Lessons I Have Learned | Barratt


As a retired Professor of Student Affairs and Higher Education, I have watched the intellectual, theoretical, and practical climate of our field change over the nearly 50 years of my professional life. These are my lessons learned. These may well be different from your lessons or different from what may benefit you now. These are the lessons that have served me well in multiple settings, from pre-Internet classrooms in the US to workshops at the US Embassy in Ulan Baatar, Mongolia, and many venues in between.  I learned some of these lessons at a much younger age, some are relatively new to me, and some just keep getting refined.

What does the research say?

Science is real. The round Earth is widely accepted because of experimental results. Applying our trust in science to professional life is another thing altogether.  All too often campus decision-makers form new campus policies and practices that depend on the few students who speak with them. All too often decisions are made primarily on the basis of feelings with little emphasis on data. What we like is what we like, but what may be most effective for others may be quite different than what works for us. One of the purposes of graduate class reading is to develop a knowledge base and skill set based on demonstrated success. Learning how to get good information, how to evaluate good information, how to understand our own roles in this process, and how to use good information in our everyday practice is a critical professional skill.

Books like the “How College Affects Students” series are a must read. These books are a summary of the science, the research base, of the profession. They summarize our foundational knowledge base. Do students actually develop in college? Are there differences in student learning outcomes between colleges? What is the most effective leadership style? The answers are in those, and other questions are in these volumes. The answers are both simple and complex. Yes, students do develop in college, but it depends on the student and on the experiences the students have.

Learning is the acquisition of knowledge and skill as the result of experience.

Read that slowly and think about each word. Knowledge refers to a knowledge base, a collection of facts and figures and often called declarative knowledge. Skill refers to a skill set, a how to, like critical thinking and often called procedural knowledge. Results is an emphasis on outcomes. Experience is an emphasis on process and a way to identify events that have an impact on learning. As a teacher I was in the experience business. As a learner I am in the learning business. Teaching and learning are quite different.

Learning declarative knowledge, facts like names of Chickering’s seven vectors and APA formatting rules, is most effective in certain types of learning experiences. Memorizing word lists is a declarative knowledge learning experience. In-classes exams over content are an indicator that declarative knowledge is important to the teacher. Declarative knowledge typically has an expiration date, procedural knowledge does not. Knowing the names of the Chickering’s seven vectors has diminishing utility, and basic communication skills is always a basic skill.

Learning procedural knowledge, skills like critical thinking, analysis, synthesis, or riding a bicycle is most effective in certain types of learning experiences. In-classes essay exams, papers, short analytical case studies, and the like are hallmarks of an emphasis on procedural knowledge. I personally value procedural knowledge, but I always read the University Handbook so I can cite the rules.

Unlearning is often critical to new learning. Software updates usually require us to unlearn declarative knowledge and software skills in order to learn new knowledge and skills.

What should students know and what students should they be able to do are foundational questions. How much emphasis should be placed on knowledge, and how much on skills? Should a class on multicultural issues focus on information or on skills? My answer is always that a skill, procedural knowledge, how to, is the most important and enduring part of lifelong learning.

My lifelong learning involved serving on a lot of campus committees, from search committees to campus wide IT policy committees. I used committee membership to build knowledge and skills. In my final years on campus I was asked to be on some serious campus committees, for example the faculty promotions appeals committee. I took that assignment as others’ confidence in my knowledge base and skill set built up since my own graduate school days.

Learn how your brain works.

Pay attention to how your brain works. Your brain works in predictable ways, and developing language about how your brain works gives you agency in your life and learning processes. Developing multiple ways to understand how your brain works gives you multiple pathways to be more effective in your world.

Big Five Personality is an empirically derived model (science based) that has been repeatedly confirmed by research for over 40 years. Based on factor analysis of personality tests using large numbers of participants in multiple nations, Big Five remains the dominant research-based model of personality that provides language on how our brains work. Our personality, as assessed using a Big Five tool determines a lot about how we learn, how we think, how we feel, and how we interact with others. Simply put, Student Affairs is dominated by people who score high on extroversion and who create many learning experiences for people who are extroversion-centric thus excluding people who score high on introversion. When you have a lot of extroverts in a student affairs staff meeting you have an extrovert echo chamber. That discriminates against, or oppresses, those who score high on Introversion.

I am purposely not directing the reader to specific resources on Big Five personality in order to encourage readers to develop self-guided learning skills.

Learn how other people’s brains work.

The basis of effective leadership and effective relationships is working well with others. Using the same research-based language and model for yourself and for others helps to articulate issues on communication and mis-communication. Avoiding categorizing yourself, or others, because categories are not developmental, not growth oriented. Don’t say “I’m an extrovert.”  But rather say “I have a tendency to be extroverted, and in dealing with this person who seems a little introverted I need to be sensitive to how their brain works.”

Research helps in developing our language on how people’s brains work. On the other hand, many people base their notions of how other people’s brains work on their feelings. I would rather rely on Big Five personality research than on horoscope signs and birth year. There are myriad models used to understand ourselves and others, often having a positive emotional effect, but few of them have any research base. As I wrote above, research should provide a foundation for practice.

Multicultural issues are more complex than we can imagine.

The list of individual and social differences is extensive. The importance, in the moment, in context, of each diversity varies a lot. In the 15 years before writing this chapter I spent a lot of time outside of the USA. In the last eight years I have lived exclusively outside the USA. Diversity issues, on a global scale, are unimaginably complex. As a Fulbright Global Scholar working at Universiti Malaya in Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia my local mall celebrated every holiday through decoration. I often found out it was a holiday by going into the mall and seeing new decorations. The malls in KL are quite different in many ways than malls in the USA.

KL has ethnic diversity that is celebrated. On the other hand I gave the first two workshops on diversity at Universiti Malaya. Before moving to KL I was Professor of Educational Leadership at Roi Et Rajabhat University, Roi Et, Thailand. Unlike KL, my region of Thailand was nearly a mono-culture, and diversity was a non-issue until I brought it up. I also gave workshops around Asia, giving me a wider perspective on differences both within and between nations and cultures. It is safe to say that students and the educational context in Jakarta are very different than in Ulan Baatar. Learning what diversities are important in what context is a skill set.

A typical US undergraduate student, if there is such a person, has a world view with limited geographical and social horizons. Consequently, seeking to expand that typical student’s world view can be difficult. Differing performances of gender, for example, in rural Thailand and urban US, go to the basics of the idea of gender, in both settings.

A neurotypical student, if such a person exists, becomes the norm against which we compare the outliers, the neurodivergent students. But what if we are all outliers in our own way? What if we assume that everyone we work with, study with, listen to, is neurodivergent in their own way. The current common meme about others fighting battles we know nothing about is true. Trying to fit in with a student affairs culture is a challenge for some of us. Introverts in an extrovert staff meeting find the experience trying. Those with ADHD in a campus culture of details and planning find the experience difficult.

Differences from the macro to the micro, from differences between students at the National University of Mongolia and Indiana State University, to differences between how gender is normed in different mainstream Midwest social classes make diversity a very complex network of people and context.

Change is a constant.

Campus demographics, finances, accountability, technology and even classrooms change. Campus software changes, social media changes, competencies needed in social media change. It is critical to have the knowledge base for the current campus software and applications, it is important to have the skill set to keep up to date with changing times.  I am tempted to play the ‘back in the day’ card here, but you who are reading this are currently in what will become your own back in the day.

Recognizing change is a skill. Managing change is a skill. “We’ve always done it that way” is the denial of change. The fall campus demographic report is a source of knowledge about our changing student populations. Seek out information about the real, research based, current state of the campus and you will keep up with changes the affect your life. Better yet, sit on the committees and task forces on your campus and you can both learn about the present and about possible futures, and you can develop your interpersonal and group skills.

Keeping abreast of the financial and power dynamics in higher education and keep ahead of the changing knowledge bases and skill sets in the field.

Articulate your values often.

You do you. Classic good advice. Take the time to articulate your values. Discuss them, write them down, create a priority list, tell stories about them, do what works for you to articulate them. When an interviewer asks you to tell a little about yourself, you already have most of an answer.

tl;dr*  – Your skill set is more important than your knowledge base.

* too long; didn’t read

Will Barratt, Ph.D. is the Coffman Distinguished Professor Emeritus in Educational Leadership at Indiana State University. Will has lived in 7 states and 6 countries, studied at 4 universities and worked at 3 in the US and 2 abroad, one as a Fulbright Global Scholar. Currently retired, he is a global nomad and wrote this chapter while in Paraguay and Uruguay.

Building Successful Academic Advising for Online and On-Campus Graduate Students: Reflections from the Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership at the University of Pennsylvania | Roth-Saks

written by: Adam Roth-Saks


Professional graduate student advising is often overlooked in practice and research. Having worked to build an advising program for my online and on-campus students grounded in the literature, I have a few observations and reflections on my experience that might benefit others who are looking to build, enhance, or transform graduate-focused programs. While we implicitly know graduate students are a different population, it is important to consider how advising theories and strategies can be explicitly applied to them. While most of us have experienced emergency remote learning due to the pandemic, intentionally creating sustainable and intentional online advising that supports online and on-campus students takes time and effort. Using existing structures and practices can make a transition to more intentional advising easier while still improving how we support our students.

The Nonprofit Leadership Program

The Nonprofit Leadership Program (NPL) at the University of Pennsylvania is offered as a one-year full-time or a two- to three-year part-time master’s degree. The program is offered in online and on-campus formats which can also be combined into a hybrid format. There are approximately 100 students (60 on-campus students and 40 online students) in the program each year including continuing part-time students (Mazzola, 2021). In addition to curricular components, students are required to complete a co-curricular leadership practicum. This practicum is a combination internship for and mentorship by a leader at a social impact organization.

The degree structure and co-curricular requirements are unique to the NPL program both at the School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) and at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) while having some elements common to many master’s degree programs. The program and institution inform the structure and model for advising, the design of the orientation, how best to serve all students and those facing difficulties, and the assessment and professional development of advisors.

An Advising Program Grounded in the Literature

Before moving into how I worked with the advising program at Penn, a bit of literature to provide context. A strong advising experience can determine a student’s success and requires an understanding of individual students as well as each specific institution. According to Pardee (2008), “an advising program cannot be developed, assessed, and improved without considering its organizational context” (p. 192). Additionally, the organizational structure of an academic advising program cannot be changed without considering the characteristics of the department, school, or institution (Pardee, 2008).

As we have developed the advising structure at our institution, we have identified a structure to meet the needs of students as well as a structure that aligns with and is supported by the institution. The characteristics of the NPL program, SP2, and Penn are influential in the advising program structure for the NPL program. Penn is a decentralized university with 12 graduate schools. SP2 is one of those graduate schools and has five degree programs which each have their own faculty, administrators, and advisors. The NPL program offers online and on-campus formats for part-time and full-time students.

Given these elements, we chose a decentralized structure for the advising team where advising is housed in the specific academic department combined with a modified dual advising model with a professional advisor for curricular advising and policy adherence and a faculty mentor focused on professional development and sector specific knowledge (Pardee, 2008). This model considers financial constraints, additional responsibilities of staff, and the expectations for faculty at Penn (Pardee, 2008).

Online and on-campus orientations complement advising and offer students a chance to engage with each other to develop a sense of belonging across the online and on-campus formats as well as provide a source of information throughout the program (Almanazar et al., 2018). The online orientation is offered as a combination of synchronous and asynchronous components because research indicates that both formats prepare students to learn online effectively, but that students often prefer one or the other format based on their personal and professional commitments (Vaill, 2013).

Finally, group and individual advising support and reinforce one another based on practices found in the literature including group advising to promote peer-to-peer learning, strengths-based advising for general student support, and appreciative advising for students in academic difficulty (Ryan, 2015; Schreiner, 2013; Truschel, 2008). Strengths-based advising, as the name states, focuses on student strengths instead of weaknesses and helps them use their talents to tackle challenges, helps them identify their career passions, and motivates them through a positive relationship (Schreiner & Anderson, 2005; Schreiner, 2013). Strengths-based advising is informed by research that shows while focusing on weaknesses can lead to some improvement, focusing on strengths can lead to excellence (Schreiner & Anderson, 2005). Additionally, strengths-based advising is directly tied to social work and the idea that people already have the abilities they need to excel if social workers help them tap into those abilities (Schreiner & Anderson, 2005). Drawing upon peoples’ strengths is especially appropriate as SP2 was founded as a school of social work and so this practice connects to the overall philosophy of the school (“Mission Statement,” n.d.).

Appreciative advising has six stages and is based on appreciative inquiry (Truschel, 2008).

Table 1

Stages of Appreciative Advising

Stage Description
Disarm Student builds a relationship with their advisor
Discover Advisor helps the student identify strengths
Dream Student and advisor identify goals for the student
Design Student and advisor create plan together to achieve goals
Deliver Advisor provides support while holding student accountable
Don’t Settle Advisor pushes the student to excel

(Adapted from Truschel, 2008).

Miller et al. (2019) found that an appreciative advising model used on-campus was successful for online students by tying each of the stages to a different form of communication including phone and email. An appreciative advising program implemented at Eastern Illinois University for online adult learners also found that using phone and email with an awareness of tone and questions tied to the appreciative advising stages left students feeling more supported (Bloom et al., 2009). These strategies have helped inform advising in the NPL program and efforts to use email in a deeper way than simple administrative communication and phone as a way to follow up with students who may not be as responsive by email.

Appreciative Advising in the NPL Program

Given the decentralized nature of SP2 and Penn, we have implemented a dual model with a professional advisor for academic advising and a faculty mentor for professional development. There are two staff advisors for the program, one to advise the online students and one to advise the on-campus students with a caseload of 50 to 60 students each. Although this is much lower than the average of 296 students per advisor according to NACADA (2019), it is appropriate given the additional advisor responsibilities including recruitment and admissions, course development and faculty support, practicum placements, and orientation.

Our four standing faculty serve as mentors for the students. While advising is not required for tenure and traditionally SP2 faculty have not been involved directly in master’s student advising, the faculty mentor the master’s students to support their career development and professional goals. The incorporation of faculty as mentors instead of academic advisors also addresses financial constraints as the role does not reduce the teaching load of professors. Students are able to meet with faculty mentors once a semester and students will be responsible for scheduling those meetings. This is different from academic advising when advisors ensure that students meet with them at least once per semester.

