Coming Home for the First Time: History, Family and University in Malta

Scott C. Brown
Mount Holyoke College

Colleges and universities provide a galvanizing backdrop where students continue to forge their personal identities. As an educator, I have assisted students on their journey towards greater self-knowledge, to help them discover who they are and how to frame that moving picture of their own evolving identities. I am able to assist them because I have come to a more nuanced understanding of this question in my own life, exploring life within the many hyphens that link my own multiple identities and roles. This holds true except for one aspect, the country of my mother’s origin: Malta. I have always had some envy when other educators could draw on their ethnic backgrounds to give them their own map and compass when working with students. Throughout my life I have felt the presence of that absence, looming large in the mythology of my own history.

Last summer, I delivered a paper and participated in a conference at Oxford. Going to England got me closer to my dream of going to Malta with my parents. I persuaded them to delay a long planned trip, so that we could see the island together. Given that my wife and I have three young children, it would be unlikely that I would be going to Europe under any other circumstances any time soon.

I knew this trip to Malta was to be a pilgrimage of sorts to find out what, I was not quite sure. But I did know that I would need to search within the web of history, family, and university.

Malta is not a country one hears about frequently. It is often left off of smaller maps and for the last 4 televised Olympics, one never saw the small but proud Maltese delegation (“Malawi, Mali…commercial break”). But it does flicker into consciousness every once in a while. Popeye, Cutthroat Island, Gladiator, and Troy were all filmed on the island. Yes, the Maltese Falcon is from here, a yearly tribute from the Knights of Malta to the King of Spain for the use of the island in the 16th century. I have no idea where the Maltese dog figures in.

Malta is approximately 60 miles south of Sicily, an archipelago of five small islands totaling just 122 square miles, about 1/10 the size of Rhode Island. However, because of its strategic location and deep natural harbors, Malta has been a critical player in world history, linking Europe and Africa and the East and the West. It has a Semitic language that bears the mark of those that have invaded or inhabited the island throughout the course of its long history, including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Arabs, Romans, Byzantines, Normans, Turks, French, and British. The Ggantija megaliths, massive stone structures, predate the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge. Saint Paul is believed to have been shipwrecked here.

Two great sieges have left an indelible mark on the Maltese people. The first was from the powerful Turks in 1568 and the second was from 1942-1945 when it was the most bombed country on earth during World War II. There is still a saying “O Turks” when individuals are being inconvenienced–hearkening back to the days when villagers would have to travel far to get behind the garrisons of the walled city of Mdina from yet another attack from Sulieman the Great. The Maltese were ill equipped to fight any opposing force that could launch such an offensive. Although they always fought fiercely, the Maltese have survived by their ability to accommodate the invaders without sacrificing their core identity. They are a gutsy, resilient, and improvisational people and no matter who comes to the island they remain Maltese. The ancient buildings that the island is centered upon stand as an accusation and affirmation to the Maltese, a testament to being both conquered and unconquerable. But history is more a reference point than a shackle, and the Maltese people keep their eyes squarely pointed towards the future.

Before this trip I had little contact with the Maltese side of my family. My mother and her family fled Malta after WWII, lived in Tunisia for two months, then immigrated to America. I met my Maltese grandfather once, and only saw my Maltese grandmother a handful of times. She didn’t speak much English, was 4’ 9”, could crush tennis balls with her old world strength, and used to go in our garden and pick snails for escargot (“Mom, what is ‘deadly pesticide’ in Maltese?”). Because my father is Jewish, my mother’s family did not approve of their marriage. To this day no one in Malta knows my mother converted to Judaism. When my grandmother visited us, my mother would take her to church everyday as if she were still a practicing Catholic.

With little biological family (my father never met his own father), we have much “chosen” family. As blessed as my “aunts” and “uncles” were and continue to be in my life, they could never fill my need for a larger past. Somehow I believed the island would connect and accept me into its ancient history. As a boy, my conceptions of the island were very much a romantic idealization (what if I were of royalty?). But as I grew older, I simply hoped Malta could be a balm to my lingering affliction of rootlessness. What did it mean? What did it mean to me?

Despite having little connection with the island, I was reminded of being Maltese in one small way, my appearance. Because I am straight out of central casting for ‘dark males of indeterminate origin’, I have always vaguely reminded people of someone else they know. Sometimes people wonder about my ethnicity-they have guessed everything from Arab, Latino, Italian, Greek, light-skinned African American, and given the location and history of the island, they are not too far off. I joked that any swarthy Mediterranean male with mid-digital hair could be my cousin. But, to be honest I had never seen anybody Maltese aside from my own family. So when our Air Malta flight touched down, I sort of expected all the people to look like a version of myself. I mean, the place is only 14 x 8 miles long. But it was staggering to see the diversity. Olive skinned people with light green or blue eyes, lighter skinned people with dark eyes, and everything in between.

When we arrived in the resort town of Sliema, we were greeted by my mother’s first cousins, who immediately set to taking care of us for the entire trip. They practically stopped their lives for the week we were there. On the first night there was a party with all of my family. Photo albums were taken out, and the room filled with laughter and a delightful euphony of joyous reunion and remembrance. Coming from a family where we were first-generation college students, my Maltese relatives are engineers, hotel managers, dentists, architects, and surgeons. One cousin self-published a treatise entitled Living and Meaning when he was 14. I learned my great-uncle Emmanuel was awarded Member of the British Empire for his work as the chief telecommunications officer on the island during WWII.

They took us swimming in the pool blue waters off the island of Comino, introduced us to Maltese cuisine of pastizzi (pockets of phylo dough stuffed with ricotta), ftira (sandwiches of fresh Maltese bread, capers), aljotta (fish soup),fenek (rabbit), bragioli (beef olive), gbejna (homemade pepper cheese) and drinking Kinnie, a local soft drink made with oranges and spices.

Through our family, I learned much about my mother and the context where she grew up. They helped fill in blanks that were never explained, or underscored what was less understandable before the trip. I learned because of the war, my mother did not attend school until 5th grade. I learned she still won’t eat dark bread in Malta because it reminds her of the dirt they put into the bread to create more sustenance during the war. She is terrified of birds because the shadows they cast trigger memories of bombers. I learned what it was like to live with constant hunger. She recalled with shame how her grandmother called her into her bedroom to tell her that she was very ill and may not live much longer; my mom asked for her ration of bread. On our walks, my strong mother wept silently when we came to memorials. In the beginning of the trip there were so many monuments that I often hurried past them. They were still an abstraction. But I realized that they were her monuments, my monuments.

