“You could be great you know, it’s all here”: Harry Potter and the Student Affairs Competencies, Boettcher, Wein, Zin

written by: Michelle L. Boettcher, Sydney Wein, and Nikalette Zina


As higher education and student affairs practitioners, we develop and evaluate our skills through the ACPA/NASPA Competencies (ACPA & NASPA, 2015). We ask students in our student affairs programs to know and understand the competencies and to examine their abilities through the lens of the competencies. This is a daunting task. To learn the framework, engage in self-examination, and reflect on one’s own growth all while being immersed in a graduate program (and doing an assistantship or full-time job) is a big ask.

So, what might it look like if we had a common frame of reference—a shared cultural experience where we could apply the competencies? What if it was not just about individual students starting with themselves, but instead we had a model to which we could map the competencies? We suggest that we do have such a model. We have a set of students who are widely known and an educational context with its own unique culture, faculty, and curriculum. We can look at how the competencies converge and can map them to these students in this context.

In the Harry Potter book series Harry, Hermione, and Ron progress through Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and learn and grow in ways that mirror college student development. Hogwarts is not a university, but the parallels between Hogwarts students and college students are clear. In this article we provide examples of how student affairs professional competencies are exemplified in the first book in the series—Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Rowling, 1997).

Acknowledging the Problematic Nature of J. K. Rowling

We would be negligent if we did not acknowledge the issues with J. K. Rowling as an author. In a forthcoming article in the Journal of College Character (to be published fall 2022), we discuss Rowling’s transphobia along with our rationale for continuing to utilize the Harry Potter series as a resource. In short, the work is more than the author. As with any creative work, the stories become the property of the readers as they make their own meaning and find their own connections to the text. To cast aside a series that has had such a tremendous impact on our culture is more problematic than engaging in intentional and meaningful ways with the work.

Students starting college direct from high school students have never known a world without Harry, Hermione, and Ron. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone has been on the New York Times Best Sellers list for children’s series for more than 13 years (New York Times, 2022). In addition to the eight movies based on the seven novels in the series there are currently three other films based on the books in the Fantastic Beasts film series (2016, 2018, 2022) along with a play and additional films in development. In short, the books and movies continue to inform the experience of incoming college students and student affairs professionals.

Rather than ignoring this huge social and cultural influence, we encourage student affairs practitioners to engage with the texts. Using the books (and films) and surfacing problematic issues within them is a catalyst for learning, growth, and understanding. Similarly, the unacceptable, harmful, and ignorant comments of the author provide additional opportunities for learning. It is with a desire to further complicate and wrestle with difficult issues (rather than ignoring them) that we offer the Potter series for your consideration.

Rowling has done harm to the trans community. That needs to be part of the conversation whenever anyone uses or references her work. There are problematic characters, language, and behaviors in the text. Just as institutions of higher education are dealing with their problematic histories, Hogwarts must wrestle with its problematic “founder”—Rowling. As student affairs professionals, our work has never been simple and has always involved acknowledging and challenging problematic histories. These texts have the potential to be another part of that work.

Hogwarts and Higher Education

Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger are not college students or student affairs professionals. When they begin at Hogwarts they are starting junior high. That said, they grow and develop throughout the text in each of the competency areas just as we hope graduate students in SA programs and student affairs professionals grow and develop.

We thematically coded the text of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone using the competencies. This information can be used to guide reading, analysis, and to cultivate an understanding of competency development in student affairs programs. For several reasons we intentionally focused on the first book. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone provides the context needed to understand subsequent books. The main characters go through tremendous change in book one. Finally, the students are starting at a new institution just as many student affairs graduate students and new professionals do when they begin their programs and first jobs.

Harry Potter and the Student Affairs Competencies

In the following section we have mapped the ACPA/NASPA competencies to the text. We selected exemplar quotes and descriptions from the book that align with competency areas. The examples within the text make it a rich and practical guide to understanding how competencies show up in lived experiences.

Personal and Ethical Foundations

Personal and Ethical Foundations (PEF) is defined in the competencies as, “the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to develop and maintain integrity in one’s life and work” (ACPA & NASPA, 2015, p. 16). In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone PEF emerges as the individual values and ethical practices Harry, Ron, Hermione and other characters employ. They face a number of challenges in the book related to this competency.

