Staying Motivated: Perspective on Successfully Completing a Dissertation

Staying Motivated: Perspective on Successfully Completing a Dissertation

Betsy L. Diegel
Davenport University

During my dissertation process, I kept the simple phrase, ‘Keep your eye on the prize’ at the forefront of my mind. The prize, of course, was finishing and successfully defending my dissertation. I had always had a tenacious, highly motivated demeanor when it came to accomplishing personal goals. This attitude allowed me to complete my undergraduate degree while also being a student-athlete, continue immediately on to my Master’s degree, and finally begin a career in higher education teaching and administration. After two years of full-time teaching and supervising adjuncts, it became obvious I needed a terminal degree to continue to move up the academic ladder. However, the process scared me. I knew I was motivated and focused, but I questioned whether I was intelligent enough to perform well in the doctoral classes, and then subsequently, complete the doctoral courses. This article highlights my experiences in successfully completing a dissertation and discusses learning lessons I endured along the way to readers who need that final nudge to finish their dissertation.

My Experience

I was honest with myself from the beginning that pursuing a terminal degree was probably the most daunting task I had ever faced. I wanted my dissertation topic to be unique but something I was able to accomplish within an adequate time period so I would not lose my passion along the way. I had no idea when I began my doctoral program what I wanted to research, which was overwhelming because most of my peers did. However, I listened to my professors and, in their words, “let the program wash over me” through coursework and expertise of my dissertation committee members to find a dissertation topic. I wanted a topic that related to my career, was exciting but attainable, utilizing qualitative methodology. My professors’ advice proved to be valuable as I was able to solidify my topic just before I took my comprehensive exams. After passing my comprehensive exams, I took a deep breath and prepared to immerse myself in the process of collecting and analyzing mounds of qualitative data. I had decided to do a phenomenological study to explore what department chairpersons did to provide support, mentoring, and professional development opportunities to adjunct faculty in their departments. I interviewed three department chairs and eighteen adjunct faculty to collect my initial data, followed by a focus group of adjunct faculty to solidify the major themes that arose during the initial interviews. This process was lengthy, involved some travel, numerous organizational revisions of content to each chapter, and at least one Diet Coke per day, until eighteen months later when I scheduled my dissertation defense.

During the dissertation process, I slowly realized each day of my life had to be planned out to accommodate for writing time. Balancing a full-time career, pregnancy, and producing quality writing became my reality. I was shocked at the amount of revisions I needed to do for each chapter of my dissertation. As soon as I would get something back from my dissertation chair, I would scroll to the last page of what she reviewed to see how many comments and edits she made on what I sent her. At times, the amount of feedback was overwhelming. Because of this, people who are writing dissertations should be aware that stress and even crying are part of the writing process. Additionally, it is also important to never get frustrated with your dissertation chair. That individual is your advocate in seeing you through to the finish line. Embrace your chair’s expertise and dedication toward your research—even if they ask you to revise the same sentence multiple times.

As I neared completion, I began preparing for my dissertation defense. I was less nervous about the public speaking and more concerned about taking the approximately one hundred-page dissertation and discussing all of what I found to be important in just 20 minutes. I used Microsoft PowerPoint for my presentation and decided to dedicate two slides per chapter. It was tough deciding what was most important to share, but I found I naturally elaborated on specific details as they emerged through the question and answer session at the end of my presentation. I was nervous during the question and answer session because I had no idea what questions my committee members were going to ask me. However, my nerves quickly subsided. It was my hard work to display and I was proud of it. Furthermore, I realized no one knew my topic of research better than me. I was so happy I invited my immediate family members, cohort members, a few friends, and people I work with to my defense because they could share in my elation when I passed and officially became Dr. Diegel.

My family and I celebrated together after my dissertation defense but the next day and subsequent few weeks that followed involved completing the final edits and formatting. Even though I was technically still working on my dissertation, I did not feel the same type of pressure and time crunch as when I was writing. This was mainly because the edits I needed to make were fairly minor and did not involve analyzing my data again. There was no better feeling than submitting my final proofed and approved dissertation to the university before I walked at graduation. I was never more proud of myself as I was at that moment. I knew my personal motivation, tenacity, and support system got me through to completion.


It is crucial to realize early on in your dissertation path that the ultimate goal must be to finish. I had numerous colleagues, as well as fellow students in my cohort, who lost their passion when they finished their coursework and comprehensive exams. Time passed and they did not move forward in completing their dissertation. That was not acceptable for me. I was pregnant and had set writing goals for myself after I completed my comprehensive exam of what I wanted to have completed before my son was born. I planned to take a two week hiatus from my writing once he arrived but planned to set aside one hour per day after that to stay on track. Additionally, I recalled all of the hours during the weekend I had spent in the classroom trekking through my concentration and cognate courses, studying early in the morning and late at night, money spent, time away from my family, and what this terminal degree could do for my career. I buckled down by setting up a weekly calendar that tracked my writing progress through each chapter while I was home on maternity leave. When I returned to work, I would block writing time in between teaching, meetings, and student office hours. I set a goal that once I received comments and revisions from my chair regarding a particular chapter, I would not exceed more than a two-week turnaround time to return it back to her.

Moreover, I surrounded myself with people who wanted me to succeed. I formed a few close friendships with people in my cohort who had the same drive to finish their dissertation that I had. We would proofread for each other, informally discuss dissertation topics or methodology ideas, or just grab lunch together in between classes to get a break. I also found support from people I worked with who already had their terminal degrees and understood the rigorous process in attaining it. Additionally, I communicated frequently with family members who cared about my success. I would often talk about my topic and data collection with my support network. I would see them on campus or during a family gathering and they would ask how my writing was going. I wanted to make them proud and show them I could do it. And even though I became annoyed when people would ask, “are you done yet?” their questions helped me stay accountable to my goal of finishing my dissertation.

Around one year into full data immersion and writing my final two chapters, I began to set short-term goals to keep me motivated. For example, when revisions came back from my dissertation chair, I would commit myself to working on a set number of them or for an indiscriminate amount of time every day. I would do something every day toward my dissertation—even if it was only modifying my cover page or adding someone to my acknowledgements section. I had colleagues who would dedicate their entire weekend to writing or rent a hotel room for a few nights to do nothing but write but that was not my style. I worked best writing and revising in short, but regular time intervals.

Finding your style and balance with work and life is integral to staying organized and on track. If you work, take days off to dedicate toward your writing or learn to say no at work when it comes to taking on extra responsibilities. That certainly is not an easy thing to do but it became clear to me that the long-term payoffs far exceeded the short-term sacrifices I made to complete my dissertation. I kept the lines of communication open with my supervisor about needing to take days off or keeping my office door shut between meetings or teaching so I could get some quality writing time. It felt odd at first to turn down committee work or extra projects because I am passionate about staying involved in every aspect of my job, but I was determined to finish in a timely manner.

Over time, the novelty of being referred to as ”Dr.” will wane. However, the result will always be yours. Work to forage relationships early on with people in your cohort and your professors, surround yourself with people who care about your success, do something every day when it comes to your writing, and always have a positive attitude. As someone stated to me long ago, “a good dissertation, is a finished dissertation.” Stay strong; you can do it!

Discussion Questions

  1. Define personal accountability. How can you achieve this to assist you in finishing your dissertation?
  2. Describe your ultimate writing environment. Be very descriptive so we can all picture being there with you. How will you create this environment on a regular basis so you can complete your dissertation?
  3. How will you successfully finish your dissertation once you pass your comprehensive exams? Define your path.

About the Author

Betsy Diegel is the Director of Academic Services & Associate Professor at Davenport University in Midland, MI. Her roles include academic administration and undergraduate teaching in a variety of science and biology courses. Her research interests include adjunct faculty development and women in higher education.

Please e-mail inquiries to Betsy Diegel.


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 Professional Preparation Commission Call for 2014 Awards

ACPA Professional Preparation Commission Call for 2014 Awards

The Commission for Professional Preparation is now accepting applications, including self-nominations, for the following awards:

Burns B. Crookston Doctoral Research Award
This award recognizes a doctoral student or students for original, journal-quality research that brings greater understanding to the learning or development of students or the organization and administration of student affairs practice. The award is $400.

Gerald Saddlemire Master’s Research Award
This award recognizes a Master’s student (or someone who graduated December 2012, Spring 2013, or Summer 2013) for original, journal-quality research that gives insight into the learning or development of students or the organization and administration of student affairs practice. The award is $400.

