The Interconnectedness of Scholarship-Practice: A Perspective from a Practitioner-Scholar

Ann M. Gansemer-Topf
Iowa State University

As a new faculty member teaching graduate students in student affairs, I am keenly aware of my responsibility to not only disseminate knowledge about the field, but to help students develop and define their roles as scholar-practitioners. In designing my syllabi, or planning learning outcomes, I attempt to answer the following questions: How will this information develop students’ understanding and ability to engage in scholarly work? How will the activities and class projects that I assign enhance students’ skills as practitioners?

With almost 20 years of practitioner experience and now transitioning to my current role as a faculty member, I have become increasingly aware of how these two roles (scholar and practitioner) and two activities (using scholarship and doing practice) are seemingly distinct yet irrefutably interconnected; scholarship has influenced and informed my practice and my practice has influenced and informed my scholarship. As Blimling (2011) articulated, ‘scholar’ and ‘practitioner’ are not mutually exclusive and both inform professional judgment. When I was a graduate student and new professional, I agreed philosophically that scholarship and practice were intertwined, but having limited experience, I had difficulty articulating examples of this interconnectedness. These examples became apparent through my work in the profession and now as a faculty member. I strongly believe the more I begin to understand the relationship between the two, the more effective I become as an educator. How does scholarship inform practice? How does practice inform scholarship? How are the two concepts interconnected?

Questions regarding how scholarship and practice mutually inform and are connected to each other, I believe, lie at the heart of what it means to be student affairs professional. Therefore, they require significant reflection and dialogue. To begin this conversation, I offer three personal examples to illustrate my experience of the scholar-practitioner relationship. I share these experiences in the form of questions as a way to invite the reader into the dialogue that asks one to ponder, question, and critique how one can integrate these two roles into what higher educators do. If student affairs professionals purport to be scholars and practitioners, then being able to articulate the ways these roles intersect and mutually reinforce each other can only improve one’s effectiveness as an educator.

For Whom Does This Scholarship Apply?

The concept of utilizing scholarship to inform practice was first introduced to me as a college student majoring in psychology and minoring in sociology. I have always been interested in human and group behavior—why did people make the choices they did, why did they behave in certain way—through my coursework, but now I had theoretical concepts and language as a way to articulate my observations. If I wanted to explain why people did what they did and more importantly, make an evaluation of them, I now had a language. I had discovered the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) that provided the classification of all mental disorders.

While in college, Carol Gilligan’s (1982) book, In a Different Voice, a development theory based on females, was gaining wide recognition. She wrote her book in response to Kohlberg’s moral development theory, which had focused on the experiences of males. Around the same time, a new version of the DSM was published (i.e., the DSM-IV), and in this revision, ‘homosexuality’ was removed.  In other words, Kohlberg’s theory of moral development—which I had learned two years earlier—does not accurately describe the experiences of all individuals; experts who wrote the ‘approved’ manual could revise it, showing it was subject to change. I began to wonder why studying theory, which may not accurately represent all students experiences and relying on experts who may change their mind was worthwhile.

Theories can be useful in providing a language, a conceptual framework, a way of making sense. However, it is equally as important to understand the population and context within which and for whom the theory was intended. It is also, as suggested by Reason and Kimball (2012), important to utilize student developmental theories and the informal theories one develops through one’s lived experiences as each making significant contributions to practice. Theory, despite its limitations and even potential biases, is useful by forcing us to articulate and defend our beliefs and through our disagreements, begin to uncover our values.

Similarly, one must be critical in thinking about how other forms of research and scholarship, like theory, can inform practice, and vice versa. For example, one may use benchmarks to evaluate institutions and students (e.g., retention rates, graduation rates, reading scores, math competencies). However, does one set of numbers adequately represent the complexity of the institution?  Do the numbers accurately represent all student populations or do they mask the reality of other subpopulations?  What about the stories behind the data? Are these stories being heard, encouraged, celebrated, or attended to?  A significant amount of emphasis is placed on the quality and prestige of institutions based on these numbers. But what and who do these numbers represent?

If we are using scholarship to inform practice, it is necessary to examine the context, focus, and population from which the scholarship has emerged before applying it to our practice. As practitioners, it is necessary to consider whose voices are being considered, whose voices are not being heard, and ultimately, for whom does this scholarship apply?

How Do I Know If My Practice—Which Was Based On Scholarship—Is Effective?

As an academic advisor pursuing a doctoral degree, I enrolled in a program evaluation and assessment class. Until that point, I had focused primarily on how research impacted practice, but I had not always considered if my practice was any good.  I thought I was good, and I believed that what I was doing was effective, but I did not have any tangible evidence. And thus, I was intrigued by the need to do assessment.

Similar to other practitioners, I did not pursue a career in student affairs because I loved assessment. Nevertheless, I have come to embrace and respect assessment as one way to critique both practice and scholarship. While research can inform practice assessment serves the dual role of questioning the research behind the practice and assessing if the practice was effective.

In the assessment course I teach, I partner with staff in the Division of Student Affairs to offer students in the course the opportunity to conduct an assessment project in student affairs. Student affairs professionals provide a list of possible assessment projects and students may choose from this list. Throughout the semester, the students then learn about and then apply their knowledge of assessment to their project. As they craft their assessment purpose statement, develop their assessment methodology, and analyze and interpret results, they engage in the work of scholar-practitioners. In some cases, student have found that assessment results can be used to inform the broader research on a topic or practice and in other instances, assessment can be used to understand the success of the practice.

Assessment can be a bridge between scholarship and practice, providing a vivid illustration of the interconnectedness of the two roles. Assessment can help to answer the question: how do I know if my practice, which was based on scholarship, is effective?

How Would I Practice the Scholarship?

As a practitioner and an administrator, I could articulate how scholarship has impacted my practice. I could discuss Astin’s (1984) theory of involvement or Tinto’s (1993) interactionalist theory or elaborate on how the many student development theories helped to frame how I approached student issues and concerns while working in residence life, campus ministry or academic advising. Ironically, now as a faculty member focused more on creating scholarship and teaching in the areas of research, higher education, and student affairs, I find myself wondering, how would I practice this scholarship?

I can teach individuals the criteria to developing a strong assessment plan, I can teach students to recognize the factors important in analyzing campus environments, and I can challenge them to think about issues of social justice, access, and equity. But being a successful practitioner involves more than ‘knowing the facts’ or speaking the correct language. While one may engage in student affairs scholarship with the purpose of improving student access, success, and learning, individual actions may not always consistently support these efforts. For example, I can use language like ‘safe space,’ and ‘inclusiveness,’ and ‘social justice’ and yet my actions, priorities, and daily interactions with my family and friends may not reflect the values that I espouse. We can study best practices, become aware of the professional competencies, and keep abreast of the current research, but putting this information into action can be difficult and overwhelming requiring not only factual knowledge but reflection, communication, and practice.

As a ‘scholar,’ it is also imperative to remain connected to those professionals who are working in student affairs divisions.  In order to successfully practice scholarship, the scholarship must evolve and adapt to the changing needs of students, institutions, and especially, to practitioners.  Practicing the scholarship also requires understanding the context, methods, and limitations of the scholarship.  While many practitioners do not have time to engage in research activities, successful scholar-practitioner have a solid foundation of research methods and scholarship to appropriately answer the question: How can this scholarship be practiced?


Through my experiences as a practitioner and now as a faculty member, the relationship between scholarship and practice continues to grow and evolve. My belief is that this interconnectedness will help to enrich and improve my work as graduate student educator and student affairs professional. The challenge then, for all of us, is to remember and embrace the interconnectedness. Upon graduation, does one leave scholarship behind to become a ‘practitioner?’ As ‘practitioners,’ how do we allow time to become aware and incorporate new research into our work?  As ‘scholars,’ how do we remain in touch with the practice?  Most critically, what does it mean to be a scholar-practitioner and how does this integration ultimately benefit the students, institutions, and profession that we serve?

Discussion Questions

  1. The article is based on the assumption that to effectively serve students, the institution, and profession, student affairs professionals and faculty must embrace the interconnected nature of scholar practitioner. Is it possible to be an effective student affairs professional by focusing on only one of these roles? Why/why not?
  2. What are the challenges of being a scholar-practitioner?  How can these challenges be overcome?
  3. The article lists three examples of the interconnectedness of scholarship and practice. What other experiences/examples illustrate this interconnectedness? How would you explain the meaning of scholar-practitioner to someone unfamiliar with student affairs?


Astin, A. W. (1984). Student involvement: A developmental theory for higher education. Journal of College Student Personnel25(4), 297-308.

Blimling, G. (2011). How are dichotomies such as scholar/practitioner and theory/practice helpful and harmful to the profession?  In P. M. Magolda & M. B. Baxter Magolda (Eds.),Contested issues in student affairs: Diverse perspectives and respectful dialogue (pp.  42-53.). Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Reason, R. D., & Kimball, E. W. (2012). A new theory-to-practice model for student affairs: Integrating scholarship, context, and reflection. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 49, 359-376.

Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition (2nd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

About the Author

Ann Gansemer-Topf is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education in the School of Education at Iowa State University where she teaches courses in assessment, campus environments, and academic issues and cultures.  Her research interests include: assessment of student learning, effective teaching/learning pedagogies, student success, and educational policy related to strategic enrollment management. Prior to assuming her current position, she most recently served as Associate Director of Research for the Office of Admissions at Iowa State University and Associate Director of Institutional Research at Grinnell College. She also has prior professional experience in residence life, admissions, student financial aid, new student programs, campus ministry, conference services, and academic advising. She holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Iowa State University, a MS degree in Higher Education from Iowa State University and a B.A. in Psychology from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa.

Please E-mail inquiries to Ann Gansemer-Topf.


The ideas expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Developments editorial board or those of ACPA members or the ACPA Governing Board, Leadership, or International Office Staff.

Considering the Consequences of Increasing Reliance on Outsourcing and Contingent Labor in Higher Education

Neal H. Hutchens
Pennsylvania State University

To what extent should student affairs professionals be concerned about the outsourcing of services or the use of contingent labor in higher education?  One of the most pressing issues facing colleges and universities deals with the creation of a financial structure capable of sustaining the higher education enterprise.  As part of searching for ways to control costs, one strategy increasingly looked to by institutions involves reliance on staff not employed as full-time institutional employees.  Whether outsourcing labor needs to a third party vendor or using part-time employees (e.g., adjuncts for teaching), colleges and universities have sought to use outsourcing or “contingent” employees as a means to control costs.  Often, these employees must work without the same level of wages and benefits afforded to full-time college or university employees.  This column examines legal and ethical issues raised by the increasing reliance by higher education institutions on outsourcing and the use of contingent labor.

Outsourcing of Services . . . And Employees

A primary justification for the strategy of cost savings through outsourcing relates to permitting institutions to focus on their “core” missions related to educating students and to research and service (Kiley, 2013).  Prompted by an ongoing financial crunch, colleges and universities are experimenting with substantial expansion of outsourcing activities.  A public/private partnership  involving student housing at the University of Kentucky (UK) that garnered national headlines illustrates one such broad-based initiative (Carlson, 2012).  Seeking to replace its outdated housing infrastructure, UK entered into a far-reaching agreement with a private company to take on the costs associated with the construction of multiple new residence halls, as well as responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of campus residence halls.

The type of public-private partnership, including its outsourcing aspects, entered into by UK does not represent a new development.  Colleges and universities have previously looked to third party partners in student housing arrangements.  Dining and parking services and campus bookstores provide common examples of other types of services now often undertaken by (i.e., outsourced to) third parties.  Institutions have also looked to third party call centers to assist in answering student inquiries in such areas as student financial aid.  Cleaning and custodial services provide yet another example of outsourcing.  The UK example attracted national attention because of the scope of the agreement, which is intended to extend eventually to all or most student housing on campus.

While the agreement called for UK student affairs professionals to retain control over programmatic and management aspects of the residence halls, UK would not employ the individuals in charge of the physical upkeep of the buildings.  Instead, the private company will now employ these workers.  Current UK employees working in residence halls who potentially might be displaced by the arrangement reportedly were given priority in applying for a position with the private company.

Even when a college or university takes steps so that individuals are not displaced when outsourcing takes place (which is admirable), these kinds of deals raise important ethical questions, particularly related to the compensation provided to these individuals.  Namely, are individuals working for such third party contractors compensated at a level comparable to those people employed by the college or university?  If not, then are differences in compensation in alignment (or not) with an institution’s mission and values?