In chapter 10, Harry, Ron and Hermione are not friends yet. Harry had just become a member of the Quidditch team after breaking rules about not flying without a faculty member present. Ron and Harry were excited, but Hermione was upset and told them she did not like that they ignored Hogwarts policy. In response, Ron made mean comments to other first year Gryffindors about Hermione. When she overheard the conversation, Ron stood by what he said but felt guilty for saying things about Hermione.

Later, Harry and Ron overheard Hermione was in the girl’s restroom crying about what Ron said. Later, the faculty announced there was a troll in the castle and Professor Dumbledore told everyone to go to their house chambers. Harry and Ron went to find Hermione so she would not be in danger. Harry and Ron should have followed directions, but they felt responsible to make sure Hermione was safe. Together they defeat the troll.

At the end of the chapter, Hermione took the blame for not following the rules, instead of telling on Harry and Ron. Through this shared experience they connected. The book says, “But from that moment on, Hermione Granger became [Harry and Ron’s] friend. There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them” (Rowling, 1997, p. 179)

Another example of PEF is in Chapter 12, where Harry and Ron learn about the “Mirror of Erised” which reflects back what a person desires most. Harry saw his family standing with him, and Ron saw himself as Head Boy and winning the Quidditch Cup. Through this we learn what pushes each character to be better and how they want to grow as individuals. Harry was seeking a sense of belonging. Ron wanted to distinguish himself through his achievements at Hogwarts.

Throughout the book we see students facing challenges. The decisions they make show who they are, but the lessons they learn as result of those decisions inform their growth and development. Just as with first-year college students, these characters seek friendship, a sense of belonging, and desire to understand who they are. Also just like first-year college students, they make a combination of good and bad choices during the year that inform their personal and ethical foundations.

Values, Philosophy, and History

ACPA and NASPA (2015) define Values, Philosophy, and History (VPH) as, “the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that connect the history, philosophy and values of the student affairs profession to one’s current professional practice” (p. 18). In the wizarding world, values inform characters, culture, and Hogwarts’ institutional history.

An excellent example of VPH is in Chapter 7.

“Hmm.” said a small voice in [Harry’s] ear. “Difficult, very difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind either. There’s talent, oh my goodness, yes—and a nice thirst to prove yourself, now that’s interesting… so where shall I put you?” Harry gripped the edge of the stool and thought, Not Slytherin, not Slytherin. “Not Slytherin, eh?” said the small voice. “Are you sure? You could be great, you know, it’s all here in your head and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that—no? Well if you’re sure–better be GRYFFINDOR!” (p. 121).

This was a pivotal moment for first-year Hogwarts students because they are placed in their Hogwarts House: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw—which will serve as their primary communities while in school. The houses were founded on the values each house’s namesake found to be important in the development of young witches and wizards: Gryffindors are brave and courageous, Slytherins are cunning and ambitious, Ravenclaws are clever and logical, and Hufflepuffs are loyal and honest.

Harry, Ron and Hermione had different experiences and expectations when they were placed in Gryffindor. Ron is a Gryffindor legacy. Hermione did her research on each of the houses, and decided she wanted to be a Gryffindor or a Ravenclaw. Harry saw his new nemesis Draco Malfoy placed in Slytherin and so Harry does not want to be there.

The element of selection and placement based on values mirrors fraternity and sorority involvement. Ideally, you join an organization that shares your values. At Hogwarts, the Gryffindors value courage and bravery; a Panhellenic woman might join an organization that values love, labor, learning, and loyalty. Each house becomes more than just people who study and live together, they become a network of support. As the story progresses, Harry becomes more at home at Hogwarts because of his sense of belonging in Gryffindor.

Hogwarts houses are also similar to learning communities or residential colleges, where communities of peers connect academically and personally. There are similarities between Hogwarts houses and traditional residence hall floors as well. Additionally, the idea of houses may resonate with student affairs graduate students. Ideally, their graduate cohort may be a community where students share academic experiences and also find connections related to social identity, personal interests, and professional goals.