The Advising Team

Our office includes four points of contact for students. The faculty director for the program provides oversight and serves as one of the faculty mentors. An administrative director who reports to the faculty director and serves as the on-campus advisor. The online program coordinator who reports to the administrative director and serves as the online advisor. Finally, a program coordinator who reports to the administrative director and supports all aspects of the program. Since almost half the program is online learners and half is part-time working professionals, we have been able to justify the need for two advisors with about 100 students in the program in an academic year.

This structure also allows for close coordination between faculty mentors, professional advisors, and program administration since the roles overlap. As a result, students receive holistic attention through advising and mentoring. Housing these services in a single office also makes the process more cohesive and convenient.

Program Orientation

Part of the role of both advisors is to design, implement, and lead orientation. Because our program offers both online and on-campus formats, we also offer both formats for student orientation. Online students are required to participate in the online orientation and on-campus students are required to participate in the on-campus orientation, although all students are encouraged to attend both orientations. This involvement encourages socialization and cohort building to establish a sense of belonging for graduate students. The online orientation happens in early August before the on-campus orientation in late August to allow for online students to travel to campus if they wish to participate in the on-campus orientation.

The online orientation is a combination of synchronous and asynchronous components hosted through video conferencing using Zoom and a specific course created in the Learning Management System at Penn, Canvas. Offering live and recorded components helps address concerns of students who have not taken online courses before, helps students adjust to online courses, and offer flexibility for busy working professional students.

The Canvas course site is accessible to online and on-campus students throughout their program, not just during orientation as a single repository for campus resources, forms, policies, and other useful information. As with the online orientation, the on-campus orientation prepares students for the program and offers information about policies, resources, and procedures in the program. It also offers an opportunity for socialization, building relationships, and networking across the online and on-campus formats and for part-time and full-time students.

Additional Relational Strategies

Another element of the academic advising program that reinforces networking and community are monthly practicum meetings. These meetings are already required as part of the co-curricular leadership practicum that is required for all students. In the past, meetings happened in-person for on-campus students and over Zoom for online students, although in response to the pandemic for the past two years we have offered all practicum meetings over Zoom. The practicum meetings also serve as group advising sessions since they are led by the administrative director and online and on-campus coordinators and are an opportunity for students in the program to learn from each other as well as their advisors.

The practicum is already tied to professional development, so the practicum meetings as group advising sessions focus on the student learning outcome of communicating skills and knowledge to employers. In addition to the specific learning outcome, each monthly meeting focuses on an additional topic. Topics may be appropriate because of timing, (i.e., advanced course registration), or a specific need (i.e., feedback from students on issues in the program).

One-to-One Advising

One-to-one advising is essential for working with students who are struggling academically as well as the entire student population in the NPL program. The academic advising program considers multiple advising approaches from the literature mentioned above including strengths-based and appreciative advising to meet the individual needs on-campus, online, part-time, and full-time NPL students. Strengths-based advising is especially useful in the NPL program as students often join the program to follow their career passions in the social impact sector and it echoes the strengths-based approach of the field of social work. While strengths-based advising is used generally, advisors are also encouraged to use the complementary appreciative advising approach for students facing academic difficulty.

Future Considerations

Future Relational Strategies

In the future, we hope to implement another element of the academic advising program to reinforce networking and relational components. We will ask students to complete the CliftonStrengths Assessment before the start of the program. The CliftonStrengths Assessment was developed by the Gallup Organization from research that showed focusing on talents helped people improve their performance more than trying to address their weaknesses (Schreiner & Anderson, 2005). The assessment will help students identify their strengths and passions and directly connects with the career development provided by professional advisors and faculty mentors as well as the strengths-based advising approach the program utilizes (Schreiner & Anderson, 2005).

Advising Strategies

Additionally, we hope to implement a more robust appreciative advising approach for those students facing difficulty in the program considering specific implementation and formats for each of the six stages of appreciative advising (Truschel, 2008).

Appreciative Advising Application, Penn NPL Program

Stage Description NPL Implementation Format



Student builds a relationship with their advisor


Orientation, one-on-one, and group advising


In-person, phone, and video conferencing




Advisor helps the student identify strengths


CliftonStrengths Assessment






Student and advisor identify goals for the student


Identifying academic and career goals with students


Email, in-person, phone, and video conferencing




Student and advisor create plan together to achieve those goals


Student and advisor address difficulty and strategies for the student to overcome it


Email, in-person, phone, and video conferencing




Advisor provides support while holding the student accountable


At least three one on one meetings in any semester the student faces difficulty, supported by practicum meetings for group advising


In-person and video conferencing

Don’t Settle Advisor pushes the student to excel Regular follow up between meetings from advisor Email and phone

Adapted from: Kamphoff et al., 2007; Miller et al., 2019; Truschel, 2008.

NPL Advising Assessment

Simply being aware of advising approaches and best practices will not be enough to make sure advisors help students succeed. We also hope to implement an advising assessment to determine the effectiveness of advisors. Using quantitative and qualitative survey components, an annual assessment will measure advisor accessibility online and in-person, knowledge of policies and the social impact sector, and relational abilities (Cuseo, 2015). Focus groups supplement the surveys to ensure participation across program format and part-time and full-time students (Demetriou, 2005). The focus group will be moderated by someone in another department at SP2 to ensure students feel they can be honest in the discussion (Demetriou, 2005).

Both the survey and focus group will also measure how often students use campus resources, their engagement with the practicum, and how well they understand the program requirements (Cuseo, 2015). Additionally, the assessment will be done at least once a year since the program is one year for full-time students and will be reviewed by students and advisors for feedback before implementation (Cuseo, 2015; Yoder & Joslin, 2015).

We piloted the focus group element of the assessment this year through an external examination of the program and found students and alumni were responsive to sharing their thoughts on the program and advising structure. We also received survey data from SP2 Student Affairs on satisfaction rates across all of the degree programs indicated three quarters of our students were satisfied with the program, although students were not asked specifically about advising.

The assessment will not exist in a bubble, it will be used to improve advising and will be directly tied to future professional development opportunities (Cuseo, 2015). Currently, comprehensive training is not offered as part of the advising role in the NPL program. However, new advisors do get on the job training and shadowing experienced advisors (Yoder & Joslin, 2015). To improve the advising program, using information from assessments, advisors will be encouraged to attend the Student Affairs Leadership Team (SALT) annual conference at Penn. Additionally, staff will receive training from Counseling and Psychological Services, the LGBT Center, and the cultural centers at the Arts, Research and Cultural House (ARCH) (Kouzoukas, 2020). Advisors will also be expected to use their professional development budgets to attend webinars and regional conferences for the Global Community for Academic Advising (NACADA), American College Personnel Association (ACPA), Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA), and other appropriate professional organizations (Duberstein, 2012; Kouzoukas, 2020; Yoder & Joslin, 2015).

Personal Reflection

Although I have participated in the SALT Conference almost every year I have been at Penn and took a course on advising as part of my doctoral program, unfortunately that has been the extent of my professional development in academic advising. Advisor training in the Nonprofit Leadership program has been an example of learning on the job and being thrown into the deep end. Yoder and Joslin (2015) argue that finding a more experienced advisor to support a new advisor as a mentor can help with challenges as well as continuity, and I was lucky that my predecessor in the role was incredibly supportive and available to mentor me even though he left Penn before I arrived. I was also able to mentor the online program coordinator I hired who advises students and the on-campus program coordinator who supports advising now that I have a better understanding of all the elements required of advisors, but we of course need continual professional development which Folsom (2015) argues is key to mastery of changing theories, best practices, and policies for advisors.

I am a strong believer in the strengths-based approach not only to advising, but also to staff management. In my career before higher education, two of my managers had me complete the CliftonStrengths assessment and believed the best employees have roles focused on their strengths, everyone has natural talents, and weaknesses can be managed without being emphasized (Schreiner & Anderson, 2005). This approach helped me identify my career path and guides my philosophy of building an advising program that plays to the strengths of my team and students. Although it would be great to have faculty more involved in advising, the NPL faculty strengths are mentorship and teaching (Pardee, 2008). Although I would prefer staff dedicated only to advising, the financial reality means we all hold multiple roles (Pardee, 2008).

Advising should emphasize students’ strengths and help them develop their passions (Schreiner, 2013). When a student comes to me and tells me that the class I recommended changed their learning, they found the perfect job, they identified an opportunity at school, or they connected with an incredible academic or professional mentor, I know I have done my job well (Dyer, 2007; “Statement of Advising Philosophy Prompts,” n.d.). I am far from a perfect advisor and need to focus more on a strengths-based mindset instead of a deficit one, but I believe developing an advising program that acknowledges limitations of time and resources while playing to the strengths of the staff, faculty, and students can lead to amazing student success (Schreiner & Anderson, 2005; “Statement of Advising Philosophy Prompts,” n.d.).

Questions to Consider

  1. What are different advising needs for graduate and undergraduate students? For online and on-campus students?
  2. What is the advising philosophy of your office? What is your personal advising philosophy?
  3. How have you assessed the effectiveness of advising in your office?




Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership

Advising Syllabus

Advisors and Contact Information:

On-Campus Students
Adam Roth-Saks

Online Students
Molly Sinderbrand, PhD

Office Hours and Location:

Monday through Friday 8 am to 5 pm by appointment only

To schedule a time with Adam, please email, call, or use https://calendly.com/adamnpl

Adam’s open office hours: Mondays 3 pm to 4 pm at 3815 Walnut St, 1st Floor

Thursdays 8:30 to 9:30 pm at https://sp2upenn.zoom.us/j/6081248945 Passcode: nonprofit

To schedule a time with Molly, please email or call

Molly’s open office hours: Fridays 11 am to 12 pm via Zoom


The Nonprofit Leadership advising team aspires to provide excellent academic advising and career development, so students can pursue social innovation, impact, and justice (“Mission Statement,” n.d.; NACADA, 2017).


We are committed to engaging all NPL students in their own learning through course planning, nonprofit leadership practicum placements, and networking opportunities. Advising is tailored to each individual student to empower them to succeed academically, professionally, and personally. While we support students in their academic journey, ultimately, each student is accountable for their learning and success (“Advising @ UNI,” n.d.; “Academic Advising,” n.d.; NACADA, 2017). 

Student Learning Outcomes: 

  • Identify their passions and professional goals in the social impact sector
  • Use campus services and resources to further their goals and address challenges
  • Complete the curricular and co-curricular requirements to graduate from the program
  • Effectively communicate to potential employers the skills and knowledge they’ve gained from the program

Expectations and Responsibilities: (“Advising Syllabus for Graduate Students,” 2018; Folsom, 2015a; “Expectations & Responsibilities of the Student, Advisor and Graduate Group,” 2020)

Advisor Student
Understand NPL curriculum and NPL, SP2, & Penn Requirements & Policies Be familiar with NPL, SP2, & Penn Degree Requirements & Policies
Support students in tracking NPL degree progress Accept responsibility for and monitor NPL degree progress
Support students in finding a leadership practicum placement Participate fully in leadership practicum placement
Understand social impact sector and career opportunities Engage with social impact sector and larger social movements
Communicate openly, honestly, and in a timely manner Communicate openly, honestly, and in a timely manner
Provide referrals to Penn resources Utilize Penn resources as necessary


Advising Structure:

  • Students will be assigned an academic advisor based on their program format (online or on-campus); each advisor will work with 55 to 60 students.
  • Students will also be assigned a faculty mentor
  • Students will complete an online orientation (required for online students) and/or an on-campus orientation (required for on-campus students) as well as the CliftonStrengths assessment (provided by the program) before the program (Schreiner & Anderson, 2005).
  • Students should plan to meet with their academic advisor two to three times per academic year, preferably before course registration each semester, but definitely before add/drop ends and their faculty mentor once per semester (see SP2 Academic Calendar link below)
  • Students should prepare for advising sessions by:
    • Reviewing courses (see NPL Curriculum link below)
    • Updating their academic planning worksheet (see Penn in Touch link below)
    • Completing practicum forms (see NPL Practicum link below)
    • Considering additional resources based on meeting topics (See links below).
  • Advisors will review students’ records before advising sessions.
  • Advising sessions can be in-person, by phone, or over Zoom. If necessary, advising sessions can also be by email, although follow up may be necessary.


Tools & Resources:

Orientation: https://canvas.upenn.edu/courses/1526993

NPL Practicum: https://canvas.upenn.edu/courses/1451115

NPL Curriculum: https://www.sp2.upenn.edu/npl-resources/#course-descriptions

SP2 Academic Resources: https://www.sp2.upenn.edu/academic-resources/

SP2 Academic Calendar: https://www.sp2.upenn.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/2022-23-SP2-Academic-Calendar-6-1-22-Update.pdf

Canvas help: https://infocanvas.upenn.edu/guides/canvas-for-students/

[email protected] (Student Portal): https://path.at.upenn.edu/student/landing

Penn Libraries: https://www.library.upenn.edu/

SP2 Student Handbook: https://www.sp2.upenn.edu/masters-student-handbook/

Penn Policies: https://catalog.upenn.edu/pennbook/

SP2 Student Services: https://www.sp2.upenn.edu/student-life/

Vice Provost for University Life (Weingarten Learning Resources, Student Disability Services, LGBT Center, Women’s Center, Violence Prevention, Intervention Services): https://www.vpul.upenn.edu/

Wellness (Counseling and Psychological Services, Student Health Services): https://wellness.upenn.edu/

Career Services: https://careerservices.upenn.edu/

Adam Roth-Saks is the Administrative Director of the Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership at the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to joining Penn, he worked in international education arranging experiential opportunities for university students and faculty with nonprofits and social enterprises in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Adam received his BA from Brown University, his MSEd in International Educational Development at the Graduate School of Education at Penn and is currently pursuing his EdD with a concentration in Higher Education at Penn.

Adam Roth-Saks (he/him) is the Administrative Director of the Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership at the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to joining Penn, he worked in international education arranging experiential opportunities for university students and faculty with nonprofits and social enterprises in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Adam received his BA from Brown University, his MSEd in International Educational Development at the Graduate School of Education at Penn and is currently pursuing his EdD with a concentration in Higher Education at Penn.


