Abu Dhabi, Day 1
It’s 1:00 a.m. here in Abu Dhabi and 4:00 p.m. on the East Coast of the U.S. I left my house at 2:00 p.m. on Friday, February 1 for Dulles airport to take British Airways to Heathrow in London and from London to Abu Dhabi, and I lost a day, so to speak, in travel. As soon as I finish this message to you, I will finally go to bed since I’ve not been prone since Thursday night, January 31.
I’m surprisingly alert and have such a sense of well-being. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been so thrilled that the vision Kevin Kruger and I had about ways to fulfill the NASPA Board’s international objective are coming together on several fronts much sooner than either of us expected. One dream was to offer student services institutes internationally. We had our first one in December in collaboration with the Hong Kong Student Services Association. Speaking of collaboration, a partnership with Colorado State University’s SAHE program working with Dave McKelfresh, Jody, Donovan, and Oscar Felix is a fantastic dream as well.
I’m also pumped because Courtney Stryker, Zayed University in Abu Dhabi, and I had an impossible drean to have a NASPA International Student Services Institute (NISSI) this February despite some setbacks along the way. The potential success for the Institute is beyond what either of us dared hope. I will give a better account of attendance and response after the first day of the Institute.
Last year, Denny Roberts, gave me an opportunity to represent NASPA in the Region III 6th Annual Gulf Conference program as a panelist along with Greg Roberts and colleagues from Hamad Bin Kalifa University in Doha, Qatar or Education City. This year, Courtney Stryker and the Conference Planning Committee are giving me an opportunity to keynote the NASPA ACPA Gulf Conference following the NASPA International Student Services Institute. It’s all coming together beautifully, and I am going to get some sleep now to continue the dream.
Abu Dhabi, Day 2
Had a really fine dinner and discussions with colleagues last night at an Indian restaurant in a shopping arcade next to the Shangri-La Hotel. Yes, it really does look like it should be called Shangri-La.
After dinner, sleep did not welcome me with open arms. Writers have described the sound of the wind during the night as howling, haunting, or even mournful. As I lay awake last night, because my body has not adjusted to the new time zone, I likened the sound of the wind to an ensemble of wind instruments, especially the flute. The sound was lilting and soothing, and for that, I am grateful.
In just a few hours, Dr. Oscar Felix and I will meet the participants who are attending the first NASPA International Student Services Institute (NISSI) in the United Arab Kingdom (UAE). This NISSI is a collaborative program created by Colorado State University Student Affairs in Higher Education program, Zayed University, and NASPA.
I could not be more excited about the Institute and future possibilities!
Oscar Felix, Colorado State University; Courtney Stryker, Zayed University; Karla Fraser, American University of Afghanistan; Gwen Dungy, NASPA
Abu Dhabi, Day 3
The first day of the NASPA International Student Affairs Institute (NISSI) was attended by forty participants, ten of which were undergraduate students. The five male and five female undergraduates were an interesting and thought provoking addition to the Institute. As we student affairs practitioners talked about students, these students were able to interject the student’s perspective as they were living it.
Dr. Courtney Stryker, student affairs administrator Zayed University, Abu Dhabi, hosted the NISSI at Zayed University’s Abu Dhabi campus. Some photos of the convention center where the Institute is being held speak volumes about the AAA facility with so much space and architectural interest. The facility is impressively beautiful, comfortable and quite practically useful.
From 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Dr. Oscar Felix and I shared a sketch of student development and learning theories. I talked briefly about the evolution of student affairs, the purpose of the publication Learning Reconsidered
and how the publication has redefined learning. Dr. Felix gave an introduction to various student development theories. Participants were engaged throughout the session and had quite a bit of discussion on Sanford’s challenge and support theory. It was interesting to see the different perspectives of students and student affairs educators on whether or not students were more challenged than supported. Baxter-Magolda’s theory on self-authorship caused several participants to recall conversations with students who were at the threshold of making the decision to take responsibility for self authorship or sacrifice their own independence for the sake of tradition and family pride. Tomorrow as we discuss and practice using the basic skills of advising and counseling, we might explore how the helpers would help guide a student who is in-between.