Assessment, Evaluation, and Research

The Assessment, Evaluation, and Research (AER) competency is defined as, “the ability to design, conduct, critique, and use various AER methodologies and the results… to inform practice, and to shape the political and ethical climate [in higher education]” (ACPA & NASPA, 2015, p. 12). Throughout Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, we see AER in an academic context as students’ learning is assessed through homework, labs, in-class participation, and examinations.

The book showcases AER beyond traditional academic measurements, though. In Chapter 16, Harry, Hermione, and Ron used theory to practice when they made their way to the Sorcerer’s Stone. Working as a team, each of them utilized the skills they developed to achieve their shared goal.

First, Harry used what he learned to avoid one of the resident ghosts, the Hogwarts caretaker, and a three-headed dog guarding the entry point to the Sorcerer’s Stone. Hermione applied what she learned in herbology to get around a plant protecting the stone. Harry’s talent for flying on his broomstick—developed through Quidditch, helped him retrieve a key to enter the room where Ron, played Wizard’s Chess so they could get to the next room. After Hermione used her skills at logic to get them through the ring of fire safely, Harry applied his knowledge about the Mirror of Erised to retrieve the Sorcerer’s Stone and defeat his opponent, Professor Quirrell/Voldemort.

This chapter provides an unorthodox assessment that proves everything these students learned in their first year at Hogwarts. While Hermione excelled in the classroom in traditionally academic ways, each of them utilized things they learned to successfully save their school and the wizarding world from Voldemort. Basic herbology and flying were formal lessons taught to the students. However, cleverness, persistence, and logic were skills they learned from each other and their peers in and out of the classroom.

Law, Policy, and Governance

Law, policy, and governance show up in this book in a variety of ways. From the very beginning, Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore laid out expectations and rules. He welcomed students saying:

First years should note that the forest on the grounds is forbidden to all pupils. And a few of our older students would do well to remember that as well…

I have also been asked by Mr. Filch, the caretaker, to remind you all that no magic should be used between classes in the corridors…

And finally, I must tell you that this year, the third-floor corridor on the right-hand side is out of bounds to anyone who does not wish to die a very painful death. (Rowling, 1997, pp. 126-127).

Here Dumbledore outlines expectations related to student behavior and shares potential consequences for violating the rules.

Dumbledore is not the only LPG expert at Hogwarts, however. As the Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts and Head of Gryffindor House, Professor McGonagall works to ensure students follow policies and holds individuals accountable for breaking rules. In her role as faculty member and pseudo-conduct officer, she provides guidance on how to be successful students at Hogwarts. Other faculty and staff award or deduct house points which are added up to determine which house earns the House Cup each year.

Additionally, older students help students follow rules and hold younger students accountable as necessary. There is also peer pressure to accumulate House Cup points. Violating rules can result losing points. Hermione articulates the communal motivation to work toward house success when she confronts Ron and Harry about breaking rules. “Don’t you care about Gryffindor, do you only care about yourselves?” (Rowling, 1997, p. 155). There are rules and potential consequences for violating them.

Other examples of LPG in the text include the Ministry of Magic which oversees Hogwarts and other wizarding schools. Filch is perhaps the most zealous enforcer of policies. That said, each teacher on the faculty has their own way of enforcing rules and expectations in their classrooms.

The rules and policies at Hogwarts are very much a part of the hidden curriculum (Jackson, 1968) of the institution—the parts of school and culture that are not directly taught. In higher education the hidden curriculum can include cultural norms and expectations as well as how to get involved, build a resume, navigate administrative processes, etc. There are different cultural norms and expectations at Hogwarts (and in the wizarding community) than what Hermione and Harry are used to. Hermione does much of her learning through books and research. Harry does most of his through trial and error, making mistakes and learning from them.

