Academic Coaching: Experiences and Lessons at One Urban University

Academic coaches encourage “persistence and completion by helping students find ways to overcome both academic and ‘real-life’ barriers and to identify strategies for success” (Bettinger & Baker, 2011, p. 10). Coaching has also been defined as moving a person “to a higher level of competence, confidence, performance, or insight … Coaching is all about change” (Reiss, 2007, p. 11). Aguilar (2013) wrote that the art of coaching encompasses doing a set of actions, holding a set of beliefs, and being in a way that results in those actions leading to change.

Changes created by academic coaching can promote retention and engagement. Bettinger and Baker (2011) found that college students who had used Inside Track, a private academic coaching company, were more likely to remain in college even up to two years after receiving coaching than those who had not. One student who worked with an academic coach at Portland State University wrote in a survey this year, “I feel a lot more connected with school and the improvements I have made in the term” (Hatfield, 2013). Robinson and Gahagan (2010) noted, “Millennial students … gravitate toward individual mentorship and are more likely to succeed if they feel connected to their university” (p. 29). This suggests that relationships developed in coaching programs can impact affinity with an institution as well as academic success.

Academic Coaching at Portland State University

To help students build positive academic habits such as planning for long-term assignments and communicating professionally with faculty, Portland State University’s (PSU) Learning Center used to offer workshops scheduled at various times, but few students attended. In response, it created a one-on-one coaching model open to all undergraduate and graduate students of this large, urban university.

During the program’s first year in 2011-2012, four interns from PSU’s Graduate School of Education who specialized in postsecondary, continuing, and adult education helped fellow students in 170 coaching sessions. They worked through myriad issues experienced by many students ranging from juggling courses with work and family, communicating with faculty, and strategically approaching long-term assignments. Although coaches focused on academic strategies, they learned quickly that successful academic work is related to other areas of students’ lives. Coaches walked students to the Student Health and Counseling Center, the Disability Resource Center, and the Women’s Resource Center, among other places. Students learned about other resources on campus offered by both professional staff and student organizations that provide support in areas outside of the classroom. In addition to the coaching interns from PSU’s Graduate School of Education, one coach was a graduate student from the School of Social Work who also helped develop services for students who are veterans.

Students can meet once with a coach or they can return weekly throughout the term. A few students continue for two terms or for the entire year (PSU is on a quarter system). The coaching program’s outcomes are simple and are grounded in common assessment practices: students will create individual goals and measurable plans to meet these goals. Goals may address school/life balance, active learning strategies and various approaches to studying course content, improving communication skills, and learning of resources on campus.

Students who seek coaching complete an interest form online. Coaches have access to Google calendars for appointments and a Google site accessible only to them. The site contains information on campus resources, training materials, coaching literature, ethical standards of the International Coach Federation (2008), and forms coaches may need such as those having to do with pre- and post-assessments. Coaches are encouraged to upload to the site literature and other resources they have found. Coaching is conducted in a semi-private office in the Learning Center during scheduled appointments. Coaches and administrators meet bi-weekly to discuss sessions, share resources and ideas, and set goals for learning. Unlike other Learning Center student employees (tutors, workshop leaders, and office assistants), coaches are not paid, but are part of all Learning Center celebrations and all-staff meetings.

Academic Coaching Lessons from K-12

Administrators of PSU’s Learning Center have used a variety of resources in creating its coaching program. This year, the program’s third, administrators are planning to incorporate parts of Elena Aguilar’s 2013 book, The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation. Although the book is written for K-12 administrators and teacher coaches, many principles can be applied to higher education coaching programs. Aguilar touches on several theories and the importance of professional development. This section explores four of the strategies that apply to students who seek coaching and the learning outcomes of coaches themselves which the Learning Center has incorporated into their coach training.

Reflective Learning

To create change, Aguilar (2013) encouraged ongoing reflection. Students whom coaches help and the coaches themselves must have time to reflect on their process and their subsequent development because of this process. Through reflection, coaches help students understand that decisions in areas outside of school can impact academic performance and vice versa. Thus, coaches can help students see their lives as one interconnected whole and not a “miscellaneous heap of separate bits of experiences, but in some organized and systematic way—that is, as reflectively formulated” (Dewey, 1902, p. 5).

Constructivists, like John Dewey, emphasize the importance of active construction of knowledge. Students’ previous knowledge and experiences are where new learning begins, and coaches must co-create knowledge rather than simply give knowledge to the student. Before Learning Center coaches meet with students, they have a sense of what the students are bringing to the initial session through an interest form that students complete before the first appointment is made. Students are asked questions such as “What has been your best experience so far?” and “How do you typically study?” These questions, in addition to those having to do with what the student hopes to get out of coaching, create a foundation from which both coaches and students can work. During coaching sessions, coaches and students work together to create specific goals tailored to each individual stemming from their conversations.


Aguilar (2013) also discusses the zone of proximal development, which is the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers (Vygotsky, 1978). Coaches provide scaffolds for student learning. For example, students regularly say they have never thought about writing a paper or studying for an exam over a distributed time period—they had always done it the night before. Learning Center coaches suggest frameworks that promote studying over a period of time and do so without being punitive. For example, students are not required to create mini-deadlines for their assignments and are not refused coaching if they do not follow through with their goals. Rather, if students do not meet their goals for the week, they can return to their coaches knowing that they can share what hindered their work and go on from there.

Critical Pedagogy

Aguilar (2013) grounded her work in the frame of critical pedagogy, which encourages a critique of dominant forms of knowledge and social practices that organize meanings and experiences (Giroux, 2009). The critical educator asks how social norms impact and are impacted by class, race, gender, and other disparities of power. Critical theory applied to the classroom often begins with students’ own voices and experiences; it is no different with coaching. Coaches also need to be cognizant of power at multiple levels and be trained in how their own assumptions frame their world views, and thus how they approach their work with students. According to Aguilar (2013), if coaches do not explore the belief systems that drive their own actions, they may not see transformational, sustained change in the people they help.

Academic coaches must ask themselves if they truly believe everyone, regardless of academic history, age, wealth, and so on, can be academically successful. Nearly 30,000 students attend PSU and the majority of undergraduate students have transferred from a community college or four-year university (Portland State University, 2012). Also, many students are the first in their families to attend college. Coaches must explore the assumptions they have of these and all populations. Part of the Learning Center’s training of coaches includes integrating critical theory in confronting their own assumptions, reflecting on how their world views were formulated, and discussing what happens when they apply their assumptions to coaching sessions. Sharing stories in staff meetings help coaches to identify these assumptions, particularly when coaches have never personally experienced what a student is going through.

Development of Coaches

Aguilar (2013) emphasizes the professional development of coaches, for it is not only the students who coaches help who need support from administrators. PSU’s Learning Center takes seriously the growth and development of its student employees, interns, and graduate assistants. Specifically, administrators ask coaches to develop their own learning outcomes for their coaching experience. Coaches created outcomes ranging from asking more open-ended questions to being involved with programmatic assessment. PSU’s coaching program also is certified through the College Reading and Learning Association (2013), which has a mentor program certification component. The certification process required administrators to reflect on training components and what coaches were learning from their experiences. Lastly, the Learning Center has created a culture of observation and each student employee or intern is observed at least once (and sometimes more if appropriate to the position) with a debriefing conversation following an observation.


Those in higher education wanting to implement an academic coaching program may want to read Elena Aguilar’s (2013) The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation. Although it provides helpful charts, rubrics, and prompts for coaches to use during sessions, it more importantly grounds coaching in theoretical frames and emphasizes the need for contextualization. Without such foundations, coaching would be akin to throwing darts with hopes of hitting the center. Work with students cannot be approached this way; rather, coaches must begin with each individual student to determine how to scaffold learning and development. Higher education professionals should explore what their K-12 partners have to say about doing this in meaningful ways.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are the boundaries of academic coaches? In other words, what specifically is their role in a university?
  2. If you have a coaching program, on what theoretical foundations do you base your program? If you do not have a program, which theories would guide you? What about in your other programs?
  3. How do you know if your coaching program is successful? How would you measure success in your context?


Aguilar, E. (2013). The art of coaching: Effective strategies for school transformation. San Francisco, CA: Wiley.

Bettinger, E., & Baker, R. (2011). The effects of student coaching in college: An evaluation of a randomized experiment in student mentoring (No. w16881). National Bureau of Economic Research.

College Reading & Learning Association. (2013). International mentor training program certification. Retrieved from

Dewey, J. (1902). Child and the curriculum. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Giroux, H. A. (2009). Teacher education and democratic schooling. In A. Darder, M. P. Baltodano & R. D. Torres (Eds.), The Critical Pedagogy Reader (pp. 438-459). New York, NY: Routledge.

Hatfield, L. J. (2013). [Learning Center academic coaching post-assessment 2012-13]. Unpublished raw data.

International Coach Federation. (2008). Code of ethics. Lexington, KY: Author. Retrieved from…

Portland State University. (2012). New freshman and transfer student profile. Retrieved from

Reiss, K. (2007). Leadership coaching for educators: Bringing out the best in school administrators. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Robinson, C. R., & Gahagan, J. (2010). Coaching students to academic success and engagement on campus. About Campus, 15(4), 27-29.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological process. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

About the Author

Lisa Hatfield currently serves as the Director of the Learning Center at Portland State University, where she is also pursuing an Ed.D. in Curriculum & Instruction. She holds a Master of Arts in Teaching and a Master of Arts in English. Her research interests include P-20 alignments, assessment, and scholarship of student affairs professionals.

Please e-mail Inquiries to Lisa Hatfield.


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.

Women as Leaders & Caregivers: Casting Ebony Pillars in the Ivory Tower—Reflections of a Sister in the Academy

In celebration of our 40th Anniversary, members of the Standing Committee for Women are pleased to sponsor a Series in Developments. Our Series, “Women As,” explores how women’s intersecting identities (race, class, gender expression and performance, sexuality, religion, etc.) impact women’s experiences in different roles. Thus, authors share their ideas as women who are leaders, faculty, caregivers, and/or students. In support of a feminist approach to research and learning, articles will reflect an array of insights including practical strategies, research findings, lessons learned, arts-based research, visual inquiry, narrative inquiry, and reflections. We encourage you to utilize the discussion questions included in each article to stimulate your thinking and enhance your work in the classroom and/or workplace.

Aya—the Ghanian axiom for endurance and resourcefulness. These words are a fitting description of the spirit and achievements of Black women in higher education. Though Black women have played an active role in developing the postsecondary sector in the United States, exclusionary measures have negatively impacted racial minorities since the inception of higher education (Anderson, 1988; Collins, 2001; Lucas, 1994). As a result, Black women in the academy often mediate dissonance between their conceptualizations of self and the institutionalized mores of higher education (Clark & Corcoran, 1986; Collins, 1986; Gregory, 1999; Jarmon, 2001; King & Ferguson, 2001; Patton & Harper, 2003). Although the experiences of Black women are not monolithic, several studies suggest that they cope with similar difficulties, such as addressing racial and gender microaggressions across the postsecondary system (Solórzano, 2000; Thompson & Dey, 1998); balancing career with familial obligations (Finkel, Olswang, & She, 1994); obtaining tenure-track positions at a slower rate than their colleagues (Finkel et al., 1994); experiencing a lack of mentorship (Jarmon, 2001; Patton & Harper, 2003; Woods, 2001); and failing to obtain systematic socialization within the academy (Gregory, 2001; Singh, Robinson, & Williams-Green, 1995; Thompson & Dey, 1998).

It is within this context that this article shares my narrative as a Black woman in higher education. In a very organic manner, I bridge my experiences with Black feminist thought in an effort to demonstrate ways in which Black women may name individual instances of empowerment within their own lives. After briefly exploring my personal accounts with identity intersection, I present The Pillars of Indigo, a conceptual model that connects practical performance strategies with lessons learned. As such, this work is a dialogue between me and any woman who has ever struggled to dance to her own rhythm.

Black Feminist Thought in Higher Education

Issues stemming from the Black-White dichotomy have shaped the racial fabric of the United States for over 400 years, and institutions of higher education have not gone unaffected by these dynamics (Anderson, 1988; Collins, 2001; Lucas, 1994). Complex relationships between Black women and the academy have always existed as a result of multiple-often conflicting-expectations that limited their level of involvement in curricular and co-curricular activities (Collins, 1986; Collins, 2001; Holmes, 2003; Jarmon, 2001). Lucy Diggs Slowe and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander serve as vivid illustrations of Black women who were expected to adapt to infrastructures built for Whites (Mack, 2012; Rasheed, 2012). Slowe was a revolutionary in higher education administration and Alexander was the first Black scholar to receive a Ph.D. in economics and the first woman to earn a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania (Mack, 2012; Rasheed, 2012). Slowe and Alexander set their own guidelines on how they would maneuver through paternalistic attitudes that catered to White men while progressing through the education system.

Both accounts act as examples of the “outsider within” paradigm often observed in varying United States systems and aptly identified in Black feminist thought (Collins, 1986; hooks, 1981; hooks, 1984). Parallels continue to exist between Slowe, Alexander, and other Black women in higher education. Black women have become perpetually situated in a space where they are able to observe behavioral, cultural, and sociopolitical patterns that often go undetected by their colleagues and students (Aquirre, 2000; Collins, 1986; Gregory, 1999; hooks, 1981; Jarmon, 2001; King & Ferguson, 2001; Woods, 2001). Sometimes known as “marginal intellectuals,” Black women provide a unique and valuable perspective on postsecondary infrastructures because increased visibility of Black women on college campuses has not immediately translated into acceptance and integration. Racism and sexism continues to prevent Black women from being regarded as major actors in the higher rungs of academia (Collins, 1986; Gregory, 1999; King & Ferguson, 2001; Mannheim, 1936; Patton & Harper, 2003; Thompson, & Dey, 1998). Overall, their experiences remain on the cusp of critical discourse within the annals of higher education (Anderson, 1988; Holmes, 2003; King & Ferguson, 2001; Patitu & Hinton, 2003).

She Writes in Color. She Speaks in Song.

According to Collins (1986), “Black women may produce certain commonalities of outlook [but] the diversity of class, region, age, and sexual orientation shaping individual Black women’s lives has resulted in different expressions of these common themes” (p. S16). Nonetheless, we all require nurturing relationships and networks inclusive of role models who are situated in the postsecondary sector (Aquirre, 2000; Clarke & Corcoran, 1986; Finkel et al., 1994; Jarmon, 2001; Gregory, 2001; Patitu & Hinton, 2003; Woods, 2001). As a first generation college student, I was unaware of the developmental setbacks that I had yet to overcome early in my career as an administrator. A new practitioner fresh out of my graduate program, I was not concerned with establishing a professional reputation or integrating theory into my practice. I did not care to stretch my frame of reference or challenge myself to think critically on my pedagogical philosophy. Honestly, I did not grasp how important these elements were because I viewed Black and mainstream culture as mutually exclusive. I had yet to come to the realization that it is possible to find connections between my experiences and university values. I have come a long way since then, and I attribute much of my growth to the women who have taken a special interest in me.