Roberta Christie Essay Award
This award is presented to a current graduate student for writing an essay that best captures the theme of the conference. This year’s conference theme is “REINVENT You. Us. Indy.” A more detailed description of the conference theme can be found on the annual convention Web site. The award is $200.

Nevitt Sanford Award
The purpose of this award is to provide financial assistance for research within student affairs. The award may either be used to help support dissertations, theses, or specific graduate student research projects. The amount of the award is $400.

Application Details
Full descriptions of the awards and application procedures are on the Commission’s web page. The deadline for sending entries is 11:59pm on Friday, November, 1, 2013. Late entries will not be considered. Email questions about preparing or submitting your entry to Kathy Goodman.

From the President: Why We Struggle

From the President: Why We Struggle

Kathleen Kerr
ACPA President
University of Delaware

I am often asked what distinguishes us as an Association. I do believe our Core Values are unique, and it is imperative that we constantly strive to demonstrate our commitment to them. This is easier said than done, but vitally important. As Robert Fulghum (2004), author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten said: “It doesn’t matter what you say you believe – it only matters what you do.”

At the ACPA June Leadership Meeting, I thought it was important that we do more than just work on Convention planning and hold entity group meetings. In addition, we agreed that we would all participate in two workshops, one on social justice and one on cross-cultural communication, both which have a direct connection to three of our Core Values:

  • Diversity, multicultural competence, and human dignity;
  • Inclusiveness in and access to association-wide involvement and decision-making; and
  • Free and open exchange of ideas in a context of mutual respect.

The idea for the first workshop came from Brian Arao and Stephanie Bondi, past and current chairs of the Commission for Social Justice Educators. It was planned with their assistance, and facilitated by Kathy Obear, Danielle Morgan Acosta, and myself. During the workshop, we asked leaders to reflect on the question, “How inclusive and socially just are the policies, practices, programs, and services of ACPA?” We used the Multicultural Organizational Development (MCOD) model (Talbot, 2003; Jackson & Hardiman, 1994) to analyze where we are as an Association, where we want to be, and how we get there. We considered the MCOD spectrum that presents a range of organizational positions: monocultural organizations, (exclusionary and club); non-discriminating organizations, (compliance and affirming); and multicultural/inclusive organizations (redefining and multicultural). There was no consensus on where we are, although there certainly is a commitment to continuing to create a more inclusive, socially just organization to meet the needs of the full spectrum of our members across multiple, intersecting identity groups. There was also a great recognition that this is a complex process and that around some identities we are more advanced than around others.

At the second workshop, we learned about culture, how it is defined, how it is reflected, and how we can better communicate with colleagues from different cultural backgrounds. Dr. Gary Weaver, our presenter from American University, talked about developing realistic cultural empathy and recognizing differences in both verbal and non-verbal communication styles and the differences between a “to do” culture and a “to be” culture (Weaver, 2013).

In our work, it is easy to anthropomorphize on our campuses and with the Association. My staff will tell you that one of my pet peeves is when they make statements such as, “UD (University of Delaware) Residence Life & Housing will…”. UD RL&H is not a living being. Rather we should state “Who specifically in the department will…” or “Which person in RL&H will…?” The same happens with ACPA. We want ACPA to be different; more inclusive, more socially just; more activist. But who specifically are we talking about when we state these desires?

This is why we struggle.

ACPA is not one being. Rather, we represent 7000+ members and over 200 leaders. According to our own core values, we strive to be inclusive of all 7000 perspectives, opinions, needs, wishes, and desires. Is it possible to have one voice? I don’t think so, and I hope not. Our strength is not only because we are diverse; lots of associations are. Our strength rests in our commitment to constantly struggle to understand how we can become more multicultural, not in a uniform way, but in a splendidly diverse way. This is messy, sometimes frustrating, and never-ending work.

Our commitment translates into daily practice when we plan and manage the Convention and other professional development activities by asking ourselves how we select speakers and sessions that reflect varying viewpoints. How do we select Convention sites where our members feel welcome and safe visiting? Our commitment occurs when we apply universal design principles to presentations, podcasts, workshops, and more. Our commitment is reflected when we attend to who is and who is not involved in the conversation as we make Association decisions, and broaden the process to be more inclusive. It occurs when we challenge ourselves to utilize research and perspectives that are not only Western in origination.

Our strength is in our struggle to continually grow and provide each member and each leader with the skills and tools necessary so that their contributions to the Association make us a better Association and allow us to actualize our Core Values. This is why we struggle.

Please e-mail inquiries to Kathleen Kerr .

Follow Kathleen on Twitter @acpaprez


Fulghum, R. (2004). All I really needed to know I learned in kindergarten. New York, NY: Random House.

Jackson, B. W. & Hardiman, R. (1994). Multicultural organization development. In E. Y. Cross, J. H., Katz, F. A., Miller, & E. W. Seashore (Eds.), The promise of diversity: Over 40 voices discuss strategies for eliminating discrimination in organizations (pp. 231-239). Arlington, VA: NTLInstitute.

Talbot, D.M. (2003). In S. R. Komives & D. Woodward, Jr. (Eds.). Student services: A handbook for the profession. (4th Ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass .

Weaver, G.R. (2013). Intercultural relations: Communication, identity and conflict. Boston, MA: Pearson.

Are you ready for the “Pacific Century”?

Are you ready for the “Pacific Century”?

Jason E. Lane
State University of New York, Albany

Over the past decade, a rapidly changing global landscape has led many colleges and universities to shift their focus eastward across the Pacific Ocean. While maintaining their European engagements, new resources are often invested to support activities in Asia. With this change in mind, has student affairs evolved to meet this shift?

The latter part of the 20th century saw colleges and universities engage internationally more than ever before. Both scholars and practitioners grew increasingly interested in internationalization. Effort was poured into exploring ways of enhancing the mobility of students and scholars as well as how to transform the curriculum to better prepare students for a “flattening world” (see Friedman, 2007). For colleges and universities in the United States, most of those engagements were very Euro-focused, stemming from our long shared history, common language, and (relative) ease of access.

Yet, in the last few years, changing economic and political winds have led the United States and its higher education sector to adjust their sails. This repositioning has led the Obama Administration to call the 21st century “America’s Pacific Century.”

There are a number of reasons why such repositioning makes sense for the nation and its institutions of higher education. Two of the most significant reasons are demographics and economics. The largest and fastest growing populations in the world are located in Asia; and Asia already has more than 60% of the world population. China has emerged as the world’s second largest economy, recently eclipsing Japan. And, though the Chinese economic engine may be slowing a bit, it still has plenty of gas left in the tank. But, China is not the only economic reason to look westward. Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam are among the fastest growing economies in the world. In fact, the International Monetary Fund predicts that by 2030, Asia’s economic impact will be larger than that of the United States and Europe, combined.

More specific to higher education, Asia is the largest sender of international students to the United States. In 2012, nearly half of all international students in the United States came from China, India, or South Korea, according to the Open Doors report. And, as colleges and universities in the United States look to expand abroad, many new branch campuses and other foreign educational outposts are popping up in places such as China, Singapore, and Thailand. There is also increasing interest in India (though their restrictive regulations may stymie expansion of institutions in the United States into that country). But, it is not just the United States expanding into Asia. China has opened hundreds of Confucius Institutes on United States campuses as a means of expanding awareness of China’s culture and language. And, China has begun to export its own universities to other nations through the creation of foreign educational outposts in Africa, Malaysia, Laos, and Singapore;. This is likely just the beginning.

So, why is this important for student affairs professionals?

First, as I have noted previously, it is critical for student affairs professionals to recognize the changing (and often growing) demographics of their campus’ international student population. Many campuses have not fully recognized the different types of supports that students from different parts of the world need to be successful. For example, English is not as widely spoken in Asia as in Europe; and many Asian students often need support in acquiring English proficiency to acclimate successfully and to excel in their studies. And, research has shown that students from Asia can have a more difficult time developing friendships and integrating socially than their peers from Europe.

Second, there can be strong cultural and learning-style differences between Asia and the United States. One of the most extreme differences often comes in the form of student willingness to engage openly and freely in class discussions and academic arguments. Many countries in Asia continue to have much more stringent legal and cultural restrictions in regards to one’s freedom of speech. Questioning the policies of one’s country or challenging one’s elders (e.g. professors) is often discouraged or explicitly illegal. However, much of the educational experience in the United States is based on the premise of questioning ideas and debating various ideological or philosophical positions. While such questioning is important in classrooms, they may not be the most effective venue to help international students adapt to such behaviors. The co-curricular opportunities such as student leadership roles, debate clubs, and other opportunities may be a more effective way to demonstrate and model such behaviors. But, we have to make sure such experiences are open and available for all international students.

