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Running head: PHILOSOPHY OF THE STUDENT AFFAIRS PROFESSION

My Philosophy of the Student Affairs Profession


Jacob A. Hartz
Seattle University
SDAD 577: Foundations of the Student Affairs Profession
Dr. Alvin A. Sturdivant
December 8, 2013

PHILOSOPHY OF THE STUDENT AFFAIRS PROFESSION

Philosophy of the Student Affairs Profession


As I learn more about the student affairs profession and the many roles that are played by
professionals in the field, the more I understand our profession as a hybrid of both educators and
facilitators of student progression. Our responsibility is essentially one that hooks describes as,
[having] a total effect on the development of the student, not just an intellectual effect but an
effect on how that student perceives reality beyond the classroom (1994, p. 137). Student affairs
practitioners are responsible for engaging with students on many developmental levels through a
framework that aims to develop students as wholes. As educational environments grow more
diverse, formal educational settings and relationships such as classrooms, workshops and
programs, along with more personal interactions require appropriate strategies to address the
needs of students. Our role is to implement methods of development that place the student first,
keeping multicultural competencies, progressive educational models, and appropriate ethical
standards at the forefront of our goal as both educators and facilitators.
Perspectives on the Nature of Education and Your Role in it
The Purpose of Education
My time at Seattle University has stressed the importance of educating the whole person.
This approach to education is entirely new to me, one that requires constant reflection,
questioning, and engagement with the subject matter. I am encouraged to step outside of the
traditional education paradigm, what Paulo Freire calls the banking concept of education, and
attempt to relieve education of its narration sickness (2000, p. 71). The sickness that Freire
refers to involves students simply absorbing information that is spoken at them, rather than with
them. Education should aim to support students to think about information differently, to reinvent
the way they look at the world and how they approach the worlds problems. The only way to get

PHILOSOPHY OF THE STUDENT AFFAIRS PROFESSION

to this point is through complimenting traditional banking education is with about the material
being taught.
Although it may be the instructors responsibility to provide the initial information, or
facilitate discussion in the classroom, it is also that persons responsibility to engage with
students with an open mind in order to gain new perspective. In bell hookss Teaching to
Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, Freire states that authentic help means that
all who are involved help each other mutually, growing together in the common effort to
understand the reality in which they seek to transform (1994, p.54). To truly help an individual
learn and grow as a person, the instructor must also allow for his or her own continued growth.
By doing so, the classroom ideally becomes more of an open discussion, a space to exchange
ideas and develop through the exchange of perspectives on material.
The Purpose of Student Affairs in Higher Education
The role of student affairs in higher education adopts the idea of educating the person as a
whole in order to better develop students for their contributions to a humane and just society. In
Thons article, the 1969 Jesuit Educational Association stresses the importance of understanding
the student not as a subject or financial resource or academic prime matter, but as a personalso
a recognition of and provision for the whole sweep of his developmental needs, academic and
non-academic (1989, p. 14). Despite this statement being over forty years old, its relevance
holds true to current practices of the student affairs profession. It is vital to provide programs and
services that aid in student development in all aspects. The opportunity for students to connect
with mentors and peers outside of the classroom helps to establish relationships that increase
student involvement and builds community.

PHILOSOPHY OF THE STUDENT AFFAIRS PROFESSION

In order to serve a diverse body of students, it is the role of student affairs professionals
to facilitate conversation around diversity and identities within these communities. NASPA states
that individual development is conditioned by the kind of society in which a person lives, and
by the quality of interpersonal and group relationships which operate around him [sic] (1949,
p.20). Although is it difficult to establish given the oppressive nature of U.S. culture and our lack
of values on oppressed cultures, the society that students interact with in college should be one
that heavily incorporates discussion around multicultural development. From a student affairs
perspective, it is important to facilitate these oftentimes, uncomfortable conversations revolving
around identity development. Our role as professionals is to support students through
transitional, developmental interactions in order to affirm constructive actions.
Strategies to Reach Students in A Diverse Environment
As classrooms grow more diverse, students bring a wealth of cultural value to their peers
in which the role of the classroom should be to embrace cultural differences. This education is
vital in developing awareness of identities, while also allowing individuals to observe their own
identities and their role in a diverse classroom environment. Due to the fact that student
demographics and student learning preferences are constantly changing, it is important for
college environments to have student affairs professionals that stay current with these issues. A
successful practice of staying current with developing student environments is open and honest
communication about campus climate with staff, faculty, and students. The most effective
method to do this is through actively reaching out to individuals for their involvement in
programs that specifically address campus climate. By implementing programs that allow
students to openly discuss cultures in a way that also celebrates them, students become more
aware of differences in a constructive way. However, understanding that not all students interact

