From the President

From the President

Kathleen G. Kerr
ACPA President

My last article in Developments as President of ACPA – College Student Educators International is arriving to you immediately before the ACPA Convention in Indianapolis. The Convention theme is Reinvent You. Us. Indy. and I hope that in a couple days you will experience the many exciting innovations we have incorporated into this year’s convention.

Each convention is a labor of love, requiring almost 18 months of planning by the ACPA staff and an incredible team of volunteer leaders.  The Indianapolis Team has had the great fortune of being led by Dr. Gretchen Metzelaars. I believe you will experience her vision for a unique and inspiring convention come to fruition in Indy.  Be sure to offer her your thanks.

Over the course of this year, I have had the pleasure of traveling the country, and a bit internationally, to talk with ACPA members about our Association, now in its 90th year.  I have shared with colleagues that with our age comes wisdom, but only if we wisely choose our path forward. We must be thoughtful and intentional to become the Association we want to be when we turn 100. The ACPA strategic plan is one guide forward and the selection of our next Executive Director is another significant milestone.

In Indianapolis, I hope that you will take some time to thank Greg Roberts, outgoing Executive Director of ACPA; and welcome Cynthia Love, incoming Executive Director.  They will transition on July 1, 2014 and as with any leadership change, our course will shift.  Greg has done a marvelous job of “steering the ship” since 2003 and his retirement is well deserved.  Cindi has been selected by the Governing Board to move us forward, and ensure that we are leaders in higher education while continuing with our longstanding commitments to member voice; social justice; research and scholarship; and career and professional development.  She will do a wonderful job and I am very excited for many more of you to meet her.

As I reflect back on this year, I now understand why it is appropriate for an ACPA President’s term to end at Convention.  I began this year thinking I knew a lot about our profession and the Association.  I end the year with a greater appreciation for all that there is for me to learn.  Every time I traveled for ACPA, in each state or country, I learned amazing things from the colleagues I encountered – perspectives on issues, suggestions for best practices, insights into campus politics, and more.

The world changes incredibly quickly and the challenges facing higher education are only growing.  But in many ways, thanks to technology, we are closer to one another and more connected than we have ever been.  We have opportunities to support each other, and learn from each other that few before us experienced.  Collaborations and partnership serve our students and our campuses far better than notions of individualism and isolation. We must continue to utilize our membership in ACPA to facilitate those connections, and continue learning.  Lifelong learning is not just something to enjoy, it is an imperative if we are to be successful.

So, I head to Convention knowing now, after having served as the President of ACPA, that I need this professional development opportunity more than I realized a year ago.  My membership in ACPA, after my presidency, will continue to be filled with rich experiences that will make me a better colleague and allow me to better serve my students.  See you in Indy.

Please e-mail inquiries to Kathleen G. Kerr.

Follow Kathleen on Twitter @acpaprez

Quarterly Update: One Dupont Circle

Gregory Roberts
ACPA Executive Director

Greetings to All!

The 90th Anniversary of ACPA – College Student Educators International will begin with the Indianapolis Convention and the celebration will continue throughout the year (1924 – 2014).  We owe a tremendous debt to May Chaney, our first president and one of the original founders of ACPA.  Just imagine what was happening in 1924 and how things have changed in society:

  • Calvin Coolidge, President
  • 1st Winter Olympics (France)
  • IBM was founded
  • Frozen Food was introduced by Birdseye
  • 1st Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
  • 1st Regular Airmail Service
  • Ellis Island closed as an immigration entry point
  • Indian Citizenship Act (conferred citizenship on Native Americans living in the USA)

ACPA was created as the National Association for Appointment Secretaries (making job interview appointments for students). Today, the focus on student completion and employment remain important to collegiate student success.

Most American colleges and universities were founded prior to 1924, except our United States Community College system that was grew at a rapid pace following World War II.   When we critically analyze our world today, ACPA has “weathered” the transformations of the human spirit during a most complex and challenging period and our profession adopted a “creed” of core values that remain relevant today:

  • Education and development of the total student.
  • Diversity, multicultural competence and human dignity.
  • Inclusiveness in and access to association-wide involvement and decision-making.
  • Free and open exchange of ideas in a context of mutual respect.
  • Advancement and dissemination of knowledge relevant to college students and their learning, and the effectiveness of student affairs and student services professionals and their institutions.
  • Continuous professional development and personal growth of student affairs and student services professionals, including the development of effective administrative leadership and management skills.
  • Outreach and advocacy on issues of concern to students, student affairs and services professionals and the higher and tertiary education community, including affirmative action and other policy issues.

As you reflect on 90 years of quality education, training and taking theory to practice, the results show a vibrant profession that continues to make contributions to the development of the whole student and creating an environment specifically designed to enhance student learning.  Given our Core Values, let’s not work too hard at reinventing, but focus on doing what we know matters: students and their environment for learning.

Join me in Indianapolis as we begin the conversation, debate and celebration – honoring our past – designing our future!!!

Reinvent. You. US.

Until next time,


Next Gen 2014: Reinventing Student Affairs for Social Justice

Next Gen 2014: Reinventing Student Affairs for Social Justice

Next Gen 2014 is a unique opportunity for undergraduate students to learn about careers in student affairs. The conference will introduce participants to ACPA – College Student Educators International and student affairs, invite them to consider opportunities for professional involvement and graduate preparation, develop strong connections among participants, and facilitate meaningful interactions between participants, practitioners, and scholars.

ACPA’s Next Generation Conference (Next Gen 2014) will take place Saturday and Sunday, March 29-30, 2014, prior to the start of the ACPA 2014 Convention in Indianapolis.  Registration is $125.  In addition, Next Gen 2014 participants may register for the ACPA 2014 Convention at an exclusive discounted rate of $150, a savings of $125 (the actual combined registration cost for Next Gen 2014 and ACPA 2014 is $275).

The Next Gen 2014 planning team has developed a program with a central focus on social justice and innovative presenters and formats.  We are especially excited about our new, creative format for meaningful interactions and dialogue between Next Gen participants and Entity Groups (the commissions and standing committees of ACPA).

Keynote speakers will focus on social justice as the foundation of student affairs. On Saturday, March 29:

  • Gretchen Metzelaars (2014 ACPA Convention Chair), Kathleen Kerr (ACPA President), and Cynthia Love (newly appointed ACPA Executive Director) will welcome Next Gen 2014 participants and share their perspectives on serving the association and the profession through a social justice lens.
  • Kristin Skarie, President of Teamworks and Vice President of the ACPA Foundation Board, will facilitate “flashback” and “flash forward” conversations to introduce individual reflection and a sense of purpose.
  • becky martinez, an independent consultant and trainer with Infinity Martinez and a Social Justice Training Institute faculty member, will emphasize the connection between individual reflection and organizational and social change, and how student affairs professionals can facilitate such change.
  • Thomas C. Segar, Vice President for Student Affairs and Affiliate Graduate Professor at Shepherd University, will illuminate the possibilities for organizational and social change in student affairs by sharing his own journey as an administrator, educator, scholar, and proud member of ACPA.

On Sunday, March 30:

  • Stephen J. Quaye, Assistant Professor of Student Affairs and Higher Education at Miami University and one of three theorists invited to deliver a HEd Talk at the 2014 ACPA convention, will facilitate a dialogue about social justice as a core value of the profession.
  • Next Gen participants will also have an exclusive opportunity to spend time with Cathy Bao Bean, author of The Chopsticks-Fork Principle and chair of the Society for Values in Higher Education, who will deliver an innovative HEd Talk at the 2014 ACPA convention.

As excited as we are about “reinventing” through Next Gen 2014, we need help from this generation to encourage the next generation of student affairs professionals to attend this conference. Seldom if ever do students find our field without the help of someone who is already in it. Many of us can trace our involvement in the profession to a small group of professionals who encouraged us to take the first step. Next Gen 2014 might be the next step.  Please encourage students to register!

ACPA’s Influence on Equity and Inclusion: “Becoming More Fully Human:” Transforming Student Affairs through Social Justice

Brian J. Reece
University of Oregon

Finding its roots in a partnership with the National Association of Deans of Women as the National Association of Appointment Secretaries in 1924, ACPA-College Student Educators International (ACPA) has perhaps always had a predisposition for social justice education (ACPA, 2013c). As early as 1937, public documents like the American Council on Education’s Student Personnel Point of View, for which ACPA was a contributor, discuss financial issues faced by students and urge higher education institutions to prepare students to engage in “cultural interests” of their communities and “to assume those individual and social responsibilities which are essential to the common good” upon graduation (p. 9). Of course, when this document was written, there was very little racial, economic, or gender-based diversity to speak of in higher education. Still, Torres, DeSawal, and Hernandez (2012) argue that the statements of this document “take on a more complex understanding today with an increased diversity” (p. 27). Just over a decade later, in its second iteration, we can see this Point of View evolving already by asserting that institutions should develop in students “an appreciation of cultural values, the ability to adapt to changing social conditions, [and] motivation to seek and to create desirable social change” (American Council on Education, 1949, p. 20).

