Canadian Association of College and University Student Services Identity Project

Canadian Association of College and University Student Services Identity Project

Jennifer Hamilton, Executive Director
Canadian Association of College and University Student Services
Gregory Roberts, Executive Director
ACPA – College Student Educators International

The Canadian Association of College and University Student Services (CACUSS) and ACPA – College Student Educators International (ACPA) forged ahead with a partnership of sharing of thought and ideas.  Thanks to Amanda Suniti Niskode-Dossett, editor of Developments, for agreeing to publish this excellent article that appeared in the CACUSS magazine earlier last year.

In June 2011, at the invitation of the CACUSS President and executive director, Chris McGrath and Jennifer Hamilton, ACPA’s President and executive director, Heidi Levine and Gregory Roberts, attended the annual conference of CACUSS.    Our ongoing friendship has incredible potential to open up the conversation about “different” ways of doing things, approaching our work, and how we see our relationships with students.   The context of student affairs work in Canada is measured by both subtle and obvious differences as well as clear similarities to the comparable work that occurs in the United States. For example, the work of Canadian colleagues is currently influenced by the regional contexts and provincial jurisdiction that shape higher education institutions, the infancy, yet vigor of graduate programs and research in the country and their focus primarily on scholarship as opposed to professional preparation, and the growing need to serve Aboriginal populations

We hope that this paper will provide a historical context of Canadian student services for our United States colleagues.  You will see our many similarities as you read this paper and particular attention to the “contemporary issues in Canadian higher education.”  Canadian student affairs professionals have taken several opportunities over the past decade or so to learn from the context and research of the profession across the United States.  This learning has informed Canadian practice and research to a great extent, and has also offered clarity around the unique context of higher education outside of the United States.  Perhaps thinking about “internationalizing” our campuses has less to do with inviting international students and faculty to become scholars at our institutions, and more to do with seeking out different models and institutional cultures which can inform our work differently.

This paper was originally written to stimulate conversation among Canadian student affairs professionals and inform next steps for the CACUSS organization moving forward as a profession.    In sharing this article, it is our wish that this paper be a reflective piece for ACPA members particularly as you read the context and values of the work of Canadian colleagues.   The diversity of perspective and context can have broad implications on your own campus as well as how you interact with students of diverse backgrounds.

The full document is both English and French including questions for the CACUSS Association is available online at

After reading the CACUSS document, reflect upon the following questions and discuss with your colleagues:

a) The author lists seven trends, issues, and approaches to Canadian student affairs (Strategic Enrolment Management, Integration, Student Mental Health + Wellbeing, The Built Environment, Support for the Distance Learner, Assessment + Evidence-based Planning, and Information Technology). How do these compare to what you are experiencing and observing at your own institution?   Can you identify specific examples of similarities or differences? How do such similarities or differences impact your daily work? Are there certain things you take for granted?

b) The author poses five important questions that she wants CACUSS to consider:

1. Advocacy: What role should CACUSS play in bringing profile to our work at a national scale?

2. Research + Assessment: Does CACUSS have capacity to organize multi-institutional assessment activities?

3. Member Outreach + Engagement: How can CACUSS use technology and social media more effectively?

4. Organizational Structure: Does the organizational structure of CACUSS support collaboration in the most effective way?

5. Professionalization:  Should CACUSS actively support professionalization of student affairs? 

Now, if you substitute ACPA for “CACUSS” how would you answer each of these questions?

c) For graduate students, can you think of any comparable document about that the status of student affairs in the United States and implications for professional associations (e.g. ACPA)? If so, what is it? Who wrote it? How does it compare to the CACUSS document?

We trust you will see the benefit and excitement that we experienced when we held a shared conversation. A new beginning together!

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