Introduction and Discussion Questions to Part I: Student Activities and Residence Life

Introduction and Discussion Questions to Part I: Student Activities and Residence Life

Matthew Fifolt
Commission for Assessment and Evaluation
Kimberly Kline
Commission for Assessment and Evaluation

For decades, scholars and practitioners in the field of higher education have repeatedly communicated the value and importance of student learning outcomes (Bresciani, Moore Gardner, & Hickmott, 2010; Erwin, 1991; Schuh & Upcraft, 2001), yet our experiences tell us that many student affairs professionals continue to report program outcomes (e.g., student satisfaction, headcounts) as primary evidence of success. Program outcomes, while important, are not sufficient (Getty, Young, & Whitaker-Lea, 2008; Westerberg & Roberts, 2011). To remain vital in today’s tough economic times, students affairs professionals must demonstrate intentional programming that is consistent with institutional goals for undergraduate learning and development (Green, Jones, & Aloi, 2008; Pike, Kuh, McCormick, Ethington, & Smart, 2011).

Why is student affairs so slow to respond? Many colleagues tell us they lack the practical tools for implementing a new assessment strategy. Others have expressed difficulty in translating assessment techniques across departments and units. The goal of this series is to provide road-tested and proven strategies for the assessment of student learning outcomes in functional areas of student affairs, specifically (a) student activities, (b) residence life, (c) career services, and (d) student conduct. Part One of this series will focus on student activities and residence life. Part Two of this series, scheduled to be published in the next issue of Developments, will feature career services and student conduct.

In the first article, Kim Yousey-Elsner and Stella Antic offer promising practices for assessing student learning in student activities. The authors provide a compelling rationale for developing an assessment plan and outline specific steps for completing an assessment cycle in student activities.

In the second article, Amanda Knerr and Jennifer Wright discuss the ways in which residence life can support and enhance the formal academic curriculum through intentional co-curricular learning activities. The authors demonstrate how the practical application of classroom assessment techniques can enhance residence life programming for students and improve real-time data collection by residence life staff members.

As assessment professionals and scholars, we hope that these essays will provide you with new ideas and starting points for conversation about assessment needs. We feel compelled to note; however, that these promising practices are components of comprehensive, participatory assessment plans. Backed by the professional literature, we strongly believe that building a culture of assessment in student affairs requires individuals to envision a system that transcends unit-specific boundaries.

Discussion Questions

As you read these two articles, we would encourage you to consider the following questions specific to these two functional areas of student affairs:

  • How might the learning outcomes of student activities and residence life reinforce one another?
  • Are there situations in which the learning outcomes of these two areas might be in conflict with one another?
  • What types of evidence would support the finding that learning occurred through student participation in programs sponsored by student activities or residence life?

Big Picture

While beyond the scope of this series, there are a number of excellent resources that can help student affairs professionals build a comprehensive assessment plan. Chief among them include:

  • Learning reconsidered: A campus-wide focus on the student experience (National Association of Student Personnel Administrators & American College Personnel Association, 2004)
  • Frameworks for assessing learning and development outcomes (Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education, 2006)
  • Demonstrating student success: A practical guide to outcomes-based assessment of learning and development in student affairs (Bresciani, Gardner & Hickmott, 2010)
  • Assessment Skills and Knowledge (ASK) content standards for student affairs practitioners and scholars (American College Personnel Association, 2007)

For individuals interested in learning more about assessment and the role that student affairs can play in ensuring institutional accountability, we would also recommend the following report:

  • The data-driven student affairs enterprise: Strategies and best practices for instilling a culture of accountability (Education Advisory Board, 2009)


A learning-centered approach to student affairs assessment of student learning and developmental outcomes requires leadership and a vision for bridging the gap between curricular and co-curricular activities. It calls us to deliberately plan and assess programs and services so that our outcomes both resonate with academia and support the educational mission of the institution. Finally, a learning-centered approach to student affairs challenges us to redefine our roles, from administrators to educators, in order to remain relevant on our campuses and competitive in an ever-expanding world of educational options.


Bresciani, M. J., Gardner, M. M., & Hickmott, J. (2009). Demonstrating student success: A practical guide to outcomes-based assessment of learning and development in student affairs. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Education Advisory Board (2009). The data-driven student affairs enterprise: Strategies and best practices for instilling a culture of accountability. Washington, DC: The Advisory Board Company.

Erwin, T. D. (1991). Assessing student learning and development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Getty, L. J., Young, D. Y., & Whitaker-Lea, L. D. (May/June, 2008). Casting the assessment netwide: Capturing all student learning. About Campus, 10-16. DOI: 10.1002/abc.247

Green, A. S., Jones, E., & Aloi, S. (2008). An exploration of high-quality student affairs learning outcomes assessment practices. NASPA Journal, 45(1), 133-157.

Keeling, R. P. (Ed.). (2004). Learning reconsidered: A campus-wide focus on the student experience. Washington, DC: National Association of Student Personnel Administrators & American College Personnel Association.

Pike, G. R., Kuh, G. D., McCormick, A. C., Ethington, C. A., & Smart, J. C. (2011). If and When money matters: The relationships among educational expenditures, student engagement and students’ learning outcomes. Research in Higher Education, 52(1), 81-106.

Schuh, J.H. & Upcraft, M. L. (2001). Assessment practice in Student Affairs. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Strayhorn, T., Creamer, D.G., Miller, T. &, Arminio, J. (2006). Frameworks for assessing learning and development outcomes. Washington DC: Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education.

Westerberg, S., & Roberts, N. (2010-2011). Soaring or snoring: Energizing colleagues in Student affairs about learning outcomes and assessments (Parts I-III). NetResults: Critical Issues for Student Affairs Practitioners.


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.

Making Assessment Meaningful: Practical Assessment Techniques for Residential Environments

Making Assessment Meaningful: Practical Assessment Techniques for Residential Environments

Amanda R. Knerr
Pennsylvania State University
Jennifer Lenfant Wright
Mount St. Mary’s University

In the last decade, there has been an increased understanding that student affairs units have a shared responsibility with academic affairs units for student learning (Greater Expectations National Panel, 2002; Keeling, 2006), including developing opportunities for substantial out-of-classroom or co-curricular learning that enhances the formal academic curriculum. Residential life, as students’ home away from home, provides the optimal environment in which to engage in co-curricular learning opportunities. It is within the residential living environments that students learn skills such as resolving conflict, effectively managing time, understanding how one’s choices impact other’s in the community, identifying one’s own value and beliefs and describing how they differ from other’s within their environment, etc. (Blimling, 2010; Schroeder, Mable & Associates, 1994). Residential life also creates a unique setting in which to extend the classroom experience because it offers a variety of opportunities for faculty, staff, and students. It affords faculty the ability to offer guest presentations or workshops, students the opportunity to create informal study and discussion groups, and staff the ability to cluster students with similar academic pursuits to enhance the classroom learning experience (Inkelas & Wesman, 2003). The residential learning environment provides a rich and complex environment in which to develop intentional learning strategies through a planned residential curriculum model for students and then to assess those learning outcomes (Kerr & Tweedy, 2006). But how does a residential life program move towards creating intentional learning opportunities and how does one assess learning in this environment? This article will explain the process of assessing student learning in the residential setting, provide examples of assessment tools and plans currently utilized by universities, and present the foundation for residential student learning assessment.

Mapping the Learning Environment

The first step in assessing student learning in the residential environment is to determine what specifically is expected of students to learn during their time living on campus. Where will the program focus its attention? What will be the fundamental educational priority for the residential life program at the institution? For some, the priority may focus on issues of social justice or citizenship. For others, the decision may be to focus on issues of respect and responsibility.

The second step is then to create intentional learning outcomes that will guide the actions and activities of the environment. For example, as a result of participating in a specific event, initiative, or activity on your campus, what do you hope for students to take away? These outcomes will determine the programs that need to be put into place and provide a definitive framework for which to assess learning outcomes. One resource that can assist in the development of learning outcomes and assessment strategies include The Framework for Assessing Learning and Development Outcomes (Strayhorn, 2006).

Planning the Assessment

Once the educational priority, learning outcomes, and initiatives have been developed for a residential program, the third step is to develop assessment strategies that provide information about the degree to which students living in the residential community have met the intended outcomes. Traditionally, residential programs have used satisfaction assessments in order to gauge how satisfied students are with their living environment. However, students’ perceptions of satisfaction of actual accomplished learning may not be as accurate as directly observing whether or not students have met the desired learning outcomes. In order to directly assess student learning in the residential environment, a residential life professional can utilize traditional classroom assessment techniques which have relied on direct assessments to guide understanding of student learning and achievement. Direct assessment techniques require students to demonstrate their knowledge or skills through objective tests and/or performance opportunities. Indirect assessments ask students to reflect on what they perceive to have learned rather than demonstrate their learning (Palomba & Banta, 1999). Residential life staff should move to a more balanced approach between direct and indirect assessment techniques to have a more complete picture of what students have learned from participating in residential life programs and services.

Selecting Appropriate Assessment Tools

Angelo and Cross’ 1993 book on classroom assessment techniques may be particularly useful in creating a more balanced approach to assessment. Their classroom assessment techniques have been found to adequately assess students’ on-going learning in the classroom. This text provides specific assessment techniques to assess students’ knowledge acquisition, ways in which to synthesize information, and skills in the application of new knowledge to novel situations. Each assessment technique takes minimal time to prepare and most assessments can be completed by students in just a few minutes, providing rich assessment information on what students are learning relative to specific learning outcomes.

The one minute paper is one such classroom assessment technique that is now widely used (Angelo & Cross, 1993). In this assessment, students respond reflectively to a question posed by the educator. Questions could encompass areas where they learned something new, areas where they still have questions, information that particularly interested them, or a response to how they would respond to a situation. For example, students may participate in an environmental sustainability program held in the residence hall. After the presentation, the facilitator may ask participants to spend one minute describing on a piece of paper at least two different ways that the participant can reduce his/her carbon footprint while living in the residence halls. The participants can write a short reflection piece that outlines how they might take these steps themselves based on the information presented in the program or initiative. Within five minutes, residential staff members can have concrete examples of what students have learned related to the sustainability outcome developed for the program. and/or trivia clickers are two additional tools that can be utilized in accessing learning. These resources allow educators to ask questions throughout a presentation, floor or house meeting, or other event to gauge what students are learning in the session. In, questions can be imbedded into Microsoft Power Point or other presentations. Students can then text in “live” responses to the questions and can comment on each other’s responses. This Web site allows a certain number of participants to answer questions for free; additional responses can be purchased as necessary. Students particularly enjoy the ability to utilize current technology such as social media and texting in learning environments, and the data itself provides a real-time assessment of whether or not students are meeting the established learning goals. The downside for using is that it limits participation to those that utilize texting and cell phones. This may eliminate the voice of students who come from lower socio-economic backgrounds or who do not engage in the use of cell phones or texting services.