ACPA’s history of contribution in words has been admirable, but the Association has also done its best, often ahead of its time, to take to action. ACPA has a strong history of its words being full of both reflection and action, what Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire (1993) calls the “praxis” of authentic dialogue: “To speak a true word is to transform the world” (p. 68). Indeed, ACPA has transformed its own world—that of student affairs. The profession of student affairs overall has almost always considered the student in a holistic sense, but ACPA has long focused on equitable and inclusive visions of that whole. For example, in 1968, at the height of the Civil Rights movement, ACPA commissioned a Task Force on Race and the College Community, which eventually morphed into the Standing Committee for Multicultural Affairs (Bennett, 2012). Bennett (2012), who is Past Chair of the commission, wrote that it “has evolved into one of the key components in the mission and vision of ACPA, to foster college student learning and to provide advocacy, outreach and professional development.” This committee, of course, was followed by several others centering on social identity and social justice, including committees on women, disability, men and masculinities, and LGBT awareness.

One area of focus for ACPA over the decades following the establishment of the Commission for Multicultural Affairs was to develop in the profession a new ability to support the diversifying student population at higher education institutions in the United States. This identity-based approach mirrored that of colleges and universities, which began erecting centers and offices dedicated to specific identities and ways of being. As Laird Bridges, Morelon-Quainoo, Williams, and Holmes (2007) assert, recreating a sub-culture similar to the environment of Historically Black Colleges and Universities may in fact increase success for students of color at Predominantly White Institutions. Centers like this, which have found support in ACPA for some time through standing committees, can do just this, and their contribution to the development of an overall social justice effort within ACPA is certain. Still, this approach is naturally a fractured methodology. With the emergence of theories of intersectionality and an attunement to the intersection of multiple oppressed identities, a new way of thinking about social justice education began to emerge. In 2005, the Commission for Social Justice Educators (CSJE) was established “to provide a collaborative home for college student educators working in the areas of diversity and social justice education” (ACPA, 2013a). The core function of this newest commission is to bring together the various factions and to focus on social justice education as a whole—to bridge the gaps within ACPA’s identity-based work. We also see this mirrored by colleges and universities who have created social justice positions, offices of equity and inclusion, and even senior administrators working on diversity-related issues.

ACPA’s commitment to this new way of thinking about social justice education can be seen far beyond the formation of one single commission. In its latest statement of core values, ACPA (2013b) lists “diversity, multicultural competence, and human dignity” and “inclusiveness in and access to association-wide involvement and decision-making.” Further, the position of Director of Equity and Inclusion has become a crucial role on the Governing Board for ACPA—indicating that its words are not merely reflection, but are also calls to action. Recently elected to this position, Kathy Obear has begun an overhaul of ACPA’s equity and inclusion work in an attempt to both streamline the Association’s efforts and to develop new and exciting initiatives. Other examples of actions taken by ACPA after much reflection include the recording of CSJE-sponsored programs at the convention so that those for whom cost is a barrier to attendance may yet learn something, the creation of guides for sustainability in host cities, brochures on socially just eating options in host cities, and a plan for incorporating issues of social justice into the process of selecting host cities and venues for future conventions. These efforts, though grounded in the experience of oppression by individual identities, have taken on a more holistic social justice approach with an understanding of multiple and intersecting identities.

As ACPA looks toward the future of its social justice efforts, a focus on intersectionality clearly continues to be at the forefront of discussions on how to better serve both its members and, more importantly, students in higher education. Intersectionality, born from the realization that our distinctive and multiple identities are overlapping in complex and unimaginable ways, is obviously an important aspect of social justice education; however, it should be foundational rather than directional (Torres, Jones, & Renn, 2009, p. 588). ACPA’s Commission for Social Justice Educators in particular has begun exploring more conceptual frameworks for social justice. Paulo Freire’s (1993) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, for example, serves as an excellent theoretical foundation for this conversation. Integrating ideas and theories across disciplines, Freire (1993) equates Western educational philosophy with that of banking, a method in which information is held by teachers (the oppressors) and passed along to students (the oppressed). At the same time, he introduces a “problem-posing” educational philosophy in which teacher-students and students-teachers work together in order to create new knowledge—the pedagogy of the oppressed (see Chapter 2). What can we learn from Freire and how can we apply this to our social justice education efforts? How have our efforts utilized the banking model, which is inherently oppressive, and how can we transform our efforts into problem-posing ones?

More recent contributions by scholars like Kevin Kumashiro (2002; 2004) have explored how anti-oppressive pedagogical frameworks can contribute to the development of a social justice orientation in a classroom setting. Considering Kumashiro’s foundational work may give the Association a direction and a framework with which to consider the multiple, complex, and overlapping identities of its membership and of the college and university populations at large. Synthesizing psychoanalytic theory, feminist thought, queer theory, poststructural theory, and more, Kumashiro (2002) works toward a new approach to education that counteracts the oppression students have heretofore experienced and internalized. One suggestion utilizes a poststructuralist approach, suggesting that “antioppressive educators can use the notion of citation to examine the intersections and interrelations of multiple forms of oppression and the situated nature of oppression, as well as to explore the changes made possible when laboring to alter oppressive citational processes” (p. 117). What Kumashiro (2002) refers to is the notion that oppression is “produced when certain discourses (especially ways of thinking that privilege certain identities and marginalize others) are cited over and over. Such citational processes serve to reproduce these hierarchies and their harmful effects in society” (p. 50). As ACPA recommits itself to social justice and as student affairs professionals embrace their roles as social justice educators, it is imperative that we begin to think about how the choices we make in our roles as educators are antioppressive and/or oppressive. How are we as individuals, as commissions, and as an association citing oppressive practices and thus reinforcing the very oppression we seek to eliminate?

In our own synthesis of theory from across disciplines, we can begin to place the oppressed into the center of our conversations. It is not necessarily enough to wonder how a decision may impact an individual. Instead, let us ask, “What does this decision feel like for a lesbian female of color?” or “How does this decision change the way in which a student from China who utilizes a wheelchair interacts with this campus physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually?” Kumashiro (2004) asserts that being prepared for uncertainty is crucial to success in teaching and learning toward social justice; although applied to the classroom, its extension to student affairs is evident. Writing about unintentional lessons, such as those taught about gender binaries when men are always asked to move desks and women to tidy up the classroom, he reveals that “the goal is to conscientiously make visible these hidden lessons and the various lenses students use to make sense of them” (p. 41). Reframing the conversation around oppression can help make it easier to understand why arguing the equity of something or the reasons for not including someone are insufficient paths toward social justice.

While this approach obviously does not work for everyone, it is easy to see how an argument for gender-neutral housing options, for example, may be more successful by contending that not offering them is a form of oppression against LGBT students rather than simply an offer of equity and a way to include them. At the very least, it can bolster such an argument and help refute ideas like the following: “We already include LGBT students by allowing them to live with us! They can live in singles if they want.” This response is framed around equity and inclusion—LGBT students are offered similar options and are allowed to be a part of what “we” offer. Still, what does the experience feel like for a student who identifies as transgender? Such a student may feel that they are being isolated or treated differently. Such an option is, of course, often more expensive, which for many, particularly those who are historically oppressed, is not always financially viable. Inviting the oppressed to the center can begin to provide clarity for those who wish to remain blind to the real experiences of oppression within their campus borders.

ACPA is well positioned to be a social justice education leader in the profession of student affairs. With a long history of advocating for the whole student and of being at the forefront of ensuring that all aspects of that whole student are considered and respected, the Association’s position as a change agent in higher education and for college students remains strong. ACPA should continue to push for research that is inclusive and representative of a diversifying student population by paying close attention to the voices of individuals with oppressed identities. In particular, ACPA should continue to be a role model for student affairs educators by demonstrating how social justice education is an integral part of the role of all student affairs educators. The Association already does this in many ways, but it should begin to consider how to do more than advocate for the support of individuals. How can ACPA utilize its influence to make an impact on structures that perpetuate oppression? What can ACPA do to shift its own banking education philosophies toward problem-posing ones? Freire (1993) writes,

Banking education inhibits creativity and domesticates (though it cannot completely destroy) the intentionality of consciousness by isolating consciousness from the world, thereby denying people their ontological and historical vocation of becoming more fully human. Problem-posing education bases itself on creativity and stimulates true reflection and action upon reality, thereby responding to the vocation of persons as beings who are authentic only when engaged in inquiry and creative transformation. (pp. 64-65)

Informed by its own research and scholarship in social justice education and that of many others, ACPA can offer a place in higher education for oppression to meet its end—for all students to become more fully human.


ACPA-College Student Educators International (2013a). Commission for Social Justice Educators. Retrieved from

ACPA-College Student Educators International (2013b). Core Values. Retrieved from

ACPA-College Student Educators International (2013c). History of ACPA. Retrieved from

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

American Council on Education. (1949) The student personnel point of view. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from

Bennett, Marquis L. (2012, December). Donation letter. [PDF document]. Retrieved from

Kumashiro, K. (2002). Troubling education: Queer activism and antioppressive pedagogy. New York, NY: RoutledgeFalmer.