Academic Advising. (n.d.). Retrieved August 1, 2020, from https://undergrad-inside.wharton.upenn.edu/advising/

Advising Syllabus for Graduate Students. (2018). Retrieved August 1, 2020 from https://elliott.gwu.edu/sites/g/files/zaxdzs2141/f/downloads/acad/advising/forms/Advising%20Syllabus%20for%20Graduate%20Students_Sp18.pdf

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A Faculty Member and Graduate Student Collaboration for Social Justice | Pannirselvam, Bondi & Tay

written by: Meena Pannirselvam, Stephanie Bondi & Yi Xuen Tay


In this article, we (the authors) wrote from the perspectives of one faculty member and two graduate students who collaborated on campus-wide social justice efforts. In our experiences, collaborating and working with each other proved to be more sustainable and provided multiple perspectives that helped enhance our work. Our collaboration continued to motivate one another, provided allyship, and strengthened our community while we faced push back and challenges. To accurately capture our conversations, we decided to interview each other for this piece and present our work in an interview style. We hope others may become inspired to collaborate with their communities to advance social justice causes.


Who We Are

Meena: Let us start by explaining who we are and our relationship; my name is Meena, and I use she/ they pronouns. I am the coordinator for the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion at Mississippi State. I am from Malaysia and am a recent master’s graduate in Higher Education focusing on Student Affairs from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I am passionate about improving international students’ college experience, where I can continue to dismantle barriers, challenge laws and policies, and engage in community building and continue to build support for the student group. I met Yi Xuen during our master’s program and quickly established a relationship due to shared passion, and Dr. Bondi was both the program coordinator and our professor.

Yi Xuen: My name is Yi Xuen Tay and I use she/her pronouns. I am a Resident Director at the University of Nevada, Reno. I recently graduated from the student affairs program at UNL, just like Meena. Through our master’s program, we connected with Dr. Bondi and began co-conspiring with each other to advance justice and decolonization for international students. My thesis research focused on storying employment discrimination faced by international students through critical narratives. As a Malaysian Chinese, I have lived as a minority all my life. I have continued to find community and the courage to empower myself and my identities in small but significant ways.

Stephanie: I use she/they pronouns and am an associate professor of practice and coordinator of MA with a specialization in student affairs. I’m white and since taking my master’s courses, I have been learning about myself as a mostly privileged person. I’m learning about being in an institution where oppression operates and influences my actions and others around me. I teach several courses in the University of Nebraska—Lincoln student affairs program and coordinate a diversity education and advocacy group in our college.

How and Why Did We Start Working Together?

Meena: Figuring out when and how we started working together required much reflection and going back to previous emails to cross-check information; it was a nice trip down memory lane. In response to the anti-Asian Atlanta shooting in 2021, Tamayo Zhou, a graduate student, and I decided to create and host a space for our community to come together, talk, and be in solidarity. The responsive program was well received by community members, and we wanted to continue the energy, so we hosted a “Stop Asian Hate Vigil.” This vigil was a space for our community to remember the victims, offer hope to those who experienced hate, and support the Asian community during these difficult times. After the first event, Dr. Bondi emailed us, saying, “Thank you so much for the incredible event tonight. And the action guide. The effort, knowledge, and care you’ve shared are wonderful.” This affirmation we received was meaningful, even though it was via email. So, for the following program, I reached out to Dr. Bondi, the chair of an advocacy group on campus, to coordinate a virtual breakout room for folks interested in organizing and doing advocacy work. This program was meaningful because we were engaged in active allyship. Through the program, we built community and had a concrete plan for the next steps.

As a student at the time, I felt very comfortable communicating with you because of our previous conversations in and outside classrooms. One of the biggest indicators that you were a safe person to talk to and ally to international students was your letter supporting international students. Dr. Bondi wrote about being against the DHS July 7 ruling, validating international students’ feelings and emphasizing that we would not be affected by this new policy as we started our first semester of the master’s program. You also conducted regular check-ins and made sure you had conversations with us after classes.

Attending graduate school during the midst of a pandemic and then during the “new normal” was a challenge; there were always racist behaviors, harmful incidents, or shootings happening daily. However, I remember our conversation about international students, policies, and regulations in place, in which you listened and asked relevant questions. But, the next day, you followed up with a check-in email, a news article from Chronicle, and some actionable steps the institution could take.

Yi Xuen: We could always go to you as a resource. When we were in the planning stages of creating the International Student Advisory Board (ISAB), we had a list of individuals whom we hoped to build allyship with. We also considered who these individuals are, their values, and how they would align with our vision for ISAB. You were listed in our notes as one of the people we wanted to reach out to. I remember talking with Meena about not only wanting to connect with allies who have shared interests to support international students, but also those who are able to take a critical look at international students’ experiences at the institution. We had some collaborators who did not agree with us and had a different approach to support international students. However, you had an approach of allyship that is not rooted in whiteness—something Meena and I truly appreciated when we worked with you, especially since you do not hold the international student identity as we do.

In your allyship, you not only took action, but you also built a community with us to take these actions. While corny, I do believe there are individuals who are “true allies” and those who are not. True allies are the ones who are allied because they truly care, they are also committed to constant self-reflection especially when they are called in, they have a desire to address systemic inequities, and they build relationships with those who advocate for others. I believe you were more than a collaborator; you were truly an ally to us.

Meena: That is right; your response made me think of this specific situation when I was seeking allyship. I had reached out to an international faculty member with whom I had worked with. However, they did not validate or appreciate the efforts I was engaging in. She questioned the benefits the advisory board would bring me, saying, “How does it benefit you? How will it look on your resume? What good does it do?” I have always had an assumption that folks with similar backgrounds and sometimes experiences would validate each other, but that is not always the case. Allyship and being allied can stem from various spaces and people.

Stephanie: I noticed your interest and our shared understanding of systems of oppression and their link to students’ experience and success in college. Once I realized you had specific ideas about what would meet the needs of Asian students and international students, I wanted to encourage and support you. I remember feeling like that’s my job –to support you if this is what you want to do. Like when Meena had the idea to design solidarity posters highlighting multiple issues to display around town, I quickly saw that as something we could partner on. The combination of your design skills, conceptual ideas, and some of my connections and resources all brought the project to fruition.

Meena: How would you describe our relationship(s) or interactions?

Stephanie: For myself, I would say that I recognized my positionality of power and privilege. As a white, cisgender person, citizen, faculty member, I could use that power to amplify messages you were telling me were important. I also really feel it is important being in community with you and others during the work. It feels good and important to create those spaces like when we had the Amplifying APIDA Voices Panel. Being in a society with vocal and visible hate, we need affirming and safe communities.

Meena: There is often a lot of burden on educators to know everything, but instead of taking up space, you provided space for us to amplify our voices. A perfect example would be the international student support panel we worked on. You organized the discussion and invited international students and practitioners to share their thoughts. Instead of doing introductions yourself, again, you provided space for Trish, another international student, to serve as the moderator.

Stephanie: Actually, I believe the idea came from you, Meena. I don’t think that was my bright idea. I remember you said that international students should be the voices.

Meena: I do remember sharing our occasional frustrations when people or organizations take up space or take credit for student efforts. This is a common topic of conversation. Another example of giving or hosting space would be the “Restoring the Sacred” event we did to focus on Missing, Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirits and the history of violence against Native Women. We hosted a space for an elder to share knowledge and for the campus community to heal and learn. The collaboration was also great as we relied on each other’s strengths. You wrote a grant to receive funding for the elder, whereas I worked on marketing material materials and promoting the event.

Stephanie: I do try to be conscious of not taking over. I also recognize you are graduate students, and it is not your responsibility to teach others or improve the institution. I thought I could provide support for logistical things like scheduling meetings and planning. I tried to figure out what my role is. I try to do that through checking-in to find out what would you like me to do. I don’t want to make assumptions or try to control the process.

Meena: This is an example of how our relationship is different. The traditional power dynamic of professor-student was not present. We could openly discuss any topic; there was no judgment, and they were rooted in equity and decolonization. Our working relationship also reduced the burden on us because there were many things we wanted to do and change, but we only had two years as graduate students.

Yi Xuen: We wanted to see change. But like Meena said, as graduate students, we did not have enough time. We didn’t meet what we set out to do. Nothing changed. The people we talked to only offered band aids that didn’t really address the problems. But the experience with you was different, as you would look for ways that targets the root of the issue. While it was disappointing to me that I graduated with feelings of burnout and relief as I left the institution, I sometimes feel some magnitude of critical hope, knowing you will continue to mentor future graduate students while being allied to them.

Meena: I remember when Yi Xuen and I were interested in coordinating the international student advising training for faculty and staff members who work very closely with international students. Even though they did not review it (probably because of COVID disorganization), we were able to send a proposal and a request because of you. While we did not have experience applying for a grant, you took the initiative of writing it and sending it to us for feedback. We could only have gone that far because of your efforts.

What Informed Your Attitude Toward Graduate Students?

Stephanie: I did my doctoral study of higher education through social justice lens and studied whiteness. I talk about these things in class and over the years have created relationships with students in minoritized groups. People have shared their stories of systemic oppression and its impact. I really feel like somebody’s gotta do something. Given my positionality as a cisgender white woman professor I have privilege, power to advocate and be heard more than some other, and I feel like I need to do something.

I remember seeing what you were doing and taking so much initiative to work on these social justice efforts. It was easy for me to say I would support you and your efforts. I thought I could provide some encouragement, resources, and share with my networks.

It was also aligned with my scholarship focused on creating more equity in higher education and my role as a Professor of Practice; doing advocacy in higher education truly is doing my job.

Meena: How did you do it when many other professors don’t?

Stephanie: At some point in my career I realized that traditional academic expectations don’t reward spending time on this kind of advocacy, but I just made a commitment and decided I would spend time on these kinds of things because the work is necessary.

Is There Any Specific Recipe for Our Collaboration?

Meena: Two things stand out to me; finding shared goal(s) and building community. These were established through conversations, check-ins, and emails. Your allyship, especially when there was difficult news, you were there to talk.

This relationship aided another point in my development. I was much quieter in the beginning, but your ability to read my facial expressions, inviting me to share in classes and intentional questioning made me feel comfortable to voice my opinion. This is one of the reasons why I felt confident to advocate for myself and speak up against discrimination. Now, I present on topics such as allyship development and can talk with people about it and provide them with feedback and recommendations. For example, when I talk about how to move from allyship to being a co-conspirator, I use our relationship and talk about how to build community and work on efforts to organize.

We want our readers to think about the following reflection questions:

  1. What check-ins and outreach do you need as graduate students, or could you provide as staff and/or faculty?
  2. We are all affected by global events. How do those events impact graduate students, faculty, and staff in their work and lives? How might the potential impacts be unique to international graduate students, faculty, and staff?
  3. What role modeling is available to graduate students, staff, and faculty for what allyship and advocacy can look like (i.e., in person, via digital media, during supervision, included in coursework)?

Author Biographies

Meena Pannirselvam (she/they)—Meena is a student affairs practitioner, international educator, and full-time advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion, social justice, and against sexual violence. She is an avid foodie, coffee drinker, and an artist on the weekends.

Stephanie Bondi (she/they)—Stephanie is a mom, scholar, and social justice journeyer. They teach master’s students and are active in the community. 

Yi Xuen Tay (she/her)—Yi Xuen approaches her day-to-day in student affairs as a social justice learner/practitioner, advocate for students, and centered in trauma-informed and decolonization practices. She worships her cat, Nala.

Right Where You Are: Unexpected Lessons about Undergraduate Research for Higher Education and Student Affairs Faculty | McCloud & Morrison

written by: Laila McCloud, Ph.D & Emily Morrison

Higher education and student affairs graduate programs play a significant role in the socialization of student affairs professionals. As faculty we are charged with not only introducing students to the expectations of the field, but also encouraging forward-thinking practice that leads to institutional transformation. There is a growing conversation about what curricular and pedagogical adjustments are necessary to achieve these aims. This is a time sensitive conversation as graduate preparation programs are noticing a decline in applicants (NASPA, 2021). As a faculty member, I think about additional ways to collaborate with undergraduate students to enhance their understanding of the field and its many career opportunities. I have taught in programs where the majority of our students are recent undergraduate students with a wealth of student affairs leadership experiences. However, I have noticed, for some students, a weighty dissonance between their experiences as undergraduates and the curriculum they experience as graduate students.


While there are opportunities to prepare undergraduate students to pursue careers in student affairs through credit-bearing courses and programs like ACPA’s NextGen and NASPA’s National Undergraduate Fellows Program (NUFP), what other opportunities exist? As a faculty member at a teaching-intensive institution, I have to be creative in finding the time and resources to nurture my research projects. This means that the summer has become a time where I can shift my energy toward often delayed projects. Imagine my delight when an undergraduate student (Emily) approached me about learning more about higher education and student affairs (HESA) in preparation for entering our graduate program. After a few conversations we agreed that Emily could provide some support related to my research on the socialization of educators who work in multicultural student affairs departments. This collaboration was valuable for many reasons. First, it presented an opportunity for Emily to learn more about higher education and student affairs as a field of study and practice. Second, it provided me with additional support for my research. Lastly, it allowed me to have intentional conversations with a future HESA graduate student about the ways that higher education understands diversity, equity, and inclusion.


The majority of the students I have taught over the last four years have been white women. As a Black woman professor, I have been challenged by the dynamic between myself and my students. But there is a particular dynamic that exists between myself and my white women students. White women have a unique way of employing their gendered brand of whiteness that should be understood in HESA graduate programs. There are a few studies that highlight the challenges and opportunities associated with engaging white women graduate students in HESA programs. One study found that white women experienced dissonance when learning about whiteness and institutional racism, but did not always have the confidence, concrete strategies or skills to help them move forward (Robbins & Jones, 2016). Additionally, Robbins (2016) highlighted graduate curricular and co-curricular experiences such as assignments focused on minority serving institutions or advising organizations for Students of Color as transformative experiences for white women students. One key finding from these studies is the resistance of white women to learning about the ways they protect whiteness. This resistance to doing this labor has been shown to harm Students of Color in HESA graduate programs (Harris & Linder, 2018) and faculty of Color (Haynes et al., 2020).


Providing opportunities for undergraduate white women students to engage in research with higher education faculty is one way to move them along in their understanding of their gendered racialized privilege. After Emily and I agreed to work together, I applied for and received a grant that would allow me to pay Emily for her work. This grant provided an opportunity for me to formally document my labor in mentoring and research skill development.  During our weekly meetings, I would ask Emily to reflect on the process of collecting data on an area of higher education she was not familiar with, multicultural student affairs. Our conversations were insightful for both of us. We developed a rapport with one another that allowed us to hear and listen to one another. I thought it would be valuable for Emily to write about her journey with me and with this topic. In the next section of this article, Emily will share her thoughts on working with me as an undergraduate research assistant.