The trivia clickers are very similar to in that they capture real-time responses from participants. Commercial clickers are similar to the types of hand-held devices used in restaurants for trivia games. Educators create a series of questions and students can respond to them in real-time using the clickers. The downside to this approach is that there is an initial cost associated with the technology. However, feedback we have received from students thus far, indicates that they find the interaction with clicker technology very engaging and the real-time data related to understanding of programmatic content by the participants is very helpful to assess progress on students learning in the event/program/initiative.

Another way to assess student learning is through a pre-assessment and post-assessment survey for residential life professional and/or para-professional staff training. One can track the staff’s learning progress as well as the effectiveness of the trainings offered. Assessment surveys can be directly linked to learning outcomes within training sessions throughout the academic year. Areas of improvement are revealed through the comprehension of the learning outcomes assessed. It can be an eye-opening experience to discover a particular training session did not yield the acquired knowledge as intended. However, “discovering that programs are not functioning as they intended is not necessarily evidence that the program is “bad”; it merely indicates that the learning strategy present in the program is not well-suited to enhancing students’ acquisition of knowledge, values, or abilities” (Keeling, Wall, Underhile & Dungy, 2008, p. 73). This type of assessment has become extremely helpful in planning future training sessions for the para-professional residential life staff and solidifies the co-curricular learning and skills the staff engages in throughout the academic year.

National Assessments such as the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International(ACUHO-I)/Electronic Benchmarking Incorporated (EBI) Resident Assessment, ACUHO-I/EBI Student Staff Assessment and the ACUHO-I/EBI Apartment Assessment obtain student satisfaction and benchmarking data. The Resident Assessment is based on ACUHO-I and Council for the Advancement of Standards (CAS) Professional Standards. These assessments can be utilized to show what areas in which a residential life program is excelling and areas for improvement when comparing with other institutions. Another national assessment is the NASPA Consortium Benchmarking Assessment which has both a Residence Life Assessment and a Profile of the College Student Assessment that provide data covering student perceptions and satisfaction among national benchmarks of peer institutions and various other classification categories. This data highlights the overall indication of where the individual institution falls among these benchmarks. While both of these national assessments provide resident satisfaction information, they also provide information on student attainment of co-curricular learning outcomes. By comparing this institutional data with similar institutions, nationally and longitudinally, the results may inform the Residential Life programs’ practices and provide stakeholders, such as Senior Student Affairs Officers(SSAOs), Board of Trustees and Presidents, with valuable information to allocate resources to the program in the future.


Overall, residential life programs must engage in an “archeological dig” in which the unit digs deep into their institution’s mission, values, goals, and beliefs to determine how the residential program can support and enhance the institutional mission (Keeling, 2006; Keeling, Wall, Underhile, & Dungy, 2008). Many types of assessment methods exist and can provide various data sets to inform future goals, practices and learning outcomes of a residential program. Quantitative methods described above, such as national assessments or, are a common practice in higher education which provides four different categories of data: institutional indicators, test and grading data, large survey data and local survey data (Assessment Reconsidered, 2008). Qualitative methods, such as the one minute paper or residence life staff training assessments provide rich and deep information that can inform the development of programs and services. Mixed methods can be used to bring a residential program’s survey data to life by allowing student stories behind the quantitative data to be discovered. Though the best set of data-gathering approaches will take time, a mixed methodological approach utilizing direct and indirect methods and at times novel approaches is best when advising and supporting co-curricular learning outcomes in residential programs.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is assessment important to a residential life program? What opportunities or challenges exist and how can assessment help us with these opportunities and challenges?
  2. What areas of student learning are important in the residential setting? How do we know that these learning outcomes are being met?
  3. What assessment tools will assist us in assessing student learning and why?
  4. What is one small assessment project that could assess student learning in our residential environment? What do we need to do to plan this assessment? When do we want to see it completed?


Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers. (2nd ed). San Fransisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Blimling, G. (2010). The Resident Assistant: Applications and strategies for working with college students in residence halls. Dubuque, Iowa; Kenall/Hunt Publishing Company.

Greater Expectations: A new vision for learning as a nation goes to college. (2002). National Panel Report. Association of American Colleges and Universities (

Inkelas, K. K. & Weisman, J. L. (2003). Different by design: An examination of student outcomes among participants in three types of living-learning programs. Journal of College Student Developoment, 44(3): 335-368. doi: 10.1353/csd.2003.0027

Keeling, R. P. (ed.). (2006). Learning reconsidered 2: A practice guide to implementing a campus-wide focus on the student experience. ACPA, ACUHO-I, ACUI, NACA, NACADA, NASPA, NIRSA.

Keeling, R. P., Wall, A. F., Underhile, R., & Dungy, G. J. (2008). Assessment reconsidered: Institutional effectiveness for student success. ICSSIA, NASPA, Keeling and Associates LLC.

Kerr, K. G., & Tweedy, J. (2006), Beyond seat time and student satisfaction: A curricular approach to residential education. About Campus, 11: 9–15. doi: 10.1002/abc.181

Knerr, A. R. (2011). Practical approaches to residence life assessment. Webinar, Academic Impressions, Colorado Springs, CO.

Palomba, C. A. & Banta, T. W. (1999). Assessment essentials: Planning, implementing, and improving assessment in higher education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Schroeder, C. C., Mable, P. & Associates. (1994). Realizing the educational potential of residence halls. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Strayhorn, T. L. (2006). Frameworks for assessing learning and development outcomes. Washington, DC: Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education.

Upcraft, M. L, & Schuh, J. H. (2001). Assessment in student affairs: An applications manual. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Other Resources

Free Assessment Webinars provided by CampusLabs:

Commission for Assessment and Evaluation’s (CAE) Wiki site:

ACPA’s ASK Standards booklet:

Author Information

Amanda R. Knerr is the senior associate director of residence life at The Pennsylvania State University, where she oversees the unit’s assessment program. Amanda has been involved in ACPA in a number of ways including serving on planning committees for the Assessment Institute, Residential Curriculum Institute, and the Institute on Sustainability and has been a member of the ACPA Commission for Assessment and Evaluation Directorate for the last five years.

Please e-mail inquiries to Amanda R. Kerr.

Jennifer Lenfant Wright is the associate director for housing operations and student affairs assessment at Mount St. Mary’s University, where she oversees the housing operations for the campus and the student affairs assessment program. Jennifer is completing her three year term on the ACPA Standing Committee for Women Directorate, continuing her first year on the ACPA Commission for Assessment and Evaluation Directorate and is excited to be part of the 2013 ACPA Convention Team.

Please e-mail inquiries to Jennifer Lenfant Wright.


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.

Promising Practices in Assessing Learning in Student Activities

Promising Practices in Assessing Learning in Student Activities

Kim Yousey-Elsener
Campus Labs
Stella Mulberry Antic
University of North Texas

While publications such as Learning Reconsidered 2 (Keeling, 2006) and the CAS Learning Domains (Council for the Advancement of Standards, 2011) have set the standards for assessing student learning in campus activities, actually assessing student learning in co-curricular experiences is still a time consuming and elusive effort for many campus activities professionals. Bresciani (2011) and Schuh and Upcraft (2001) assert that purposeful, ongoing assessment of learning and administrative outcomes is critical to program improvement and success. However, assessing student learning can be a challenge for many reasons, since learning is “messy” and not linear for our students; therefore, finding an appropriate way to capture that learning for assessment purposes can be a challenge. In addition, student activities programs and services are often created for purposes beyond student learning, such as community building, connecting students to the institution, and educating students regarding campus traditions and ethos. While these are all important purposes, they are not solely for the objective of student learning. This notion leaves professionals asking: how and why do I need to assess learning?

While new technologies help us track exposure to events and programs, such as through the use of ID card swiping, it is important for us to go beyond these perfunctory ways of understanding our students outside of the classroom. Assessing student learning in campus activities tell us what students are “taking away” from interactions with specific programs and services. Perhaps the most important reason for assessing learning is for our own learning as practitioners. Assessing learning ensures that all of our planning, facilitating, and advising contribute to our students taking away tangible skills, knowledge, and behaviors. It also provides us the opportunity to improve our programs to better meet our intended goals. In addition, assessing student learning helps us engage in a larger conversation on campus, where well-articulated student learning outcomes and assessment results help to bridge the conversation of student learning with faculty at our institutions. These cross-institution conversations also serve the institution in articulating and proving what students are learning overall, an effort being encouraged across the nation by an increased focus on student learning in the accreditation process.

For all of these reasons, it is important for professionals in campus activities to gather information about every aspect of their programs, including budget and operations, student needs, student learning outcomes, and overall program effectiveness. While this can be a challenge, one suggestion is to not try to do everything at once; rather, pick a few programs or goals or assessment needs each year. Rotating through programs and services each year allows professionals the time and resources to gather useful information, while utilizing a pre-established framework may help as well. Below are examples of two institutions implementing promising practices using the CAS Standards and NACA Student Learning Frameworks.

The University of North Texas and CAS Standards

In 1979, the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) was founded as an organization dedicated to advocating for the implementation of standards and guidelines in student affairs practice (CAS, 2011; Nuss, 2000). CAS has 41 member organizations that represent many of the major professional organizations in the field of student affairs, including those related to general practice, graduate preparation, counseling, health, housing and residence life, judicial affairs, facilities, Greek life, and campus activities, among others (CAS, 2011). CAS Standards and Guidelines are used frequently in student affairs in order to help departments assess their programs and services (McNeil, 2009).

At the University of North Texas (UNT), the Division of Student Affairs recommends departments undergo a full CAS review every five years. This process is facilitated by staff in the office of Research, Assessment, and Planning (RAP), which assists with at least two departmental CAS reviews each year. UNT’s Student Activities Center is currently engaged in this review using the CAS Standards and Guidelines for Campus Activities Programs within the following framework.

Norming. The first component to UNT’s CAS review process is the self-study, in which departmental staff work independently to score themselves across the various dimensions of the CAS Self-Assessment Guide (for Campus Activities Programs, there are 14 separate sections). Before the self-study, the staff participates in an initial norming session, facilitated by RAP staff, to learn about the rating system and to discuss the criteria needed to evaluate the standards and guidelines. Staff members then receives copies of the instrument and rating sheets, and are given ample time to complete the self-study and submitting their scores to both the RAP office and to a staff member in the department tasked with monitoring progress. Staff members are also asked to provide narratives for open-ended questions. This process takes between three and four weeks to complete.