Kumashiro, K. (2004). Against common sense: Teaching and learning toward social justice. New York, NY: RoutledgeFalmer.

Laird, T. F. N., Bridges, B. K., Morelon-Quainoo, C. L., Williams, J. M., & Holmes, M. S. (2007). African American and Hispanic student engagement at minority serving and predominantly white institutions. The Journal of College Student Development, 48(1), 39-56.

Torres, V., DeSawal, D., & Hernandez, E. (2012). Reflections on the 75th anniversary of the student personnel point of view. K. M. Boyle, J. W. Lowery, & J. A. Meuller (Eds.). Washington, D.C.: ACPA.

Torres, V., Jones, S. R., & Renn, K. A. (2009). Identity development theories in student affairs: Origins, current status, and new approaches. The Journal of College Student Development, 50(6), 577-596.

About the Author

Brian J. Reece is a graduate student in Counseling, Family and Human Services with a specialization in Prevention Science at the University of Oregon. He received his Honors B.A. in English and M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration from the University of Delaware as well as a graduate certificate in Nonprofit Management from the University of Oregon. His research interests include gender and sexuality in literature, psychology, and education and the relationship between language and oppression. He currently serves as Vice Chair of Member Services for ACPA’s Commission for Social Justice Educators.

Please e-mail inquiries to Brian Reece.


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 and the Role of Technology: Technology Then and Now: From Telephone Trees to Social Media

Danielle J. Alsandor
Louisiana State University

Over the past two decades higher education has undergone multiple changes. Some undesirable ones have occurred, such as decreased state funding and stagnant federal financial aid rates for grants and the loss of work-study for summer enrollment. However, some positive changes have occurred as well, including increased student enrollment and greater access and communication. The latter is due primarily to changes in technology and institutions making financial and time investments to outreach to the public and share what they do. Previously, institutions’ professional staff relied mostly on Pre-SAT and ACT/SAT score results to send postcards and letters to prospective students via the United States Postal Service. There were also college fairs for recruiters to interact with potential students and provide admissions information. While both of these practices are beneficial and are still done today, times have changed. Websites, social media, hashtags, online chatting, webinars, virtual tours, and more are now available to all. Today, people with an interest in our institutions are not just “future students,” but rather they are current “friends.” Student affairs professionals are able to maintain constant contact with potential students by using a variety of technologies. At times seen as great, other times it can be all consuming. However, this is how the world and our profession are changing. The simple and complex are all changing, which leads one to ask the question, “why change?”

Kezar (2014) poses this very question in the first chapter of How Colleges Change: Understanding, Leading, and Enacting Change. Besides the obvious response and even a song titled, “everything must change,” Kezar (2014) delves deeper and provides eight key reasons why change is needed and why things are different today than in decades past. Technology is one of the reasons offered due to its impact on student learning and information sharing. So how has communication changed as a result of technology? I reflected on a situation that can and does occur fairly often. Imagine it is late in the evening and an important message must be communicated to members of the student organization you advise. Just 15 years ago you likely would have called the president of the organization via a landline telephone and that person would call the other officers. Someone would pull the membership roster and quite likely a telephone tree from a drawer and the officers would divide the “branches” so that calling organization members can commence and the important message would be communicated within an hour. Now, the likely communication media are a laptop computer and mobile telephone. Respectively, one e-mail is sent and one text message created and then forwarded to others, which is simultaneously posted to Facebook, tweeted on Twitter, and shared on other social media platforms and smartphone apps like GroupMe and Campus Connect—all within a few minutes by one person. Clearly, the passage of time and invention of new technology (hardware and software) has impacted the way people communicate. As higher education professionals, we communicate with students, colleagues, parents, media personnel, and the public more efficiently and arguably more effectively. This article details the technological and tech usage changes currently facing student affairs professionals. It provides some of the benefits as well as some of the challenges for professionals as we work to build not only well-rounded successful students, but also to and communicate with all stakeholders.

Today’s college students are diverse with varied needs and our approach to working with them should be holistic (Bonner, Marbley, & Howard-Hamilton, 2011). The traditional-aged college students of today—millennials—require varied approaches to maintain attention and disseminate important information, with succinctness being key. Generational research (Howe & Strauss, 2000; Myers, 2012; Underwood, 2007)—which details the changes in people based on their birth year, national events, and to some degree their environment—provides some insight into how the changes in technology impact professionals. Presently there are five generations coexisting on our campuses that serve as important stakeholders. The Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and Millenials all interact and with different technological and communication preferences (Bonner, 2011; Porterfield & Carnes, 2012). The largest group of students is identified by such descriptors as digital natives, techies, millennials, tech-savvy adults—each of these words describes people who are allegedly knowledgeable about and comfortable with technology. As higher education and student affairs practitioners and educators it is imperative to know the different generations and understand how technology continues to change the work we do and how we do that work.

“Technology has fundamentally altered access to information…We need to focus on helping students build the skills that will be essential to navigate access to unlimited sources of data” (Bowen, 2011, p. 130). With student success and college completion as our major goals, educating and encouraging students on ways to access reputable information and data safely makes logical sense. Moreover, the ability to think critically and identify what information is lacking and how and why to obtain or create that data is important. Employers increasingly want an educated workforce capable of utilizing technology not only efficiently, but effectively, to solve problems and make reasonable inferences. While the degree—be it a baccalaureate, master’s, doctorate, or professional degree—is one of our greatest products, it is second to an educated and well-rounded college graduate who can contribute to a greater educated and more connected, global-minded citizenry. Globalization and internalization mandate the use of technology to communicate and share resources and work collaboratively. This is where the greatest changes in technology can be seen, especially in the change to using social media.

To tweet, tumble, or Facebook are serious decisions, complicated by whether to use them for educational purposes only or also for social and non-educational purposes. Porterfield and Carnes (2012) creates a compelling case as to why educators should use social media and use it for multiples purposes and reasons. Ten realities are listed including what I feel are three important reasons, “1) communication is no longer about you; it’s about your customers, 2) if you don’t tell your story, someone else will, and 3) social media helps you build community and a sense of ownership among your stakeholders” (Porterfield and Carnes, 2012, p. 19-21). Long gone are days where campuses, offices, departments, and programs control the message and personnel determine what to address and how much to release. Now, students and their families demand and deserve to know what is occurring and what is occurring in real time—not on the 6:oo pm evening news or local nightly news. This means working around the clock and staying abreast to everything, while being able to communicate carefully and honestly what is happening. Professionals must now work to create a climate where information flows freely among all stakeholders. This remains true as institutions continue to offer more online course options and increase offerings for entire online degree programs as well as hybrid courses.

Online classes and online student services—such as advising, registering new student organizations, dropping a class with an e-form, which is automatically routed to the professor and advisor for e-signatures—are becoming more mainstream and are setting the bar higher. Convenience, efficiency, and effectiveness are most important when one considers communication. Gone are the telephone trees and multiple people to rely a single message. Mass communication and information sharing by one person is the best method employed using technology. This is because as Joosten (2012) states, “Social media has the potential to enhance learning and meet pedagogical needs thanks to the array of media characteristics and functionality…interactivity and engagement on student learning…Social media has the potential to enhance these good practices” (p. 1).

Amid the convenience, efficiency, and communication effectiveness (presumed and real), there are challenges that lay ahead for us as educators and professionals. Joosten (2012) acknowledges many of them including the need for a campus social media policy, support from academic affairs administration and faculty on innovative initiatives to teaching with technology and social media, determining the need for professional costs associated with establishing and maintaining infrastructure, and collaboration with existing Information Technology and Public Relations services. I would add assessing the need and use of technology and social media. For example: Is the targeted audience reached? Are people connecting to the posted information? Can increased attendance or community be attributed to technology usage, marketing and promotion?

It is important to note that simply using technology for “technology’s sake” is empty. Thought should be put into what social media will be used to communicate, who will make posts, and how many posts to create across different programs and social media applications. Staff members can conduct a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats Analysis (SWOT) of their individual programs, centers, or functional area staff to garner information and determine how best to proceed with social media. Strategic and thoughtful planning can yield better and more meaningful communication. Manning, Kinzie, & Schuh (2014) state staff must stay up to date and be “fresh and contemporary” (p. 207). This suggests using the latest technology and social media, be it an avatar in Second Life or Voki or sending out tweets and posting notices on Tumblr. The reality is “technology can deliver content in better and more varied ways than we do live…[Moreover, students] will search for information online before they even consider heading to a library [or office]” (Bowen, 2012, p. 104). So to revisit Kezar’s (2014) question, “Why change?” Frankly, there is no choice for professionals seeking to remain current, engage students, and provide a story and visuals of their organizations. In many ways, one must change or be left behind.


Bonner, F. A. Marbley, A. F. & Howard-Hamilton, M. F. (2011). Diverse millennial students in

college: Implications for faculty and student affairs. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Bates, A. W., & Sangra, A. (2011).  Managing technology: Strategies for transforming teaching and learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Bowen, J. A. (2012). Teaching naked: How moving technology out of your college classroom

will improve student learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Joosten, T. (2012). Social media for educators: Strategies and best practices. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Kezar, A. (2014). How colleges change: Understanding, leading, and enacting change. New York, NY: Routledge.

