As campuses on the quarter system begin classes, ACPA is proud to share with you the profession-leading thinking of its commissions on hot topics facing higher education and student affairs professionals this academic year. We are also pleased to share with you the hot topics provided by our colleagues from the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services (CACUSS)
You can view the hot topics for each commission by selecting the links below:
Commission for Academic Affairs Administrators
The ACPA Commission for Academic Affairs Administrators welcomes a wide variety of professionals who work within and outside of student affairs. Some members began their careers in traditional student affairs functional areas, while others have never worked in the field of student affairs. However, their affinity to our commission and ACPA is that they are concerned and work with academic issues that relate to students and faculty. Accordingly, our academic concerns span a wide spectrum of issues related to the cost of higher education, working with students in the digital age, and faculty concerns. The current topics in the field are: College Affordability
- As the cost of higher education continues to increase, the affordability of a college education continues to be a concern. The true cost of college needs to be more transparent to students and their families as well as the reality of student loan repayment. How can we control the price of college and the amount of debt our students are accumulating? Academic Dishonesty
- In a digital where on-line resources allow us to access the world with a few keystrokes, it becomes increasing difficult to monitor academic dishonesty, especially plagiarism. How and when do we teach our students about plagiarism? How do we teach students that the impact of academic dishonesty can haunt them beyond their undergraduate years? On-line tools, such as TurnItIn, are beginning to help ensure originality, but the larger, looming question is how do we create academic environments that do not tolerate academic dishonesty and promote academic honesty? Effectively Communicating with Students
- Because of the digital age, it becomes increasingly difficult to communicate effectively with students, who have multiple email accounts as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts. Increasingly, students are relying on social media to learn more about college options, but how can college and universities effectively use social media to help create a learning-centered environment and inform them of important academic decisions? Adjunct Faculty
- An increasing number of college and universities depend upon adjunct or part-time faculty to complete their teaching rosters, yet these faculty often are not included in faculty meetings, provided work space, and or given commensurate salaries—and accordingly are not invested in one institution, because they may teach at several institutions. As national critics call for higher education reform, how will our college and universities ensure improved retention and graduation rates when the faculty workforce increasingly depends on fixed-term labor?
Commission for Academic Support in Higher Education
As a profession of college student educators, we in the area of academic support are faced with a set of issues that are not unique in higher education, but are addressed from a different perspective. The current topics in the field are:
- Academic Advising – In the past, the time line to Bachelor’s degree attainment for full-time students was slipping to 5+ years. With a push from federal, state and local governments, institutions of higher education are putting more focus on the need to monitor student progress to help shorten the length of time to degree attainment. Many institutions have instituted full-time positions known as “academic advisors” whose primary job function is to monitor student success and progress. These positions can fall under Student or Academic Affairs.
- Why this topic is important in ACPA:
- Governmental push to graduate students on time.
- Obama administration’s push for everyone to pursue additional education.
- ACPA can provide a general, holistic, professional development approach to academic advising via the various Commissions and programming that other associations cannot
- ACPA can provide a place for publications and professional development while bridging between Student and Academic Affairs. Academic Support Services
- Possible options to increase the graduation rate discussed above are:
- lower the academic standards, or
- provide support services outside the academic classroom that enable students to succeed.
- While option (a) is not a good choice, it has crept into some institutions. Texts such as Academically Adrift discuss the state of education and a media hot topic has been the quality / expense of online education. Many schools across the nation have taken approaches to provide academic support in the residence halls and living-learning communities; schools have implemented campus evening tutoring programs and support classes both on / off campus. Tutoring services can reach into all areas of higher education.
- Why this is important to ACPA:
- As higher education professionals, we need to support struggling students if we what to increase graduation rates while also maintaining the integrity of the academic experience.
- ACPA’s Commission on Academic Support in Higher Education supports professionals who have years of experience and can help produce literature and publish best practices in this area. Help for Functional Areas
- Unique to the ACPA Commission for Academic Support in Higher Education, we are in the process of developing a program that will allow professionals from different functional areas an opportunity to learn about the academic support profession. The participants will develop a better understanding of academic support services and be able to carry a new set of skills to their functional area on their own campus. Watch for opportunities this year to be involved in this new program and expand your skill set through ACPA.