In addition to wages, outsourcing may result in employees working for third parties not receiving the kinds of benefits afforded to college and university employees.  For instance, many institutions offer some level of educational benefits to their employees and often to their partners or dependents.  Such educational benefits may prove especially important for employees of limited financial means, who may often be among the groups of employees subjected to outsourcing.

Outsourcing creates important alterations in the legal employment relationship between institutions and people on campus performing work on behalf of the college or university but in actuality employed by a third party (i.e., not by the college or university).  The university does not undertake the obligation to compensate these individuals in the same manner as it does with those employed by the institution.  Instead, the legal employment relationship is with the third party entity rather than the college or university.

The current financial climate in higher education makes outsourcing a strategy easy to understand.  Colleges and universities are struggling with rising costs and, in the case of public institutions, with continuing disinvestment by states in their public colleges and universities.  Difficult financial circumstances have left colleges and universities with hard choices to make, and outsourcing is one way that institutions have sought to control costs and to focus resources on their core functions.  The challenge in making such choices involves striving to achieve a balance between legitimate financial considerations and loyalty to an institution’s values and mission.  The shift that has taken place at many colleges and universities in relation to “contingent” faculty provides a context to reflect upon the possible negative consequences of such choices.

Non-Tenure Track Professors: The New Faculty Majority

Faculty employment arrangements in higher education have undergone dramatic changes in recent decades.  During this time, there has been a steady erosion of faculty employed in tenure-line positions.  According to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP (n.d.), in 1975, professors employed in tenure-line positions accounted for about 56% of all faculty positions.  This percentage fell to approximately 42% in 1995, to around 30% in 2007 (AAUP, n.d.), and declined to less than 25% by 2011 (Curtis & Thornton, 2013).

Rather than working in full-time, tenure-line positions—or even in full-time non-tenure stream positions—the majority of faculty in higher education today are employed as part-time instructors.  In contrast to faculty employed in tenure-line positions, these part-time adjuncts are often employed as at-will employees.  This means that a college or university may dismiss the instructor at any time and without any reason, subject only a few limitations.  While some adjuncts have full time “day” jobs and teach part-time for professional fulfillment or to earn extra income, this is not the case for many.  Instead, adjuncts often teach courses at multiple institutions.

Colleges and universities have received considerable criticism for their reliance on adjunct instructors.  Similar to concerns with the outsourcing of services in higher education, increasing reliance on adjunct faculty raises troubling ethical questions for higher education.  As part-time, or contingent, employees, these instructors are not afforded the same kinds of wages and benefits as full-time institutional employees.  That is, even while carrying much of the institutional teaching load, these individuals are excluded from many of the employment benefits afforded to full-time college and university employees.

Concluding Thoughts

In the continual quest to curb costs, colleges and universities have looked to their employment arrangements as one means of cost savings.  Reliance on outsourcing strategies or on contingent faculty has resulted in growing numbers of people working on college and university campuses not afforded the same kinds of wages and benefits as provided to full-time institutional employees.  In essence, colleges and universities are creating a system of “haves” and “have nots” when it comes to those carrying on the work of the institution.  Some employees receive the privileges and benefits of full-time institutional employment, but many working on our campuses do not.  This state of affairs creates serious questions for college student affairs educators.  Campus stakeholders have important roles to play in helping their institutions to ask important questions about outsourcing and contingent labor use in higher education.  The student affairs profession can help push colleges and universities to weigh not only the benefits but also the costs associated with such strategies.

Discussion Questions

  1. To what extent is the ACPA’s Statement of Ethical Principles and Standards applicable to issues related to the use of outsourced and contingent labor in higher education?
  2. To what extent or in what ways does your campus monitor issues related to the wages and benefits provided to individuals working on campus who are employed by third party vendors?  If not, should such monitoring exist?
  3. In what ways should student affairs professionals and their professional organizations seek to encourage dialogue and critical examination regarding the use of outsourcing and contingent labor in higher education?


American Association of University Professors.  (n.d.).  [Fact Sheet]: Trends in faculty status, 1975-2007: All degree- granting institutions; national trends.  Retrieved from

American Federation of Teachers.  (2009).  American academic: The state of the higher education workforce 1997-2007.  Washington, DC: Author.  Retrieved from

Carlson, S.  (2012, February 12).  Colleges and developers find common ground to build student housing.  The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Retrieved from

Curtis, J. W., & Thornton, S.  (2013).  The annual report on the economic status of the profession, 2012-13.  Academe, 99(2), 4-19.

Kiley, K.  (2013, July 15).  Outsourcing and new revenue are dominant themes at annual business officers’ meeting.  InsideHigherEd.  Retrieved from

About the Author

Neal H. Hutchens is an associate professor in the Higher Education Program in the Department of Education Policy Studies at The Pennsylvania State University.

Please E-mail inquiries to Neal H. Hutchens.


The ideas expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Developments editorial board or those of ACPA members or the ACPA Governing Board, Leadership, or International Office Staff.

Believing and Achieving: Enhancing Self-Efficacy in First-Year Seminars

Believing and Achieving: Enhancing Self-Efficacy in First-Year Seminars

Rory O’Neill Schmitt
Arizona State University
Dale-Ellen O’Neill
University of New Orleans

“My University Success class helped me realize just how important these first few years in college are. I feel like a lot of freshmen do not realize this until it is too late and they cannot change the situations they’ve got themselves in.” Jennifer 1, Age 18

In the twenty-first century, attending college has become more accessible than ever before. However, current students face challenges in progressing through college to attain degrees. As professionals in higher education, we have a responsibility to not only provide access to college, but also to create an environment that provides students with the tools they need to succeed.

How can we teach college students to create goals, work to achieve them, and persist during challenging times? While there is not a single answer, integrating self-efficacy theory into first-year seminars can promote student achievement. In this article, we will share tips that first year seminar instructors can use to enhance student success.

Enhancing Self-Efficacy in First-Year Success Courses

First-year seminars have become the norm at a majority of four-year American colleges and universities. These classes have been shown to have a positive effect on students’ integration into campus, both academically and socially (Tinto, 1993). Many first year seminars focus on academic skills, identity development, career exploration, campus resources, diversity, and the mission of the college or university.

At Arizona State University and the University of New Orleans, teams of instructors within both universities collaborated to create curricula for first-year seminar courses. They concentrated on self-efficacy as a tool to meet the needs of students. Program directors at these universities provided support and guidance to these instructors in order to assist them in meeting course objectives.

Albert Bandura (1997) described academic self-efficacy as a student’s confidence in his or her ability to complete a course of action that leads to a desired outcome. Students with heightened self-efficacy set their own attainable goals, rather than comparing themselves to others. They view stressors as challenges, rather than threats, and persist in order to accomplish their goals.

Instructors can capitalize on the full potential of first-year seminars by fostering the self-efficacy of their students. They can do this by incorporating Bandura’s (1997) four sources of self-efficacy into the curriculum:

  • Mastery experiences: When students reflect on past accomplishments, they become motivated to achieve.
  • Vicarious experiences: When students observe peers completing a task, they may be more likely to believe in their own abilities.
  • Verbal persuasion: When instructors provide students with encouragement and feedback, students recognize the value of their continual efforts.
  • Emotional state: When students learn in a supportive environment, they gain a positive outlook.

Mastery Experiences: Remember when you achieved your goal?

We incorporated mastery experiences into our first-year seminars by encouraging students to reflect on past academic accomplishments. Students used these reflections as motivation to tackle new challenges, thus nurturing their self-efficacy.

Instructors can incorporate mastery experiences into their classes in a variety of ways. For example, they can direct students to write one-page reflections describing a time that they studied and did well on a test in a difficult subject area. Through this exercise, students are able to identify the specific approaches that they used to help them achieve their academic goals. They can also verbalize how they will use these tactics again. Awareness of their optimal learning strategies can enable them to benefit in the future.

Later, in a large group setting, instructors can lead students in discussing their reflections. This open conversation allows students to share what has been successful for them, while also providing advice to their peers on different ways to achieve. This dialogue builds a sense of camaraderie in the classroom. Thus, instructors can support students’ self-efficacy by leading students in reflecting on past successful experiences, creating an action plan for future success and verbalizing their plan to their peers.

Vicarious Experiences: Now, let’s hear about how your friends achieved their goals.

Vicarious experience refers to students’ observation of others successfully completing tasks. These experiences build students’ self-efficacy by fostering motivation and self-confidence. We implemented vicarious experiences into our curricula by including peer mentoring. Peer mentors in our first-year seminar courses included upperclass students. We invited these students, who had experienced challenges and successes in college, to be guest speakers in our first-year seminars. They shared with students their advice in choosing a major and becoming active in campus life. Instructors can involve peer mentors by selecting upperclass students to co-lead group discussions, activities and presentations. By sharing tips for college survival, peer mentors help to build a community where students motivate each other and empathize with each other’s challenges.

Several students eagerly asked questions when one junior student shared his experience of exploring different majors of study and when a senior student shared her experiences of studying abroad in Chile. The students’ inquiries centered on gathering information that they would need to make changes in their lives, such as switching majors or researching the process for studying abroad. In response to these activities, a student, Shannon, shared with us, “The class helps students decide which careers they are interested in and which majors can prepare them.”

In addition, peer mentoring occurred when students within first-year seminars shared their experiences and guided each other. Peer mentoring can strengthen the classroom community within a traditional setting, as well as within the cyber world. In the course’s Blackboard™ website, instructors can assign students to research co-curricular activities and then post this information to a discussion thread. This forum permits students to share their interests, educate their classmates about campus opportunities, and establish connections. In response to activities like this, a student, Kendra shared that:

The University Success class has had a tremendous effect on me as a first-year student. Not only has the class informed me of the great opportunities on campus, but it has challenged me to become actively involved in the many different activities.

Verbal Persuasion :You can do it!

Verbal persuasion refers to instructors providing students with feedback and support. This builds self-efficacy by aiding students in becoming more aware of the importance of their constant efforts. We incorporated verbal persuasion into our courses through one-on-one meetings and class discussions, which supported students in creating action plans based on realistic self-appraisals. In one assignment, students created three short-term goals and three long-term goals in their action plans, which were specific, measurable, attainable, and time sensitive. Students then deconstructed their goals into daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. This goal setting activity supported students’ self-efficacy, as instructors provided students with positive support and acknowledged students’ strengths and past accomplishments.

Instructors can include verbal persuasion strategies in their courses by meeting with students individually to create specific short-term goals. Throughout the course, they can refer back to each student’s goals, discuss their progress, and recommend resources that are available. During an individual student meeting, Justin, a first-generation college student, expressed feeling overwhelmed by his academic struggles and was given information about the tutoring center. Following the completion of the course, he stayed in contact with his teacher and shared:

My class showed me all the resources on campus for me as a student. I would have never known about the tutoring centers or the career services on campus. It made the transition from high school to college much smoother for me.

Emotional State: We’re all in this together.

By creating an inclusive and caring learning environment, instructors can support students’ positive emotional states in order to cultivate self-efficacy. In our experience as instructors, we realized that it was essential to create a space where students were supported in expressing their hopes and managing their fears. A student, Chandra, stated, “My teacher was able to provide a learning environment that has positively altered my college experience.”

When reviewing the syllabus, first-year seminar instructors can emphasize a supportive learning environment that should be the core of the course. Instructors can include students’ interests and hobbies in the class to create such an environment. In addition, they can also share successes and challenges of their own college experiences, such as how they successfully transitioned into college life.


Integrating self-efficacy theory into first-year seminars involves strategies that include sources of mastery and vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion, and emotional state. These recommended approaches provide instructors tools to create a goal-oriented environment where students are supported and encouraged to persist amidst challenges. Such a classroom culture motivates students and aids them in creating action plans and strategies for college success. Utilizing practices that enhance self-efficacy can enable instructors to support students in achieving their goals in college and beyond. Through promoting self-efficacy in first-year seminars, instructors can support students in believing in and achieving their dreams.

Discussion Questions:

  • What challenges do first-year college students typically encounter today?
  • What do you think hinders first-year students from asking for help?
  • What sorts of collaborative learning experiences do you think can foster community in the classroom?
  • Self-efficacy theory is based on mastery and vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion, and positive emotional states. What other actions do you think could support students in identifying and achieving their goals?
  • How can you promote self-efficacy in your college courses?
  • How can you promote self-efficacy in your co-curricular programs?


Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Human Behavior. New York: Academic Press, 71-81.

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: W. H. Freeman.

Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition (2nd Ed.) Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


1. In order to exclude any information that may make students identifiable, we have used pseudonyms.

About the Authors

Rory O’Neill Schmitt is a doctoral student in Curriculum and Instruction Studies at Arizona State University. She serves as the Executive Editor of ASU’s journal, Current Issues in Education. She wishes to thank her mentors, Dr. Mary Erickson and Dr. Mary Dawes.

