guiding presence” is a huge understatement). In our work, we must continue to elevate the voices of families so their impact on the higher education experience, more holistically, are considered. As an association, we must embrace our roles in these strategic priorities and how we can prepare our members for the journey ahead.

As you look at professional development opportunities for summer, reading and discussing this article is an effective way to spend some staff time, critically thinking about our work, how it is changing and what we must do to realign ourselves to meet these challenges.

Ryan Lovell is an Associate Dean of Students and the Director of Parent and Family Relations at The Ohio State University and a member of the AHEPPP Board of Directors.

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