Literature states that it is rare for Black women to identify mentors because there are a shortage of Black faculty and staff at predominantly White institutions (PWIs) (Aquirre, 2000; Gregory, 1999; Gregory, 2001; Jarmon, 2001; Woods, 2001). One way that I was able to circumvent this issue was becoming an active member of professional associations. It was through my participation in ACPA – College Student Educators International, that I found a home in the Pan African Network (PAN). PAN generated several sisters and mentors through the years that I rely on for personal, professional, and spiritual advice. Recognizing that all budgets will not allow for travel to national conventions, I recommend that Black women become more involved with a regional affiliate. This option is more affordable and still provides faculty and staff with the opportunity to associate with a broad range of professionals that are in close proximity. These experiences are beneficial, as they provide educators with the space to engage in reflective discussions with individuals who may share similar backgrounds, viewpoints, or understandings. Networking strengthens careers and is effective in revitalizing educators’ commitment to higher education.

It is important to realize that mentorship does not recognize age. It is about ability, experience, and connection. Regardless of rank and title, it is important that Black women select several individuals who can provide them with an appropriate level of challenge and support in a variety of ways, as it is nearly impossible to identify one person who is equipped to address the holistic needs of an individual. For instance, several of my mentors have suggested that I remain current on the latest research and connect with those who are well-versed in subjects I wish to become an expert on. They have also pushed me to reach out to colleagues and request assessments and recommendations for scholars who could positively shape my professional experience. My mentors have positively influenced my ability to assert myself, to establish rapport, and to cultivate a substantial professional network.

I will be open in sharing that I have also experienced a great degree of dissonance in reconciling the intersection of my personal and professional identities. In deeper reflection, I point to this issue as one of the reasons why I found navigating the political climate of higher education so challenging. My demographic markers have traditionally placed me in several “at-risk” categories and working as a single mother in residence life has led me to make some difficult decisions, crucial mistakes, and complicated conclusions.

My transition has not been easy, nor has my learning been seamless. What has been most difficult for me has been reconciling my personal characteristics with my role in higher education. I have been described by students and colleagues as passionate, intimidating, beautiful, harsh, wise, and arrogant. I have yet to be employed by an institution where I have not been compared to the “other Black woman” in the department. And frankly, addressing me by another Black woman’s name has become cliché. I am from “the hood.” I am not “articulate for an African-American woman;” I am simply articulate. I have a sharp mind, a hearty laugh, and a determined spirit. Yes, I am a mother. No, I am not married, and no, I am not divorced.

I must unpack these exchanges on a daily basis…and it takes its toll.

The Pillars of Indigo: A Conceptual Framework of Empowerment for Black Women

In cementing themselves within the infrastructure of higher education, the very presence of Black women strengthens the postsecondary sector. They serve as pillars within its system. Any engineer recognizes that each pillar supports a different aspect of a structure. My understanding of the literature and personal experiences suggest that life’s lessons have been very instrumental in my success and have become symbolic mainstays in my career. While engaging in reflexive praxis to chart out my professional trajectory, I began to notice themes emerging from my past; themes that I have since organized into a framework. This framework has allowed me to make sense of the intersections between my life as a Black woman and my work as a higher education professional. It is my hope that Black women in the academy can also utilize this model as a tool for personal and professional reflection.

The Pillar of Influence: Connected, Inspiring, Dynamic

As marginalized intellectuals, the perspectives of Black women are powerful because they have remained steadfast amongst the rising tides of racial complexity in the United States. Black women come in many shades, sizes, and diasporic experiences, and upon recognizing the utility of their voices, it will become clear that they have the power to influence systemic change throughout the postsecondary sector. In unison, they can build intercultural communities, initiate interdisciplinary collaborations, and produce groundbreaking, empirical research. As individuals and as a collective, Black women have the capacity to become a dynamic presence in higher education.

The Pillar of Admiration: Impressive, Captivating, Valued

As I continued to engage in my professional journey, I came to regard Black women’s contributions to the field as original works. Within academia, the creation of knowledge is the most prized commodity that an educator can produce. Innovative designs are particularly valued and Black women’s position in the academy prime them for making significant contributions to postsecondary pedagogy, policy, and practice that are original and include diverse viewpoints. In understanding that Black women remain underrepresented in the academy, it is especially pertinent for Black women to present the ways they have improved the foundations of higher education. By marketing their wins, Black women require institutions to demonstrate how much their efforts are valued.

The Pillar of Strength: Fortitude, Resilience, Precision

Although history clearly points to the resilience of Black women, contemporary Black women also exhibit high levels of resolve and talent. Consequently, it is important for Black women to acknowledge the ways in which they serve as a source of support for their peers and the wider academic community. Notably, Black women also serve as beacons of support for underrepresented students and staff within higher education. Through the construction of best practices, synergistic mentorship, and interactive teaching, Black women play a substantial role in increasing the retention rates of Black students, faculty, and staff. Balancing their professional responsibilities with the obligations of civic service requires a tremendous amount of fortitude. As scholars and practitioners, Black women should realize that the higher education system continues to stand because of their involvement, emotional strength, and spiritual power.

The Pillar of Grace: Poised, Balanced, Distinguished

One of the difficulties in living as an underrepresented group is that the experiences of Black women often go misunderstood, are generalized, or are trivialized. Many Black women in the field have encountered the “Angry Black Woman” moniker, have been labeled, or have observed the stereotyping of a peer. Black women continue to contend with the task of dispelling stereotypes, but in the midst of facing these challenges, Black women execute the time-honored tradition of demonstrating poise during difficult times. There may be moments when a negative interaction with a colleague or supervisor causes Black women to question their skillsets and purpose in life. It is important to continue to treat these situations as moments that temper women to “keep your head, when all about you are losing theirs” (Kipling, 2007, p. 1).

The Pillar of Sovereignty: Freedom, Expertise, Leadership

It is within this final passage that I encourage Black women to acknowledge that their jobs do not define them. Their careers are wrapped around the essence of their identities. Living in a self-identified post-racial society, Black women combat issues that are closely tied to their social roles. For instance, Black women in the performance arts have experienced open criticism for their physical features, including skin-tone, facial structure, and size. But worst of all, Black women have been known to assault one another. In attending a pre-conference at an internationally-recognized convention, I observed a woman of color advising Black women to lose weight and wear skirts in their pursuit of collegiate presidential positions. Black women must recognize that the intersections of their professional and personal identities can cause conflict. However, they must realize the importance of each, and work diligently to reconcile the dissonance.


As an up-and-coming scholar, I willingly share my narrative with the hope that shedding light on the issues affecting Black women in higher education will have a transformative influence on the inequities impacting the broader system. I believe that once we have engaged in the constructive exploration of critical issues prevalent in the academy, faculty, staff, and executive management should be challenged to establish solution-based approaches to addressing these concerns.

I hope you are inspired to become more involved in professional development options available to you at the institutional, regional, national, and international levels. These opportunities will encourage you to build upon your professional repertoire and prepare you to engage in authentic dialogue when supporting underrepresented populations. In addition to reviewing texts and articles focused on critical theory and praxis, I became more familiar with current events and best practices in higher education through expanding my network and connecting with colleagues on the ways in which they have approached pertinent issues effecting people of color. With the failure of the Voting Rights Act, the Trayvon Martin trial results, the bankruptcy of Detroit, and increases in accessibility to information through technological advances and social media, educators must be aware of how trending national issues influence the experiences of students, faculty, and staff of color. Becoming skilled in observing how these issues contribute to the intersection of personal and professional identities will assist you in competently addressing the concerns of minorities in the academy.

Discussion Questions

  1. Who is responsible for developing–and assessing– mentor-matching initiatives and the professional socialization of new practitioners and faculty members?
  2. In what ways could graduate programs assist students in recognizing the intersectionality of identity within the profession, paying special attention to the complexity of identity development among minority populations?
  3. Acknowledging the significant contributions Black women have made within the higher education sector, how could colleges and universities better integrate the experiences of Black women into the academy, particularly in the domains of support services and research?


Anderson, J.D. (1988). The education of Blacks in the South, 1860 –1935. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press.

Aquirre, A. (2000). Women and minority faculty in the academic workplace: Recruitment, retention, and academic culture. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Rep, 27-6. Washington, DC: Association for the Study of Higher Education.

Clark, S. & Corcoran, M. (1986). Perspectives on the American socialization of women faculty: A case of accumulative disadvantage. Journal of Higher Education, 57, 20-43.

Collins, A.C. (2001). Black women in the academy: A historical overview. In R.O. Mabokela & A.L. Green (Eds.),Sisters of the Academy: Emergent Black Women Scholars in Higher Education (pp. 29-42). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC.

Collins, P. (1986). Learning from the outsider within: The sociological significance of black feminist thought. Social Problems, 33(6), S14-42.

Finkel, S., Olswang, S., & She, N. (1994). Childbirth, tenure, and promotion for women faculty. Review of Higher Education, 17(3), 259-270.

Gregory, S. (1999). Black women in the academy: The secrets to success and achievement (Revised Ed.). Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

Gregory, S.T. (2001). Black faculty women in the academy: History, status, and future. The Journal for Negro Education, 70(3), 24-138.

Holmes, S. (2003). Black female administrators speak out: Narratives on race and gender in higher education.NASPA Journal, 6 (1), 45-65.

hooks, b. (1981). Ain’t I a woman: Black women and feminism. Boston, MA: South End Press.

hooks, b. (1984). From margin to center. Boston, MA: South End Press.

Jarmon, B.J. (2001). Unwritten rules of the game. In R.O. Mabokela & A.L. Green (Eds.), Sisters of the Academy: Emergent Black Women Scholars in Higher Education (pp. 175-182). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC.

King, T.C. & Ferguson, S.A. (2001). Charting ourselves: Leadership development with black professional women.NWSA Journal, 13(2), 23-141.

Kipling, R. (2007). If: A father’s advice to his son. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division.

Lucas, C.J. (1994). American higher education: A history. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.

Mack, K.W. (2012). A social history of everyday practice: Sadie T.M. Alexander and the incorporation of Black women into the American legal profession, 1925-1960. In T.L. Brown, G.S. Parks, & C.M. Phillips (Eds.), African American Fraternities and Sororities: The Legacy and the Vision (2nd Ed., pp. 267-288). Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky.

Mannheim, K. (1936). Knowledge. New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace & Co.

Patitu, C. L. & Hinton, K.G. (2003). The experiences of African American women faculty and administrators in higher education: Has anything changed? New Directions for Students Services, 104, pp. 79-93.

Patton, L.D. & Harper, S.R. (2003). Mentoring relationships among African American women in graduate and professional schools. New Directions for Student Services, 104, pp. 67-78.

Rasheed, L. (2012). Lucy Diggs Slowe: Not a matron but an administrator. In T.L. Brown, G.S. Parks, & C.M. Phillips (Eds.), African American Fraternities and Sororities: The Legacy and the Vision (2nd Ed., pp. 249-266). Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky.

Singh, K., Robinson, A., & Williams, J. (1995) Differences in perceptions of African American women and men faculty and administrators. The Journal of Negro Education, 64(4), 401-408.

Solórzano, D. (2000). Critical race theory, racial microaggressions, and campus racial climate: The experiences of African American college students. Journal of Negro Education, 69(1/2), 60-73.

Thompson, C. & Dey, E. (1998). Pushed to the margins: Sources of stress for African American college and university faculty. Journal of Higher Education, 69(3), 324-345.

Woods, R.L. (2001). Invisible women: The experiences of Black female doctoral students at the University of Michigan. In R.O. Mabokela & A.L. Green (Eds.), Sisters of the Academy: Emergent Black Women Scholars in Higher Education (pp. 105-116). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC.

About the Author

Shawna M. Patterson has sustained over eight years of student affairs administration experience within the functional areas of residence life, athletics, and multicultural services within the Big 10 and ACC sectors. She has served multiple roles on projects centered on improving the experiences of faculty, staff, and students of color on predominantly White campuses. She is currently completing a Ph.D. in Higher Education at The Florida State University, with a focus on social justice, critical theory, and student of color identity development.

Please e-mail Inquiries to Shawna M. Patterson .


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.

Exploring the Personal Perimeters of Women in Higher Education Administration: A Qualitative Study

Maureen A. Guarcello
University of San Diego

In celebration of our 40th Anniversary, members of the Standing Committee for Women are pleased to sponsor a Series in Developments. Our Series, “Women As,” explores how women’s intersecting identities (race, class, gender expression and performance, sexuality, religion, etc.) impact women’s experiences in different roles. Thus, authors share their ideas as women who are leaders, faculty, caregivers, and/or students. In support of a feminist approach to research and learning, articles will reflect an array of insights including practical strategies, research findings, lessons learned, arts-based research, visual inquiry, narrative inquiry, and reflections. We encourage you to utilize the discussion questions included in each article to stimulate your thinking and enhance your work in the classroom and/or workplace.

Former United States State Department official and university dean Anne-Marie Slaughter (2012) set digital records on The Atlantic magazine’s website with the release of her article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.” This piece attracted more unique visits in a 24-hour period than the magazine experienced for any published article to date. The reflection upon Slaughter’s own experiences as a mother and professional appeared in the publication’s July/August edition, received 450,000 unique website hits, and more than 75,000 Facebook recommendations (Associated Press, 2012). Slaughter (2012) cites her own experience as dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs among the examples and challenges of motherhood coupled with a high-powered career.

Slaughter reflected upon how the dean’s role provided her flexibility to spend time with her children, compared to the professional and political undertakings she took on after she left her position at the university. She notes, however, that even as dean, attempts to balance work and family were challenged by faculty who explicitly balked when she mentioned her roles and responsibilities at home. Faculty considered her rhetoric to diminish the perceived “gravitas” the dean position required. As the first woman to be dean of the school, Slaughter disagreed with the faculty and any notion that women could not be productive participants within both the professional and the domestic spheres.

Slaughter’s experience highlights the need to further define the connections and boundaries women encounter while navigating professional roles within higher education administration and their personal lives outside of the workplace. This article presents a qualitative research study about female university administrators and work-life balance. It begins by describing the current context and theoretical perspectives that underlie the research, briefly outlining the methodology, and then addressing the findings and their application. This study may help the higher education community gain a deeper understanding of factors that impact women working in higher education administration roles.

Current Context and Theoretical Perspectives

Arguably, women are keeping colleges running. From roles as professors to university presidents, women occupy academic and administrative positions (Webb, 2010). Women have been tapped to head the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Harvard University, and recently, Brown University. Brown’s newest president, Christina Hull Paxson, succeeds another woman, Ruth J. Simmons, who also served as the first Black Ivy League president (Stripling, 2012).

Although the press highlights the few women who accept presidential roles in higher education, there are also a number of leadership positions, including academic deans, assistant deans, and department chairs, where men remain the predominant gender. Given the significant role that university deans play in the governance of higher education, it is surprising that so little is known about these mid-level administrators and the experiences of the women who serve in these roles (Rosser, 2003). Research and literature surrounding women in higher education indicate women are getting stuck in the middle ranks, despite their education and aptitude (Cheung & Halpern, 2010; Dominici, Fried & Zeger, 2009; Eagly & Carli, 2007).

Work-life balance is often a factor that challenges women in higher education and top-level executives (Cheung & Halpern, 2010). This study begins to address the knowledge gap surrounding female higher education administrators and work-life balance. This research is especially important since women occupying dean and director roles are valued by faculty and staff as being more effective leaders than men in the same positions (Rosser, Johnsrud & Heck, 2003). A richer understanding of the challenges faced by women in administration also contributes to an understanding of retention and continued success of women in institutions of higher education.