Please e-mail inquiries to Rory O’Neill.

Dale-Ellen O’Neill is a doctoral student in Educational Leadership at the University of New Orleans, where she is also the Coordinator of Leadership and Community Service Programs. She wishes to thank Susan Danielson and Brian McDonald for their leadership and support.

Please e-mail inquiries to Dale-Ellen O’Neill.


The ideas expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Developments editorial board or those of ACPA members or the ACPA Governing Board, Leadership, or International Staff Office.

A Transcendent Idea: The Student Personnel Point of View

A Transcendent Idea: The Student Personnel Point of View

Melvene Draheim Hardee
Edited and with a Preface by
Sally Click
Butler University
Michael D. Coomes
Bowling Green State University

Preface: Has it been Twenty Five Years?

The year of the 50th anniversary of the 1937 Student Personnel Point of View (SPPV) (American Council on Education, 1937), student affairs practitioners gathered for a joint conference of the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA). The theme, “Make No Little Plans,” described the ambition of the early architects of the grand city of Chicago, the setting for the 1987 joint conference. As it turned out, it aptly reflected the significant role that the SPPV had played in the development of what we now call the student affairs profession. In historical hindsight, the SPPV turned out to be “no little plan.”

The Hyatt Grand Ballroom was filled to capacity at 5:30 pm for the opening session. After the welcome by conference chairs and association presidents, the lights in the ballroom dimmed and the theme song to the movie Gone with the Wind filled the auditorium. The podium was flanked by floor to ceiling screens. Varied voices narrated the multiple images that flashed upon the screens. First slide: a black background and the number 1937emblazened in red. Click. A mention – Margaret Mitchell had won the Pulitzer Prize for her epic novel. Click. Click. Click. Vivid images appeared conveying the highlights of the year: FDR was in his second presidential term, the U.S. Supreme Court favored a minimum wage law for women, Amelia Earhart vanished over the Pacific, and Joe Louis gained his heavyweight boxing title. The images culminated with a photo of the Hindenburg as it crashed after a transatlantic flight killing all 36 passengers.

And then it was quiet. A spotlight shone upon a single figure at the podium—a petite woman, perhaps five feet tall, wearing large framed glasses and a furry white stole. There from over the top of the podium, peered Melvene Draheim Hardee, Professor of Higher Education at Florida State University (FSU). Her voice emerged and her story began. She explained that on the tragic day of the Hindenburg explosion, just about 50 years before, she was standing in a hallway at Teachers College, Columbia University waiting to defend her master’s degree. Although she did not know it at the time, this day was also the birth date of a document that would guide her professional practice from beginning to end. On that momentous day, a committee of the American Council on Education endorsed a document entitled, The Student Personnel Point of View.

And so the teacher described to the Chicago assemblage the economic, cultural, and political events happening in the United States in and around 1937 that shaped the thinking of those who gathered to scaffold the work known as student personnel. She dissected the document’s structure and reminded us of the 16 people who met for two days in Washington to consider the prospectus presented by two Ohio educators, W. H. Cowley and D. H. Gardner.

Hardee researched this presentation for over a year; her quest took her to the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and the archives of the American Council on Education. No doubt she consulted with her colleagues, C. Gilbert Wrenn and Esther Lloyd Jones, two 1937 SPPV summit participants. She finished the keynote script in November 1986 and then worked with the (FSU) Multi-Media Department to put it together with her visual and audio enhancements. Hardee prepared several different versions and back-ups. She was so nervous about losing it in transit from Tallahassee to Chicago that she bought the slide show its very own seat on the airplane flight. Hardee wanted to get this just right; she also wanted to do it her way.

From an early age Melvene was a musician, a singer, and a thespian. In her small hometown of Clarion, Iowa, she took Shakespearean lessons and spent the summers in a local youth theatre troupe. Friends paid a dime to watch the “Neighborhood Players” perform. This penchant for performance made classes with Professor Hardee a constant surprise. Former student, David Meabon, described her magnetism.

When Dr. Hardee is in front of an audience, she is totally different. She comes alive in a way that in rehearsal is not there. I think she thought life was a stage. She was a director at times, an actress at times; she loved props. She thought [we all needed] to figure out: What is the best way to help somebody learn what you are trying to teach? (personal communication, October 27, 2007)

The inspiration for Hardee’s Chicago keynote performance was a radio broadcast, written and produced by Norman Corwin and entitled, We Hold These Truths. Commissioned by President Roosevelt to observe the 150th anniversary of the Bill of Rights, it aired eight days after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. An estimated 63 million people listened to the broadcast that featured such well-known voices of the time as Jimmy Stewart, Orson Welles, Walter Brennan and Lionel Barrymore (Corwin, n.d.). Hardee employed this audio taped drama in her classes asking her students to listen not only for content but also for emotions. At the podium for a national convention keynote, she would similarly want her audience to feel something as a result of their participation.

Unbeknownst to Hardee at the time, feelings were running high behind the scenes of her keynote performance. Well before the development of PowerPoint, in early multi-media days, this slide show was constructed of film slides and audiotape synced together. Three trusted souls had come to Chicago with Hardee, their Mentor, to provide technical assistance. John Opper, Robert Dawson, and Mike Lawrence had rehearsed and practiced umpteen times back at home. With one hour before showtime to set up and test the equipment, the trio discovered that the production was not compatible with the hotel’s system. Without letting Hardee know, the three of them manually keyed the projectors throughout the performance from various points in the room. To their great relief, a technical catastrophe was averted, and their Mentor’s efforts were rewarded (J. Opper, personal communication, October 26, 2007).

The opening keynote entitled, The 1937 Student Personnel Point of View: The Birth of a Charter, was certainly dramatic: Big pictures, big music and a (petite) woman with a big voice. The keynote’s ending was equally memorable. Her closing was a commanding mix of Constitution, poetry, and theatre. Tying threads together, she blended political wisdom (“We hold these truths to be self-evident…”) to the truths understood about learning and young adults, such as validating the whole person, individualizing education to promote the development of potential, and assisting our charges in contributing to the betterment of society. Hardee likened Theodore White’s (year) thought about the U.S. Constitution “as an idea that became a nation” to the assertion that the 1937SPPV was an idea that became a profession. The lover of the humanities tied the movie story of the Tara plantation to Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men. To describe those drawn to the student affairs profession, she relied on her standby, O’Shaughnessy’s poetic line, “We are the music-makers, we are the dreamers of dreams.” Hardee sealed the keynote with the punch line, “Frankly, my dear, we are the ones who do give a damn!” (Hardee, 1987).

Hardee had been asked to open and to set the tone for an historic meeting. At the time, there may not have been a more perfect choice for this task. She and the SPPV had shared the profession’s development together for 50 years. Her keynote honored the construction of a philosophical treatise that had stood the test of time. She, too, had stood the test of time. Those in attendance were reminded of the founding tenets of their profession, and they witnessed the dramatic flair of Melvene Hardee. Her FSU department chair at the time, David Leslie, described it as not just any keynote:

Mel’s grand extravaganza at the joint anniversary meeting was not a “presentation.” This was an Oscar-worthy dramatic show. There were probably 3,000 people in the hall. At the end of it, they were in tears, they were standing on chairs, and they were applauding. I have been to a Christmas Mass with the Pope in St. Peters, and that is the only thing I can say that rivals what Mel did for the two associations. (personal communication, February 15, 2008)

Former doctoral advisee, Terry O’Banion, described it similarly:

The audience was totally engaged in this process and finally at the end, after she had [positioned] her ideas in the framework of Gone with the Wind, her last line was, “Frankly my dears, we are the ones who give a damn.” The audience rose to its feet in thunderousovation. It was one of the greatest speeches I have ever seen in an educational environment. Mel was just a master of that sort of stuff. She really had a sense of drama. She was a great communicator. I think it was probably her greatest moment as a professional. (personal communication, February 20, 2008)

In an ACPA Developments editorial that followed the joint meeting, Caple (1987) lauded Hardee’s accomplishment:

Her use of history, her understanding of the political, economic, and cultural climate of the period, her knowledge of the field of College Student Personnel work, and her skill in presentation combined to make this the best keynote address I have heard in the 20 years I have attended the convention.

Hardee retired from teaching at FSU in 1989 after 41 years of service. She died in 1994 at the age of 81. Among Hardee’s papers, housed at the National Student Affairs Archives at Bowling Green State University, treasure hunters can find the script of her 1987 presentation. Some of the historic slides are housed in the Hardee Center Collection at FSU. Audio tapes of the speech exist, as do video clips of its delivery that were used in a post meeting teleconference entitled, Student Affairs: A Historical Perspective and a View of the Future.

In an attempt to translate her keynote performance into writing, Hardee worked with former FSU student, John Opper, on the unpublished manuscript that follows. Hardee readily admits in the prologue that writing for reading and writing for speaking are very different endeavors. Much is lost in translation. In this, the 75th anniversary year of the SPPV, Hardee’s insights within A Transcendent Idea: The Student Personnel Point of View are once again offered to the profession for consideration. The voices of those who constructed the SPPV live on in writing; as does hers.

A note on the article.

As her former students tell us, Dr. Hardee was a voracious reader who remembered most of what she read (Click, 2009). She read widely and worked diligently to integrate the knowledge gained from a recent book or article into her lectures or presentations. In editing this speech for publication, we have attempted to track-down as many of the sources she used to inform her thoughts as possible. When we have been unable to do so, we have trusted her encyclopedic knowledge and refrained from deleting her ideas or the sources of those ideas. Where minor changes have been made, we have noted them by including them in brackets [. . .]. A PDF of Dr. Hardee’s original draft may be found on the website of the Student Affairs History Project (

American Council on Education. (1937). The student personnel point of view. (American
Council on Education Studies, series 1, no. 3.) Washington, DC: Author.
Caple, D. (1987). Editorial. American College Personnel Association Developments, 14(3).
Click, S. (2009). Melvene Draheim Hardee: Music maker and dreamer of dreams. Dissertation
AAT 3351099)
Click, S., & Coomes, M. (2010). Melvene Draheim Hardee: A touchstone of the profession.
Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 47(1), 1-10.
Evans, N. J., & Reason, R. D. (2001). Guiding principles: A review and analysis of student
affairs philosophical statements. Journal of College Student Development, 42, 359-377.
Corwin, N. (n.d.). Classic radio programs 1938-1955. Retrieved January 9, 2009 from
Hardee, M. D. (1987). The 1937 Student Personnel Point of View: The birth of a charter. [Multi
media]. Keynote address to the joint meeting of the American College Personnel Association and
the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, Chicago, IL. [MS-773, Box 3,
Folder 4] Hardee, M. D. (1992). A transcendent idea: The Student Personnel Point of View. Unpublished
manuscript. [MS-773, Box 3, Folder 4]

A Transcendent Idea:
The Student Personnel Point of View

The 1987 combined conferences of the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) opened in Chicago with recognition of the origins of the 1937 Student Personnel Point of View (SPPV) (American Council on Education, 1937).  The introduction featured a multi-media presentation using two giant screens, as well as a series of larger-than-life photographs matching the script and appropriate musical accompaniment reminiscent of the 1937 era in America.
This event was likely the first time in history that the document was voice-expanded and image-oversized.  It was a production of the Multi-Media Laboratories of The Florida State University (FSU).  With but few additions, the speech is presented here. Assuredly, an essay, which follows this spoken event five, six, or more years, undergoes a sea change. A translation of Krajewski’s1 research on the subject of rhetoric names the problem one of information transmittal over time, or hermeneutics, the bridge linking the meaning of a speech fixed by writing and understood by reading (emphasis added). In addition, Krajewski reminds those who perform in these three forms, that there is a difference between writing oriented to reading aloud and in reading silently.  Of continuing concern to this writer is the adaptation of a professional association to these varied presentations.

The odyssey of SPPV(1937) must extend its lifetime into the future with the hearing of its words (rhetoric), subjecting the written text to something bigger than print size.  One model is the 1941-recorded performance of Norman Corwin and cast, giving voice in a variety of scenes, to the First Ten Amendments to the Constitution (it is notable that this document is never reduced to four letters – FTAC).  If there is any residual benefit from the half century of its historical antecedents, SPPV should be used as often as possible in its entirety, giv[ing] it full play in higher education. The distillation of a basic belief, a philosophic commitment, to a word of five letters is no mean accomplishment in the saving of time and space.  But SPPOV 2 is an unpronounceable descriptor – an aberrant mix, referring as it does to a full-grown professional group and, conversely, not understood by those “outside the loop.”  It can be mistaken for a slogan or trade name – conceptual but not actual.  What is needed is a return to the original full designate: Student Personnel Point of View.