Third, student organizations, cultural events, and leadership activities can be a critical way to help domestic students prepare to engage in and assume leadership roles during “America’s Pacific Century.” Developing an understanding and appreciation of the many cultures, histories, and customs of Asia will be important for our future political and business leaders. Actual immersion in a culture via study abroad or similar experience can hardly be surpassed in providing this learning. Though, like point number two above, co-curricular experiences provide an opportunity to prepare students for such engagements as well as provide students who study abroad the opportunity to share with others. And, for those who do not have the opportunity to study abroad in Asia during their collegiate years, student organizations and other events can offer domestic students and students from non-Asian countries the occasion to develop relationships with colleagues from Asia and enhance their knowledge and appreciation of the region.

Fourth, as institutions grow their global footprints, student affairs professionals become more critical for ensuring the institutional ethos is embraced throughout the entirety of the institution, no matter where the physical presence might be. The student experience will vary across all of an institution’s foreign engagements. There is no way to replicate exactly the student experience on the Texas A&M campus in College Station, Texas. As students expand into Asia, they will have to learn to adapt to the local environments in a number of ways. But, there are key experiences, traditions, and values that can transcend the campuses; and student affairs professionals are often the keeper of such things and should play an important role in ensuring that an institution’s ethos is apparent in all of an institution’s campuses.

A critical component of preparing for “America’s Pacific Century” will be to find balance between existing interests and new areas of expansion. In a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education entitled Is Europe Passé?, Beth McMurtie explored the tensions inherent in research and study abroad partnerships as institutions deploy new resources toward Asia and seemingly lessen their focus on Europe. The article argues that while Asia has emerged as strategically important, Europe remains an important partner – and I’d be remiss to not note that other regions from Africa to Latin America to the Middle East are also important to the nation, its higher education institutions, and students. At the same time, if the United States is going to be increasingly engaged across the Pacific, then it is important that higher education institutions do the same and student affairs professionals have a critical role to play in making that happen.

Discussion Questions

  1. How has your campus prepared for “America’s Pacific Century”?
  2. Other than those listed above, what opportunities exist for student affairs professionals to support students to learn about and gain an appreciation of Asia?
  3. How important is it for student affairs professionals to help international students adjust to campuses? To what extent does your campus adapt to meet the needs of different populations of international students?
  4. Which co-curricular programs would you advise students with an interest in Asia to participate in? How might you encourage other students to participate in these programs?
  5. What might be the downside of overly focusing on Asia, as opposed to or instead of other regions? How might a vice president of student affairs approach implementing a comprehensive focus on all regions of the world?


Friedman, T.L. (2007). The world is flat 3.0: A brief history of the 21st century. New York, NY: Picador.

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.

Intersecting Identities of Doctoral Student, Administrator, and Woman Struggling with Infertility: Reflections on Personal Control

Intersecting Identities of Doctoral Student, Administrator, and Woman Struggling with Infertility: Reflections on Personal Control

Ann James
Northern Kentucky University

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.

The personal narrative is relatively uncommon amongst scholarly writing. We can speculate as to the reasons why that is: perhaps it’s because it makes writers vulnerable and therefore people are hesitant to put themselves in that position or perhaps the narrative is seen as somehow “less scholarly” than other types of writing that one can undertake. Another perspective on the scholarly narrative is that it is a powerful tool that makes readers think more deeply and personally about what they are reading because the words are more human. Robert Nash (2004) poses the challenge to “broaden your construal of scholarship” (p. 45) to be inclusive of this writing into the body of scholarly work. In that same text, Nash posits that “you are a scholar if you can think and feel at the same time” and “if you are willing to allow your students, and your readers, to enter your heart as well as your head” (p. 46). It is those things that I am attempting through this narrative work.

I first met with my advisor in the doctoral program in the summer of 2011. I had many questions about what my academic focus would be, what sort of classes I would be taking, and, of course, how long it was going to take me to finish only attending part-time. The question I was most nervous about asking, however, was how I could stay on track when I had a baby. Not that I was pregnant at the time, but because I knew I would be pregnant in the next six months, I wanted to know how that might change my plan of study. I was thrilled when my advisor told me that she would work with me during the semester (or semesters) I might need to stay home with an infant and not travel to campus for class. I left her office that evening with a sense of relief and excitement of beginning the PhD program, moving forward in my career, and starting a family.

Fifteen months later, I am three semesters into my coursework and narrowing down my dissertation topic. I have a great sense of accomplishment from successfully balancing two doctoral courses each semester while working full-time and traveling an hour and half to class. I started a new job, one that is perfect for my career plan, and have already made great positive change on my campus. I spend most evenings catching up on homework, catching up on work-related projects, or trying to spend precious time with my husband and our two cats. Everything is under my control in my professional and academic life and going according to plan, but in my personal world, I can’t seem to get pregnant.

Women are often put in a position of needing to be in control over their environment and the things in it—children, professional life, household issues, social lives, family scheduling, and on and on. The American Time Use Survey showed that, in 2011, women spent an average of 3 hours and 21 minutes per day on household activities and childcare combined while men spent a total of 1 hour and 48 minutes per day on those same tasks. Additionally, for women who do have children, they spend over twice as much time caring for children daily as men do. According to these statistics, if a woman loses control over any aspects of her life where she is primarily responsible, she may be perceived as “not having it together” or “having some issues.” Many times, this expectation leads us to feel anxiety when we feel we are losing control over some aspect of our lives. One of my coping strategies during this time of my life is to categorize parts of my life into pieces that I can control and pieces that I cannot.

As I mentioned, there are many things in my life over which I feel I had control. I chose to pursue my PhD when I knew I would have institutional support to do so. I positioned myself well professionally so that I would be a good candidate for the job I wanted. I bought a house with my husband so that we could build equity and work towards financial stability. I live near family members so that I can see them often. All of these things are extremely important to me so I worked towards making them happen and, not for one minute, did I ever doubt I could do any of them.

Of course, there are the everyday things that no one can control that cause frustration. I never know how long it is going to take me to get to work because of unforeseen traffic issues. I may get home late because of an issue that comes up at work that I must address before leaving. There are health issues outside of my control that may impact me or a member of my family. All of these things, large and small, are ones that have been outside of my realm of influence my entire adult life. I have never gotten up in the morning believing I could control the weather or the traffic pattern, but I have always believed I would be a mother.

Those things that I identified as not within my control before now seemed so far out of reach that I learned not to spend a great deal of time worrying about them. At 38 years old, I have experienced professional and personal success and believe that those successes are due in great part to my commitment to making them happen. Lack of control over success in the area of becoming pregnant is not like anything I have experienced in the past. It’s different somehow. I have no idea how this journey to fertility is going to end and there is no fool-proof plan about which I can learn to make it certain that I will have a child. From 2006-2010, 6.7 million women in the United States, ages 15-44 experienced impaired fertility, so clearly I am not alone in this struggle (Centers for Disease Control, 2012). If so many women are in this situation though, why isn’t anyone talking about it?

Before my husband and I started trying to conceive a child, I compared myself to my sister and my mother and their experiences with motherhood. Both of them had children without any issues or complications, so I believed that would be the case for me as well. I take good care of myself and don’t have any health conditions that are the typical red flags for fertility issues. I do a lot of reading on pregnancy in the late thirties and am well-educated on the risks involved. Knowing all of this, I felt sure I could get pregnant and that I had done everything I needed to do to produce a positive outcome.

I’m starting to conclude that my fertility is just not going to work that way. We have started seeing a reproductive specialist and are beginning to seek alternative ways of conceiving a child. That is something I can control. I am taking prenatal vitamins and all of the medications that my doctor has prescribed. That is something I can control. I ask my friends and family for support, positive thoughts and prayers. That is something I can control.

My body’s ability to allow a child to be conceived and to carry that child for nine months is not something I can control. At some point the medical treatments will be exhausted and we may or may not have a child. I will still be a doctoral student and I will still have a successful career and a loving family. I am learning to identify those things I do have control over and those that I do not. I am learning to adapt to changing circumstances. My life path may not look exactly the way I thought it would 20 years ago, but I am learning to appreciate that more and more. I will work with what life gives me and appreciate my many successes. If I am blessed with a child, I will do my best to teach her or him that lesson as well.