There were also many funny stories. When my father first visited Malta in 1961, people kept giving him whisky, their impressions of America shaped by John Wayne westerns. On their last visit to Malta, my parents went to my great-grandmother’s home. As they approached the front door, a very old man sitting across the alleyway bolted from his chair and asked my mother: “Are you Fabiola from New York?” He wagged a finger at her and said, “You stole fruit from me 50 years ago!!” I visited the church in my mother’s village of Balzan. When she was a girl she would knock on the parish priest’s bi-sected door and hold the top side so when he would open it up, he would invariably smack himself in the head. The same priest would continually hear about my mother’s pranks in confession eventually telling her, “If you would stop doing that to me you would have to come in here less often.”

My visit with my relatives was extraordinarily ordinary. I was accepted for no other reason than I was family, and they didn’t understand why I was so grateful. It was what families do. My genetics were my access pass, instantly unlocking the wonders of the island. They were genuinely concerned we spent so little time on the island, and they made me promise I would bring Anne-Marie, my wife, and the kids next time. Before I came here, I never believed I would return. Now I know I must.

Before coming to Malta, I did not know quite how to reach out to others that were Maltese. Would I just start accosting strangers once I arrived? What would I say? So I figured if I couldn’t immediately connect as Maltese, perhaps I could as a colleague. Not that I had ever had a connection with my profession and my background before. There has been little groundswell or legitimate need for Maltese Student Unions (or advisors) on our American campuses, and I have never seen caucuses, standing committees, or commissions in our national associations.

Before I left for Malta I looked on the University of Malta website, and to my surprise, they have functions within the institution that are very similar to our student services. Just before I left, I sent a note saying that I was a Maltese-American administrator who would love to chat with anyone who had a moment to speak with me. Once in Malta, I had one shot during my visit to get to the University. I took a vintage bus to the village of Msida. Although this campus was built in 1968, the University dates back to 1592 as the Collegium Melitense, where it is still located within the walled capitol of Valletta. After following a student up the hill to the campus, I found myself in the middle of registration. I am not sure what I was expecting, but seeing the long line of anxious incoming students and their expectant parents, I could have been in Massachusetts as easily as Malta.

As they were closing up to leave for the day, I met Nadia, an advisor in Students’ Advisory Services. After quickly explaining why I was there, she caught Manwel the director, and Noel, another advisor, to chat with me. In Students’ Advisory Services, a two-room office, they cover academic advising and increasingly do career counseling. Because of registration they had to unplug their phones so they could get through the long student lines without interruption, and worked from early morning into the afternoon without even a bathroom break. This was possibly the worst time for an “I happened to be in the country so I dropped by” visit, but they were gracious and patient with all of my questions.

Mercifully, we had much in common. The university currently has 8000 students, a ten-fold increase from 800 students only 15 years ago. They lamented not having enough staff, and the low status that they had where the professors have all of the resources. I was going to tell them that in America student affairs is at the center of the institution, and faculty spend much time wringing their hands wondering why we don’t respect them-but I figured the joke would get lost in the translation. We talked about assessing outcomes, and I shared some strategies for collaborations and creating more powerful learning environments. Throughout this conversation, I couldn’t believe I was talking about student affairs 6,000 miles away in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.

It is now fall and the students have returned. As a student of my own history, I have returned as well. It is difficult to help a student answer the question, “Who are you?” if you cannot answer, “Who am I?” My visit to Malta allowed me to question the evolving answer of where I came from- to discover my past, and have my past discover me.

Journal of the Minnesota College Personnel Association

Journal of the Minnesota College Personnel Association

Interview with Daniel Macari, Editor

This fall marks the launching of the Journal of the Minnesota College Personnel Association. The journal states that its purpose is to “…provide opportunities for professional development through communication and sharing of ideas among practitioners within the state of Minnesota….” This is a celebratory occasion as the journal is one of the first among the ACPA state/international divisions. Developments took a moment to interview Dr. Daniel Macari, editor of the new journal. Daniel is a faculty member in the Department of Counselor Education and Educational Psychology at St. Cloud State University.

Q: What was the inspiration for the journal?
A: As a new member to the MCPA board, and as the faculty liaison, I was looking for ways to have a larger impact on the organization. The journal seemed to be a wonderful publication opportunity for MCPA members, as well as statewide student affairs practitioners and faculty. It also seemed appropriate in my role as a faculty liaison that a faculty member lead this effort. The idea was vetted among the organization last fall and received tremendous support from MCPA. The goal was to have the first issue published by early fall 2005. T. Todd Masman, then-president of MCPA and current MCPA president, Lisa Mueller were key players in seeing that the publication became a reality for the organization.
Q: Does the journal have a particular focus?
A: Not right now. Presently, any topic that might be of interest to practitioners or faculty members working in Minnesota is considered for the journal. There might be in the future a theme or special focus for an issue.
Q: Will it be readily available to ACPA members?
A: Yes. The idea was first to have it be an online journal. A hard copy for MCPA members was produced as a way to introduce the journal at this year’s state conference. The journal is now available online for free, so anyone can download the first issue. I’m happy to report that the reception to the journal has so far been positive. Right now the plan is for the journal to be published twice a year and posted to our state division website where it can be viewed and downloaded by anyone. Because the journal was so well received at the conference, we are talking about making hard copies available to MCPA members on a regular basis.
Q: What gap do you think this journal fills?
A: That’s a good question. This journal provides a publication opportunity for student affairs practitioners, particularly those enrolled in master’s program. Also, the state is large and “frontier-like” so the journal enhances communication between folks in different parts of the state.
Q: Does it focus solely on research?
A: No, it doesn’t – it’s a real mix of research, book reviews, best practices, etc.
Q: Can anyone submit articles and, if so, how?
A: The submission guidelines are restricted to professionals currently working in the state. The guidelines are posted on the MCPA website. Again, this reflects our desire to make this a publishing opportunity for those in the state of Minnesota.
Q: Any advice MCPA would like to give to other state CPA’s thinking of doing something similar?
A: Yes, try to get faculty involved. The faculty connections are important particularly for motivating graduate students to publish. Oftentimes, faculty are not as closely connected to the state CPAs so an idea such as this works well for connecting both scholars and practitioners in the field. Give it a chance and it can be a success.

For anyone interested in reading and/or downloading the Journal of the Minnesota College Personnel Association, please visit

From One Dupont Circle: Quarterly Update

You have made it to the half way mark!

Fall 2005 opening is a memory and the anticipation of finals and the accomplishments of completing the first semester for the class of 2009, reflects the hard work and dedication to a talented group of educators – college student educators!

Thank you for your devotion and attention to the needs of so many students and others in the university community. I extend a special thanks to the many campuses that came to the “rescue” of our colleagues from the Gulf Coast Region following the natural disasters of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In addition to the routine task of the fall, college campuses across the country (and beyond) offered assistance to students, support to faculty and administrators, and prayer for the loss of life and property. What a small world in which we live and these natural disasters are evident of our dependency on one another for survival. This recognition is something we must continue to instill in our students and reinforce by our actions with one another.