The professional stature of the field raises question in times of economic stringency, with the diminishment of the service concept, and the hardening of the arteries of compassion and campus relations.  This is the time that renewal of means for insightful communication is needed in reading, writing, speaking, and listening for all administrators, academicians, student personnel workers, and students.  It may be the last best chance to fulfill our historic resolve.


On the evening of May 6, 1937, on the grounds of the Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, New Jersey, the great German dirigible, The Hindenburg, nosed into its moorings after transatlantic flight.  Tragically, its explosion and the loss of 36 traveler lives headlined the New York Times, obscuring all the other happenings in the eastern metropolitan area – one of which was an important announcement [by] the American Council on Education. The unannounced message was that of [the] approval given a document termed The Student Personnel Point of View [1937].

This document, in its formulation, has an auspicious history, parts of which can be found in the repositories in Washington, D.C.: the National Archives, the Library of Congress, the National Museum of American History, the American Council on Education, and in such radial resources as the Jerome Archives at Bowling Green State University, the Strozier Library of Florida State University, as well as in personal mementos, videos and other pronouncements of scholars of the student personnel specialty in higher education.

To discuss the historical concepts of this document one must search for answers to the question: What was happening in [1937] America in relation to economic, cultural, and political events? At the outset, historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (1986) reminds history trackers: “[Science] and technology revolutionize our lives, [but] memory, tradition, and myth [frame] our response” (p. 21). The early trackings of our founding document have uncovered some hidden memories, some buried traditions, and not a few myths – all in a jumble, for as Daniel Boorstin (1983), the Librarian of Congress emeritus, adds:  “There is no academic neatness to history.  There is only miscellany with overlapping, interfusing, and blending.”

This is indisputably true of America in the 1937 year.

[1937] was the year:

  • that Gone with the Wind sold a million and a half copies. Margaret Mitchell was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, and the first script for filming the epic was submitted to David O. Selznick, the producer;
  • that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his second inaugural address stated: “I see [one-third] of a nation ill-housed, ill-fed, and ill-nourished;” 3
  • that half a million American workers went on sit-down strike[s], slowing industry, deep in the second stages of the Depression;
  • that the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of a minimum wage law for women. 4
  • that Joe Louis, the Brown Bomber, regained the heavy-weight championship, defeating Jim Braddock in the 8th round [Schlesinger, 1983];
  • that Amelia Earhart vanished in her daring flight over the Pacific [Schlesinger, 1983];
  • that F. D. R. signed the Neutrality Act [Schlesinger, 1983], while across the Atlantic in the village of Guernica, as Picasso’s masterpiece reveals, 2000 civilians were killed or wounded in a three hour testing by German bombers in air-to-ground strategy; [and]
  • this was the 150th anniversary of the Constitution of the United States with both charters [the U. S. Constitution and the SPPV], one new and the other a century and a half old, affirming history as living, human experience.

The emergence of the SPPVconfirms this fluid record of human encounter, all in a blend – romantic, realistic, polemic, with no bibliographic propriety.

The Transcendent Idea – An Awakening 

The overlapping, interfusing and blending of the efforts of dedicated professionals in the field of education are evident in the shaping of policy directed to change.  This recalling of fact is presented not in the belief that history is the ultimate test of painstaking policy formation, but rather that the instances noted attempt to explain how decisions over time have been accelerated by choice, change, collision, revision, and just plain “resistance to” and muddling through 5.  The transcendent idea which became the SPPV experienced some or all of these.
As early as 1926, the American Council on Education established a Committee on Personnel Methods chaired by Dean H. E. Hawkes of Columbia University.  In that year, Dr. L. B. Hopkins, Director of Student Personnel, Northwestern University, created an opening in the thick of personnel work with publication of his study of 14 institutions purporting to provide student personnel services as defined in the mid-twenties6.

After a 10-year interval, and with mounting appeals for curtailment of committee overlap, the American Council accepted the report of the Committee on Review of the Testing Movement – thought to be parallel in importance with the Committee on Personnel Methods – recommending both the formation of a new Committee on Measurement and Guidance, and the discharge of the Committee on Personnel Methods.  Obviously unaccounted for were committee-formulations for bringing eye-to-eye and ear-to-ear, two vocal groups seemingly diverse in academe – the teacher [or] major professor and the practitioner, [or] administrator-manager of student campus life.  A variety of beliefs defined their differences in status and performance; there were few terms used to unite their missions.

But, on the periphery, moving toward the front, were the problems of students, admittedly financial, which many administrators, faculty, and staff aides to consider remedies for a widening area of student welfare.  In 1933, the National Industrial Recovery Act initiated the student work-study program as part of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. (This writer supplemented her aid form home with her work-study pay of 20 cents per hour, 20 hours a week at the college switchboard.  But, a sophomore switchboard operator, located in the sensitive strategic center of a campus, holds a trust tantamount to that of a member of the National Security Council in the White House.  As such, she was likely underpaid.) In 1935, Executive Order #7086 placed student aid under the newly formed National Youth Administration and was soon thereafter to become an affiliate of the National Youth Commission.

Both coalition and collision were to be expected.  Some efforts of well-intentioned groups were given audience in Washington; some were cut short.  One appeal was made to the American Council on Education by two who came out of the West, so to speak.  They presented a prospectus designed to combine theory and practice, with a transcendent idea for bringing together academicians and practitioners in the area of student life.  Their identity: Dr. W.H. Cowley, Professor of Education, Ohio State University and Dr. D. H. Gardner, Dean of Students, University of Akron.

Their goal was to minimize misunderstandings between academicians and student personnel workers – to make clear the types, functions and administration of what was termed student personnel services.

From the beginning, their partnership had need of a philanthropic windfall – in Broadway parlance, an angel to back the undertaking.  An affiliate bond existed.  Dr. George Zook was earlier President of the University of Akron where Gardner in 1936 had served as Dean of Students.  The message, which the two from the West relayed, was: “Sir, a study of student personnel work in higher education is urgently needed.”

Activating the Idea 

Their [proposal led to] the convening in April 1937 of 16 professionals who would represent both theoretical and practical viewpoints.  It would seek to delineate the specialty in its derivatives from the various fields of scholarship.  It would direct efforts to inform and ultimately to disarm academicians.  However, with all such justifiable effort, Dr. Zook had misgivings.  He needed to be convinced of the tour de force of his own Council.  There were, in fact, five professional organizations, which could as well, if not better, sponsor the proposed meeting. [They were]: the American College Personnel Association, the National Association of Deans of Men, the National Association of Women Deans’ the American Council of Guidance and Personnel Associations, [and] the National Occupational Conference. The two standard-bearers [Cowley and Gardner] argued for a new coordinated approach, which the American Council, with its distinguished reputation, could provide in a climate of cooperation essential for success of the idea.

It was patently understood that the record of the two-day conference would be forwarded to the Committee on Problems and Plans in Education of the American Council on Education – a wide receivership within which a number of associations would compete for approval and funding of projects.

The 16 members of the Committee [held] impressive titles – presidents of collegiate institutions, deans of colleges, deans of student personnel, chief of the U.S. Office of Higher Education, directors of guidance and counseling, administrative personnel in professional associations, high school and corporate business – together with staff of the American Council on Education – its president, vice president, and the administrative assistant.  [In addition to Cowley and Gardner,] they were: Dr. Thyrsa Amos, Dean of Women, University of Pittsburgh; Dr. F. F. Bradshaw, Dean of Students, University of North Carolina; Mr. D. S. Bridgman, American Telephone and Telegraph; Dr. A. J. Brumbaugh, Dean of the College, University of Chicago; Dr. A. B. Crawford, Director of Personnel Study, Yale University; Dr. Edward Elliott, President Purdue University; Mr. Burton Fowler, High School Principal; Dr. H. E. Hawkes, Dean of the college, Columbia University; Dr. L. B. Hopkins, President, Wabash College; Dr. Fred J. Kelly, Chief, Division of Higher Education, U.S. Office of Education; Dr. Edwin Lee, Director, National Occupational Guidance Conference; Dr. Esther Lloyd Jones, Chairman, Department of Guidance and Student Personnel, Columbia University; Dr. D. G. Paterson, Professor of Psychology, University of Minnesota; and Dr. C. Gilbert Wrenn, Professor of Educational Psychology, University of Minnesota. The production staff (i.e., representatives from the American Council on Education) were: Dr. George F. Zook, Chairman; Dr. C. S. Marsh, Vice President; and Dr. Donald J. Shank, Administrative Assistant

With the date and place for the committee assembly set for April 16-17 in Washington D.C., the two crusaders in their separate engagements, 1926 to the present, murmured soto voce; “Mission accomplished.”
But not quite.  There were gaps admittedly in what transpired from then on.  In random letters recovered from various offices and personnel files from video tapes, and from fragments of newsletter and newspaper reports, and little else, this first formal meeting of administrators, teaching faculty, and association entrepreneurs was pieced together.  And again there was the reminder… “there is no neatness to history; instead, memory, tradition, and myth mark the milestones of change.”

The Sum of Its Parts 

The 1937 SPPV contains approximately 4,000 words.  The foreword is equivalent to a single page.  Thereafter follow three sections – Philosophy, Coordination (six divisions) and Future Development (five divisions).  When introduced to the reader-world, the modest document, paper-backed, was offered for sale at 10 cents – reminiscent of the Depression pleas of its time, “Brother, can you spare a dime?”


The section is viewed by wordsmiths as the soul of the writing.  The first paragraph affirms the basic purposes of higher education – the product of scholarship, research and creative imagination.  The task of colleges and universities is unequivocally stated: “to assist the student in developing to the limits of his/her potentialities and [to assist the student] in making his/her contribution to the betterment of society.” (The gender shift to include her has been added by this writer.  There was no intentional omission.)

The philosophy reaffirms the student as a whole person with eight dimensions cited – intellectual, emotional, physical, social, vocational, moral, economic, and aesthetic.  Eugenie Andruss Leonard, in her book, The Origins of Personnel Services, reminds the reader that this view has had a long and honorable history in America.  It was, in fact, as old as education itself in the colonial beginnings.  From 1630 to 1930, three centuries of the whole person philosophy dominated.  The reversal occurred when faculty and administrative personnel promoted expansion of subject matter in opposition to the study of students in relation to their potentialities and their resulting contributions to society’s betterment.  As subject matter was expanded, the student, as subject for study, was suspended.

But to return to the SPPV and its original evocation: twenty services are named.  The student personnel practitioner is seen as interpreting, selecting, orienting, providing, assisting, supervising, assembling, coordinating, maintaining and evaluating – all symbolic of energy and forward direction.

The philosophy, in its reaffirmation, is the center of the historic document we currently address. The commitment is similar to that contained in the Constitution of the United States in its bicentennial year, “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” The prefatory paragraph of the Constitution of the United States speaks of (1) forming a more perfect union, (2) establishing justice, (3) insuring domestic tranquility, and (4) promoting the general welfare.
The prefatory paragraph of the 1937 SPPV speaks of promoting the general welfare of a selected group, namely students, thereby transmitting and preserving the products of scholarship, creative imagination and human experience.


The second section of the 1937 document, with its six sub-parts, sweeps the scenario, recommending study of a theory of administration which guarantees to keep intact the central design and operating relationships of the transcendent idea.  It appears to connect the campus with the world of business, trading, and corporate and consumer interests.  The term [i.e., coordinator] can be viewed as a possible replacement for titles in the collegiate sector such as director, administrator, head or chief, as well as others conceptually alike.  The whole student concept would favor a unifying of the total institution, inclusive of study, recreation, work, health, and all the varieties of counseling and advisement – resulting in less separatism and more communal planning.

At The Florida State University in the 1940s, at the time the institution moved from a college for women to coeducation, a committee, after study of the SPPV, advised the president to name a University Coordinator of Counseling.7 The administrator’s primary goal was to combine counseling and faculty advising with residence hall life, religious activities, psychological, vocational, religious counseling, part time work, internships, and other related aspects of the students whole experience.  This plan proceeded with success for eleven years before returning to the so-called traditional pattern.

The section on Coordination, in addition, underscored the cooperation between and among institutions, professional associations, secondary schools and higher education, colleges and the job placement of students both during and following the completion of courses of study and fulfillment of graduation requirements.

