Final Report (February 2010)
ACPA and NASPA Release Final Report from the Task Force on the Future of Student Affairs
A little more than a year ago the ACPA Governing Board and the NASPA Board of Directors established the Joint Task on the Future of Student Affairs. The task force, co-chaired by past presidents Jan Walbert and Vasti Torres, brought together 14 volunteers from our shared profession to discuss and provide insights into the future of our work.
Midpoint Report (July 2009)
This is a preliminary summary of the first year of work of the Task Force. As part of the work of the Task Force, the members considered numerous issues related to the future including the societal pressures on higher education and the consequences of the current economic issues on higher education institutions. Based on these factors and others we recognized the importance of sharing the Task Force’s current thinking with the ACPA Governing Board and the NASPA Board of Directors for discussion during summer leadership and board meetings. The Task Force is committed to providing a full report to be distributed to association leaders in February 2010 with broad electronic distribution to association members following the respective national meetings in March 2010. This mid-point report includes the original charge to the Task Force, the process we have used, the strategic vision and principles that will guide the overallrecommendations, initial recommendations, and the anticipated outline of the final product of the Task Force.
Charge of Task Force on the Future of Student Affairs
As current societal trends and priorities focus increasing attention on higher education, the profession of student affairs is compelled to take intentional responsibility for its future. We recognize that our work demands accountability, effective use of resources, collaboration and a stronger knowledge base. As the two comprehensive student affairs associations, ACPA and NASPA recognize the importance of our role in crafting a vision for our profession that is responsive to the needs of our students, institutions and colleagues for the next ten years and beyond. Together we must be committed to considering and identifying strategies which will shape the future of student affairs and higher education.
The Task Force is charged with responding to the following questions related to challenges student affairs professionals have brought forth to our leadership. The expectation is that this group will develop strategies to address these issues in the coming years.
• What are the best mechanisms to contribute to advance the profession’s knowledge base about practice, students, ourselves and organizations?
• How can the comprehensive associations (ACPA and NASPA) best serve the broad professional development needs and expectations of our members?
• How can the two comprehensive associations (ACPA and NASPA) assure efficiency and effectiveness in providing professional development?
• What linkages to other student affairs associations, higher education organizations and governmental entities are essential to the work of student affairs? How should these partnerships be developed?
• Specific to ACPA and NASPA should we continue to coordinate the joint meeting each decade, recognizing the next would be in 2017?
The work of this task force will help assure the long term credibility and viability of the student affairs profession and our responsibility to serve future generations of college students and colleagues in higher education.
As the leadership of the two most comprehensive student affairs associations, our responsibility is to create and implement a strategic plan for the professionof student affairs that honors our history, intentionally builds on our present strengths, and positions student affairs to help shape and be responsive to the future of higher education. We are committed to providing leadership and to partnering with colleagues to enhance our credibility, sustainability and viability for the future.
Process to Date
As a group we placed our primary emphasis on the future of the student affairs profession and, specifically, our role within the academy in the future. In order to plan for the future, the Task Force began its work by establishing a current vision and principles statement for the work of student affairs. This statement represents extensive discussion, consultation and consideration of where we are as a profession and what we believe is central to the student affairs profession of the future. Numerous discussions both as a full Task Force and as small work groups provided the context for the vision and principles statement. At each of the national conferences, the Task Force co-chairs made presentations and received initial responses from the membership through sessions in March 2009 at the NASPA Conference in Seattle, and at the ACPA Convention in Metro D.C. These sessions provided an opportunity for colleagues to hear about the work of the Task Force as well as about the draft vision with an opportunity to react. The discussion points from the member sessions were documented and shared with the full task force, thus allowing the perspectives of association colleagues and members to inform and broaden the statement.
In addition, the Task Force considered divergent views by seeking feedback from colleagues with external perspectives who considered the professions’ role as being primarily a support function. In contrast, the internal perspectives from association leaders who responded to our request for feedback saw the professions’ role as leaders on campuses. In addition, discussions led us to challenges with the long-standing issue of the duplication of effort of the two comprehensive associations, ACPA and NASPA, and how the changing economic situation that evolved during this time period will require different thinking about duplication.
Numerous sources of information were reviewed and extensively considered in these deliberations during this phase of the process including the following:
• Summary of previous literature in the field related to the future of the student affairs profession
• SWOT analysis completed by the Task Force
• Literature that addresses societal and education trends
• Feedback from the Task Force membership, governing bodies, the Task Force Consulting Group, and targeted groups including Presidents, Provosts, Financial Officers and leaders of other associations
The vision created by the Task Force is meant to provide a concise, inclusive description of the work of diverse types of student affairs professionals. The principles were drafted to illustrate the essential qualities and characteristics of student affairs work. Following reviews by Task Force members; both governing boards; the consulting group (composed of a range of practitioners, faculty and other colleagues representing a variety of roles and responsibilities in higher education); executive directors and presidents from other student affairs associations; and a select group of college presidents, provosts, and financial officers the Task Force revised the statement. Updates about the progress of the Task Force have been provided through each association’s website and electronic communications to members. A broad spectrum of voices was considered in the creation of the vision and principles statement.