PHILOSOPHY OF THE STUDENT AFFAIRS PROFESSION

and learn the same, student affairs professionals should be equipped to aid students with varying
learning styles.
Student affairs professionals should attempt to reach students by utilizing different
educational practices into classrooms and programs. For instance, in my classes at Seattle
University, every class session engages material using dyad discussion, direct lecture, and open
class discussion. Each style aims to compliment different approaches of learning. These methods
are crucial for allowing students to feel comfortable when speaking from their own experience
around complex issues involving diversity.
Perspectives on Your Role as an Educator
Contributions to Educations Mission
Student affairs educators should encourage learning through all aspects of campus, not
just in the classroom, allowing for a seamless, inclusive environment that is not dependent on
classroom timelines. In order to create this type of learning environment, the academic and nonacademic realms of an institution must create partnerships. Kezar notes, partnerships enhance
the service learning experience for the student, as students have a better opportunity to connect
the curricular experience with their co-curricular and life experiences (2009, p. 413). Through
these different partnerships and educational spaces, student affairs educators facilitate
multicultural growth through consistent interaction with diverse peers, staff, and faculty while
also valuing students knowledge from academic sources. Although the ease of creating
partnerships is dependent on the institution type, student affairs educators job is to initiate these
partnerships and to essentially bridge students life experiences with classroom experiences.
Terenzini notes that what matters most in students experiences aside from the classes
they take are the interactions they have with their peers and faculty members outside of the

PHILOSOPHY OF THE STUDENT AFFAIRS PROFESSION

classroom, the variety of people they encounter, and the extent of their active involvement in the
academic and social systems of their institutions (2005, p. 642). It becomes increasingly
difficult for student affairs educators to create campus environments that value both life
experiences and academic experiences when faculty members have other motives, such as
publishing and research (Kezar, p. 408). Through my interactions with both a large public
research institution and Seattle University, Seattle University allows for more personal growth as
a student affairs professional through its focus on developing the individual in its entirety rather
than simply focusing on individuals obtaining a degree.
Best Methods
The most influential method for teaching student affairs subject matter requires for small,
open discussions similar to those offered at Seattle University, allowing for the most constructive
personal and professional development I have encountered thus far. By accepting individuality
and varying identities, Seattle University attempts to build community in order to, as hooks
states, create a climate of openness and intellectual rigor[creating] a sense that there is shared
commitment and a common good that binds us (1994, p. 40). Despite the controversial topics of
social justice and the often challenging process of expanding multicultural competencies,
creating a safe space to meet individuals at their developmental levels allows for a constructive
learning environment. According to the 1998 National Association of Student Personnel
Administrators report, the most productive learning environment occurs only when everyone on
campus particularly academic and student affairs staff shares responsibility for student
learning will we be able to make significant progress for improving it (Kezar, p. 406).
By initially being introduced to student affairs material in the classroom, and then venturing
outside of the classroom to my assistantship, various programs, and meetings, I find myself

PHILOSOPHY OF THE STUDENT AFFAIRS PROFESSION

consistently reflecting on classroom material and its relation to Seattle Universitys mission.
Concepts learned in class are particularly conducive for helping students enhance their own
comfort levels with developmental issues.
Assisting Students with Personal Development
Student affairs educators role in aiding students through personal development issues
should be one that is open and honest, and that aims to guide students struggling with or
questioning their identities. I have found it increasingly important to understand specific theories
such as Baxtor Magoldas meaning-making theory in order to adequately make suggestions or
help guide individuals struggling with making meaning of identities (Evans, Forney, & Guido, p.
183). It should not be student affairs educators aim to simply force students into particular
theoretical frameworks, but rather learn how theories apply to individuals given their varying
circumstances. Therefore, in helping to guide students in their discernment of identity
development, student affairs professionals must be open-minded, and willing to see, interpret,
and interact with multiple worldviews in order to adequately offer applicable advise to a range
of students (Laker, & Davis, p. 247). It is also student affairs educators role to appropriately
acknowledge our own limitations, and instead utilize campus resources that are better equipped
to help students with particular development issues.
Laker and Davis state it is incumbent upon those of us in the educational enterprise to
meet student and peers where they are and aim learning interventions at appropriate
developmental levels and to do so with sensitive, thoughtful responses (2009, p. 247).
Throughout my experience within student affairs, I have witnessed circumstances where students
and the professionals or peers they initially seek out for guidance are not always the appropriate
match. In observing this mismatch, it is my responsibility to acknowledge individual

