Implications For Recruiting Top Student Leaders Into the Field of Student Affairs

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Elizabeth Hammond

August 13, 2018

Situation: You have a student leader that you meet with on a regular basis who is concerned about their original career path and asking for time in your meeting to discuss their concerns. You have always had a positive connection with this student as their mentor and are glad to help out as a listening ear. This student is heavily involved in student leadership opportunities and is one of the top student leaders that you have the opportunity to connect with. In the conversation you discover that they are unhappy in their major and are looking to explore other options before they approach their third year at the institution. The student loves their student leadership opportunities, and makes a comment that they “wish I could continue to do what I’m doing as a student leader.” In this moment, you realize your opportunity for suggestions could go down multiple paths. Do you take this opportunity to recruit this student to the field of student affairs? Do you refer them to the career development center on campus? Do you dive deeper into why they are unhappy in their major?

If the first suggestion is what you choose, what are the implications of recruiting our top student leaders to the field of student affairs? This is a question that I have muddled over for the past few months, ever since I was challenged on this very idea. I had the opportunity to learn about this concept through a podcast shared by one of my cohort members in our Contemporary College Students course. My cohort member, Emily Braught, and co-author, Shannon Mulqueen, dive into the implications of recruiting students into the field of students affairs in their podcast episode, “So You Want To Go Into Student Affairs?” This topic challenged me to think about not only the student leaders I worked with, but my own path into student affairs.

In my undergraduate work at the University of Louisville I started out in the Education program, hoping to be a high school calculus teacher and continue learning about my favorite subject, math. As I entered upper level math courses I found myself distracted in class by my desire to plan events in my leadership roles on campus. I decided to connect with the Career Center on campus to determine what career path would better suit me. I narrowed my career choice down to event planning and jumped into the Communication program. As I became more involved on the Student Activities Board, I also learned that I liked planning events on campus but had no interest in wedding planning. In my mind wedding planning was the only avenue to plan events outside of the higher education sector. In conversations with my Graduate Assistant and mentor, she gave me the idea and encouragement that I could become a student affairs professional and that I would do well in the field. It became my dream to be an advisor to a student programming board, and to make an impact just as my mentors had made in my life.

With this background, I will own that I find myself wanting to encourage every student leader I come into contact with to become a student affairs professional. I would be embarrassed to share with you my overwhelming excitement when a student comes to me expressing their interest in the field. I am overjoyed, and offer any help and guidance they need to be successful in this endeavor.

The podcast I mentioned earlier was a catalyst in my own learning around the implications of this behavior. With a critical approach, Emily and Shannon make some very great arguments that I will share with you to think about in your own work with student leaders interested in the field of student affairs.

  • Students can come into the field of student affairs with the assumption that they will be doing work and making decisions similar to what they are doing in their current student leadership role.

  • The field of student affairs can perpetuate a homogeneous thinking environment by recruiting student leaders with similar experiences and backgrounds.

  • Student affairs professionals outside of academic advising and career services can struggle to have an understanding of the variety of academic programs and career fields our students associate with.

  • If our mission statements are geared towards creating global citizens for the world, we are not upholding these missions by keeping student leaders within the field.

These are just a few points that are covered in the thought-provoking podcast shared by Emily Braught and Shannon Mulqueen. If you would like to hear the full podcast, please visit the link below. References for the podcast are also shared on the webpage via the link below.

As mentioned in the podcast, it is important for student affairs professionals to have an understanding of career opportunities and academic programs their students are involved in. I personally want to focus on this concept as a student affairs professional so that I can best serve the students I work with moving forward. I would also like to thank the NASPA Student Leadership Programs Knowledge Community for the opportunity to grow as a professional in learning more about student leadership in our field. As a new member to the leadership team I am very excited to be a part of a knowledge community whose purpose is to make a positive impact on student affairs professionals and the students they serve.

- Elizabeth Hammond is the Conference Events Co-Chair for the Student Leadership Programs Knowledge Community.

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