Consensus Meeting. Once all self-studies are complete, the staff reconvenes for a consensus-building meeting, facilitated by RAP staff. The norming information is reiterated, and each element of the CAS Self-Assessment Guide is reviewed. Staff members are asked to give their ratings by holding up scorecards for all to see, and to give their rationale for the rating. If there is unanimous agreement, that score is assigned; if not, the range of scores is recorded and the discrepancies are discussed until the group reaches consensus. The consensus score is then recorded. This process can take up to one full day, but can occur over the course of several days for ease of scheduling if needed.

Dashboard. The RAP office developed a spreadsheet-based template that, when completed, automatically graphs a department’s scores across the various components of the CAS instrument. UNT developed this template with the collaboration of Eastern Washington University to ensure the most up-to-date congruence with CAS Standards and Guidelines. It was designed to provide senior leadership with a quick snapshot of the entire self-study process in one spreadsheet to save time and make the process more meaningful from an administrative enhancement perspective. The dashboard templates developed by RAP are available within a limited number of CAS areas, corresponding to those functional areas present at the campus. After the consensus meeting, RAP staff inputs the final scores and narrative into the template. A report is then generated and sent to the department’s director, who will then determine the next steps for gathering evidence.

Evidence Gathering. The next step in the process is to gather evidence to support the scores that were determined in the consensus meeting. Each rating should be accompanied by appropriate evidence, such as policy documents, organizational charts, departmental meeting minutes, and assessment results. Department staff work together to gather copies of the evidence needed, either electronically or in hard copy. The evidence is then put into a compendium along with the dashboard report. This process takes between four to six weeks to complete.

Internal-External Review. After the evidence has been gathered at a central location, RAP staff review the compendium through the lens of an external reviewer from another institution. In this “devil’s advocate” role, RAP ensures that enough evidence has been compiled to support the ratings and asks staff to gather more if needed. This is done in order to prepare the department for the official external review to endure it goes as smoothly as possible. This review takes roughly two to three weeks to complete.

External Review. Department directors are asked to identify colleagues outside the institution who are authorities in the specific functional area to come to campus as external reviewers. Once the compendium of evidence is complete, these external reviewers are invited to review the documentation and to hold interviews and focus groups with key stakeholders, such as department staff, senior leadership, and students. The feedback gathered from these meetings, combined with the reviewers’ expertise, inform the reviewers’ interpretation of the ratings and final recommendations. While the actual review takes between one to three days on campus, the invitations to reviewers should be extended at least eight to10 weeks in advance to allow for scheduling considerations.

Closing the Loop. Once the external review is complete, it is up to the department leadership to develop a summative evaluation of the entire process. This evaluation includes an executive summary to be shared with senior division leadership as well as action steps that will evolve from the external reviewers’ recommendations. If the action steps have any bearing on the department’s strategic plan or assessment plan, those documents should be updated during the annual review period and tracked accordingly.

The Student Activities Center has completed the above process through the internal-external review. The department is working through the external review phase as of Fall 2011, and a final copy of the summative evaluation will be posted on the UNT Division of Student Affairs Web site once completed.

Linfield College and NACA Framework

Created in 2007, the NACA Competency Guide for Student Leaders is available in several publications including guides for students and campus administrators. The Facilitators Guide provides practitioners with a description, learning outcomes, suggested initiatives, key questions, additional resources, and assessment questions related to 10 core competencies: (leadership development, assessment and evaluation, event management, meaningful interpersonal relationships, collaboration, social responsibility, effective communication, multicultural competency, intellectual growth, clarified values); and seven additional competencies: (enhanced self-esteem, realistic self-appraisal, healthy behavior and satisfying lifestyles, interdependence, spiritual awareness, personal and educational goals, career choices). More information about the Frameworks is available at

In an effort to enhance student learning outside the classroom, the Student Affairs Division of Linfield College examined how they define and assess learning. To start this process, the entire staff within the division of Student Affairs read Learning Reconsidered 2 and participated in a day-long training on student learning outcomes and assessment. Following the training, the staff grappled with how to put the theory of the learning and assessment into practice. Staff members were introduced to the new NACA Student Leader Competency Guide at the NACA National Conference and a NASAP regional conference. It provided student learning outcomes and included an assessment tool and facilitator’s guide. This guide provided a good starting point for the development of learning outcomes and assessment.

A meeting of Residence Life and the Student Activities Staff occurred to narrow the 17 NACA competencies down to five core competencies that fit the student culture and desired outcomes. They included: leadership development, meaningful interpersonal relationships, collaboration, social responsibility and effective communication. The staff used the assessment tool in a pre and a post self-evaluation to determine the impact that programs were having on the five competencies. The first year of data revealed that students self-scored lower on the post-evaluation, even after extensive leadership training and a yearlong leadership experience. This scoring drop was credited to a greater self-awareness and understanding of their own leadership competencies. After much consideration it was decided to drop the pre-evaluation as part of the assessment process. The second year, at a full division retreat, the student affairs staff developed four core competencies for all student leaders, including leadership development, social responsibility, effective communication, multicultural competency. Also, a partnership was formed with CampusLabs to develop a post-evaluation for the student leaders with an expanded scale. Finally, multiple assessment methods were developed and incorporated utilizing reflection through journaling and one-to-one meetings

For Linfield, this was an intensive and rewarding project where valuable lessons were learned. First, a pre and post-evaluation is not always the ideal methodology. Second, for small divisions with limited budgets it is important to seek out existing resources. These may include guiding documents from other institutions, templates and tools through NACA, and consultations with CampusLabs. Finally, it is important to be upfront and direct about learning outcomes with students. Showing students that their leadership positions are learning laboratories was an important part of the assessment process. To that end, learning outcomes were incorporated into each part of a student’s leadership experience from the marketing of the position, to the hiring process, training, program goals and one-on-one meetings. Linfield found that once the language of learning and assessment was used, their students followed suit and incorporated it into their experience.


Whether staff are searching for a way to complete a full program review or a small campus looking for a place to start, assessing student learning in campus activities begins with determining what framework or process works best. There are myriad ways to assess student learning in the co-curricular realm. A focus on intentionally gathering relevant data to help improve the student experience is paramount, regardless of which method one chooses. Assessing student learning is a challenging and rewarding experience, one that can benefit students and staff alike.

Discussion Questions

  • What are the benefits of assessing student life programs? How can assessment help maximize opportunities or mitigate challenges in a student life context?
  • What do students learn through participation in student life programs? Are there differences in learning depending on breadth of experience vs. depth of experience?
  • How can student learning outcomes truly be measured in the context of student life?
  • What steps can one take today to plan an assessment of a student life program? What steps can be planned for this month? This semester?


Bresciani, M. J. (2011, August). Making assessment meaningful: What new student affairs professionals and those new to assessment need to know. (NILOA Assessment Brief: Student Affairs). Urbana, IL: University for Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment.

Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education. (2011). CAS handout. Retrieved from the CAS Web site

Keeling, R. P., American College Personnel Association, & National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (U.S.). (2006). Learning reconsidered 2: Implementing a campus-wide focus on the student experience. Washington, D.C.: ACPA.

McNeil, M. (2009). Using standards to support peer education. Retrieved from the Alice! Health Promotion Program, Columbia UniversityMcNeil, M. (2009). Using standards to support peer education. Retrieved from…

Nuss, E. M. (2000). The role of professional associations. In M. J. Barr, M. K. Desler, & Associates (Eds.),The handbook of student affairs administration (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Schuh, J. H., & Upcraft, M. L. (2001). Assessment practice in student affairs: An applications manual. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

White, E. R. (2006).Using CAS standards for self-assessment and improvement. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site

About the Authors

Kim Yousey-Elsener, Ph.D. is an Associate Director of Assessment Programs at Campus Labs as well as serving as the Chair for ACPA’s Commission for Assessment and Evaluation. In addition to her assessment work with over 100 campuses nation-wide she serves as adjunct faculty at West Virginia University.

Please e-mail inquiries to Kim Yousey-Elsener.

Stella Mulberry Antic, Ph.D., is the Assistant Director of Research, Assessment, and Planning for Student Affairs at the University of North Texas, and serves on the directorate for the ACPA Commission for Assessment and Evaluation. At UNT, Dr. Antic conducts research related to student populations and works on developing a statistical model of student retention using direct evidence of program and service usage patterns.

Please e-mail inquiries to Stella Mulberry Antic.


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.

Creating a Culture of Inclusion: Listening to the Voices of People with Disabilities

Creating a Culture of Inclusion: Listening to the Voices of People with Disabilities

Karen A. Myers
Saint Louis University

The use of Universal Design (UD) within higher education has primarily been directed towards students with disabilities. In recent years, research has proposed that UD is beneficial to a wide range of students, including, but not limited to, students with disabilities. Students not speaking English as their first language, students who are non-traditional in age, and students with varied learning styles may all benefit from the infusion of UD within higher education. In light of the far reaching potential for access and inclusion that is associated with UD, the ACPA Standing Committee on Disability (SCD) has proposed that UD become a standard framework for designing learning environments within ACPA and for individual member use. Over the course of the next several months, the SCD will be spotlighting the use of UD from various perspectives within higher education including: (a) a disability resource provider, (b) an individual with a disability, (c) a faculty member, and (d) a student affairs professional. This second article is from the perspective of a person with a disability.


The Inclusion Judge


Who should be the judge of inclusion? Who should determine if inclusion has been attempted and carried out successfully? This question has been on my mind lately. In higher education, departments of disability resources, multicultural education, LGBTA, women, men, spirituality, and community engagement (among others), strive to include all members of the campus community, continually bringing to life Schlossberg’s (1989) theory of marginality and mattering. Some recent examples of such intentional educational programs and events include campus celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, such as Allies for Inclusion: The Ability Exhibit , the 2011 Developments Spirituality article series, “Working on Our Inner Lives: Meaning-Making in Colleges and Universities,” and the current Everyone Matters, six-month global social media campaign led by Archbishop Emeritus Desmund Tutu to foster inclusiveness and reduce intolerance. These and other inclusion initiatives are admirable and will potentially increase awareness and fair-treatment and decrease intolerance and exclusion.

However, going back to my original question about the success of these programs: who will be the judge of inclusion? Will marginalized populations feel included as a result of these efforts? Have their teachers, employers, and co-workers been kinder, more understanding, accommodating, and more inclusive after attending a disability awareness session or reading a disability awareness article? How will we know? My answer is simple: ask them.