Manning, K., Kinzie, J., & Schuh, J. H. (2014). One size does not fit all: Traditional and innovative models of student affairs practice. New York, NY: Routledge.

Porterfield, K., & Carnes, M. (2012). Why social media matters: School communication in the digital age. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Quinn, M. (2012). The mobile academy: mlearning for higher education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Weigel, V. B. (2002). Deep learning for a digital age: Technology’s untapped potential to enrich higher education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

About the Author

Dr. Danielle Alsandor serves as an assistant professor at Louisiana State University educating current and aspiring student affairs professionals on competencies and skills needed to provide effective services to diverse student populations. She earned her Ph.D. and M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration from the University of Texas at Austin, and her undergraduate degree in Mass Communications from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Her research interests are focused on understanding the experiences of diverse college populations and identifying ways higher education institutions can enhance student success (e.g. access, recruitment, enrollment, retention, and completion).

Please e-mail inquiries to Danielle J. Alsandor.


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.

Global Citizenship and Tertiary Education: A Time for Change

Global Citizenship and Tertiary Education: A Time for Change

Joy L. Hart
University of Louisville
Tom Jackson
University of Louisville
Kandi L. Walker
University of Louisville
Gregory Roberts
ACPA – College Student Educators International
Robert B. Ludeman
International Association of Student Affairs and Services

As the world has become more interconnected through globalization, the need for citizens with expansive views of society has increased.  Today’s problem solvers need to understand local, regional, national, and international issues—as well as the complex interrelations between such issues—to be effective.  Furthermore, tomorrow’s problem solvers will increasingly need such understandings, as well as the skills to work with diverse groups of individuals.  With such changes come increasingly expanded opportunities (and perhaps responsibilities) for universities to educate global citizens: graduates with broad perspectives and necessary skills to build and sustain a world that is just and fair.

In this series of three articles, we address strategies to ensure desired learning outcomes for the students of today and tomorrow, especially those outcomes crucial to becoming effective global citizens.  In particular, we examine integrating and internationalizing the curriculum, creating new and enhancing existing cross-unit partnerships (e.g., academic and student affairs), and designing and implementing meaningful global experiences for students.  Such experiences allow students to better understand and put to use the concepts they have grappled with in the traditional classroom.  After making the case for needed change and positioning our work in the scholarly literature (Part 1 of the series), we focus on two key experiential learning examples:  service learning and study abroad (Part 2 of the series).  We conclude the series by discussing preparation and results, including best practices for designing and implementing such programs (Part 3 of the series). 


What global companies look for is people [sic] who we think can take a global perspective.  Students are well placed to do this if they have taken opportunities to widen their cultural perspective.  The people that succeed can work in multi-disciplinary, multi-cultural and multi-locational teams.  If students have demonstrated they can work with other cultures and teams, that’s a big plus for us as we need students to be intellectually curious and culturally agile if they are going to work in a global context. -Sonja Stockton, Director, Talent – PricewaterhouseCoopers

Despite some educational strides, much work remains in order to ensure that tertiary graduates understand the global landscape and possess the skills to advance a more sustainable and just world.  The sheer volume of ongoing conversations about such issues is evidence enough of the vastness and pressing nature of this need.  Toward a just and sustainable world, embracing the “triple bottom-line” or 3BL approach, with social (people), economic (profit), and environmental (planet) components, is vital.  Using this 3BL lens for education and society requires timely promotion of democratic citizenship and creation of global competencies that move beyond the borders of comfort and familiarity.

The oft-used Kennedy paraphrase, “To those whom much is given, much is expected,” provides a touchstone for moving forward with education cultivating global citizenship.  It is imperative that “high performing” nations embrace global skills development and work to infuse it throughout their educational systems, especially at the tertiary level where students are ready to engage deeply with critical thinking, embrace multiple and divergent perspectives, and work diligently to forge relationships. Following Singmaster (n.d.), let’s briefly examine the actions of four nations toward developing global citizens.

  1. China – A mid-1990s overhaul of the educational system resulted in English language training beginning in primary school and world history and world geography infused throughout the curriculum.  More recently, China is engaged in further educational reforms, emphasizing “real world” needs, focused on 2020.  Students are engaging in real world applications, emphasizing alternative energy, health and well being, and preservation and conservation.  One indicator of China’s commitment to increased global education and citizenship is its plan to send 50,000 school principals abroad to gain new insights, experience other cultures firsthand, and determine best practices (Singmaster, n.d.).
  2. Singapore – Recent educational reform involves plans to strengthen curricula toward meeting “21st century competencies,” such as intercultural skills and global literacy (Singmaster, n.d.).  Indicators of competence include abilities to communicate (e.g., asking questions) and work in teams, as well as being knowledgeable about the nation and the world.  Focal skill areas center in developing: (1) confident, independent thinkers with well-honed communication skills, (2) self-directed individuals who take initiative for learning, (3) active participants able to work effectively with team members, and (4) engaged citizens committed to civic responsibility and improving social justice.
  3. Korea – Beyond the typical core curriculum (e.g., science, mathematics), considerable educational emphasis is devoted to world history, world geography, and humanities courses, such as art and music.  Further, students have been required to take English language courses for more than 65 years.  To ensure teachers are prepared to facilitate student skill development, the government provides a number of programs to support teacher travel and study abroad (Singmaster, n.d.).
  4. India – Although not widely regarded as a “high performing country” in measures of student assessment, India is working toward preparing students for the global economy and global challenges (Singmaster, n.d.).  Plans are underway to incorporate a worldwide focus into educational systems, as well as to increase emphasis on communicative abilities and analytical skills.  For example, world history, world literature and increased language study (i.e., three languages rather than the previously required two languages) will be required.  Other subjects, such as international business, will also be available.

These examples provide some evidence that the world is moving ahead in trying to cultivate global citizens with global knowledge and, in some cases, a commitment to the common good—or a sustainable future for all of us (Abdi & Shultz, 2009).  However, the United States, an educational innovator and leader at one time, is now losing its edge.  Following the Kennedy challenge, as a “high performing,” developed nation, much is expected of us—and we need to do more to meet the challenge of creating global competencies and democratic citizenship.

Why is it essential that we design educational programs with learning outcomes to develop 21st century global citizens?  Despite an array of considerations, the major challenge facing us is developing an engaged, global citizenry, and toward this goal, we must focus on multiculturalism, diversity, inclusiveness, global awareness, community service, dimensions of leadership, and effective involvement in governance (e.g., community, institutional).  In tertiary institutions, these aims are best met by fusing what have often been disparate facets of the university—the curricular and the co-curricular.  Partnerships between academics and student affairs can more rapidly and more meaningfully develop student skills.  To better serve current students—as well as work to create a more sustainable world—we need to assess possibilities, plan programs, and share best practices.  This series of articles is one step in that process.  The following examples show the extent to which such perspectives are embraced beyond the academy:

  1. Frits van Paasschen, Starwood Hotels and Resorts CEO and President, labeled the inability of U.S. citizens to speak a language other than English or function cross-culturally as a primary hindrance of being a U.S.-based company (Mulholland, 2011).
  2. CEO, Chairperson, and President of Manpower, Inc., Jeff Joerres noted that businesses need global capital and stressed that the paucity of employees with a global perspective and global skills must be addressed.  In his view, this “social skills” deficit is harmful (Mulholland, 2011).
  3. Further, according to Mulholland (2011), if we are going to produce the educated citizenry that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and others desire, “We need to focus on how to provide students with greater access to an education that specifically nurtures critical global skills such as facility in a foreign language, an understanding of other countries and cultures, and the ability to function effectively in differing cultural contexts.”

Toward reaching such goals, we examine several facets of tertiary education.  In this first article of the series, we review academic literature relevant to these goals.  In the next article in this series, we discuss experiential education as a means to develop global understanding and skills.  We provide two examples—service learning and study abroad—and explore preparation and results.  Finally, in the third article in the series, we chronicle recommendations and best practices that may be useful as colleges and universities consider such programs suggesting central goals and action steps for administrators and institutional leaders.

A Time for Change

Few would dispute that monumental changes have occurred over the past few years or the rippling effects of these changes.  And change continues—population increases, climate change, depletion of resources, destruction of rainforests, disease outbreaks, just to name a few.  Further, globalization is a magic wand and a double-edged sword.  We can travel faster, communicate faster, and share faster than ever before, but just as the positive possibilities have materialized, so have negative ones, with far-reaching implications for local or regional actions.

As the world has grown more interlinked, the need for global awareness and understanding is even more pressing (Rhoads & Szelenyi, 2011).  Certainly, cultural awareness and cross-cultural skills have long been important, but in today’s world, such knowledge and skill is vital (Schattle, 2007).  Due to the increasing importance of such understanding and skill, a number of leading educational groups and associations call for action—priorities for civic education and engagement (e.g., Campus Compact, 1999; Council of Europe, 2006).  Because change has occurred and is occurring, these professionals call for a changed education system: one that foregrounds the global world and the knowledge and skill sets needed to navigate its complex systems and cultures.