PHILOSOPHY OF THE STUDENT AFFAIRS PROFESSION

differences and recommend resources that may better suit that particular students needs if I am
unable to effectively guide them. However, it is also important to gain insight from students that
offer different views than the ones I might hold. By participating in relationships that foster this
idea, student affairs educators do not only aid in student development but also continue to
develop their own identities and views.
Reasonable Expectations of Student Affairs and Students
In Kuh et al.s (1995) Reasonable Expectations, guidelines are outlined for what students
and professionals should expect from one another in their various interactions. Student affairs
professionals should expect students to be active participants in their education. A major
component of this is being open to conversation, and to learn to interact with information
critically. In doing so, students begin to develop their own opinions and ideas about the
information being received, rather than simply sleepwalking their way to knowledge (hooks, p.
146).
Conversely, students should expect student affairs professionals to meet students where
they are. Meaning, student affairs professionals should make a point to acknowledge individual
differences and interact with students in a way that is appropriate to where each student is in their
developmental stages. Students should expect student affairs professionals to offer opportunities
for growth, whether that is through conversation or through various programs put on through
student affairs offices. It is most important to note the mutual expectations of both students and
student affairs professionals. Both groups should be expected to bring their whole selves and to
look at their interactions as mutually benefitting. Student affairs professionals should not identify
as the holder of all knowledge, but rather to be a facilitator of student development and
appropriately address issues from a guidance perspective.

PHILOSOPHY OF THE STUDENT AFFAIRS PROFESSION

Perspectives on Student Affairs Educators as Professionals


Lifelong Learning and Distinguished Work in the Field
Lifelong learning, particularly in a student affairs role, seems to compliment student
development in that in order to adequately assist students in their own discernments, student
affairs professionals must approach students in a way that also seeks to continually be critical of
and acknowledge how our own knowledge might shift. It essentially becomes a requirement of
the field to be open to change through student interactions as well as acknowledging that we do
not hold all of the answers. Rather, we should be aware that certain experiences might challenge
the knowledge we hold, and actively seek out opportunities to do just that.
As student affairs professional, it is important to stay current with theories, policy, and
students generational behaviors. In The Handbook of Student Affairs Administration, Evans and
Ranero note that attending professional student affairs conferences such as the American College
Personnel Association or the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators are ways
to further develop professional skills while also staying up to date on changing issues within the
student affairs profession (2009, p. 209). While student populations grow more diverse, and
campus climates begin to become a little more inclusive of marginalized communities, historical
policies and procedures begin to shift. It is our professional responsibility to shift with these
policies and procedures in order to adequately assist students through college. In The Handbook
of Student Affairs Administration, Komives and Carpenter state that professional development
ought to conform to human development principles in that individuals should strive to develop
complex professional behavior, should be critical in their interaction with professional
environments, should combine knowledge and skills within the context of development, and
should have adequate professional preparation (2009, p. 375). Lifelong learning then becomes

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self-directed as professional development hinges on human development as a whole. In essence,


the skills obtained through human growth should guide student affairs professionals in the
workplace. However, this emphasis on lifelong learning and development is not universal within
the academy, but rather unique to student affairs professionals.
Student affairs professionals are unique in the academy in the sense that work and
personal lives are often blended together in a way that dictates the ethics of the profession.
Although I acknowledge other professions have ethical foundations, student affairs
professionals ethical standards are rooted in a context that is uniquely defined by student
welfare, the institution, the profession, the community, and personal conscience (Dalton, Crosby,
Valente, & Eberhardt, 2009). These factors work together to inform how student affairs
professionals navigate through their careers. Within the academy, student affairs professionals
are distinguished in that these factors must be effectively managed and an ethical standard within
these spheres must be maintained in order to properly serve students. To correctly navigate
various issues that may arise in the profession, Dalton et. al. explains student affairs
professionals are expected to adhere to seven commonalities between the thirty-five different
professional associations: autonomy, nonmalfeasance, beneficence, justice, fidelity, veracity, and
affiliation (2009, p. 174). The seven commonalities act as a foundation for ethical decisionmaking that aims to essentially broaden the college experience while holding professionals
accountable for their actions.
Ethical situations that may arise in the careers of student affairs professionals vary on
both professional and personal levels. Within the academy, student affairs professionals are
called upon to provide guidance with issues such as underage drinking, personal relationships
among students, staff, and faculty, confidentiality, and situations revolving around exceptions,

