The Role of Student Affairs in Higher Education
Institutions of higher learning usually have various units that are organizationally separate from each other. Examples of such units include academic affairs, student affairs, and departmental affairs. Student affairs is usually responsible for providing support services to students in addition to what academic affairs provides. The aim of this paper is to provide a comprehensive answer to the question, “What is student affairs?”
2. What is Student Affairs?
In order to answer the question, “What is student affairs?”, it is necessary to understand the history and evolution of the field. The term “student affairs” was first used in the United States in 1937 by Edward Rynearson, who was then the Dean of Men at Pennsylvania State University (Engelke, 2012). He used the term to refer to all the non-academic activities and services that were provided to students on campus.
The Second World War led to an increase in the number of veterans attending colleges and universities on the GI Bill. This increase in enrollment put a strain on resources and personnel, which necessitated the creation of a new position: Dean of Students (Engelke, 2012). The role of the Dean of Students was to coordinate all non-academic services for students, such as housing and dining.
In the 1950s, there was a growing recognition of the need for student development theories and models within higher education (Evans, Forney, Guido, Patton & Renn, 2010). This resulted in the establishment of organizations such as the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) in 1951 and the Association for Counseling and Development of Students (now known as ACPA) in 1952. These organizations promoted the professionalization of student affairs work by providing training and networking opportunities for those working in the field.
The 1960s were a time of great social change, with movements such as the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Rights Movement leading to increased awareness of issues of equity and social justice. Student affairs professionals began to focus on developing programs and services that would be inclusive of all students, regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic status. During this time, many institutions also began to establish departments or divisions specifically devoted to student affairs (Evans et al., 2010).
The 1970s saw a continued focus on issues of equity and social justice within higher education. Student affairs professionals worked to create an environment on campuses that was supportive of all students, including those from traditionally underrepresented groups. They also began to focus more on prevention and intervention programs aimed at reducing risky behaviors among students (Evans et al., 2010).
The 1980s were a time of retrenchment for many institutions of higher education, with budget cuts leading to decreases in staffing and resources. Student affairs professionals responded by becoming more creative in their approach to programming and services, often partnering with other campus units such as athletics and alumni relations (Evans et al., 2010).
The 1990s were marked by an increased focus on assessment within higher education. Student affairs professionals began using data to assess the effectiveness of their programs and services. They also began to emphasizing accountability and outcomes-based approaches to their work (Evans et al., 2010).
The 21st century has seen a continued focus on assessment and accountability within student affairs.The field has also become increasingly global in scope, with student affairs professionals working in countries all over the world. Additionally, the field has begun to focus more on issues of sustainability and social responsibility (Evans et al., 2010).
3. The Role of Student Affairs in Higher Education
Student affairs plays a vital role in higher education. The main goals of student affairs are to support student learning and development and to create inclusive communities (Evans et al., 2010). In order to achieve these goals, student affairs professionals work in a variety of areas, including Orientation and First-Year Experience, Residence Life, Student Activities, Greek Life, Career Services, Counseling and Psychological Services, Health Promotion, and International Student Services.
4. Supporting Student Learning and Development in Higher Education
One of the main goals of student affairs is to support student learning and development. Student affairs professionals do this by providing a variety of programs and services that help students succeed in college. These programs and services include orientation programs, first-year experience programs, academic advising, tutoring services, writing centers, and study abroad programs.
5. Creating Inclusive Communities in Higher Education
Another goal of student affairs is to create inclusive communities. Student affairs professionals work to create an environment on campus that is supportive of all students, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or socioeconomic status. They do this by developing programs and services that are inclusive of all students, training faculty and staff on how to create an inclusive environment, and working with campus partners to develop policies that promote inclusion.
6. Committing to Equity and Justice in Higher Education
Student affairs professionals are also committed to equity and justice in higher education. They work to ensure that all students have the opportunity to succeed in college, regardless of their background or identity. They do this by advocating for policies that promote equity and inclusion, developing programs that address issues of equity and social justice, and working with campus partners to create a more just and equitable campus community.
Student affairs is a vital part of higher education. The goals of student affairs are to support student learning and development and to create inclusive communities. Student affairs professionals work in a variety of areas in order to achieve these goals. They also commit to equity and justice in higher education.