Asking people with disabilities, for example, how they feel about their treatment, their perceptions, their accommodations, their access, and the laws pertaining to their equity seems logical, however, it is common for people with disabilities to report they themselves never have been asked. In three separate studies I conducted involving students with disabilities (Myers, 2009; Myers, Jenkins, & Pousson, 2009), many reported it was the first time anyone ever asked them how they felt or what they preferred. And although there are some excellent first-person accounts of higher education professionals in recent literature, such as Job One (see chapter by Deborah McCarthy) and Making Good on the Promise and in Building Pedagogical Curb Cuts (see entries by Nancy Badger, Barbara Palombi, Christopher McDonnell Dennis, Terri Masse-Burrell, Shelly Neal and others), such first-person accounts are limited.

My Personal Story

I am honored to write an article in this series from the perspective of a person with a disability. I seem to have a lifetime of inclusion and exclusion stories, being one of over 20 people in my family with a congenital visual disability resulting in extreme light sensitivity, low visual acuity, and legal blindness. It is liberating for me to be able to write from the perspective of a woman who has been a student, a teacher, an academic administrator, and a student affairs professional—and who is legally blind. I learned from my older siblings that, as a high school student, I needed to ask my teachers for accommodations in order to see the math problem on the board or the conjugation in the Spanish textbook. In an all-female Catholic high school in the late 1960s, there were very few of us who required (or acknowledged we required) academic accommodations, or as they called it at that time, “special treatment.” As my career in higher education progressed, I realized that I needed to be my own advocate for accommodations. Without realizing it, I became an expert at self-advocacy and encouraged my fellow students and co-workers to do the same. From large-print exams and meeting agendas to oversized computer monitors and low-lit office spaces, many items allowed me to do my job efficiently, effectively, and be on a level playing field with my colleagues.

Self-Advocacy, Accommodations, and Universal Design

Truth be told, being a self-advocate for disability-related accommodations can be exhausting. Although it can be extremely rewarding and worth every second of those “educable moments” of reminding teachers to repeat aloud what they have written on a board and reminding supervisors to use a bold high-contrast font in their print materials, it does take time and effort on the part of the person with a disability. For years I thought, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of these accommodations became a natural part of how we (as educators) communicated, interacted, and did business?” Then, about 15 years ago, my answer arrived in the form of Universal Design (UD)—the concept of making goods, environments, and services accessible to all people “to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptable or specialized design” (Center for Universal Design, 1997, p. 1). I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Jeanne Higbee from the University of Minnesota, hearing her speak about Universal Instructional Design (UID), and reading her book, Curriculum Transformation and Disability: Implementing Universal Design in Higher Education. Since then, we have been good friends and colleagues who work together in spreading the “UID message,” moving universal design principles for architecture to curriculum to student services and beyond.

In Pedagogy and Student Services for Institutional Transformation: Implementing Universal Design in Higher Education, Higbee and Goff (2010) address UD and UID principles based on Chickering and Gamson’s (1991) best practices for undergraduate education. These adaptations include the following seven principles: a) creating respectful welcoming environments; b) determining the essential components of a course or program; c) communicating class/program expectations; d) providing constructive feedback; e) exploring the use of natural supports for learning, including technology, to enhance opportunities for all learners; f) designing teaching/instructional methods that consider diverse learning styles, abilities, ways of knowing, and previous experience and background knowledge; g) creating multiple ways for students/employees to demonstrate their knowledge; and h) promoting interaction among and between faculty and students, employers and employees. All of these principles are essential for UD of instruction and student development, and I have used each in my various positions in higher education (i.e., student, faculty, staff, and administrator). For example, as Director of New Student Programs and Director of Disability Services at four distinctly different institutions, I used these principles to promote cohesiveness among my staff and enhance their professional development. Bringing bagels to an early morning meeting, offering chocolates during a one-on-one, providing clear expectations of job responsibilities, and offering timely constructive feedback via multiple modes of communication were just a few ways UID was utilized to attain successful outcomes.

As a person with a disability, I would like to emphasize two principles in particular that, to me, are vital in my own growth and development: 1) creating respectful welcoming environments, and 2) promoting interaction among and between faculty and students/employers and employees. Personally, these go hand-in-hand and allow me to feel valued as a person. A warm welcoming environment that promotes interaction, whether it is a department or faculty office, a classroom, a campus dining facility, a Web site, a department chair/director, or a receptionist on the other end of a telephone, all will determine how I feel about the host and about myself. Does that person/environment respect and value me? Do they sincerely believe that I matter? Examples of creating respectful welcoming environments that promote interaction include: sending welcome e-mails to students, staff, and faculty, learning people’s names, greeting people when passing them in the hall or on campus, being open to meeting with people, encouraging students/faculty/staff to develop peer learning communities, being available to encourage conversation and assistance via email, phone, discussion board, chat rooms, and in person, and encouraging participation and input when developing materials, curriculum, programs, and events. A warm welcoming environment that encourages interaction will open doors for conversations about the additional UID principles, such as natural supports for learning and possible ways to demonstrate knowledge.


I usually begin my disability awareness training sessions with the question, “Have you excluded anyone today?” It is fairly easy for us to say we have included people, but when asked to stop and think if we excluded anyone through our words, our behaviors, or our environments, most of us recall barriers we unintentionally construct that prevent others from entering our world. These barriers might include: small print signage, low-contrast serif fonts on Web sites, e-mails and handouts, curbs with inaccessible walkways, classrooms and meeting rooms with stationary seating and narrow aisles, and videos with no captions. So, what does it mean to you to be included? How do you feel when you are marginalized or excluded? Asking people with disabilities to be the judge of inclusion may be the answer to our questions regarding the success of our inclusion programs, services, and communication techniques. Are our inclusion efforts a success? Is UID working? Let’s ask the people who know.


The Center for Universal Design. (1997). The principles of universal design (Version 2.0). Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State University. Retrieved October 2, 2009, from

Higbee, J. L. (Ed.). (2003). Curriculum transformation and disability: Implementing Universal Design in higher education. Minneapolis, MN: Center for Research on Developmental Education and Urban Literacy, General College, University of Minnesota.

Higbee, J. L., & Goff, E. (2008). Pedagogy and student services for institutional transformation: Implementing Universal Design in higher education. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Center for Research on Developmental Education and Urban Literacy.

Higbee, J. L., & Mitchell, Alice A. (2009). Making good on the promise: Student affairs professionals with disabilities. Washington, DC: American College Personnel Association and University Press of America.

Magolda, P. & Carnaghi, J. (2004 ). Job One: Experiences of new professionals in student affairs. Washington, D.C: University Press Of America.

Myers, K. (2009). College students with visual disabilities: Preferences for effective interaction. Germany: VDM Verlag Publications. ISBN# 3639166000

Myers, K., Jenkins, J., Pousson, M. (2009). Social Norms and Disability. ACPA Developments.

Schlossberg, N. K. (1989). Marginality and mattering: Key issues in building community. In D.C. Roberts (ed.), Designing campus activities to foster a sense of community. New Directions for Student Services, 48. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

About the Author

Karen Myers is an Associate Professor of Higher Education at Saint Louis University. She is the Co-founder, former Chair, and current Directorate Member and Faculty Liaison of ACPA’s Standing Committee on Disability. Myers is also the 2005 Disability Leadership Award recipient (presented by ACPA’s Standing Committee on Disability).

Please e-mail inquiries to Karen Myers.


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.

A Rejoinder to On the Ethical Implications of Being The Man

A Rejoinder to On the Ethical Implications of Being The Man

Z Nicolazzo
Developments Editorial Board Member
Miami University (OH)

To recognize that we touch each other in language seems particularly difficult in a society that would have us believe that there is no dignity in the experience of passion, that to feel deeply is to be inferior, for within the dualism of Western metaphysical thought, ideas are always more important than language. To heal the splitting of mind and body, we marginalized and oppressed people attempt to recover ourselves and our experiences in language. (bell hooks, 1994, pp. 174-175)

What happens when one proclaims to use language in a neutral way? Is the neutral use of language even possible? What is lost or gained when one uses terms that, while neutral to some, are far from neutral to others? These are the questions I seek to address in my brief rejoinder to the ethics column titled “On the Ethical Implications of Being ‘The Man’” by Dr. Paul Shang. Far from being a mere conversation over semantics, I suggest language, often shrouded in a cloak of neutrality, has the potential to do immense (albeit oftentimes unintended) harm to others. Consequently, I implore us as educators to be prudent, intentional, and humble in our use of language. As a way of beginning, I start with a personal example of the damaging use of language.

A little over a year ago, I came out as a member of the transgender community, specifically as a gender non-conforming individual. Part of my coming out process was helping others realize the pronouns he/his no longer reflected my identity and experience, and that I preferred people use the pronouns ze (pronounced zee and used in place of she/he) and hir (pronounced here and used in place of his/her) when talking to or about me. This has been tricky for some folks, and there were times over the last year I would become upset when I was misgendered in public spaces. Although it was clear this misgendering was rarely, if ever, malicious, it still stung and continued to perpetuate a system in which my identity as a gender non-conforming student, staff member, and community member was rendered invisible. The invisibility I experienced as a transgender person was fueled by cisgender privilege—benefits of identifying, expressing, and embodying a gender that matches the sex one was assigned at birth—known simply as genderism. Similarly, it is my belief that Dr. Shang’s article reinforces systems of privilege for dominant identities and ideologies, specifically sexism and patriarchy, classism, and the privileging of normalcy.

Before I go further, I must admit that I do not believe Dr. Shang set out to harm the readership of Developments intentionally. However, it is my belief that stating this does not absolve Dr. Shang—or others who use triggering language—from the impact of their words. Furthermore, because I do not believe Dr. Shang to have tried to cause undue harm, my intent is not to vilify Dr. Shang as an author. Instead, my intent is to raise questions and provide a different perspective for Developments readers. I believe it is through the respectful exchange of ideas and dialogue that forward progress can and will be made. Finally, I think it is important to mention the opinions and perspective I share in this rejoinder are my own, and not necessarily that of other members of the Developments editorial board.

The first area of concern comes within the first two sentences of Dr. Shang’s article, in which the author writes, “Somehow, everyone engaged in student affairs work has become ‘the man’ at one time or another. The term the man has nothing to do with gender” [emphasis added] (Shang, 2012). I disagree with this statement, believing the term the man has everything to do with gender and more than that, sexism and patriarchy. The term the man represents someone in a position of power or authority. The conflation of masculinity with power, authority, and control reinforces patriarchy, or the systems that confer privilege to men at the cost of those who are not men (e.g., women and transgender individuals). If this term was not about gender, then the term “the woman” or “the individual” would bring to mind similar sentiments about power and authority, but they do not. The truth is that men are privileged while women and transgender individuals are deemed less important. Ergo, Dr. Shang’s insistence the term the man is not about gender ignores the systems of sexism and patriarchy that privilege men.