Purpose and Methodology

The purpose of this qualitative study is to explore the experiences of women in higher education administration, focusing upon female academic assistant deans who are negotiating work-life balance and the boundaries of their professional lives.

Three research questions guided the study:

  1. In what ways do women who serve as assistant deans negotiate their professional and personal responsibilities?
  2. What obstacles have women who serve as assistant deans faced pertaining to their professional aspirations over time?
  3. What on-campus interventions have been useful for women who serve as assistant deans in negotiating their professional and personal obligations over time?

This study focused upon the entire population of female assistant deans at a private, four-year university, located in southern California. Eighty-three percent of the academic assistant deans at the university are women, and no more than two assistant deans represented the same college, school, or unit. The five women who participated were demographically diverse and represented a range of professional expertise and career stages. This variation allowed for a more comprehensive study (Patton, 2002).

A semi-structured interview guide framed both the focus group and the individual interviews. Five primary questions were posed during the 90-minute focus group. A 30-minute follow-up in-person interview was conducted with each participant the following day. After interviews were complete, notes and audio recordings from the focus group and individual interviews were grouped, coded, and analyzed to identify themes, similarities, and differences in the experiences of the assistant deans (Patton, 2002). Data were analyzed thematically, employing a provisional coding technique (Saldana, 2009).

Findings: Themes Emerging from the Data

Major coding themes were mentioned 10 or more times in the focus group. These included time expectations and scheduling, spouses and spouse support, personal growth, point person for problems, and setting boundaries and prioritization. Minor themes emerged from the data when participants mentioned them seven to nine times throughout the focus group. Minor themes represented strategic alliances on campus, children, dean’s impact upon role, student support as part of the role, technology, and assistant dean input and authority.

Three dominant themes emerged during the focus group and the individual interviews beginning to suggest why women in assistant dean roles may not move to a different position in university leadership. The first finding was both a surprise and a delight: to discover that perhaps these professionals were satisfied, as opposed to stuck in their roles.

When assistant deans were asked how they felt about their current position at the university and if they felt stuck, all of the women responded that they were happy with their role and could move freely if they chose. This finding counters the literature that points to women being stuck in mid-level higher education positions. Three of the five women in the study possess terminal degrees, making them eligible for faculty and tenure-track positions within the four-year institution. See Table 1 for each assistant dean’s professional and educational experience.

Table 1

Assistant Dean Experience and Education

Assistant Dean Years in Current Role Highest Degree Eligible for Tenure
Rosie 27 years EdD Yes
Tiffany 10 years MA Not at this institution
Mary 5 years MS Not at this institution
Julie 5 years PhD Yes
Priscilla 1 year, 6 months JD Yes

There was not a strong interest in moving up into the dean role, which may indicate that the assistant dean role represents an actual or perceived balanced occupation in higher education administration. One participant shared, “It’s a great career for people who want to balance their lives with something other than … just your career.” The assistant deans perceived limitations to the dean role surrounding time commitment and an aversion to university fundraising outreach.

The second finding delves deeper into the work-life balance theme, discussing where work ends and family begins. Each participant discussed the importance of family, but some of the women chose to have children and some chose not to have children. This is the area where the assistant deans shared the most difference in the ways they manage their demanding work schedules. One woman shared how her role allows her to spend time with her children, while another shared her choice not to have children, in part to support her career trajectory. The conversation that followed included this statement from Priscilla, who made a choice not to have children. “I have made a conscious choice in my life not to have children…I never want there to be a division with people that have children and don’t have children.” Priscilla’s comment was followed by Mary, who shared “I’m the one with kids at home that need me. If I sacrifice work time for family, then I am also going to sacrifice some family time for work.”

The third finding demonstrates that each of the assistant deans takes great pride in her work and the level of service she provides to the institution. Table 2 illustrates thoughts shared by each assistant dean shared about the position.

Table 2

Research Participant Thoughts on the Role of Assistant Dean

Mary addresses values and work life balance: “We are in this job because of who we are at home also. You know, that’s part of what we bring to it. The importance of family and the caring for others and all of those things that are important to us at home are important to us at work, the core values.”
Julie addresses creativity and authority: “You really get to think outside the box.”
Rosie addresses dean transitions: “It’s hard to go through those transitions…those are the hardest moments so, definitely, anyone will tell you, because someone gets used to you, they know you…but when a new person comes in, there’s always people that, and I don’t blame them, you know, that want to see changes, and they want to see change in your position too. So, you know, you have to prove yourself all over again. It takes about a year and half.”
Tiffany addresses surprises and problems: “That’s why I like my job. It’s never the same!”
Priscilla addresses work life allowances and children: “Women are leaving in droves to have kids and unfortunately they have to leave. I mean, that’s not fair. Higher ed does allow us to do that, to make those choices and to support one another.”


The focus group and follow-up interviews addressed the first two research questions in the study. Findings included themes surrounding spousal support, children and family activities, boundary-setting, and personal development. The third research question regarding how on-campus interventions may help women negotiate professional and personal obligations was not addressed. The remaining research question presents an opportunity for more research to learn how human resources and work-life balance or wellness workshops incorporate into the work lifestyles of female assistant deans.

The most significant finding from the study was learning that, counter to the literature, these assistant deans are satisfied with their roles. From one to 27 years of experience, the women shared that they have a great deal of responsibility and they have a strong commitment to their student constituents. The original purpose of this research was to learn more about the reasons why women, in this case assistant deans, move or do not move within the university administration ranks. The research participants were forthright and honest about their reasons for pursuing and maintaining their respective assistant dean positions, sharing the personal balance and professional satisfaction the roles brings them.

Limitations and Applications

This study represents a sliver of a larger picture dealing with gender, culture, higher education administration, and leadership. Each of these components is conditional, often unclear, and can be represented in a number of ways. The research from this study aims to begin informing factors in a layer of leadership which has not been widely studied.

Anne-Marie Slaughter’s (2012) article signifies the beginning of a larger, practitioner-based dialogue between genders, pivoting around the notion of having it all. Continuing to investigate what work-life balance means within the context of academic practitioners, and developing a better understanding of how female assistant deans came to be in their roles is a critical step in understanding support and retention efforts for women in the higher education community.

Discussion Questions

  1. Where does my own personal life intersect with my professional life, and how?
  2. How do I work with others when I recognize they are negotiating the personal-professional perimeter?
  3. How can higher education practitioners continue to proactively prepare for women administrators who will face these same obstacles?


Associated Press. (2012). Record hits on mag’s ‘Can’t Have It All’ story.  Retrieved from

Cheung, F.M., & Halpern, D.F. (2010). Women on top: Powerful leaders define success as work
+ family in a culture of gender. American Psychologist, 65, 182-193.

Dominici, F., Fried, L.P., & Zeger, S.L. (2009). So few women leaders. Academe, 95(4).

Eagly, A.H., & Carli, L.L. (2007). Through the labyrinth: The truth about how women 
become leaders. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Patton, M.Q. (2002). Qualitative research and evaluation methods. London: Sage

Rosser, V.J. (2003). Faculty and staff members’ perceptions of effective leadership: Are there
differences between women and men leaders? Equity and Excellence in Education, 36
(1), 71-81.

Rosser, V.J., Johnsrud, L.K., & Heck, R.H. (2003). Academic deans and directors: Assessing
their effectiveness from individual and institutional perspectives. The Journal of Higher
Education, 74(1), 1-25.

Saldana, J. (2009). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. London: Sage Publications.

Slaughter, A.M. (2012).  Why women still can’t have it all. The Atlantic. Retrieved from

Stripling, J. (2012).  Brown U. taps Princeton dean, an economist, as its next president. The
Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from

Webb, J.G. (2010). The evolution of women’s roles within the university and the workplace.
Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Roundtable, 5. Retrieved from…

About the Author

Maureen A. Guarcello is in the dissertation phase during her final year of doctoral study at the University of San Diego’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences. Maureen has more than a decade of academic, student, and external affairs experience at California State University, Long Beach; University of Hawaii; University of California, San Diego, and University of San Diego. Her leadership and higher education research is focused specifically upon gender and blended learning.

Please e-mail Inquiries to Maureen A. Guarcello.

Follow Maureen A. Guarcello on Twitter @mguarcello


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.

Women as Leaders: Factors that Affect Career and Personal Success for Black, Female Leaders and Strategies to Overcome Them

Women as Leaders: Factors that Affect Career and Personal Success for Black, Female Leaders and Strategies to Overcome Them

Cheryl D. White
Wayne State University

Tonisha B. Lane
Michigan State University

Ayanna McConnell
University of Michigan

Shetina M. Jones
Michigan State University

Stacey N. Jackson
Oakland Community College

In celebration of our 40th Anniversary, members of the Standing Committee for Women are pleased to sponsor a Series in Developments. Our Series, “Women As,” explores how women’s intersecting identities (race, class, gender expression and performance, sexuality, religion, etc.) impact women’s experiences in different roles. Thus, authors share their ideas as women who are leaders, faculty, caregivers, and/or students. In support of a feminist approach to research and learning, articles will reflect an array of insights including practical strategies, research findings, lessons learned, arts-based research, visual inquiry, narrative inquiry, and reflections. We encourage you to utilize the discussion questions included in each article to stimulate your thinking and enhance your work in the classroom and/or workplace.

Many women who are employed outside of the home have the challenge of balancing their work life along with their personal lives. For Black women, balancing their work life also includes dealing with racism, tokenism, and isolation. Although White women have been subject to oppression because of their gender, they are still privileged based on their race (Accapadi, 2007). In contrast, African American women experience the lowest status in importance and standing behind White men, White women, and African American men (Zamani, 2003). Black women are often employed in small, four-year public institutions in urban areas that enroll large numbers of minority and female students (Henry, 2010). Although the number of White female administrators has increased steadily at all levels and ranks, the gains of Black female administrators, particularly at predominately White institutions (PWIs), has remained relatively small (Holmes, 2003). Due to their small numbers, African American women encounter many barriers alone (Henry & Glenn, 2009). They are often identified as “angry Black women” when they assert themselves in their management or leadership style (Henry, 2010). These issues and conditions make it difficult for Black women to feel supported and valued in the workplace.

Accounting for the aforementioned factors, how do Black women in student affairs balance their professional and personal lives? This article provides an overview of the challenges Black women face in the workplace and strategies to overcome them. Specifically, it utilizes Black Feminist Thought and Intersectionality as frameworks to explore race and gender bias, tokenism, and workplace and personal life challenges. The article concludes with recommendations that could be employed to overcome these challenges. ¹

Theoretical Concepts

Black Feminist Thought: Black feminist thought can be used to explore the nature of one’s intersecting identities and experiences in postsecondary education work settings. Black feminism allows “African American women to examine how the particular constellation of issues affecting Black women in the United States are part of issues of women’s emancipation and struggles globally” (Collins, 1996, p. 13). Moreover, Collins (2000) argues that Black feminist thought “aims to empower African American women within the context of social justice sustained by intersecting oppressions” (p. 22). It is the assertion of Black feminist thought that Black women have occupied marginal positions in society (Collins, 2000). They are often considered to be outsiders, because they are African American women working in a White, male dominated world (Collins, 2000). Though higher education has made great strides to recruit, retain, and promote Black women to critical positions of power and influence in the academy, disparities and inequities that uniquely shape the daily lives of Black, female administrators still exist (Holmes, 2003). Due to the intersectionality of race, class, and gender, studies show that Black women continue to face racism, sexism, double jeopardy, isolation, and tokenism in the workplace, particularly at PWIs (Burgess, 1997; Gregory, 1995; Holmes, 2003).

Intersectionality: Intersectionality is an “analysis claiming that systems of race, social class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nation, and age form mutually constructive features of social organization which shape Black women’s experiences, and in turn, are shaped by Black women” (Collins, 2000, p. 299). The intersectionality of identities creates different lived experiences and social realities for Black women. Our interactions at work, in the home, and in the community are influenced by how we see the world and how the world sees us. Consistent with the literature and the experiences of the authors, Black women may take on more responsibilities, because they feel, and are often told, that this is the way to prove their worth and to be recognized (Holmes, 2003, 2008; Taylor, 2005).

Additionally, as one of the authors contends from her lived experience, women who are single and/or do not have children are often given more responsibilities than others within a department as employers may assume that these employees have more time, because they are not married and/or do not have a family. The oppression faced by Black women because of their intersecting identities is not only interrelated but bound together (Collins, 2000). Black women cannot separate their identities to render the benefits of one identity over another in a given context. Some scholars suggest that this inability to compartmentalize Black women’s marginality places them in a “double bind” (Collins, 2000). Furthermore, the oppression and resiliency experienced by Black women affirms their commonalities, yet no one experience is exactly alike.


Race and Gender Bias: African American women traditionally have faced both race and gender bias. According to Zamani (2003):

Black women have always been more conscious of and more handicapped by race oppression than by sex oppression. They have been subject to all the restrictions against Blacks and women. In no area of life have they ever been permitted to attain higher levels of status than White women. Put more bluntly, African American women traditionally have been preceded by White men, White women, and African American men in importance and standing (p. 7).

Furthermore, some scholars suggest that the intersectionality of racial and gender bias is a “double whammy” (Holmes, 2008). As Holmes (2003) stated in her study on Black faculty, “…African American women suffer the ‘double whammy’ being both Black and female in academic environments that place little value on either trait” (p. 104). Similarly, in a social psychology study, Sesko and Biernat (2010) asserted that Black women were invisible to White women and Black and White men. In particular, Sesko and Biernat (2010) found that statements made by Black women were rarely attributed correctly to their involvement and participation in meetings when compared to Black men and White women and White men. Unfortunately, there are missed opportunities for Black women to grow and develop and make a significant contribution to the workplace if they are unnoticed and unheard because of their race and gender.

Career Advancement: An examination of Black female student affairs administrators’ perceptions of career advancement revealed that this group is exposed to unique barriers to career advancement, including lack of a supportive professional environment, lack of professional networking support, and gender discrimination (Henry, 2010). Although there are many women entering the student affairs profession, African American women continue to be underrepresented and will continue to be disproportionately represented in relationship to the number of African American female students on campus (Henry, 2010).

Even Black women working at PWIs and/or research universities face challenges regarding career advancement and networking. For instance, some Black women discover that they can only advance in a leadership role after they leave an institution and then return. This was personally experienced by one of the authors of this article, who shared the following experience:

I was told by more than one administrator that advancing my career might mean leaving the university and coming back. This turned out to be true, and I was able to come back to the university in a leadership role after leaving for four years. There have been some programs put into place to help with internal career advancement, but it still seems to be a problem for people at entry-level and mid-level points in their career, especially women of color (A. McConnell, personal communication, January 2013).

Tokenism: Kanter (1997) describes tokenism as a perfunctory effort or symbolic gesture toward racial integration where there is less than 15% of the total group. Black women can be described as “double tokens” or “double uncomfortable” (Sulé, 2009). “Double tokens” is used to describe Black women in PWIs who experience the workplace as one of society’s exclusive clubs to which, even though they have as much right as everyone else to be there, will never gain full membership. Sulé (2009) describes “double uncomfortable” as one’s identity intersects with the climate presented. An example of tokenism is provided below as experienced by a Black woman student affairs administrator:

Sometimes my meeting starts at 7:00 a.m. and ends with a program and dinner around 9:00 [p.m.] and often later. Honestly, it’s wearing me out. But there are not that many of us here, so I am always invited to be a keynote speaker or something like that (Holmes, 2003, p.55).