Future Development

The final section of the 1937 SPPV is relatively short.  It is conceivable that the two-day conference in the cherry blossom springtime of the nation’s capital generated pressures, (i.e., duties on the home front), competing with those of the conference table.  It is certain that the member group, viewing the magna size directives of philosophy and coordination, gave reign to their responsibility believing that the future should be the task of other philosopher kings.  They reasoned that with national economic malaise, impending wars, and the surety of scientific and technical advances in the period ahead, committee clairvoyance had run its limits. (This truth is born out with the convening of the second Student Personnel Point of View committee twelve years thereafter [in] 1949 [and] which numbered many of the original convening group, as well as additional personnel.)

In the 1937 committee report, the conferees were quick to state that the life and times of the student personnel movement (now a common referent) could thrive only through sound and studied research – some to be generated in company with other agencies, bureaus, and association committees over time. For this emphasis, continuing credit is due the 1937 committee for the volume of theses and [dissertations] which has supported the profession’s growth, given status to its journals, and supported its convention programs.

In his dissertation, completed in 1973, Dr. W. W. Blaesser, Division of Higher Education, U.S. Office of Education, researched the contributions of the American Council on Education to student personnel work in higher education.  He concludes, the SPPV:

Became the most widely quoted and used statement in the field of college student personnel work. Along with the 1949 revision, it continues to be quoted or paraphrased in most articles purporting to cover the field. (p. 140)

Societal Influences: A Renegade Society?

For this writer, the 1937 SPPV, as a transcendent idea, must attach – and when disassembled – be reattached to its philosophy.  The reaffirmation:

It is the task of colleges and universities so to vitalize this and other educational purposes as to assist the student in developing to the limits of his [sic] potentialities and in making his [sic] contribution to the betterment of society.

In the countdown of intervening years, it would appear that the first command has received major attention.  The second trails.  It is possible that the betterment of society – its fulfillment – lies not within reach of the institution’s grasp or that the goal is an impossible dream or a myth.  And so, a thoughtful questioning ensues.

The two-day roundtable of April 1937 was composed of professionals knowledgeable in logic, reasoning, foresight, and skilled in communication – the far reaches of reading, writing, speaking, listening.  In what form was this accumulated wisdom shared?  With what counterparts in the classrooms, laboratories, study halls, counseling offices, and playing fields?  What did the 1937 Committee bring to the table? What did each take form the experience?  What was the society within which the sixteen interacted?

It is possible that they were influenced in their thinking in at least three ways: (1) by educational philosophers and policy makers; (2) by news media of the time; and (3) by the influence of novels and films. These may be all-too subtle stimuli or, on the other hand, too heavily weighted.

Educational Philosophers and Policy Makers

In the period of the early 1900s, the writings of Professor John Dewey (1990) were vigorously discussed, his words re-echoed:

The place of the individual in society shall be determined by the student’s own nature as discovered in the process of education…and the student’s own nature includes not merely the intellectual but also the wide range of potentialities such as habits, attitudes, ideals and aspirations. (p. X)

In an analytical review in special recognition of Dewey in the University of Chicago’s centennial, Dr. Philip Jackson (1990) has written:

Dewey’s psychology…was more a point of view than an integrated assemblage of empirically grounded facts and principles.  It was an outlook on human nature, one that depicted humans as actively striving to explore and to master their world rather than passively relating to forces impinging upon them from the outside. [pp. xxii]

The use of “point of view” as a designate of difference in thought and behavior appears to confirm the influence of Dewey psychology on the 1937 SPPVpronouncement, at least in Jackson’s discernment.

The SPPV is not a rule book.  It is not a manual for administrative policy or performance.  It is primarily an outlook focusing on college students who can, with assistance, explore and master their world and contribute to the betterment of local, national, and global society.

In 1932, Professor George Counts of Columbia University was urging educators to examine the relationship of education to social action.  Following his visits to Asia, he confronted students in classrooms and auditoriums with the question from the title of his book, Dare the Schools Build a New Social Order?8

At that time, in the marketplace of ideas, there was mandated the National Youth Administration, with its concerns for Negro youth, assumed by Mrs. Mary McLeod Bethune, educator and advisor to Mrs. Roosevelt.  Thereafter in 1939, the National Youth Commission was formed under the direction of Dr. Homer Rainey posing the question of his 1937 book, How Fare American Youth? He contended: “There must be no widening gap between youth and society” (p. v).9 The Commission’s interrogation proceeded on two key questions: Shall success be measured in terms of money? and Shall there be a national service developed to enlist the loyalties of youth? Both questions have resurfaced in successive decades in policy formation.

The Influence of News Media

The period of 1938-39 was marked by President Roosevelt’s New Deal.  Newspaper editors, radio newscasters, and platform speakers addressed public policy, giving critical as well as, complimentary comment.  The foremost political theorist and journalist of the era was Walter Lippmann, regarded as a one-man State Department.  In his book, The Good Society, a 1937 publication, he stated what all counselors and advisors to students believe, “Man is an inviolable, self-respecting human person (p. X).”10

Lippmann used the term as it was used four centuries earlier (1592), stating that man must be kept sacredly free from profanation, infraction, and assault.  In one of his columns, Lippmann (1937) praised creators and visionaries; one of whom was Amelia Earhart.  He wrote:

They [discoverers like Earhart] do not know what they discover.  They do not know where their impulse is taking them.  They can give no account [in advance] [of where they are going or explain completely] where they have been.  They have been possessed for a time with extraordinary [passion which is unintelligible] in ordinary terms. (p. 348)

There are creators and visionaries who can be cited for their efforts to contribute to social betterment through philanthropy.  Boorstin (1983) calls them “discoverers” in their exploration of the universe of wealth.  In 1936, the report of John Maynard Keynes (Perkins, Leininger, & Perkins, 1987) appeared [and was] vigorously debated.  Its content was viewed both analytically and critically in the media.

As Boorstin (1983) notes, the Keynes Report (YEAR) recounted the shift of traditional economic theory from its base in the impersonal marketplace to the actual street scenes worldwide where human wastage and despair, resulting from unemployment, were rampant.

In 1937, the deaths of Andrew Mellon and John D. Rockefeller occurred.  Industrialists, financiers, and philanthropists, the two became beneficiaries for higher education in American colleges and universities following the Great Depression.  In the sessions, the conferees were reminded of the Keynes’ redefinitions of economic theory, which figured into their plans for assisting students in developing to the limits of their potential.  Out of this liaison of great wealth and great need has come some initial means for evaluating the theory born of 1937 times – education for all and employment for all.

The Influence of Novels and Films

The third influence upon conferees includes the works of writers of novels and film adaptations – Saroyan, Hemingway, Huxley, O’Neill and Steinbeck.  In the forefront were Steinbeck’s novels, Of Mice and Men and Grapes of Wrath.  Steinbeck, holder of both Pulitzer and Nobel prizes, is viewed as a literary cameraman.  The story of George and Lennie in Of Mice and Men is one of social dropouts…”transients follow the harvests…bucking grain bags and invoking the dream of owning a little farm” (p. #)

Steinbeck raises two questions: Is the good society impossible because humanity is flawed? (Note the difference between Lippmann and Steinbeck in the assessment of man.)  And a second question: What are the economic and social barriers creating loneliness, disaffiliation and disadvantage?

Steinbeck knew America—the waterfront, the farmlands of California, its Midwest cities—as places where the benefits of the general welfare and the blessings of liberty were missing.  He was pointing, say analysts, to the gap between great charters, constitutions, declarations, and points of view as expressed in the language of law, agreement, and covenants.

The three influences – educational philosophy, communication in print and airwaves, and in novels and films – provided background for the committee of 16 who put the mood of the times, with its overlapping, interfusing and blending, into the student perspective.  What emerged was the transcendent idea – name it as you chose: a declaration, a charter, a compact, a mandate, or creed – for that time.


Theodore White wrote that the Constitution of the United States was an idea that became a nation.  It can be said that the 1937 SPPV is an idea which became a profession or, if not that, a document giving stature – a vision of possibility for becoming a profession.  So emerged the transcendent idea – one for all of higher education in America – far beyond the usual promise for its day and time.

Dr. John Opper policy analyst for the Florida Postsecondary Education Planning Commission, summarized the current struggle within the student personnel ranks:

As a profession possessing its own research base, together with standards for preparation and performance, the student personnel specialists, and student affairs and development staff demonstrate not one unified point of view but multiple views.  There are many voices, many standard bearers – these constituting a collection of points of view.  This state of affairs confuses entrants to the field, complicates decisions on general funding as well as fiscal rewards for individual performance within the field. Student personnel work continues to search for its evolving identity as a large-scale movement within the diversities of higher education.

In its membership, there is diversity almost unparalleled in other fields of specialty.  In it lies the promise of continuing strength or the warnings of epitaph in under-performance:

  • We are the business oriented: the management prone.
  • We are the keepers of records: the keepers of law.
  • We are the technically oriented: the computer “byten”.
  • We are the elder statesmen: orating from pulpit and press.
  • We are the young firebrands: pied pipers without burnout.
  • We are the humanists, anthropologists, sociologists, political scientists, biologists, psychologists, technologists, and more.
  • For we are what O’Shaunnessey wrote in his matchless verse: “We are the Music Makers and [We are] Dreamers of Dreams.11
  • And, if permissible in print as it was in voice [in] Chicago in 1987, one could repeat the bold line of 1937: “We are the ones who do give a damn!”

Questions for Consideration

  • Like Hardee, others (e.g., Evans & Reason, 2001) consider the SPPV to be an important (if not the most important) statement of student affairs philosophy. Is the SPPV a philosophy? If so, is this philosophy sufficient to guide student affairs practice in the 21st Century?
  • Hardee posits that educational philosophy, communication (news media), and novels/film shaped the thinking of the committee of 16. How do current educational philosophy, communication (read: social media), and popular culture shape our thinking about the purpose/role of higher education?
  • An important aspect of the 1937 SPPV deals with the need to coordinate a number of activities, not the least of which was the coordination of student personnel services and academic affairs. What evidence exists that this coordination has taken place? Would Dr. Hardee be satisfied with the current state of student affairs-academic affairs collaboration?


1. Krajewski, B. (1992). Traveling with Hermes: Hermeneutics and rhetoric. Amherst, MA:  University of Massachusetts Press.
2. We acknowledge Dr. Hardee’s assertion, but conventional usage has shortened the Student Personnel Point of View to SPPV as opposed to SPPOV.

3. Roosevelt, F. D. (1937, January 20). Second inaugural address. Retrieved from Great Books Online website”
4. West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, 300 U.S. 379 (1937)

5. Lindblom, C. E. (Spring, 1959) The science of “muddling through.” Public Administration Review, 19(2), 79-88.
6.  Hopkins, L. B. (1926). Personnel procedure in education: Observations and conclusions resulting from visits to fourteen institutions of higher learning. The Educational Record (Supplement, No. 3). Washington, DC: American Council on Education.

7. American Council on Education consultant, E. G. Williamson, recommended to FSU a new organizational structure. It is this newly created coordinator of guidance position that Hardee assumed in 1948. In1959, she helped establish the FSU Department of Higher Education and assumed the title of professor.

8.  Counts, G. S. (1932). Dare the school to build a new social order. New York, NY: John Day, Co.

9. Rainey, H. P. (1937). How fare American youth? New York, NY: Appleton-Century.

10. “The root of the passion which has moved such men is in some measure present in all men; it is the will to live, not as an animal, but as an inviolable, self-respecting and respected, human person. Lippmann, W. (1939, December 14). Today and tomorrow: “The Bill of Rights”, New York Herald Tribune. Reprinted in Rossiter, C., & Lare, J. (Eds.). (1963). The essential Lippmann: A political philosophy for liberal democracy. New York, NY: Random House.

11. O’Shaughnessy, A. (1847). Ode. In Music and moonlight. London, England: Chatto and Windus.


American Council on Education. (1937). The student personnel point of view (American Council on Education Studies, Series 1, Vol., No. 3). Washington, DC: Author.

Boorstin, D. J. (1983).  The discoverers. New York, NY: Random House.

Dewey, J. (1990). The school and society. In J. Dewey, The school and society & The child and the curriculum. Chicago, IL. University of Chicago. (Original work published 1900).

Elliott, E. (1988). Columbia literacy history of the United StatesNew York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Gadamer, H. (1992). The expressive power of language: Of the function of rhetoric for knowledge. (Bruce Krajewski, Trans.). Publications of Modern Language Association in America, 107(2), 345-347).

Grun, B. (1946). The timetables of history: A horizontal linkage of people and events.  New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Hardee, M. D. (1959). The faculty in college counseling. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Books Company.

Jackson, P. (1990). Introduction.  In J. Dewey, The school and society. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Leonard, E. A. (1956). Origins of personnel services in American higher education. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis.