The second area of concern I have with Dr. Shang’s (2012) article is when the author uses the word normal in the following passage:

For the purposes of this discussion, it is useful to consider whether or not an event is considered to be disruptive. As an example, many student affairs staff became “the administration” this fall when they sought to preserve the normal functioning of their institutions in the face of a national Occupy Movement, protests over the cost of higher education, or the treatment of undocumented students, etc. [emphasis added] (para 3)

In Michael Warner’s 1999 book titled The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life, Warner articulates, “to be fully normal is, strictly speaking, impossible” (p. 54). Warner goes further by stating:

Even if one belongs to the statistical majority in age group, race, height, weight, frequency of orgasm, gender of sexual partners, and annual income, then simply by virtue of this unlikely combination of normalcies one’s profile would already depart from the norm (pp. 54-55).

Given Warner’s commentary on the concept of being normal, it becomes clear why the preservation of “the normal functioning” of institutions of higher education may be misguided at best and impossible at worst. Furthermore, the hegemony of that which is deemed normal comes at the cost of other individuals or groups who are deemed abnormal, deviant, or criminal. For example, Dr. Shang suggested those who protested in the Occupy movement or on issues regarding the inhumane treatment of undocumented students are abnormal, thus reinforcing a system that privileges those who do not stray from “the straight and narrow” (Ahmed, 2006). Not only is normalcy a fallacy, but the invocation of normalcy privileges some (e.g., upper level administrators trying to keep order) at the cost of less powerful others (e.g., student, faculty, staff, and community protestors).

The last concern I have with Dr. Shang’s article comes when the author stated:

[The administration] worked hard to keep their campuses safe, which sometimes meant being involved in discussions or making decisions about limiting the right of entry of homeless people or political activists or others who were not the customary students, faculty, or staff. (para 3)

In this passage, the author conflates being homeless and/or from a lower socioeconomic status background with being dangerous. Concurrently, the author suggested those who are members of the campus community (i.e., students, faculty, and staff) are unequivocally safe. These equations are founded on the false logic of outsiders as dangerous and insiders as safe. Within higher education, we have plenty of examples that tell us this thinking is false. We see students, faculty, and staff doing harm to others regularly, just as we see examples of those who are homeless or from lower socioeconomic status background not causing harm. These scenarios that contradict Dr. Shang’s statement are not surprising, and yet the author wrote the above statement without irony or hyperbole.

These three examples from Dr. Shang’s article bring me back to the questions I presented at the outset of this article:

  • What happens when one proclaims to use language in a neutral way?
  • Is the neutral use of language even possible?
  • What is lost or gained when one uses terms that, while neutral to some, are far from neutral to others?

Rather than providing definitive answers to these questions, I suggest they remain open so that you, as readers, can build off the dialogue created by Dr. Shang’s article and my rejoinder. Therefore, in closing out this rejoinder, I would like to offer two additional thoughts. The first comes from Jabari Asim’s 2007 book titled, The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn’t, and Why. In writing on Dave Chappelle’s reaction to being told he should not use the “N word” in his comedy, Asim quotes Chappelle as saying,

I’m not so concerned when black intellectuals say the N word is awful … If people stop saying the N word, is everything going to be equal? Is the rainbow going to come out of the sky, and all of a sudden things will be better for black people? (p. 211)

Asim goes further by stating, “Chappelle’s response is more than a little disingenuous … Yet, I think he is right. Suggesting that Chappelle refrain from using racial language (to parody racist attitudes, after all) is to profoundly miss the point” (p. 211). While Dr. Shang was not trying to parody sexist attitudes, I agree with Asim’s point that striking language from use is unlikely to solve the systemic inequities (e.g., sexism, racism, genderism) subaltern populations face. Instead, we need to interrogate such use of language rather than pretend this language is not loaded with sexist, racist, or gendered meanings. After all, Gloria Anzaldúa (2007) prophetically wrote, “The answer to the problem between the white race and the colored [sic], between males and females, lies in healing the split that originates in the very foundation of our lives, our culture, our language, our thoughts” [emphasis added] (p. 102). The split referenced by Anzaldúa calls to the fore the mind and body split that hooks (1994) discussed in the quote cited at the outset of this rejoinder. If we are going to participate in healing our lives, our communities, and ourselves then we must begin talking about the ways in which language reinforces and/or deconstructs systems of privilege and oppression. In this way, we can revel in being what Sara Ahmed (2010) referred to as the feminist killjoy and (re)claim our rightful spot at the table where dialogue and discussion move us beyond the myth of neutrality, the hegemony of normalcy, and the limitations of oppression.


Ahmed, S. (2006). Queer phenomenology: Orientations, objects, others. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Ahmed, S. (2010). Feminist killjoys (and other willful subjects). The Scholar and Feminist Online, 8.3. Retrieved from:

Anzaldúa, G. (2007). Borderlands/La frontera: The new mestiza. (3rd Ed.). San Francisco, CA: Aunt Lute Books.

Asim, J. (2007). The n word: Who can say it, who shouldn’t, and why. Boston, MA: Houghtom Mifflin Company.

hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. New York, NY: Routledge.

Shang, P. (2012). On the ethical implications of being “the man.” Developments, 10(2).

Warner, M. (1999). The trouble with normal: Sex, politics, and the ethics of queer life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

About the Author

Z Nicolazzo is a doctoral student in the Student Affairs in Higher Education (SAHE) Program at Miami University. Ze is a past Chair of the ACPA Standing Committee on Men and Masculinities and is a current member of ACPA’s Developments Editorial Board. Hir research interests include transgender and gender non-conforming students, activism in higher education, and alternative epistemologies, methodologies, and representations of knowledge.

Please e-mail inquiries to Z Nicolazzo.


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.

On the Ethical Implications of Being The Man

On the Ethical Implications of Being The Man

Z Nicolazzo
Developments Editorial Board Member
Miami University (OH)

Somehow, everyone engaged in student affairs work has become “the man” at one time or another. The term the man has nothing to do with gender. The man is an authority figure, an adversary, someone not normally considered by those in opposition to be an ally or to be trusted. The man is someone who will likely impose seemingly irrelevant and arbitrary regulations to hinder efforts to achieve some perceived good and possibly someone who has to decide whether to be professionally responsible or sometimes instead, to act in ways more representative of their own personal beliefs. Being the man, the administration or the Establishment is not an enviable position for most people in student affairs. For some, it is so unpleasant a term that the phrase the administration will be substituted from now on. It is also discomforting how quickly the transformation occurs from having a positive and comfortable relationship with students as an educator and practitioner under normal circumstances to being transformed into the administration when a cause of one sort or another emerges. Perhaps this transformative experience happened to you this past fall with the Occupy movements or other protest concerns such as the increasing costs of education or changes in institutional policy, programs, or procedures.

There are different aspects of becoming the administration that are cause for introspection. For many, there is an unpleasant emotional impact, as becoming the administration is not something that is desired or possibly even anticipated. The transformation can be personally hurtful, as students with whom you have a positive professional relationship might levy the accusations of having become the administration in ways that are potentially disrespectful and confrontational. It can be annoying. After all, being accused of being the administration usually coincides with having done something such as imposing a conduct sanction, supporting a controversial decision, or describing possible unpopular consequences, which seem in one’s own mind professionally, reasonably, and ethically justifiable. Finally, becoming the administration can be personally confusing, and sometimes the accusation engenders for the need for guidance and assurance that the right decision was made.

For the purposes of this discussion, it is useful to consider whether or not an event is considered to be disruptive. As an example, many student affairs staff became the administration this fall when they sought to preserve the normal functioning of their institutions in the face of a national Occupy movement, protests over the cost of higher education, or the treatment of undocumented students, etc. They worked hard to keep their campuses safe, which sometimes meant being involved in discussions or making decisions about limiting the right of entry of homeless people, political activists, or others who were not the customary students, faculty, or staff. Sometimes student affairs staff had to grapple with freedom of speech issues when access to classroom buildings or activities spaces were impeded by protestors or the volume of chants and speeches interfered with lectures and other curricular and co-curricular activities.

These difficult decisions and topics are intensified if the administration is personally sympathetic to the overarching protest goals such as world peace, social justice, animal rights, or economic equality to name a few. But decisions like these, if they are implemented in humane and respectful ways, seem justifiable and are even addressed in the ACPA Statement of Ethical Standards and Principles (2006)(the statement). The statement offers four standards by which to make ethical decisions regarding numerous types of ethical matters. The extensive variety of ethical matters is not specifically identified within the statement. The third standard “Responsibility to the Institution” (p. 4) describes elements of professional decision making:

Institutions of higher education provide the context for student affairs practice. Institutional mission, goals, policies, organizational structure, and culture, combined with individual judgment and professional standards, define and delimit the nature and extent of practice. Student affairs professionals share responsibility with other members of the academic community for fulfilling the institutional mission. Responsibility to promote the development of students and to support the institution’s policies and interests require that professionals balance competing demands.

In standards 3.1, 3.2, and 3.3 of the statement student affairs staff are reminded to support the mission, goals, and policies and to follow the procedures of their institutions; to seek resolution when conflicts occur between professional and personal values, recognizing that these might necessitate protracted and respectful effort; and when resolution is not possible, to voluntarily leave the institution.

If guidance along these lines does not seem complete, then perhaps more utilitarian types of perspectives that strive to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number might be helpful. In the conflicts which cause student affairs staff to be accused of having become the administration, rarely is there a sense the confrontational students represent the opinions of the majority. It seems most students have no opinion on a topic or event, have an opinion but do not wish to get involved, or consider the issue to be somewhat irrelevant to their desire to complete their educational goals as quickly and inexpensively as possible. For instance, in their report, Student Debt and the Class of 2010 (Reed, 2011), The Project on Student Debt (n.d.) states grimly, “Two-thirds of college seniors graduated with loans in 2010, and they carried an average of $25,250 in debt. They also faced the highest unemployment rate for young college graduates in recent history at 9.1%” (para. 4. ). This is a sobering reminder of the responsibility of student affairs staff to provide not only the best and most complete developmental experience for students but also the most efficient and relevant.