Workplace Challenges: African American women student affairs professionals experience barriers and challenges in the workplace, such as feelings of powerlessness and alienation (Burgess, 1997; Gregory, 1995; Holmes, 1999; Nelson, 1993). Black women experience pressure to be the lone voice and prove themselves more than anyone else. Workplace challenges may also involve working with other Black women who may not be good colleagues or ask for promotional favors (Henry, 2010). With so few Black women in positions of leadership, they are often tapped to represent all African Americans, even if they have differing viewpoints.

African American women in leadership positions often feel that their power is regularly challenged. Black women have to constantly ensure that their voice is not being diminished when offering their position on issues. Additionally, African American women who attend meetings and do not say much may be perceived as weak. At the same time, if one is too vocal or opinionated, she will be perceived as overly aggressive (Crews, 2007).

Personal Life Challenges: Black female leaders also experience personal life challenges. They are expected to be “superwomen,” on the job as well as at home, especially for those who have spouses and/or children. Unconsciously, some Black women place this burden on themselves. Starting from a young age, many Blacks are taught, by their elders, that they have to be better and do more to be recognized in the workplace (Taylor, 2006). This message is often reinforced when Blacks discover that they do not receive opportunities for advancement and salary increases at the same rate as their non-Black counterparts (Holmes, 2003, 2008).

According to Taylor (2005), many Black women feel that when they advance to leadership positions in student affairs and other areas in higher education, they should shoulder the multiple roles and responsibilities without question. Taylor (2005) describes her own experience of trying to obtain her doctoral degree in two and a half years while working as a full-time administrator, adjunct faculty member, and also being a wife and mother. Because of her multiple roles, she began experiencing stress and physical exhaustion, and her husband and family were being neglected and never saw her. By the time of her dissertation defense, she was suffering physically and mentally. Her advice is to heed the phrase “put yourself first” (Taylor, 2005, p.203). Black women who have families are expected to handle the traditional roles of the household (i.e., cooking and cleaning) in addition to working full-time outside of the home. For instance, the authors juggle multiple roles and responsibilities such as caring for immediate family members, seeking advanced degrees, caring for aging parents, and being active in community organizations. Although women of all races may have to manage this juggling act, Black women must also manage and overcome instances of racism, tokenism, and/or sexism at their place of employment (Taylor, 2006; Holmes, 2008).

Overcoming Barriers

Black women in student affairs must overcome barriers in both their work and personal life in order to be successful in both arenas. The following strategies, both from the literature and the authors’ experiences, can help to achieve balance at work and home.

Be strategic about what you get involved with and build alliances across departments.

It is impossible to be involved on every committee on campus, even those that focus on minority and/or African American issues. Although committee work may be expected in senior student affairs positions, consider your role and expectations on the committee. Build alliances across departments by periodically collaborating on projects or co-sponsoring events.

Understand the workplace environment.

Learning the culture and expectations of your particular work place is a key factor in senior student affairs leadership positions. Seek input from key stakeholders in the department before implementing major changes (Henry, 2010).

Seek multiple mentors and role models to help you navigate your career goals.

Mentors should be from a variety of cultural backgrounds and different areas of need as the diverse perspectives can help to develop a well-rounded sense of professionalism. Identify one or more individuals that know the culture of the department/institution (Henry, 2010).

Know yourself.

This strategy requires that you are grounded in a positive self-concept with an awareness of your skills, abilities, and goals so that you can ascertain what you may be lacking and improve in those areas. You should develop a five-year plan and conduct an annual review to evaluate your progress. Within your plan, you should venture to try new things and challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone.

Become involved in professional development.

Actively participate in professional organizations that are aligned with your career and professional goals. Your state (or neighboring/regional) College Personnel Association or an ACPA standing committee or commission can provide such opportunities.

Remain close to family and friends.

They can provide nurturing and support especially when considering new leadership positions and advanced degrees (Henry, 2010).

Maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Many of the health challenges experienced by African Americans can be reduced by regular exercise, wise lifestyle choices, and maintaining a spiritual foundation.

Take advantage of employer programs that offer flexibility.

Telecommuting or an alternative work schedule may be an option (Axa-Equitable, 2012).


As African American women leaders in student affairs, we must keep afloat in the troubled waters of sexism and racism. In order to accomplish this;

…the myth of the ‘angry Black Woman’ must be demystified, debunked, and replaced with the image of an assertive and socially savvy African American female activist who exudes a strong, balanced self-identity and advocates on her behalf and for other Black women (Henry, 2010, pp. 13-14).

Furthermore, African American women must continue to research and document their experiences, with a specific focus on their contributions and successes in an effort to chisel away at the boulder of victimization that often obstructs the accomplishments of African American female student affairs administrators (Henry, 2010).


  1. Throughout this article Black and African American are used interchangeably.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you feel that the challenges discussed are specific to Black women only or can they be applied to all women?
  2. Do you feel that being a Black woman played a role in being hired for your current position?
  3. As Black women in leadership positions, what types of experiences have you had with your colleagues (Holmes, 2003)? In what ways are these experiences different across race and gender?


Accapadi, M.M. (2007). When White women cry: How White women’s tears oppress women of color. College Student Affairs Journal, 26(2), 208-215.

Axa Equitable Life Insurance Company. (2012). Balancing work and family. Retrieved from…

Burgss, N. J. (1997). Tenure and promotion among African American women in the academy: Issues and strategies. In L. Benjamin (Ed.), Black women in the academy: Promises and perils (pp. 227-234).  Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida.

Collins, P. H. (2000). Black feminist thought. New York, NY: Routledge.

Collins, P. H. (1996). What’s in a name? Womanism, Black feminism, and beyond. The Black Scholar 26(1), 12.

Crews, L.C. (2007). The experiences of African American administrators at predominantly White two-year and four-year institutions. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan.

Gregory, S.T. (1995).  Black women in the academy: The secrets to success and achievement. Lanham, NY: University Press of America, Inc.

Henry, W. J. (2010). African American women in student affairs: Best practices for winning the game. Advancing Women in Leadership Journal, 30(24). Retrieved from

Henry, W., & Glenn, N. (2009). Black women employed in the ivory tower: Connecting for success.  Advancing Women in Leadership, 29(1), 20-18. Retrieved from

Holmes, S. L. (2003). Black female administrators speak out: Narratives on race and gender in higher education. National Association of Student Affairs Professionals Journal6(1), 45-65.

Holmes, S. L. (2008). Narrated voices of African American women in academe. Journal of Thought, 43(3), 101-124.

Nelson, J. (1993). Volunteer slavery: My authentic Negro experience. In K. M. Vaz (Ed.), Black women in America(p. 13). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Sesko, A. K., & Biernat, M. (2010). Prototypes of race and gender: The invisibility of Black women. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology46(2), 356-360.

Sulé, V.T.(2009).  Professional socialization, politicized raced and gendered experience, and black female graduate students. In V.B Bush, C.R. Chambers., &Walpole (Eds.) From diplomas  to doctorates: The Success of Black women in higher education and its implication for equal educational opportunities for all (pp.  111-130). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC.

Taylor, C.M. (2005). Superwoman lives, (at least in my head): Reflections of a mid-level professional in student affairs  College Student Affairs Journal, 24 (2), 201-203.

Zamani, E. M. (2003). African American women in higher education. New Directions for Student Services, 104, 5-18.

About the Authors

Cheryl D. White, M.A., Ed. Spec. Cert., is an Extension Program Coordinator at Wayne State University (WSU) in Detroit, MI, and has over 30 years of experience in higher education student affairs, including academic advising, career services, and extension programming. Cheryl is a doctoral candidate in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies/Higher Education Administration program at WSU. Her research focuses on the relationship of learning communities and retention of at-risk African American students.

Please e-mail Inquiries to Cheryl D. White .

Tonisha B. Lane, M.A., is a fourth year doctoral student in Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education at Michigan State University. Her research focuses on underrepresented students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. She has over eight years of student affairs and higher education experience.

Please e-mail Inquiries to Tonisha B. Lane.

Ayanna McConnell, M.A., manages Student, Diversity and Young Alumni Programs at the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan, and has a 15-year career in higher education spanning student services and academic affairs. She is also a third year doctoral student in Educational Leadership at Eastern Michigan University. Ayanna’s research interests include succession planning and mentoring of African American administrators in higher education.

Please e-mail Inquiries to Ayanna McConnell .

Shetina M. Jones, M.A., is an Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions Area Coordinator at Michigan State University. Shetina has been in the student affairs field for over five years. Her research interests are African American female students, minority student higher education access, academic success, and challenges. She plans to start a Ph.D. program in Higher Education in Fall 2014.

Please e-mail Inquiries to Shetina M. Jones.

Stacey N. Jackson, M.A., is the Coordinator of Student Development at Oakland Community College. She has over 15 years of experience in higher education that includes work in multicultural affairs, student affairs, career advising, and as a part-time faculty member. Stacey is also a doctoral student at Eastern Michigan University in the department of Urban Education. Her research interests include mentoring, equal educational opportunity, social justice and college readiness.

Please e-mail Inquiries to Stacey N. Jackson.


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.

ACPA’s Evolving Influence on Student Learning

James P. Barber
College of William and Mary

The higher education landscape was quite different in 1924 when the National Association of Appointment Secretaries, a job placement organization that would later become ACPA – College Student Educators International, was founded. A trajectory becomes clear in reflecting on 90 years of ACPA’s history. Student affairs practitioners (formerly, student personnel workers) demonstrate an increasing interest in student learning, and learning is gradually repositioned as the core purpose of the Association. In this essay, I explore the ways in which ACPA – College Student Educators International has affected college student learning over nearly a century.

The Past: Facilitating Learners’ Journeys

ACPA and its predecessor groups (National Association of Appointment Secretaries, National Association of Personnel and Placement Officers) focused primarily on helping students find employment and roles in society where they could use their learning. The pioneers in the field indirectly affected the student learning environment in establishing the foundation for the profession by bringing together those college employees with interests in “student personnel” work. This focus on job placement was typical of the early years of the student affairs profession, and ACPA was not out of the norm in its priorities. Looking to the American Council on Education’s 1937 Student Personnel Point of View, student learning is not explicitly discussed as a primary role for student personnel workers. In fact, the word learningdoes not appear in that seminal document (Barber & Bureau, 2013).

The Journal of College Student Development is one of the most substantial ways ACPA – College Student Educators International has influenced learning in the past (and continues today). Founded in 1959 as the Journal of College Student Personnel, ACPA’s research journal has become a well-respected publication. The journal was a vehicle for much of the early research on student development theory, influencing both faculty and practitioners in the teaching and learning environment.

In the late 1960s, ACPA (then a division of the American Personnel and Guidance Association), took a major step toward embracing learning as a professional value with the launch of the “Tomorrow’s Higher Education” (T. H. E.) Project. Robert Brown authored a 1972 monograph for the project that examined the relevance of the emerging field of student development theory and made the argument that student affairs practitioners needed to reposition themselves as behavioral scientists, in addition to their accepted roles in student support functions.

Student personnel staffs are going to have to possess new sets of competencies….they are going to be needed to design programs that will change the environment and provide a setting for optimal student growth…for classroom settings as well as residence hall settings, for academic programs as well as student activities, and for all students as well as the most visible. (Brown, 1972, p. 47).

The move toward a more active and academic cadre of student affairs practitioners had a lasting impact on the direction of student personnel work and solidified student development theory as a cornerstone of professional practice and the graduate preparation curriculum. Although student learning was not explicitly deliberated in Brown’s monograph, the shift to a profession more invested in personal growth and development was unmistakable.

ACPA made a clear statement of its commitment to student learning as a central mission in 1994’s Student Learning Imperative (SLI), which called for the establishment of “The Learning-Oriented Student Affairs Division” (p. 1). The document greatly influenced student affairs professionals’ approach to learning and began to make a distinction between the concepts of student development (well established and accepted in the field by 1994) and student learning. The SLI mentioned these two elements by name, but asserted that “the concepts of ‘learning,’ ‘personal development,’ and ‘student development’ are inextricably intertwined and inseparable” (p. 1). ACPA’s Student Learning Imperative aligned well with Barr & Tagg’s (1995) call for a shift in higher education from a teaching paradigm focused on the instructor to a learning paradigm centered on the student.

The SLI was followed by a Joint Statement from ACPA, the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE), and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) titled Powerful Partnerships: A Shared Responsibility for Learning (1998). This document was important for the way that it defined and contextualized learning. This was the first time that the term learning was described separately from student development by the association. In Powerful Partnerships, learning was defined in a series of ten statements, including one unpacking the concepts of learning and development: “learning is developmental, a cumulative process involving the whole person, relating past and present, integrating the new with the old, starting from but transcending personal concerns and interests” (p. 5).

Along with Principles of Good Practice in Student Affairs (released a year earlier in conjunction with NASPA in 1997), Powerful Partnerships marked the beginning of a series of lasting partnerships among higher education stakeholders that would characterize ACPA’s attitude toward learning for the next decade and introduce the present era of influence.

The Present: Partnering to Advance Student Learning

In the present era, ACPA – College Student Educators International has positioned itself as a leader and advocate for improving student learning. Building on the strong reception of Principles of Good Practice (1997) and Powerful Partnerships (1998), the Association collaborated with other leading student affairs professional associations to further define student learning and shape practitioners’ approaches to promoting better learning.

The Learning Reconsidered volumes (Keeling, 2004, 2006) are the most direct and influential documents ACPA – College Student Educators International has coauthored to date with regard to student learning. Learning Reconsidered (2004) “advocates for transformative education – a holistic process of learning that places the student at the center of the learning experience” (p. 1). These publications continue the trend of differentiating the concepts of learning and development, expertly illustrating how the two are distinct but related. In the Learning Reconsidered work of the mid-2000s, student learning is paramount, a different approach from the T. H. E. project of the 1960s and 70s which served to establish and prioritize the emerging student development literature. Learning Reconsidered positions student development as a learning process and proposes “an integrated vision of learning and development” (ACPA & NASPA, 2004, p. 10), supported with research drawn broadly from educational psychology, adult learning, and personal development literature (e.g., Baxter Magolda, 1999; Caine & Caine, 1994, 1997; Kegan, 1994; King & Kitchener, 1994; Mezirow, 2000).

In 2006, ACPA – College Student Educators International released the ASK Standards (Assessment Skills and Knowledge) to prepare student affairs professionals to assess student learning outcomes. These standards encourage practitioners to be leaders in assessment on their campuses and highlight the Association’s commitment to preparing student affairs administrators to be well versed in both creating effective learning experiences, as well as assessing student learning. ACPA has also developed professional development resources that influence how practitioners frame their own learning. The Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Practitioners (2010), coauthored with NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, offer a series of basic, intermediate, and advanced skills to be expected among student affairs professionals. One of the competency areas is “Student Learning and Development;” this area “addresses the concepts and principles of student development and learning theory. This includes the ability to apply theory to improve and inform student affairs practice, as well as understanding teaching and training theory and practice” (p. 26). This particular competency will be a focal point for the future work of ACPA – College Student Educators International as it relates to student learning.