Emily’s Reflection

At my college orientation, I remember sitting in a lecture hall with 120 other students being told why the general education curriculum characteristic of liberal universities is beneficial to creating a well-rounded individual. Not only can it develop new interests, they said, but it can provide you with new lenses to look at the world through and make you a more well-rounded individual. As someone who highly values education, I was excited about this aspect of my university. I hoped to be able to gain some knowledge on a broad range of topics while simultaneously delving deeply into my major field.

When I changed my career trajectory in my junior year from pre-med to higher education, I began looking into opportunities to build connections with professionals at my university. A mentor of mine encouraged me to research our College Student Affairs Leadership program and the faculty who teach in the program to see if I could become an undergraduate research assistant. Truthfully, I knew that I loved education at the post-secondary level and working in campus offices, but I really had no idea what student affairs entailed.

When I reached out to Professor McCloud and she was interested in having me support her work in multicultural affairs, I immediately felt out of my element. As a white student, I had never developed a relationship with our campus’ Office of Multicultural Affairs and really did not see where I could find a role in this work. I had no doubt I could do the tasks that supported her research well, but I did not know how to engage in conversation with Professor McCloud about important topics and issues related to multicultural affairs at universities. When reflecting on my past classwork, because of my enrollment in the honors program, where general education classes are reduced in variability, and my science-based major, I have not spent much time diving into race inequality outside of conversations with my friends who identify as BIPOC. As I have spent more time with this topic over the summer, I cannot help but think about the disproportion between the importance of these topics and the shallowness of knowledge I have.

The mission statement for the Office of Multicultural Affairs at my university states: “Our mission is to support efforts in recruiting and retaining diverse students; to educate, engage and empower all students to live in a multicultural world; and to advocate for a socially just campus environment.” What does this mean for students like me, who are not viewed as racially diverse but want to learn more about racial inequality, diversity, and share our experiences? As our world becomes increasingly diverse, we all require education to be understanding and open to each other. The programming in this office is primarily affinity groups and mentorship between students identifying as the same race. Do the programs offered within the office support the mission of engaging and empowering all students if they are largely centered around providing a space for students of the same race to connect? If the goal of liberal universities is to create well-rounded students, our programs should have the ability to be safe spaces for minority students and simultaneously connect students of all backgrounds with each other. In conversations I have had over the summer, I have realized there is a reason I have not interacted with the Office of Multicultural Affairs which is that in my socialization to campus, it was not made a priority to me.

This summer I have also worked as an orientation leader. What I have learned through my research assistantship has allowed me to reflect on the messaging I give to students as I welcome them to the university. As a fellow student, orientation leaders have a significant role in the socialization of students to campus culture. The way we discuss race on our campus and discuss the work of the Office of Multicultural Affairs impacts the way they perceive the importance of diversity on campus and can encourage their interaction with the office.

My work as a summer undergraduate research assistant has completely shifted my perspective on student affairs and the role of universities in fighting racial prejudice. I have never put much thought into my place at this university. I was surrounded by people who looked like me and came from similar places as me, so it was not until conversations with Professor McCloud that I realized there is another layer to the way that each student perceives themselves at our school because of how others interpret their race. I had never learned how the messaging we receive in our university socialization determines our engagement with other races.

When thinking about the Office of Multicultural Affairs’ goal to bridge cross-cultural gaps, it seems essential to consider the engagement of students from every race. While affinity groups and creating cultural awareness is extremely necessary, if we are truly aiming to bridge cultural and racial gaps, we must also create programs that are created for students of all cultures to engage with each other. Had a program such as this existed and been promoted through our Office of Multicultural Affairs, perhaps it would not have required an outside project for me to understand this aspect of the university.

The initial intention of my role as a summer undergraduate research assistant was to support Professor McCloud by collecting information and organizing it in a way to make her research easier. As our conversations have evolved throughout the summer, our intentions have changed significantly to include making meaning of my experiences as a white, female, undergraduate student at our university who is interested in higher education. Reflecting upon this experience has raised many questions for me: Had I not pursued working with Professor McCloud, how would my experience with BIPOC students be different when working in higher education? What aspects of student affairs would I not have seen until graduate school? How would this have affected the messaging I give to future students?

If I could provide advice to undergraduate students pursuing a career in student affairs, it would be to identify the spaces within the university that you have not utilized and ask yourself why you have not and what could be learned from connecting with that department. Student affairs is such a broad field, that to be well-rounded professionals, we must be aware of why students interact with some departments and not others and see what can be gained from altering that messaging. This will also help us to create programs that engage students across all backgrounds and truly create a more inclusive campus.



Opportunities for Higher Education and Student Affairs Faculty


As a faculty member in a HESA program, staying connected to undergraduate students is an important part of my work. Understanding the experiences of undergraduate students helps ensure that my teaching and research is relevant and responsive to current and emerging needs.  As previously mentioned, engaging undergraduate students in research opportunities can serve multiple purposes.

First, it increases undergraduates’ exposure to research processes such as empirical data collection and analysis. In one our weekly meetings, Emily and I discussed data sources (e.g. National Center for Education Statistics) and data collection (e.g., content analysis) methods. These conversations and trainings helped Emily develop the skills to assist me with my research.

Second, engaging undergraduates in research can complement their understanding of higher education and student affairs with their co-curricular engagement. Emily was able to engage different lenses about the messages communicated to incoming students participating in summer orientation sessions. Our conversations also enhanced my understanding of current orientation practices.

Lastly, as a faculty member who teaches three courses a semester having research support is invaluable. I appreciate that a teaching-intensive institution provides the financial resources to support faculty research. The process of securing the funding was seamless and efficient. Working with an undergraduate student with limited research skills pushed me to think about my own research socialization and how to not perpetuate harm in the process.

While it was not my initial plan to engage my undergraduate research assistant in conversations about whiteness, it is not surprising that this was an outcome. My research broadly examines how anti-blackness informs the academic and professional socialization of Black college students. Research has continued to point us to the ways that higher education and student affairs policies and practices perpetuate violence against Black students, staff and faculty (Stewart, 2019; Stewart & Nicolazzo, 2018). As a Black woman professor, I am mindful of the ways that I am both a recipient of this violence and sometimes a perpetrator. As a professor I take a proactive stance in addressing the ways that whiteness and antiblackness impact student affairs practice. However, I have to be mindful of the energy I spend educating students, and particularly white women students.

This leads me to the following reflection questions for my faculty colleagues and anyone interested in engaging with white women students around how their racialized gender identity informs their student affairs practice.

  1. How can HESA graduate preparation programs purposely engage undergraduate students who are interested in pursuing degrees and careers in student affairs?
  2. What resources are necessary to assist HESA graduate programs in a curriculum review to identify opportunities for students to explicitly understand how their racialized gender identities impact their graduate experience and student affairs practice?
  3. What opportunities exist (in addition to assistantships) for HESA graduate programs to partner with student affairs divisions to support the development of future student affairs professionals?
  4. What resources are necessary to ensure that racially marginalized HESA faculty are compensated and supported for their work in addressing whiteness in academia?



Harris, J. C., & Linder, C. (2018). The racialized experiences of students of color in higher education and student affairs graduate preparation programs. Journal of College Student Development, 59(2), 141-158.

Haynes, C., Taylor, L., Mobley Jr, S. D., & Haywood, J. (2020). Existing and resisting: The pedagogical realities of Black, critical men and women faculty. The Journal of Higher Education, 91(5), 698-721.

NASPA. (2021). 2021 NASPA faculty survey: Applications, enrollment, and funding. Retrieved from https://naspa.org/files/dmfile/Faculty-Survey-Results—11-08-21.pdf

Robbins, C. K. (2016). White women, racial identity, and learning about racism in graduate preparation programs. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 53(3), 256-268.

Robbins, C. K., & Jones, S. R. (2016). Negotiating racial dissonance: White women’s narratives of resistance, engagement, and transformative action. Journal of College Student Development, 57(6), 633-651.

Stewart, D. L. (2019). Ideologies of absence: Anti-Blackness and inclusion rhetoric in student affairs practice. Journal of Student Affairs, 28, 15-30.

Stewart, D. L., & Nicolazzo, Z. (2018). High impact of [whiteness] on trans* students in postsecondary education. Equity & Excellence in Education51(2), 132-145.


Laila McCloud, Ph.D. (she/her) is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education in the Educational Leadership and Counseling department at Grand Valley State University. Prior to pursuing a faculty career, Dr. McCloud served as a student affairs educator focused on issues of equity and access. Her research uses critical theories and methods to broadly explore the professional and academic socialization of Black students within U.S. higher education. Outside of her academic work she enjoys watching reality tv and cheering loudly at her child’s basketball games.


Emily Morrison (she/her) is an undergraduate student in the Honors College at Grand Valley State University pursuing a degree in Biomedical Sciences. She is an active student at the university and serves in various leadership roles, previously as an orientation leader and currently as a first-year student mentor. In her free time she enjoys traveling, reading, and being active.

Feels So Good to Be Back! | Holmes

written by: Aja Holmes

My first ACPA convention was in 2002, I was in my final year in my master program at Illinois State University also my first time in California. That convention was in Long Beach (or LBC according to Snoop Dog).  I stayed on the Queen Mary cause all of the other hotels were booked so ACPA extended their hotels block- yep I stayed on a ship! Since 2002, I have virtually attended every ACPA convention- pun intended.   This will be my 21th consecutive ACPA convention. So, to the Big Easy, here I come.  To be in community is exciting and scary all at the same time. With COVID, it changes so much and so fast, it makes it hard to make any solid plans.   I am not letting COVID run my life anymore.  I am excited to be in community, as I reflect on conventions, before COVID, I offer some tips to help you get ready for ACPA 23 in New Orleans.


ACPA Over the Years


I love that each ACPA convention is different and unique; from the various speakers, diverse program offerings as well as the city in which the convention is held.   I have traveled to places in the US that were not at the top of my must-see list.  On a personal note, if I have family or friends in the city where the convention is going to be held, I try and see them, even for a short visit.


When ACPA convention was in Minneapolis in 2003, I was able to visit with my mother and my extending family, she made us some food since we were all just starting in our careers, so money was tight. She made sure our hotel room was full of snacks and food to helped to make our money stretch that convention.


In 2005, in Nashville, I got to sing on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry.  OK, will not really but I did get to meet the author of Tuesdays with Morrie the sports writer, Mitch Albom, who was our opening speaker, while I was in line waiting to get my book signed, I sang on the stage.  It was great to be in such a historical place. Also, this was the first time I stayed in a Gaylord Hotel resort. I may be the only one who likes those places, it feels like I am in a biosphere, where I can walk around at night and you feel like you are walking outside, but without all the bugs.


When the Joint ACPA and NASPA conference happened in 2007, in Orlando. I just knew I had to go, it was going to be historic. Both of the leading Student Affairs Association coming together to gathering all the bright minds in one place. We heard from Al Gore and Ben Carson.  There were so many programs to choose from, shuttles to keep us cool from the Florida heat, and then there was a little magical place in Orlando where you could extend your stay and see Mickey Mouse.


I think ACPA loves Boston, because we keep going back for more and more.  In 2010, I attended the convention there, I saw the appeal with so many institutions of higher education in one area, makes for a well-attended convention.  When a city invests in the convention center and tourism, you can feel the investment. Being in New England in March, makes for a gamble on the weather, but having a convention center connected to hotels, eateries and shopping, I did not have to brave the weather at all.


In 2013, ACPA partnered with NIRRSA- National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association, in Las Vegas.  That was a fun convention, very spread out over several hotels and we got learn about recreational sports.  We got to hear from Mellissa Harry Perry, Ben Cohen and BD Wong, it was great to hear from such diverse speakers.


In 2016, ACPA went to Montreal, I served on the convention planning team and it was very eye opening as I got to peek behind the curtain to see how conventions were done.  Learned about the Canadian higher education and how we are very similar and shared new ideas each country could use to help our students.  This location was my first time actually visiting Canada. Being on a convention team is the ultimate group project- I also may be the only who likes those too.


Living in California and working for the state, they restricted travel to states with oppressive laws so I was not allowed to use my professional development for a couple of conventions but that did not stop me from attending, it may have shortened my trip but I made an appearance, got to bless the people.


I gave convention work a rest until 2019. This was a welcome back to Boston, giving love to former student affairs professional turned screenwriter and producer, Steve Canals creator of Pose on FX TV show and I had taken on more of leadership role on the convention team with convention experiences.


Then COVID came and shook the very foundation of higher education and ACPA went virtual for our 2021 convention.  We did a pivot to bring a convention like no other. We moved up deadlines to ensure that presentations were recorded and captioned.  We all know that night before ‘let me put the in final touches on my presentation’, not for the 2021 virtual convention. We had to reimagine what convention would like for our colleagues that would be attending from their offices, living rooms, or masks on in university conferences rooms.  This was the ultimate thinking outside of the box, especially how we do land acknowledgments in a virtual setting.  While in the pandemic, ACPA offered professional developments that was accessible, cost effective and virtual to keep everyone safe.


For the first in person conference, ACPA 22 was in St. Louis. As we eased cautiously out of the pandemic, we realize that masks will be part of our life for the foreseeable future. ACPA 22 had a mask mandate to attend the conference. So, I made sure I coordinated my mask with my outfit or seasonal holiday.  There was lots of elbow rubbing the first couple of days till you see someone just opens their arms and throws caution to the wind for a good ole embrace and a release of endorphins.


I start packing for APCA in New Orleans in January!  Yep, I had to make sure I have the right clothes for a convention in the Big Easy where the weather changes and gets warmer throughout the day.  My mind keeps going back to seeing everyone in person, being in community with colleagues.  As we head to New Orleans, I want to share some tips that I have learned over the 21 years of convention attendance.


  • Let’s get Coffee/Tea
    • You hear this all the time while at Convention, sometime it doesn’t come to fruition due to being booked and busy. So, do find the time to meet with a colleague or reunite with an old classmate, we all need connection right now.
  • Be a Tourist
    • Get out and see one tourist thing in the city you are visiting or eat at restaurant that is local and has great reviews.
  • Business Cards
    • Those are still a thang no matter how many new tech apps they come out with to exchange information. Bring yours and start collecting them from other ACPA attendees as you network.  Write down one or two things to help you remember the person on the card.
  • Comfortable attire and shoes
    • There is a ton of walking so if you have to tug, pull down, readjust and limp, you are going to be uncomfortable and it probably should not be worn at a conference.
  • Snacks and Food
    • Carry some snacks with you to help keep hunger at bay till you are able to get some real food; when you get that real food, have a vegetable with your meal, get a side of steam broccoli.
  • Don’t forget your masks
    • We want to everyone to be safe, if you have to wear one, might as well make it cute, funny or match your tie.
  • Buy something new to wear, if you can.
    • I also buy something new to wear at convention, if shoes are your new thing break them in before convention.
  • Stay Hydrated
    • Bring a cool water bottle to carry with you so that you can keep water with you all times.