Organizational and Human Resources

Organizational and Human Resources (OHR) focuses on skills and knowledge regarding management of human capital, financial, and physical resources. Several times throughout the book, Dumbledore talks about OHR responsibilities. His start-of-term notices highlight a number of these. The forest on Hogwarts’ grounds is forbidden to pupils—this speaks to risk and liability. He tells students there should be no magic in the halls between classes which alludes to the appropriate use of technology, risk, and facilities. He introduces Madam Hooch as the faculty coordinator/advisor for Quidditch which is one of her roles as a part of the faculty. He concludes with the fact that part of the building is off limits which again refers to safety and facilities as well as expectations.

Another way the text centers facilities management as part of OHR focuses on Mr. Filch and his cat who take care of Hogwarts.

Harry and Ron managed to get on the wrong side of [Hogwarts’ caretaker Argus Filch] on their very first day… Filch owned a cat called Mrs. Norris… She patrolled the corridors alone. Break a rule in front of her, put just one toe out of line, and she’d whisk off for Filch, who’d appear wheezing two seconds later. Filch knew the passageways of the school better than anyone. (Rowling, 1997, p. 132-133)

This exemplifies how Mr. Filch and Mrs. Norris function as members of the facilities/risk management team for Hogwarts. They are determined to make sure students are following policies and procedures to ensure the safety and security of the students, faculty and staff, and the school itself.

Also aligned with OHR competencies are roles and responsibilities of faculty and staff such as who teaches which courses. Additionally, faculty understand how the school physically operates and make sure students are safe. The staff, Mr. Filch (caretaker), Hagrid (groundskeeper), Madam Hooch as Quidditch coordinator, Madam Pomfrey the nurse, and others provide oversight related to their specific areas of responsibility, as well.

While there is no organizational chart for Hogwarts, nor is there a professional development plan, or indication of regular supervisory meetings, the faculty and staff do consult and collaborate. This is made explicit through the coordinated safeguards for the Sorcerer’s Stone. This effort aligns with the OHR foundational outcome, “Recognize how networks in organizations play a role in how work gets accomplished” (ACPA & NASPA, 2015, p. 24).

There are a variety of other indicators of communication and teamwork in the text based on what students overhear, observe, and learn throughout the year. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone highlights examples of “campus protocols for responding to significant incidents… introductory motivational techniques… basic premises that underlie conflict… the relational roles partners, allies, and adversaries play in the completion of goals… constructive feedback…” (ACPA & NASPA, 2015, p. 24) and other OHR competencies.


Harry’s leadership journey provides examples that align with a variety of aspects of the student affairs leadership competency. These include individual leadership, leadership as a means to create organizational change, and the cultivation of leadership in others. An example of this final aspect of leadership in the book is Harry supporting his friend Neville who is being bullied by another student. Harry offers support and encourages Neville to advocate for himself.

Harry felt in the pocket of his robe and pulled out a chocolate frog, the very last one from the box that Hermione had given him… He gave it to Neville, who looked as though he might cry. “You’re worth twelve of Malfoy,” Harry said. (Rowling, 1997, p. 218).

By offering Neville a chocolate frog, Harry extends an offer of support and compassion. Harry is invested in making his friend feel better. This is not simply because Harry wants to support his friends, but he knows that empowering his housemates to see themselves as leaders results in a better community and progress toward shared goals.

Following the exchange above, Neville takes what he learned from Harry and employs it as a developing leader. When again faced with Malfoy’s bullying, Neville stammers in response, “I’m worth twelve of you, Malfoy” (Rowling, 1997, p.223). Though his voice shook, Neville owned his emerging leadership identity in his confrontation with Malfoy.

In student affairs graduate programs, students learn leadership through listening and counseling skills, administration, law and ethics, and a variety of other courses, as well as through their assistantships and field experiences. Students take that knowledge and pass it on to their undergraduate students, through training, workshops, supervision, advising, and mentoring.

Leadership begets leadership and we can see this in higher education every day. For example, a Residence Hall Association advisor holding one on one conversations with students has the opportunity to encourage and support students facing challenges. In addition to internalizing the encouragement and persevering, executive board members may extrapolate that knowledge and share it with peers to encourage them to be stronger leaders as well.