With the changes over the last few decades come demands for new problem-solving skills as well.  Increasingly, problems are “wicked”—morasses of mess.  No longer is one expert enough to solve most problems.  Further, no longer is one area of expertise enough.  Rather, the problems of today and tomorrow require new orientations to solutions: ones that involve collaboration across bodies of knowledge or disciplines.  For example, addressing issues of hunger or disease will not be complete from only the perspective of public health scholars or practitioners; such issues require efforts from teams of collaborating health care workers, geographers, health communication specialists, biologists, agricultural experts, and so forth.  The task of education is to bring forth graduates who can serve on and lead such teams.  As Bringle, Hatcher, and Williams (2011) underscored, “Crossing cultural boundaries, navigating differences, and finding common voice to address complex social issues, around the world and at home, requires that college graduates are equipped with skills unlike those needed a generation ago” (p. 287).

In sum, as societies have become interlinked, so have many of the problems we face.  Thus, leadership skills also take key prominence in the global context.  Although the number of individuals graduating college is increasing slightly worldwide, still a small minority of the world population holds a university degree (Barro & Lee, 2010; Freeman, 2009).  Yet, these individuals are some of the ones most likely to be called upon to solve local and global problems. Global understanding and multicultural awareness enhance their chances of successful problem solving.

Education focusing on civic engagement is one means of facilitating citizenship and problem solving.  Such education is believed to result in increased learning, contribute to quality of life for individuals and communities, as well as further campus learning outcomes/objectives (Bringle, 2011; Colby, Ehrlich, Beaumont, & Stephens, 2003; Percy, Zimpher, & Brukardt, 2006).  But to achieve the desired outcomes, universities will have to reinvent themselves in ways that model what they are looking for.  No longer can silos exist where we isolate ourselves with disciplinary specialization.  Increasingly, we must strive for multidisciplinarity, even omnidisciplinarity.  Further, no longer can divisional or unit lines separate our thinking or our practice.  If we expect to produce students capable of working in multidisciplinary teams to address society’s challenges, we must be able to forge partnerships with our colleagues across the campus, even in areas not often coupled together.  As Jackson et al. (2012) noted, these educational goals “will not be achieved by the university of the past century.  Rather, new methods and structures of university education must be devised and enacted” (p. 3).

To meet educational objectives, a number of scholars and practitioners have called for changes in university structures (ACPA et al., 2006; Harper & Quaye, 2008; Keeling, 2004; Strange & Banning, 2001). One area for change involves interweaving curricular and co-curricular offerings and programs.  Through such interweaving, tighter links can be forged that result in deeper student learning.  Such collaborative efforts are likely to foster skill development and broaden awareness.  For example, experiential education programs, such as international service learning and study abroad (see Lewin, 2009, for more detail), often involve work across units and can fuel partnership growth (Bringle & Hatcher, 2011).  In the next article in this series, we examine service learning and study abroad in more detail, especially addressing the potential for student learning and furthering collaboration.

Discussion Questions

1.  Changing university structures is not easy, especially in terms of undertaking curriculum overhauls or shifting program requirements.  How can universities best incorporate cultural awareness and cross-cultural skills into their curricula?

2.  What buy-in from administrators, faculty, staff, and/or students needs to be in place to best incorporate civic engagement into the academic curriculum?

3.  What are the challenges and potential pitfalls of merging the curricular and the co-curricular?  How can these challenges and pitfalls be overcome?

4.  As universities reinvent themselves, what types of changes do you envision?  What will universities look like 25 years from now?


Abdi, A.A., & Shultz, L. (Eds.). (2009). Educating for human rights and global citizenship.  Albany, NY:  SUNY Press.

ACPA, ACUHO-I, ACUI, NACA, NACADA, NASPA, & NIRSA. (2006).  Learning reconsidered 2: A practical guide to implementing a campus-wide focus on the student experience. Champaign, IL:  Human Kinetics.

Barro, R.J., & Lee, J.W. (2010).  A new data set of educational attainment in the world, 1950–2010.  Cambridge, MA:  The National Bureau of Educational Research (working paper no. 15902).

Bringle, R.G. (2011).  Preface. In R.G. Bringle, J.A. Hatcher, & S.G. Jones (Eds.), International service learning: Conceptual frameworks and research (pp. ix-xvi).  Sterling, VA:  Stylus.

Bringle, R.G. & Hatcher, J.A. (2011).  International service learning. In R.G. Bringle, J.A. Hatcher, & S.G. Jones (Eds.), International service learning: Conceptual frameworks and research (pp. 3-28).  Sterling, VA:  Stylus.

Bringle, R.G., Hatcher, J.A., & Williams, M.J. (2011).  Quantitative approaches to research on international service learning:  Design, measurement, and theory.  In R.G. Bringle, J.A. Hatcher, & S.G. Jones (Eds.), International service learning: Conceptual frameworks and research (pp. 275-290).  Sterling, VA:  Stylus.

Campus Compact. (1999). Presidents’ declaration on the civic responsibility of higher education. Retrieved from

Colby, A., Ehrlich, T., Beaumont, E., & Stephens, J. (2003).  Educating citizens:  Preparing American’s undergraduates for lives of moral and civic responsibility.  San Francisco, CA:  Jossey-Bass.

Council of Europe. (2006). Higher education and democratic culture: Citizenship, human rights and civic responsibility. Retrieved from

Freeman, R. B. (2009).  What does global expansion of higher education mean for the US?  Cambridge, MA:  The National Bureau of Educational Research (working paper no. 14962).

Harper, S.R. & Quaye, S.J. (Eds.). (2008).  Student engagement in higher education: Theoretical perspectives and practical approaches for diverse populations. New York, NY:  Routledge.

Jackson, T.R., Jr., Hart, J.L., Walker, K.L., Foster, J.P., Clark, T.J., & Mercer, L.H. (2012).  Serving the world through international service learning:  A partnership between academics and student services.  Proceedings of the Asia Pacific Student Services Association Conference.

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

Lewin, R. (Ed.).  (2009).  The handbook of practice and research in study abroad:  Higher education and the quest for global citizenship.  New York, NY:  Routledge.

Mulholland, J. (2011, July 28).  Is having a global mindset as important as technical skills in today’s economy [Web log post]?  Retrieved from

Percy, S.L., Zimpher, N., & Brukardt, M. (Eds.). (2006). Creating a new kind of university.  Bolton, MA:  Anker.

Rhoads, R., & Szelenyi, K. (2011).  Global citizenship and the university: Advancing social life and relations in an interdependent world.  Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Schattle, H. (2007).  The practices of global citizenship.  Lanham, MD:  Rowman & Littlefield.

Singmaster, H. (n.d.).  How high performing nations teach global skills.  Retrieved from

Strange, C.C. & Banning, J.H. (2001).  Educating by design: Creating campus learning environments that work.  Hoboken, NJ:  Jossey-Bass.

About the Authors

Joy L. Hart is Professor of Communication, Tom Jackson, Jr., is Vice President for Student Affairs, and Kandi L. Walker is Professor of Communication at the University of Louisville. 

Gregory Roberts is Executive Director of ACPA – College Student Educators International.  Roger B. Ludeman is Executive Director of the International Association of Student Affairs and Services (IASAS).  A previous version of this work was presented at the 14th General Conference of the International Association of Universities in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Please e-mail inquiries to Joy L. Hart.


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.

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

Ann M. Gansemer-Topf
Iowa State University

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

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

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

For Whom Does This Scholarship Apply?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Would I Practice the Scholarship?

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

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

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


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

Discussion Questions

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


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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

Please E-mail inquiries to Ann Gansemer-Topf.


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

Managing the Explosion of Technology: Recommendations for Student Affairs Administrators

Managing the Explosion of Technology: Recommendations for Student Affairs Administrators

Matthew R. Shupp
Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania
Jan Harris
Community College of Philadelphia & St. John’s University

Why does it seem like so few students are bothered by the all-too common ringing or vibrating of a cell phone? Or, perhaps even more perplexing, why those same students answer the phone during class? A fellow student affairs professional shared a story where a student responded to a text message during a job interview. Our students’ constant need for connectedness has become commonplace. Many seasoned student affairs professionals have wandered into a whole new technological generation.

What we face, as educators, is the realization that this “tech-savvy student”—the digital native—is the typical student on our college and university campuses across the country. Digital natives have grown up in a world full of technology. Turkle (2011) described digital natives as “growing up tethered” (p. 171), where technology is an extension of their human spirit. Essentially, technology has become a part of their identity.

Technology use, especially by digital natives, allows students to multi-task both inside and outside of the classroom much to the chagrin of instructors and administration. Researchers (Rosen, 2012; Visco, 2008) remind us that younger generations have been raised with constant stimulation. Being alone or focusing on one task at a time is not part of their skill set; rather, it is second nature to text friends and surf the net while actively participating in the activity at hand. Consider the following quotes that Visco (2008) acquired from digital native students that illustrate this point:

  • “If I didn’t have my phone, I would probably feel like I didn’t have my pants on or something like that” (Visco 2008).
  • “I just need it…it’s certainly a preferred method of communication for some people. We feel naked without [our cell phones]” (Visco, 2008).

