The 2020 Social Justice academy will include events at a variety of institutions throughout New England. The academy is meant to connect professional from campuses within the region to discuss topics related to social justice. This is an opportunity to develop knowledge around and learn more about social justice in society.
The goals of the Social Justice Academy are to provide opportunities for those who attend to explore social identities, to develop how they think about social justice, build a deeper understanding around privilege and how it plays a role in society, as well as foster opportunities to become a change agent on our campuses
Going to college was a game changer. This is where I learned just how much it was
I still didn’t know. This is where I
messed up, made up and moved on. College
represented a place to “find myself” while growing as a human being. A liberal arts education stood on its own
merits. I was free to choose a major
based upon my unraveling interests, change majors five times and figure it out
as I went along. A college degree would
guarantee a host of career options and success.
If that jog down memory lane resonated with you, you are
most likely from the Gen X, Baby Boomer or beyond generations. Fast forward to today. Generation Z students question whether a
college degree is even necessary; is it worth the cost? Are they better off than if they didn’t have
a degree or the enormous accompanying debt?
Will they do better in the workforce?
After almost 40 years in higher education, I humbly answer
“No.” There is a reality to be
reckoned with; let’s focus on what matters most. Specifically, what are you doing in your work
with students (and colleagues) that is truly preparing them to be successful in
their work environments and careers? Are
they properly equipped?
The more you know about today’s students, the more you
recognize the need to encourage their exploration of self, provide candid
feedback, teach problem-solving strategies and encourage initiative. Each of these represent a leadership
competency as defined by Dr. Corey Seemiller in the Student Leadership
Competencies Guidebook (Jossey-Bass). By
using actual “competency language” and familiarizing yourself with
the competencies Dr. Seemiller’s research notes as the most important to
today’s employers, you provide yourself with the knowledge, language and
content from which to program and train.
According to Seemiller, a competency is a “cluster of
related abilities, commitments, knowledge, understandings, and skills that
enable a person (or an organization) to act professionally and effectively in
their jobs.” Because they are used
in interviews, promotion considerations, evaluations and position placement by
approximately 85% of employers, referencing a particular competency proficiency
or deficiency with the accompanying “evidence” or “proof”
is significantly more beneficial than “job well done.” In other
words, you offer up specific observations suggesting the need for growth of a
particular competency or you identify signs that growth has occured.
Not only is the incorporation of competency language
valuable, Seemiller notes the use of competencies for your program development,
inventory efforts, program transparency, and program assessment. In addition, it provides a common language
for strategic planning and can be used to promote programs by making a
connection to career readiness.
Another application is the use of competencies as a guide
for your leadership programming. From
one-day conference formats to workshop series, by selecting the most relevant
competencies for your particular population, you can identify or create
programs that develop the understanding, knowledge and skills around a
particular competency or group of competencies.
In other words, the competency drives the program selection.
With the assistance of leadership practitioners and researchers
(including Dr. Seemiller) I created the Lead365 National Conference held in
Orlando. This annual conference is for
undergraduates, graduate students, and professionals dedicated to the
development of collegiate leaders. The
undergraduate curriculum offerings, learning outcomes and general sessions are
completely linked to specific competencies.
The professional and graduate student track focuses on innovative
program designs, and the application of current leadership research. In addition, electronic credentials are
available through the SLC Badging program.
What can you do to incorporate competencies into your
work? How can you alter your language to
include “competency speak” more often? A wonderful resource to get you started is
www.studentleadershipcompetencies.com where you can find free assessment tools,
inventories and more ideas on the application of Dr. Seemiller’s work.
College needs to be a game changer where we honor the true
and never changing role of the educator; to teach students just how much it is
they still don’t know while preparing them to be productive and contributing
members of society. Our own proficiency
at the competencies of self-awareness, providing feedback, problem-solving and taking
initiative, for example, will either help or hurt those we serve to learn these
same skills. What did your college
experience teach you?
