ERIC Identifier: ED370507
Publication Date: 1994-06-00
Author: Garland, Peter H. - Grace, Thomas W.
Clearinghouse on Higher Education Washington DC.| BBB27915 _ George Washington
Univ. Washington DC. School of Education and Human Development.
New Perspectives for Student Affairs Professionals: Evolving
Realities, Responsibilities and Roles. ERIC Digest.
Colleges and universities today are confronted with a variety of changing
conditions that demand attention; indeed, the formulation of appropriate and
effective responses to a changing world has become increasingly important to
institutions' vitality and viability. Changes in society, in the higher
education enterprise, and in the types and characteristics of students are among
those issues that must be addressed.
Increasingly, the efforts of student affairs aimed at improving student life,
integrating new student groups, and attracting and retaining students are
becoming critical to institutions attempting to maintain enrollments of
qualified students, ensure academic achievement, place graduates, and develop
supportive alumni. Institutions' use of these strategies in response to changing
conditions creates opportunities for student affairs professionals to become
leaders within institutions as they contribute significantly to institutions'
viability. Under pressure to pare budgets, student affairs organizations must
move quickly to demonstrate their centrality to institutional vitality or face
disproportionate cuts in programs and services (Cage 1992).
TO WHAT CHANGES MUST STUDENT AFFAIRS ORGANIZATIONS
Institutions and their student affairs organizations are confronted
with various changes in their contexts and clienteles. The first of these
trends, leading to change in society, is evidenced in uneven success with
students from underrepresented groups in the education pipeline, demographic
shifts, expanding use of information technologies, increasing violence, and the
burden of debt. Second, institutions and their student affairs organizations
must respond to the new accountability in higher education, even as public
confidence in its colleges and universities erodes and new revenues become
increasingly scarce. Colleges and universities find themselves subject to a
growing array of state and federal statutes, regulations, initiatives, and
IN WHAT WAYS CAN STUDENT AFFAIRS OFFER LEADERSHIP TO RESPOND TO CHANGING CONDITIONS?
In response to changing conditions, institutions
are redoubling efforts to manage student enrollments--seeking new student
clienteles while striving to retain students to graduation, employing quality
management, modifying programs and services to meet students' changing needs,
seeking new sources of revenues while searching to contain costs, building
partnerships, and focusing efforts to enhance students' involvement on campus.
Current efforts on campus suggest increasing congruity between the
traditional goals of student affairs and broader institutional goals; research
on efforts by student affairs organizations aimed at student development, once
regarded as peripheral, demonstrates increasing importance to an institution's
vitality (Astin 1992; Pascarella and Terenzini 1991). Student affairs
organizations enhance students' involvement, working to establish multicultural
environments, confronting violence on campus, managing enrollments, and helping
faculty to understand students unlike themselves. As recognition grows for
student affairs professionals' efforts in pursuit of the traditional goals of
student development, an expanded role for student affairs is demanded.
WHAT NEW ROLE IS EMERGING FOR STUDENT AFFAIRS?
affairs organization shares the orientations of faculty, students, and
administrators, and its position on the borders of these groups could be its
"Truly, student personnel workers have the opportunities to be central
figures for campus improvement in an era when resources must be perceived as
newly combined rather than as new." (Silverman 1980, p. 12)
"If the developmental model emerged in part to supply a positive and less
reactive approach to student life, then we must now move to the next step to
incorporate a positive approach to institutional life and to respond positively
to the issues facing our institutions." (Smith 1982, p. 57)
Failing to accept this challenge could prove costly to the profession:
"Student personnel work in the next 50 years will be called upon to perform
even more significant functions than it has for the past 50. If it responds with
creativity, ingenuity, and flexibility, there is no doubt of its future. If,
however, it becomes the agent of the status quo and mere tradition, other fields
will assume its work, and it will be reduced to performing mere housekeeping
functions." (Shaffer 1993, p. 167)
In accepting this challenge, student affairs professionals can become
institutional integrators, creatively and collaboratively integrating students'
and the institution's development.