Campbell (2006) conducted a survey of 176 student and faculty participants at a university in the western United States and discovered that a general sentiment existed among the respondents that mobile phones in college classrooms could be a serious problem. However, younger participants—who are more involved than their older counterparts (digital immigrants) in using cell phones—reported more tolerance for this practice. Campbell’s finding is consistent with other research confirming that technology has become a particularly important social resource in the everyday lives of young college students (Bauerlein, 2008; Hadhazy, 2010, Rosen, 2012; Wadley, 2006).

The Technology “Explosion”

In 2012, reported sales of smartphones totaled 1.75 billion units (Hansegard, 2013). Roughly one billion text messages were sent every day in 1998. Digital natives are using technology ad nauseam, often at inappropriate times and in inappropriate settings (Visco, 2008). Digital natives’ increase in texts per month has nearly doubled each year since 2008. The number of text messages sent monthly exploded from 14 billion in 2000 to 188 billion in 2010 (Kluger, 2013). Facebook™, launched in 2004, now has 750 million unique users per month and has emerged as the social network giant (Taraci, 2012). Ninety-seven percent of all college students are on Facebook™ where a staggering 70 million pictures are uploaded daily (Nauert, 2010). Bauerlein’s (2008) research supports this social media trend. Over a 10 year period (from 2003-2013), Americans increased their online usage by 14 million minutes. Clearly, the rapid advancement of technology is something that is here to stay, and both digital natives and digital immigrants are impacted by it.

The digital age has “transformed our lives” (Bauerlein, 2011, p. ix) and has drastically changed how we communicate, conduct business, teach courses, and interact with students. Today’s “smart” classrooms are equipped with smart screens and the capability of streaming videos. Online discussion boards and virtual learning networks have augmented, if not completely replaced, the traditional classroom environment. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are rapidly becoming the norm for many of our students as well as professionals seeking additional certifications. Likewise, student affairs administrators are able to conduct long-distance meetings over a virtual bridge while student clubs and organizations utilize social networking sites to advertise upcoming programs and connect with eligible participants.

While advances in technology give institutions of higher education the opportunity to provide classroom instruction in new and exciting ways and extends our reach to students beyond the classroom walls, it also exposes our students to an environment where online bullying and cyber stalking are prevalent. Using technology in this manner often creates immense concern for students’ safety and well-being (Alexy, Burgess, Baker, & Smoyak, 2005; National White Collar Crime Center, 2013). Likewise, careless online posts and inappropriate comments often have unintended negative consequences for our students (Nycyk, n.d.; Zupek, 2009). Zupek (2009) reminded us that a greater number of employers use potential employees’ online presence as a criterion for whether or not they are employable.

The Conundrum We Face

The conundrum comes into play in a few areas: the seeming disconnect of students when they are using technology, most notably text messaging during class lectures or club meetings, and the disconnect between digital immigrants’ and digital natives’ view regarding when it is most appropriate to use technology. What should be done when someone is present in body, but is not mentally tuned in during a group meeting because of a technological preoccupation?

Although we, as educators, are excited for the potential benefit technology brings to the college environment, we are equally alarmed at the detriment that it is causing to our students. Many of our students are quite careless in their communication (Nauert, 2012). Lack of proofreading papers, truthfulness of sources, poor writing and communication skills, lack of attention to detail, and multi-tasking to a fault are all a result, we believe, of the liberties students take with new technology. The authors once received a journal entry from a student that read, “had a gr8 nite. good 2 c my friends tks 4 asking.” Roughly translated, it was supposed to read, “I had a great night. It was good to see my friends. Thank you for asking.” We then faced the dilemma of how to appropriately grade this student. She completed the assignment, but not addressing the glaring grammatical mistakes in punctuation and spelling would have been a detriment to her learning.

Recommendations for Practice

What types of proactive solutions exist with regards to the technology conundrum on the 21st century college campus? We share with you now our recommendations.

Be Specific on Expectations Regarding Use of Communication Devices. Do Not Waiver in Expectations

Explicitly state the expectations and group norms when it comes to the use of technology. Is there a creative way to use new technology when working with students? Or is it simply an annoyance digital immigrants must now endure? Do you encourage the use of hand-held devices to post quotes and pictures on Facebook as a means of advertising past and upcoming student programs? Do you want students to tweet about their outside-the-classroom involvement?

Hand-held devices such as iPhones™ often have technology such as calculators, internet connections, and streaming video functions that meeting rooms may lack. These are potential legitimate uses for allowing the use of such devices (Shaw, 2007). Meeting with students takes on a completely different meaning when such technology is utilized. Yet, drawbacks of using hand-held communication devices during student interactions may outweigh the benefits and distract from the task at hand. So, what is your expectation with the use of these devices? Once identified, do not waiver from the stated expectation.

Have Stated Consequences if Students Fail to Meet the Expectations

In specific instances, ban technology devices during student meetings. Inside the classroom, prohibit the use of hand-held devices during exams by having students leave them in backpacks or depositing them in a pre-determined area of the classroom. Clearly stating these policies and expectations may act as a useful deterrent. For example, a faculty member now bans laptops in her large lecture courses and has a clause in her syllabus about the inappropriate use of technology. Because of this expectation she has observed increases in attention and better performance on exams (Bugeja, 2007).

Work to Have Your Colleagues Adopt Similar Expectations

A united stance on the expected use of hand-held communication devices removes the frustration from any one faculty or staff member and forces all students to realize that all members of a particular department enforce this expectation. For example, after receiving numerous emails without any greeting or punctuation, staff members in an Office of Student Affairs decided to use these moments as teaching opportunities. Whenever an email of this nature is received, a canned response is sent stating the following:

Thank you for contacting the Office of Student Affairs. We are unsure if our office is the intended recipient as there is no greeting nor is your email directly addressed to any staff person in particular. We are happy to help answer any     questions you might have. However, in the future, please be sure your correspondence includes a greeting (i.e. Hello!), your name, the reason you are writing, and a closing (i.e. Thank you.). Please be sure to include appropriate capitalization and punctuation.

The email then goes on to address the question asked in the original email. As a result, the Office of Student Affairs has observed a positive increase in students’ writing skills as well as an increase in their verbal articulation of questions.

Fish Where the Fish are

Many of our students have an online presence in cyberspace (Facebook™, Twitter™, etc.). Find creative ways to interact with digital natives in the spaces they are most comfortable. Do they think creating Facebook groups for a new club will attract new membership? Is there a creative way for students to tweet about their experiences at a leadership conference? Encourage your students to embrace technology as a part of their co-curricular involvement.

What Happens in Vegas…

Today, moments where our students lack clarity and make irresponsible decisions now end up residing on social networking sites. These risqué photos of questionable behavior often create difficulty for students when applying for professional positions. As student affairs educators, create teachable moments for students regarding how to manage their online footprint. What consequences might occur for inappropriate online posts? Encourage students to conduct a Google™ search of themselves to see what already exists in cyberspace. Empower students to create online portfolios or a LinkedIn™ profile as a means for potential employers to view their leadership experiences outside of the classroom. Creating a positive online impression will only enhance their ability for future professional opportunities.

Have the Same Expectations of Yourself that You do for Your Students. Model the Way

You should hold yourself to the same expectation that you hold your students. Model appropriate behavior for your students when it comes to the utilization of technology. Provide support for victims of cyber stalking and online bullying. Create a safe space where students feel heard and supported. Refer students to appropriate campus offices for additional resources.

Concluding Thoughts

It is hard to predict what the future holds and what technological advances have yet to be developed. What we do know is that this predicament is not going away. We would bet that once new technology comes out it will continue to “explode” in the community much faster than it has over the past 10 to 20 years. In some respects, we are behind the eight ball because higher education is not prepared to handle and utilize (due to lack of training, fear of new technology and new social media/software/equipment reaching students before college administrators) the type of technology available for student learning. One can only speculate and imagine the realm of technological possibilities that will be discovered in the next 10 years. But the fact remains that technology is not going away and student affairs professionals across the country need to find creative and innovative ways to use this technology for the students’ benefit. We still have a hard time understanding how a student can listen to an iPod™, talk on the phone, and actually sit in a classroom and absorb any part of the lecture. Perhaps these two digital immigrants are just getting old.

Discussion Questions

  1. How has technology influenced your interactions – both positively and negatively – with students?
  2. What new and creative ways might you utilize technology as a student affairs professional when working with and supporting students?
  3. What expectations exist within your department regarding student use of technology when communicating with you?


Alexy, E. M., Burgess, A. W., Baker, T. & Smoyak, S.A. (2005). Perceptions of cyberstalking among college students. Journal of Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention 5(3), 279-289. doi:10.1093/brief-treatment/mhi020

Bauerlein, M. (2008). The dumbest generation: How the digital age stupefies young Americans and jeopardizes our future. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

Bauerlein, M. (Ed.) (2011) The digital divide: Arguments for and against Facebook, Google, texting, and the age of social networking. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

Bugeja, M. J. (January 26, 2007). Distractions in the wireless classroom. The Chronicle of Higher Education: Chronicle Careers. Retrieved on May 19, 2008 at

Campbell, S. W. (July, 2006). Perceptions of mobile phones in college classrooms: Ringing, cheating, and classroom policies. Communication Education, 55(3), 280-294.