“Together we can accomplish everything”

Other activity of the Association this fall focused primarily on the work of our two appointed task forces:

  1. Certification – Under the leadership of Dr. Merrylee Dunn (GA) and Dr. Kent Porterfield (MO) this group continue to assess the results of the survey from the membership that emphasized a need for intentionally structured professional development that might lead to a professionally certified credential or transcript. More information is forthcoming as the Task Force continues their work throughout this academic year.
  2. Governance – Under the leadership of Dr. Patty Perillo (MD) the diverse group of association members have advanced their work following a three-day retreat and numerous conference calls, looking at ways the Association can conduct its business in a more efficient and “nimble” governance structure. This group intends to present a model (s) for membership reaction at the Annual Convention in Indianapolis.
  3. ACPA Educational Leadership Foundation (ELF) – Under the leadership of Dr. Leila Moore (NH), former ACPA president and currently President of the Board of Trustees of the ACPA ELF, the ELF Board of Trustees are currently attempting to re-engineer the Foundation to strategically identify means to increase revenue in support of ACPA’s strategic goals. Many Association members have been invited to participate in focus groups held throughout the east coast this fall. I thank you for sharing your honest thoughts and concerns related to fundraising challenges facing higher education and our Foundation. The current ELF Board of Trustees will hold their annual orientation of new Board members and their next planning session in January 2006.
  4. State/International Divisions – Under the leadership of Dr. Ann Groves Lloyd (WI), this group continues to encourage and support quality professional development conferences, workshops and seminars throughout the country. I have had the pleasure to attend several state conferences and am most impressed with the quality of programs with specific emphasis on how these organizations welcome new state educators at these events. Many educators find the state meeting to be their only opportunity to interact with other colleagues away from campus. I encourage continued support and appreciation to each state and to our international division in the Caribbean.
  5. 2006 Convention – Dr. Boyd Yarbrough (SC) and the Convention planning team is in the thick of planning what will be the professional development extravanzga of the year in the NEW Indianapolis. The theme, “Making a Difference in the Lives of Students” will set the stage for the exchange of ideas, theories, and practices in our profession. Mark your calendars for March 18-22, 2006 to join us there. If you have not been to Indianapolis in the past eight to ten years, you are in store for a real treat. The downtown of Indianapolis has been completely transformed into a modern, accessible, destination site for visitors (downtown city center shopping mall), conventioneers (new convention center), sports fans (NCAA headquarters) and educators in particular (the huge downtown campus of Indiana University – Purdue University at Indianapolis and other higher education campuses in and near the city).

This is just a brief snapshot of the many events that occurred since we last communicated. A special thanks to the many state divisions who have held conferences this fall. I had the opportunity to attend a few and the quality and resourcefulness of the state leadership is admirable.

Until next time,


Hummingbirds and Hurricanes

Jane Fried
Chair of the Ethics Committee, Associate Professor
Central Connecticut State University

The hardest part of handling an ethical dilemma is knowing that you’re having one. Harry Canon, former Chair, ACPA Ethics Committee

This past summer as I sat on my patio watching the hummingbirds dive bomb their feeder, I began to wonder how so many of them lived in the woods near my home without being visible. After looking carefully into the foliage, I was able to pick out a few of the most obvious hummingbirds lining up for a drink, but I was also amazed at how quickly they disappeared into the background once they were satisfied. Shortly afterward, we experienced two overwhelming, mind-boggling hurricanes, Katrina and Rita. The contrast between hurricanes and hummingbirds moved into my awareness. Nobody in the country could escape the information about the hurricanes, the human and physical catastrophe, the confusion, the suffering and the muddled attempts to address an issue that was apparently bigger than all of our human service agencies could have imagined. Hummingbirds are easy to miss and hard to see. Hurricanes knock us over and keep us down for a long time. The size of most ethical dilemmas seems closer to a hummingbird than a hurricane. The question for student affairs practitioners becomes “How do we learn to notice the hummingbirds?”

We are used to thinking about the five ethical principles first articulated by Kitchener (1985), but less familiar with the ethical virtues of our profession (Meara, Schmidt & Day, 1996). We need to know about these ethical principles when we become aware of an ethical dilemma. We need to use the ethical virtues every day of our lives. The development of those virtues allows us to see less visible but equally significant dilemmas.

Virtues are habits of behavior and thought. They represent our default approach to handling whatever issues face us in the course of our work, the attitudes and personality characteristics that we typically use in addressing professional issues. For helping professionals there are four primary virtues which serve as the foundation for our work with others – prudence, integrity, respectfulness and benevolence. Prudence and integrity are considered “self-regarding” virtues; respectfulness and benevolence are “other” regarding virtues.

Self-regarding virtues: Prudence, the first self-regarding virtue, suggests that we should develop the habit of moving slowly and thinking carefully when dealing with difficult ethical situations. Anyone in student affairs who is called upon to help resolve student or staff conflicts can easily see the power of prudence in carrying out this responsibility. A conflict that only has two sides is generally a simple conflict. Most conflicts have as many sides to them as there are stakeholders. When the student center staff holds its scheduling meeting to consider conflicting requests for major events requiring large amounts of time, space and student support, a great deal of information must be considered prudently before decisions are made. When a student charges another student with assault and nobody observed the incident, but both students are bruised, prudence is required when deciding appropriate penalties. Prudence, when managing conflicts, generally involves careful examination of evidence, awareness of various perspectives on any issue, exploration of values and principles that may be involved and refusal to be pressured into an expedient but unfair resolution.

Prudence, used over an extended period of time, leads the way toward personal integrity, a sense that the ethics and judgment of the decision-maker are consistent. Integrity also implies that the decision-maker has an internal anchor, a set of principles and standards by which judgments and actions are evaluated. A person with integrity can be trusted by the students who work with her or him because they will not experience drastic differences in value criteria from one situation to another. A person with integrity treats everyone with fairness and thoughtfulness even when circumstances differ and the details vary. If a person behaves with integrity, the reasons for different judgments under different circumstances are clear and transparent.

Other regarding virtues: Respectfulness and benevolence are the two “other regarding” virtues. Other regarding virtues are oriented toward creating good for people in the community or client population which the professional person serves. Learning to treat other people with respect has become challenging because ideas about respect vary from culture to culture. On our campuses we have students and staff from all over the world. Behavior which is respectful in one culture can be construed as disrespectful by people from another culture. Male/female handshaking as a form of greeting is respectful in the US, but is considered rude and unacceptable to people who are observant Muslims. For Americans it is respectful to begin a meeting promptly (when the time on the clock conforms with the time announced for the meeting), to conduct business with little personal conversation, even though attendees are often addressed by first names. In other cultures, particularly those where relationships are very important and age is a mark of rank, meetings may begin later than the announced time, with inquiries about family and the welfare of the participants. People may expect to be addressed by title or family name. It is not unusual to have people with differing sets of expectations about respect in the same meeting trying to move toward a common goal. Even when the virtue of respect is shared, the details of cross-cultural respect must be learned.