On the other hand, to realize a perspective might not be representative of the majority should never be confused with the Nixon era “silent majority” argument used to attempt to diminish the efforts of protestors against the Vietnam War; student affairs staff must always attempt to assess and appreciate the perspectives of students regardless of how widespread. Student affairs staff, the administration, must provide the leadership to identify ways to limit disruption while still providing opportunities for the expression of conflicting perspectives.

Another source for discomfort for student affairs staff might be the intuited contradiction between being advocates for social justice while upholding the policies and procedures of their institutions. The fourth standard, “Responsibility to Society,” advocates that student affairs professionals take active stance towards social justice:

Student affairs professionals, both as citizens and practitioners, have a responsibility to contribute to the improvement of the communities in which they live and work and to act as advocates for social justice for members of those communities. They respect individuality and individual differences. They recognize that our communities are enhanced by social and individual diversity manifested by characteristics such as age, culture, class, ethnicity, gender, ability, gender identity, race, religion, and sexual orientation. Student affairs professionals work to protect human rights and promote respect for human diversity in higher education (p. 5).

Standard 4.1 encourages student affairs staff to assist students to become “ethical and responsible citizens” (p. 5). It is not surprising that some student affairs staff may feel conflicted in performing their ethical duties to serve their institutions on the one hand, and to assist students in exploring their social responsibilities on the other.


So what does this mean in the days ahead for student affairs practitioners? Is there a contradiction between our obligations to our institutions and to be advocates for social justice? If the current economic crisis continues, will questions about class and our responsibilities to acknowledge class contradictions on our campuses and to address the needs of less economically privileged students cause us to be uncomfortable with how exactly we are serving in our role as social justice advocates? Can we educate enough beforehand so our decisions will not always seem to be unnecessarily limiting and arbitrary? Can we protect free speech, individual rights, and personal safety simultaneously? Are we individually forever destined to be the administration?

The following suggestions might be helpful:

  1. Be visible and be accessible. If students get to know you at least a little as a person, it will be more difficult for them to arbitrarily assign a label to you. Also, having a sense for who the students are, whether student leaders or not, helps you to have more appreciation for them as individuals and enhances opportunities for communication.
  2. Know your students. Review the information from the admissions or institutional research office about where your students come from, their average age, how many are transfers, how many are nontraditional, their ethnicity, their gender, and their economic status. This knowledge is very important and will help you to address stereotypes that might affect decision-making.
  3. Become a predictable colleague. If you have not already, spend some time with people you are likely to work with in those circumstances when you are accused of being the administration. Although this might be repeating something obvious, it is very important to be someone whose opinion your chief of police or director of public safety respects, not to mention legal counsel.
  4. Plan ahead. In division-wide meetings, talk about potential controversial situations, who will take the lead, and what the expectations are. These are confusing times and, as has been described in this essay, our ethical obligations might be confusing too. These are better discussed under calmer circumstances.

In previous essays, I have asked the question of whether the current the statement still reflects the perspectives of ACPA members and the student affairs profession. The feedback by some Developments editorial members to first drafts of this essay further underscores the question. In response to concerns by them and in order to encourage dialogue among readers, I changed phrases like “the man” which are now considered to be so objectionable by some. I also changed other points to be more inclusive and more respectful so no one felt relegated to the subaltern. Still, the editorial feedback made me wonder again whether the contrasts between serving our institutions as well as being agents for social justice are depicted accurately. Also, does the ACPA Statement of Ethical Principles still accurately describe, for as many of us as possible, the conflict between individual values, characteristics, and perspectives and those of a community such as an institution of higher education?

I look forward to hearing from you about your perspectives and experiences.


ACPA Statement of Ethical Principles and Standards. (2006). Washington, DC: American College Personnel Association. Retrieved from:

Reed, M. (2011, November). Student Debt and the Class of 2010. Retrieved from

“The Project on Student Debt: An Initiative of the Institute for College Access and Success.” (n.d.). Retrieved from

About the Author

Paul Shang is the current chair of the ACPA Ethics Committee and a past president of ACPA. He also serves as the Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students at the University of Oregon. Please e-mail inquiries to Paul Shang.


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.

Supreme Court to Revisit Issue of Race as Factor in Higher Education Admissions

Supreme Court to Revisit Issue of Race as Factor in Higher Education Admissions

Neal H. Hutchens
University of Kentucky

The permissibility of race-conscious admissions policies in higher education has once again taken legal center stage, with the U.S. Supreme Court having accepted Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (2011) for review. In Fisher, the Supreme Court will consider arguments that a law guaranteeing acceptance to a Texas university for students graduating in the top 10% of their high school class negates the need for using race in any admissions decisions at the University of Texas at Austin. Previously, in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), the Supreme Court upheld a race-conscious admissions program at the University of Michigan School of Law. In this case, the Court held that the law school could consider race, along with many other factors, in seeking to attain the educational benefits that come from having a diverse student body.

Grutter was greeted by supporters of affirmative action in higher education as a legal victory. But the legal standards approved in the case now face an uncertain future. Having accepted Fisher for review, the Supreme Court again appears poised to consider the extent to which a public college or university may rely on race in admissions. Grutter was decided five to four by a sharply divided Court. Changes in the Supreme Court’s membership since the Grutter case have resulted in uncertainty regarding the extent to which the legal standards announced in the decision will remain intact.

A noteworthy change to the Supreme Court is the departure of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, author of the majority opinion in Grutter and a key swing vote in the case. Since assuming Justice O’Connor’s seat, Justice Samuel Alito has joined opinions disfavoring governmental reliance on racial classifications. Some Supreme Court observers believe enough votes now exist to overturn or substantially restrict the use of race in admissions approved of in Grutter (Carey, 2012; Liptak, 2012). A probable supporter of the university’s policies, Justice Elena Kagan, has also decided not to take part in the decision, likely because of her previous involvement with the Fisher litigation while serving as the Solicitor General of the United States. Put simply, the mix of key decision-makers on the current Supreme Court presents questions regarding future legal limitations on affirmative action.

Overview of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin

In Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, white, Texas residents not selected for admission to the university argue that the institution should not be able to use race as a factor in admissions decisions. The applicants contend that the university should be precluded from including race in any admissions decisions because of the success of a legislatively mandated plan, the Top Ten Percent Law, which assures Texas students graduating in the top 10% of their high school class admission into a public university in the state. The rejected applicants argue that implementation of the plan has resulted in sufficient enrollment of underrepresented student populations to negate the consideration of race by the university in admissions decisions not made under the Top Ten plan. Both a federal trial court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of the university. The courts held that the challenged admissions practices represented an appropriate consideration of race in institutional efforts to enhance student diversity in alignment with the legal framework approved of in Grutter.

The standards challenged in Fisher applied to only a limited percentage of admissions decisions by the university. As noted in the Fifth Circuit’s opinion, the overwhelming majority of slots were filled using the Top Ten plan, accounting for 81% of the overall slots awarded for the 2008 entering class and for 88% of the seats allotted to Texas residents. Accordingly, the vast majority of Texas residents admitted to the university were accepted through the Top Ten plan.

For admissions decisions for Texas residents not made using the percentage plan, race constituted one of multiple factors that could be considered in an application. For this group of applicants, the university calculated a Personal Achievement Index (PAI), which was based on three scores. Two of the scores were based on evaluation of an applicant’s essays. The third score—the personal achievement score—was given slightly greater weight than the other two scores; it was determined by holistic consideration of an applicant’s achievements, experiences, and background. As part of the personal achievement score, evaluators could consider a “special circumstances” element that could reflect “the socioeconomic status of the applicant and his or her high school, the applicant’s family status and family responsibilities, the applicant’s standardized test score compared to the average of her high school, and—beginning in 2004—the applicant’s race” (Fisher, 2011, p. 228).

In considering the admissions practices at issue, the Fifth Circuit pointed out that the university was not relying on some type of quota system, which would not pass legal scrutiny. The court explained that no single factor in admissions decisions, including race, was considered on a separate basis from other criteria or given any kind of specific numeric value. Instead, evaluators considered all factors in a holistic manner, with each application given individualized consideration. The court observed that, if constituting a factor at all in a particular admissions decision, “race ha[d] the potential to influence only a small part of the applicant’s overall admissions score” (Fisher, 2011, p. 228).

The applicants challenging the university’s admissions procedures have argued that the success of the Top Ten Percent Law provided a race-neutral alternative that negated the need for the university to consider race in any of its admissions decisions. The university has countered with studies demonstrating that reliance on the percentage plan alone failed to result in the enrollment of a critical mass of underrepresented students and left many courses with very few to no underrepresented students enrolled.

In challenging the university’s admissions practices that permitted consideration of race, the denied applicants looked to support from a post-Grutter Supreme Court case involving firefighters where the Court rejected a city’s invalidation of a test used for promotions (Ricci v. DeStafano, 2009). The Fifth Circuit responded in Fisher that the Supreme Court had not retreated from the standards announced in Grutter regarding the use of race as a permissible factor in admissions by public colleges and universities.

Grutter v. Bollinger and Permissibility of Race as Factor in Admissions

In Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), a five to four decision, the Supreme Court held that public higher education institutions are permitted to consider race as one of multiple factors in admissions in order to realize the educational benefits of diversity. The case involved an applicant to the University of Michigan School of Law who challenged the school’s admission policy, which considered race as one of many possible admissions factors. The law school’s criteria required admissions officials to provide individualized consideration to each application. While undergraduate grades and standardized test scores constituted important factors for consideration, the law school policy did not guarantee or reject particular applications solely on these standards. Instead, the admissions policy considered a number of other criteria that would contribute to an entering class’ diversity, including in relation to race and ethnicity.

Five justices in Grutter concluded that the law school’s admissions system was constitutional. In a companion case, Gratz v. Bollinger (2003), the Supreme Court invalidated an undergraduate admissions program at the University of Michigan, declaring that it did not provide individualized consideration of applicants’ files and mechanically included race as a factor in admissions.

Justice O’Connor, writing the majority opinion in Grutter, began her analysis by noting that governmental classifications relying on race are subject to strict scrutiny, a rigorous standard of legal review. Under this standard, the use of race in admissions had to be narrowly tailored to further a compelling governmental interest. The opinion stressed that all governmental classifications, even those seeking to benefit minority populations, are subject to strict scrutiny.

A majority of justices in Grutter accepted the argument that the law school’s use of race in admissions to obtain the educational benefits of diversity constituted a compelling governmental interest. In accepting this position, the Court adopted the diversity rationale advanced by Justice Lewis Powell in Bakke v. Regents of the University of California (1978) that had failed to garner the support of a majority of justices. In approving of the educational benefits of diversity as constituting a compelling governmental interest, the Court in Grutter also noted the special deference that has been shown by courts to colleges and universities in the context of educational matters.

