Knowledge of Higher Education and Student Affairs

I. Questions I Was Looking to Answer

a.) Student affairs seems to be a rather new profession, so are there really any significant historical and philosophical underpinnings? And even if they are, aren’t things changing too quickly to be valuable to people in the profession now?


b.) and c.) What are the primary challenges new professionals are going to need to be prepared for in this field? What opportunities are created by these challenges and what skills and knowledge are necessary in order to address them? What issues can student affairs professionals expect to see in the future?


II.  Introduction (Information I already knew or experiences I already had)


I came into graduate school with no intellectual or practical knowledge of the historical and philosophical elements that helped influence the evolution of student affairs. My previous education in biology had given me a very limited view of what could be studied and student affairs seemed like too new a field to already have any essential building blocks. Having not studied the history of higher education, I also had no idea what to expect of its present and future challenges and opportunities.


III. Hypothesis (Educated Guess About What Answers I Might Find)


a.) The history of higher education is properly long, dense, and offers only a few clues as to how student affairs work will be done in the future. The philosophical underpinnings of higher education probably relate to providing a high quality education for as many people as possible and creating a new, improved workforce.


b.) Given that technology is ever changing professionals need to stay current in this arena. Things like distance education, podcasts, blogs, wikies, etc. are huge and must be used to their fullest capacities by universities and colleges. The world is becoming more and more diverse. People are being expected to work with, recreate with, learn beside, and in general live with an increasingly heterogeneous world. The merging of people with different values, customs, standards, etc. is a huge challenge in higher education.


c.) Universities and colleges are charging more money than ever for tuition and fees. Budget management will be a large issue in the future. Ways of using technology will continue to affect the profession. People will constantly be needing to get more training and apply it in new ways.


IV. Methods and Materials (How I Collected Data to Prove or Disprove My Hypothesis)



AHE 548 American Higher Education

The American College and University: A History

Paper on the history of my undergraduate institution •  cuhistory

Research paper on the history of hazing among Greek organizations • histpdf


b.) and c.)

Conduct Assistantship

NODA Internship

University Exploratory Studies Program (UESP) Internship

 V.  Data and Analysis:


Reflections on the history of higher education and philosophical underpinnings • higheredorigins    studentdrivenstudentaffairs


b.) and c.)

Reflections on Conduct Assistantship  • Critical Incident Response International Student Orientation 

 • The Right to Drink/Drug •  The Right to Drink/Drug Part II


Reflections on NODA Internship •  Building a Student Staff Creating Paths to Success 

Information Overload •  Non-traditional Student Orientations

 Reflections on UESP Internship: Look for them soon in the topics section of the blog

VII. Conclusions

a.) The historical and philosophical underpinnings of American higher education are ultimately tied to the historical and philosophical underpinnings of America as a whole. As such, there are countless example of how outside forces, whether they are political, economical, or philosophical, all played a role in how higher education functioned and what issues student affairs professionals needed to be aware of in order to best serve students.

Examples include, but are not limited to those linked here

The question of whether or not the history of higher educaiton is important to the field of student affairs began to be answered on the first day in history class when our instructor, Tom Scheuermann provided us with an excerpt from the book On The Teaching and Writing of History by Bernard Bailyn in which Bailyn responses to the question “why anyone in particular should study history”? Here it is in all its glory:

“My answer to that is that you should study it- beyond what any informed person should know if it interests you. Some body’s got to study it thoroughly and systematically if our society is to keep its sanity, its sense of reality and self-awareness, but I think the individuals who study history professionally should do so because it attracts them, because it satisfied them intellectually. If it doesn’t interest one, there are many other things to devote oneself to”.

My original intent was to align myself with one of those people who should be devoting myself to something else (at the time, I’m sure that something else was all those articles I’d be reading in Dr. White’s theory class), however the more I “analzyed the data” (most in student affairs would call this reflecting upon the information), the more I realized that most historians aren’t drawn to the past for the past’s sake. There’s an element of forward thinking in most historical accounts and I now realize that the real reason for learning about the history and philsophy of student affairs is so I can assess the current challenges I face through a wider lens and so the future of student affairs doesn’t seem so unpredictable. In other words, I came to see this competency as what keeps us from being victims of the famous adage “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.

b.) and c.)

There are a number of universal challenges for student affairs professionals and an even greater amount that relate specifically to individual departments. One of the best ways to keep up-to-date on the challenges and opportunities facing the profession is to read, read and read some more. Being placed on numerous mailing lists that address various current issues in student affairs is quite helpful as well as subscribing to publications such as The Chronicle of Higher Education, Diverse Issues in Higher Education and NASPA’s Journal of College and Character. Challenges and opportunities are also quite evident in one’s daily work and interactions with other professionals.

Examples of challenges include but are not limited to:

Entitlement issues:

Multicultural campuses: 



Retaining Student Affairs Professionals





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2 Responses to “Knowledge of Higher Education and Student Affairs”

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Portfolio Evaluation Comments: Excellent – the artifacts here are very good, and they, along with the posts that you include, convince me of your grounding in this competency and your willingness to consider history as a vital force in your future professional ventures. They demonstrate how your learning in this area has been an exercise in reframing your experience and assumptions relative to the profession.

With regards to Eric’s question about my thoughts on how to shift the culture of hazing (especially in the Greek Community):

I think it ultimately comes down to having thoughtful and periodic discussions with students about their intentions in carrying out hazing practices and helping them recognize that their intentions are not effectively met by hazing techniques. Providing alternatives that have been shown to increase camaraderie, strengthen bonds between people, and promote allegiance to similar values is necessary. I think that having leaders of organizations that have been caught hazing reevaluate the values and goals of their organizations and determine how these actions actually harm or degrade these collective values and goals is quite helpful. In a similar format to a conduct hearing, I also think it is important for members of the hazing group to have a thorough understanding of the policy they have broken, why the policy is in place and the consequences of future violations. It would also be important to make sure the campus community, particularly new students getting ready to pledge or enter into an organization where hazing has taken place to know the rules and policies regarding hazing. They need to know what it is, what it is not, and how to report it. With this knowledge and the conversations mentioned above I believe that students and student organizations will be in a better place to make educated decisions regarding this issue.

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    The challenges, successes and ideas of a budding (student affairs) professional


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