Nina Grant, Nebraska State Membership Coordinator
September 30, 2018
Have you seen those shirts or mugs that say things like, "I'm a nurse, what's your superpower?" Or have you seen the images like the ones attached below, used with preschool children to have them pick out which one is their superpower?
Well, that is what I think about the power of being a student affairs professional and working in the field of higher education. I think about all the superpowers that are used on behalf of our students. After all, student affairs professionals are always ready to save the day, and often completing tasks and projects with superhuman abilities. So, what is your superpower? You help students…that is your superpower. We serve students, we assist them, we guide them, we support them, we teach them, and we are here for them!
I am proud to be a student affairs practitioner and the work that I do and that my colleagues do each and every day. There are some days that are extra special to me, like the start of another academic year, and the end of year celebrations and commencement. But there are also the days, that on the surface seem like any other day, and then something happens, and you have to change into your superhero suit and try to save the day. I have had students tell me that something I did “saved them” and many have shared stories with me about how my colleagues made a meaningful and profound difference for them. On all of those days, and reflecting upon each of those times, it helps me to think about why I do what I do, and why I hope you do what you do.
In the field of Student Affairs or Student Services, there are core beliefs and principles of our practice that have persisted throughout its history and some that have evolved and emerged as institutions of higher education and the needs of our society have changed.
One early document that attempted to capture the emerging complexity of the field was the Student Personnel Point of View, published in 1937 by the American Council on Education. It was reviewed and rewritten in 1949. Since then additional documents have come forward that attempt to capture the beliefs and principles of the field, which include: Student Development in Tomorrow's Higher Education: A Return to the Academy (1972); the COSPA statement (1975); A Perspective on Student Affairs (1986); The Student Learning Imperative (1993); and Principles of Good Practice for Student Affairs (1998). If you review these documents, you will find the following ideals and beliefs to strive towards, and again hopefully some good reminders of why we do what we do:
A belief in the dignity, uniqueness, potential, and worth of each individual.
A belief that our role is to enhance student learning and student development.
A belief in the development of the whole person, including the importance of intellectual, social, emotional, and spiritual elements.
A belief that learning occurs in diverse places and diverse ways.
A belief in supporting the goals of individuation and community, recognizing the powerful role of community in learning and development.
A belief in communities where diversity is desired, mutual respect is expected, and where ideas and assumptions are to be explored and questioned.
A belief in encouraging conversation and communication, instead of stifling it, no matter how offensive the ideas may be to some.
A belief that the mission of student affairs flows from the mission of the institution.
A belief that higher education and student affairs have roles in assisting in transforming our society into one that is a learning society.
And yes, you help students….that is your superpower. But perhaps your greatest superpower is that the work you do, helps unleash the superpowers of our students.
Thank you for being a superhero to our students. The heroics of our amazing, sensational, spectacular, colleagues, wielding their great power to empower students is no easy feat.
But in real life, superheroes aren't defined by their masks and capes, but by their awe-inspiring acts of courage that save lives and make it possible for students to be successful in their path towards possibilities. My fellow Student Affairs Superheros…may you all continue to be them, work with them, and learn from them!
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