Having accepted that the educational benefits of diversity constituted a compelling governmental interest, the Supreme Court in Grutter also held that the law school’s use of race was narrowly tailored. The opinion discussed that race comprised only one of many possible factors considered in admissions decisions in relation to assembling a diverse class. Applicants’ files also received individualized, holistic evaluation. The majority deemed it relevant as well that, while seeking to enroll a critical mass of underrepresented students in pursuit of the educational benefits of diversity, the law school did not rely on any kind of strict percentages that would constitute a quota system.

Post-Grutter School Assignment Cases

The Supreme Court revisited the issue of using race in admissions in a pair of consolidated cases decided post-Grutter that involved school assignment plans at the elementary and secondary education levels (Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, 2007). The cases dealt with challenges to student assignment plans voluntarily adopted by school districts in Seattle, Washington, and Louisville, Kentucky. In both cases, a majority of the court rejected the legal permissibility of the plans.

Chief Justice John Robert’s opinion for the majority in Parents Involved stated that in Grutter the Supreme Court emphasized that each student received individualized consideration. The majority in Parents Involved determined that the school assignment plans under consideration failed to give this same kind of individualized consideration. Near the conclusion of his opinion in Parents Involved announcing the Court’s judgment, Chief Justice Roberts, arguing against the permissibility of the school assignment plans, stated that “[t]he way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race” (Parents Involved, 2009, p. 748). While his opinion noted that Grutter involved special concerns related to higher education, the Parents Involved decision indicates that a current majority of the Court may greet any race conscious programs with heavy skepticism.

Supreme Court’s Review of Fisher Leaves Grutter Standards in Doubt

The Supreme Court’s decision to review the Fisher case means that Grutter’s legal legacy may prove relatively brief. Accordingly, what can be viewed as the rather limited use of race in higher education admissions permitted in Grutter now faces an uncertain future. Fisher may mark the end point of a judicial pattern in recent decades characterized by an overall resistance to allowing race as a legally permissible factor in higher education admissions to serve social justice and equality goals.

As noted, the majority in Grutter looked approvingly to Justice Powell’s opinion in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978) that advocated the educational benefits of diversity as a permissible reason to include race in admissions. A dissenting opinion in Bakke by Justice William Brennan and joined by three other justices shows a constitutional road not taken in relation to the use of race in higher education admissions. In this opinion, Justice Brennan argued for more lenient judicial review of racial classifications under certain circumstances. He argued that, rather than the highest level of judicial scrutiny (strict scrutiny), the kind of admissions program at issue in Bakke should have been subjected to intermediate scrutiny. His opinion contended that courts should distinguish between governmental racial classifications meant to benefit racial minorities and to address a legacy of racism in the United States versus classifications that sought to discriminate against racial minorities.

Justice Brennan’s argument that governmental uses of race meant to benefit minority groups should receive an intermediate level of judicial scrutiny did not prevail. In a series of cases, the Supreme Court eventually determined that all racial classifications should be subject to strict scrutiny. Furthermore, the Supreme Court made it clear that in seeking to remedy past and ongoing discrimination, a racial classification had to be aimed at redressing specific acts or instances of discrimination rather than seeking to address general societal discrimination. Accordingly, Grutter was decided in the context of previous decisions that had already greatly restricted instances when the government could use race to benefit minority groups.

Moses and Chang (2006) discuss how an emphasis on the “diversity rationale” in higher education, including in judicial decisions, has “weakened the justification for race-conscious admissions based on corrective or distributive justice” (p. 9). As they point out, while “broader justice concerns” are not completely distinct from the diversity rationale, such an “interest appears at best to be indirect” (Moses & Chang, 2006, p. 9). Moses and Chang’s concern with an overemphasis on the diversity rationale highlights how, from one perspective, the Grutter decision marked a rather modest and somewhat narrow legal approval of the use of race in public higher education admissions. Now, with the Supreme Court set to review Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, even the continued legal permissibility of this limited use of race in public higher education admissions appears in doubt.

Discussion Questions

  • Does your institution use race-conscious admissions policies of the kind authorized in the Grutter decision? If so, what would be the impact on admissions at your college or university resulting from a Supreme Court ruling that prohibits or restricts such race-conscious policies?
  • Does your state or university have race neutral admissions policies that are intended to achieve greater diversity in admissions? What effect do these policies have on your admissions outcomes?
  • How does your college or university interpret the concept of “critical mass?” What kinds of data collection initiatives are used to evaluate your institution’s degree of success in achieving a “critical mass” of students from underrepresented populations?


Carey, K. (2012, March 4). Commentary: Justice and equity are on the line in ‘Fisher v. Texas.’ The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, 631 F.3d 213 (5th Cir. 2011), cert. granted, 2012 WL 538328 (Feb. 21, 2012).

Gratz v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244 (2003).

Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003).

Liptak, A. (2012, February 7). Justices take up race as a factor in college entry. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Moses, M.S., & Chang, M.J. (2006). Toward a deeper understanding of the diversity rationale. Educational Researcher, 35(1), 6-11.

Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, 551 U.S. 701 (2007).

Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S 265 (1978).

Ricci v. DeStafano, 129 S. Ct. 2658 (2009).

About the Author

Neal H. Hutchens is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation at the University of Kentucky. His research focuses on legal issues arising in higher education.

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.

Internationalization and the Search for Otherness

Internationalization and the Search for Otherness

Jason E. Lane
State University of New York, Albany

The purpose of the Global Affairs column is to discuss issues pertinent to the student affairs profession that arise out of the growing interconnectedness in the world. This column will provide readers with information and insights about the changing nature of the profession and some of the factors contributing to those changes. The use of the term “globalization” is meant to describe the growing interconnection of nations, people, economies, politics, and education. The term is not meant to reflect a particular ideology or belief structure. The column will explore both the potentially good and bad aspects of a real phenomenon.

The German philosopher Hegel (1977) once wrote that “each consciousness pursues the death of the other” (p. 113). Hegel believed that how an individual views him/herself was very much dependent on how that person saw his/her relationship with the “other” person. Personal transformation and growth would come when a person wrestled with the “otherness” or differences with the others and attempted to reconcile those differences.

College campuses often provide opportunities for students to experience “otherness” and the resulting personal growth that occurs. College is often a time when students, regardless of their background, meet and interact with those who are different from them. These interactions, according to Hegel, are important, as they help the individual construct or reconstruct their own personal identity. Colleges and universities offer a wide range of “others” that many—whether a recent high school graduate or a returning veteran—have not encountered previously. The more diverse the campus, the more “others” there are likely to be. Conversely, the more homogenous the campus, the fewer “others” and, thus, fewer opportunities for growth there are likely to be. Of course, ultimately, it is up to the student (or individual) to decide whether the interaction with the “other” will lead to personal growth or merely reinforce his or her existing self-identify or, in the words of Hegel, “consciousness.”

While campuses can provide opportunities for personal transformation and growth, there are often larger social, economic, and political forces that influence how one views himself or herself. These forces transcend the college campus and make it difficult for individuals to see themselves as anything other than a set of social identify labels, as these forces tend to reinforce differences rather than stress similarities. For example, it is often difficult for students to escape the roles assigned to them as “first-generation,” “southerner,” or “minority.” This can be particularly true when students attend a campus near home or within a region with the same shared world views as where they grew up; it can be difficult to evolve their view of themselves.

This concept of “otherness” drove the development of an innovative student exchange program, sponsored by the University of Kentucky (UK). The Discover Germany-Discover USA program, winner of the 2012 Heiskell Award for Campus Internationalization from the Institute for International Education, supports about two dozen students’ travel from UK to Germany each June and brings over about the same number of students from Germany each fall to study at the UK campus.

A student exchange is, in itself, not necessarily innovative. However, this exchange focuses on U.S. students from disadvantaged backgrounds, such as minorities, first-generation students, and those from Appalachia. The students from Germany also tend to be first-generation and immigrant students who represent the “new Germany that is experiencing a spike in immigration”, according to the award application. The application describes the focus on “otherness:”

As [German students] bond with each other and acknowledge their differences, they also affirm their German identity and compare their feelings of inner versus outer identity with the ways that they are perceived by U.S. students. Similarly, U.S. students on the Discover Germany programs are members of a racial, ethnic, or cultural minority or are first-generation college students. Whereas they see primarily their differences before the travel experience, once they are in Germany, they also grapple with the dissonance between how they see themselves and how others perceive them.

Too often, discussions about travel abroad focus on students gaining an appreciation for other cultures and other people; however, rarely do we talk about the personal transformations that occur in how students view themselves as a result of these experiences.

Beyond the personal transformations that are a focus of the program, it is also important to highlight that this program specifically targets students who are MOST likely to feel different from the majority and LEAST likely to study abroad. As the paragraph above suggests, those who participate in the exchange often identify themselves by their differences from others, rather than the similarities that they share. But, it is the exposure to very different cultures and foreign environments that allows them to see their shared characteristics, while still celebrating their differences.

To be certain, I believe this program should be emulated by other colleges and universities. However, as with similar programs, there is a problem with scalability. The program serves around four dozen students a year through the help of the German Fulbright Commission, the Hertie Foundation, and Germany’s European Recovery Program. Regardless, there are surely thousands of students from dozens of nations that could benefit from such an experience, and there is no way to scale this program to serve all those students who would be advantaged by it. Nevertheless, I would encourage all institutions to look to develop such programs, as I believe it’s better to serve a couple of dozen students than none at all.

While resources might not exist to replicate the exchange portion of the program, colleges and universities can, and should, consider how they can use their existing and developing international education activities to help students confront “otherness” in ways that might not be possible otherwise in their communities or on campus. In an era when it is too common to highlight our differences, it is even more important for colleges and universities to help our students appreciate their similarities.

Discussion Questions

  • From your own experience, how has international education shaped your view of yourself?
  • Can the work that you do incorporate the concept of “otherness” to help students with their own personal growth? If so, how? If not, why not?
  • How can your institution better use international education as a means for helping students understand their similarities, not just their differences?


Hegel, G. W. F. (1977). Phenomenology of spirit. (A.V. Miller, Trans.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

About the Author

Jason E. Lane is Director of Education Studies at the Rockefeller Institute of Government, associate professor of educational administration and policy studies, and a senior researcher with the Institute for Global Education Policy Studies at the State University of New York, Albany. He is member of the governing boards of the Comparative and International Education Society and the Council for International Higher Education and is an Associate of the International Association of Universities. His most recent books include Multi-National Colleges and Universities: Leading, Governing, and Managing International Branch Campuses and The Global Growth of Private Higher Education, both from Jossey-Bass.