While the statistics from the American Time Use Survey suggest that work/life balance is still an issue for many women, my hope is that it will continue to improve. Trying to do it all and have it all is a noble goal for any person, but it is too often unattainable and can cause tremendous amounts of stress. Equating success with something that you ultimately cannot control, such as your ability to get pregnant, can lead to unrealistic expectations and self-deprecating thoughts. Too often society tells women that having a child means success and not having a child means failure. Work needs to be done to change that, and other, unrealistic expectations of women in our culture.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are some aspects of your life (personal or professional) over which you feel you have control? What are some aspects over which you feel you do not have control?
  2. How do you cope with life/work circumstances over which you have no control?
  3. What assumptions, if any, do you make about others who you know are trying to have a child and cannot?
  4. How do you define success in your academic or work life? How do you define success in your personal life?


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Key Statistics from the National Survey of Family Growth. Retrieved October 1, 2012 from

Nash, R. J. (2004). Liberating scholarly writing: The power of personal narrative. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

About the Author

Ann James is currently serving as the Associate Dean of Students and Title IX Coordinator at Northern Kentucky University. Prior to that, she worked in residence life for 11 years and has been heavily involved in advocating for the needs of women on campus. She earned her MA degree in Student Development from Appalachian State University and is currently pursuing her PhD in College Student Personnel at the University of Louisville. She has served on the Directorate for the Standing Committee for Women through ACPA for the past three years. She lives in Cincinnati, OH with her husband and two cats.

Please e-mail Inquiries to Ann James.


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.

Make Room for Fido: Recent Legal Trends Support Requiring Colleges and Universities to Permit Emotional Support Animals in Student Housing

Make Room for Fido: Recent Legal Trends Support Requiring Colleges and Universities to Permit Emotional Support Animals in Student Housing

Neal H. Hutchens
The Pennsylvania State University

Colleges and universities are well acquainted with the requirement to permit students with physical disabilities to possess assistance animals in student housing, namely per the standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A more complicated legal question deals with the issue of assistance animals for emotional support (Lipka, 2011). Emerging legal trends suggest colleges and universities should be prepared to make such accommodations for emotional support animals, specifically under the requirements of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Examining recent legal developments, this column considers a lawsuit brought by the United States against the University of Nebraska at Kearney to permit a student diagnosed with depression and anxiety to have a therapy dog in student housing. It also reviews recent guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) addressing the use of service and assistance animals for individuals with disabilities, including the use of service animals for “emotional support.”

United States v. University of Nebraska at Kearney

In United States v. University of Nebraska at Kearney (2013), the United States, acting on behalf of a student, challenged the university’s decision to prohibit the student, diagnosed with depression and anxiety, from having a therapy dog in student housing. According to the opinion, a trained therapy dog had been prescribed to the student to assist her in responding to anxiety attacks. The University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) denied the student’s request to have the animal under its no-pets policy. Rejecting various arguments by the institution, a federal district court held that the FHA entitled the student to have the therapy dog in university-owned housing.

Early in the opinion, the court outlined several characteristics of UNK’s student housing it considered in determining whether such housing was covered under the FHA. The court noted that most students living in campus housing did not list the location as their permanent address. The court also discussed that students under nineteen were required to live in university housing subject to certain exceptions. In addition, typical of many colleges and universities, most university housing at UNK closed during academic breaks. The student involved in the lawsuit lived in apartment-style housing for families and students over twenty-one. These apartments contained a kitchen area and students also could remain in them during academic breaks. After describing aspects of UNK’s student housing, the opinion then turned to the requirements of the FHA.

The court stated that the FHA makes it impermissible to deny an individual a dwelling on the basis of disability. The court discussed that a dwelling constituted “any building, structure, or portion thereof which is occupied as, or designed or intended for occupancy as, a residence by one or more families . . . .” (United States v. University of Nebraska at Kearney , 2013, p. 2). Since the FHA does not define residence, the court stated that it had to determine whether student housing qualified as a dwelling under the FHA. In making this assessment, the court noted that previous legal decisions had established that the requirements of the FHA should be interpreted liberally.

The university advanced several rationales for why student housing should not constitute a dwelling for purposes of the FHA. First, the institution argued that students represented transient visitors not having an intention to make university housing their permanent residence. Rejecting this argument, the court declared that under the FHA a residence may be temporary or permanent. According to the opinion, “UNK’s students obviously do not intend to live in university housing for the rest of their lives. But they do intend to live in university housing for extended periods of time that are roughly comparable to many other residential living situations. And that is all the FHA requires” (United States v. University of Nebraska at Kearney , 2013, p. 3).

The university contended as well that student housing did not constitute a residence under the FHA because many students are assigned rooms and roommates and are subject to more stringent rules than usually associated with residential housing. In making these arguments, UNK asserted that the purpose of attending a university primarily reflects educational aims rather than providing students a residence. The court found these arguments unpersuasive and also commented that the university’s efforts to rely on legal decisions excluding jails as dwellings for purposes of the FHA to support its arguments resulted in an “unflattering association between university housing and jail” (United States v. University of Nebraska at Kearney , 2013, p. 4). While acknowledging that university housing serves pedagogical purposes, the court stated that “the primary way in which student housing furthers the educational mission of a college or university is by providing students with a place to live while they pursue their education” (p. 5). The court noted that while students in university housing must comply with various rules and restrictions, they are in no way akin to prisoners in terms of the freedom of choice concerning where to live, pointing out that students have the freedom to enroll or not enroll in an institution.

In deciding whether student housing should fall under the purview of the FHA, the court deemed it significant that HUD categorized dormitory-type rooms as a dwelling unit under the FHA in relation to disability discrimination. This meant that HUD had determined that residences where individuals have separate sleeping quarters but share dining and/or bathroom facilities must comply with the disability provisions of the FHA. Pointing out that HUD constitutes the federal agency charged with implementing the FHA, the court discussed how an agency’s interpretation of a statute under such circumstances received substantial deference from courts. Brushing aside several points of contention raised by the university, the court declared, “It suffices to conclude that HUD’s definition of a ‘dwelling unit’ as including a dormitory is compelling authority supporting the conclusion that UNK’s housing facilities are ‘dwellings’ within the meaning of the FHA” (United States v. University of Nebraska at Kearney , 2013, p. 7).

The court rejected several other challenges made by the university, including the position that student housing should not constitute a dwelling under the FHA because the U.S. Department of Justice, for purposes of the ADA, classified educational housing as “transient lodging” rather than as a residential facility under the act. The court responded that such a designation did not address whether educational housing was subject to the ADA, the issue in dispute in relation to the FHA. Instead, the designation of educational housing as transient lodging for purposes of the ADA dealt with how the law should apply to such housing (i.e., what type of accessibility educational housing needed to provide). The court pointed out how “in some respects, the ADA compliance standards for transient lodging are more onerous than those for residential facilities” (United States v. University of Nebraska at Kearney , 2013, p. 8).

While UNK raised potential concerns regarding application of the law to educational housing, such as the FHA limiting the use of housing segregated by gender, the court found these arguments unpersuasive. It responded that the “parade of horribles” presented by the university if the FHA applies to educational housing appeared unrealistic (United States v. University of Nebraska at Kearney, 2013, p. 8). Even if not baseless concerns, the court responded that it could not misconstrue the meaning of dwelling under the FHA. If needed, stated the court, colleges and university could turn to Congress to amend the statute or seek regulatory relief from HUD.

HUD Guidance on Service and Assistance Animals in Housing

In guidance issued earlier this year by HUD, the agency addressed the use of service and assistance animals in housing subject to the provisions of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the ADA, and the FHA. Relevant to this column, the guidance included discussion of the use of animals for emotional assistance. In relation to the FHA and Section 504, the document begins by noting that the reasonable accommodation provisions of both laws for persons with disabilities must be followed even in situations where a housing provider “forbids residents from having pets or otherwise imposes restrictions or conditions relating to pets and other animals” (HUD, 2013, p. 2).

The guidance discusses that while emotional support animals are expressly excluded from qualifying as service animals under the ADA, the same is not true for the FHA and Section 504. The HUD guidance explains that these two laws include assistance animals that provide “emotional support” in addition to animals giving physical assistance. HUD points out that neither the FHA nor Section 504 requires an assistance animal to be trained or certified, a requirement under the ADA.

As explained in the document, once receiving a request for a reasonable accommodation under the FHA or Section 504, a housing provider must consider whether the individual has a physical or mental disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities. If so, then the next step for consideration involves whether the requested animal provides assistance that alleviates one or more symptoms or effects of the person’s disability. If both of these circumstances are satisfied, a housing provider may still deny a request if:

  1. the specific animal in question poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation, or
  2. the specific assistance animal in question would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation (HUD, 2013, p. 3).