I hope to see you in New Orleans, when you see me, lets rub elbows and exchange a smile.


Aja C. Holmes, Ph.D. (She/Her/Sis) is the Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Community Living at the University of San Francisco. This will be her 21st consecutive ACPA convention!

“i am through you so i”: Present Reflections On Spirituality Between a Student and Faculty Member | Glover & Montelongo


written by: Kevin Glover, M.A, Ricardo Montelongo, Ph.D

Critical thinking about spirituality allows higher education scholars to focus on students’ meaning making process found within student development theories centering student identity development. Where higher education scholars engage in thinking critically about spirituality as a path for the collaborative journey to occur as a result intertwining personal stories where students and faculty begin to form concepts of unexplained knowledge held inside every one of us. This knowledge can only be discovered through a contemplative process (Rendon, 2009) where the teacher becomes the student, and the student becomes the teacher. In this essay, I and Dr. Ricardo (Ric) Montelongo took just this kind of journey.

We created critical reflections on our spirituality to, as e.e. cummings (1940) and Br. David Steindl-Rast (2017) wrote, make us understand each other as “i am through you so i.” We use this poetic line from e.e. cummings’ (1940) and Steindl-Rast (2017) to help us describe our student and faculty relationship. We believe learning is influenced by a relationship that is built with shared reasoning and experiences. Much like the poems from e.e. cummings, we kept this line in our essay title without capital letters to represent our equal levels of spiritual development despite our different roles in our graduate program.

As we think about this idea of “i am through you so i,” I (Kevin) began reflecting on what spirituality is within higher education. As Dr. Ric and I began talking about spirituality, we started noticing in our conversations how spirituality and our love for higher educational cultures were viewed through a holistic approach. Our conversations included self-reflective thoughts from our lives that were personal, communal, and private. We recognized that we had shared experiences in our spiritual journeys. We created spaces and places for mindful contemplation. The idea of “i am through you so i” focuses on remembering and sharing our memories to create thoughts about our present realities and future dreams. Our shared stories began to intersect and form a common theme acknowledging that our shared experiences created knowledge. This theme, we felt, was a common denominator of student development. We understood our individual meaning making processes and lived experiences (i.e., “i am”), as interpreted and received by the other (“through you”), helped us in our own further development (“so i”). When we look at these lived experiences, we learn that it incorporates students and faculty coming together from different backgrounds to find common ground.

i am – Kevin

As the student voice in this essay, my journey on this spiritual path began when I was twelve years old. At this time, I noticed a common thread embedded in diverse cultures, societies, and religious beliefs; I began to feel that this commonality was of a spiritual nature. The question I asked myself back then was, “What is the thread that binds humanity together?” As I thought about this question, I began my search at the public library. There I would pour over vast amounts of books covering topics from philosophy, religion, psychology, and new age material. I was looking for a deeper connection to my question; to help me understand the common threads that connect us all.

After years of searching for an answer I would graduate high school and enlist in the United States Army where my identity would further developed and change. During this time as I traveled in the military to places such as Germany, Bosnia, Kosovo, Kansas, and Iraq I started to have profound feelings that a spiritual connection existed within all humanity. There I started to notice that different communities all held similar ideas of creating a collective good within society with underlying aspects of spirituality that included relationship building, personal and professional values, along with creating value from lived experiences.

I also began to notice this unifying force during good times and bad times when I observed the collective sadness of watching the Challenger explode on television, the twin towers falling on 9/11, and the devastation the Iraq war would bring to American veterans and Iraqi citizens. After years of being on my spiritual path, this would come full circle. When once again, I was offered an opportunity to explore spirituality with Dr. Ricardo (Ric) Montelongo, there we would unpack what spirituality means for higher education professionals and how it influences student identity development.

i am – Dr. Ric

As the faculty voice in this essay, I found that mentoring and conversing with Kevin allowed me to reflect on how my own graduate preparation program and professional experience addressed the spirituality needs of my students. I realize that higher education graduate programs need to address the importance of spirituality in professional practice. Squire and Nicolazzo (2019) provided an honest critique of our profession which has drifted far from valuing the development of our colleagues, especially with our new professionals entering the field. With a sense of urgency, they implored us to transform “the field to a humanizing place” where recent graduates were not seen “as laborers and production tools”, but as individuals worthy of holistic development (Squire & Nicolazzo, 2019, p.4).

As a faculty member, I realize through my personal conversations with some students that the culture existing within higher education is overwhelming and at times, void of compassion. In my conversations with Kevin and subsequent search for resources to assist him in his journey, I noticed that spirituality within professional and personal development is, as Love and Talbot noted (1999), “conspicuously absent.” For over 20 years since the publication of their article, we are still in dire need of discussions on this topic in higher education. While scholarship on spirituality is growing, the dissemination of this work through our graduate preparation programs remains “conspicuously absent [and]… ignored by many student affairs professionals” in the field (Love & Talbot, 1999, p. 615).

My conversations with Kevin aim to bring awareness on the importance of bringing spirituality into discussions of professional and personal growth for student affairs professionals. Our time to converse about a course on spirituality in higher education being taught in our graduate preparation program for Fall 2022 allowed us to reflect, contemplate, and provide intellectual curiosity and personal growth within the topic.

Our Conversations

In this essay, we use a duoethnographic style (Sawyer & Norris, 2012) in presenting our conversations through the “i am through you so i” lens. This writing style helped us understand our emergent relationship as faculty and student learning about spirituality in higher education. We believe this learning should be complemented by deep reflection and listening with our “ear of the heart” (Benedict & De Waal, 1990), where we truly listen with understanding without judgement.

This essay describes how I, Kevin (a graduate student), respond to Dr. Ric (my professor) and vice versa when discussing spirituality within higher education. Our conversations occurred during the Spring 2022 semester during the development of a special topics course on spirituality in higher education. A total of five conversations occurred. Each conversation was recorded as an artifact of our meeting.

After each conversation, we shared with each other written reflections on what we discussed to continue our understanding of evolving topics. Due to space, this essay provides excerpts from three of our five conversation reflections. The common thread between a graduate student and faculty member when discussing spirituality is a unifying force to form a collective identity to unite humanity in our differences, or “i am through you so i.”(Steindl-Rast, 2017).

Conversation #1: Space, Place, and Difficult Conversations

Dr. Ric: You need to center yourself to get in the right space for talking on the topic of spirituality. Spirituality cannot be rushed Kevin. Conversing with another on spirituality requires the right moment.

Kevin’s Response: I recall during this chat having a literal opportunity to pause and center our thoughts on creating a definition of spirituality. Right at the beginning your recorder did not cooperate and start, which made you very frustrated. Later, you reflected that this frustration and minor difficulty was a good thing because it allowed space where our initial conversation was not rushed. You explained to me this could be viewed as an example of the importance of pausing which provides an opportunity to center ourselves and our minds. It was after this pause that we discussed Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and this idea that Maslow and other theorists all hint at spirituality (Fernando, M., 2013); even higher education student development theories seem to have a spiritual lens that addresses how students come to understand there environment and lived experiences when approached holistically. As we think about holistic approaches; pausing and centering our thoughts seem to help settle the mind in order to take a moment for reflection to find common threads and intersectionality’s between the many different theories.

Dr. Ric: Both of us noticed how important it was to note that difficulty, major life challenges, and threats to humanity marked our spiritual development and challenged us to connect with spirituality.

            Kevin’s Response: We discussed how difficult moments seem to help develop spirituality; as we look outside ourselves during significant life challenges or threats to our humanity, we begin to ask why. For myself, my witnessing war as a military member made me more aware of my spiritual nature, and for you gaining tenure during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought questions of life’s meaning and purpose. I found this interesting because tough times helped create our sense of spirituality.

I realize that life’s difficulty is much like studying. In his pedagogical creed, John Dewey (1897) hinted that education is not preparation for life but life itself.  If we keep this in mind, we begin to see how lived experiences around the topic of spirituality and complex significant life events or threats to our humanity can indeed provide an opportunity to study and grow to understand how spirituality operates within our lived experiences. As Leigh Patel (2021) said in her book No Study Without Struggle; “studying, in fact, often includes struggle, grappling with ideas and practices in the pursuit of freedom” (p. 33-34). Similarly, we began our conversations with difficult questions and technical difficulties, but these difficulties did not define us or our future discussions. Instead, we would push onward with our spiritual journey and dive deeper into critical areas for future talks.

Conversation #2: Pausing, Finding Peace, and Being Alive

Kevin: You said finding peace has to be intentional and mindful. Cultivating more of what you value and intentionally setting aside time to focus your attention and action on saying no to the world around you and looking inward to find common connections and peace allows you to persevere in difficult moments.

Dr. Ric’s Response: I recall in this chat our shared exhaustion early in the semester. We both had an emergent sense of feeling overwhelmed with all our tasks. We were dealing with a great number of issues on top of our usual daily lives. During times like these, we find it hard to just pause in higher education environments. There is so much to discuss, too much to think, and not enough time to process.

We talked about what it means to pause. We both agreed that we need to not always constantly “go”. We need to value our pauses. You reminded me that there are times when saying “no” to the world is alright and we felt a sense of shared validation that you as a student and I as a faculty member need to support our pauses. If we value our work in higher education student affairs, we should also value the times we are not at work. This idea reminds me of the motto of Benedictine monks, “pray and work” (Benedict & De Waal, 1990). We should aspire to a culture where reflection and contemplation reminds us of the work of our professions. In these “pauses”, we connect to what is truly valued in our lives and thus, our work benefits from holding a strong sense of inner peace.

Kevin: If spirituality unites us Dr. Ric, then we must realize that spirituality is being able to identify our authentic selves in many different moments in time and place.

Dr. Ric’s Response: In this conversation, you helped me to understand that spirituality is encountered and understood in different ways. While I was confused on why some would state they were “non-spiritual,” our conversation helped sort out my thoughts on how to respond to students when I teach my spirituality in higher education special topics class. It is possible someone enrolls in the class to understand what it means to be spiritual in higher education administration.

Unfortunately, our field hesitates to discuss this as part of our overall professional development despite being part of the student development theory literature. In our graduate preparation programs, we spend little time addressing how spiritual aspects are reflected in organizational behavior, policy and law, resource management, history, and even leadership. As an entry-level administrator, students possibly see themselves as “non-spiritual” in their professional identity. In our faculty-student relationships, we should strive to understand how our emerging professionals define their professional identities through their authentic selves.

Conversation #3: Rocks, Meaning, and Finding Ourselves

Kevin: We wondered what rocks mean to the person on a spiritual journey.

Dr. Ric’s Response: You came into these conversations through your work with me for your master’s practicum experience. I was looking for a student who could assist me in finding literature for my research on spirituality in higher education and developing a special topics course on the topic. One of the first tasks you completed for me for the special topics course was creating promotional materials. I gave you creative freedom in creating these materials with the only directive to refrain from overtly religious imagery since spirituality is not necessarily always connected to religion (Love & Talbot, 1999). In the images you selected for my approval, I was immediately drawn to the image of a stack of rocks against a sunset setting.


Image: stock image of stack of rocks on beach against sunrise/sunset

Kevin: I wonder what unique place stones have in our life. Could stones represent the difficulty of the journey or the immovable aspects of life’ or is it a way to help us remember that space and place are all aspects of time, past, present, and future that hold memories, dreams, and prayers?

Dr. Ric’s Response: Rocks play an important role in a future pilgrimage I will be making in 2023 on the Camino de Santiago traversing Spain ending at the Santiago de Compostela. The route I will take has a location where pilgrims place a rock at the base of an iron cross. From what I am told, pilgrims carry a rock with them on their journey and at this location, they leave their rock behind. Rocks placed at this location can represent a prayer, a personal challenge they faced, or a memory of a loved one. Each rock is personal to that pilgrim.

Our conversation revealed the importance of metaphor in spirituality development. For example, rocks represent more than just a place from where they originate, they represent a space where spiritual develop occurs and, at times, is even challenged. My future pilgrimage to the ancient road of The Way will challenge me in ways I will never imagine, but I also know that the path will provide me moments of wonderment, humility, and surprise. I shared with you my plans and educated you that the stone I will eventually carry with me on my journey will represent my spiritual journey since becoming a faculty member. The rock will quite literally carry my memories, dreams, and prayers that will mark a significant space in my spiritual development.

Our Final Reflections: Transformations and Journeys

We initiated our conversations as part of a required practicum experience for our Higher Education Administration master’s degree. As mentioned earlier, the practicum involved work to develop a special topics course on spirituality in higher education. Once ended, we concluded our conversations. We agreed that our written reflections needed to be revisited to further understand common topics and themes addressed in our conversations. We wrote an additional reflection providing cumulative thought on our experience. We also reviewed our previous reflections to mutually agree on issues we felt captured the “i am through you so i” idea. Concluding these tasks, one final “conversation” summarized how we viewed our continued development and our understanding of spirituality.

Dr. Ric. I found it fascinating as I read our chat reflections how conversations of spirituality occur in an organic way. We were always curious. Spirituality is abstract and theoretical at times and when it comes to lessons, often it is described in metaphor or analogy. Critical and complex thinking will be a necessity in my special topics course. A certain degree of friction or opposing forces will likely happen based on challenging student’s ideas of what they believe spirituality may be for the course. You mentioned that “if you are alive, you are spiritual” and I love that statement.

I think as I write this essay, a deeper question is how do we understand what “alive” is as human beings? Our conversations provided interesting questions that you and I need to address in our continual professional development in higher education. What are the “rocks” we identify that remind us exactly where we are at this moment? Where will we be next semester? Next year? I think a course like ours will help students find their “rock”—their place and space—that will help them understand how the topic impacts their space in higher education administration.

As you now know, this journey will culminate with my planned pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. I think our course is part of the Creator’s plan for me to practice not only what I preach, but also teach! Our conversations were just one small part of this transformation and I appreciate your contribution to this journey. Let’s make our spirituality in higher education a valuable and impactful learning experience.