The Golden Rule, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, now has a corollary, Do unto others as they would be done unto. In other words, we have all had to learn to treat others in the way that they consider respectful, not necessarily in the way that we consider respectful. This particularly extends to the issue of including family and accepting many definitions of family. US law defines an adult as a person over the age of 18 but in many cultures that distinction is meaningless as long as the student is not married. For those students, there is an ethical issue to be untangled when it comes to deciding whether or not to include parents in some conversations. Another issue of respect is generational. Students who live in an IM, text message world, may not have the same idea of how to approach a receptionist or speak to an administrator who grew up in a face to face, complete sentence, “Hello, how can I help you?” world. Students may act in a manner that seems appropriate to them and yet be perceived as disrespectful by those whose services they are seeking. There is certainly a large amount of overlap between cultures and generations when it comes to respect, but it is prudent not to take anything for granted.

Benevolence is intertwined with respect. Benevolence involves taking the other person’s wellbeing into account. Benevolence suggests “opening ourselves to many others, to family, to friends and even to strangers, forming genuine and deep bonds based on our common humanity” (Dalai Lama, 1998, p.84). When we are able to find our common humanity, regardless of perceived rudeness or communication difficulties, we can develop benevolence. We can begin to realize that a remark that might hurt another person, if aimed toward us, would also be hurtful. Cultivating the virtue of benevolence leads inevitably to the development of respect. If I care about a person’s well-being and I unintentionally act in a disrespectful manner, I will be able to apologize and change my behavior out of consideration for the other person. Their welfare becomes more important than my loss of “face.”

Virtues are formed after a great deal of practice. In the midst of a crisis a person’s character comes to the fore, and their behavior reflects their habitual responses and thought processes. The cultivation of the ethical virtues allows us to “see” the hummingbird sized dilemmas and to respond appropriately. A prudent person does not worry about jumping to conclusions in a difficult situation and then making the wrong choice. A person with integrity is fairly predictable and students and colleagues know that he or she can be trusted. A benevolent person doesn’t take advantage of another person or humiliate others even if they have done something wrong or offensive, or broken a rule. A benevolent person habitually treats others with respect. The cultivation of virtues takes a long time, and the road is filled with missteps. Nevertheless, it’s the virtues that let us know when a hummingbird is in the area. If we take care of the hummingbirds, we’ll be able to figure out what to do about the hurricanes when the need arises.


  • Dalai Lama & Cutler, H. (1998). The art of happiness. NY: Riverhead Books.
  • Fried, J. (2004). Ethical standards and principles. In S. Komives & D. Woodard (Eds.) Student services: A handbook for the profession (pp. 107-127). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
  • Kitchener, K. (1985) Ethical principles and ethical decision-making in student affairs. In H. Canon and R.D. Brown (Eds.), Applied ethics in student services. New Directions for Student Services, 30, San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
  • Meara, N., Schmidt, L., & Day, J. (1996). Principles and virtues: A foundation for ethical decisions, policies and character. Counseling Psychologist, 24, 4-77.

From the Editor

From the Editor

In this issue you will hear a fresh new voice in our legal issues section. Jason Lane, Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of North Dakota joins Developments as an author for our Legal Issues column. He has agreed to share this responsibility with Robert Hendrickson who continues to write two articles each year. Dr. Lane has agreed to write the other two articles. His first article provides new information on file-sharing at college and universities. Please take a look.

In addition to his piece, Greg Roberts provides his quarterly report. Jane Fried provides a thoughtful look at ethical virtues. Scott Brown offers a personal reflection about his Maltese identity and Developments interviewed Daniel Macari, editor of the new Journal of the Minnesota College Personnel Association. Enjoy the articles and have a safe winter.

Colleges, Courts, Congress, and Napster: Student Affairs’ Role in Reducing Illegal Copyright Piracy

Jason E. Lane
Assistant Professor
University of North Dakota

Colleges and universities remain at the epicenter of the file sharing movement, and thus at the heart of concerns regarding copyright infringement and piracy. College students created file sharing software such as Napster and i2hub. Postsecondary institutions number among the most networked organizations in the world and provide access to millions of colleges students, with limited oversight as to how students use these networks. Further, college students are arguably one of the most egregious groups of current copyright violators in the United States. In 2002 downloading music from the internet was an almost exclusively illegal activity as legal alternatives were only in their infancy. A 2002 study by Pew’s Internet and American Life Project found that college students had a significantly higher propensity for downloading music from the internet than any other group of internet users (Jones, 2002).

Recent legal and political developments suggest that file sharing on college campuses remains a primary issue of concern for many of higher education’s external stakeholders. Campus based piracy has been the focus of Congressional hearings since Napster first attracted public attention. In 2002 higher education and recording industry officials formed the Joint Committee of the Higher Education and Entertainment Communities “as a way to help combat copyright piracy on campuses nationwide” (Boliek, 2005). In one of the more aggressive moves by Congress, Reps. Lamar Smith (R, TX) and Howard Berman (D, CA), indicated that they would request that the General Accounting Office (GAO) investigate college and university anti-piracy policies and provide a “ranking” [check] of their effectiveness. The signals from Congress suggest a growing external desire for colleges to take responsibility for the illicit uses of their campus networks.

Interestingly, such expectations extend far beyond requirements of federal statutes, which protect universities from being held liable for activities engaged in by users of their networks, so long as the university abides by a set of minimal reporting, monitoring, and educative requirements (see Hawke, 2004; Hendrickson, 2004; and Lane & Hendrickson, in press for detailed discussions of institutional safe harbor requirements). However, some universities have begun to set expectations for institutions by engaging in high profile activities such as partnering with providers of legal, digital downloads of music. Pennsylvania State University began the movement in 2003 by partnering with Napster and as of September 2005, nearly 70 institutions had entered into similar partnerships. Another preventive measure recently attracting media attention is the University of Florida’s controversial filtering software: Icarus. UF officials attest to the software eliminating a vast majority of illegal file sharing on their networks, but critics believe the software unfairly restricts students’ privacy and the “student newspaper referred to Icarus as ‘invasive’ and ‘evil’” (Read, 2005b).

The battle over campus-based internet privacy is not only being waged in Congressional hearing rooms, but also in the hallowed halls of the federal judiciary. Lawsuits and subpoenas, including the thousands filed by the Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA) and the Movie Picture Association of America (MPAA) against individual users, initially garnered a great deal of attention from the media and, as of January 2005, resulted in the identification of approximately 260 potential copyright infringers on 85 campuses (Read, 2005a).