About the Author
Nancy Hunter Denney is a nationally recognized keynote speaker, author, and educator dedicated to empowering others to maximize their personal influence, inspire others and seek happiness. She seeks to encourage a personal sense of responsibility (and obligation) for serving a greater social good by sharing strategies for enhanced engagement in one’s work place, areas of study, organizations, communities and relationships.
student affairs practitioners, we are constantly thinking about how to improve
the experiences of students. We might even find ourselves asking questions
like, how do we get on the same level of students? Or, what resources can we
use to help students in their educational endeavors? Both questions are
important in meeting students where they are developmentally and allowing them
to see personal growth as learners who can find success in their educational
career. However, while we should remain focused on the experiences of students
there is a need to also identify and pursue opportunities for our own growth
so will give us more skillsets and experiences to utilize in dialogues with
students transforming us into stronger practitioners. This is possible through
getting to know the variety of strengths we possess and our personality type.
Having attended numerous training and workshop sessions in the past I was given
the opportunity to identify some strengths I have. One of these being my need
to learn and continuously improve. Finding this out about myself made sense
since I enjoy new challenges and the actual process of learning. Helping
students to formulate their own techniques and ways of learning is one reason that
I became interested in higher education.
aspect that I learned about myself was my sense of responsibility as it applies
to serving student populations. I find myself brainstorming new ways to help
students connect more with their campus environment whether it be in a small or
large way. In the past when I have seen a student who is having a hard time
making their campus community their own I have provided guidance. Sometimes
students benefit from having a conversation about what student organizations
they can be involved with to give them a sense of belonging. During these
conversations, I have found it helps the student to give them a variety of
options to participate in.
the initiative to become more familiar with those strengths I possess has aided
me in helping students grow into engaged learners. Nonetheless, while becoming
more knowledgeable about my strengths I know there are other areas that could
be focused on. Understanding your personality and how it contributes to your
environment is also crucial when working with students. If you are more
introverted like I am as opposed to extroverted this can also aid you in
developing methods for working with students. I have realized that this also
gives me perspective when helping students who identify as being introverted.
Reflecting on my undergraduate experience it was hard for me to initially
participate as I was hesitant about putting myself out there. Each day I worked
on becoming more comfortable with my environment and continuously working to
get others to know and understand the true me. Being able to relate my process
to a student’s experiences allowed me to show them that it is possible you just
need to go at your own pace.
goes to show that being more in tune with your strengths and personality can
serve you and those students who you are working with well. Practitioners
should be working to use their own background and knowledge to relate to a
student’s experience. In this way, they will be more equipped to help them
develop into the type of engaged learners they want to work to become.
About the Author
Benjamin W. Bucklin, M.Ed.
Ben is currently working with Eastern Maine Community
College in Bangor, Maine and Colby College in Waterville, Maine on a variety of
projects around student life. He is always looking for new ways to get involved
with the field of higher education and in his spare time enjoys volunteering
within his community.
By Emily Perlow, Assistant Dean of Students, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
As higher education professionals, keeping abreast of happenings in the world and anticipating the ways that these changes will affect our work is an ever-constant need. The world is rapidly changing and our students are evolving in response. Higher education is not always the most nimble enterprise, yet we’re called upon to be leaders in educating students for this rapidly shifting world.
In my 15+ years in higher education I’ve seen a lot of
trends, some short-lived and some that have had lasting impacts. Here are the top
6 trends that I’m watching for 2019.
confidence in higher education. A Gallup
study found a declining confidence in higher education as an
industry. In 2015, 57% of respondents reported confidence in higher education
compared to 48% in 2018. Notably, the greatest drops were among conservatives.
Additionally, a Pew
Research Foundation study found that 6 in 10 Americans say “higher
education is going in the wrong direction.”
This report indicates skepticism about the way that professors socialize
students to think in liberal ways, a belief that administrators are too
concerned with shielding students from uncomfortable ideas, that colleges are
failing to give students adequate job skills, and that the costs are too high. Student
affairs professionals can play an important role in supporting students in
better articulating job skills gained through co-curricular learning and in
helping students critically think about their views on controversial ideas.
tension between administrators and faculty. A recent article in The Chronicleof Higher Education highlighted the declining
value of the tenured professoriate. Tenure appears to erode a little
each year and tensions over shared governance increase. Often student affairs
professionals are caught in the middle—neither upper level administrator nor
faculty member—yet our jobs are often cited as examples of administrative
overgrowth. As a result of what I believe will be a long-term trend, I would
suggest we need to capitalize on opportunities to participate in shared
governance and rely on our shared experiences to foster collaboration
opportunities with non-tenured faculty colleagues.
what counts as learning. There is
increasing discussion on what counts as learning, what tools should be used to
support learning, and what learning spaces foster the best kinds of learning.