Vision and Principles for Student Affairs
(As of July 1, 2009, Created by the ACPA/NASPA Task Force on the Future of Student Affairs)
The student affairs profession has framed its work within a context that is dedicated to consider “the student as a whole,” which was first expressed in the 1937 Student Personnel Point of View. As we articulate the vision for the profession today, we affirm this foundation and acknowledge the evolution of students and institutions of higher education that necessitates the revision of a guiding statement.
“One of the basic purposes of higher education is the preservation, transmission, and enrichment of the important elements of culture: the product of scholarship, research, creative imagination, and human experience. It is the task of colleges and universities to vitalize this and other educational purposes as to assist the student in developing to the limits of his potentialities and in making his contribution to the betterment of society.
This philosophy imposes upon educational institutions the obligation to consider the student as a whole - his intellectual capacity and achievement, his emotional make up, his physical condition, his social relationships, his vocational aptitudes and skills, his moral and religious values, his economic resources, and his aesthetic appreciations. It puts emphasis, in brief, upon the development of the student as a person rather than upon his intellectual training alone.” - The Student Personnel Point of View, 1937
The Student Affairs profession enhances student learning and development by creating healthy and engaging campus environments that promote student success.
As student affairs professionals, we: (listed in alphabetical order)
• Align our work with the mission and goals of our institution,
• Build partnerships, on and off-campus, that foster learning-centered environments,
• Contribute to the body of knowledge and research about students,
• Create and measure learning outcomes to inform our practice and promote quality programs,
• Cultivate campus conditions for students to meet their goals by enhancing student access to and persistence in higher education,
• Engage in professionally competent practice and maintain ethical standards,
• Model and teach leadership, service, and engagement,
• Nurture all students’ learning and development, recognizing the diversity represented in their lived experiences, and
• Promote socially just communities through programs, standards, and policies
Since finalizing the vision for the future of the profession, the Task Force has focused on how the profession can ensure that this vision comes to fruition. During these conversations it became clear that there are infrastructure issues that need to be addressed before other issues can be considered. At the heart of the infrastructure issue is the fact that with two comprehensive associations, the profession is perceived to not speak with a common voice that represents student affairs. The need to provide a common voice that can coordinate and represent student affairs is critical to fulfilling the vision for the future of the profession.
The initial recommendation from the Task Force regarding infrastructure came earlier this spring when at the request of the Task Force, the governing bodies of each association charged the respective executive directors (EDs) with exploring structural alignment of ACPA and NASPA. Discussions with the EDs and presiding presidents of both associations indicate that many things can be aligned rather quickly; yet, all involved recognize that alignment of programs to lessen duplication cannot be done without a commitment from the governing bodies, and as a result the two associations must function as competitors.
This level of competition and related repetition and duplication of programs, resources, and effort does not serve the profession well. In order to meet the vision for the profession, it is apparent that the two-association structure fractures the profession, and the current societal pressures on higher education calls for unification of the profession to be considered and for a common voice to be used to represent the profession. A common voice can promote and represent student affairs to external and internal stakeholders in order to provide a unified view of the profession. For this reason, the Task Force endorses the following:
• The concept of one organization that coordinates and represents the student affairs profession.
• The understanding that the governing bodies of each association should drive this process with the support of the Task Force.
This one organization could serve as an organizational entity to link other student affairs’ specialty/functional area associations. As Co-chairs of the Task Force we asked the ACPA and NASPA executive directors to speak with other executive directors, and we personally spoke to other association presidents. The function of a coordinator role by an association for the profession is attractive to these associations. This coordinated infrastructure could also model the stronger linkages needed among these functional areas on campuses.
As this process is considered, the nature of the cultures of ACPA and NASPA should be intentionally incorporated. This includes recognizing that as the profession develops a common (one) voice there is a need to assure that the underrepresented voices are not lost. The initial recommendations made in this Mid-point Report recognize that the Task Force’s role is to respond to the charge, and it is not appropriate for this Task Force to make recommendations about how one organization would look or function.
Plan for Final Product from the Task Force
The present plan for a final product, an electronic paper to be distributed to association leaders and members, includes the following sections. The target delivery of the final report is February 2010, to the ACPA and NASPA governing bodies and then to the membership.