Kevin: I found it fascinating as I read our chat reflections that neither myself nor you took this journey alone. Our humanity accompanied us to discuss spirituality from a higher educational lens, just as other researchers had before creating embodied knowledge. We discussed our understanding of how spirituality pertained to a student’s sense of belonging and the meaning-making process. We began to realize that to understand spirituality fully, we must stop, pause, and reflect upon our journey.

This journey creates space and place for spirituality to be centered for mindful discussions on the topic. When spirituality is grounded, it becomes rooted in diversity by incorporating a person’s story to form connections, relationships, and a community whereby lived experiences will allow the students to see the bigger picture, which is always greater than themselves. Maslow seems to agree when he stated that “religious or spiritual values are not the exclusive property of any one religion or group. Self-actualizers show themselves to be religious in their character, attitudes, and behavior. Reality is discovered, under the aspect of being, as wondrous, beautiful, awe-inspiring, and a privilege to behold” (Maslow, 1979, as cited by Fernando, M., 2013).

This spiritual journey always incorporates aspects of a persons’ individual identity, whereby higher education is only a small context or experience. The more profound meanings of a student’s life can be akin to the personal journeys found within student development theories. This kind of journey changes students and faculty alike, both who are journeying to becoming. Helping them come full circle and realizing that spirituality cannot be rushed; it needs the right moment to create the ability to be present and “here” and is a much-needed aspect of higher education and to understand “i am through you so i”.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you converse with your graduate students on how spirituality is present in the space of your graduate preparation program? How do you converse with your program faculty on how to include spirituality in your graduate preparation?
  2. In what ways does spirituality matter in overall higher education administration and functional area leadership?
  3.  How do you develop organizational shifts and cultural transformations centered on welcoming and receptive environments where spirituality is present in your practice within higher education?


American Council on Education. (1937). The student personnel point of view. (American

Council on Education Studies, series 1, no. 3). Author.

American Council on Education, Committee on Student Personnel Work. (1949). The student

personnel point of view. (Rev. ed.: American Council on Education Studies, series 6,
no. 13). Author.

Benedict, S., & De Waal, E. (1990). The Rule of Saint Benedict (No. 99). Gracewing Publishing.

cummings, e.e. (1940). 50 poems. Universal Library.

Love, P., & Talbot, D. (1999). Defining spiritual development: A missing consideration for

student affairs. NASPA Journal, 46(4), 614-628.

Fernando, M. (2013, January 28). Abraham Maslow and spirituality. Awaken.


Patel, L (2021). There is no study without struggle. (33-34). Beacon.

Roberts, D. C. (2012). The student personnel point of view as a catalyst for dialogue: 75 years

and beyond. Journal of College Student Development, 53(1), 2-18.

Sawyer, R. D., & Norris, J. (2012). Duoethnography. Oxford University Press.

Staff, T. (2015, February 16). The pedagogy Of John Dewey: A summary. TeachThought.  https://www.teachthought.com/learning/pedagogy-john-dewey-summary/#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20creed%2C%20it%20should%20not%20be

Steindl-Rast, D. (2017). i am through you so i. Paulist Press.

Squire, D. D., & Nicolazzo, Z. (2019). Love my naps, but stay woke: The case against self-care.

About Campus, 24(2), 4-11.

Authors Biographies:

Kevin Glover, M.A (He, Him, His, Himself) is a dedicated professional with over two decades of military service and a decade of government experience working within the bounds of the federal, state, and local governments. He is a graduate of the Higher Education Administration Program at Sam Houston State University. His areas of interest include higher education administration, leadership, religion and spirituality to include how spirituality is perceived within higher education and the world at large. It is his goal to explore the common threads that connect us instead of divide us and to create a more diverse world.

Ricardo Montelongo, Ph.D. (He Him His El) is Associate Professor of Higher Education Administration at Sam Houston State University. He received his Ph.D. in Higher Education from Indiana University and a M.S. in Student Affairs Administration and B.S. in Psychology both from Texas A&M University. His primary research interests include college student involvement, diversity issues in higher education administration, online teaching and learning, and spirituality in higher education. He has thirty years professional administrative experience in higher education and served as co-chair of ACPA College Student Educators International Latinx Network from 2011-2013.

Insights: Reflections of Three ACPA Presidential Interns | Glass, Clark, Case

As we approach the 2023 ACPA Convention and begin celebrating 100 years of the organization, we have a chance to engage in reflection across all areas. This reflective practice is helpful not only for those who engage in the practice but for the ACPA membership as a whole. We can use the experiences and insights of our colleagues to look for the future. It is in this vein that we offer this article. As three interns for the past three ACPA Presidents, we reflected on shared questions. Our hope is that this will give insight into our experiences and, more importantly, give insight as we all look to the future. Whether you are thinking of applying to be a Presidential Intern, thinking of running for ACPA President and considering how you might offer opportunities to your interns, interested in this aspect of ACPA’s leadership, or something else, we hope you will find this article helpful.

Wayne Glass was a Presidential Intern with Vernon Wall who was ACPA President, 2020-2021

Rachel Clark was Presidential Intern for Danielle Morgan Acosta, ACPA President, 2021-2022

Abi Case is a Presidential Intern for current ACPA President Andrea D. Domingue, 2022-2023

How and why did you first get involved with ACPA?

Wayne Glass: My journey with ACPA began while I was a graduate student at Iowa State University from 2013-2015, with my first “exposure” to ACPA being around the Fall of 2013. I recall reading Learning Reconsidered One and Two as a part of my introduction to the Student Affairs Graduate Program, with ACPA being mentioned. Prior to moving forward, it is important to note I “grew up” with NASPA and became a member in 2010 or 2011 as a NASPA Undergraduate Fellow (NUFP). Thus, I was actively involved in Student Affairs Organizations before going into Student Affairs professionally.

My first co-curricular experience with ACPA was joining the ‘Standing Committee for Graduate Students and New Professionals’ (now known as the Graduate Students and New Professionals Community of Practice (GSNPCOP) as an Ambassador in Spring of 2014. The Ambassador role served as a gateway to a plethora of experiences with ACPA (e.g., Convention Planning Team, Coalition Directorate Leadership, etc.). In essence, I was (and still am) passionate about positively contributing to the human experience. I also wanted to “pay it forward” to those will come after me.

On a more “superficial” level, I love making new friends and colleagues, and wanted to build a community within an organization that ended up meaning more to me than I would have ever anticipated.

Rachel Clark: During my first semester of pursuing a Master of Education in Counselor Education – Student Affairs, I was looking for involvement opportunities outside of my graduate assistantship at Clemson University. I remember debating options on Clemson’s campus and through my graduate program and promised myself that I wouldn’t say yes to opportunities just to fill my schedule and add to my resume. I would only give my time to an opportunity that aligned with my professional goals and values.

Through the recommendation of a trusted mentor and friend, I found out about the Presidential Intern position for APCA’s then Vice President, Danielle Morgan Acosta. I knew of national level organizations in the higher education field as an undergraduate but didn’t have any experience or real knowledge of what an organization like this looked like, operated, or stood for. My introduction to ACPA happened through an information session, conversations with my mentor, and an interview with Danielle. I quickly realized this was an organization and a role that aligned with my personal goals of advancing my own professional development, learning more about current outreach, advocacy, and research within higher education, and improving upon my leadership skills and knowledge of ACPA and higher education as a field.

Abi Case: When I came to grad school, I had little knowledge about basically everything in student affairs, so I was unfamiliar with ACPA until I came here (to Clemson). I heard about ACPA in one of the first few weeks of my master’s program last fall. A faculty member (the Dr. Tony Cawthon) told us about several student affairs organizations, and since I wasn’t entirely certain which functional area I most hoped to pursue post-graduation, the fact that ACPA was an all-areas-of-student-affairs generalist association intrigued me. I’m pretty sure I tell this to everyone, so this is no secret: I was convinced I wanted to go to convention and get involved with ACPA when I found out they had a drag show during the conference.

How did you learn about the ACPA Presidential Intern opportunity?

Wayne: Past President, Donna Lee and Past ACPA Presidential Intern, Da’Shaun Scott are the reasons I initially applied to serve as one of the Presidential Interns. I genuinely love and value both of their spirits, and wanted to recreate the same experience for Vice President, Vernon Wall.

Rachel: The ACPA Presidential Intern opportunity was actually one that found me. Joshua Leidy, a current mentor and friend of mine from the University of Virginia, who then was serving as one of Vernon Wall’s Presidential Interns, sent me a personal email with the position description. He invited me to join in on the information session he was co-hosting with Wayne Glass, Vernon’s other Presidential Intern. I couldn’t say no and here I am today, a testament to the power of personal invitation and encouragement.

Abi: I may have seen something on social media, and knowing myself, I’m sure I thought it didn’t apply to me—that self-doubt or imposter syndrome, of like, “I wouldn’t get that; great opportunities aren’t for me.” But then one of my professors, Dr. Rachel Wagner (we really have the best faculty here at Clemson!), actually came up to me at the ACPA convention this past spring (2022), and, now I’m paraphrasing here, but she basically said “Hey, I think you should consider applying for the presidential assistant role. The next ACPA president, Dre, is one of my homies from grad school. I think you’d like her.” Which couldn’t be truer—I’ve loved Dre!

How did you go about putting together application materials for the position?

Wayne: Writing and public speaking are skills I have loved throughout my personal and professional life. Thus, from what I recall, I spoke from the heart and integrated my years of graduate, professional, and ACPA experience throughout my Application Materials. I was in my third year of working full-time in Student Affairs when I began my Presidential Intern journey, with five years of experience working with ACPA. Therefore, I felt I had a lot of knowledge, experience, and skills to positively contribute to the position and Vice President/President/Past President, Vernon Wall.

Rachel: My timeline to put together applications materials was quick. The deadline to apply for the position was only a few days after the information session I attended. I devoted an evening to writing up my responses to the application and dove into ACPA’s website to learn more about its mission, values, and Strategic Imperative for Racial Justice and Decolonization. Josh and my graduate program advisor, THE Dr. Michelle Boettcher, kindly offered feedback on my resume. I’m still not sure how, but everything managed to be turned in on-time.

Abi: With a hope and a prayer! Just kidding. Surprisingly, the application process wasn’t too stressful. I think I submitted a resume and maybe something else that I have since forgotten. Then, I was required to respond to four questions about the position and myself. In line with the position description, I did try to highlight relevant experiences on my resume. As for answering the specific questions, as cliché as this sounds, I took a few days to review the position description, think through what positive and challenging experiences in student affairs I’d had thus far, skills I have and skills I wanted to cultivate, and what motivates me in this field. I wrote and rewrote my responses multiple times in a word document (always save responses in a different place so you don’t accidentally submit incomplete applications too soon!), and finally, I asked a trusted friend to review before applying.

What did you hope to learn through this experience? 

Wayne: I wanted to learn more about what the Governing Board and Finance Committee did/does. These were entities I had only heard about but did not understand what actual contributions they made to ACPA and the membership.

The older I get and the more experience I acquire, I have found my level of organization and structured work ethic has only enhanced. As a result, I hope to bring these skills into working with Vernon’s network, organizing his schedule in-and-out of Convention, planning large scale professional development opportunities for ACPA’s membership, and communicating with various constituents that (in)directly impact Vernon’s three-year reign.

Rachel: Thinking back to my mindset when I applied for this role, I hoped to achieve three simple objectives. One, gain exposure and hands-on experience in a professional student affairs environment. Two, improve my strategic management and social media skills. Three, learn more about ACPA as a working member of the Association. I firmly believed, and still believe, in the benefits of experiential learning and I wanted to take advantage of opportunities in the different professional competency areas, as well as supportive network connections, that this work offered. I also wanted to improve upon my foundational skills of coordination, scheduling, and managing social media within the context of a professional organization. Lastly, I saw the Presidential Intern position as one where I would be positively challenged in my own knowledge and skills to grow as a college student affairs professional within ACPA and higher education.

Abi: I most hoped to learn more about the history of student affairs as a profession and ACPA’s role in that history. Since my road to this career is fairly nontraditional and I am so new to the field, I am just in this place of constantly wanting to grow and learn as much as I can. Additionally, I have super smart professors who keep reminding us in our master’s program to build our student affairs competencies through various opportunities. So, the competencies in which I hoped to build fuller comprehension were “Law, Policy, and Governance” and “Leadership.” Sitting in on governing board sessions and other meetings as a Presidential Assistant has definitely opened my eyes to the intricacies of organizational governance and what radically inclusive, service-oriented leadership can look like.

What have been some of your key experiences in this role?

Wayne: Working with Joshua (Josh) Leidy as a Co-Presidential Intern, navigating a Convention right before the pandemic shut the world down, managing a virtual Convention during the heat of the pandemic, and planning, organizing, and coordinating the 2020-2021 President2President Series.

Josh Leidy is, by far, one of the best humans I have ever had the privilege of working with. We were there to support one another throughout the three years we navigated the Presidential Intern role, and I never would have imagined a close friendship coming to fruition from this experience. Additionally, the President2President Series provided me/us an opportunity to work with college Presidents and Chancellors around the United States to construct Webinar Opportunities for ACPA’s Membership. This project provided me structure and something to work on while I was navigating six months of unemployment due to the pandemic.

Rachel: For the past two and a half years in this role, I had the privilege of attending, observing, and serving as an extra set of eyes and ears at ACPA Governing Board, Strategic Planning, Bylaws, and Audit and Finance meetings. Running the @acpaprez social media accounts and having the opportunity to offer perspective and insight on matters that Danielle brought to me and my two other Presidential Interns, Valerie Olivares and Gaurav Harshe, strengthened my social media skills and improved my knowledge of and confidence in broader higher education matters.

However, working as a Presidential Intern at ACPA22, with Danielle serving as ACPA’s then current President, was by far the most professionally and personally significant experience I’ve held in this role. With ACPA21 being held virtually, I experienced my first ACPA Convention through a computer screen. Being physically present in St. Louis, MO allowed for far greater engagement and connection with my team, Danielle, the Governing Board, and other ACPA leadership, as well as Convention volunteers and attendees. Simultaneously serving as an assistant, coordinator, and representative for Danielle enabled me to witness events and conversations that I wouldn’t have access to as a general attendee, and uniquely network with other higher education professionals. It was incredible exposure to several facets of the ACPA community, and just a whole lot of chaotic fun! 

