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My Relationship to Student Development Theory

While I do not currently possess a plethora of knowledge on student development theory as it

pertains to adult and higher education, I do have some knowledge as it relates to high school

students due to my undergraduate study of English education. Therefore, I do have a framework

for my current relationship to student development in college.

When completing my undergraduate work, I became attached to the phrase growth and

development, which, as it sounds, relates to how a student progresses both inside and outside of

the classroom. I focused much of my attention on this phrase, and constantly thought to myself,

will students expand on what they already know from this lesson? I believe that this also

applies to college students, and, much like high school, teachers are not the only professionals

that can assist with this development.

As an undergraduate at Illinois State University, I joined an organization called Students

Today, Leaders Foreveran organization that reveals leadership through service. STLF, as it is

often abbreviated, hosts what they call the Pay it Forward Tour every Spring Break, which is a

community service trip that sends 45 college students on a tour of seven different cities in nine

days. Many believe that because of this event that the organization is a service group, however,

this belief overlooks the leadership factor that plays a large role on the tour. As a participant on

my first tour, I gained a better understanding of both myself and communities that I am not a part

of. I became very aware of how affected by hunger much of our nation is. I also gained great

leadership and social skills while on the tour. I then had the opportunity to lead one of these

busses during my second year in the organization. Because the bus consists of primarily

strangers when it first departs, the leaders of each bus must do everything they can to help

cultivate a community on the bus. With me, I brought the growth and development phrase. I
spoke in depth with my fellow bus leaders about how we should frame the trip as a way for all

the participates to see their growth and development, so that they could realize that not only was

it happening to them, but it was also happening to everyone around them. Over the course of

those nine days I helped facilitate deep reflection activities and tasks that required teamwork and

leadership from those participating. I was then able to watch my participants grow and develop

while on the tour. By the end of the ninth day, there was not a single person on the bus who did

not enjoy the trip and feel as if they did not grow. This was my first real hands-on experience

with student development in the college setting and I did not even know it.

Before last weeks readings, I was not aware of many of the issues in the student

development field today. However, before we had any class discussion, I was struck by the fact

that many of the studies performed and theories that have been developed stem from a sample

population of only white males. At first I thought that this was an injustice to the field, but then I

reflected on what has happened over the past few decades and realized that the opportunity to

study and develop theories related to students outside of this demographic has only just started to


Although I am one, I have never fully viewed myself as a minority. I come from a house

that is not rooted in Latino culture, and my parents insisted on assimilation. Therefore, I did not

have much interest in minority studies throughout my entire life. However, knowing that white

males are the basis for many of these theories has struck my minority nerve. I feel as if I need

to lend a hand somehow in developing theories that are related to students that are not classified

as such, and I look forward to the work that comes with this task.

In this class I would love to learn how I exactly I can lend this helping hand. I hope to

gain knowledge related to current student development theories, and then reflect on if they are
true for all students or primarily white males. I wish to learn the tools by which I can help

studies that focus on underrepresented groups on a college campus. I want to be part of a

movement that helps generate a new theory, and I hope this class builds a framework of

knowledge for me that I can use beyond this classroom.