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Mattering, Marginality, and NASPA CCD Awards: Why it is Important to Recognize our Outstanding Work

August 16, 2019 Elena Sandoval-Lucero, Ph.D.

It is that time of year, the halls are buzzing with excitement, the parking lots are full, faculty have returned to campus to begin teaching their classes, and all summer long dedicated student affairs professionals have been recruiting students, engaging in the community, conducting new student orientation sessions, advising students, and preparing the campus for a new year. We spend our summer months working within continually limited resources to connect with and onboard new students. We spend our summers continuing to serve our current students keeping them on the pathway to student success. We mentor our student employees and write letters of recommendation for those who are transferring to universities or entering careers. We clean, we purge, and we ready the campus for the return of our favorite people, students! However, in the midst of our hectic busy summer days, we often forget about our own professional development. In student affairs, we want to make a difference in the lives of the students we serve, but as dedicated professionals, we must balance the demands of often under-resourced community college campuses with our own needs for professional development and renewal. Then classes start, and the NASPA Community College Division awards nomination emails appear in our email in-boxes. With the intensity of a fall start coming on the heels of a busy summer, we are tired. We are overworked. We ask ourselves, Do I have time to gather everything I need to nominate a colleague or mentor for a NASPA Community College Division award? Do they even have a chance of being recognized? Who can I ask for letters of recommendation? Why should I even do it? The answer to all these questions is, submit the nomination because as community college student affairs professionals, WE MATTER.

Our profession operates from theoretical frameworks. We use student development theories to explain the theoretical foundations of our work. However, these theories are also useful in explaining our own development as professionals. Nancy Schlossberg’s theory of mattering and marginality (1989) is an example. Schlossberg was after all, an adult development theorist (Patton, Renn, Quido & Quaye, 2016). Schlossberg described transitions as important times to connect and create mattering in order to avoid marginalization (Schlossberg, 1989; Patton, et. al., 2016). How do we create mattering? Schlossberg described four aspects of mattering: attention, being noticed; importance, being cared about; ego-extension, knowing that others are proud of what an individual does; and dependence, being needed (Schlossberg, 1989; Patton, et. al., 2016). Schlossberg recommended that institutions use the theory to help students feel that they matter as they transition to college (Schlossberg, 1989; Patton, et. al., 2016). We also can use Schlossberg’s theory to justify the time and effort it takes to nominate a community college colleague for one of the NASPA Community Colleges Division awards. Nominations are important because we notice the work our colleagues are doing. We care about the work our colleagues do on behalf of our students. We are proud of the work our colleagues do to serve our vibrant, diverse student populations. We need them to continue to doing that important work. THEIR WORK MATTERS. If they continue to work in isolation, they risk becoming marginalized. Submitting an award nomination sends our colleagues a message that THEY MATTER.

In a higher education context that often undervalues and marginalizes the important work of community colleges, WHAT WE DO MATTERS. In the busy days, weeks, and months where the deadlines loom and our institutions ask us to do more and more, OUR WORK MATTERS. If we do not tell our stories, they will either not be told, remaining at the margins of higher education, or they will be told by those with a deficit mindset about community colleges, and the students we serve. In short, our work and our students are at risk of marginalization if we do not speak up. OUR STUDENTS MATTER. Nominate a community college colleague today and send the message YOU MATTER!

Nominations for 2020 NASPA Community Colleges Division Awards are due November 1, 2019. Check these links to reveiw the nomination requirements for the Research and Scholarship Award and the Community College Professional Award.

Elena Sandoval-Lucero, Ph.D.
Vice President, Boulder County Campus, Front Range Community College
Community Colleges Division Board - Latinx/a/o Task Force Chair
2018 NASPA Community College Division Research and Scholarship Award Winner

Patton, L. D., Renn, K. A., Guido, F. M., & Quaye, S. J. (2016). Student development in college: Theory, research, and practice. John Wiley & Sons.
Schlossberg, N. K. (1989). Marginality and mattering: Key issues in building community. New directions for student services1989(48), 5-15.