In assessing whether an animal might fall under one of these exceptions, the guidance discusses that generic exclusions based on breed, size, and weight limitations cannot be applied. HUD directs that:

[a] determination that an assistance animal poses a direct threat of harm to others or would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others must be based on an individualized assessment that relies on objective evidence about the specific animal’s actual conduct-not on mere speculation or fear about the types of harm or damage an animal may cause and not on evidence about harm or damage that other animals have caused (HUD, 2013, p. 3).

In addition, a housing provider is not permitted to require a fee or deposit for an individual as a condition of having an assistance animal.

A university housing provider, as explained in the guidance, may under the FHA and Section 504 seek documentation from an individual regarding the existence of a disability and the need for an assistance animal when it is not apparent that the individual has a disability or that an assistance animal would help to provide assistance or alleviate a symptom of an individual’s disability. For instance:

[a] housing provider may ask persons who are seeking a reasonable accommodation for an assistance animal that provides emotional support to provide documentation from a physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional that the animal provides emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of an existing disability (HUD, 2013, p. 3).

A housing provider, however, cannot try to obtain access to medical records or medical providers or ask for “detailed or extensive information or documentation of a person’s physical or mental impairments” (p. 4).

The HUD guidance discusses that certain housing providers, including educational housing providers, may be subject to the service animal requirements of the ADA and of the FHA and ADA. In such instances, a housing provider must comply with both sets of requirements. That is, compliance with the ADA does not ensure compliance with the FHA or Section 504, just as compliance with these two statutes does not mean that an institution has satisfied ADA standards. The guidance emphasizes that the definition of a service animal under the ADA may not be relied upon to deny an individual an assistance animal, including for emotional support, as defined in the FHA or Section 504. Accordingly, even if an assistance animal does not qualify under the ADA, a covered housing provider must still consider if the animal should be permitted under the FHA or Section 504.


Absent a reversal in legal momentum, recent developments suggest that, as with assistance animals for students with physical disabilities, higher education institutions should be prepared to permit animals prescribed to students for emotional support. A key legal issue involves whether other courts agree with the position taken in the UNK litigation that educational housing falls under the FHA. The United States acting as the plaintiff in the suit against UNK and the recent HUD guidance suggest strong federal support for requiring institutions to permit animals in student housing for purposes of emotional support. As such, colleges and universities should be ready to make room in student housing for emotional support animals for qualifying students.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are your institution’s policies and procedures regarding permitting students to have animals for emotional support, including in relation to the requirements of the FHA and Section 504?
  2. Is your institution prepared to make adjustments, if legally mandated, to accommodate students prescribed emotional support animals?


Lipka, S. (2011, October 11). Federal case over banning a student’s therapy dog illustrates thicket of disability rules. Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from

United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. (2013). Service animals and assistance animals for people with disabilities in housing and HUD-funded programs. Retrieved from

United States v. University of Nebraska at Kearney, No. 4:11-CV-3209, 2013 WL 1694603 (D. Neb. April 19, 2013).

About the Author

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

Please e-mail inquiries to Neal H. Hutchens.


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

I am Not. . . & Who I Am: Reflecting Images of Asian American Women

I am Not. . . & Who I Am: Reflecting Images of Asian American Women

Joyce Lui
Iowa State University

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.

Racism and sexism are interconnected organisms that work simultaneously to shape the ways in which women of color are represented through the media. Asian American women students, in particular, are confronted with subservient, hypersexualized, and model-minority stereotypes in relation to the intersections of raced, gendered, and sexual identities (Cho, 2003). While it has been documented that Asian American women face sexual harassment and other overt aspects of oppression (Cho, 2003), further exploration of the more subtle, but equally potent, forms of racism and sexism are needed. In many ways, Asian American women face images regarding their perceived subservient roles through mainstream media.

Dodging, Weaving, and Self-Healing: A Non-Linear Exploration of Identity

Using Critical Race Feminism, the understanding that historical contexts and present realities for women of color are entwined with sexism and racism, this article seeks to explore common and public images and my personal experience as an Asian American woman. At times, racism and sexism are separate beasts; when combined they form a larger monster that pushes women of color down to limit their voices and to hide their truths. In this piece, I chose to use Google searches and images to demonstrate stereotypes and issues connected to Asian American women. Part of this work utilized critical visual and textual studies (Fairclough & Wodak, 1997; Foucault, 1977; Van Dijk, 2009), and the understanding that significant social practices and power dynamics, including racism and sexism, are included in visual and textual discourse (Rose, 2007). This work includes aspects of visual autoethnography. Regardless of the research method, this piece centers on personal reflections based on many interactions with dominant members of society, including White people and men of color.

I write this deeply personal reflexive list as a way to challenge scholarly practitioners to think about how the media presents Asian American women, including myself, and to challenge individuals’ stereotypes connected to Asian American women’s identities. This list is very different than traditional forms of research or scholarship in which a linear thought process is presented. There is no a singular idea that one should expect. I intentionally wrote this list using bullets because I felt as though I get pelted by racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression. The words and ideas are thrown at me in a nonlinear format and it feels as though it is coming from a place that I cannot see.

At times, the bullets create wounds and I think the cuts have healed and formed scars that protect. However, a word, a phrase, or even a look can open up the wounds. As a student, my focus should be on learning. As an Asian American woman who is a student, my focus cannot solely be on learning. The bullets shift my attention; I must learn to dodge, weave, and selfheal to stay in school. In many ways, images of Asian American women have influenced how others view us. I am not only my race and gender, but I am shaped by those identities and so much more. I share with you what I am and what I am not in hopes you’ll come to reflect on what you think of me and others around you.

My Skills

  • I am not a model minority. Sadly, this is the starting point for any issue regarding Asian Americans. This is a burden created by a White male journalist from the 1960’s (Peterson, 1966) and it continues to annoy me. If you remember nothing else, forget about the model minority (Chou & Feager, 2008).
  • I am not a tiger mom—and do not plan on being a tiger mom. I was not raised by a tiger mom. I was raised by my mom, who loves me very much. Her nimble fingers from the many years of toiling in a sewing factory meant that I saw little of her. But every stitch, every hem, was done with love.
  • I can do math because I learned arithmetic. I liked math until I was told that women were not good in math and science. So, as an Asian American woman, should I be in math or should I dislike it? Which stereotype wins? No, really, you tell me.
  • I don’t know kung fu, karate, or any other form of martial arts.
  • I can make fried rice, I learned from my mom. But I got plenty of recipes from Pinterest. Just like I got the recipe for avocado egg salad and fried pork chops. I do not make sushi. I cannot make Pho. And no, I do not think this is authentic “Asian” food that Panda Express is serving. A doctor telling me Chinese food is unhealthy or that I should eat less rice will be ignored.
  • I made a pretty assistant for the White man in a lab. I’m the pretty Asian friend in the residence hall. In college viewbooks, which are the first images higher education institutions provide to prospective students, Asian (American) women are perceived as window dressing. You may see someone who looks like me, but you probably would not see me in a leadership role or a central member of the institution (Osei-Kofi, Torres, & Lui, 2012).
  • My English is not good. I speak English well. And no, I won’t say something to you in another language.
  • I’ve become a skilled conversationalist. It is not rude to ask me a question, ‘Where are you from?’ It can get annoying because you’re the 39384399038th person to ask me that.
    • I say ‘I’m from California.’
    • You say, ‘Where are you really from?’
    • I say ‘I’m really from San Francisco.’
    • ‘Ummm, what about your parents?’
    • ‘Are you trying to ask me about my ethnicity? If I told you my family is from Hong Kong, would you know how to locate it on a map? If I told you that Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997, would that mean anything to you? What about you? Where are you from?’
    • ‘I’m from here.’
    • ‘I believe you so, why don’t you believe me when I say I’m from here too?
  • I’m an excellent teacher because I’m constantly sharing what is missing from textbooks. The incidents connected to Vincent Chin, Rape of Nanking, The Betrayal, Anna May Wong to Lucy Liu, railroads, internment camps, the refugees and undocumented people, I must be the “expert” because who else will teach it?

My Sexuality does not Belong to you. It Belongs to me.

It’s sad how when you Google Asian women, all you see is heteronormative, hypersexual ‘fetishes and fantasies’ driven by capitalism. These images, of traditional college age Asian American women create a false sense of what Asian (American) women should be. I should be slender, with large breasts, and fulfill your fantasy. But this image was not created by me. I am not a woman in your pornography collection and I will NOT love you long time.