Abu Dhabi, Day 4
The second day of the Institute was divided into two sessions. During the morning session, we reviewed the lessons from the previous day and the goals the participants had for the Institute. Most of the goals not met on the first day were going to be addressed on this day. Our topic was the competency Advising and Helping. Before giving an overview of the session, participants also shared what they saw as the most pressing concerns their students had. We would plan to use the list of concerns for role playing during the Advising and Helping session.
Left: Participants and Gwen Dungy
Right: Dr. Courtney Stryker
We learned that some of the participants had had some training in active listening skills, and we asked them to demonstrate some of the skills of active listening for the entire group. During the role play, one person was the student with a concern, one person was the helper, and the third person was the observer. The role play was videotaped and played back for all to see and share in discussing observations related to active listening skills. There was enthusiastic participation, and the exercise seemed to be quite effective.
Dr. Oscar Felix
The afternoon session was the Host Country Session on culture. What began as an information session became a lively discussion among nationals who had different perspectives on traditions and customs. This session is an invaluable part of the NASPA International Student Services Institute, and the only thing we would change about it is where we place it on the schedule. In the future, we will do the Host Country Session earlier in the program in order for non-nationals to have this information as the competencies are reviewed since the competencies were created from a U.S. perspective.
Participants and Dr. Oscar Felix
Dr. Oscar Felix, Dr. Courtney Stryker, and I think the participants learned and were satisfied with the Institute. In a cursory review, the evaluations were extremely positive.
Report from 7th NASPA-ACPA Gulf Region Conference
Zayed University, Abu Dhabi, UAE
6-7 February 2013
Beyond Boundaries: Leading Locally, Thinking Globally
Dr. Courtney Stryker, Student Affairs, Zayed University, Conference Chair and host
Dr. Gwen Dungy, Executive Director Emeritus, NASPA, NISSI faculty and Conference speaker
Dr. Oscar Felix, Executive Director, Access Center, Colorado State University, NISSI faculty
Dr. Jeanine Ward-Roof, Dean of Students, Florida State University, NASPA Region III Director and NASPA Board Member
Zayed University hosted the 7th Gulf Region Conference at its newly constructed spacious and comfortable convention center. Dr. Courtney Stryker and the Conference planning committee provided a stellar program with abundant hospitality and grace. Every expectation was exceeded. For the second year, ACPA co-sponsored the Gulf Conference, and Dr. Heidi Levine, Assistant Vice President Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Cornell College, attended and spoke on behalf of ACPA. Dr. Jeanine Ward-Roof shared information about NASPA programs and how to become involved, and both were available to speak with participants about their respective associations.
Left: Dr. Courtney Stryker
Right: Zayed University Conference Center
Dr. Jeanine Ward-Roof
NASPA International Student Services Institute (NISSI)
Preceding the two-day conference on February 4-5, forty-four colleagues representing universities throughout the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saud Arabia, Afghanistan, the U.S., and Nigeria, was the first NASPA International Student Services Institute (NISSI) held in the Middle East. This NISSI was a collaboration among NASPA, the Colorado State University SAHE program, and the host country, Zayed University in Abu Dhabi. Among the participants were students from United Arab Emirates University.
The content for NISSI is based on the Ten Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Practitioners developed by a task force of ACPA and NASPA members. For the Abu Dhabi NISSI, the Conference planning committee selected two competencies:
Student Learning and Development and Advising and Helping
In addition to addressing these competencies, an innovative and critical part of the NISSI was the seminar provided by the host country on culture and norms unique to students and student affairs in the UAE. The host country seminar was facilitated by Nooreya Al Obaidli, senior personal counselor in the student affairs division and leadership at Zayed University, Abu Dhabi. This seminar was especially helpful for non-nationals, and it also demonstrated that, just as in any other culture, people of the same country are not monolithic because there was lively discussion and debate among the nationals during this session.