Finally, leadership can help achieve organizational goals and change organizations. At the end of the book, Gryffindor is behind in the House Cup challenge. As a result of their actions to protect the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry, Hermione, and Ron are awarded enough points to tie Slytherin for the win. In the end, Neville gives Gryffindor the final points they need to win the cup. Neville earned points because he reported his friends for going after the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Dumbledore said, “There are all kinds of courage… It takes a great deal for bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends,” (Rowling, 1997, p. 306). In essence, it was also Neville who saved Hogwarts and the wizarding world as much as Harry, Hermione, and Ron since without Neville’s information, the faculty would not have been able to save Harry after his confrontation with Voldemort. Neville helped Gryffindor as an organization as well as Hogwarts and the larger wizarding culture.

Social Justice and Inclusion

The Harry Potter series addresses social issues within the wizarding world that align with the Social Justice and Inclusion (SJI) competency. In the first book, one of the primary SJI issues relates to students’ (and staff members’) backgrounds. As Harry gets his school supplies before going to Hogwarts, he encounters Malfoy for the first time who is ranting about “Half-Bloods” (people who have one wizard parent and one non-magic or “muggle” parent) as well as people who come from families where both parents are muggles. Malfoy says, “I really don’t think they should let the other sort in, do you? They’re just not the same, they’ve never been brought up to know our ways… I think they should keep it in the old wizarding families,” (Rowling, 1997, p. 78). Malfoy’s contempt inspires Harry to want to keep his distance from this student.

While Harry’s parents were both wizards, he was raised by his muggle aunt and uncle after his parents’ deaths. Harry doesn’t know what this makes him in the eyes of people like Malfoy. Eventually, however, Harry learned he was not alone. “Harry was very relieved to find out that he wasn’t miles behind everyone else. Lots of people had come from Muggle families and, like him, hadn’t had any idea they were witches and wizards” (Rowling, 1997, p. 134-135). Harry is not alone in his anxiety about starting school without understanding things like the Hogwarts’ house system, house points, moving staircases, talking pictures, etc.

Hogwarts appears to be a school that centers acceptance and kindness as there are consequences for bullies. Additionally, Hogwarts provides space in class for students to ask questions and engage with one another. Prefects, the Hogwarts equivalents to RAs, also often explain the odd happenings of the castle to first-year students in an effort to help all students feel connected and a sense of belonging, regardless of their backgrounds and identities.

In this first book, the emerging relationships between students create opportunities for them to learn from one another. A basic example is students sharing their cultures through games and sport. In the text, Harry teaches Ron about soccer and Ron teaches Harry about Quidditch and wizard chess. Learning from peers is a key educational tool at Hogwarts and allows different perspectives and experiences to be celebrated.

Additionally, Harry, Hermione, and Ron bring different lived experiences to Hogwarts. Harry has tremendous monetary wealth but is really a first-generation student (his parents went to Hogwarts but died when he was an infant). As such, Harry has all the accompanying insecurity that first-gen students often experience.

Ron is a legacy. Not only have his parents attended the school, but he also has five older brothers who have or are attending Hogwarts. Ron has access to the “hidden curriculum” (Jackson, 1968) and knows things neither Harry nor Hermione know due to their status. That said, Ron’s family is clearly working class and does not have a lot of money.

Finally, Hermione, is the first in her family to go to Hogwarts. However, as the child of two dentists, she has parents who understand how to navigate academic settings. Not only did they go through high school and college, but they also completed professional school.

Other books in the series address SJI in deeper ways. For example, Malfoy calls Hermione a “Mudblood” in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets  (Rowling, 1998) which initiates an intense exchange about background and class hierarchy. Hermione works to liberate house elves in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling, 2000). Additionally, nearly everything Dolores Umbridge does raises SJI concerns. A particularly disturbing example is her leadership of the Muggle-Born Registration Commission which involves the registration, interrogation, and imprisonment of muggle-born wizards as well as the surveillance of “pure-blood” (a disturbing term) wizards who supported muggle-borns (Rowling, 2007). However the initial groundwork for these and other cultural and systemic SJI issues is laid in the first book.