Lippmann, W. (1937, July 8). Amelia Earhart. New York Herald Tribune. [Reprinted in Avlon,

J., Angelo, J., & Louis, E. (2011). Deadline Artists: America’s greatest newspaper columns. New York, NY: Overlook Press.]

Perkins, G., Leininger, B., & Perkins, P. (1987). Benet’s reader’s encyclopedia of American literature (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.

National Archives and Record Administration (1988). Celebrating the Constitution: A bicentennial retrospective. Prologue—Quarterly of the National Archives. (Special Issue) National Archives Trust Fund Board: Washington, D.C.

National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (1989). Points of view 1937-1949-1987.  National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (With permission of the American Council on Education). Washington, D.C.

Schlesinger, A. M., Jr. (1983). The almanac of American history. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Schlesinger, A. M., Jr. (1986). The cycles of American history. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Schlesinger, A. M., Jr. (1986, July 27). The challenge of change. New York Times Magazine, pp. 20-21.

Steel, R. (1980). Walter Lippmann and the American century. New York, NY: Vintage Books.

Perspectives: An Ethical Exploration: Violations of the Law and Differential Treatment Between College Students and Non-Students

Perspectives: An Ethical Exploration: Violations of the Law and Differential Treatment Between College Students and Non-Students

Nicholas A. Clegorne
Louisiana State University
Jonathon M. Hyde
Louisiana State University
Rony Die
Louisiana State University

A focus on students is the hallmark of the student affairs profession. However, an ethical dilemma emerges when one considers if our treatment of students is inadvertently unfair to non-students. Do institutions of higher education inadvertently privilege the students they serve when those students violate the law? Is it fair that non-students are processed through the criminal justice system for the same offense treated as learning opportunities for students? Could the criminal justice system learn something from the developmental approaches often taken by colleges and universities?

These questions and others are explored by the authors in this examination of fairness and differential treatment in our society. First, we pose two case studies and a typology we hope will illustrate examples of fairness and differential treatment between student and non-student populations. Second, we discuss the ways these cases compare and contrast to adjudication practices outside of the university.  Finally, we pose questions that may prove helpful in illuminating this complex ethical issue. While there are no definitive solutions, discussion generated from this column could lead to increased interest in the topic, new directions for research, and hopefully a greater understanding of the complexities involved. We hope this column can be a catalyst for further exploration, discussion, and understanding regarding institutional practices and the choices we make as a society regarding how we treat alleged student and non-student offenders.

Case Studies

In order to examine the differential treatment between college students and non-students, hypothetical scenarios are described next. While an express purpose is to present a well thought out explanation of the potential consequences for the involved individuals (Non-student A and Student B), it is important to note there are other variables not discussed here that may affect the outcome. Indeed, it is more likely that the illustrated scenarios represent several points along a continuum of potential responses. In other words, while we present a completely developmental strategy on one hand and a punitive approach on the other, there are many options in between.

Illicit marijuana use was selected for these scenarios because this was a common offense at the institutions familiar to the authors. In order to better allow one to compare the two case studies, we assume all identity-based characteristics of the students are equal, other than their college enrollment status. Conversations with local police confirmed that similar instances were handled quite differently off campus than on campus. Confusing the issue further, some federal and state laws conflict regarding the illegality of marijuana use. Additionally, there is much evidence to suggest that age, race, and socioeconomic status all can, and often do, play a part in determining the nature and severity of consequences for legal infractions regardless of student status (Lynch, Patterson, & Childs, 2008; Neubauer & Fradella, 2011). The complexity suggests it is difficult to state whether such behavior is illegal all of the time in every place (“Federal Marijuana Law,” n.d.). Even so, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) (21 U.S.C. § 811) suggests that illicit marijuana use is typically against the law in most regions of the United States. Rather than becoming bogged down in the specifics of this particular crime, we hope the reader will view illicit marijuana use as a vehicle for discussion. One might substitute theft or stalking for marijuana and convene a similar discussion.

Case study 1: Non-student A 

Non-student A is a high school graduate, but is not enrolled in college. Non-student A is smoking marijuana alone in his private residence when a neighbor or passer-by smells the odor and calls the police. As is typical from the authors’ experience, when police arrive they confirm the smell and decide to investigate.  Shortly thereafter Non-student A hears loud banging on the front door followed by, “Open up! This is the police!” shouted from outside. Non-student A delays complying with the request because he is attempting to hide the evidence of his marijuana use. He eventually allows the officer to enter and search the domicile. The officer smells the strong smell of marijuana and notices a pipe and a plastic bag of what appears to be marijuana sitting in a box on the kitchen counter.

Case study 2: Student B 

Student B is also a high school graduate but unlike Non-student A is enrolled in a four-year college. Student B lives in a residence hall on campus, in a room shared with one roommate. Student B is alone in his room on campus, smoking marijuana, when he hears a knock on the door, and his resident assistant says, “This is your RA, I need you to open the door.” Student B delays complying with the request because he is attempting to hide the evidence of his marijuana use.  He eventually allows the resident assistant to enter. Inside the room, the resident assistant notices the strong smell of marijuana, a pipe, and plastic bag of what appears to be marijuana sticking out of a messenger bag on the coffee table.

A Typology of Potential Outcomes

First, an examination of the potential outcomes of Student B’s situation is warranted. As a student at a four-year college, Student B could potentially be facing a wide variety of consequences for his actions. It has been the authors’ experience, through roles as student affairs professionals at eight different postsecondary institutions that university responses can vary dramatically. Three types of university responses to these cases will be described. The responses presented below are not meant to be a comprehensive list but should be seen as guideposts along a spectrum of potential responses.

Type 1: No campus police involvement 

In the first type of institution the situation is handled within the confines of the university, and campus police are typically not called to the residence in the first place. In a Type 1 institution, the resident assistant calls a professional staff member who comes to Student B’s residence. The professional staff member documents the situation, and the marijuana and paraphernalia may or may not be destroyed. The professional staff member then attempts to provide resources and support to Student B. In lieu of accountability measures, resources and guidance are directed to Student B in an attempt to increase the student’s knowledge of the potential consequences of drug use. Additionally, information is provided to promote the student’s welfare and success. In a Type 1 institution, there are no academic or judicial implications for Student B, and his criminal record is not affected.

Type 2: Campus-based educational adjudication

At type 2 institutions, the campus police are notified, confiscate the marijuana and pipe, and dispose of them. The campus police ask the resident assistant to document the situation, but no criminal arrest is made. Student B then progresses through the institution’s conduct system, which typically involves educational sanctions that seek to ensure the safety of the community and engage the student in a developmental process. In a Type 2 institution, an administrator may or may not record the incident and resolution in Student B’s university conduct record.The student’s criminal record is not affected.

Type 3: Criminal arrest 

Finally, at type 3 institutions, the campus police are notified, confiscate the marijuana and pipe, and process them as evidence of a crime. The campus police make a report of the situation and either issue Student B a summons or arrest him or her. The resident assistant also documents the situation and directs it through the student conduct process. In a type 3 institution, Student B’s criminal record is almost certainly affected. This incident may also be recorded in the university conduct record, depending on the student conduct response.

Now that the potential responses to Student B’s situation have been presented, one may take a closer look at what will most likely happen to Non-student A. Non-student A may face a range of consequences including being arrested and processed through the criminal justice system.

Discussion and Conclusion

Having described the potential consequences for marijuana offenses facing both Non-student A and Student B, the focus turns to the potential ethical dilemma created by this set of responses. The authors believe that institutions rooted in developmental practice are important for not only the development of individual students but also U.S. culture and society. When conduct policies designed to encourage better decision-making are successful it is likely that both the individual and society benefit. Another perspective is to consider whether such a difference in procedure is fair to our students and non-student counterparts.  Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines a double standard as “a set of principles that applies differently and usually more rigorously to one group of people or circumstances than to another” (“Double Standard”, n.d.).  With his in mind one may question whether a double standard is created when, intentionally or not, students enjoy varying degrees of greater support and differential treatment than their non-student counterparts.

Questioning the differential treatment of students and non-students is not meant as an indictment of developmental student conduct practices. To the contrary, the authors completely support the concept of developmental conduct processes within the university but cannot ignore that this attitude is less prominent outside the university. In short, if college is about preparing students for a real world, where developmental adjudication strategies are in short supply (Natarajan, 2010), is it ethical to prime students in a culture that is counter to the real world?

Student affairs professionals seeking to develop students may be inclined to suggest the university’s developmental approach to student accountability is superior to that of society at large. While the authors agree with such an assertion, it is beside the point for this discussion. The question is not whether judicial systems outside of the university are overly prescriptive and intolerant. Neither is the question whether the university system is fairer or more just when viewed in a vacuum. In general the authors feel the real question is whether both systems, existing simultaneously, present an ethical conundrum for state and university officials.

Is such a model ethical and fair? Some would ask why college students, who already represent a privileged population, should get a second chance when other community members (non-student) their age might not. Furthermore, is it possible the university purpose and funding regarding behavioral response compared to that of U.S. society generates a system which is unfair to those inside and outside of the academy? With regards to this last question, the authors invite discussion on the ethics surrounding beginning a college student’s adult life with added protection of a developmental process only to release the student into a world where such luxuries are less available. Additionally, we raise the question about absence of a developmental process for non-students.

One natural suggestion of student affairs practitioners is that colleges might collaborate with federal, state and local municipalities in order to bring societal solutions external to the university more in line with practices within the academy. Indeed, universities, particularly flagship and land grant institutions, do have an expressed responsibility to contribute to the community outside of their own gates, but practitioners must be careful not to overstep in such roles. While the authors believe such cooperation to be integral to the expressed concerns highlighted in this piece, it is potentially problematic to assume that the local citizens (more specifically voters) in the community near an institution support developmental sanctions to the same extent of student affairs practitioners. There is evidence to suggest this distrust of development within the rehabilitation movement in the American prison system (Natarajan, 2010). Perhaps better outreach programs from universities could help to mitigate this obstacle.

Harry Dammer, in an edited volume by Mangai Natarajan (2010), described the sentiment of the American populous regarding prisons. In short, prisons in the early 20th century were cruel institutions reminiscent of dungeons. These were replaced by a system that purportedly sought to educate and rehabilitate through a number of psychological, physical, and career-based applications. However, by the 1970s the American public clamored for a more punitive model, and politicians and policy makers complied. While public opinion may or may not have changed since the 1970s, “the call for increasing severity of sentences has been driven by ‘penal populism’, a term used to describe crime policies that are formed by politicians in their attempt to appease the public and their call for punitiveness” (Naterajan, 2010, p. 93).  Pratt (2007) claimed this phenomenon is still true. Pratt also suggested the control and drive of politicians to keep the system punitive is real regardless of whether they understand or have adequately questioned the opinions of their constituents.

In contrast, universities typically seek to create teachable moments out of student conduct violations. Generally, only the most egregious acts result in suspension or expulsion, which are the greatest sanctions available to an institution. This seems trite compared to the possibility of incarceration. Certainly, students can suffer heavier legal punishments, but in the authors’ experience, many times (as in types 1, 2 described above and the spectrum in between) the university is able to choose whether to report the crime or handle it internally. Here it is important to remember there are a spectrum of responses. Based on experience, some universities are heavily dependent on a community standard approach, which often avoids legal action while, on the opposite end to the continuum, others use police almost exclusively to approach behavioral response. We find that most institutions fall somewhere in between. In most cases some form of probation or educational sanction supported by a number of student affairs practitioners and/or faculty is devised to help the student learn from their mistakes and succeed in the long run. On the other hand the notion of rehabilitation often seems like the punch line of a bad joke in the criminal justice system. At best, most people describe criminal sentences as “repaying one’s debt to society.”

Comparing campus judicial proceedings with criminal adjudication we can see a difference in ideology. The university seeks to invest in the individual, and conversely, society seeks to punish the guilty party. Based on conversations with many experienced student conduct administrators within different states and institution types, we found some agreement that if local, state, and federal governments had the resources to provide services similar to those offered in the universities to convicted criminals that such a system could be very good for society. Conduct administrators also discussed with us that such a system is difficult to attain. The modern American democracy, a servant of the American voter and taxpayer, would require immense resources to support this type of system. Not only would many more hours of work be required becoming costly, but the American public would have to support the perspective that the criminal justice system should be about rehabilitation as opposed to punishment. Given the prevailing concept of penal populism (Natarajan, 2010), a shift to a developmental approach seems unlikely.