Image of Asian Women Google Results

  • I am not a China doll nor a geisha. Although others have taken my ancestors’ clothes and slapped a new name and call it chinoiserie. This is not the first time someone has taken something from the ‘East’ and changed it into a capitalistic transaction, but you’ve changed a beautiful artifact into an aesthetics of exoticism (Porter, 2002). Victoria Secret has developed a ‘Go East’ collection, a lingerie line that even caused Fox News to pose the question: ‘is this racism?’ (McHay, 2012).
  • I do not know any exotic dances to entice you or your partner. I am not a sexual nymph sent from the East to ravish you. I am not a mail order bride that you can use your Diners Club card to purchase (Lee, 2009).

Despite what Google suggests…

Image of Google Search Results

My Looks

  • My hair is long, black, and shiny. No, I cannot tell you what hair straightener I use. I got it from my mom and dad. Ask them! Do not tap on my shoulder in a classroom to ask about my hair. I am here to learn. So, really, back off.
  • I am neither tiny nor petite and I am not bigger than you assumed I would be. I am the perfect size for me.
  • My skin color is not flawless, hairless, nor medium beige according to L’oreal or Bare Mineral. My skin changes with the season, and no, I do not spray tan.
  • My lips are full, and they belong to me and not to you. I love my spirit, my body, and yes, even my hair. No, I have not injected my lips with Botox. I pout when you say ignorant things because my words are not heard. Every time I lick my lips, it’s not a form of seduction, but a way to re-moisturize my lips. I bite my lips to stop myself from saying angry things, because words can never fully express my pain.

I am an Asian American Woman

Image of Women Google

I am concerned with stereotypes. I do want to build coalitions to combat issues surrounding Asian American women.

Image of Asian Women Google Search Results


  • Being an Asian American woman in college…Depression is a secret and I wonder if student health and mental health professionals can help Asian American women (Cress & Ikeda, 2003). Are you ready for me? Are you prepared to learn from me and my pain? Does any mental health professional look like me? Talk like me? Face the same issues I meet?
  • Asian American women are in need of scholarships. Not all of us drive a BMW, walk around with Louis Vuitton purses, and wear Louboutins (Hu, 1989).
  • I am not that nice. I think you’re choosing not to hear the sarcasm in my voice nor acknowledge my eye rolling. You say the word nice, because you know of nothing else of me. Am I not brave? Am I not well spoken? Am I anything else? The word nice becomes a shield for you to disregard my ideas and my worth.
  • I am not from the orient: I am neither a rug nor a ramen flavor. I believe orientalism is alive and well (Said, 1978). The privileging of the West and the condescending looks of the East should not surprise anyone.
  • I am an Asian American woman, pursuing a Ph.D. and not waiting to get my M R S degree.
  • I am an Asian American woman, with love for those around me and frustration for those who seek to push me aside and tell me who I am.

I am a student, learning from others and sharing my experiences. I am striving to learn despite the stares and the whispers. I am not an ‘other;’ I am me. I cannot check off a box on your form because I do not belong in a box. I am too unique to fit into a stereotype. I am more than all the stereotypes combined. I am a student. I am an Asian American woman.

In many ways, Asian American women are not alone in their struggles. I have witnessed other women of color get yelled at and harassed, whether it’s the sexy Latina, angry Black woman, or wise and sexual indigenous women, the stereotypes are quite old. Some of us laugh, because we have no other responses. Others use the opportunities to educate. I stand in solidarity with these women, holding their hands, smiling because I do not feel alone. I am standing with them, screaming, “I’m not that! I am me!”

Discussion Questions

  1. What are some overt stereotypes of Asian/ Asian American women? What are more covert and less obvious stereotypes of Asian/Asian American women?
  2. How do stereotypes of Asian/Asian American women impact the campus? As a scholarly practitioner, what stereotypes do you believe in?
  3. What are other stereotypes of women of color that are readily seen in media and college campuses?
  4. How do we educate students on the dangers and challenges of believing in stereotypes about Asian/Asian American women and other racially minoritized students?
  5. What images of Asian Americans or other minoritized populations represent a false identity?


Cho, S.K. (2003). Converging stereotypes in racialized sexual harassment: Where the model minority meets Suzie Wong. In A.K. Wing (Ed.), Critical race feminism: A reader (pp. 349- 366). New York, NY: New York University Press.

Chou, R.S. & Feagin, J.R. (2008). The myth of the model minority: Asian Americans facing racism.

Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers. Cress, C. M., & Ikeda, E. K. (2003). Distress under duress: The relationship between campus climate and depression in Asian American college students. NASPA Journal, 40(2), 74 -97.

Fairclough, N., and R. Wodak. (1997). Critical discourse analysis. In T. van Dijk, Discourse as social interaction, (pp. 258–284). London: Sage.

Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. London: Allen Lane.

Hu, A. (1989). Asian Americans: Model minority or double minority? Amerasia Journal, 15(1), 243-257.

Lee, H. (2009, June 18th). Get your Vietnamese bride now: Only $167 per month. Retrieved from

McKay, H. (2012). Is Victoria’s Secret ‘Go East’ Geisha-themed lingerie racist? Retrieved on October 11, 2012. Retrieved at .

Osei-Kofi, N., Torres, L. E., & Lui, J. (2012). Practices of whiteness: Racialization in college admissions viewbooks. Race, Ethnicity, and Education.

Peterson, W. (1966, January 9). Success story: Japanese American style. The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from

Porter, D. (2002). Monstrous beauty: Eighteenth-century fashion and the aesthetics of the Chinese taste. Eighteenth-Century Studies, 35(3), 395-411.

Rose, G. (2007). Visual methodologies: An introduction to the interpretation of visual materials. (2nd Ed.). London: Sage.

Said, Edward W. (1978). Orientalism. New York, NY: Pantheon Books

Swarns, R. L. (March 30, 2012). For Asian-American couples, a tie that binds. The New York Times. Retrieved from.

Van Dijk, T.A. (2009). Critical discourse studies: A sociocognitive approach. In R. Wodak & M. Meyer, Methods of critical discourse analysis (pp. 62–86). Los Angeles, CA: SAGE.

About the Author

Joyce Lui is a doctoral candidate at Iowa State University, in the Higher Education, Social Justice Program. Her research interests include Asian American students, women of color students, arts based research, and community colleges and the transfer pathways. She earned her Masters in Postsecondary Educational Leadership, Student Affairs at San Diego State University. She graduated from University of California, San Diego with Baccalaureates in Economics and Sociology. More than her scholarship, she is a woman, a partner, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, and a foodie.

Please e-mail Inquiries to Joyce Lui.


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.

Two-Year Colleges: Why Every Educator Should Care

Two-Year Colleges: Why Every Educator Should Care

Marisa Vernon
Columbus State Community College

As professionals, it can be so easy to settle into a bubble. With so much information available to all of us, we naturally filter, compartmentalize, and focus on the topics that pertain directly to our institution’s priorities, the projects in which we are invested, or the specific student populations we serve. We scan the table of contents within the journals that appear on our desks, and skim through newsletters looking for familiar industry buzzwords. We promise ourselves we will one day read through the rest, as soon as that looming deadline is met, or summer break rolls around, or the weekend approaches after completing a large project.

This column, to many and perhaps to you, will be focused on a topic you may generally overlook depending on your current and past experience. However, I would like to invite you to explore the unique environment of the two-year college, and perhaps consider how the community college experience both differs from and parallels the setting in which you work.

Opening the Dialogue

Through this column, I hope to not only present topics important at two-year colleges, but also provoke dialogue among all professionals about how we can work together to support student needs through a variety of pathways. Whether you are a two-year college professional searching for content focused on your student population, an educator at a four-year institution seeking to understand the two-year experience, or simply a passionate student advocate who stays current in the field, I invite you to join a growing conversation about trends in two-year colleges.

Seeing the educational system on a global level fosters a student-centered focus and broadens our awareness of opportunities to be passed along to our students. Perhaps you will integrate topics from this column when preparing a student to transfer to a four-year institution, or begin to feel knowledgeable enough to recommend that a student first begin at a local two-year college. Perhaps you will look at the next community college transcript to pass over your desk differently, or become more aware of your beliefs about the value of one institution over another. Maybe you will simply have a better understanding of student traffic patterns and why students select one environment over another.

Whatever the outcome may be, I hope this column will spark conversation, inspire you to learn, and to step outside of your professional comfort zone, wherever it may be.