Additionally, the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. et al. [MGM] v. Grokster Ltd, et al. (2005) brought additional public scrutiny to the file sharing debate. In this case, a group of copyright holders filed suit against companies that distribute free peer-to-peer [P2P] software (such as Morpheus and KaZaA). P2P software allows users to connect directly to each other’s computers to search for and download digital files such as documents, music, and movies. Evidence suggested that billions of files were transmitted across these networks each day and that most users of the software engaged in downloading illegal versions of copyrighted files. MGM and other copyright holders sought damages from these companies believing them to be liable for enabling the illegal activity. The Court acknowledged that the decentralized nature of the networks prevented the distributor from direct monitoring of the network and that the software could be used for non-infringing activity. However, the distributors of the software could be held liable for the illegal use of their software as they profited from the illegal activity on their networks and knowingly positioned themselves as alternatives to Napster, the original file sharing network. Such activities, the Court decided, indicated the distributors intended the software to be used for illegal purposes. The Court determined that many of the distributors of software designed for file sharing could be held liable for the copyright infringing activity engaged in by the users of the software.

Other than drawing attention to the issue of copyright violations and campus-based piracy, what is the meaning for student affairs practitioners? While the MGM v. Grokster (2005) has for the moment limited the availability of P2P software, the case has little direct legal impact on colleges and universities. Students do use campus networks to engage in infringing activities, but colleges and universities do not profit from the illegal behavior nor were the networks created to encourage illegal file sharing. As such, college and university legal liability does not necessarily increase due to this ruling. However, it does not mean that stakeholders will not expect aggressive institutional responses to piracy. Already, many campuses across the nation are assuming more active roles in confronting and preventing infringing activities.

While college and university legal requirements are limited, the issue raises a number of questions regarding the educational and ethical requirements of an institution. If there is a major outbreak of illegal activity on campus, how should a campus respond? What if there were some questions as to students’ awareness about the legality of their actions? What obligations do colleges and universities have toward developing good citizens and ethical leaders? As Rep. Lamar Smith stated in his opening remarks at a recent Congressional sub-committee hearing, “Universities have recognized that part of their educational mission is not only centered on turning out architects, lawyers, nurses, musicians, and economists. Their mission also includes creating well-rounded individuals with respect for others and the laws of our country.” If one believes the latter part of Smith’s statement to be true, then universities have an obligation not only to provide legal alternatives, but also to educate students about copyright law and the implications of their illegal activities.

Institutional responses garnering the most media attention are technological based such as making legal alternatives available to students and aggressively monitoring network activity; yet the most important responses fall to student affairs practitioners. While the aforementioned programs may change student behavior, they do not necessarily alter the mindset or moral development of students (Lane & Healy, 2005). One of the requirements for universities to be eligible for legal protection from liability is educating students about copyright law. While compliance could possibly be achieved with passive activities such as posting of flyers or inclusion of an informational statement in the student handbook, many institutions are viewing the educational requirement as an ethical responsibility and implementing more active educational measures. Some institutions make students complete a module and pass a quiz about copyright law before issuing them an e-mail ID and network access account. Others are supplementing their orientation activities with discussions of copyright law and appropriate use of campus networks, sharing time with such topics as appropriate alcohol use and campus safety.

In many ways, student governance organizations such as Student Government and Residence Hall Associations are also being included as key players in the development of institutional responses. As colleges and universities debate the provision of legal music and movie downloading services, campus administrators look to these organizations for support. In some cases, these organizations are being asked to approve fee increases to subsidize the expenses associated with offering services such as Napster, Cdigix, and Ruckus. As organizational advisors, it is important to be aware of the issues involved in the file sharing debate and help students process through the associated array of ethical grey areas.

Unlike some other issues where the law provides a clear path for institutions to follow, the legal components of the file sharing debate open the door for institutions to consider their obligations toward the development of the “well-rounded individual.” Should institutions merely provide legal alternatives to downloading? Without concurrent educational experiences, will students understand the legal and ethical concerns surrounding copyright violations? Will they return to illegal activity when the institution stops subsidizing the legal access to online music? As institutions develop responses to online piracy, administrators should consider more than simply the legal requirements, but also the responsibility they have for developing good citizens.

Brief Points for Administrative Contemplation

  • Become familiar with the legal requirements for educational institutions. Protect institutions from legal liability that could be incurred due to activity engaged in by individual users.
  • When developing institutional responses to campus-based digital piracy, consider the ethical and developmental responsibilities of educational organizations. Should the institution’s response be solely about altering illegal behavior or about developing ethical decision-makers and good citizens?
  • What role should organizations such as student government and the residence hall association play in creating the institutional response? Consulting with members of these groups could give you key insights about students’ current behavior and possible effectiveness of proposed responses. In the digital world, users’ trends and behaviors can change very quickly and students are often aware of these changes before staff and administrators.
  • Consider the possible precedents institutional responses may create. How far is the institution willing to go to monitor and alter student behavior? Will or should the same efforts be applied to other illegal or controversial student behavior?


  • Boliek, B. (2005, Sept. 22). Colleges offer legit downloads. Washington Post. Accessed on October 3, 2005 from
  • Hendrickson, R.M. (2004, summer). Students’ downloading of music creates legal issues. ACPA Developments. Accessed on October 4, 2005 from
  • Jones, S. (2002, September 15). The Internet goes to college: How students are living in the future with today’s technology. Washington, DC: Pew Internet and American Life Project. Retrieved January 15, 2005, from
  • Lane, J.E. & Healy, M.A. (In Press). File sharing, Napster, and institutional responses: Educative, developmental, or responsive policy? NASPA Journal.
  • Lane, J.E., & Hendrickson, R. M. (In Press). Digital copyrights and student file sharing: Educational responsibilities and legal liability for schools, colleges, and universities.West Education Law Reporter.
  • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. et al. v. Grokster Ltd., et al. 545 U.S. (2005).
  • Hawke, C. (2004). The P2P file sharing controversy: Should colleges be involved? (184 Ed. Law Rep. 681).
  • Read, B. (2005a, January 28). Is there a pattern to the music industry’s file sharing lawsuits? The Chronicle of Higher Education, p. A39.
  • Read, B. (2005b, September 23). Lawmakers will seek a federal study of colleges’ success at stopping file swapping. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Accessed October 3, 2005 from

Expanding Access to Study Abroad for Disadvantaged Students

The United States has long been the largest receiver of international students, dominating about 20% of the global market.  However, the country has not been as successful in terms of sending students abroad.  According to data collected by the Open Doors report, only about 1% of all United States college students study abroad during their collegiate experience. Granted, the number of Americans studying abroad has increased nearly threefold in the last two decades, rising from fewer than 100,000 students in the early 1990s to nearly 300,000 today.  But, the number remains proportionally tiny and the opportunity to study abroad remains closed off to a vast majority of students, particularly those from minority and disadvantaged backgrounds.  Figure 1 shows the racial disparities that exist in the U.S. study abroad population, with significantly fewer African American/Black and Hispanic/Latino students studying abroad than represented in the larger student population.  Studying abroad can have many benefits for students and there are ways to expand access for those academically and economically disadvantaged.