Hadhazy, A. (April, 2010). Teens prefer texting vs. calling…except to parents. TechNews Daily.

Hansegard, J. (February, 2013). Global mobile phone sales fell in 2012. Retrieved on May 21, 2013 from

Kluger, J. (September, 2012). We never talk any more: The problem with text messaging. Time Magazine online.

National White Collar Crime Center (2013). Cyberstalking. Retrieved on October 1, 2013 from

Nauert, R. (April, 2010). College students ‘addicted’ to social media, study finds. LiveScience. Retrieved from

Nauert, R. (July, 2012). Testing may undermine language, spelling skills. PsychCentral Online.Retrieved from:

Nycyk, M. (n.d.). Your web presence and employment: Some effects on career. Retrieved from:

Rosen, R. (June, 2012). 59% of young people say the internet is shaping who they are. The Atlantic. Retrieved from

Shaw, Katherine (2007). Student and cell phone: Controversy in the classroom. Associated Press.Retrieved from

Steinberg, S. (June, 2010). College students have less empathy than past generations. USA Today. Retrieved from

Taraci, T. (March, 2012). Facebook is the secret to motivating millennial workers. Retrieved from

Turkle, S. (2011). Alone together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Visco, F. (March 16, 2008). Time for a text etiquette. Take this message: Texting is everywhere, texting can be rude. And we’ve yet to figure out a code of conduct for addicts who click, click, click.. Philadelphia Inquirer Online. Retrieved from

Wadley, J. (July 10, 2006). With this ring: No bliss from cell phone noises in college classes. The University Record Online. University of Michigan News Service. Retrieved on May 19, 2008 at

Zupek, R. (August, 2009). How social media can hurt your career. Retrieved from

About the Authors

Matthew R. Shupp is an assistant professor in the Department of Counseling & College Student Personnel, Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania.

Please email inquiries to Matthew R. Shupp.

Jan Harris is director of the Career Services Center at Community College of Philadelphia and adjunct faculty at Haub School of Business, St. Joseph’s University and The Art Institute of Philadelphia.

Please email inquiries to Jan Harris.


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

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

Neal H. Hutchens
Pennsylvania State University

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

Outsourcing of Services . . . And Employees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Non-Tenure Track Professors: The New Faculty Majority

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

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

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

Concluding Thoughts

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

Discussion Questions

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


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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

Please E-mail inquiries to Neal H. Hutchens.


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

A First Step: The Unique Needs of Two Community College Populations

A First Step: The Unique Needs of Two Community College Populations

Marisa Vernon
Columbus State Community College
Cassi Stewart
Columbus State Community College
Lorrie Ritchey
Columbus State Community College

While foundations of student and academic affairs remain similar when professionals move between selective to open-enrollment institutions, perhaps the steepest learning curve is associated with understanding some unique aspects of the student experience. When the doors of an institution are propped open to all, the student body reflects a mosaic of rich backgrounds that challenge college personnel in new and ever-changing ways.

Recently, a colleague was describing to me a moment in which she recognized a gap in knowledge between herself and a coworker who had spent the majority of her career at a selective four-year institution, which highlighted the varied experiences our students face.  The conversation had been centered around a population of students that community college professionals serve on a near daily basis, yet she quickly realized her conversation partner seemed slightly puzzled and was grasping to find common experience. Recognizing the gap, my colleague stopped to provide context to the discussion.

Increasingly, the community college at which I work is challenged to meet the unique student affairs needs of two emerging populations entering our door: students entering college with felonious backgrounds (referred to in this article as restored citizens), and students impacted by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) legislation. Students from both experiences are often faced with extreme barriers even at the application stage, and the barriers do not necessarily disappear once students crack open their first college textbook.

Restored Citizens

As the criminal justice system focuses on rehabilitation and decreasing recidivism, individuals with criminal backgrounds are encouraged to seek sustainable opportunities upon release. Often, conditions of parole require that an individual leaving the prison system seek gainful employment or pursue full-time education, though many will find both paths blocked by numerous barriers. As job opportunities decrease for restored citizens immediately following incarceration, education becomes an attainable next step for many leaving our prison systems.  Likewise, many prison systems have established partnerships with online or local colleges to offer educational opportunities to qualified individuals during incarceration. For many afforded this opportunity while serving sentences, their motivation to learn or build upon earned credits remains high after release.

Community colleges, by their open enrollment nature, provide restored citizens the most accessible path to education and degree attainment. While many could be accepted to selective institutions, barriers related to campus safety concerns, on-campus housing restrictions, and tuition costs prevent some restored citizens from even bothering to apply to traditional four-year institutions. In addition, several students we have seen in our advising office have described the community college campus environment as more accepting of all students’ experiences and diverse backgrounds, when compared to four-year colleges. Whether this difference is true or perceived, a restored citizen is perhaps likely to follow this instinct and seek out the path of least resistance and judgment.

When we call to mind the challenges even the most traditional college students face in order to begin classes (e.g., submitting materials in accordance to enrollment deadlines, applying for financial aid, securing housing, finalizing a schedule), one can immediately begin to speculate how these challenges can be multiplied for the individual with a criminal background. Waiting until after release to apply for financial aid can delay an individual’s ability to enroll, while some may not even realize they are eligible to apply for aid during the end of incarceration. Likewise, the pressure of setting up living arrangements, reviewing parole requirements, and the emotional challenges associated with reestablishing support systems may leave little energy for these individuals to transition to the role of college student.

Even the most open colleges and universities still employ a review process for students who indicate a criminal conviction on their application. While a necessary screening process, these steps can delay the student’s acceptance and decrease motivation.

At the community college where we currently work, an enrollment review team is responsible for meeting with prospective students who have violent felony histories that have been identified as being a risk to the rest of the student population or having particular challenges to assimilating to the college environment. This enrollment review team is housed in the student life department but includes staff from many areas including counseling, public safety, advising services, career services, and student conduct. This team meets weekly with identified prospective students along with a panel of three staff members: a facilitator from student conduct, a representative of the behavioral interventional team, and a member of student services. The goal of this panel is to both determine threat assessment and to help with any obstacles students may encounter once they are admitted. The panel has the opportunity to admit students immediately, to defer admittance to a later date, and/or to provide students with important resources to help make their transition easier.

In 2012-2013, only 7.4% of those interviewed by the college’s enrollment review team had their admission deferred based on the interview. While securing acceptance to the college provides students with access to education, additional challenges generally follow as the student explores career options and opportunities for growth and leadership. These experiences, while commonplace for the traditional college student, present exponential hurdles for restored citizens.

At our institution, departments have specifically identified obstacles for this group of students and have taken steps to provide support for these students in overcoming their challenges. The career services office has developed specific resources for these students including “10 Steps for an Effective Job Search” and a guide to restricted and sensitive occupations for restored citizens. Career Services also keeps a list of community resources that can help facilitate a restored citizen’s transition into the college and work environment. Advising Services has also taken proactive steps by gathering information about majors, such as allied healthcare and education, which often require background checks and will be nearly impossible for a student with a criminal background to pursue. Likewise, Advising Services maintains strong relationships with academic programs that can accommodate those with felony histories. Represented on the enrollment review team, Advising Services also serves as an important connector to support services that promote success such as tutoring services, disability services, mental health counseling, and community resources.

In 2012, a report released by the U.S. Department of Education highlights additional barriers that impact a restored citizen’s ability to gain or complete post-secondary education upon release. While many prison facilities offer education programs through community college partnerships, previously incarcerated individuals may experience issues regarding credit articulation, repeated withdrawals due to relocation within the prison system, and unfamiliarity with current technology. The report also highlights the importance of immediate support upon release to ensure individuals are linked with pathways to complete their education and notes that gaps between prison education experiences and post-release coursework may impact persistence. Other recommendations include aligning prison education programs with current workforce needs, as well as utilizing universally accepted assessments and curriculum whenever possible to ensure applicability after release.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

In addition to serving significant numbers of restored citizens, community colleges also regularly provide education pathways to individuals with unique international backgrounds. Within the last year, our college has watched closely as legislation related to undocumented individuals has evolved. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security released a process by which undocumented individuals brought to the United States as children may apply for deferred deportation. This status, known as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) allows individuals to apply for a two-year deferred action window, during which they may pursue employment, job training, or post-secondary education. While qualifications and regulations related to DACA are stringent and do not provide a pathway to citizenship, it is renewable and allows undocumented individuals to pursue a college education. For obvious reasons such as cost, accessibility, and decreased time to degree, community colleges are a likely option for many students in DACA status (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, 2012).