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privileges, and favoritisms (2009, p. 182). While I understood these issues are common for
professionals to encounter and pose solutions for, I did not anticipate just how much is placed
upon our shoulders when issues arise. I have consistently observed how frequently professionals
in higher-level positions at Seattle University encounter situations where their own ethical
backgrounds are put to the test. It seems that within the field, these individuals are solely
responsible for making crucial decisions and being mindful of alternative solutions when
situations arise.
Crisis Managers
In the role as crisis managers, student affairs professionals must appropriately assess the
situation and navigate through hardships while placing the student first. In order to help students
through hardships and tough situations, it is our role as professionals to make sure that set plans
are in place. In The Handbook of Student Affairs Administration, Miser and Cherrey note that a
strong plan should outline both philosophical and pragmatic issues and should identify
individuals in positions who should participate on the decision-making team (2009, p. 605).
Once the correct individuals are selected as leads for crisis situations, plans should be practiced
and rehearsed in order to troubleshoot any miscommunications or oversights. Additionally,
policies and procedures should be reviewed in order to establish the correct response to particular
situations. With programs and plans in place, the first responsibility of professional staff is to
ensure peoples safety before addressing any other aspect of the situation. The difficult part of
crisis comes quickly after, when addressing how to appropriately transition from chaos to
normality.

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In order to make the most meaning of a crisis, student affairs professionals should be
aware of the difficulties in reestablishing the campus, and do so in the appropriate manner.
Professionals should aid students in making sense of the events that may unfold on campus,
which is obviously a challenging task. As crisis managers, student affairs professionals must
offer their support and help students make meaning of events by offering spaces to discuss the
events, or knowing how to guide the student to the correct individuals who are more prepared to
do so. It is also our role as crisis managers to assist students by helping to reestablish the campus
so that it is again comfortable for students. Miser and Cherrey state that transitions start with
endings, meaning that letting go of the past is the beginning to moving forward (2009, p. 614).
It is only after letting go of the past and the perceived normalities before crisis events, can a
campus begin to establish new normalities and transition toward a more comfortable
environment.
Conclusion
Student affairs professionals bridge the gap between assumed educational gains in
traditional classroom formats to beyond the classroom in order to aid in students different
developmental areas. The focus of educating the whole individual provides the need for student
affairs professionals to offer insight in areas that might not be addressed in the classroom. This
allows for learning to be transferred from traditional settings to campus environments, making a
large part of the profession the ability to facilitate this transfer and offer help in a way that allows
students to progress as students, professionals, and individuals. It is important for student affairs
professionals to always maintain the idea of lifelong learning in this process, and that at any
moment our personal and professional paradigm might shift from new educational experiences.
From my experience at Seattle University, my paradigm has drastically shifted. I am more open

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to and critical of new information, am more reflective in my educational experiences, and strive
to maintain these new skills throughout my professional career.

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References
Dalton, J. C., Crosby, P. C., Valente, A., & Eberhardt, D. (2009). Maintaining and modeling
everyday ethics in student affairs. The handbook of student affairs administration (3rd
edition), 166-186.
Evans, N. J., Forney, D. S., & Guido, F. (2010). Student development in college: Theory,
research, and practice (2nd edition). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.
hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. New York:
Routledge.
Kezar, A. (2009). Supporting and enhancing student learning through partnerships with academic
colleagues. The handbook of student affairs administration (3rd edition), 405-424.
Komives, S., & Carpenter, S. (2009). Professional development as lifelong learning. The
handbook of student affairs administration (3rd edition), 371-387.
Kuh, G., Lyons, J., Miller, T., & Trow, J. (1995). Reasonable expectations: Renewing the
educational compact between institutions and students. NASPA: Washington, D.C.
Laker, J. A., & Davis, T. L. (2009). Continuing the journey toward multicultural campus
communities. The handbook of student affairs administration (3rd edition), 242-264.
Miser, K. & Cherrey, C. (2009). Responding to campus crisis. The handbook of student affairs
administration (3rd edition), 602-622.
NASPA (1949). Student personnel points of view, 1949.
Thon, A.J. (1989). The ignation perspective: The role of student affairs in Jusuit higher
Education [Monograph], pp.6-18. Retrieved from
http://jaspa.creighton.edu/Publications/index.htm.

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Yosso, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race discussion of community cultural
wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 69-82.