A Time for Rethinking Student Affairs

A Time for Rethinking Student Affairs

Kent Porterfield
ACPA President

Image of Presidential Symposium Speakers

In 2011, ACPA Past President Heidi Levine hosted a Presidential Symposium in collaboration with the Iowa College Personnel Association. Through this single-day conference, a group of student affairs professionals came together to discuss ways to be more intentional about fostering student success. The conversation about student success continues today, but it is increasingly a conversation impacted and influenced by broader concerns about access, affordability and accountability—concerns about which the government, business and the general public are speaking loudly and critically. Our ability as a field to impact the future of higher education, our institutions’ aspirational goals and objectives, and the success of our students may require us to adapt and even to rethink some aspects of student affairs preparation, organization, and practice.

Clearly our students do not experience college in accordance with the organizational structures of our institutions. Our students are increasingly more diverse and view their college experiences through the lenses of multiple social identities and backgrounds. Accordingly, their needs vary significantly. With a greater emphasis being placed on completion rates, more and more government regulation, and increasing expectations for higher quality education and better career preparation, student affairs must be engaged in helping higher education institutions respond with solutions to these challenges. Student affairs professionals will not be able to do so by doing everything we’ve always done and continuing to add more layers or greater degrees of specialization. Like it or not, the “additive” model appears to be unsustainable. Our future success may be predicated on our willingness and ability to be more sharply focused on doing what is most critically important: the work that has the greatest impact for our institutions and on our students.

In my Presidential address, I spoke about the need for us to be willing to continuously adapt and rethink student affairs work in the academy. Student affairs must be a part of higher education reform and contribute in a collective effort to identify effective solutions for addressing the difficult issues of access, affordability, and accountability within our institutions. With these ideas in mind, I am hosting this year’s Presidential Symposium, A Time for Rethinking Student Affairs, June 11−12.

In the morning session of the Symposium, we will hear from an impressive lineup of speakers. Our lineup includes:

  • Dr. Martha Kanter, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Higher Education at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and former Undersecretary of Education, U.S. Department of Education;
  • Diana Natalicio, President of the University of Texas at El Paso, and past chair of the Board of Directors of the American Council on Education;
  • Dr. Jillian Kinzie, Associate Director for the Center for Postsecondary Research and the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) Institute at Indiana University Bloomington;
  • Jeff Appel, Deputy Undersecretary of Education, U.S. Department of Education;
  • Doug Lederman, Editor and co-founder, Inside Higher Education, will serve as program moderator.

During the afternoon session, Dr. Kanter and Dr. Cindi Love, our Executive Director Designee, will lead a dialogue that examines the guiding question for the Symposium: “To what extent do we need to rethink student affairs preparation, organization, and practice to help our institutions effectively address mega-issues of access, affordability and accountability?” This will be a unique program and an opportunity for us to participate in an important conversation about the future of higher education and the role student affairs can play in helping our institutions address these critical issues.

As we talk about these imperative mega-issues facing our work, we hope you will join us in the dialogue, even if you will not be with us in St. Louis. Follow the conversation and share your thoughts using #ACPArethink June 11−12.

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