Introduction that will place recommendations in the context of current and future trends, the need for efficiency and effectiveness, changing economic conditions, associations’ roles with members, stakeholders and the higher education community, the range of specialized organizations, increasing accountability from internal and external competition, as well as addressing external perceptions that require a more consistent common voice.
Task Force Process that explains all considerations and actions taken by the members of the task force.
Findings that include the Vision Statement and Principles, implications and recommendations including essential elements of a strategic plan for the future of the profession, the answers to the questions in the charge, recommendations, and inclusion of implications for individuals, institutions and associations.
Scope of Issues, Questions and Topics not Addressed by the Task Force which may have been considered or not, including questions regarding what was discussed but not addressed by the Task Force. Implications for Future Practice that will include a strategic plan that considers professional development sources and costs, assurance of strong sources of knowledge for professionals (practitioners and faculty), baseline measures for future research, documents to educate others about our roles (primarily but not exclusively outside the profession), enhancing practitioners’ consideration beyond formal campus boundaries, and identifying strategies to integrate our roles both in support functions and leadership.
Vasti Torres and Jan Walbert
Co-Chairs, Task Force on the Future of Student Affairs
The Task Force on the Future of Student Affairs has met and continues to work toward addressing the charge outlined in previous communications. Co-Chairs Vasti Torres and Jan Walbert hosted sessions at the NASPA Conference in Seattle and at the ACPA Convention in Metro DC to update the membership on the current status. At each session, attendance included about 40-50 colleagues and discussion focused on our future work and priorities to be addressed by the Task Force. While we were not positioned to specifically gather feedback about next steps, we were able to engage in meaningful discussions about what matters to our colleagues about the future of the profession. The efforts of the Task Force are focused on looking at the broadest view of the Student Affairs Profession. During the sessions issues brought up included affordability, quality of experience, access for diverse student populations, professional standards, our influence on higher education more broadly, sharing our knowledge about students, who else to include in these discussions, and how to define global citizens. These venues provided the opportunity for discussion and for sharing the progress of the Task Force as well as allowing for discussion about ideas for inclusion and our next steps.
In both sessions, there were comments that reinforced the value of this work beyond the level of just what happens with the two associations, which includes the “work” and centrality of student affairs work to our campuses. The economic conditions emphasize the challenge higher education and associations are facing as we continue for the final year of the Task Force; the changes in the financial issues will continue to drive some of our substantive questions. As part of the on-going work the Task Force requested that each governing body ask the executive directors of ACPA and NASPA to explore structural alignment between the two associations, and we will discuss the many avenues this can take. The Task Force will keep the needs and values of the profession at the forefront of our conversations.
The next steps of the Task Force include soliciting input from the Consultation Group (colleagues who are not on the Task Force who indicated an interest in the work of the group, and have agreed to occasionally respond to key issues), gathering input from within and outside the profession, considering information from and linkages with other student affairs professional associations, and focusing on the final product of the Task Force. Currently, we are preparing a midpoint summary for review by the ACPA Governing Board and the NASPA Board of Directors this summer. The Task Force was designed to conclude its work within two years, and our current target is to provide recommendations to the Boards ofboth associations next spring.
We welcome thoughts and questions. You can reach Vasti and Jan through the following e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vasti Torres and Jan Walbert
Co-Chairs, Task Force on the Future of Student Affairs
The Task Force on the Future of Student Affairs convened once in person and through several conference calls over the past few months. The 16 member group has focused on understanding the history of the profession in order to begin with a common understanding of where the profession has been and what is meant by the future of student affairs. We continue to explore how we define the numerous roles student affairs professionals play on campuses, while working to determine best strategies to gather additional information from colleagues. Using a preliminary analysis of the profession's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, we engaged in extensive conversations, considered key issues and identified strategies to assure our work results in outcomes to meet the intention provided in the original charge to the Task Force. We acknowledge the breadth and complexity of the profession and strive to insure that all constituencies are represented and involved in our work.
As the charge states "...the profession of student affairs is compelled to take intentional responsibility for its future. We recognize that our work demands accountability, effective use of resources, collaboration and a stronger knowledge base." The work of the Task Force will build upon these concepts as we continue to define the purpose of and the vision for student affairs in higher education, including our role in a global society, in a time of constricting resources and enhanced accountability. The Task Force is on track to achieve its charge within the two year timetable established at its inception. We will be meeting via phone calls and in person again, and we will be holding sessions at both the NASPA 2009 Conference in Seattle and the ACPA 2009 Convention in Metro Washington, DC.
Vasti Torres and Jan Walbert
Co-Chairs, Task Force on the Future of Student Affairs
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