written by: Gene Cilluffo
A common gap in many student affairs graduate preparation programs is supervision training. Graduate students may complete their program often without any formal training or extensive coursework in supervision, yet soon after, they may take on full-time roles that require them to serve as supervisors. These graduates are not set up for success to support their supervisees in personal and professional growth. Additionally, with continued commitment from ACPA, NASPA, and other organizations within the field to provide training and development opportunities to increase multicultural competence, supervision across diverse identities should be highlighted as a key element in supervision.
Fortunately, there are several resources available that can assist graduate students and new professionals in addressing this gap. This piece provides a brief overview of two such resources, Inclusive Supervision in Student Affairs by Amy B. Wilson, Carmen M. McCallum, and Matthew R. Shupp (2020) and Identity-Conscious Supervision in Student Affairs by Robert Brown, Shruti Desai, and Craig Elliot (2020). I provide suggested uses for each and conclude with reflection questions that can be used to kickstart inclusive supervision practice.
Brief Overview of the Texts
Inclusive Supervision in Student Affairs dives into the authors’ research on supervisors who are perceived as multiculturally competent by supervisees. This research was used to create the Inclusive Supervision Model. This model consists of four tenets which represent practices that inclusive supervisors employ: creating safe spaces, cultivating holistic development, demonstrating vulnerability, and building capacity in others.
The first three chapters of this text lay the foundation for the model by defining the need, introducing the model, and providing model development and validation information. The following four chapters are each devoted to one of the tenets, providing actionable suggestions in furthering competency in each. Each of these chapters end with suggestions of how to apply these concepts to all levels of supervision, reflection questions, and a chapter summary.
The text closes with two chapters of case study examples and reflection prompts to apply the text to daily practice. The text also includes several inventories and activities in the appendix to guide individual and group reflection. These activities include guided discussions around creating safe spaces, values, assumptions, and goals (Wilson et al., 2020).
Identity-Conscious Supervision in Student Affairs dives deeper into incorporating critical consciousness, “building an understanding of our social identities and the role of these identities in continuing oppressive norms” (Brown et al., 2020, p. 8) into supervision practices. Brown et al. (2020) introduce the Identity-Conscious Supervision Model (2020) and organize the text around analyzing different areas of the model.
The model is broken up into three areas: Individual Level, Supervision Level, and Organizational Level. The text is also organized in three main sections, mirroring the three levels of the model. The model contains action phrases in each section and is designed to show how actions work across each level individually, but also connect individual, supervision, and organizational work, as well. The model then represents that supervision and organizational change begins with and is sustained by continued self-work. Each action phrase on the model has a dedicated chapter with more detail.
Find more detailed summaries of each text here: https://sites.google.com/g.clemson.edu/inclusivesupervision/home
Suggested Uses for Each Text
While both texts have similar goals of encouraging more thoughtful and equitable supervision practices, the potential uses and audiences of each text differ. Inclusive Supervision in Student Affairs (Wilson et al., 2020) reads at times like a workbook, with space to write in the book and track progress. This text provides suggested action steps and reflection questions. This text would be a great fit for graduate students or newer professionals scratching the surface in multicultural competent supervision knowledge. The case studies and activities included in the appendix (also available online here) can be utilized to practice applying the skills learned in the main chapters. For example, a case study could be used as a development exercise at a staff meeting to practice utilizing critical thinking and applying the Inclusive Supervision Model (Wilson et al., 2020).
Identity-Conscious Supervision (Brown et al., 2020) is a valuable resource for someone who already has some familiarity with or are in the process of formal learning about systems of oppression. This text is less action item driven and more reflection based. The book emphasizes the important role of self-work in reflecting on socialization, unpacking internalized oppression and dominance, and identifying defensive reactions within yourself. This self-work paves the way for continued resilience to pursue action at the supervisory and organizational levels. This text would be a strong addition to a social justice or diversity course, or a great read for supervisors at any level looking for guidance on self-work, building relationships across difference, and fostering resilience to influence institutional change.
Both texts are valuable resources to increase multicultural competence as a supervisor. Each text should be read with enough time and space to engage in critical reflection. Reading the texts is only the first step; the work comes from engaging in self-reflection, developing and utilizing community to hold oneself accountable, and continually reflecting on and prioritizing one’s values in their work. Inclusive supervision is not a checklist or an arrival point—it is a commitment and a relationship. One may never feel like they “know enough” to call themselves an inclusive supervisor; incorporate the practice of reflection, relationship building, and advocacy into your work and get started from where you are at.
Both of these texts are extremely beneficial; every graduate student and new professional will grow from the reflection they support and action items they suggest. One major takeaway from both texts is the importance of a sustained reflective view. To encourage your own reflection related to your supervisory multicultural competence, consider the following:
- What identities are most salient to you? How do your identities show up in the workplace?
- In regard to your privileged identities, what advantages have you received from institutions or your workplace because of those identities? How do you navigate issues of your own power and privilege with a focus on encouraging an equitable workplace? How do you check in with your team to receive feedback on whether your practices are effective?
- How do you incorporate identity conversations with new supervisees in the onboarding process? How can you continue this work in a collaborative way?
- How can you facilitate trust, effective communication, and commitment within a supervisory relationship?
Find additional guided reflection questions here: https://sites.google.com/g.clemson.edu/inclusivesupervision/home
Brown, R., Desai, S., Elliott, C. (2020). Identity-conscious supervision in student affairs: Building relationships and transforming systems. Routledge.
Cilluffo, G. (2022, May 4). Inclusive supervision. Google sites. https://sites.google.com/g.clemson.edu/inclusivesupervision/home
Wilson, A. B., McCallum, C. M., Shupp, M. R. (2020). Inclusive supervision in student affairs: A mode for professional practice. Routledge.
About the Author
Gene Cilluffo is the Engagement and Outreach Coordinator for Sustainable Campus at Florida State University. Prior to starting at FSU, he graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor of General Studies and Clemson University with a Master of Education in Student Affairs. In his work, he is passionate about empowering students to advocate for sustainable changes and consider the environmental, social, and economic effects of their personal and professional lives. Outside of work, he loves to get outside, watch college marching band, and spend time with his pup, Dasher.