Understanding Two Year Colleges: Why it Matters

Today’s college students are weaving in and out of our two- and four-year institutions throughout their educational experience, and perhaps throughout their professional lives as well. Whether your career is focused on public, private, selective, open, two- or four-year educational setting, community colleges are quiet contributors to the landscape. 36% of first-time college students beginning at community colleges earn a credential (associate or baccalaureate degree) within six years (Radford, Berkner, Wheeless and Shepherd, 2010). According to the 2012 National Student Research Clearinghouse Signature Report, just over 15% of community college students go on to earn a bachelor’s degree. These numbers tell the story of a cohort of students who, while perhaps attending four-year institutions, began their educational pursuits in the two-year environment. Woven into nearly all classrooms, advising offices, and student support centers is a population of students who received academic, social, and developmental preparation within the two-year setting. For this reason, an understanding of the community college experience, structure, and environment is an important tool in any educator’s toolbox.

Two-year colleges serve fluid populations of students who bounce in and out of the environment, driven by a wide range of motivating factors. Two-year institutions are more than a gateway to higher education for the underprepared or economically disadvantaged. These institutions also support transient students from four-year institutions, post-baccalaureate students completing prerequisites for graduate programs, students who have been dismissed from other institutions, and professionals obtaining continuing education. Articulation agreements, transfer plans, and completion programs continue to strengthen the relationship between colleges and universities. As boundaries between two- and four-year institutions dissolve and new student traffic patterns emerge, educators are in an ideal position to learn from one another and deepen understanding of unique student experiences.

Through my lens as an Assistant Director in a community college Advising Services center, I see the interconnectedness of all sectors of higher education on a near daily basis. Our doors are open to all, and many students carry with them transcripts from four-year institutions, rejection letters from selective institutions, admissions requirement lists for graduate programs, or an academic history in need of repair. Operating within this system, it is impossible to separate the two-year college experience from the four-year college landscape. It does not take long for any administrator looking through the community college lens to begin viewing post-secondary education as a global and complex system with infinite pathways to academic goals. Bahr (2010) classifies community college students into six general categories: drop-in, experimental, noncredit, vocational, transfer, and exploratory. As one may expect, community college support services interact with students who fall in each of these categories on a daily basis. Students often shift between the categories as well. For example, students who enter a two-year college with the intent to simply experiment with the idea of education may find a new vocational opportunity and pursue a credential. Likewise, a student intending on transferring to a four-year institution may find a career or technical program that better suits his or her needs, and eventually remain at the college through associate degree completion. Student traffic patterns within the two-year institution are obscure and difficult to identify. However, the flexible nature of the environment is the very reason students submit their applications in the first place.

Two-year college professionals are used to working with students who shift goals and paths in dramatic ways. We identify with nonlinear theories of college student development, watching firsthand the sometimes messy, yet significant, growth patterns that occur within our four walls. However, when students leave our campuses at different points in their paths, they carry these complexities with them to four-year institutions. They arrive at colleges and universities having developed within an environment where pathways are individualized and their peers represented a diverse collage of experiences and abilities. Some may also carry with them an unjustified sense that, because they chose to access education through a two-year college, they are somehow less capable than the traditional student. Acknowledging this bias can help professionals in all institutions to broaden approaches and provide support for the wide range of student experiences that arrive through our front doors.

While many students take their first step into college at the two-year institution, many others access two-year institutions during various and unexpected periods throughout their lives. Earlier in my career as an Advisor at a four-year institution, I regularly worked with students who selected to complete summer coursework at local community colleges due to cost and proximity. I often found myself assisting the students with transient application processes and navigating transfer databases to verify their choices. Likewise, I can recall several tearful conversations during which a student came to the realization that he or she was not making academic progress and would be facing dismissal. For some of these students, a two-year college provided an opportunity to rebuild, regain confidence, and begin to establish a new record of success before readmission to a four-year degree-granting institution. In both of these cases, as well as many others, an awareness and appreciation of what a community college can offer to any student is a worthwhile tool.

The majority of states have streamlined transfer between two- and four-year institutions through establishment and maintenance of clear articulation agreements. While this practice has been in place for several decades, renewed emphasis seems to be placed on such agreements as states attempt to increase the number of credential-holding residents and decrease unemployment. With clearly established pathways and guaranteed transfer policies, more students may select other gateways to begin coursework. Likewise, public accessibility of transfer databases may help students to feel more confident that the courses they pursue at two-year colleges will in fact fit into program requirements at four-year institutions.

Similarly, some four year institutions have already begun to deny or defer students’ admission until developmental coursework is complete and the student can verify that he or she is “college-ready.” For some students, a two-year college or regional campus may offer the only gateway to the institution of his or her choice. Even for students who are not deferred, paying top dollar for pre-college, non-credit coursework seems illogical to many economical students and families as they rebuild after the recession.

As students utilize different institutions to build their educational experiences, post-secondary education has become a broader and more transient system. As the profession expands, educators from all corners of the field are now sharing ideas, exchanging best practices, and adopting proven approaches to help our institutions thrive and promote success. The familiar mantra of “meeting students where they are” now means that the environments in which students may have previously developed should be considered as part of a student’s individual diversity profile.

Are We Really That Different?

While it is important for anyone supporting college students to understand what drives students to and from two-year colleges, it is also important to note that professionals from both two- and four-year colleges can learn from one another. At conferences, two-year college professionals can be found lamenting about the lack of presentations on relevant topics, while four-year college professionals pass over sessions geared towards their community college counterparts. When we are asked to collaborate, open pathways, or engage in dialogue about student success, our biases towards one another often get in the way. However, given that more and more students are now making conscious, economical choices to attend either two- or four-year institutions, are our student populations as different as we once believed them to be?

As we all learn more about how college students develop, what factors play a role in persistence, and shift our focus towards success, community colleges are beginning to look, act, and feel more like four-year institutions. Departments with names like “Student Success Center”, “Advising Services”, “First Year Experience”, and “Student Life” are more present on community college campuses than ever before, and are transforming the open-access student experience. Two-year colleges have now joined the conversation about retention, persistence, and student success, blurring the lines between the two sectors of post-secondary education.

As higher education becomes increasingly more accessible and choices multiply, two-year college profiles include academically strong, economically advantaged students while first-year cohorts at four-year institutions often reflect more diverse populations than ever before. While our student populations each present unique challenges, our students are beginning to mirror one another as common themes emerge regardless of environment. Even the most selective colleges are attentive to retention and persistence rates; their fundamental discussions are not unlike those held in two-year college conference rooms. In light of K-12 partnerships, nearly all colleges are part of the dialogue regarding pre-college preparation, dual enrollment, and post-secondary option programs. Likewise, even the most academically rigorous colleges and universities struggle to develop support strategies that meet their students’ diverse needs. When the discussion moves towards these global topics facing higher education, we realize that, while our environments may differ, perhaps our challenges are more similar than we may want to believe.

Two-year institutions can shape initiatives that promote academic rigor, institutional loyalty, persistence, and student life by adopting elements of successful programs developed by four-year institutions. Likewise, four-year institutions can enhance developmental education efforts, academic support programs, workforce preparation, and access pipelines by reviewing best practices at the country’s community colleges.

Collectively, we seem to be focused on the same basic principles: student success, increased graduation rates, and building thriving institutions that meet student needs. Broadening the conversation may, in fact, help both two- and four-year institutions find new paths to explore. Educators and administrators at both two- and four-year institutions are, truly, all in this together.

Discussion Questions

  1. What trends are you currently witnessing regarding student movement between two- and four-year institutions?
  2. Do you feel as though two- and four-year institutions are more similar than they are different? Why or why not?
  3. How can you or your office/ department promote the idea of a global system of education while still upholding a primary commitment to your institution?
  4. Do you feel as though students are selecting two-year institutions for the same reasons they always have, or have their reasons for enrolling at two-year colleges begun to shift?


Bahr, P. (2013). Classifying Community Colleges Based on Students’ Patterns of Use. Research in Higher Education, 54(4), 433-460.

Community College Research Center (n.d.) FAQS. Retrieved July 19, 2013 from:

Knapp, L., Kelly-Reid, J., and Ginder, S. (2011). Enrollment in postsecondary institutions, fall 2009; graduation rates, 2003 & 2006 cohorts; and financial statistics, fiscal year 2009 (NCES 2011-230). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved July 23, 2013 from

National Student Research Clearinghouse. (2012). Signature Report: Completing college: a national view of student attainment rates. Herndon, Virginia: Shapiro, D., Dundar, A., Chen, J., Ziskin, M., Park, E., Torres, V., Chiang, Y.C.