Scholars and researchers in the area of criminal justice agree that the courts, police, and prisons are overtaxed (Goldkamp & Vîlcicã, 2009; Lurigio & Snowden, 2009; Scott, 2009; Worden & Davies, 2009). Furthermore, at every university familiar to the authors, this greatly overloaded criminal justice system is often happy to allow universities to take care of their own offenders for two reasons. First, in a system where there are impossibly long courtroom dockets, too few police on the streets, and too many convicted individuals in the prison system, the criminal justice system seems thankful part of the load to be taken by other organizations. Second, we can see where some might argue if society cannot offer the same treatment to everyone, at least each person who can be rehabilitated or developed through university conduct processes is a victory. The combined effect is that a system is created where the academy is allowed to sanction along completely different guidelines than the criminal justice system.

Here the authors will briefly describe some thoughts in the direction of potential solutions, which we hope will lead discussion towards greater problem-solving efforts. Specific attention is needed to both research and outreach. First, studies which examine the effects of university conduct procedures on students after college may allow student affairs practitioners to better acknowledge whether there is merit to the concerns regarding transition to life after college.  Further inquiry into transfer of the desired outcomes of the development process may provide greater support for contemporary strategies or prompt reform. Second, outreach to municipal legal and penal systems has the potential for two-fold success. On one hand the developmental approach used in colleges and universities might better help prevent and/or lessen crime while also helping to rehabilitate offenders. On the other hand, face-to-face interactions with crime outside academe could establish new ways of thinking in university conduct processes.

The ethical dilemma is with the existence of two environments that are separate yet operating side by side. The first favors development along a continuum exemplified by university conduct processes varying greatly in application. The second seems more focused on punishment as a result of perceived public opinion. The long-term solution to relieving the tension in this dilemma would be to bring each of the systems more in line with each other to remove the possibility of the double standard expressed above. Ideally a change in governmental policy to come more in line with developmental methods seems more appropriate. The optimism of the authors leads us believe great strides can be made to this end, but our shared pessimism has us considering how changing complex and politically charged issues will be a long and arduous process. The authors have suggested further research and outreach is needed to accomplish real strides towards bringing university and societal systems in-line. With this in mind we suggest that a short-term analysis also take place. While the authors fully support greater efforts at research and practice in the former long-term solution, we believe a short-term solution such as collaborations between student affairs conduct officers and local judicial servants resulting in an increased communication would be helpful in bringing awareness to this issue..

Discussion Questions

  • Regarding a developmental approach versus a more punitive style, which system is more appropriate given the realities of our world?
  • Can the student conduct and criminal systems work together?
  • Can either community (the university or society) trade their system for or merge their system with the other?
  • There are compelling reasons why the academy handles conduct in the manners it chooses, but is this ethical in light of the greater expectations of the municipality. If not, what should be done?
  • Where does your institution fall on the spectrum of typology presented?
  • What are the implications of where your institution is on the spectrum?
  • Do contemporary practices in student conduct on your campus appropriately correct behavior before students exit the institution, or do they simply provide a false expectation of leniency to privileged students?  What evidence do you have to support your claim(s)?
  • How could student affairs professionals reconcile any differences that may exist between  personal philosophies regarding conduct and that of your university regarding this type of situation?



Double Standard. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster online. Retrieved from…

Federal marijuana law. (n.d.). [Americans for Safe Access web site]. Retrieved from http://www.safeaccessnow. org/article.php?id=2638

Goldkamp, J. S., & Vîlcicã., E. R. (2009). Judicial discretion and the unfinished agenda of American bail reform: Lessons from Philadelphia’s evidence-based judicial strategy. In A. Sarat (Ed.), Special issue: New perspectives on crime and criminal justice (pp. 115-157). [Special issue].Studies in Law, Politics and Society, 47.

Lurigio, A. J., & Snowden, J. (2009). Putting therapeutic jurisprudence into practice: The growth, operations, and effectiveness of mental health court. Justice System Journal, 30, 196.

Lynch, M. J., Patterson, E. B., & Childs, K. K. (Eds.). (2008). Racial divide: Racial and ethnic bias in the criminal justice system. Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice Press.

Natarajan, M (Ed.). (2010). International Crime and Justice. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Neubauer, D.W. &, Fradella, H.F. (2011). America’s courts and the criminal justice system.

Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Pratt, J. (2007. Penal populism. New York, NY: Routeledge

Scott, M. S. (2009), Progress in American policing? Reviewing the national reviews. Law & Social Inquiry, 34, 169–185.

Worden, A. P., & Davies, A. L. B. (2009). Protecting due process in a punitive era: Analysis of changes in providing counsel to the poor. Special issue: New perspectives on crime and criminal justice (pp. 71–113). [Special issue]. Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, 47.

About the Authors

Nicholas A. Clegorne is an Assistant Director in the Louisiana State University (LSU) Department of Residential Life and a Ph.D. Candidate in Educational Leadership Research and Counseling (Higher Education Administration) at LSU.

Jonathon Hyde is the Associate Director for Residence Education and interim Director of the Center for Academic Success at LSU.

Rony Die is a Residence Life Coordinator in the Department of Residential Life at LSU.

Please send inquiries to Nicholas A. Clegorne  [email protected] 

The opinions expressed by Developments author(s) are not necessarily those of the Developments editorial board or those of ACPA members, Governing Board, Leadership, or International Office Staff.

Race-Conscious Admission Alternatives

Since the 1960’s lawmakers, educators, and university administrators have debated race-based admission policies. During the past 50 years, many legislators and university administrators have worked to achieve equitable levels of minority student enrollment within American colleges and universities. Based on the goals, values, policy alternatives, the costs of each alternative, and the probability of meeting goals for each alternative, universities and university systems established race-based admission policies and practices (Hicklin, 2007, p. 332). There is an ongoing debate between those who support and those who oppose race-conscious admission processes intended to increase minority student enrollment. Race-based admission policies and programs are intended to give students of diverse backgrounds the opportunity to learn through the various perspectives of their classmates and enrich the learning environment, as well as to help to produce well-educated, well-trained students ready to take on leadership positions within the global business sector, government, and society (Bowen & Rudenstine, 2003).

According to Hicklin (2007) supporters of race-conscious admission processes argue that they give minority students an increased probability of gaining admission into an institution, and that without the consideration of race in admissions, colleges and universities will see a decrease in minority admissions (p. 331). Many supporters of the use of race-conscious admission processes argue that by eliminating race-conscious admission processes minority students will forgo attending college, or attend out-of-state institutions that conduct race-conscious admission processes. However, studies show that judicial and legislative restrictions on race-conscious admission processes do notreduce the number of minority students in a state. Instead, judicial and legislative restrictions redistribute minority students among less selective institutions where the quality of education is much lower (Hicklin, 2007, p.337).

In Gratz v. Bollinger et al (2000) the University of Michigan stressed the educational value of diversity. Diversity brings about a larger capacity for the expansion of knowledge through the diversity of perspectives, beliefs, and backgrounds. Despite the educational value of diversity, race-conscious admission processes still hardwire inequities into our system (Frye, 2004). For instance, some view these processes as reverse racism, because these processes put other students (i.e., Caucasian) at a disadvantage based on their race. For many years the pioneers of the civil rights movement fought for equality, and now many support a discriminatory system that is said to increase diversity of our colleges and universities.

I do not support the use of race-conscious admission processes. There are many alternatives to using such processes. Instead of using race as a factor in making admission decisions, institutional leaders, lawmakers, and educators can make a shared effort to target the needs of perspective minority students. The admission of minority students into an institution will not increase diversity at that institution because admission does not equal enrollment.

When deciding to choose a university, many students conduct a basic cost-benefit analysis that helps them to decide where they choose to enroll (Hicklin, 2007, p.333). Thus, diversity initiatives should focus on minority student enrollment, rather than admission. Students look at their perceived probability of gaining admission, the perceived benefits of the university, and the perceived costs that will be incurred to attend the university (Hicklin, 2007, p.333). Many agree that the minority student enrollment rate needs to be increased; how to do that is where the issue lies. Race-conscious admission policies target minority students’ perceived probability of gaining admission, rather than focusing on factors that lead to an actual enrollment. To increase minority student enrollment I urge colleges and universities to focus on minority students’ perception of benefits (e.g., academic programs, job opportunities, alumni networks, social/professional organizations) and perceived cost of attendance. By focusing on these factors, institutions can create narrowly tailored programs that will produce the desired outcome: increased minority enrollment.

Rather than relying on race-conscious admission policies, Lehmuller and Gregory (2005) describe other practices institutions can use to cultivate and attract well-prepared minority applicants:

  1. Establish support programs in high schools that better prepare minority and economically disadvantaged students for admission;
  2. Recruit from community colleges that have large minority populations;
  3. Place less emphasis on standardized tests, and more emphasis on personal interviews; and
  4. Increase consideration of economic factors in awarding financial aid (p.445)

While the goals of many institutions is to increase minority student enrollment, it is also important for them to recognize the value of student support, which is vital to the retention of students. Lehmuller and Gregory (2005) encourage student affairs administrators to provide support for all students with limited academic abilities or those who do not have strong support systems (e.g., family, clubs, sports teams, etc.) (p.445); this can be achieved by:

  1. Providing learning assistance programs for minority and first-generation college students;
  2. Providing proactive and appropriate advising from admission to graduation;
  3. Providing learning communities that stress academic support and cohort development across all races;
  4. Forming coalitions with other local institutions so students can have external support;
  5. Providing outreach and support to those taking developmental courses; and
  6. Working closely with community colleges to develop academic support for likely transfer students (Lehmuller & Gregory, 2005, p. 455-456).

These practices provide alternatives to using race when making admission decisions that will ultimately increase student enrollment and retention.

According to Bowen and Rudenstine (2003) the goal of higher education is to give students of diverse backgrounds the opportunity to learn through the various perspectives of their classmates, enrich the learning environment, and produce well-educated, well-trained students ready to take on leadership positions within business, government, and society. Institutions can achieve this goal if they implement programs that target student enrollment and retention instead of utilizing race-conscious admission processes. These types of programs do not put other non-minority students at a disadvantage, better meet the needs of minority students, and are more likely to graduate minority students who are well-prepared for leadership roles in society.


Bowen, W.G., & Rudenstine, N. C. (2003). Race-sensitive admissions: Back to basics. Chronicle of Higher Education. 49(22), p. B7.

Frye, J. (2004). Preparing MPA students for the public interest workplace. Journal of Public Affairs Education. 10(2), 165-167. Retrieved from:

Gratz v. Bollinger et al. 122 F. Supp. 2d 811 (E.D. Mich. 2000), No 97-75928, 2001 W.L. 315715 (E.D. Mich. April 3, 2001).

Hicklin, A. (2007). The effect of race-based admissions in public universities: Debunking the myths about Hopwood and Proposition 209. Public Administration Review. 67, 331-340. Retrieved from:

Lehmuller, P., & Gregory, D.E. (2005). Affirmative action: From before Bakke to after Grutter. NASPA Journal. 42(4), 430-459. Retrieved from:

Please send inquiries and feedback to Jammie Jelks at [email protected].

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Sudent Development Theory as a Foundation for Educational Practice: A Call to the Profession

Sudent Development Theory as a Foundation for Educational Practice: A Call to the Profession

The following article presents the outcomes of discussions from a student development think tank held in November 2002 in Indianapolis and funded by a grant from ACPA’s Educational Leadership Foundation. The think tank was an outgrowth of programs on student development theory held at the 2001 and 2002 ACPA National Conventions in which both presenters and participants affirmed the importance of student development theory. The think tank discussions addressed the future direction for student development theory research, theory-based practice, and related education, training, and professional development. Participants were: Dea Forney, Marylu McEwen, and Linda Reisser (the grant authors); Marcia Baxter Magolda, John Hernandez, Susan Jones, Terry Piper, Raechele Pope, Donna Talbot, and Vasti Torres (invitees). A draft of this document was presented for discussion and feedback at a program during the 2003 ACPA Convention in Minneapolis. This end product is an invitation to the profession to engage in reflection, dialogue, and action to integrate student development theory and practice for 21st century education.


We’re living in topsy-turvy times, and I think that what causes the topsy-turvy feeling is inadequacy of old forms of thought to deal with new experiences. I’ve heard it said that the only real learning results from hang-ups, where instead of expanding the branches of what you already know, you have to stop and drift laterally for a while until you come across something that allows you to expand the roots of what you already know.

Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974, pp. 163-164)

We are still living in topsy-turvy times that, perhaps more so than ever before, are demanding new ways of thinking, believing, and acting, and this is more likely to happen in the presence of multiple perspectives and diverse life experiences. The environmental contexts of today’s higher education institutions pose challenges such as declining resources, institutional values and reward systems that may be based more on student satisfaction than student learning and development, technological advances that may limit face to face relationships, ever more increasing demands on a fixed amount of faculty and staff time, and student behavioral problems that violate safe and civil learning environments (e.g., alcohol abuse, relationship violence, and hate incidents).

Student affairs educators have a responsibility to respond to such challenges. Student development theories, along with critical analysis of these theories, can serve as a powerful guide for practice as a framework for viewing, comprehending, and reflecting on today’s campus climates and as a potential design tool for action. While not the only guide for practice, student development theories represent a resource that may be even more valuable now than in the past. As always, using theory intelligently, tentatively, and empathically is recommended.

We, as think tank participants, advocate for reflective practice, an approach to one’s work that integrates thinking and doing, that resists the tendency to permit the urgent to displace the important, and that recognizes the value of informal theory, i.e., theory generated from observations of the individual practitioner’s students and context, as a guide. We argue for a shift away from a reactive, problem driven practice to a more proactive, educational role. Clearly, at times a problem focus must dominate practice. However, as an ongoing, overriding operating style, such an approach imposes limits in regard to the impact of the student affairs profession on both students and institutions. Moreover, student development theory is not at odds with the day to day reality of student affairs work nor with the need to address problems. In fact, student development theory can be used to create a more meaningful and purposeful educational experience; it is a tool for constructing meaning; it speaks to the deepest reasons for being on the planet: to actualize potential, offer gifts, and evoke the best self. Student development theory has the potential to contribute to answers to pressing questions.

It is crucial that undergraduate education be reshaped to achieve the goal of preparing learners for adult life in the 21st century United States. The expertise to accomplish this goal potentially rests to a large degree with student affairs educators because of both our deep knowledge of students and our unique role in the academy. Student affairs educators also need to reshape student affairs practice to promote development. Although the profession has for the past thirty years endorsed student development as a foundation for practice, there are some who question whether student affairs educators as a whole know the knowledge base and use it in consistent, intentional, and appropriately sophisticated and complex ways.

A 21st Century Vision of Student Development Theory

We, as think tank participants, advocate a more integrated, less fragmented approach to theory development and use. We advocate both evolution and revolution. Evolution of theory, for example, encourages theory changes as populations change. Revolution, on the other hand, suggests the creation of new “interdisciplinary” theories (e.g., a more effective linking of cognitive and psychosocial theories) and additional focus on the multidimensionality of students. In the best of all worlds, we, as a profession, collectively share the role of educator, with different emphases characterizing our specific jobs. We recommend continuing to move toward this ideal role and to share collectively, regardless of job title, the responsibility for building the desired future of theory development and use. In the past, Knefelkamp (1980) has argued for a common language across higher education institutions. What may be more useful today and tomorrow is an ability for student affairs educators to be multilingual, i.e., to be able to acquire and understand multiple languages, lenses, and perspectives, to adapt one’s language to different audiences such as faculty, administrators, and students, to bridge communication gaps in order to provide leadership in reshaping undergraduate education so that the developmental transformations necessary to achieve many of the goals of higher education (e.g., learning, citizenship, ethical behavior, intercultural maturity) happen.

As student affairs educators, we may want to pay particular attention to identifying, promoting, and asserting our unique expertise throughout higher education. Our expertise in student development and its relationship to student learning have virtually untapped potential to transform higher education. By more thoroughly educating our academic colleagues about our unique knowledge base, we may be better able to advocate for students, engage faculty in meaningful exchanges, and more fully transform the academy. It may be helpful at times to substitute “personal transformation” for “student development” and to acknowledge that everyone in the higher education setting has the potential to influence positively the transformation process. Collaborative efforts among faculty, student affairs educators, and students are required to address the complexities and multiple dimensions of these transformations.

We need to re-center student development in the profession. We need to regard facilitating student development as a process of being rather than only a process of doing. We need to integrate theory into ourselves, rather than seeing it only as a tool in a toolbox, so that it becomes a part of who we are. We need to resist the urge for a quick fix and embrace student development as a process that requires deliberate thought and action and care. We need to re-conceptualize theory as being about meaning making and relationships, not just as a vehicle to foster movement toward a particular outcome. In other words, knowledge and use of theory can help student affairs educators develop more effective relationships with students and create environments and opportunities to assist students with their meaning making. Our profession has been prone to trying to create a formula that will work versus cultivating a way of thinking that would give rise to particular actions in particular contexts. We need to encourage student affairs educators to stretch intellectually and to understand and use theories in their complexity instead of providing overly simplistic recipes or one-shot interventions that look good on paper but have few, if any, long-term solutions for complex problems.

We need to remember that theory evolved out of practice and that theory-based practice requires reflection. In turn, reflective practice includes ascribing to the values and beliefs described in the next section; viewing development as a process, not just a targeted activity; focusing on meaning and purpose; and becoming multilingual.

We, as a profession, have the potential to integrate the roles of theorist, practitioner, and educator, but we probably cannot play all of these roles equally well as individual professionals, nor are we likely to be given the time or support from our institutions to try to do so. We, as think tank participants, do believe, however, that it is viable and desirable to strive for the role of intentional educator. This role requires: knowledge of theory; the ability to reflect upon, critique, and challenge self and context; the ability to ground practice in knowledge; and the ability to identify appropriate educational outcomes.

Core Beliefs/Values

The position we advance emerges from a set of core beliefs and values. At the outset, it is important to recognize that the application of student development theory to practice revolves around a nexus of socially constructed theories and individuals’ interactions with them. Perhaps our existing theory base is not only about description of students, but because of the relationship of environments to people within most of the theories, the base is also about description of our educational institutions and how students have responded to them.

An underlying assumption of student development is that the promotion of intentional practice depends on engaging with the following core values:

  • an in-depth understanding and critical analysis of the student development theory knowledge base;
  • an ability to use the existing knowledge base to guide construction of new theory to address contemporary particulars;
  • an in-depth understanding of self in relation to one’s environment;
  • an ability to ground our work in knowledge of self and theory through reflective practice.

Student development theory is important because of its contributions to understanding self and others, meaning making, the core values of the profession, and credibility for the profession. Student development theory can help in the following ways:

  • by serving as a way of understanding, informing, critiquing, and assessing practice;
  • by serving as a design tool to create safe and civil learning environments;
  • by contributing to the development of educational relationships among all members of the campus community that can serve as contexts for transformation.

Engagement with these core values generates the development of certain competencies and promotes intentional practice. Appropriate use of student development theory is not a luxury. Instead it is an essential component of intentional practice.

Principles Underlying Education, Training, and Professional Development

Student personnel workers should not so much be expert technicians as they should be educators in a somewhat unconventional and new sense.

Esther Lloyd Jones & Margaret R. Smith, Student Personnel Work as Deeper Teaching (1954, p. 12)

The ability to use student development theory depends upon a student affairs educator’s depth and breadth of knowledge of theory and how this knowledge is integrated into the core of one’s professional thoughts and behaviors. Knowledge about theories is necessary but not sufficient for effective application.

Education, training, and professional development of student affairs educators is most effective when grounded in theoretical perspectives. Graduate education and professional training and development ought to help practitioners think about and respond to the question, “What guides my practice?”.

It is important to consider the context in which theories were developed. Theories describing intellectual, moral, ego, and psychosocial development and development of social identities have served us well. We need to be well versed in these theories as well as expand our theory base. Continual creation of theory in contemporary contexts is critical.

As a profession, we need to help educators (including graduate students, student affairs educators, and faculty) develop the skills to critique and implement theory and the habit of doing so. We also need to expand the base of those who are knowledgeable about how to construct and critique theory. All student affairs educators, not just selected faculty and practitioners, have the responsibility to be knowledgeable about student development theory and how to construct and critique theory.

In order to successfully apply theory to practice, educators must have a clear sense of expected outcomes. Numerous national reports and particular institutional missions guide us in identifying the desired learning outcomes of college and the characteristics of a college-educated person. Educators must balance these desired outcomes with knowledge about where theory presumes students might be headed and student-constructed desired outcomes (e.g., recognize developmental issues and patterns as well as individual differences).

Recommended Actions

Student development theory has the potential to aid in creating optimal environments, interventions, and opportunities. To this end, we, as think tank participants, offer the following recommendations. Although we recognize that theory development, practice, and education are not discrete variables, we offer recommendations in these categories as a way to begin the process of moving forward toward a more integrated view and a more integrated role for those who engage in student affairs work. To support all three aspects, we recommend the creation of a student development clearinghouse.

Theory Development

We recommend:

  • identifying, reviewing, and critiquing what constitutes the current knowledge base;
  • a shared responsibility in the profession for improving our theory base by engaging in research needed to enhance and expand our theory base;
  • comprehensive, multi-dimensional, multi-campus, multi-method longitudinal studies that address both enduring characteristics and relevant particulars in order to produce a holistic vision;
  • a community of scholars approach, with involvement of faculty, students, and practitioners;
  • changing the culture in regard to the dichotomy between theory and practice;
  • bridging the gap between practitioners and researchers/theorists by reinforcing the idea that practitioners and students can also be researchers and construct theory;
  • hearing students’ voices directly, for example, by listening to and carefully studying student narratives to capture the complexities, richness, and variation in students’ developmental journeys;
  • a collaborative approach to conceptualization, implementation, and interpretation.

Theory-based Practice

We recommend:

  • thinking of using theory as the foundation from which one’s practice emerges rather than thinking of theory as something done after or in addition to one’s day to day practice;
  • showcasing examples of effective theory-based practice, including providing a forum for sharing via publications, presentations, and other formats and reducing the bureaucracy involved;
  • developing an essential reading list, updating it periodically, and maintaining it on a website;
  • having a theory-based practice track at national conferences and creating other conference-like vehicles such as traveling workshops and summer institutes;
  • generating conversations among preparation program faculty, administrators, graduate students, and new professionals about theory-based practice;
  • incorporating standards of theory-based practice into job performance evaluations; research on theory-based practice;
  • finding effective means to utilize theory to address pressing campus issues.

Education, Training, and Professional Development

We recommend:

  • that faculty in graduate education programs be well versed in traditional and emerging theoretical perspectives;
  • that faculty nurture theory development by both themselves and their students by emphasizing both theory content and approaches to theory construction;
  • that faculty serve as role models for students in regard to theory use and construction;
  • re-conceptualizing the professional role from that of “practitioner” to that of “educator”;
  • ongoing professional development opportunities that emphasize increasing self-knowledge and knowledge of students;
  • innovative methods and diverse delivery systems for education, training, and professional development (e. g., e-learning, training tapes, conferences, one time and longer term seminars) to reach as many individuals as possible and to meet the needs of those with varying degrees of prior education and experience;
  • that graduate preparation programs, with the cooperation of supervising practitioners, provide multiple opportunities for intentionally designed structured activity focusing on application of theory to practice and for developing the skills necessary for ongoing reflection.
An Invitation to Dialogue

This document’s aim is to encourage reflection and discussion about student development in the 21st century. To that end, we pose the following questions for both individual and group consideration:

  • To what extent is theory evidenced in our practice?
  • To what extent does our practice influence future theory development?
  • How do we reinforce theory use by practitioners?
  • Have we underestimated the role of context?
  • How can we balance the complexity of theory with the need for the “sound-bite” sized conceptual lenses for busy institutional leaders?
  • Has “putting out brush fires” replaced professional practice?
  • Do we teach theory as an answer versus a process? Do we view theory as a resource to help students make meaning of their own journeys?
  • Do we, as faculty and supervisors, ask our graduate students to be reflective in their practice?
  • Is theory use being masked in a different language, making it more difficult to identify and label?
  • What kind of evidence do we expect to see to know that theory in use is working? What are the expectations for validating theory use in practice, and how will we know when the expectations are achieved?
  • Although there has been an evolution of theory over the past 30 years, has the evolution been commensurate with the changing demographics of students in higher education? Further, has there been an evolution of practice?
  • Can we/do we wish, as a profession, to change the culture of the field?
  • Do we want to infuse student development theory in the student affairs profession? If so, how do we accomplish this infusion?

We invite and encourage student affairs professionals to engage in this dialogue about re-centering student development theory within student affairs. Re-centering student development theory involves embracing this body of knowledge as a way of being in our work. Re-centering student development theory also means engaging in reflective practice and using the knowledge to create more meaningful and purposeful educational experiences for students.

Student development theory became a cornerstone for the student affairs profession in the 1970s and 1980s. It is now time for student affairs professionals to renew our emphasis upon student development theory through theory-based practice, theory development, and education, training, and professional development.