The faculty for the NISSI acknowledged that the competency areas were written for practitioners working in the U.S., and that they would rely on participants to raise issues and make comments where the competencies did not apply because of unique cultural emphases. Goals for the Institute as shared by participants were, for the most part, congruent with the selected competencies for this Institute. Participants wanted to learn about the following:
- Active listening skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Skills related to student development and learning
- More about student affairs as a profession
- Communication between students and staff
Dr. Oscar Felix
Dr. Oscar Felix was the lead faculty member who helped participants become familiar with various learning theories used by student affairs practitioners in their work. The theory that resonated immediately with participants and encouraged most discussion was Sanford’s challenge and support theory. Practitioners and students shared student concerns that might be addressed using this theory:
- Keeping up with academic requirements
- Coping with family issues
- Navigating the transition from high school to college
- Dealing with culture shock among international students
- Understanding the rules, norms, and policies of the university
- Gaining independence from families
- Taking responsibility for their own learning
- Balancing time for study, leisure, and work
- Preparing for a career
- Dealing with health issues
Dr. Gwen Dungy
For the advising and helping session, participants had an opportunity to practice the basic helping skills and receive feedback on their role playing using active listening skills.
Left: Gwen Dungy, Nooreya Al-Obaidili, Shamsa Al-Taei, Courtney Stryker, Oscar Felix
Right: Oscar Felix, Mohammed Madi Yousif, Gwen Dungy, Courtney Stryker
Some NISSI Participants
Conference-Beyond Boundaries: Leading Locally, Thinking Globally
Opening welcoming remarks were made by Dr. Courtney Stryker, Dr. Larry Wilson, Provost, Dr. Heidi Levine, ACPA, Dr. Jeanine Ward-Roof, NASPA. Dr. Gwen Dungy gave the keynote speech sharing her student affairs listening and learning journey since she attended the 6th Gulf Conference where she recommended six learning outcomes for college and university graduates. She shared how the outcomes had been adjusted during her listening and learning tour throughout the year and received feedback from this year’s participants on how the outcomes might be further refined. She also recommended a new model (cocurriculum laboratories) for student affairs and academic affairs to work together to help students achieve the learning outcomes necessary for student success in an environment of chaos and flux.
Dr. Larry Wilson, Provost, Zayed University
Conference sessions covered a wide range of topics including diversity and inclusion, technology and student success, residential life, student conflict, identities in a multicultural student body, parents’ orientation, student employment, career education and experiential learning, assessment, strategic planning, onboarding for the global campus, and the Islamic model of leadership.
A special plenary—“Hot Topics in Gulf Region Student Affairs” was an opportunity for participants to share their concerns and strategies following a panel discussion of topics that they thought were most pressing for students today. Panelists were Khulood Al Atiyat, New York University, Abu Dhabi; Laveena Lobo, American University of Kuwait; Jamil Karam, Qatar Foundation; and Heidi Levine, Cornell College was the respondent.
- Topics that emerged from the panel and were reinforced by participants included the following:
- Need for professional development opportunities for student affairs practitioners who lack graduate training in higher education and student affairs
- Need for more collaboration among universities
- Lack of research in the region
- Cultural competence for the Gulf Region context
- Upsides and downsides of social media
Dr. Courtney Stryker and the Conference planning committee are to be commended for an outstanding conference that anticipated every need and provided an opportunity for sharing, learning, and meeting colleagues from places far and wide. Each Gulf Conference learns from the previous one and increases in quality. Dr. Stryker is passing the baton of hosting the 8th Gulf Conference to Mohanned Madi A. Yousif, Director of Resident Life & Student Housing at United Arab Emirates University. UAEU is enthusiastically anticipating hosting the Conference as they whetted the appetite and enticed participants to begin planning on attending with a beautiful film about the UAEU. As it was for the 7th Gulf Conference, the Conference will be preceded by a NASPA International Student Services Institute (NISSI). The competencies to be covered will be determined by the Conference planning committee and publicized along with the 8th Conference materials.
Keep up with information about the 8th
Gulf Conference at NASPA@uaue.ac.ae
Left: Mohammed Madi Yousif, Heidi Levine, Courtney Stryker, conference participants
Right: Mohammed Madi Yousif