The books in this series—s any books—are not perfect. According to the competencies, one of the foundational outcomes of SJI is to “connect and build meaningful relationships with others while recognizing the multiple, intersecting identities, perspectives and developmental differences people hold” (ACPA & NASPA, 2015, p. 30). The Harry Potter series—particularly the earlier books—have been rightly criticized for a lack of diverse characters regarding race, sexual orientation, and other identities. This should be acknowledged and discussed if this book or any books in the series are used for courses or training.

Student Learning and Development

As one would expect of any school, Hogwarts provides multiple examples of the Student Learning and Development (SLD) competency. SLD centers “the ability to apply theory to improve and inform student affairs and teaching practices” (ACPA & NASPA 2015). As with AER, student affairs professionals and their work within this competency serves individuals, groups, and student affairs as a whole. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, we see examples of SLD in Harry’s acclimation to Hogwarts and its curriculum.

This can be seen in Harry’s interactions with Hagrid, the groundskeeper at Hogwarts. Hagrid is a mentor for Harry, taking special care to support Harry through his transition into the wizarding world. Hagrid tells Harry he will “learn fast enough. Everyone starts at the beginning at Hogwarts, you’ll be just fine.” (Rowling, 1997, p. 86).

Formal student learning takes place in class. Students learn the complexity of coursework in Professor McGonagall’s Transfiguration class when they “realized they weren’t going to be changing the furniture into animals for a long time,” (Rowling, 1997, p. 134). The students “assess teaching, learning and training” (ACPA & NASPA, 2015, p. 32) in Defense Against the Dark Arts observing that, “Quirrell’s lessons turned out to be a bit of a joke,” (p. 134).

At the end of the book, as Harry is recovering from his battle with Voldemort, he talks with Dumbledore about a number of questions. In this way he is exploring his own developmental journey in the context of not only what he has experiences, but in the context of the history of Hogwarts and wizarding community. When he talks with Ron and Hermione he explains the ways that he believes Dumbledore fostered their development saying, “instead of stopping us, he just taught us enough to help” (Rowling, 1997, p. 302).

Ultimately, there is no student development theory embedded in the text. That said, it is possible to map different theories to the book just as we have mapped the competencies to it. Seeing how characters navigate transition and move through different stages of specific theories could be beneficial to students. Based on the choices students in the text make, we can examine their moral development, as well as their development related to wellness and involvement.


On the surface, technology looks significantly different in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone than it does in reality. Instead of emerging social media, online engagement platforms, video and audio recording and distribution technology, in the book we see things like wands, flying broomsticks, moving staircases, invisibility cloaks, and magic spells. That said, there are still similarities between the world of the books and our own. ACPA and NASPA emphasize technology as a competency for the advancement of student development and promotion of digital literacy. An example of this in the book is the Mirror of Erised.

The Mirror of Erised is a mirror that shows whoever is looking in it the thing that they desire most. Harry sees his family. Ron sees personal achievement. Professor Quirrell sees giving Voldemort the Sorcerer’s Stone. However, the true power of the mirror lies within understanding how it’s used. Once Harry finds the mirror, he begins visiting it regularly. At that point, Dumbledore explains that the mirror will only show you what you desire, it will not manifest it for you. Dumbledore says many people have wasted away staring into a mirror.

This connects to student affairs in two ways. First, this conversation reflects a digital literacy conversation with students. Dumbledore never takes away Harry’s agency. He tells Harry not to go looking for the mirror, but never makes the choice for him. As student affairs educators, digital literacy is about what we take away from mainstream, social, and other media and conversations need to be about finding reputable sources, thinking critically, and understanding our social media presence. The conversations do not and should not demand a student to act, think or behave a certain way.

Second, Dumbledore teaches Harry how to use the technology—what the mirror can and cannot do. Similarly, students and professionals need to learn to use emerging technology. A couple of years ago, few people were “Zoom fluent.” The world changed and we changed with it and learned to use that platform. The same is true as we (usually led by students) navigate emerging social media outlets, workplace technology, etc.

In the book, Harry’s technological literacy allowed him to link all the information he knew about the Mirror of Erised and the Sorcerer’s Stone to protect the stone from Voldemort. Therefore the mirror also represents a student development tool, in some ways like a final exam or an exercise in theory to see what the student has learned. Harry moves from finding the mirror to using the mirror to learning what the mirror does to using the mirror as an effective and important tool. Similarly, student affairs students and professionals move through the competencies to achieve increased levels of proficiency.