Serving as integrators within institutions, student affairs professionals
stand to become more centrally and integrally involved in the direction of the
institution. They will do so, however, only if they are able to integrate and
apply theories of student development and institutional development, work
collaboratively with faculty and other administrators in developing
comprehensive responses, and join with students in recognizing the increasing
need to integrate institutional practices with societal challenges and
WHAT IMPLICATIONS DOES THIS NEW ROLE HAVE FOR STUDENT
A new role for student affairs calls for changes in the programs
and services offered by student affairs, the professional skills employed by
student affairs professionals, and the content of the preparation and continuing
development of professionals. Several programs and services stand to be enhanced
by the changing role: enrollment management, the development of multicultural
environments, and efforts to foster community service, activism, and service
To assume a more central position of leadership in the institution, student
affairs professionals must possess a wider repertoire of skills. Traditional
skills required in the promotion of student development must be matched with the
skills needed to help the student affairs professional serve as environmental
scanner, milieu manager, market analyst, legal adviser, development officer,
researcher, and quality assurance specialist. In short, student affairs
professionals must continue to build their repertoire of skills to enable them
to lead an institution's efforts to develop comprehensive responses to changing
The development of new skills for student affairs professionals has clear
implications for the preparation and continuing professional development of
individuals in the profession. Efforts to establish common learning for student
affairs professionals are still young (Hunter and Comey 1991) but hold great
promise for defining the profession and its practice. Preparation programs tend
to focus on administration or counseling, while emerging roles for student
affairs professionals call for professionals who are competent in both
counseling and administration and are able to integrate the skills of each to
serve students and their institutions. As a result, graduate preparation
programs must incorporate such studies as organizational development, quality
management, planning, evaluation and research, and current issues in higher
education. Further, continuing professional education must work toward the
development and enhancement of professional knowledge and skills for new roles.
A new role also creates challenges for the application of student
development. If student development is to offer guidance to the profession and
become more useful to the student affairs integrator, then (1) the understanding
and application of student development must become more integrated with practice
in student affairs, (2) student development theory must encompass an
increasingly diverse student population, and (3) student development and
organizational development must become better integrated.
To better serve as integrators within the institution, student affairs
* 1.Assess and understand the institutional environment;
* 2.Foster collaborative problem solving;
* 3.Develop professional collaboration with faculty;
* 4.Disseminate strategic information on students, their expectations, needs,
interests, and abilities;
* 5.Translate goals for student affairs to others in the institution in
* 6.Contribute to the quality of the academic experience;
* 7.Contribute to the effective and efficient management of the institution;
* 8.Develop skills for a broader role.
Institutions, if they are to take advantage of current and future
contributions of student affairs professionals should:
* 1.Recognize, enhance, and support the efforts of student affairs;
* 2.Consider student affairs professionals full partners in the institution;
* 3.Challenge student affairs professionals to make greater contributions to
In addition, student personnel preparation programs must be reconceptualized
to develop the broader skills necessary for the profession, including greater
attention to skills of leadership, such as planning, management, and evaluation.
And finally, associations of student affairs professionals must:
* 1.Continue to provide direction for a changing profession; and
* 2.Provide and promote continuing professional education at all levels.
Astin, Alexander W. 1992. What Matters
in College: Four Critical Years Revisited. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Cage, M.C. 1992. "To Shield Academic Programs from Cuts, Many Colleges Pare
Student Services." Chronicle of Higher Education 39: A25-A26.
Hunter, Deborah Ellen, and Danielle Comey. 1991. "Common Learning in Student
Affairs." NASPA Journal 29: 10-16.
Pascarella, Ernest, and P.T. Terenzini. 1991. How College Affects Students:
Findings and Insights from Twenty Years of
Research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Shaffer, Robert H. 1993. "Whither Student Personnel Work from 1968 to 2018? A
1993 Retrospective." NASPA Journal 30: 162-68.
Silverman, Robert J. 1980. "The Student Personnel Administrator as Leading
Edge Leader." NASPA Journal 18: 10-15.
Smith, Daryl G. 1982. "The Next Step beyond Student Development: Becoming
Partners within Our Institutions." NASPA Journal 19: 53-62.