Surprisingly, many young individuals who qualify for DACA realize they are undocumented rather suddenly. Since the United States does not restrict undocumented children from receiving a K-12 education, some individuals brought to this country as young children have been completely integrated into United States schools and may even hold high school diplomas from a United States high school. While applying for college, attempting to fill out federal financial aid paperwork, or pursuing employment, individuals may suddenly become aware of their status as an undocumented individual at risk of deportation. For these students and others, DACA provides a window of opportunity.

Like many community colleges, our institution is quickly responding to the student support needs of this growing population. Providing DACA students access to the opportunities available to them at our community college is inherently tied to the institution’s mission to educate, inspire, and provide students with the opportunity to achieve their goals. In autumn 2013, the college began offering in-state tuition to students in DACA status, who had previously been required to pay out-of-state tuition in order to attend. While individuals in DACA status are generally ineligible for financial aid, this change in tuition structure puts a pathway to education or training within affordable reach.

While some undocumented students eligible for DACA status are reluctant to identify themselves, our college received 80 student applications coded as DACA. Just over half of these students registered and paid in-state tuition. In order to respond to the unique cultural, emotional, and support needs of this population, the college created a DACA resource group composed of staff and faculty from various academic and student service departments. Meeting monthly, the group focuses on policies and best practices related to students in DACA status, as well as efforts that bring awareness to faculty and staff.

This cross-functional team has also created a website for prospective and current DACA students. The website will help bring awareness to the college’s in-state tuition option and also includes information about the enrollment process, scholarships, local resources and community groups. In addition, the DACA resource group is in the process of creating a survey to hopefully identify the unique needs of this student population and draw conclusions about how the college can best serve them.

Similar to the restored citizen population at many community colleges, DACA students will face barriers to their academic goals as well. With many programs requiring background checks, social security numbers, and proof of citizenship, DACA students often find themselves extremely limited in their educational options. While DACA defers action against undocumented individuals for two years, they may apply for renewal and eventually secure United States citizenship.  However, pursuing and completing any program with such restrictions will prove challenging in the given timeframe.


Community colleges are and always have been well positioned to serve students from nearly any imaginable background, ability level, and socioeconomic rung. Open enrollment institutions seem to reflect and magnify the unique situations that exist within our communities and country, and yet provide an accessible step for growth and progress.

Perhaps one of the most fascinating details about working within this setting is the responsiveness to which two-year colleges respond to the world as it knocks on the door.  Regularly, community colleges establish quick and thoughtful changes of course in order to respond to a community need, a workforce niche, or a changing social trend. The work is challenging yet rewarding, and provides a front row seat to watch individuals transform and grow and learn.

In our advising office, our team is surprised daily by students’ stories and the intricate details of their lives. Their paths to education are often winding, filled with barriers to overcome, and yet open to possibility. Often, the motivation of students from the restored citizen and DACA populations, among others, is astounding and focused. These students, in many cases, have climbed emotional, academic, social, and economic mountains to arrive at our doorsteps, and yet our focus as staff, faculty, and administrators should find inspiration in the fact that they chose the path in the first place.

Surely that kind of motivation can be harnessed to move an individual forward, providing we match it with a desire to understand, evolve, and develop as the professionals who support them.

Discussion Questions

  1. From your current vantage point (faculty, staff, administrator, student), what do you believe the top five challenges are for individuals seeking education after incarceration?  For students in DACA status?
  2. Often, individuals seeking DACA status may feel conflicted about reporting personal information about the immigration status of their family.  How might this process impact an individual’s transition to college student?
  3. How can colleges help both restored citizens and DACA students research career options, some of which may be limited to them?
  4. Many formerly incarcerated individuals are drawn to two-year or community college as a first step in their educational paths.  Do you believe that this is the best first step for a restored citizen?  Why or why not?  How might individuals with a criminal background experience their transition to a four-year institution?


Columbus State Community College (n.d.) Deferred action for childhood arrivals. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education. (n.d.). A reentry education model: Supporting education and career advancement for low-skilled individuals in corrections. Washington, D.C., 2012: Tolbert.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (n.d.) Deferred action for childhood arrivals. Retrieved 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.

Frome the Editor: Let Us Be

Paul Eaton

Let us be Vulnerable

Before I preview the thought-provoking scholarship present in this issue of Developments, I wanted to follow the advice of Dr. Brene Brown, who many of us will see next week in Indianapolis in the featured HEd Talk Speakers Sessions.  The advice is to be vulnerable; to let ourselves be fully seen so we may invite into our lives love, connection, and authenticity.

The past few months, I have observed in those around me a bit of struggle. I have noticed a bit of struggle in myself as well. This is not struggle brought on by the “polar vortexes” of the current endless winter many across the United States are feeling, or the monotonous and unrelenting pressures to perform, produce, write, program, assess, report, strategically plan, continuously problem solve, present, exercise, parent, and serve many of us balance in our day-to-day lives.

I believe it is a struggle of disconnection. Our disconnection is ironic in world of hyper-connectivity ushered in by digital technological advances. But I think this disconnection is real. I know it feels that way for me sometimes. I feel disconnected from my close friends and family who are geographically dispersed across the globe. I feel disconnected from students who rarely stop to have a conversation. I sometimes feel disconnected from my scholarship and work, getting lost in the dark tunnel of wondering what it all means, if others will find it important, or if ultimately it will really make a difference.

This is why Convention season is my favorite time of year. Like the spring budding up from the ground after a long winter, Convention always invites us to renew and refresh our connection to the profession, to our work, to our students, to our scholarship, and to each other. Convention plants new seeds: ideas, hopes, inspiration, and waters the connections we all collectively share to each other as members of ACPA – College Student Educators International and the world of higher education, student learning, and global change.

I hope that as we convene next week in Indianapolis we will take time to let ourselves be genuinely seen by colleagues and the world.  I hope that as Dr. Brene Brown instructs us, we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. To have genuine conversation, not just about our year of successes or our hopes for the upcoming year or years, but also about our failures, our challenges, our struggles.  I hope we doing this individually, but I also hope that our Association does this.  It is our 90th year, and I believe that Associations, as much as individual people, can be vulnerable.  This will allow the emergence of the love, creativity, empathy, and connections necessary to carry the Association forward. Reinvent. You. Us.

Let us be Grateful and Thankful

In my last column, I reflected on the importance of being grateful, thankful, and recognizing the contributions of those around us who make our work possible. I want to continue this trend in this issue with a few special notes of thanks.

  • Dr. Kathleen Kerr: Dr. Kerr officially ends her term as President at the Indianapolis Convention. Thank you for your service to our profession, and for helping guide our Association through planning our course for the future, including work in selecting our new Executive Director Dr. Cynthia Love.
  • Dr. Greg Roberts: I have never known ACPA – College Student Educators International without Dr. Roberts as our Executive Director. That will either make Dr. Roberts feel like he has been doing this too long, or still makes me a newbie.  We have much to be thankful for as an Association.  As Dr. Roberts departs us later this year for new adventures, I hope we all will share with him the profound impact he has had on our lives.  Thank you for your service Dr. Roberts.
  • Colin Redick & Jon Gilmore: ACPA has a new website. If you have ever worked on website conversions, you know how tremendously difficult they can be. Let us thank Colin, Jon, and the many other International Office Staff who have helped to move our Association forward in web presence.

Issue Overview

In this issue of Developments, we have two invited special contributions that allow us to continue reflecting on the role of ACPA – College Student Educators International in addressing the needs of students and a dynamic changing world.  Brian Reece reflects on the history and future of ACPA in the work of Equity and Inclusion, specifically asking how we turn our work as professionals into problem-posing work.  Danielle Alsandor discusses the shifts in technology that have already and will continue to greatly influence the work we do with students in the 21st century.

We begin a new three-part series focused on the role Global Education in the 21st century.  The authors begin their series by questioning the structuring of 21st century curricula and the need for more multidisciplinary and omnidisciplinary approaches to student learning. Further, the authors continue the call for merging the work of the curricular and co-curricular in higher education.  In many ways, as we reflect on this first article, we should also think through the structures of our own divisions of student affairs, and how to make our own work more multidisciplinary.

Jason Lane discusses the possibilities of technology for creating virtual global studies experiences, in a piece that nicely complements the first part of our Global Education series.  In our Perspectives section, the conundrum facing student affairs professionals regarding technology is discussed, with viewpoints on potential implications for best practice. As you can see, our profession is becoming more engaged in discourse surrounding the possibilities and limitations of the digital technological revolution.

Our other featured columns contain some outstanding scholarship about issues often not discussed in the literature. In this month’s two-year college column, Marisa Vernon discusses the role of community colleges in assisting students get an education that have prior criminal history (called restored citizens) or who are navigating the difficult legal terrain of DACA.  Neal Hutchens discusses our legal and ethical obligations as a profession, and as colleges and universities, in understanding the implications of outsourcing work.  These are fascinating articles – I encourage you to read them thoroughly.

Finally, Ann Gansemer-Topf discusses a topic of great importance for our profession: theory-to-practice. In this piece, she reflects on the challenges of moving from a practitioner to a scholar, and more importantly, the interconnections of our work and why teaching, studying, and thinking about theory remains important for emerging and continuing professionals.

Safe travels to Indianapolis!

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