Abi: Several experiences come to mind. I mean, I haven’t even completed a full year in the position, and I’ve already gotten so much out of it! One of the most exciting things I have been a part of is Dre’s Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Employment in Higher Education. We met together as a task force at NC State back in July 2022 to deliberate and craft ideas for the next directions of our work. That work culminated in the Report on 21st Century Employment in Higher Education which was sent out to members toward the end of November 2022. Another great experience was the Presidential Symposium with our ACPA President, Dre, and the President of ASHE, Dr. Joy Gaston Gayles. The other president assistant and I got to participate and live tweet the event. (Speaking of the other president assistant, let me take this moment to shout out Mattea Carveiro, a literal dream of a person!) Along with Dr. Domingue and Dr. Gaston Gayles, the symposium discussion included Dr. Wilson Okello and Dr. Joan Collier as well, and as we live-tweeted, we practically quoted them every few minutes—so much wisdom and power from these four wonderful folks!

What will you take away from this opportunity? 

Wayne: I have learned that, if the opportunity presented itself, I would sincerely thrive as a Personal Assistant; in-and-out of higher education. I genuinely love working with humans (most of the time), creating spreadsheets, responding to emails, scheduling people, and managing another person’s professional life.

I appreciated the opportunity to work with a plethora of professionals who have holistically invested their lives in assuring ACPA operates as effectively as possible. There are so many moving pieces to the organization that folks are unaware of and being able to “see behind the curtain” was a gift.

While we were unable to attend Long Beach for ACPA 2021, I appreciated the opportunity to navigate a site visit and work with a fierce group of humans affiliated with the ACPA 2020 Convention Steering Team.

The tornadoes in Nashville during ACPA 2020 will never be forgotten.

Rachel: As ACPA23 and the end of Danielle’s presidency approaches, my decision to join ACPA as a first-semester graduate student was beyond worthwhile. Similar to what I hoped to gain from this experience, I have three simple takeaways. One, higher education is complicated –  individual and localized experiences are just as important as global ones. Two, massive professional and personal growth happens in this role. Three, there are an inspiring number of brilliant minds devoting time, energy, and thought to the most complex issues facing our field and I am privileged to have witnessed their work in action.

Abi: I recognize I am very new to the field, but even so, there are times when I get caught up in the narrow focus of my singular institution and think: “Look at all of the problems our students are facing; that our profession is facing. When will things change? Are they ever going to change?” It can be really defeating. Having the opportunity to work so intimately within ACPA and witness the advocacy, empathy, and changework that members put into the association as well as on their own campuses sustains my excitement for pursuing a student affairs career. Students and my fellow professionals reinvigorate my spirit and renew my tenacity to keep pushing for vital, liberatory changes in higher education.

Do you recommend others consider this role? Why or why not?

 Wayne: Absolutely. I would recommend any graduate student and/or professional to serve in the role. You will likely gain skills and experiences that your Graduate Assistantship and/or full-time role will not be able to offer. Plus, it was a lot of fun, and we are able to meet thousands of individuals throughout the field of Student Affairs.

Being involved in “something larger than myself” is how I have navigated my entire life. Therefore, I think being able to put your “stamp” on an experience and person’s life is liberating.

Rachel: Absolutely! I’d highly recommend a position like this to higher education professionals. From my perspective, it is slightly better suited to those who are at an earlier point in their careers due to the amount of professional exposure and knowledge you gain through the role, as well as when responsibilities peak during certain times of the year, i.e. ACPA Convention. However, the perspective and insight of those farther along in their careers would greatly benefit the role’s responsibilities. The overall time commitment ebbs and flows, where some weeks are busier with meetings and duties than others, but is very manageable while earning a degree, working an assistantship with a practicum, etc. Plus, the introductions and connections can’t be beat.

Abi: 100%. Can’t recommend enough. Why? See all other responses. 😊 But to answer this question and in summary of what else I’ve said, this role is a phenomenal opportunity for graduate students and new professionals to learn more about student affairs, historical and current issues, organizational governance, law and policy, and service/leadership work in the field, among many other areas in which I’ve gained deeper knowledge. Apart from the great learning experience, my favorite thing about being involved in ACPA is that I’ve met some of the most dynamic, passionate, truly amazing people. I love them dearly. You’re connecting with folks who are similar to you as fellow student affairs professionals, but they offer such valuable, interesting perspectives because you’re all at different institutions across the nation (sometimes across the world). If nothing else, I recommend this role for the community you will develop. 

What other volunteer experiences with ACPA or other organization would you recommend for graduate students?

Wayne: There are so many. Definitely Graduate Students and New Professionals Community of Practice (GSNPCOP). I also recommend the Coalition for Sexuality and Gender Identities (CSGI), submitting a Convention Proposal/physically attending Convention – if you are able, finding ways to get involved with ‘NextGen’, and attending Webinars listed in the ‘eCommunity’ Newsletter. You get out what you put in to ACPA. However, please do not feel morally obligated to do everything. Find “something” that speaks to your soul and stick with it if it continues to serve you.

Rachel: I would recommend ACPA’s Graduate Students and New Professionals Community of Practice. They’re a fantastic way for those pursuing Masters degrees and/or newer to the higher education field to get involved with varying levels of investment. You have the autonomy to decide how involved you’d like to be. It’s also a useful channel for meeting other individuals across the country with similar interests. The higher education world is a small one, and the more genuine connections you can make, the better.

Though I personally didn’t get involved with these opportunities, I would also recommend looking into regional ACPA and NASPA groups. These tend to be smaller in size, making them slightly more accessible to form connections and find out about professional development opportunities. Additionally, I have to plug [email protected]! ACPA24 Convention in Chicago, IL will be an honoring and celebration of 100 years of ACPA leadership in and service to the higher education and student affairs community. As a current volunteer of the Convention Experiences planning committee, I would highly, highly recommend if you’re able to volunteer in some capacity with this event in a little over a year.

Abi: My inclination is to not actually offer any specific volunteer experiences (with the exception of the presidential role, and I have not personally been involved but have heard wonderful things about the “Graduate Students and New Professional Community of Practice, or GSNPCOP, and their Ambassador Program—check them out!). We each have different identities, different backgrounds, different areas of interest or skill, or work in different departments and institutional types, so the experiences I’ve enjoyed within ACPA may not be the same experiences readers are looking to join. Instead, I would simply suggest searching ACPA (or other organizations) for volunteer and professional development opportunities that spark life for you personally—whether it’s about functional area, shared identities, community of practice, or a particular passion project. I think wherever you find involvement, you’ll also find an amazing, supportive community committed to doing invaluable, transformative work in student affairs.

Any other thoughts, suggestions, insights, or words of wisdom?

Wayne: ACPA should be an organization for the people, by the people. Thus, be the person you want, need, and/or desire to see in Higher Education and Student Affairs. Ask questions; reach out; make connections; learn as much as you can about as much as you can; always strive to be better to do better. 

Rachel: Remember that your journey is your own. Find community where you can. Join what fulfills you. Invest where you feel called. At the end of the day, recommendations are just that: recommendations. However, it’s just as important to surround yourself with good people who will think of you, support you, and advocate for you in your professional career.  If you need encouragement or gentle push in a certain direction, these will be the people you can rely upon.


Abi: One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from applying for and serving in this position is that even if doubts creep in that something is not for you and you don’t belong, it is for you. You do belong. You don’t have to gatekeep yourself. You can do hard things! And look, I’m stealing this directly from RuPaul’s Drag Race, but:

  • Your inner saboteur is loud, but it is not accurate, and
  • “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”


Wayne Glass (he/him) is an alum of the University of West Florida and Iowa State University. He has worked in housing at Macalester College and the Julliard School and is currently a Mental Health Counseling graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University.


Rachel Clark (she/her) is an alum of the University of Virginia and Clemson University. She currently works as a Student Engagement Coordinator at the Georgia Tech Alumni Association.


Abigail Case (she/her) is a second-year graduate student in the Masters of Education in Student Affairs program at Clemson University. She currently serves as the Graduate Assistant for Transfer Student Engagement and Transitions within the Department of Undergraduate Studies.

Editing a Book | Benjamin & Jessup-Anger

Mimi Benjamin and Jody Jessup-Anger, ACPA Books Co-Editors

The idea that editing a book is easier than writing a book would make many scholars shake their heads. While writing a book is a significant undertaking, editing a book has its own unique challenges. As ACPA Books Co-Editors, we have a few suggestions for you to ponder if you’re thinking about spearheading an edited volume.

Once you have determined your focus and outlined your book, consider the following:

  • How will you solicit chapters? – Do you already know individual authors or a team of authors who you will invite for a chapter? Are you planning to put out a call for chapter submissions? If so, where will you place that call and what will you ask of those submitting – an outline, an abstract, a draft of the chapter? Will you request a writing sample for authors whose work you are not familiar with to determine if their writing works for your planned book? If you are putting out a call for chapter submissions, how will you decide what to accept and include? It’s helpful to have determined these things before you move forward.
  • What is your timeline? – How much time do chapter authors have to develop their manuscripts? Will you ask for drafts along the way so that you can determine if all the chapters hang together? It is usually best to think with the end in mind. If you have a date identified for submission of your full book, work backwards to determine dates for various submissions, keeping in mind that often chapter authors will be asked to do a number of revisions either by you or by the publisher. Will you ask for all chapters at the same time? If getting everything at once so that you can devote a large chunk of time to the project works best for you, you may want to do that. Alternatively, you might consider staggered timelines so that you’re not inundated with material all at once.
  • Will you provide a format or structure for the chapters? – Some editors ask all chapter authors to follow a certain format, include certain elements or reference a common work throughout the chapters. As an editor, you may want to cross-reference material throughout the book, highlighting how something in one chapter is related to information in another chapter.

The editing part is both interesting and time-consuming. Reading each chapter, determining how it fits within your conception of the book, and providing helpful feedback takes time. But authors greatly appreciate helpful feedback. One recommendation we offer is to not promise any author that their chapter definitely will be included in the book. What if the chapter that is submitted is very different than what you envisioned or what you wanted for you book? What if the writing style doesn’t fit? We encourage editors to tell authors that they reserve the right to eliminate chapters if necessary. Of course, we always recommend that that is done with appropriate feedback for the author and even potential recommendations for other publishing venues.

Our recommendations derive from both our experiences as the ACPA Books Co-Editors and experiences editing books ourselves. Book editing is a great opportunity to work with colleagues and offer information to the field that benefits our work. With consideration of these recommendations, we believe you’ll have a positive experience as editor of your own book project.

Message from the Editors

Hello ACPA Membership,

As we approach the convention in New Orleans, we are happy to share with you a variety of articles in this issue of Developments. Specific to our gathering in the coming days is an article by Dr. Aja Holmes—ACPA’s Director of Membership Development. In that article, Aja provides suggestions and encouragement about attending and making the most of convention time. Similarly, convention is a great time to get involved and do some organizational service. Current Presidential Intern Abi Case and two previous interns, Wayne Glass and Rachel Clark, share about their experiences in the role and their experiences with other aspects of service to ACPA.

This issue also includes three articles on faculty/student partnerships around learning and research. Kevin Glover and Dr. Ricardo Montelongo explore spirituality; Dr. Laila McCloud and Emily Morrison explore lessons learned from undergraduate research partnerships; and Meena Pannierselvam, Dr. Stephanie Bondi, and Yi Xuen Tay discuss how they came together to do social justice work on their campus. In addition, Adam Roth-Saks shares his insights about building effective advising practice for online professional graduate students.

As we approach our time together in New Orleans and the 100th year of ACPA as an organization, we hope you will not only enjoy these articles, but that you will consider submitting your own essays, program overviews, dreams for the future, collaborations, and creative work. In the May-June issue we will include some of our leaders’ reflections on their careers with ACPA and in higher education. Please submit or encourage those you see as leaders who helped us get where we are to submit their reflections, as well.

We are an organization of creative thinkers and doers. Your thoughts and insights are what make this organization dynamic and transformative. We hope you enjoy this work and will share yours as well.

Have a great convention, everyone.

Michelle Boettcher & Reyes Luna

Developments Editors

Identifying and Addressing Secondary Trauma in New Professionals in Student Affairs | Lynch


It is estimated that over half of college student affairs practitioners support students through traumatic life events on at least a monthly basis (Lynch & Glass, 2018).  Subsequent research has indicated that over a third of college student affairs professionals met criteria for secondary traumatic stress before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic (Lynch, 2022), with new professionals being most impacted by this phenomenon. This case presents readers with the opportunity to identify symptoms and causes of secondary trauma, as well as discuss ways in which student affairs departments can better support the wellness of their new professionals.

Keywords: International Students, Burnout, Secondary Trauma, Staff Well-Being

Key Characters

Jacob (he/him/his) is an entry level international student advisor in the Office of International Relations under the Associate Director of Student Community He is in his first year of working at this office, having previously graduated from a higher education master’s program the year before. He identifies as a white, heterosexual, cis-gender man, from an upper-middle class upbringing. During his undergraduate years, he had the opportunity to study abroad more than once and made friends with many of the international students on his campus. He describes himself as highly empathetic and prides himself on the close relationships he builds with the students with whom he works.

Institutional Context

Northeastern State University (NSU) is a mid-size regional public four-year college in a metropolitan area of the United States. Given the city’s large and diverse population and fast-paced environment, the university is a popular selection for international student. Given this context, a significant proportion of the student body (15%) is comprised of international students, with most being graduate students (master’s and doctoral level). The institution prides itself on its global diversity and has received numerous awards and recognitions for its service to international students.

The Office of International Relations is the primary entity serving the international student population at NSU. The office is comprised of an Executive Director, and Associate Director for Immigration Administration (Visa Processes, Registration, etc.) and an Associate Director for Student Community. Within the Student Community branch there are 5 international student advisors.

Case Scenario

As Jacob approaches his one-year anniversary as an international student advisor, he decided to attend a statewide advising conference that was being held at a nearby university. When he reviewed the conference program, he chose to attend a session entitled “The Dark Side of Professional Helping.”  This session explored issues of burnout, compassion fatigue, and secondary trauma. While listening to the session speaker he began to reflect on his experience over the past year supporting students through various traumatic life events brought up during the presentation.

