Dear SA Pros…
Careers in Student Affairs Month (CSAM) “is dedicated to the celebration of a career in student affairs, education and awareness in the profession, and engagement with professional associations and peers in the field” (NASPA, 2023). With over “50 sets of functional area standards,” (CAS, 2023), the work of student affairs professionals encompasses all aspects of the student experience. Therefore, the student experience is invariably impacted by student affairs professionals. In honor of this month, I want to shed light on some of the hidden heroes (functional areas) in our field and say thank you.
We are life-long partners and supporters of students. I have been inspired and influenced by professionals both in traditional and “nontraditional” student affairs roles. Without these unseen hidden heroes, I would not be the professional I am today. My first-year hall director demonstrated community engagement and enthusiasm for the unknown as he came to our floor meetings and community events, remembered many of his residents' names, and always held a positive perspective. I learned innovation and strategic thinking from the career of our (now current) AVP of Economic and Workforce Development as he has developed and nurtured cross-campus and community partnerships throughout his time at this institution. He tirelessly keeps meetings with our local area, visits classrooms to promote his office/resources, and attends campus engagements. He has demonstrated what it means to be a steward of the campus and students alike. To my NASPA family, thank you for embracing me with open arms. You gave me the permission to take risks and try new things. You gave me the encouragement to be ambitious and eager in my growth. Thank you for giving me the skills to navigate this dynamic field and community to find reprieve in. Finally, colleagues from my previous role embody the significance of wellness and boundary development. These women not only balanced the numerous responsibilities we had in our small office of four staff members and a graduate student, but they also held full schedules outside of work. These women empowered me to raise my voice and share my ideas and take the time to rest. They advocated on my behalf when colleagues minimized my input and supported me when I shared my authentic self. I cannot imagine how my first years as a new professional would have gone without my support sessions with candy in their offices.
Why SA Matters
These anecdotes are only a few of the many unshared stores that student affairs professionals have in the life of a student (or colleague). Why is the expansive field relevant for graduate students and new professionals? It’s validation that the traditional roles are imperative to the campus culture. It’s a reminder that your work and conversations are making an impact in the lives of others. It’s relevant because it can be a validation if you feel like traditional higher education roles are not a fit for you. It is solace in knowing that you and all your talents are needed to make higher education a transformative place even if you are not with a student(s) everyday. More importantly, it is allowing you to identify options for when you want to grow in your development or pivot in your career. Every functional area needs something unique; that unique thing may be you and your talents/skills. Some of the most interesting and closest colleagues to me are those who are “off the beaten” track of traditional student affairs such as Military/Veterans Services, Disability Services, and Campus Safety and Wellbeing. Yet, some of my first friends in the field were hall directors and fellow coordinator/entry-level positions.
Student affairs professionals bring the universal human experience to the forefront of the campus community. As student affairs professionals, we create and foster learning on a personal and programmatic level. Student affairs professionals are the voices that ensure access and support to populations who may be overseen during the day to day or calendar planning of a campus programming. Our purpose lies beyond the 24 hours in the day. Without these seen and discrete professionals of higher education, students would lose their advocate and supporters. While our work as student affairs may be hidden, our impact on students is not.
Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS). (2023). CAS Standards.
Student Affairs Administrators in Highe Education (NASPA). (2023). Careers in Student Affairs Month.