The present era has seen much progress in terms of refining the working definition of student learning and considering means for improving learning experiences for all students. ACPA – College Student Educators International remains a strong advocate for the benefits of diversity to student learning, and its work, independently and in cooperation with other higher education stakeholders, decisively makes the case for inclusive environments. Although the recent momentum has been quite positive, major changes lie ahead in our constantly transforming postsecondary environment. Next, I address the ways in which ACPA – College Student Educators International might continue to impact student learning in the future.

The Future: Experts on How Students Learn Best

As ACPA – College Student Educators International looks toward its centennial, I see three main areas where the Association can continue to have a positive impact on student learning: (1) advancing professional knowledge on how people learn; (2) embracing and leveraging technology to enhance student learning; and (3) infusing global perspectives into student learning.

It is crucial for student affairs practitioners to understand current theories of how people learn. This will require revisions to the curricula of many higher education and student affairs programs, as well as a reallocation of attention in the Association’s programming. Most higher education graduate programs offer at least one course (if not several) on college student development theory, focusing on how students grow and change in the college environment. However, there is rarely a companion course examining how students learn. Although some learning theories are included in traditional student development courses (Kolb’s Model of Experiential Learning is frequently included), theories of adult learning (e.g., metacognition, transfer, Knowles’ concept of andragogy) are largely absent from our collective curriculum.

This concept was mentioned in Brown’s 1972 monograph Student Development in Tomorrow’s Higher Education: A Return to the Academy:

In tomorrow’s higher education it will be essential for student development staffs to be able to know, understand, and to program for changes in students that will be consistent with developmental growth. This means that the staffs will have to have some expertise in learning theory, growth and development, campus ecology, management theory, and evaluation. (Brown, 1972, p. 42)

ACPA – College Student Educators International and the student affairs field as a whole have cultivated many of these areas of expertise in the past 40+ years, but learning theory has too often been included as a subset of development theory. ACPA has the resources and reach to promote the acceptance of learning theory as a more prominent part of the college educator’s toolkit. Learning Reconsideredopened the door wide to learning theory, and ACPA is well-positioned to advance this initiative. This shift can transform the direction of student affairs work, moving beyond student personnel or student advising to becoming experts in how people learn best and integrate learning across contexts (Barber, 2012).

Technology is transforming our daily lives in ways unimaginable when ACPA was born in 1924; it has forever altered how we read books, how we listen to music, how we take photographs, and how we watch television. It is not surprising that technology is changing the face of higher education as well. With an increasing number of students participating in eLearning, blended courses, online components, or fully virtual degree programs, the profession will need to reexamine student learning as it relates to eLearning initiatives.

The Association can work to develop resources to support college educators in reaching students who may rarely (or never) set foot on a traditional campus. How can ACPA – College Student Educators International position itself to be a leader in promoting student learning among those who interact with teachers and fellow students through technology? Knowing more about how people learn best (see above) will be critical to this effort. Foundational models such as Sanford’s (1962) notion of challenge and support and Astin’s (1984) involvement theory certainly have application for students learning via technology, but implementation may need to be reimagined for a new population of learners who may not be 18-22 years old, live in a residence hall, and attend football games.

Finally, in considering how ACPA – College Student Educators International will impact student learning in the future, there must be continued advocacy for the inclusion of all types of diverse learners. Neurodiversity is an area in which the Association can be a leader. As more students with different ways of processing information enter higher education (including the Autism Spectrum and ADHD), student affairs practitioners will need resources for supporting this group of learners. Likewise, inclusion must reach beyond national and cultural borders. The numbers of international students studying in the United States continues to rise, and a growing number of American-born students are choosing to study abroad (Institute for International Education, 2012). These trends create an environment in which student affairs practitioners need to be globally competent and well-versed in cross-cultural approaches to learning. The learning theories curriculum proposed above should not be limited to American or Western research on learning, but rather address multiple views on how people learn.

Among the most effective ways to provide practitioners with a global perspective is to provide opportunities to leave the country and experience different cultures. The global initiatives ACPA – College Student Educators International already has underway are a strong foundation; forging strategic partnerships with organizations similarly invested in internationalization (e.g., American Association of Colleges & Universities, Institute for Shipboard Education /Semester at Sea, NAFSA-Association of International Educators, International Association of Student Affairs and Services) can bolster the impact of existing initiatives and create new opportunities. By providing professional development resources and affordable study abroad options for practitioners, ACPA – College Student Educators International can continue to influence learning for college educators and the students they serve.

In conclusion, ACPA’s journey over the past 90 years is one that has brought it ever closer to student learning. The organization has transformed from a placement service for college graduates to a key partner and stakeholder in higher education, and has great potential to become an association known for expertise in how people learn. Members of ACPA – College Student Educators International should be proud of the progress that has been made over nine decades and excited about the possibilities that await in the next 90 years of influencing learning.


American Association of Higher Education, American College Personnel Association, &
National Association of Student Personnel Administrators. (1998). Powerful partnerships: A shared responsibility for learning. Retrieved from

American College Personnel Association. (1994). The student learning imperative. Washington,
DC: Author. Retrieved from:

American College Personnel Association. (2006). ASK Standards: Assessment skills and
knowledge content standards. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from:

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Administrators. (1997). Principles of good practice for student affairs. Retrieved from

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Administrators. (2010). Professional competency areas for student affairs practitioners. Retrieved from

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

Astin, A.W. (1984). Student involvement: A developmental theory for higher education. Journal
of College Student Personnel, 25, 297-308.

Barber, J. P. (2012). Integration of learning: A grounded theory analysis of college students’
learning. American Educational Research Journal, 49(3), 590-617.doi: 10.3102/0002831212437854

Barber, J. P., & Bureau, D. A. (2012). Coming into focus: Positioning student learning from The
Student Personnel Point of View to today. In K. M. Boyle, J. W. Lowery, and J. A. Mueller (Eds.), Reflections on the 75th anniversary of The Student Personnel Point of View. (pp. 35-40). Washington, DC: ACPA – College Student Educators International.

Barr, R. B., & Tagg, J. (1995). From teaching to learning: A new paradigm for undergraduate
education. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 27(6), 12-25. Retrieved from

Baxter Magolda, M. B. (1999). Creating contexts for learning and self-authorship: Constructive-
developmental pedagogy. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.

Brown, R. D. (1972). Student development in tomorrow’s higher education – A return to the
academy. (Student Personnel Series, No. 16). Washington, DC: APGA – American Personnel and Guidance Association.

Caine, G. & Caine, R. (1994). Making connections: Teaching and the human brain. New York,
NY: Addison Wesley.

Caine, R. & Caine, G. (1997). Education on the edge of possibility. Alexandria, VA: Association
for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Hiemstra, R., & Sisco, B. (1990). Individualizing instruction: Making learning personal,
empowering, and successful. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Institute for International Education. (2012). Open doors fast facts. Retrieved from Facts 2012.ashx

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

Keeling, R. P. (Ed.). (2006). Learning reconsidered 2: Implementing a campus-wide focus on the
student experience. Washington, DC: American College Personnel Association, Association of College and University Housing Officers-International, Association of College Unions-International, National Academic Advising Association, National Association for Campus Activities, National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association. Available:

King, P. M., & Kitchener, K. S. (1994). Developing reflective judgment: Understanding and
promoting intellectual growth and critical thinking in adolescents and adults.  San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Knowles, M. S. (1970). The modern practice of adult education: Andragogy versus pedagogy.
New York, NY: Cambridge Books.

Knowles, M. S., & Associates. (1984). Andragogy in action: Applying modern principles of
adult learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and
development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Sanford, N. (1962). The American college.  New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.

About the Author

James P. Barber is assistant professor of education at the College of William & Mary.  His research interests include integrated student learning and development, college student learning environments and experiences, and internationalization in higher education.

Please e-mail Inquiries to James P. Barber.


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.

We are all Esther Lloyd-Jones’ Grandchildren

Paul G. Brown
Boston College

The student affairs profession is a young profession. As a relatively new profession, the basic philosophies and tenets of the field remain nearly the same as they did almost 100 years ago. Written in 1937, the original Student Personnel Point of View set the philosophy of the profession as that of the “whole student.” It stated that higher education had an obligation to consider the student as a whole – [one’s] intellectual capacity and achievement, [one’s] emotional make up, [one’s] physical condition, [one’s] social relationships, [one’s] vocational aptitudes and skills, [one’s] moral and religious values, [one’s] economic resources, [one’s] aesthetic appreciations. It puts emphasis, in brief, upon the development of the student as a person rather than upon [one’s] intellectual training alone. (American Council on Education, 1937, p. 3)
The profession is also small. Professional networks and connections in the field are dense and interconnected. The combined memberships of the two national comprehensive student affairs organizations, ACPA – College Student Educators International and NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, barely reach 15,000, or the population of a mid-sized university. When meeting someone new at a national convention or professional development event, attempting to discover shared connections is a common first topic of conversation.

With these two thoughts in mind, I began to wonder: How far removed are we from the founders of our profession? If we could trace back our lineage, how many degrees separate the current generation of professionals from those that were pioneers in the field? It is with this in mind that I started an Internet experiment known as The Six Degrees of Esther Lloyd-Jones Project. This crowd-sourced project is an ongoing attempt to trace the professional lineage of student affairs professionals to Dr. Esther Lloyd-Jones.

Esther Lloyd-Jones was one of the signatories of the 1937 Student Personnel Point of View, a longtime faculty member at Columbia University Teacher’s College, and a president of ACPA—College Student Educators International. Given her prominence and impact on the field, tracing lineage back to her seemed appropriate. Because of the difficulty of collecting this type of data, I turned to crowdsourcing, a powerful force for harnessing collective power through massive online collaboration. In his work, Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky (2008) states that with the advent of the Internet and social media, “most of the barriers to group action have collapsed, and without those barriers, we are free to explore new ways of gathering together and getting things done” (p. 22).

I developed a website that outlined the project, provided some guidelines and rules for submissions, and linked to a spreadsheet where anyone could add their information. To get it started, I included the connection I knew I had to Esther Lloyd-Jones, through my doctoral adviser, Karen Arnold, and her doctoral adviser, Jo Ann Fly, who was a student of Lloyd-Jones. Beginning with this one connection, I sent out a message across all of my social media networks. Within the first 24 hours, the site recorded over 500 hits. By the end of May 2013, the number of connection strings logged in the spreadsheet is nearing 100 and the page has been viewed over 1000 times. Within these rows are numerous professionals and details of their connections back to Esther Lloyd-Jones.

In the months since I began this project, I have learned a lot, not only about the professional lineage we can trace to Dr. Lloyd-Jones, but also the woman herself and the power of social media and crowdsourcing. I refer to these as both the outcomes and meta-outcomes of the project.

In terms of outcomes in learning about Lloyd-Jones, and the professional lineages we can trace back to her, this project uncovered information from unexpected sources. Although I started this project with two degrees separating Dr. Lloyd-Jones and myself, I discovered that there was actually only one degree of separation between us. While working at Miami University, I had the privilege of working with Dr. Dennis Roberts, a former President of ACPA – College Student Educators International and currently the Assistant Vice President for Faculty & Student Services at the Qatar Foundation. Dr. Roberts has contributed greatly to our understanding of Dr. Lloyd-Jones, conducting an in-person interview with her in 1987 as a part of ACPA’s Generativity Project, delivering one of her eulogies, andwriting a tribute to her in this very same publication seven years ago.

Over the course of this project, I also became connected with Hannah Certis, a new professional that completed her Master’s thesis at the University of Tennessee on the early life of Dr. Lloyd-Jones. I came into contact with Hannah after finding apresentation on Esther Lloyd-Jones that she posted online. I embedded this presentation into my website and upon her noticing its inclusion, she reached out to me. When asked to share the most significant thing she learned about Esther Lloyd-Jones, Certis (personal communication, May 28, 2013) stated the impact of Lloyd-Jones’ 1934 article, “Personnel Administration,” is often overlooked. In many ways it was the precursor to and formed the foundation for the 1937 Student Personnel Point of View. Esther Lloyd-Jones’ impact is perhaps greater than most may realize.

In addition to these outcomes, I also uncovered interesting meta-outcomes about the evolving project. As more individuals added to the project, many previous long strings could be shortened. As I mentioned earlier, I began this project believing there were two degrees separating Esther Lloyd Jones and myself. That has now shortened to one. As additional individuals have contributed their knowledge and information, this has also shortened the lineage for many others and also opened up new avenues for other professionals to connect. The beauty of this project is that as more people contribute to it, the possibilities and information contained therein become exponentially more useful.

The project also highlighted the central importance of our preparation program faculty in maintaining these connections. Given the high volume of future professionals that pass through their classrooms, faculty represents some of the key connectors in the project. Many create the initial first and second generational connections to Esther Lloyd-Jones and, as a result of reaching out to faculty listservs, I received some of the most valuable connections. These faculty members also generously gave of their time to contribute to the project, a quality that is frequently attributed to Dr. Lloyd-Jones. It is perhaps a fitting tribute that they continue in this spirit of giving and collaboration.

Based on this project, I think I can safely conclude that most of the current professionals in the field are likely separated from Esther Lloyd-Jones by only one or two degrees. In essence, we are all her professional children and grandchildren. The incoming generations of graduate students and new professionals are likely to be the fourth generation of student affairs professionals, the great-grandchildren of the profession. As I reflect on this experience and the meaning I have taken away from it, I take pride in the fact that a simple idea, the education of the whole student, is one that has endured for over 90 years. My wonderful colleagues and I are a part of a history attached to an amazing woman who began this “experiment” with her colleagues only two generations ago. As ACPA – College Student Educators International celebrates it’s 90th anniversary, I think this project illuminates not only the history of this profession, but also how we are making history in the present. Knowledge of the past becomes equally as important as knowledge of the present and future.

The Six Degrees of Esther-Lloyd Jones Project is ongoing. If you would like to participate you can head to the project landing page.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are the implications of working in a small, interconnected field? For knowledge generation and dissemination? For sharing of best practices? For networking and job seeking?
  2. How does one’s sense of history change when one can make direct connections to the history-makers of the past?
  3. What will be your legacy? For what will you be known?


American Council on Education. (1937). The student personnel point of view. Washington, DC: Retrieved from

Shirky, C.  (2008). Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organizations.
New York, NY: Penguin Books.

About the Author

Paul G. Brown is an instructor in the Higher Education programs at Boston College and Merrimack College.  Currently a Ph.D. candidate, Paul has over 10 years of professional experience in higher education and student affairs in a diverse array of functional areas including residential education, honors programs, academic advising, and student activities.  His research passions include issues involving first year students, honors and high ability/high achieving students, learning communities, residential curricula, and social media, technology and design.  He currently serves with the Governing Board of the ACPA—College Student Educators International as the Coordinator for Standing Committees.  Paul holds a B.A. in Philosophy from the State University of New York College at Geneseo and an M.S. in College Student Personnel from Western Illinois University.

Please e-mail Inquiries to Paul G. Brown .

Follow Paul G. Brown on Twitter @paulgordonbrown or visit his webpage.


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.

ACPA’s Influence on Collegiate Mental Health

ACPA’s Influence on Collegiate Mental Health

Susan R. Stock
Roosevelt University

As part of the celebration of the ACPA – College Student Educators International 90th anniversary, a series of articles was commissioned forDevelopments to discuss the impact of the Association on key areas of student affairs. In this article, I examine the nature and history of the Association’s involvement in collegiate mental health, both in terms of the practice of college counseling and the broader practice of student affairs.