Figure 1: Percent of U.S. Study Abroad Students by Race/Ethnicity, 2012-2013

Source: Data comes from NASFA

Why Study Abroad?

Many who participate in a study abroad experience often describe it as life changing.  The opportunity to experience a different culture, interact with individuals from other countries, and overcome the challenges of living and studying abroad can bring a wide range of benefits. Surveys of those who have studied abroad suggest that studying abroad can advance one’s intercultural understanding, improve self-confidence, and become more self-aware.

Research also shows that the opportunity to study abroad is about more than providing students with an opportunity to experience a different culture, it has direct positive results on a student’s success in college and beyond.  Data from UC San Diego, UT Austin, and the University System of Georgia suggests that students who study abroad graduate at higher rates than those who do not.  Moreover, the Georgia report, which is based on a carefully designed 10-year study, found that study abroad had a positive effect on student GPA, particularly those students who entered college with low SAT scores.

Survey data from the United States and the United Kingdom also suggest that study abroad alumni believe that study abroad prepared them well for the workforce.  The findings of both studies revealed that college graduates who studied abroad were more likely to be employed within six months of graduating; more likely to work in a foreign country; and, for most areas of study, most likely to earn a higher wage than those who did not study abroad.

Expanding Access: An Exemplar Program

Given the important benefits accrued through study abroad, many colleges have been working to expand access to a broad range of students; however, the success of such efforts remains inconsistent.  One program of note is a collaborative effort between the Center for International Programs (CIP) and the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) at the State University of New York at New Paltz.  The winner of the Institute for International Education’s (IIE) 2015 Heiskell Award for outstanding study abroad program, the SUNY New Paltz collaborative brings together staff from the two different units to expand access to study abroad for students who are academically and economically disadvantaged.

EOP is a state-funded initiative to expand access and provide academic support for students who do not meet general admission requirements, but show potential for success.  To increase the number of EOP students who study abroad, the CIP and EOP staff work together to make EOP students aware of study abroad opportunities early in their educational experience.  The staff collaborates to advise students about financial matters, expectations, cross-cultural adjustment, and scholarship opportunities for study abroad by providing tutoring and financial resource.

Of particular note is that study abroad is embedded in the support work provided to disadvantaged students, reinforced by peers, and supported through scholarships.  In their first year, students in the EOP program are provided with an extra set of supports to bolster their academic success. As reported in their application for the award:

First-year EOP student seminars devote class time to international education opportunities, with assignments such as developing a four-year academic plan to include a study abroad experience.  First-year students attend special workshops during which returned EOP study abroad students speak to students about their experiences. The EOP study abroad liaison surveys students to gather data related to students’ needs, and the international center provides a writing tutor for students who need assistance with their scholarship essays for study abroad.

Beyond the academic support that is provided, the institution has also worked to identify funding to support the EOP students.  Since 2009, 30 EOP students have received funding from the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship fund, a national scholarship program supported by IIE to help students with financial constraints study in a foreign country.  Beyond the Gilman scholarship, 35 students have received funding from other national and institutional sources.

The results speak for themselves.  Since 2007, the CIP and EOP staff has collaborated to support more than 140 EOP students going abroad. Moreover, the six-year graduation rate for EOP study abroad participants is 96%, as compared to a 63% six-year graduation rate for EOP students who do not study abroad.  In fact, the six-year graduation rate of EOP students exceeds that of general admission study abroad students (89%).

Key Takeaways

The success of the efforts at SUNY New Paltz illustrate that it is possible to expand access to study abroad for underrepresented groups.  A key highlight about this program is that it is not a new program, per se; rather it was a new process that complemented the existing work of both offices.  Below is a distillation of some of the key takeaways that might help others replicate this success on their campuses.

Shared Vision

Having a shared vision or set of goals fosters shared commitment and helps focus and align activities.  A key component of the success of the New Paltz program is that there is a sense of a shared commitment to increasing the number of student from disadvantaged backgrounds studying abroad.  With the specific goal of increasing the number of EOP students who were studying abroad, all of the involved staff knew that their efforts needed to increase EOP student engagement.  In launching a similar initiative, there needs to be shared vision of what is to be accomplished and this vision needs to be communicated to all involved staff.

Expanding the Team

Complementary to having a shared vision is having a shared team.  One of the critical components of the success of this program is that there was a collective effort to achieve the vision.  Offices did not point fingers when it came to the responsibility for acting.  The directors and staff of both offices worked together and shared responsibility.

Mutually Reinforcing Activities

Because of the shared vision, the staffs at both CIP and EOP were able to create mutually reinforcing activities.  This did not require a great deal of additional effort; rather they had to think strategically about building in activities to their existing work that would drive forward the achievement of their goals.  This was about more than simply informing students of an opportunity.  This was about creating an entire set of activities that got them excited about studying abroad and provided supports to overcome the barriers (real and perceived) that might exist.

Measuring Outcomes 

Success builds success and the leadership at SUNY New Paltz wanted to ensure that the new efforts were actually producing the required outcomes.  As such, they developed mechanisms to track a variety of measures to determine not just whether they were achieving their immediate goal (i.e., increasing the number of EOP students studying abroad) as well as ancillary academic benefits such as improved GPAs and completion rates.  This demonstrated success makes it easier to justify additional resources for the program and the institution is now working to expand the model to develop collaborations with other offices that support disadvantaged students.

Tapping into Existing Funding

A common concern is that study abroad is financially out of reach for many students.  In response, there are a growing number of scholarships being made available to assist students with overcoming this hurdle.  The Gilman Scholarships, mentioned above, are just one example.  Others can be found here.  An important role of campus staff is to help students find the resources they need to make study abroad possible.

Discussion Questions

  1. How many students on your campus study abroad?  Are the demographics of the cohort of students studying abroad similar to the general campus population?
  2. What barriers exist on your campus for students to study abroad?  Do these barriers differ for different demographic groups?
  3. What data supports the existence of these barriers?  How might you obtain this data?
  4. Who should be responsible for expanding access to study abroad for underrepresented groups?
  5. Are there ways to leverage existing resources to support more students studying abroad, particularly those from underrepresented groups?
  6. What steps might you take tomorrow to initiate change?

About the Author

Jason E. Lane is Senior Associate Vice Chancellor and Vice Provost for Academic Planning and Strategic Leadership for the State University of New York as well as associate professor of educational administration and policy studies, and Co-Director of the Cross-Border Education Research Team (C-BERT) at the State University of New York, Albany.  He has been a member of the governing boards of the Comparative and International Education Society and the Council for International Higher Education and is an Associate of the International Association of Universities. He is currently a member of the governing board of SUNY Korea. His most recent books include Multi-National Colleges and Universities: Leading, Governing, and Managing International Branch Campuses (2010, Jossey-Bass); Universities and Colleges as Economic Drivers (2012, SUNY Press) and Academic Governance and Leadership in Higher Education (2013, Stylus Press).  