Advising and Supporting

Advising and supporting (A/S) is a professional competency embedded in the text, as well. While the faculty are advising and supporting (and sometimes reprimanding) the students consistently, another example of a character enacting this competency is Hagrid. Hagrid utilizes advising and supporting skills as Harry, Hermione, and Ron experience success and challenges. While he has helped Harry from the time he was an infant to getting his supplies for school, Hagrid continues to build on the relationship once Harry is at Hogwarts. He writes, “Dear Harry, I know you get Friday afternoons off, so would you like to come and have a cup of tea with me around three? I want to hear all about your first week.” (Rowling, 1997, 135-136)

Hagrid offers space for Harry to share about his experiences which aligns with the foundational A/S outcomes beginning with “appropriately establishing interpersonal contact,” (ACPA & NASPA, 2015, p. 36). Additionally, this tea break is the same as a student check-in for student affairs educators. One-on-one settings are opportunities to cultivate trust. Hagrid invests time to build on the rapport and trust he has already built with Harry in previous encounters. Student affairs educators, according to the competencies, should strive to achieve these relationships and connections with their students, as well.

Finally, Hagrid provides a chance for Harry to reflect on his experience at Hogwarts. This allows Harry to process what he’s learning and it provides Hagrid a chance to continue to challenge Harry. College students (and new professionals) seek staff who will advise and support them “through direction, feedback, critique, referral, and guidance” (ACPA & NASPA, p. 36). All students face challenges, and by offering support as Hagrid does for Harry students are reminded they are not alone and can be provided resources and guidance.

The book also shows Hagrid offering critique to Harry such as when Harry complains about Professor Snape. Hagrid is quick to tell Harry that Professor Snape has no reason to hate him. The ability to encourage students to think differently about situations is part of the work of encouraging reflection embedded in the A/S competency.


Through the development of Harry, Hermione, and Ron during their first year at Hogwarts, practitioners can continue build upon this work and further map competencies in this specific book as well as throughout the Harry Potter series. Capitalizing on the books and movies which are already familiar to so many students and professionals since they are embedded in our culture provides an opportunity to look at examples of both student growth as well as student affairs practice. While personal reflection is essential for students and professionals, using this and other texts as case studies fosters other ways of learning and understanding that are less personal and potentially less risky for many students and new(er) professionals.

Reflection Questions

  1. What other examples of the competencies are represented in the Harry Potter books?
  2. What other books, films, or other forms of popular culture can be used to explore and understand professional competency areas in student affairs?
  3. How can using Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone or other texts to understand competencies be embedded in graduate programs, onboarding, and professional development?


ACPA: College Student Educators International & NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. (2015). ACPA and NASPA professional competency areas for student affairs educators.

Jackson, P. N. (1968). Life in Classrooms. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.

New York Times (2022, April 3). New York Times Best Sellers. https://www.nytimes.com/books/best-sellers/

Rowling, J. K. (1997) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Scholastica.

Rowling, J. K. (1997) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Scholastica.

Rowling, J. K. (1997) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Scholastica.

Rowling, J. K. (1997) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Scholastica.

Michelle L. Boettcher (she/her) is an associate professor at Clemson University. She studies senses of belonging and community for students, staff, and faculty in higher education. She is, allegedly, a Slytherin.

Sydney Wein (she/her). Sydney is a Residence Hall Director at the University of Connecticut. Prior to working at the University of Connecticut, Sydney earned her master’s degree at Clemson University in Counselor Education, Student Affairs. Sydney is a proud member of Slytherin House.

Nikalette Zina (she/her) is a proud Hufflepuff Residence Life Coordinator at the University of South Carolina. She earned her Masters of Education from Clemson University and her Bachelors of Arts in English from the University of Northern Colorado. Nika is an avid reader, first picking up the Harry Potter book series in grade school. She enjoys looking at the way student affairs intersects with pop culture and making meaning from those connections.