The CAS Professional Standards Are a Go-To Resource for All Sectors of Higher Education Institutions

In 2017 it is a truism that student affairs divisions and units are accountable to multiple stakeholders for a host of student outcomes. Also common knowledge, if not common practice, is that ongoing assessment of student affairs policies and programs provides evidence to demonstrate those outcomes and improvement toward them. The CAS Professional Standards are a go-to resource for all sectors of higher education institutions and for nearly any functional area in the field. So why do we need a new book providing an overview of the standards and examples of their use at diverse institutional types? When it comes to real-world application of assessment and nationally recognized professional standards in higher education, Using the CAS Professional Standards: Diverse Examples of Practice (Gulley, Dean, & Dean, 2017), copublished by NASPA, ACPA, and CAS, is the best available resource for experienced and new professionals, vice presidents, and graduate programs in student affairs. Here’s why.

Experienced professionals may have already used CAS standards for assessment, or perhaps they have been at institutions that used a different approach, or no assessment at all. It’s been years since they completed grad school and now both their vice president and unit are looking to them for leadership. They haul out their buried copy of whatever edition of the CAS Professional Standards for Higher Education they used in graduate school, overwhelmed by the most recent edition of standards and by the expectation that they will use them to lead unit assessment. The examples presented in Using the CAS Professional Standards cut across functional areas and institutional types, in accessible and informative ways, providing the experienced professional with a refresher and new insight into how to use the CAS standards in 2017.

New professionals may have encountered the most recent CAS Professional Standards in a graduate program, though not all talented and committed professionals come through a higher education/student affairs (HESA) program and not all programs use the CAS standards in their curriculum. Using the CAS Professional Standards provides a recent HESA graduate with grounding in the realities of assessment from the perspective of staff responsible for implementing it and living with the results (unlike a graduate student who may have participated in an assessment using the standards, but didn’t have to stick around and implement improvements, then assess them again). Professionals without the benefit of a HESA degree can use this new volume to get a crash course in the purpose of student affairs assessment and introduction to the use of the CAS standards.

Vice presidents and other senior leaders in student affairs divisions will find that the first five chapters of Using the CAS Professional Standards are an excellent investment of their limited time. An efficient read, these chapters provide updated information and rationale for using learning outcomes in divisionwide assessment. Vice presidents who need to remind/convince their staff why assessment is important will find a concise explanation, as will those who need to remind/convince their president and peers in the cabinet that student affairs assessment is rigorous and well founded. 

Many HESA graduate preparation programs use the CAS Professional Standards and Self-Assessment Guides in courses and practicum/internship placements. Yet, the (necessary) level of granularity in these resources may not be the best starting place for introducing the use of professional standards to assess student affairs practice. Using the CAS Professional Standards provides a more useful introductory teaching and learning resource, with perspectives from multiple levels, functional areas, and institutional types. Before digging into rubrics, graduate students and faculty will have some context for program review and assessment using the CAS Professional Standards. 

For these reasons—and more that readers will discover on their own—Using the CAS Professional Standards: Diverse Examples of Practice deserves a spot on the reading list of student affairs professionals, graduate students, and preparation program faculty.

Gulley, N. Y., Dean, S. R., & Dean, L. A. (Eds.). (2017). Using the CAS Professional Standards: Diverse examples of practice. Washington, DC: NASPA–Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, ACPA–College Student Educators International, and Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education.