As an organization, ACPA – College Student Educators International was interested in college student mental health from the very beginning. A review of reports from early annual meetings reveals several papers and discussions on “mental hygiene,” student counseling, and diagnosis; for example, a paper from the 1932 Annual Meeting (the 9th) is titled “The relation of mental hygiene to the selection, adjustment, placement, and progress of the student” (Emery, 1932). In that paper, Emery noted that

During the last ten years Mental Hygiene has broadened its aims, scopes and purposes. Formerly it was specially interested in the treatment and prevention of mental disease, mental defect, and delinquency. In the past few years mental hygiene has shifted its emphasis so that now it includes an effort to bring about an optimum of mental adjustment for every individual, and strives to play its part towards bringing about a relative happiness, contentment, satisfaction, success, and efficiency for all (p. 36)

With some leeway allowed for the language of the day, this is a statement that many current university and college counseling staff members would endorse—the ongoing balance of attending to developmental concerns as well as more serious presenting issues.

The first university mental hygiene clinic opened at Princeton University in 1910 and, by the 1930s, several colleges had endorsed this kind of service and were figuring out how best to use it. The Emery (1932) article disseminated information about a variety of current practices, including Yale University’s policy of having the “mental hygienist” meet with all new students. The author notes that this practice did not have impact on admission practices, given that these meetings took place once classes had begun, and therefore was “used primarily to bring those students who need help in contact with the psychiatrist” (p. 39).

ACPA conference proceedings from the 1930s and 1940s reflected active work on mental health issues. In 1933, for example, a working group produced a paper that articulated the “principles, functions, and standards” for personal counseling (Cowdery et al., 1933). McClintock (1936) offered a perspective on the importance of “The religious factor in student counseling.” The 1939 conference proceedings were more extensive than in previous years and featured a collection of four papers under the heading “Diagnosis and Counseling of Students.” In 1940, a paper titled “Diagnosis and counseling: Aspects of student motivation” was presented (Feder, 1940), and a report of a similarly titled 1941 conference roundtable discussion facilitated by Lloyd-Jones stated that “Tests and other mechanical devices are useful….[but] must be interpreted wisely and used with discrimination” (p. 64). It was also noted that “…complete acceptance of the Freudian viewpoint was protested” in the discussion (p. 64).

Mental hygiene, counseling, clinical services, therapy, diagnosis, and guidance appeared to have various meanings in the early part of the 20th century. Functional areas were not as distinct as they are now, and “counseling” referred to academic advising, individual therapy, mentoring, and career counseling—individually as well as collectively. Often the same individuals in the same department would provide these services and more. One could argue, then, that through its members’ active discussion of these varied aspects of mental health, ACPA – College Student Educators International has had a broad impact on collegiate mental health from its earliest years as an organization.

Mental health issues continued to be explored at what were now called the “Annual Conventions of the Association” through the 1950s. Although attention continued to be paid to broad theoretical issues and the development of standards, the convention proceedings began to reflect an interest in specific clinical issues and in the training and supervision of counselors. Additionally, these proceedings indicated the involvement of leaders in the field who were also members of sister organizations, furthering the impact of the work of ACPA – College Student Educators International. For example, the report of a presentation from 1953 titled “Teaching aids for counselor training” noted collaboration with the Counseling Training Committee of Division 17 (Counseling Psychology) of the American Psychological Association (Robinson et al., 1953). The ACPA presentation attempted to take the work of Division 17 and build upon it, and the closing sentence reads “The discussion concluded with a suggestion that an ACPA committee might be established to serve as a clearing house for available teaching aids” (p. 13). The 1953 convention also featured Bordin presenting on client expectations, and a demonstration of group therapy (Seeman et al., 1953).


In 1961, ACPA began to implement a new organizational structure. It had been decided that the 1963 convention programming would stem from a series of groups called commissions, each with a particular focus on an area of student personnel work. Commission VII was formed to attend to issues of counseling, testing, and advising. In 1961, then President-elect of ACPA, Melvene Hardee, wrote letters to student affairs professionals asking them to become founding members of the new commissions. In a letter sent to Alyce Graham Pasca of Roosevelt University, Hardee wrote of the importance of the perspective of the functional areas “in higher education in the years ahead” and noted that Pasca would “ably represent” the “national constituency” of this new Commission VII (Hardee, 1961).

Commission VII provided a good opportunity for those interested in college counseling to work together, and early records of the Commission reflect attention to both internal and external matters. That is, Commission VII became a place for college counselors to come together, further their own work, and discover ways to disseminate findings from college counseling to the broader field of student affairs. In the early years of Commission VII, it was reported that members were mostly counseling center directors who explored questions such as “How can counseling centers serve as liaisons between administrators and student activists?” and “Are there roles for counseling center staff besides ‘therapist?’” (Roney, 1986). Tom Magoon was Chair of the Commission in 1965 and linked the Commission to the University of Maryland Data Bank (begun in 1962), which annually surveyed counseling center directors regarding clinical issues, challenges, and achievements in college counseling (Boyd & Kandell, 2011). The Maryland Data Bank remains a rich repository of over 50 years’ worth of data regarding the changes in university and college counseling work.

A note about terminology: Commission VII officially changed its name to the more inclusive and representative “Commission for Counseling and Psychological Services” in 1987. However, “Commission VII” continued to be used by members until the early 2000s when there was an Association push to begin to use titles of the Commissions rather than numbers, as the use of numbers was felt to be less descriptive and less welcoming to newer members of the Association. At that time the acronym “CCAPS” began to be used more frequently to describe the Commission.

As previously mentioned, Commission VII members were often leaders in other professional organizations in addition to ACPA. Individuals such as Tom Magoon, Ursula Delworth, Helen Roehlke, Jack Corazzini, Christine Courtois, and Melba Vasquez, to name just a few, were members and leaders in the first 25 years of Commission VII. The work of Commission VII members provided professional leadership to college counseling center work as well as the broader field of student affairs. A few highlights include:

  • The University of Maryland Data Bank and associated Annual Convention Program, “Innovations in Counseling,” which shares innovative ideas, programs, and interventions used at counseling centers around the United States. “Innovations” has been offered at almost all of the ACPA Annual Conventions for the last 50 years, and is often presented to standing-room only audiences.
  • Commission members were active in writing position papers and participating in Association discussions regarding disaffiliation from APGA and AACD/ACA.
  • Commission VII members were active in the DSM-III-R revision process.
  • A 1997 special interest group focusing on counseling centers and the Internet resulted in three important developments: the development of the Commission webpage, coordinated by Jonathan Kandell; a clearinghouse for online psychoeducational self-help material coordinated by Wendy Settle; and a group led by David Gilles-Thomas began work on theCounseling Center Village, which houses a wide range of resources for college counseling professionals and trainees.
  • In 2001, CCAPS issued a position paper regarding the provision of online therapy services (Perez & Gaw, 2001). The paper was unanimously endorsed by the Commission Chairs group and was published inDevelopments . To this writer’s knowledge, it was the first effort by a professional association to speak to the ethical challenges of online services, making it an important milestone not only for student affairs but for mental health treatment in general. It is noteworthy that this paper was published in Developments , as this venue allowed non-mental health colleagues to be informed about the concerns regarding online services.

More on these accomplishments and additional information can be found in Lynch’s (2011) history of the Commission, which covers 1986 to 2011.

In the early 1980s, liaison relationships with Commission VII were begun. Relevant sister organizations of ACPA and Commission VII sent liaison representatives to the ACPA Conventions, and Commission VII also sent representatives to those organizations’ conventions to further collaboration and dissemination of knowledge. An incomplete list of past and current liaisons includes the American Association for Counseling and Development; the American College Health Association; the American Counseling Association; the American College Counseling Association; the American Psychological Association’s Division 17; the Society of Counseling Psychology; the Association of Counseling Center Training Agencies; the Association for the Coordination of Counseling Centers Clinical Services; the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors; the Center for Collegiate Mental Health; the Higher Education Mental Health Alliance; the International Association of Counseling Services, and NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

As may be obvious from the previous paragraphs, ACPA via CCAPS and other entities has been an important contributor to the professional development of generations of student affairs professionals. Convention programming, online and written information, and more recently phone-in discussions and webinars have enhanced the knowledge base of many. Beginning in 1995, continuing education credits for social workers, counselors, and psychologists have been offered for many of these events. Additionally, leadership opportunities in CCAPS have been important early experiences for individuals who have, for example, become the President of the American Psychological Association (Melba Vaquez); the founder and executive director of the Center for Collegiate Mental Health (Ben Locke); and the President of ACPA – College Student Educators International (Heidi Levine).

The Future

The individuals mentioned in the last paragraph were chosen intentionally, as they are people who currently hold the leadership position listed, or have done so recently. As I move into a brief discussion of what the future may hold, it is important to note that many of the previously described accomplishments have current impact on student affairs and will continue to do so. CCAPS’ current and future plans include:

  • Continued membership in and collaboration with the Higher Education Mental Health Alliance (HEMHA), a partnership of eight organizations. Recently, HEMHA published Balancing Safety and Support on Campus: A Guide for Campus Teams. This guide provides a road map for campuses that are building and maintaining behavioral intervention teams, and is available for free online.
  • Continued collaboration with the Center for Collegiate Mental Health, a research consortium using de-identified student data from over 150 university and college counseling centers. This unprecedented confluence of data has allowed population-level research (in contrast to sample research) that has in turn revealed important insights about collegiate mental health and treatment.
  • Continued provision of webinars, allowing ACPA – College Student Educators International and CCAPS expertise to reach national and international audiences, in the comfort of participants’ own campuses.
  • Continued response and involvement in national issues of concern, such as serving as a signatory on a School Shooting Position Paper as well as a letter of support for the re-authorization of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act (personal communication, Bershad, 2013).

ACPA – College Student Educators International has been attending to issues of collegiate mental health since its inception. Although the job descriptions, job titles, and content of that focus have changed over the years, it is clear that student mental health is important to ACPA’s membership of student affairs professionals. It is my hope and expectation that the intertwining of college counseling and student affairs will continue for a long time in ACPA – College Student Educators International.


Bordin, E. (1953).  The implications of client expectations for the counseling process.
ACPA Personnel-O-Gram (1953). Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University,
Center for Archival Collections, MS-319.

Boyd, V.S., & Kandell, J. (2011).  History of the CCAPS innovations program: Maryland
Archival Databank revisited.  Retrieved from

Conrad, S.L. (2011).  History of the Commission for Counseling and Psychological Services
(CCAPS):  The second twenty-five years.  Retrieved from…

Cowdery, K.M., Patton, L.K., Woodruff, K., Purdom, T.L., Belknap, F., Dreese, M., & Stone,
H.E. (1933).  Personal counseling:  College personnel principles, functions, and
standards. Report of the Tenth Annual Meeting of the American College Personnel
Association:  Minneapolis, MN.

Emery, E.V.N (1932).  The relation of mental hygiene to the selection, adjustment, placement,
and progress of the student.  The study of the individual student. Report of the Ninth Annual Meeting of the American College Personnel Association:  Washington, DC.

Feder, D. D. (1940).  Diagnosis and counseling:  Aspects of student motivation. Report of the
Seventeenth Annual Meeting of the American College Personnel Association:  St. Louis, MO.

Hardee, M.  (1961).  Letter to Alyce Graham Pasca.

HEMHA (no date).  Balancing safety and support on campus:  A guide for campus teams. 
Retrieved from

Lloyd-Jones, E. (1941).  Diagnosis and counseling.  Report of a roundtable discussion facilitated
at the Annual Meeting of the American College Personnel Association: Atlantic City, NJ.

McClintock, D.A. (1936).  The importance of the religious factor in student counseling.  Report of the Thirteenth Annual Meeting of the American College Personnel Association:  St. Louis, MO.

Robinson. F., Burnett, C.W., Embree, R.B., Lifton, W.M., McCormick, K.F., Roeber, E.C., &
Schwebel, M. (1953).  Teaching aids for counselor trainees.   ACPA Personnel-O-Gram (1953). Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University, Center for Archival Collections, MS-319.

Roney, L. (1986)  History of Commission VII.  Retrieved from

Seeman, J., Gordon, T., & Starr, A. (1953).  Counseling demonstration—Group therapy
ACPA Personnel-O-Gram (1953). Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University, Center for Archival Collections, MS-319.

About the Author

Susan R. Stock serves as the Director of the Counseling Center at Roosevelt University. She has held many volunteer and leadership roles in ACPA, including the Chair of the Commission for Psychological Services (CCAPS) from 2002-2004. In 2009 she was the recipient of the CCAPS’ Mid-Level Career Achievement Award and is a member of the 2014 class of ACPA Foundation Diamond Honorees.

Please e-mail Inquiries to Susan R. Stock.


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.

How Safe do International Students view your Campus?

How Safe do International Students view your Campus?

Jason E. Lane
State University of New York, Albany

During 2009, a series of alleged hate crimes occurred in Australia against students studying abroad from India. The attacks attracted the attention of the Australian and Indian media, with stories increasingly suggesting that Australia was no longer a safe place for Indians to study abroad. The widely reported result was a precipitous decline in the number of Indian students pursuing their studies in Australia. In fact, one report found that the number of Indian students studying in Australia fell from 34,200 in 2007-2008 to 9,750 in 2011-2012.

For a nation where international students make up the largest proportion of collegiate enrollments in the world and for whom education is the leading service export, the result was significant. The shrinking number of students resulted in the closing of several foreign language institutes (heavily dependent on those enrollments); the shrinking of university budgets; and reduction in the overall export value of the sector. For example, in the state of Victoria where many of the incidents occurred, the export contribution of international students fell from more than $5 billion in 2009-2010 to $4.4 billion in 2011-2012.

The reality of the situation is far more complicated. An investigation by the Indian government concluded that only 23 of the 152 reported incidents involved “racial overtones.” Moreover, a report by the Australian Institute of Criminology concluded that between 2005 and 2009, international students in Australia were less likely to be assaulted than the average person in Australia. And, while the assault rate of Indian students in some jurisdictions was equivalent to that of the average of Australia, the overall assault rate of Indian students across the nation was also lower than average.

But, the damage had already been done.

In fact, there appears to have been a significant increase in the level of concern about the safety of international study According to research by the British Council, safety is now one of the top five concerns among international students influencing their choice of destination. Only six years ago, safety barely made the list of their concerns, ranking 17 out of 19.

For the most part, the United States retains a reputation as one of the safest destinations in the world.

Another report by the British Council, with the online student forum The Student Room, found mixed reviews about the safety of the United States among their 160,000 student respondents. The United States received the third most votes for being the safest destination. However, it also received the third most votes for being the least safe destination. The report indicated that the divided opinion “was based on concerns about relatively relaxed gun laws, offset by its multicultural society and high police presence.”

The heightened concern about safety means that the media, particularly overseas, more readily report on attacks on international students. In fact, the United States drew a lot of attention last spring over the Boston bombings. Not only was this a significant event of domestic terror, but one international student ended up dead and three others significantly hurt. Two of the students were from China, including the one who was killed. The other two were from Saudi Arabia and one was misidentified by the media as a suspect, leading the Saudi Arabian embassy to state : “We’re concerned about the backlash against students based on a false story.”

Safety concerns captured diplomatic attention on the other side of the country as well. In September of this year, the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Los Angeles sponsored a series of lectures at the University of California, UC-Irvine, and UCLA. The topic: safety of Chinese students in the United States. More than 200 students attended the first engagement, held at USC.