Please e-mail inquires to Jason E. Lane.

Follow him on Twitter at @ProfJasonLane


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

Technology in Student Affairs

Technology in Student Affairs

In every aspect of student affairs, technological events influence change. Almost every staff member uses a computer to improve communication, provide more effective management, gain knowledge, or provide information. Over the past several years websites have evolved from an “add-on” to an essential element for providing information and interacting with students. Today, websites are used to seek information, assess, and strategically evaluate and enhance programs and services. They are used as interactive tools for students and their parents/guardians. In 2004, campuses responded to the downloading of commercial music and videos, and in 2005 professional are reacting to “”. The need to explore the role and responsibility that student affairs professionals have in preparing students for acceptable online behavior in the classroom and workplace arises. New questions continue to emerge. Clarity and professional development is needed for those in our profession and institutions regarding issues related to technological topics such as ethics and online behavior, judicial sanction tracking, confidentiality and privacy, student clubs and organization support, and health and wellness information.

As time passes, the influence of technology within student affairs becomes clearer. Each of us sees, feels, and experiences this impact. However, the effect of this ever-changing technology on the transformation of our profession does not appear to be a paramount issue for many. Too many student affairs staff demonstrate a limited interest and minimal knowledge base for guiding how technology can best be used. Will we seize the opportunity to lead the future direction of our profession or will we allow others to make these important decisions for us? We are at a crossroad to determine if we will take the lead or be led. Action is essential during this crucial time.

Over the past several years, topics related to technology sporadically appeared at conferences and in discussions while an organized focus on the subject remained minimal. In January 2004, the Electronic Student Services Task Force (ESSTF) was established in ACPA to address issues related to technology. In spring 2004, professionals who attended selected sessions at the NASPA and ACPA annual conventions were asked about technology experiences on their campuses. The information was organized and included in a report to the ACPA Executive Board in July 2004. The ESS Task Force reported on the following trends and challenges: Online access to services overwhelmingly emerged as the most prominent topic about the use of technology within student affairs. The trends indicate that technology is being used to build community, for assessment, and improved communication. More advanced and blended technologies improve processes. Online information has become more dynamic and engaging, thus requiring more student and staff interaction. Student affairs professionals acknowledge several benefits from using technology, including the increased ability to get students involved and being able to provide more accurate and consistent information available at all times (American College Personnel Association, 2004, p. 2).

While most trends that were expressed by professionals promoted a positive reaction to technology, challenges incorporated a more negative response from the impact of technology. “The need for resources, improved staff technology skills, resistance to change, and fear were entwined with new concerns such as innovative methods for cheating, illegal downloading, and the loss of the personal touch [through face-to face meetings]. Professionals focused on the need for staff to use the technology available, to focus on student learning and development, and for administration support” (American College Personnel Association, 2004, p.2).

The ESSTF turned to ACPA, “as a vital organization that supports the student affairs profession, to develop and implement an effective plan to bring together experts and leaders in the field and to address, educate, and guide the path for innovative uses of technology” (American College Personnel Association, 2004, p.2). Understanding that the “findings showed that little was being accomplished to provide direction, planning, and sustainability for best practices and successful models for using and integrating technology within student affairs” (American College Personnel Association, 2005, p.1), the Executive Board responded favorably to the ESSTF report. A second report was presented to the Executive Board in January 2005 which focused on several recommendations and strategies to address technology issues.

At the 2005 ACPA conference, the Executive Board passed a motion to continue the ESSTF for another year in collaboration with the Commission on Administrative Leadership Technology Committee. Together, these two groups will work to establish effective means for professionals to discuss student affair trends, prioritize and categorize technology issues, discover educational opportunities related to these technology topics and issues, encourage research related to technology within student affairs, and report findings to the ACPA Executive Board.

To begin, professionals must move beyond their personal fears and phobias about technology. We are the “human element” that is driving technological change. We must begin to accept technology not only as a as “compelling force instigating movement and change” but also as “a mechanism humans use to move forward making ideas a reality” (Kleinglass, 2000, p.13). By understanding the role and the impact technology has on the actions, expectations, and behaviors of students, we can begin to guide the role of technology within student affairs and to influence the future path of the profession.

Today, technology-driven change impacts university activities including the development of community, sharing of experiences and learning (Duderstadt, Atkins, & Van Houweling, 2002). When professionals within student affairs accept the responsibility to act, they will become the leaders of the profession. Together, professionals on the task force and in the field can establish a meaningful foundation on which to build the future. Discussion on the impact and role of technology in student affairs can continue with a purposeful direction that benefits and strengthens the role of student affairs within educational institutions. Through this demonstration, administrators, faculty, and other members of the higher education community will increasingly be able to understand the important role of student affairs professionals to enhance student development, contribute to student learning, build upon the student experience, and suggest guidelines for training of new professionals.

Student affairs professionals are in an excellent position to lead, to take action, and to understand what is at stake. “[The] tools necessary for managing change might just lie somewhere in sociology, social psychology, cultural anthropology, economics, and organization theory” (Curry, 2002, p.128). Many student affairs professionals hold degrees in the humanities or social sciences and develop expertise in working with student populations. As experts in student and community development, student services, student communication, and student learning, we in student affairs must recognize our responsibility to advocate and to be a resource to understand, translate, guide, and incorporate the direction of technological change within the field, for today and for the future. Our responsibility to lead change becomes logical and necessary. We must face the questions about how to use technology to benefit students, incorporate the values of higher education, meet institutional goals, and enhance learning. We have to establish collaborative partnerships while advocating for student technological needs and expectations. We have a responsibility to ourselves, our profession and to students.

In the coming year, the Electronic Student Services Task Force will take steps to implement goals that provide venues for conversation on the impact of technology, now and in the future. How can we as professional increase our understanding of technological demands, functions, tools, and effectiveness? How can we seize educational moments and opportunities to use technology to improve student learning? How can we discover an effective balance between traditional face-to face communities and virtual communities? What are the professional competencies needed for students, staff, and new professionals? What do we need to know in order to build meaningful partnerships with administrators, faculty, and outside vendors? How can we take the lead for the destiny and direction of the profession?

Please join your ACPA colleagues; be proactive not reactive. Join the conversations and opportunities coming this year. Together, with guidance, commitment, and action from many of the experts in the field, we can affect the outcomes for the future. If you are interested in participating in the conversations or online meetings, or have suggestions, please send an email to [email protected].


  • American College Personnel Association. (2004, July). Report to the Executive Board from the Electronic Student Services Task Force. Washington DC: Author.
  • American College Personnel Association. (2005, January). Report to the Executive Board from the Electronic Student Services Task Force. Washington DC: Author.
  • Curry, J.R. (2002). The organizational challenge: IT and revolution in higher education. In R.N Katz & Associates (Eds.). Web portals and higher education: Technologies to make IT personal. (pp.125-138). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
  • Duderstad, J. J., Atkins, D. E., & Van Houweling, D., (2002). Higher education in the digital age: Technology issues and strategies for American colleges and universities. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.
  • Kleinglass, N. K. (2000). Addressing the reality of technology skills and competencies freshmen students use in their first year of higher education. D issertation Abstracts International (UMI No. 1042-7279).