More about the author and his research on cross-border education can be found here. Please e-mail inquiries to Jason E. Lane.


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.

Commissions Corner

Commissions Corner

Laura A. Bayless
Coordinator for Commissions
Heather Shea Gasser
Past Coordinator for Commissions

This issue of Developments highlights the work of two Commissions:

  • Spirituality, Faith, Religion and Meaning
  • Graduate and Professional Student Affairs

Please take a moment to read these brief articles. We expect you will find resources to assist in your work on your campus. Commissions and Task Forces produce a number of important professional development opportunities ranging from webinars to publications to in-person training opportunities. It is never too late to become involved yourself; contact any Commission Chair for information about how to make a difference in ACPA and in the field through work in Commissions.

Commission for Spirituality, Faith, Religion, and Meaning

Sharon A. Lobdell, Chair

The ACPA Commission for Spirituality, Faith, Religion, and Meaning (CSFRM) provides ACPA members an arena within which to conduct research and assessment, strengthen their professional competencies, and enrich their self-knowledge and professional knowledge about issues related to meaning-making, specifically spirituality, faith, religion, belief, and existentialism within the context of higher education. In addition, acting within the ACPA governance structure [e.g., governing board, assembly, etc.] and with the ACPA International Office, CSFRM will assist in positioning ACPA to be an informed voice on existential pursuits of meaning-making, including spirituality, faith, religion, and belief as they relate to student development, the administration of student affairs, and the organization of governance structures within a college, community college, or university setting. These efforts will include examining various modes of pursuing meaning-making in the contextual experience of both the United States and the global higher education community (CSFRM, 2010).

The previous paragraph is the mission adopted by the commission in October 2009. The commission provides many opportunities and resources consistent with this mission. Recently, the CSFRM sponsored two webinars, “If Not Now, When? Student Affairs Educators’ Role in Promoting Religious/Secular Pluralism” and “Atheist College Students: Faith, Spirituality, and Meaning Making.” Both webinars were collaborative efforts led by CSFRM Directorate members and other participants dedicated to presenting learning tools for our colleagues. We were also quite fortunate to have a four-part series, “Working on Our Inner Lives: Meaning-Making in Colleges and Universities,” featured in Developments in the past year. (Read the second installment of the series in the summer 2011 issue here).

The CSFRM is currently revamping its organizational structure. The new structure will have the following six subcommittees, each co-chaired by Directorate members: Professional Development and High Impact Practices, Publications and Research Development, Convention Services, Sponsored Programs, Partnership Development, and Outreach and Member Services. Any current member of the CSFRM can work on one of these teams. If you have not joined the commission, perhaps now is the time!

Additional information about the CSFRM is available on the commission Web site. Please direct questions to Commission Chair Sharon Lobdell or Chair-Elect Jenny Small.

Commission for Graduate and Professional Student Affairs

Mary T. Hall, Chair

There are more than two million students enrolled in graduate and professional schools in the United States (American Bar Association, 2011; Association of American Medical Colleges, 2011; Council of Graduate Schools, 2011). These masters, doctoral, and professional (e.g., MD, MBA, JD) degree students face unique academic, developmental, and environmental challenges.

The Commission for Graduate and Professional Student Affairs (CGPSA) is a community of student affairs professionals who work with graduate and professional students (e.g., MA, MS, MEd, MBA, MD, JD, PhD, DVM) across student affairs functional areas (e.g., admissions, enrollment, orientation, academic advising, counseling and psychological services, career services, residence life) in every institution type that offers graduate and/or professional degrees. The Commission members work to expand the scholarly and applied knowledge base by generating and sharing research, services, and programs that foster and enhance the graduate and professional student learning experience.

The CGPSA serves as a vital intellectual and social home for many student affairs professionals—many who serve the graduate student population in an office of one. Specifically, our commission provides support and networking opportunities for professionals who share similar concerns affecting the broader graduate and professional student population (e.g., attrition) or a specific subset (e.g., law school outcomes assessments). Further, our commission advocates for increased awareness of graduate and professional student services throughout ACPA and other higher education communities.

We invite you to join us in the following networking and other opportunities:

  • Volunteers wanted! A CGPSA committee is developing an annotated bibliography of research and periodical articles on the graduate and professional student experience.
  • Two free conference calls in summer 2012 regarding sponsored programs for the 2013 annual convention will address the items: What is a sponsored program? How to submit a proposal. What are topics of interest?
  • A webinar in summer 2012 will be presented regarding alcohol and the graduate/professional student culture.
  • Regional drive-in conference will be held on October 19, 2012 at Harvard University (Co-sponsored with our colleagues in the NASPA Administrators in Graduate and Professional Student Services Knowledge Community, Region I). Contact Jason McKnight (CGPSA Past-Chair) for more details.
  • Join the conversation with your CGPSA colleagues on LinkedIn.

Additional information about CGPSA is available on the Commission Web site. Please direct questions to the Commission Chair, Mary Hall.


Please contact Mary T. Hall for article references.

From the President: When One Door Closes

From the President: When One Door Closes

Keith B. Humphrey
ACPA President
The University of Arizona

Happy summer to my student affairs family!

If your campus is like mine, the joy of commencement has come and gone and you are focused on welcoming the newest students to your academic community. For me, both moments are always emotional.

When I look back on the accomplishments of my students at graduation paired so closely with seeing the promise and optimism of a new class, the juxtaposition always gives me pause. I watch the incoming first-year students and wonder what purposeful change they will bring to our campus and world. This orientation season is especially poignant for me as our oldest son, Owen, is starting his first year of higher education. We watched him process in cap and gown at high school graduation a few weeks ago, stunned that he has become an 18-year-old adult. And I mean stunned (the parents out there know what I mean).

This is my first opportunity to write to you as your ACPA President and I feel like an incoming first-year student going through orientation right now: lots of optimism, energy, and enthusiasm mixed with anxiety, caution, and humility. I have more questions than answers, but luckily my parents are not hovering over me to embarrass me in front of my new classmates.

Owen is going to be a first-year student at my home institution, the University of Arizona, where there are dozens of ACPA members creating the experiences that will change his life. I appreciate their daily effort for our students and the efforts of our thousands of other ACPA members around the world, who are putting the same level of care into their new students’ experiences.

Last month, I held my Presidential Symposium at Kingsborough Community College in New York City, where we focused on amplifying the factors that promote student success rather than dwelling on why students fail. We concentrated on our partnerships with academic affairs administrators, knowing that a focused organization is one that is ultimately the most successful. If you were not able to join us at this wonderful event hosted by Kingsborough’s Dean of Students, Dr. Paulette Dalpes, and the excellent College Student Personnel Association of New York (CSPA-NYS), you will get a chance to continue this dialogue at the ACPA Annual Convention in Las Vegas in March 2013.

The Presidential Symposium highlights why I love ACPA and why, no matter what position I hold, ACPA will always be my professional home. I love our size: we are big enough to bring together professionals from all aspects of student affairs yet small enough to ensure that opportunities for involvement, leadership, and presentations at annual or state conventions are plentiful. I love our prominent history of bringing together faculty scholars and practitioners to solve the challenges students and campuses face.

As your summer continues, I hope you take moments to honor your incoming class of students by reflecting on what made your most recent class of graduates so successful. Be sure to tell us about your successes by submitting a program proposal for the ACPA Annual Convention in 2013!

Most importantly, make sure you take time for yourself so that you have the energy to do your good work all over again for another year.

Please e-mail inquiries to Keith Humphrey.

Follow Keith on twitter @keithbhumphrey and @acpaprez

From One Dupont Circle: Quarterly Update

From One Dupont Circle: Quarterly Update

Gregory Roberts
ACPA Executive Director

Greetings from One Dupont Circle:

The summer of 2012 has been one of excitement and joy following a very successful year of programs and activities. The Louisville Convention was a resounding success as this was the first time ACPA has been held in Louisville, Kentucky. We are working diligently with the 2013 Las Vegas Planning team to make this special convention, being held in conjunction with NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation, a significant professional development experience.

Since my last conversation with you, I have had the pleasure of representing our Association at several international meetings: ACPA/NASPA Gulf Coast Conference in Doha, Qatar, the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services (CACUSS) in St. Catherine’s, Canada, and a special visit with our members and colleagues in Hong Kong, Zhuhai, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing, China. In China, we were extremely pleased with a warm reception around the country and with the outstanding host and interpreter, Professor Johnston Huang, from the United International College (UIC, a “branch” of Hong Kong Baptist University).

The results of our Association’s initiatives on the global front are yet to be realized, but given the global similarities and needs of students, the essentials of college student educators are similar to those of us in the United States. The difference comes in our unique cultural traditions, customs, and unique ethnic experiences. There are many opportunities ahead as we continue to cultivate meaningful partnerships and learning opportunities around the globe.

Next Steps for ACPA and its Membership:

  • Continue to work with the ACPA Globalization Committee and stay in touch by visiting the ACPA Global Initiatives webpage on a regular basis
  • Encourage our international colleagues to join us in Las Vegas to continue the conversation about collaborations, partnerships, and meaningful exchanges for both groups. We continue seeking opportunities to challenge our preconceived beliefs and attitudes (many unfounded) as we learn how to educate our students to prepare them as they inherit a global society
  • Identify new, and reallocate existing, resources to support moving our global initiatives forward
  • Encourage ACPA members to apply for, and maintain a current passport, thus being able to take advantage of short term and unexpected opportunities that might surface

Pending Issues of Note:

  • U.S. Supreme Court decision to hear the Texas college admission question (affirmative action)
  • Special programs to enhance collegiate treatment of returning veterans, who are taking advantage of their GI privileges in greater numbers
  • Republican and Democratic National Conventions (GOP in Tampa and DNC in Charlotte)

In addition to our progressive international agenda, we continue to monitor U. S. Congressional activities of interest to higher education and college students. Currently, the “press” is on for Congress and the White House to pass an extension of the student loan rate proposal. This is a critical decision by the Congress to continue, for one more year, the current 3.4% interest rate rather than the proposed 6.8% interest rate agreed to by Congress five years ago. Given our slow economic recovery, it will be beneficial to extend this benefit to nearly 7 million students currently holding federally supported loans.

As the heat of summer is upon us, it doesn’t mean less work or fewer priorities for our profession. What it does mean is that we use this time to remain focused on improving collegiate education for students. Thank you for the work you do to accomplish this challenge. The future is bright and full of opportunities that enhance the mission, vision, and core values of our Association.

Happy 89th Birthday ACPA!

Until next time,