A year and a half before the lecture, two graduate students from China were shot and killed while riding in a friend’s car near the USC campus. The cops believed itwas a botched robbery or carjacking attempt; regardless, it cut short the lives of two students, both of whom happened to be from China.

Like the situation in Australia, the issue in the United States is far more complicated than it appears on the surface. Even Secretary of State John Kerry joined the confusion last spring when he reported that Japanese officials told him that the decline in the number of students from Japan studying in the United States was a result of concern over gun violence. It was a timely political quip that did not paint a full picture, as a fact checker from the Washington Post quickly pointed out. Nonetheless, it also indicated that concern about international student safety has emerged as a diplomatic talking point with at least one of the nation’s allies.

Why bring this topic up with readers of Developments? The truth is that there is not much we can do to immediately change the broader beliefs held about the safety of international students in the United States. But, student affairs professionals should be aware of these concerns and be proactive in helping ensure that students have the tools necessary to take responsibility for their personal safety.

  • Recruitment: Recruiters should be prepared to answer questions about campus safety. Even though the United States is a large and geographically diverse country, many people from outside of the United States see the country as one large entity. Thus, whatever happens in Boston or LA or Chicago gets aggregated into one large perception about safety in the United States. Recruiters and recruiting materials may have to help prospective students understand the level of safety on their campus and how the campus is working to ensure that international students are safe while pursuing their studies.
  • Orientation: If not already, the topic of personal safety should be part of new student orientation. Student safety seminars should take into account that international students do not often have the same basic level of knowledge about the law enforcement, legal protections, and how to handle local situations that threaten personal safety. In fact, many come from countries where culture and regulations dictate different types of reactions to such situations than what is expected in the United States. As such, student affairs professionals may consider an extra level of outreach and education to international students.
  • Ongoing Educational Programming: Those who have traveled abroad have likely wondered if they are in a safe neighborhood; how diligent they have to be in protecting their purse; or what would they do if someone were to threaten their safety. International students often wonder the same thing. In some cases, they have an extra level of security, living in a residence hall and having the standard support provided by a college campus. On the other hand, that added protection could also lure them into a sense of false confidence about the safety of certain activities or surrounding neighborhoods. Student affairs professionals should be proactive in helping international students take responsibility for their personal safety.

One of the most important challenges for student affairs administrators will be to balance support for individual independence against the need to ensure that students remain safe. College is about advancing personal growth, awareness, and responsibility. Concerns about safety can prompt us toward wanting to protect students entirely from any risks that might exist; but this approach also fails to teach students about how to deal with such situations when they do eventually encounter them.

The goal of student affairs practitioners should be to remain educated about local safety concerns, to be able to provide an accurate picture of safety to students and family, and to help students take personal responsibility for ensuring their own safety during the studies and beyond.

Discussion Questions

  1. Are there any concerns, real or perceived, about international student safety on your campus?
  2. Has there been a discussion on your campus about international student safety? If not, should there be and who should be involved in such a convening?
  3. Do current personal safety courses provide opportunity for those from a different country and/or culture to be oriented to issues that could be taken from granted by domestic students?

About the Author

Jason E. Lane is Associate Vice Chancellor and Associate Provost for Academic Program and Planning for the State University of New York as well as Deputy Director of the Rockefeller Institute of Government, associate professor (on leave) 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 has been a 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” (2010, Jossey-Bass); “Universities and Colleges as Economic Drivers” (2012, SUNY Press) and “Academic Governance and Leadership in Higher Education” (2013, Stylus Press).

Please e-mail inquiries to Jason E. Lane.

Follow Jason Lane on Twitter @ProfJasonLane.


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.

Unauthorized, Ineligible, Deferred, and Underserved: Realities of Undocumented College Students

Unauthorized, Ineligible, Deferred, and Underserved: Realities of Undocumented College Students

Karen Miksch
University of Minnesota
Jeffrey C. Sun
University of North Dakota


In July 2013, Anthony Carnevale and Jeff Strohl described college readiness, access, and completion between majority and underrepresented groups. As reported in “Separate and Unequal,” they presented the disparate opportunities that African American and Hispanic college students encountered relative to White students. While their report indicated that the actual numbers of African American and Hispanic students enrolling in higher education has increased, they offered overwhelming evidence of societal stratification by race in terms of type of institution and degree progress. For instance, African American and Hispanic college students are more likely than Whites to attend an open access college than a selective college, and they are less likely than Whites to attain a baccalaureate degree (Carnevale & Strohl, 2013). These data points offer some evidence of a stratified higher education system. Yet, another societal barrier also exists for a class of individuals within higher education – undocumented college students.

In many respects, undocumented college students face legally sanctioned inequalities. For instance, undocumented students are ineligible for federal financial aid and severely restricted in terms of employment. What they encounter is an obvious form of societal stratification that makes higher education nearly unattainable. This article outlines ways in which the stratification is manifested and how colleges can support these underserved, and often forgotten, students.

The precise number of undocumented students in the United States is unclear and difficult to determine. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that approximately 50,000 to 60,000 students, who lack immigration documentation, graduate every year from United States high schools (Batalova & McHugh, 2010; see also Educators for Fair Consideration, 2012). Given financial and employment barriers, the number of those undocumented students who actually attend college is likely a lot lower. For example, according to the PEW Hispanic Center, in 2008 the percentage for United States born immigrants and legal immigrants with some college experience or a college degree was 58% and 60%, respectively. However, estimates of undocumented individuals in the United States with some college experience or a college degree are only 26%. The data disparity highlights severe educational access hurdles taking place for undocumented students to experience college or achieve a degree. Although a recent federal program provides work authorization and permission to stay in the United States for some of these students, there remain significant barriers to higher education.

State and Federal Policies

State Policies on Attendance/Enrollment

Most colleges and universities permit undocumented students to attend their institution. However, as we explain below, the cost and lack of financial assistance makes a college education unaffordable for many undocumented students.

Some systems have banned undocumented students from enrolling (Russell, 2011). In Alabama, the public community college system prohibits enrollment of undocumented students (Russell, 2011). Similarly, the South Carolina public colleges require documentation of a student’s lawful presence before one may enroll (S.C. Code Ann. § 59-101-430 (2013)). In Georgia, the Board bars undocumented students from enrolling at its state institutions that have denied admission to academically qualified students in the past two years (Russell, 2011).

State Policies on Tuition Rates

Undocumented students’ prospects for completing their education is limited because they are often considered to be “out-of-state” or international students and thus ineligible for in-state tuition. However, in 14 states, legislation grants students, who attended and graduated from a high school in the state, eligibility for in-state tuition. The law covers undocumented students who can demonstrate attendance at a high school within the state for the requisite number of years and proof of graduation from a high school within that state. As of September 2013, states with these laws are: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington. A few states (e.g., Oklahoma and Rhode Island) permit in-state tuition for undocumented students when the Board of Regents approves such a policy.

Of course, these laws did not proceed unchallenged. California was one of the first states to roll out a law permitting undocumented students to pay in-state tuition. In 2001, the California legislature enacted a law exempting certain nonresidents including undocumented students from paying nonresident tuition. ¹ The law stated that eligible students must have attended a California high school for at least three years and graduated or attained an equivalency certificate such as a general educational development (GED) certificate.

Soon after the law’s passage, a group challenged its legal permissibility. The group contended that the California law violated a 1996 federal law. The federal law places some limits on an undocumented college student’s eligibility for higher education benefits based on state residence.² In 2010, the California State Supreme Court ruled that the state law exempting certain nonresidents (including undocumented students) from paying nonresident tuition did not violate federal law. ³

Several states (i.e., Arizona, Georgia, and Indiana) have been more active in blocking financial support to undocumented students. These states have explicit laws prohibiting public colleges from offering in-state tuition absent documentation of a student’s legal presence (see, e.g., ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN . § 15-1802 (2013).

Policies on Financial Aid

Even in-state tuition rates are too high for some students, yet financial aid programs are still largely closed off to them. Undocumented students are typically ineligible for most state and federal financial aid (Miksch, 2005; Olivas, 2004, 2009; Yates, 2004). A federal law, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (“PRWORA”), precludes undocumented immigrants from qualifying for federal financial aid or student loans.

A few states (e.g., Texas and California) offer state financial aid to undocumented students on an equal basis with other students. Nonetheless, a vast majority of states do not have such equal access. Even in Utah, where the law is financially favorable to undocumented students, a policy permits undocumented students to qualify for only one state aid program (Olivas, 2009, 2011).

Adding to the financial challenges, undocumented students are unable to work legally in the United States. These students face legal restrictions that make them ineligible for employment. These barriers often extend to other career development opportunities such as holding a paid internship, co-op learning programs, or employment-preparation field experiences (e.g., student-teaching). Their lack of documentation precludes their participation in academic programs that require or are significantly enhanced by these experiences. A new program, discussed next, does provide undocumented students the opportunity to apply for temporary legal status and work authorization.

Federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Over a year ago, the Obama Administration implemented a program that deferred (halted) deportations for certain young undocumented immigrants living in the United States. The program is known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. In order to be eligible an applicant must meet a number of criteria, including proving that they came to the United States prior to the age of 16 and that they have graduated from high school, have a GED, or are currently in school (USCIS, 2013a). A grant of deferred action is temporary, must be renewed every two years, and is not a path to United States citizenship. However, a person granted deferred action is considered to be lawfully residing in the United States and in most cases is also granted work authorization.

As of September of this year, 455,455 people have been granted DACA status and 9,578 have been denied (USCIS, 2013b). There are currently about 100,000 DACA applications pending before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Mexico, South Korea, and the Philippines are among the top ten countries of origin and DACA applicants reside in all 50 states, with California having the largest number of applicants (USCIS, 2013b). Everyone granted DACA status is between the ages of 15 and 30 years old and those who are applying to colleges and universities should all have legal authorization to work. Depending on state laws and institutional policies, however, DACA students may not be eligible for in-state tuition or financial aid—potentially insurmountable barriers for low-income DACA students to overcome. In addition, there is no guarantee that DACA status will be renewed every two years, leaving graduates unsure whether they will be able to legally work in their chosen fields of study.

Action Steps

Action Item #1: Designate a point person for Undocumented and DACA students.

Students who are applying for admission to your campus may have questions about eligibility, residency, in-state tuition, and financial aid. Studies have explored obstacles undocumented students face during the admission process (Alexio, Chin, Fennelly, & Shurilla, 2012; Pérez Huber & Malagon, 2007), and recommend that institutions designate a point person in the admissions office, someone who is knowledgeable about state and institutional rules regarding in-state tuition and the level of support permissible in your state and university system. In addition, students who have been granted DACA status might wonder if they are eligible for certain financial aid programs. Having a point-person in financial aid will also support students’ persistence and success. The College Board (Rincón, 2012) has created a useful guide to resources available to immigrant students in California, Texas, New York and a number of other states that provides information for staff and students.

Action Item #2: Advocate for a Federal Policy of Inclusion

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) would provide a mechanism for long-term resident immigrant students to apply for legal residency, provide work authorization, and a path to permanent legal status in the United States. Although the DREAM Act has obtained bi-partisan support, it has never passed both houses of Congress. Many institutions have sent in support of the DREAM Act to members of Congress (NILC, 2013). Undocumented students often refer to themselves as “dreamers” and many have worked tirelessly to try and pass the DREAM Act.

Action Item #3: Create a Climate of Inclusion

Some commentators have noted that “getting in” is often the easy part. Undocumented students face a range of additional obstacles once they are admitted to postsecondary institutions (Gildersleeve, Rumann & Mondragón, 2010; Gonzales, 2009, 2011; Pérez Huber & Malagon, 2007; Rincón, 2010). Lack of access to financial aid, hostile campus climate, and administrators and staff unfamiliar with the rules governing undocumented students are three of the main obstacles undocumented students and DACA students face after they are admitted to postsecondary institutions. Pérez Huber and Malagon (2007) provide concrete ways to improve campus climate, including calling on institutions of higher education to overtly support the DREAM Act. They argue that a “neutral” stance sends the wrong message. In addition, memos and documents within higher education, on occasion, include words that shun groups or frame the issue as an illegal activity. Correct others and documents that use terms such as “illegal” or “illegal alien.” These words are tendentious and unrepresentative of more inclusive educational goals.

Action Item #4: Develop a Program Educating Others About Obstacles that Undocumented Students Encounter.

Take this article and pass it along to others. Highlight portions of this article and inform your colleagues of these societal barriers for undocumented students. Consider what it means for undocumented students when they speak about financial challenges, obstacles to gain work, and what support they may need from others in terms of creating a positive climate for these under-supported students.


Alexio, M., Chin, J., Fennelly, K., & Shurilla, A.  (2012).  Analysis of policies toward
applications from undocumented immigrants at Big Ten schools.  Law and Inequality, 30, 1-16.

Batalova, J., & McHugh, M.  (2010).  Dream vs. reality: An analysis of potential DREAM Act
beneficiaries.  Retrieved from

Carnevale, A., & Strohl, J.  (2013).  Separate and unequal: How higher education reinforces the intergenerational reproduction of white racial privilege. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown Public Policy Institute, Center on Education and the Workforce.

Educators for Fair Consideration  (2012).  Fact sheet: An overview of college-bound undocumented students.

Flores, S.M. (2010).  State Dream Acts: The effect of in-state resident tuition policies and
undocumented Latino students.  Review of Higher Education, 33(2), 239-283.

Gildersleeve, R. E., Rumann, C., & Mondragón, R.  (2010).  Serving undocumented students: Current law and policy.  New Directions for Student Services .

Gonzales, R.G.  (2009).  Young lives on hold: The college dreams of undocumented
students.  Retrieved from

Gonzales, R.G.  (2011).  Learning to be illegal: Undocumented youth and shifting legal
contexts in the transition to adulthood.  American Sociological Review, 76, 602-619. Doi: 10.1177/00031222411411901

Miksch, K.  (2005).  Legal issues in developmental education: Immigrant students and
the DREAM Act.  Research & Teaching in Developmental Education, 22 (1), 59-65.

National Immigration Law Center (NILC).  Letters in support of the DREAM Act from higher
education institutions.  Retrieved from

Pérez Huber, L., & Malagon, M.C. (2007).  Silenced struggles: The experiences of Latina and Latino undocumented college students in California.  Nevada Law Journal, 7, 841-861.

Olivas, M.A.  (2004).  IIRIRA, the DREAM Act, and undocumented college
student residency.  Journal of College & University Law, 30, 435-456.

Olivas, M.  (2009).  The political economy of the DREAM Act and the legislative process:
A case study of comprehensive immigration reform.  Wayne State Law Review, 55, 1757-1810.

Olivas, M.A.  (2011).  The good, the bad, and the undocumented college students: 2011
state and federal developments.Retrieved from

Rincón, A.  (2012).  Repository of resources for undocumented students. Washington, D.C.:
College Board. Retrieved from…

Rincón, A.  (2010).  Undocumented immigrants and higher education: ¡Si se puede! El
Paso, TX: LFB Scholarly Publishing.