He began thinking about Abdel (he/him/his), a graduate student he worked closely with, who would regularly speak of how much he worried for his family that he left in a war-torn country as he sought a path forward for he and his family to permanently escape. He also thought of Sunny (she/her/hers), a quiet Japanese student, who often spoke with him about her experiences of discrimination by professors and peers due to her accent and cultural touchpoints. Additionally, he thought of several Indonesian student leaders in the Phi Beta Delta International Honor Society who recently had to witness their hometown left in shambles after a devastating earthquake. While these were specific students he reflected on in the moment, there were many more similar situations in which he provided similar support for students over the course of the year.

The session speaker asked that participants privately think about their own emotions and physical experiences over the past academic year. Jacob had not taken much time to stop and take stock of himself in a long time. In pondering this question, he identified long periods of sadness that increasingly has turned into emotional numbness. While he thoroughly enjoyed his work, he also recognized that he felt tired almost all the time and recently began suffering from insomnia. He often stayed up replaying student stories in his head and wondering how he could better support them. Since he was so frequently exhausted, he rarely made time anymore for physical activity and rarely cooked. He also frequently suffered from headaches and momentary random dizziness.

While the session facilitator offered useful tips for further reflection and action, Jacob left the session feeling discouraged, as he was concerned not only about his state of wellbeing, but also about what his next steps may be. Would he damage his reputation at work by pulling back?  Would he lose his connections with his students?  But most of all, would he end up burning out of a job that he loved so dearly?

Other Contextual Information

  • Jacob’s job description includes duties such as advising students on matters such course selection, cultural adjustment, and co-curricular opportunities. In addition, he is an active advisor for the Phi Beta Delta International Student Honor Society who meets on a weekly basis at 8pm on campus.
  • Jacob regularly works 50+ hours per week, and even won Club Advisor of the year for his efforts within his first year. He also received mostly “meets expectations” with a few “exceeds expectations” in various categories on his end of year evaluation.
  • Jacob lives alone and his primary social network (family, old friends, etc.) live across the country. While he has made a few friends in his new city, he does not very close friends outside of work.

Discussion Questions

  1. In what ways might Jacob be experiencing burnout, compassion fatigue, and/or secondary trauma?  What evidence is available for each of these phenomena in the scenario?
  2. In what ways might his work and personal environment implicitly reinforce practices or circumstances that lead to burnout, compassion fatigue, and/or secondary trauma?
  3. How might Jacob’s social identities play a role in his experience? If Jacob possessed a different set of identities, how might his experience play out differently?
  4. What do you believe Jacob should do in order to place more emphasis on his well-being?  What challenges may exist in implementing your recommendations?
  1. If you were Jacob’s supervisor, perhaps without knowing all the details of this scenario, what actions might you take as a trauma-informed supervisor?

References and Resources

Chessman, H. M. (2021). Student affairs professionals, well-being, and work quality. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 58(2), 148-162. https://doi.org/10.1080/19496591.2020.1853556

Keliher, R. (January 9, 2022). Student-facing college workers, contingent faculty face exhaustion. Diverse Issues in Higher Ed. Retrieved from https://www.diverseeducation.com/faculty-staff/article/15286978/studentfacing-college-workers-contingent-faculty-face-exhaustion

Lynch, R. J. (2022). Prevalence and predictive factors of secondary traumatic stress in college student affairs professionals. Journal of Student Affairs Research & Practice. http://doi.org/10.1080/19496591.2022.2080555

Lynch, R. J. (2022). Trauma-informed colleges begin with trauma-informed leaders.  American Council on Education (ACE) Higher Education Today Blog. https://www.higheredtoday.org/2022/03/14/trauma-informed-colleges-begin-with-trauma-informed-leaders/

Lynch, R. J. (2022). The cost of professional helping in higher education. In Shalka, T. & Okello, W. (Eds.), New Directions for Student Services:  Trauma-Informed Practice in     Student Affairs: Multidimensional Considerations for Care, Healing, & Wellbeing (p. 69-         80). New Directions for Student Services. Wiley. https://doi.org/10.1002/ss.20416

Lynch, R. J. & Glass, C. (2020). The cost of caring: An arts-based phenomenological analysis of secondary traumatic stress in college student affairs. Review of Higher Education, 43(4), 1041-1068. http://doi.org/ 10.1353/rhe.2020.0030

Lynch, R. J. & Klima, K. (2020). Emotional labor and wellbeing. M. Sallee (Ed.), Creating Sustainable Careers in Student Affairs:  What Ideal Worker Norms Get Wrong and How to Make It Right. Sterling, VA: Stylus

Lynch, R. J. (2019).  An interdisciplinary approach:  Using social work praxis to develop trauma resiliency in live-in residential life staff. The Journal of College & University Student Housing:  Special Edition on Training & Development in Residential Life, 45(3), 42-55.

Lynch, R. J. & Glass, C. (2018). The development and validation of the secondary trauma in student affairs professionals scale. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 56(1), 1-18. https://doi.org/10.1080/19496591.2018.1474757

Lynch, R. J. (2017). Breaking the silence: A phenomenological exploration of secondary traumatic stress in U.S. college student affairs professionals [Published doctoral dissertation]. ODU Digital Commons. http://doi.org/10.25777/hyh9-b004

Pettit, E. (January 13, 2021). They’re called #TeamNoSleep. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from: https://www.chronicle.com/article/theyre-called-teamnosleep

 Sallee, M. S. (2021). Creating sustainable careers in student affairs:  What ideal worker norms get wrong and how to make it right. Stylus.

 Steele, W. (2019). Reducing compassion fatigue, secondary traumatic stress, and burnout:  A trauma-sensitive workbook. Routledge. 

Student Affairs Now Host. (2022). Combating trauma, burnout, and compassion fatigue. [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUc1WOXJx8o&t=3s 

Student Affairs Now Host. (2022). Navigating trauma and burnout [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzVS-I4ipBg


van Dernoot Lipsky, L. (2009). Trauma stewardship: An everyday guide to caring for self while caring for others. With C. Burk. Berrett-Koehler.

Whitforld, E. (March 23, 2022). Student affairs staff quit because of low pay. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from: https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2022/03/23/student-affairs-staff-quit-because-burnout-low-pay

Author Biography

Dr. Jason Lynch (he, him, his) serves as an assistant professor of higher education in the Reich College of Education at Appalachian State University, as well as founding executive editor for the Journal of Trauma Studies in Education. Through his research, teaching, and service he hopes to inspire a vision for a more trauma-informed system of higher education for students, faculty, and staff. His work is informed by over a decade of experience as a student affairs practitioner and has been featured in outlets including American Council on Education (ACE), the Review of Higher Education, and the Journal of Student Affairs Research & Practice.

A Heavy Lift: The Impact of the Resident Assistant Position | Díaz III, Amos, Samano, Livingston, Vasquez


The Resident Assistant (RA) position is often noted as a premier leadership opportunity on many college campuses.  The RA position centers community building, peer support and skill development as some of the unique opportunities for students in the role.  While undoubtedly an important institutional position, such a role is a complex one.  In this case study, Victor (Resident Director) navigates challenges, impacts and considerations that RAs Cameron and Rachel have experienced, and as the RD begins to question how RAs these student staff members might be resourced and supported as a means of responsibility and care for RAs.

Keyword/Phrases: Resident Assistants, Residence Life, Mental Health


Victor (he/him) – Serves as a Residence Director (RD) and has been in this role for five years.  This job is Victor’s first full-time position since completing his graduate program in student affairs/higher education administration. Victor has been on staff in residence life positions since his undergraduate career, serving as a Resident Assistant (RA), Assistant Complex Director (ACD) during graduate school and now as an RD. Victor is a cis-gender, queer, able-bodied Latino man.

Cameron (they/them) – Serves as a Resident Assistant (RA) and has been in this role for three years.  Cameron has the highest seniority among the RA staff and is one of a few returning RAs.  Cameron will be a graduating senior this spring and is currently studying for the LSAT to enter law school. Cameron is a Black, gender non-binary, pan-sexual, able-bodied person with a learning difference.

Rachel (she/her) – Serves as a first-year Resident Assistant (RA). Her placement is in a first-year residence hall. She is involved in various organizations on campus and is currently a student government senator for the Women and Gender Advocacy Center. Rachel is a first-generation college student and came to the institution from out of state. Rachel is a multi-racial, cis-gender, heterosexual, able-bodied woman. She is also an independent student who has no contact/communication with parents/guardians.


This case is set at a regional, comprehensive, liberal arts public institution enrolling 24,000 students (19,000 undergraduates, 5,000 graduates). It is an emerging Hispanic Serving Institution with roughly 22% Latinx/a/o/e enrolled students. The institutional mission states, “The university’s diverse and inclusive learning and living experience, distinctive in its rigorous intellectual engagement and its global and experiential learning opportunities, leads to a life of meaning and means. The university prepares graduates who support and create positive change in their communities and the world.” There is an on-campus residential population of 10,000 students.

The Residence Life Department includes 72 resident assistants (RAs), and six resident directors (RDs). The RDs have two weeks of summer training followed by another two weeks of training with and for RAs. During the semester there are weekly full-time residence life staff meetings at the departmental level. There are also monthly all staff meetings that include the RA staff. The compensation for the RA position is room and board. 

Case Study

Victor, a current Resident Director, threw himself down in exhaustion on the sofa in his on-campus apartment.  Reflecting on an already busy semester, despite only six weeks in, he had a strong sense of concern for a number of RAs he supervised.  In a meeting today with Cameron, a returning RA whom Victor supervises, it became apparent they were struggling not just to manage the workload of the position but more specifically, the impact of student incidents on their personal well-being.

Reflecting on the semester thus far, Cameron highlighted the issues they and the team had navigated already this term. There had been a steady number of Title IX reports, a missing student case, hostile RA conduct meetings, a racial bias incident, and ongoing roommate conflicts. Cameron, a dean’s list student, indicated they were having trouble focusing in class because they were constantly thinking about all of the issues and the students who were by these situations. Because of this, Cameron had mounting anxiety related to future on-call situations.

Victor listened and affirmed Cameron’s feelings. Victor in some ways was feeling the same stress but did not let it show. Victor confirmed that Cameron felt adequately trained and had the resources to uphold the RA responsibilities. Cameron shared that they were appropriately trained and had the resources they needed to help students. What they were feeling was something beyond that.

The meeting with Cameron was similar to a conversation Victor had with a first-year RA, Rachel.  Excited to build community, a team-player and a wonderful ambassador for the institution, Rachel hit the ground running. Victor noticed that her happy-go-lucky disposition began to fade over the last two weeks. During Victor and Rachel’s one on one meeting, Rachel shared that she was not expecting the RA position to impact her general well-being as much as it had.  She shared that she loved working with students on her floor and getting to know other RAs but noted the interpersonal violence incident she responded to recently in her community put her in a bad place mentally and emotionally. Victor could understand because he still struggled with incidents involving violence despite having worked professionally in Residence Life for five years. Rachel hesitantly shared that despite her initial excitement to be an RA, she was not sure she would come back the following year and was considering potentially leaving the role next semester.

It was becoming apparent that the string of intense student and community concerns was having drastic influence on the well-being of a number of RAs. Victor and the rest of the professional Residence Life staff always advocated for and supported RAs utilizing the Student Mental Health and Counseling Services on campus along with prioritizing self-care. Outside of those two options, there were not a lot of direct institutional or department resources available to RAs to address the mental, emotional and physical well-being.

Victor thought back to the summer training before the fall term began and felt like there was an honest conversation about the realities and difficulties of the position but recognized the shortcomings of such training in navigating the reality of the position.  Victor reflected and acknowledged the RA position can be difficult and demands a great deal from students.  He balanced that reality with a strong sense of obligation for the well-being of Cameron, Rachel, and other RAs both as residence life staff and as people.

As Victor picked up the TV remote and clicked the power button, he said aloud “There has to be something else we can do.”

Discussion Questions

  1. What additional information might Victor need to determine next steps?
  2. How might the roles of RAs in crisis situations be different based on both social identities and the intersection of these social identities?
  3. Given the realities of secondary trauma – “the stress resulting from helping or wanting to help a traumatized or suffering person” (Figley, 1999, p. 10) – how can Residence Life practitioners better address the ‘secondary traumatic stress’ RAs endure as a result of responding to traumatic incidents?
  4. How can supervisors help identify indicators of burnout in an RA before it becomes a serious problem?
  5. While most RA positions are marketed as a great leadership opportunities, how might the Residence Life department address the challenges of the position in the recruitment, selection and on-boarding processes?


DuBose, D. R. (2022). Burnout in college resident assistants: Indicators of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal accomplishment (Publication No. 2599) [Doctoral dissertation, Liberty University]. Scholar Crossing.

Figley, C. R. (1999). Compassion fatigue: Toward a new understanding of the costs of caring. In B. H. Stamm (Ed.), Secondary traumatic stress: Self-care issues for clinicians, researchers, and educators (2nd ed., pp. 3–28). Lutherville, MD: Sidran.

Harris, C. J. (2021). Differences between resident advisors and undergraduate residential students on resilience, mental health, burnout, and perceived stress [Doctoral dissertation, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte]. ProQuest Publishing

Lynch, R. J. (2017). The development and validation of the secondary trauma in resident assistants scale. The Journal of College & University Student Housing, 44(1), 10-29.

Roland, E. (2021). Institutional support and black women resident assistants across environments.  Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 58(5), 507-519.

Author Bios

Hermen Díaz III, Ph.D., (he/him) is an assistant professor in the Higher Education Administration Department at SUNY-Buffalo State College.  He received a B.A. in Psychology from Grand Valley State University, an M.S. in Student Personnel Administration from SUNY-Buffalo State College and a Ph.D. in Higher Education Leadership from Colorado State University.

 Shelbymarie Amos, (she/her) of Buffalo, New York holds a B.S in Childhood Education from SUNY College at Buffalo. She is currently in the process of obtaining her M.A in Higher Education Student Affairs Administration. With her “student centered philosophies” and many years of experience working with students,  Shelbymarie strives to be an equitable student affairs practitioner.

Jasmine Samano, (she/her) is a second year graduate student at SUNY- Buffalo State College in in the Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration program.  She received her B.S. in Human Development and Family Science from Oregon State University.

Carly Livingston, (she/her) is a current second year graduate student in the Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration program at SUNY-Buffalo State College. She is currently a Graduate Assistant Student Life Coordinator at Villa Maria College.  She received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from SUNY-Oneonta.

Andres Vasquez, (he/him) is a second-year graduate student in the Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration program at SUNY Buffalo State and currently works in the Residence Life department. He received his undergraduate degree from SUNY Purchase.