Radford, A.W., Berkner, L., Wheeless, S.C., and Shepherd, B. (2010). Persistence and attainment of 2003–04 beginning postsecondary students: after 6 years (NCES 2011-151). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved July 23, 2013 from

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 – College Student Educators International Launches Mid-Level Community of Practice

ACPA – College Student Educators International Launches Mid-Level Community of Practice

ACPA has always offered programs and services uniquely designed for mid-level professionals in student affairs. Those programs have included not only convention offerings but also the Donna Bourassa Mid-Level Management Institute, and the saGROW mentoring program to name just two. ACPA has now added even more for the mid-level professional in student affairs: the ACPA Mid-Level Community of Practice!

The ACPA Mid-Level Community of Practice – with an internal governance structure similar to existing ACPA commissions and standing committees – offers a vehicle through which mid-level members can identify and participate in programs and services with their unique needs in mind. The mission of the Mid-level Community of Practice (ML COP) is to encourage, develop, and deliver programs and services focused on the needs of mid-level professionals in student affairs. Our offerings will include but not be limited to convention programs, pre-conferences, roundtables and other programming as well as offerings throughout the year which may include leadership opportunities within ACPA, webinars, publications, drive in conferences, dial in discussions, mentoring opportunities, networking possibilities, and other forms of programming designed for our audience. In essence, we will foster a mid-level community of practice that will sustain and enrich professionals throughout the year.

Recognizing that many definitions or conceptualizations exist, we define mid-level as more than five years of fulltime experience in student affairs and not a senior student affairs officer – a broad categorization. For some professionals, mid-level is a position at which they wish to remain for their professional careers. The reasons for doing so are as unique as the individuals themselves and may encompass not only professional concerns but personal concerns as well. Likewise, some professionals see the mid-level as a stepping-stone to senior level opportunities. It is for this broad group of mid-level professionals that the Mid-Level Community of Practice will offer programs and services designed to enrich our professional practice.

How do I join ACPA’s Mid-Level Community of Practice?

Log onto and click on Member Profile at the top right. After entering your username and password, click on “Get More Involved” on your Member Profile page. From the list of groups within ACPA, click on Mid-Level Community of Practice. You will start to receive listserv messages whenever they are posted to members of the ML COP.

ML COP Leadership Opportunities

The ACPA Mid-Level Community of Practice is led by members of an interim directorate. When ACPA elections are held in November-December 2013, opportunities exist for you to seek office as a member of the directorate that will take office at ACPA Convention 2014. Our website will keep you informed on opportunities to seek office with the ACPA ML COP.

How can I stay informed and participate in ACPA’s ML COP?

Visit the Mid-Level Community of Practice homepage on the ACPA website to learn more.

Are We Really That Different?

Are we really that different?

Paul Eaton
Louisiana State University

Writing the Editor’s introduction to Developments always gives me an opportunity to think critically. I try to title my introductory pieces around central metapatterns, questions, or themes running through the various articles of the Issue. This Issue of Developments has many themes and important questions for each of us to consider as we embark on the start of a new academic year.

This question – Are we really that different? – is one posed to us by Marisa Vernon, the newest columnist on our Developments team. Starting in this Issue, Marisa will be writing about the student development experience on the two-year college campus. Our profession has always recognized that every student matters, and Marisa’s column will help all members of our association think about the parallel and differential experiences of students attending two-year colleges. This new column is an important addition to the research and practical foci of our Association. Marisa’s column in this Issue challenges the notion that students attending two-year colleges are any different than those attending four-year colleges, and is an excellent starting point for important discussions in our profession that will break down institutional and professional boundaries. Everyone is invited to think critically about the changing landscapes of the student experience in higher education, and I believe Marisa will help each of us do this through her important new column.

What you will notice through the remainder of this Issue is a broad array of articles that do focus on our unique professional and personal differences.

Our series “Women As” continues with two powerful articles. Ann James shares a deeply personal reflection about infertility. Her piece strikes at our innate human desires for control: James notes her ability to control her career and educational attainment, but an inability to control the timing, and potentially possibility, of having a child. Joyce Lui highlights the impact of stereotypes and media imagery on Asian American women. Of particular importance in Lui’s piece is the analysis of Google search results. The algorithms and images returned demonstrate not only the pain and dangers associated with stereotyping, but also the way that stereotypes have moved from the social world to the digital world.

Our Legal Issues column highlights the important issue of emotional support animals on campus, with a special emphasis on housing policy. There is a growing awareness in our culture about mental and emotional health issues. Neal Hutchens raises important questions about professional practice and policy regarding support animals on campus. I believe his article should raise questions for individuals working beyond campus housing, ensuring that our facilities, classrooms, and campus environments are welcoming for students who may need the assistance of an emotional support animal.

Jason Lane asks whether Student Affairs Educators are prepared for the Pacific Century. Growing numbers of international students come from countries on the Asian continent, and, as Lane points out, the growing economic power of Asian countries gives us an obligation to prepare students for working, interacting, and taking leadership roles outside the United States.

Finally, President Kerr reflects on the June Leadership Meeting, where our Association Leadership took up some important questions regarding the multicultural nature of our profession. ACPA has always valued inclusion and social justice, but as President Kerr reminds us, ensuring that we are a truly multicultural organization is an ongoing struggle.

Are we really that different? Yes. No. Our Association, our colleagues, and our students are beautifully and individually unique. We each face our own personal struggles, have unique personal stories and cultural backgrounds, and have within us strengths and power all our own. Yet, there are many ways we are not that different. We all seek to be valued as a human being; we all seek to be part of a strong community of learners and professionals. Most importantly, as members of ACPA, we are all dedicated to enhancing the educational and lived experiences of our students.

Do good work this Fall.

About the Editor

Paul Eaton is a doctoral student in Educational Leadership & Research with concentrations in Higher Education & Curriculum Theory at Louisiana State University. 

Please e-mail inquiries to Paul Eaton.

Follow Paul on Twitter.

From One Dupont Circle: Quarterly Update

From One Dupont Circle: Quarterly Update

Gregory Roberts
ACPA Executive Director

Greetings from One Dupont Circle!

There has been a tremendous amount of activity since we last engaged and I want to share some of those items with you:

ACPA completed work on an aggressive Strategic Plan that targets eight (8) key areas of focus, six (6) strategic goals and two (2) strategic initiatives:

  • Career Development
  • Professional Development
  • Research and Scholarship
  • Equity and Inclusion
  • Association Performance and Excellence
  • Leadership in Higher Education
  • Globalization
  • Recruitment/Retention

All of our efforts will be focused around each of these agendas over the next three years or more.

We completed a very successful June Leadership Meeting. Many of you might recall Summer Leadership Meetings. The name was changed to reflect a global understanding of time. Given our expanded membership base from around the world, “summer” is a term only reflective of certain parts of the world. In many parts of the world the temperature is the same all year around, thus, what is “summer”? This minor adjustment signifies a greater acknowledgement that we must start small and move big to attain a global understanding for our profession and ourselves.

The activity on Capitol Hill has been “wild” at best. We attempted to keep you updated on United States legislation, United States Supreme Court activity and implications for all of us as professional educators. Let me highlight the areas and you can go the ACPA Web site and retrieve additional details on each issue. ACPA is a professional association that educates and it is important to our students and educators that the activity at the United States Federal level is on the “radar screen” of all of us and that we exercise our right to voice our opinions on matters that affect student development.

  • Fisher v. Texas affirmative action case heard by the Supreme Court. There was not a clear cut decision, but at least the United States Supreme Court did not overturn affirmative action.
  • Gay Marriage was upheld in those states that have passed or will pass same-sex marriage rights.
  • The Student Loan Interest Rate issue was finally resolved in favor of the students with gradual increases for undergraduate students.
  • The Voting Rights Act was reversed to the states, restoring the discrimination potential that existed in the 1950s and 1960s during segregation.
  • The Trayvon Martin case was resolved to the disagreement of many. The important point is for citizens of the United States of America to make sure the Justice Department is aware of this displeasure and what impact our opinions, as private citizens, have on gun control.
  • The Higher Education Reauthorization Act is on the agenda for the next Congress and ACPA has signed on with several other associations to share our position.
  • ACPA has provided support along with the Consortium on Public Policy in Student Affairs and feedback to Congress on changes to the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (better known as the Clery Act).
  • ACPA has shared our opinions on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and pending action.

As you can see, there have been many items of business in Congress that directly affects our United States members, and as educators in general.

We promise to keep you updated on national and international topics of interest. As part of our focus on “leadership in higher education,” I ask your help in identifying “burning” issues and topics in your area of specialization. Share those with me and/or Melinda Farmer, chair of the Commission on Administrative Leadership.

Until next time,