Russell, A.  (2011).  State policies regarding undocumented college students: A narrative of unresolved issues, ongoing debate and missed opportunities.  Washington, D.C.: American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) (2013a).  I am a young person who arrived in the United States as a child: How do I request consideration for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals?Retrieved from

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) (2013b).  Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals data report. Retrieved from /Immigration%20Forms%20Data/All%20Form%20Types/DACA/daca-13-9-13.pdf


  1. Cal. Educ. Code § 68130.5 (2013).
  2. The law states –
    Notwithstanding any other provision of law, an alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a State (or a political subdivision) for any postsecondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit (in no less an amount, duration, and scope) without regard to whether the citizen or national is such a resident.
    42 U.S.C § 1623 (2013).
  3. Martinez v. Regents of the Univ. of California, 241 P.3d 855 (Cal. 2010).

About the Authors

Karen Miksch is an Associate Professor of Education and Law at the University of Minnesota. Her research focuses on the law of higher education and the transition to college.

Please e-mail inquiries to Karen Miksch.

Jeffrey C. Sun is an associate professor of educational leadership/higher education and affiliate associate professor of law at the University of North Dakota. He teaches and writes about legal issues pertaining to higher education.

Please e-mail inquiries to Jeffrey C. Sun.


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.

Challenge without Support: How can we Create a Meaningful First Year for Distance Learners?

Challenge without Support: How can we Create a Meaningful First Year for Distance Learners?

Marisa Vernon
Columbus State Community College

A few semesters ago, I took on a section of my institution’s first-year experience course. Despite my relatively short time as an administrator at my institution, I initially felt confident in my ability to lead students through their first semester, build a sense of community, and connect them to critical resources they would need to employ in order to move through the college. My years of experience in working with first-year students in open enrollment institutions and a solid background in advising and student support services fostered a false sense of self-assurance about what the next fifteen weeks would be like.

This first-year experience course, I quickly learned, would prove to be different from the rest. The students enrolled in my section were not unlike any other college students I had worked with. The modules on time management, career development, and academic planning were not foreign to me. The difference, however, was that the students were taking the course online.

As the online course progressed, I found myself struggling to connect the dots between foundational principles of retention and practical application. Knowing that student engagement in the first year plays a key role in retention, my trained eye read students’ discussion board posts looking for clues that would unlock the secret to each individuals formula for success. As many involved with first-year experience programs do, I immediately went on high alert for success programs, initiatives, and involvement opportunities to share with my class.

In the online environment, however, helping students create a meaningful first-year experience proved more challenging than I had anticipated. The tried and true options for engagement, such as intramurals, leadership programs, and face-to-face advising were eliminated from my professional toolbox.

During a division meeting several weeks into the semester, our college’s student life department discussed the introduction of intramural soccer into our campus programming. My mind immediately flashed to a journal assignment I had just read in which the student stated that he wished he could find an adult community soccer league to make friends after high school. I made a mental note to connect the student to the college’s new league…only to remember that he was taking the first-year experience course from several states away.

When the announcement regarding a new cycle of Student Ambassador recruitment was released, I had the perfect student in mind. She had taken on a leadership role even within our small online community, and would benefit greatly from the experience of representing her college. The only barrier was that she was logging into her college from three hours away.

Finally, I began to notice how difficult it was to link this group of first-year students to the departments that could best assist them with various process-based tasks. My nearly scripted directions (“…go to this office, with this form, and get this signature…”) no longer proved beneficial. Students needed to rely on phone, email, chat, video tutorials, and electronic signature systems in order to move processes forward or obtain the answers they needed. Students reaching out to student support services were often at the mercy of the department’s ability to engage in email or phone correspondence. In many student support offices all over the country, electronic correspondence takes a backseat when traffic in the physical location begins to increase. Priority is often given to those who stand in the line, visit the office, or are present in the physical sense, leaving limited time for other channels of access.

A study conducted by the Center for Community College Research (Jaggars, 2011) shows evidence that while students are certainly challenged by learning in the online environment, they are often unable to access the support services they need to receive tutoring, advising, and assistance with completion of other college processes.

For decades, colleges have focused on creating the perfect environment for success through the development of Student Success offices, Student Life departments, Student Accessibility teams, Counseling Support Services, Academic Advising for all; but are we prepared to deliver this same safety net to students opting to take our courses from other locations?

Sanford’s theory of challenge and support (1967) has been a foundational theory in student development for decades, inviting us to develop safe environments where individuals are faced with challenges that promote growth and development. Students enrolling in online courses are certainly exposed to challenge, as successful completion requires a commitment to independent learning and sophisticated time management skills. However, with limited online resources and student support infrastructure lagging slightly behind, are they receiving the support they need for the challenge to truly foster growth?

Isolation is one of the primary retention barriers to student persistence (Tinto, 1987), and colleges have poured resources into efforts to deconstruct this significant roadblock to success. Nearly every institution seeks to build loyalty among its students in the hopes that connection will keep the spark of motivation alive in the students it attracts. Developing a meaningful first year often requires the careful integration of intentional safety nets in the form of timely and intentional academic advising, career coaching, quality student life programming, accessible academic support, and inclusion efforts. The duplication of services, despite universal acceptance of their collective impact, is a daunting and expensive charge for many institutions extending their reach into cyberspace.

Some institutions, however, have begun to build the infrastructure to adequately support the unique and challenging online learning environment. The University of Cincinnati boasts high student satisfaction related to online degree programs and courses, according to recent National Survey of Student Engagement responses, as well as an 85% success rate (students earning a C- or better) in online coursework. Students based high levels of satisfaction with the University’s online environment on the availability of academic advising services, strong relationships with faculty and staff, peer support, and response times. Enrollment services are streamlined, allowing registration and payment through a single online system, and student persistence and success is carefully monitored throughout the term. The University of Cincinnati, though intentional in its creation of a successful online environment, has created what students perceive as an ideal online environment by simply expanding upon existing student support services. The University has committed to offering the same quality level of student support regardless of the gateway from which the student is accessing the institution, recognizing that connection and support are the keys to student success both on and off campus (Clark, Holstrom, and Millacci, 2009).

While these key student support services are essential to student success and promoting connection to the institution, the role of social interaction and community engagement in retention theory cannot be overstated. Most college faculty or administrators can recall at least one anecdote in which a student’s decision to persist was based on a seemingly casual and insignificant interaction with another member of the campus community. These interactions occur daily on college campuses, from friendly discussions while waiting for class to begin, to brief daily transactions with a caring member of the campus community. These experiences, while difficult to intentionally replicate, compound to create a student’s perception of his or her college environment.

After several email conversations with one of my traditional-aged online students, she simply showed up in my office one afternoon. She arrived at my office’s front desk, exasperated, explaining that she was just really tired of communicating with everyone via email and felt it was more efficient to just come in and find the person. I met with the student for no more than fifteen minutes, conversing and answering her questions. She left my office relieved to have finally met her instructor.

Surprisingly, however, the online environment may promote more emotional and social development than one may think. A survey of students enrolled in online classes determined that students do in fact experience emotional responses to their coursework in the form of humor, compassion, motivation, and empathy. While interactions with others are limited by proximity and distance, new research suggests that the level of social engagement necessary for students to learn may be attainable in an online environment (Meyer and Jones, 2012). Colleges that can identify strategies to promote online social interaction that is comparable to the opportunities afforded to on-campus students (student organizations, leadership opportunities, service learning, and other student affairs programs) may begin to see increases in online student motivation.

If Sanford’s challenge and support theory is to serve as one of the foundations of educational design, understanding the pitfalls of online students, their dissatisfaction, and struggles to connect proves an important step in designing the ideal remote learning experience. While the online learner’s challenges manifest in a different environment, the principles of student retention and persistence remain the same. Only distance, limited resources, and our own creative limitations stand as barriers to delivering the same level of support provided to our on-campus learners.

Adapting existing experiences and services for online students is a practice most colleges will soon not be able to neglect. Distance learners are on the rise, even among students pursuing degrees in traditional, on-campus environments. Among all college students, more than 30% enroll in at least one online course, and the rate of enrollment continues to climb (Babson Survey Research Group, 2013).  With many public institutions shifting funding away from access measures towards success, increased enrollment through online sections can no longer be a priority unless the safety nets are in place to support students who accept the challenge.

As decision makers, factoring the unique needs of distance learning students into our daily conversations may promote creative approaches to engagement that could benefit all students, not just those logging in from the outside. When processes are streamlined in a manner that caters to distance learning students, on-campus students can also take advantage of more convenient access points. Social networking trends that create community within online courses, such as blogging, discussion boards, photo submissions, and video can not only unite those logging in from afar, but provide exciting arenas in which other students can interact.

Within areas in which meaningful connection is of primary concern (academic advising, career counseling, student life, etc), online workshops, Blackboard Communities, and group chats may encourage resistant students from both on and off campus to engage. Online student life programming in the form of leadership certificate courses, online student organizations, service learning components, and training and utilization of remote Campus Ambassadors could extend the reach of the college experience well past the walls of the institution, and enhance student success in both college and beyond. Such innovative forms of program delivery uphold the values of higher education by fostering student growth beyond academic content and the goals of the classroom, even when the experience is primarily achieved through cyberspace.

Academic advising initiatives such as early alert systems, interventions, and referral systems also hold potential for professionals to maintain levels of support that are consistent among both online and on-campus students. The National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) has established CAS standards for advising distance learners, including the designation of a single point of contact to streamline services offered to distance learners, orientation programs that help guide students through the online environment, and facilitation of frequent interaction between staff and online students to promote engagement (NACADA, 2010).

In many institutions, faculty were the first to take the leap into online innovation, forced to respond to the swift increase in demand for courses and full degrees online. While student affairs administrators are now grappling with how to complement these alternative delivery methods, faculty and instructors are key partners in alternative content delivery. For many instructors, the need to develop creative solutions that promote growth among online students has become a common practice term after term.

Within many college environments, the first-year seminar course is often where all of us collide. These courses are sometimes a marriage of the academic and student affairs experience, offering each of us a glimpse into the challenges our counterparts tackle in our similar yet different roles. In these courses, conversation begins to emerge, as faculty and student affairs professionals begin to examine the holistic experience of the distance learner from different vantage points. The responsive nature of first-year experience courses also allows for a certain level of experimentation, and provides an important platform for which an institution can communicate its commitment to the success of all students, regardless of location.

Few educators would argue against the idea that the college experience expands far beyond academic content. For many of us who experienced our undergraduate years without the option to take courses online, the growth that occurred during those years seems difficult to attain without the physical setting in which it occurred. However, for today’s student, online and independent learning is not just a more flexible option; it is quickly becoming a mainstream experience.

Guiding students through their first-year experience is a challenge for most faculty and student affairs professionals regardless of setting. With roadblocks and barriers constantly challenging even the most intense of aspirations, today’s students need supportive environments that allow them to properly navigate the college experience. As distance learning evolves and increases the enrollment potential of many institutions, colleges are under more pressure than ever to find new ways of helping online students reach critical developmental milestones that will retain them and aid in their persistence.

As for me, working with first year students in an online setting has shifted my own professional paradigm towards increased inclusion and accessibility. When brainstorming new ideas with my team, or developing program proposals for an upcoming academic year, I cannot help but to consider how an online learner may access the service. Transformational experiences are what fuel the minds of educators, and, in my experience, the lessons learned from our students are often the ones that generate the most progress in our field.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you feel as though colleges and universities should offer student support services to distance learners, or should institutions focus simply on content/ course delivery? Do you believe distance learners expect student support services?
  2. Some institutions have decided not to join the online marketplace, and continue to offer coursework only in traditional formats. Do you believe institutions that have chosen to forgo this market are making a wise decision? Why or why not?
  3. In your current role (faculty, staff, administrator) how can you improve services or connect with distance learners? In addition, how can you foster institutional loyalty among your online student population?


Babson Survey Research Group. (2013) Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online
Education in the United States. Retrieved from:

Clark, M., Holstrom, L., & Millacci, A.M. (2009). University of Cincinatti case study of online
student success. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 13(3), 49-55.

Jaggars, S. (2011). Online learning: Does it help low-income and underprepared students? CCRC
Working Paper No. 26. Assessment of Evidence Series. Community College Research
Center, Columbia University.

Meyer, K.A. & Jones, S.J. (2012). Do students experience “social intelligence,” laughter, and
other emotions online?. Journal Of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 16(4), 99-111.

NACADA. (2010). NACADA standards for advising distance learners. Retrieved from:

Sanford, N. (1967). Self & society: social change and individual development. New
York, NY: Atherton Press.

About the Author

Marisa Vernon serves as the Assistant Director of Advising Services at Columbus State Community College in Columbus, Ohio, where she leads a large team of professional Academic Advisors and coordinates the community college’s mandatory First Year Experience Seminar. Marisa has seven years of higher education administrative experience at open enrollment institutions specializing in two- and four-year degree programs and transfer preparation. Before joining Columbus State Community College, she was the Assistant Director for First Year Experience at Kent State University’s Stark Campus in North Canton, Ohio, and has also worked at the Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education.

Please e-mail Inquiries to Marisa Vernon.


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.

ACPA Annual Convention 2014:Local Arrangements and Career Central Update

ACPA Annual Convention 2014:Local Arrangements and Career Central Update


Local Arrangements – Lots to Walk to Near Convention Center and Hotels

We are excited to welcome you to Indianapolis in 2014! Many opportunities exist to reinvent yourself this year. The downtown area offers a number of restaurants, museums, outdoor venues for running/walking, and shopping. As we approach convention, check back to Developments for information on how you can navigate the city. In this issue we will provide information about a few attractions that you will find within walking distance of the hotel.

As we help you get to know Indianapolis, the first thing you will need to know is that the locals refer to the city as Indy! The convention site will be downtown and ACPA members will be staying in hotels that are directly connected to the Indy Convention Center via skywalks. Indy is designed to be navigated as a pedestrian, and as a result you will find a number of attractions within walking distance of the hotels.

A must see while in Indy is The Canal Walk. The canal offers a 3 mile loop where you will find locals and tourists running, walking and enjoying the sights. This will be the perfect option for that morning run or a quiet walk away from the convention center.

Along the canal you will find the NCAA Hall of Champions. This interactive museum provides a historical and current perspective on the over 400,000 student athletes who are part of the NCAA in our higher education institutions.

The Eiteljorg Museum provides another unique opportunity to explore Native American and Western Art collections. It is only one of two such museums that are east of the Mississippi.

Reinventing yourself during the 2014 convention will happen through both amazing educational sessions offered during convention and the phenomenal attractions that will be within walking distance of the hotels.

Career Central at Convention – A High-touch, Participant-focused Endeavor

For decades, an overwhelming majority of current and former student affairs professionals have secured successful employment through ACPA’s career and placement services. Throughout this time, while attending ACPA’s Annual Convention, employers have recruited highly-qualified candidates to interview and hire, and candidates have found jobs through this supportive environment.

We hope that you will join us in Indianapolis and find your new home or colleagues!Career Central’s Convention program will begin with orientations on Friday, March 28 with full services available from Saturday, March 29 through Tuesday, April 1. Here ACPA members, candidates, and employers have a convenient on-site forum through which to arrange interviews, explore career advancement opportunities, and participate in mock interviews along with other career development sessions.

Yet, ACPA members ought to stay tuned! Career Central will be unveiling some exciting new services and on-site additions over the coming months thanks to participant feedback – and in keeping with the convention theme of REINVENT You. Us. Indy. The Career Central Leadership Team remains committed to delivering career development support services with continued high-touch customer service.