As the Department of Education considers whether to redefine
the credit hour, this could allow for more creative delivery of
content and acknowledgement of prior and co-curricular learning. It’s possible
this could be a game changer for institutions looking to better serve adult
learners. It could also mean additional revenue streams for colleges that are
faltering in a time of declining
enrollments. Student affairs professionals are educators and the
work we do contributes to immense amounts of learning for students. We must do
a better job of capturing and measuring this learning in quantifiable ways.
emphasis on educational innovation. The idea of innovation is everywhere.
Our students are more entrepreneurial and higher education leaders are working
to distinguish their university from the rest using innovative strategies. To
do this well, we must question our assumptions. Is it possible to offer free
college education? Can we really deliver quality education virtually and still
engage in high impact practices? One important need for innovation across
higher education as an industry is an increasing need for the development of
courses, majors, and programs that adapt to changing markets. As a result, there
is also an increasing emphasis on interdisciplinary
programs that integrate learning from across the institution. This
could be an incredible opportunity for student affairs professionals to
emphasize our expertise in integrating reflection and meaning-making by
partnering with faculty as these programs are being developed.
higher education increasingly accessible to diverse populations. Recent
events such as the lawsuit
against Harvard and the recent admissions
scandal will lead to increasing scrutiny on the admissions process.
This is coupled with the fact that we’re seeing declining
enrollments of international students. I hope that these events will
compel colleges to interrogate our assumptions, policies, and processes and
hopefully lead to important
perspectives on the programs and services that both support and
inhibit the success of students in accessing, succeeding, and completing
college. There is a growing interest in first generation student enrollment. One
important distinction that will be essential moving forward is to avoid
conflating first generation with working-class as too many of our
first-generation focused programs do. We must be meeting the needs of working
class students, an identity group that has too often been ignored. Tied to this
assertion, I believe we must also better adapt to the needs of students with
intersectional identities. For example, how do we meet the needs of a first
generation, working class, Latinx student? I would invite that each of us
should be thinking about the well-intentioned policies, practices, and
procedures that may not support equal access and to enact equity by
of the student voice. As we approach 2020 as an election year, we should
certainly expect that it will be years of polarization on our campuses. I think
we will see less tolerance among students of the bad behavior among their
peers, more protests, and more
student advocacy. Additionally, today’s student is more
willing to limit speech that is not inclusive, even if protected by
the First Amendment, which I personally believe is a dangerous position. There
will be an increasing need for student affairs professionals to teach students
how to have controversy-with-civility and how to manage being confronted with
uncomfortable ideas. It will also be important that we think about our own and
our institution’s positions on free speech versus exclusive or offensive
These are just a few of the trends affecting our day-to-day
work. It is essential we stay attuned to the larger industry trends as they
affect the ways resources are allocated at our institutions and the projects
and programs that are prioritized. These trends also create opportunities for
student affairs professionals. I would challenge you to always ask yourself:
How does/could this affect my work or my institution?
Most important, I invite you to stay attuned to world events. Subscribe to the higher education publications and news publications of your choosing. Read articles and authors with whom you disagree and think about how those positions will affect your work. Share what you’re learning with your peers. Some of the best, most thought provoking conversations I have had with colleagues came over something I read in the Sunday Globe.
About the Author
Emily Perlow is Assistant Dean of Students in the Division of Student Affairs at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Emily also currently teaches in the Central Connecticut State Student Development in Higher Education program. She holds a Master’s degree in College Student Personnel from Bowling Green State University and a Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Leadership from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She volunteers actively with NASPA, AFA, NGLA, and Alpha Gamma Delta Women’s Fraternity.