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

A 21st Century Vision of Student Development Theory

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

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

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

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

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

Core Beliefs/Values

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

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

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

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

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

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

Principles Underlying Education, Training, and Professional Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended Actions

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

Theory Development

We recommend:

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

Theory-based Practice

We recommend:

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

Education, Training, and Professional Development

We recommend:

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

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

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

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

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

The Donna M. Bourassa Mid-Level Management Institute Experience

Mid-Managers. Are you one? Do you aspire to be one? If you answered “yes,” then ACPA’s Mid-Level Management Institute is just what you need!

This past January I had the opportunity to attend the Mid-Level Management Institute. I greatly anticipated what I would learn and whom I would meet, but I could not have predicted what I would take with me when I completed the experience. ACPA’s Mid-Level Management Institute is an excellent opportunity provided to help those mid-level professionals who want to strengthen their administrative skills and understand the ever-changing dynamics of our campuses and the profession. The Institute was renamed this year in honor of former ACPA Associate Executive Director Dr. Donna Bourassa, who established the Institute in 1999 as a way to ‘promote a more advanced understanding of the principles of student affairs and provide effective management tools to excel.’ This was the first institute that Donna did not physically attend as she had passed away the previous September. However, after hearing shared experiences by the long-time faculty in residence at the Institute, Donna was certainly there in spirit.

The Institute is grounded on several key areas: Building Foundations, Setting the Stage, Personnel and Professional Issues, Strategies for Enacting Change, and Continued Professional Development. In addition to classroom time, social time provided opportunities to interact with many of the approximately 35 nationwide participants. (Even Alaska!) What I enjoyed most about this experience was seeing that challenges affecting housing and residence life professionals also affect other student affairs professionals. Our faculty in residence was also a highly valuable programmatic component. These consummate professionals shared their experiences and wisdom with us as colleagues and mentors. Dr. Jill Carnaghi, Dr. Tom Jackson, Dr. Tim Pierson, Dr. Dawn Person, Dr. Vasti Torres, and Dr. Jacqueline Skinner helped our group navigate through subjects such as financial responsibility and management, the doctoral degree decision, keeping current with professional development opportunities, and avoiding burnout in the field.

The small groups were one of the most beneficial parts of the Institute. Each participant was placed into a small group which was facilitated by a faculty in residence. These small groups were vital in processing the day’s events and discussions and with analyzing where each of us was in our own career paths. The culmination of the Institute and small group work was the creation of a personalized career development plan designed to assess our strengths and deficiencies and seek out opportunities to better our skills and abilities in the profession.

The Donna Bourassa Mid-Level Management Institute is an excellent investment in your career development as a student affairs professional. The friendships and connections you make through this Institute will stay with you and will continue to support you long after the Institute ends. For more information, check out and feel free to ask me any questions you may have about participation in the Institute as well.



What’s the difference between a Standing Committee and a Commission? What is a Core Council and what do those groups do? How does the Executive Council and National Office Staff work together and what roles do they play?

For several years we have been hearing these and other questions from you about the structure and operations of ACPA. Previous surveys and assessments have shared some common themes—the ACPA organizational structure is too confusing and too large to be as efficient and “nimble” as it needs to be to serve your needs. As a result, in fall 2004 Dr. Patty Perillo, from UMBC, was charged to work with a diverse and representative Taskforce to examine ACPA’s current governance structure.


In 2004, ACPA President Dr. Jeanne Steffes charged this Taskforce to consider the re-organization and re-engineering of the ACPA structure, ultimately developing a framework for ACPA, based upon member needs, organizational and operational efficiencies, and the changing landscape of higher education and its constituent institutions. The Taskforce’s major goals are to recommend a governance structure that is clear and easy to understand, provide suggestions for streamlining governance and Executive Council operations, and help maximize opportunities for a connected sense of the organization.

Precipitating Factors/Why Now?

That we are called now to this action is inspired by many factors. These include the decision to not merge with NASPA, the installation of a new executive director, and the national trend toward increased associational professionalization, delivering more services with less reliance upon a volunteer base. Most importantly, the wisdom of our members and the thoughtful comments of outside consultants suggest that we will not thrive&mdahs;and may even begin to suffer negative consequences—should change not be carefully examined and implemented today.

Although ACPA has been in existence since 1924, it has been an independent Association only since 1992. In 13 years as an independent Association, we have made a variety of thoughtful, strategic decisions that have positioned us to serve the diverse needs of college student educators nationally, and increasingly, internationally. Not surprisingly, however, the complex developmental processes we know drive positive change in our students is also part of a vital organizational life. As we “mature,” it is time for ACPA to look inward and develop a planful strategy for growth.

Governance Taskforce Membership

The Taskforce is comprised of diverse members, representing many constituencies within ACPA from graduate students and new professionals, standing committee and commission chairs, past presidents, faculty, and senior student affairs officers. They are committed to our organization and its vitality and want to represent your voice and seek your input. Taskforce members include: Patty Perillo (Chair), Greg Blimling, Mela Dutka, Lee Hawthorne Keith Humphrey, Tom Jackson, Richard Johnson, Myra Morgan, Stacey Pearson, Julie Ramsey, Greg Roberts, Matt Soldner, Jeanne Steffes, Chris Strong, Bridget Turner Kelly, Lynn Willett, and Liz Whitt.


All ACPA members will have an opportunity to give feedback to the process and will have a chance to vote on the final proposed structural change. The Taskforce has already solicited feedback at the 2005 ACPA convention and through over 40 consultation interviews with current ACPA members post convention. All ACPA members are encouraged to contribute ideas and feedback via; there is a link on this website which provides members an opportunity to submit ideas. The Taskforce will convene in the fall and begin to formulate an organizational model for the Association based on the information and materials that we have gathered during the last ten months, as well as materials compiled over the past six years as ACPA members have been engaged in this dialogue for quite some time.

The Taskforce will disseminate information to the membership (i.e., via special ACPA Website, ACPA E-Alerts, Developments) in January 2006 and will have open forum sessions and a marketing campaign at ACPA’s 2006 Indianapolis Convention. All ACPA’s members will be encouraged to vote on this new governance structure in April 2006.

Thank you In Advance for Your Feedback!

This is an important time for ACPA to stabilize itself in membership and focus, grow as a responsive and easy to understand organization, and help our members meet the needs of student affairs professionals around the world. Thank you in advance for being an active part of this process. For more information, please contact Patty Perillo, Chair of the ACPA Governance Taskforce, at [email protected] or 410-455-1394 or visit the Governance Taskforce website at