Commission for Assessment and Evaluation
The purpose of the Commission for Assessment and Evaluation promotes assessment skills and knowledge to facilitate and support student learning, development, and effective student affairs practice. The current topics in the field are: Many campuses are moving beyond basic assessment skills (e.g. writing outcomes, gathering data) and getting basic buy-in for assessment efforts and instead are being challenged by these key questions:
- How do we build capacity for data analysis and interpretation?
- In what format(s) is data best shared on our campus?
- How do we connect assessment data to bigger-picture efforts such as strategic plans and learning outcomes frameworks?
- What do SSAO’s need to learn about using assessment data and communicating assessment expectations to their divisions?
- How do we balance assessment needs with the growing issue of survey fatigue and dropping response rates?
- How do we use qualitative methods to gather information about deep learning experiences?
- How do we connect assessment data with resource allocation?
- How do we balance assessing student learning and program effectiveness?
- How do we assist department/units/divisions with limited resources to be successful with assessment?
- Is there a need for full-time assessment position(s) on my campus? Resources offered by the Commission for Assessment and Evaluation include:
- ACPA Student Affairs Assessment Institute added a division-wide assessment planning track this past summer and is refining it for the June 2013 conference. This track focuses on many of these issues
- Convention Institute has been proposed for the 2013 Convention in Vegas focusing on building capacity in data analysis/interpretation and sharing/reporting results
- Residential Curriculum Institute features a beginning and advanced assessment track that addresses connecting assessment efforts in residence life to curricular efforts
- Various resources as available at our Wiki and website
- Commission is currently gathering some data on specifically what mid-level and new professionals need in these areas to plan on-line resources and webinars
- CAE is convening a working group on how to support full-time or close to full-time student affairs assessment professionals. Currently this group as their own independent group (SAL) but they do not have a national organization home
- ASK Standards and new best practices monograph
The Commission for Career Development
The Commission for Career Development seeks to examine and address the changing and diverse role of career development in higher education within a student development framework. We achieve this mission through:
- Professional affiliation within the field of career development
- Professional development and service to the ACPA membership
- Knowledge and scholarship to enhance the field of career development The current topics in the field are:
Paid vs. Unpaid Internships
- Legal Issues for unpaid internships.
- ntern Bridge’s resource page: http://internbridge.com/company/unpaid-internshipresource-center offers valuable information.
Models of Career Centers
- Casella Model - The transitioning role of career services, how our roles as counselors/advisors are shifting-the overall function and services we provide.
- Reporting structures and mergers: Academic and Career Advising, Career and Alumni Services.
- The Models of Career Centers brings up another un-standardized issue: the department being housed in a variety of settings for different institutional reasons and many offices on campus claiming that they are doing “career related” activities. Also not looking at Career Centers as the experts in the field
Economy - Jobless Recovery
- The economy is becoming more global, students aren’t just competing with peers, and they’re competing globally.
Budgets / Financial
- Many centers are expected to do more with less or the same financial resources.
Assessment / SLO’s / Accountability
- White House creating a score card.
- Not just creating assessment and learning outcomes but showing what center’s are actually doing with this information.
Commission for Commuter Students and Adult Learners
1st Generation Commuter Students – A key issues in working with commuter students includes serving 1st generation students who do not live on campus. The amount of research done on traditional residential 1st generation students is vast and current and often does not apply to students who choose not to live on campus or have additional responsibilities that prevent them from doing so. The Commission will provide professional development on this issue by:
- Conducting original research on this topic
- publishing the results in our newsletter
- presenting the results at regional and national conferences
- generating a white paper on the topic
- producing a webinar on this topic
Veterans’ Services – The topic of Veterans’ Services continues to receive national attention and we will contribute to this body of knowledge as it relates to commuters and nontraditional students by:
- Providing sessions at ACPA 2013 focused on Veterans
- Producing a webinar focused on national support for student Veterans
- Highlighting the experiences of Veterans by publishing student profiles in our newsletter
Underappreciating of Nontraditional Students – Students who meet 1 or more of the NCES criteria for being nontraditional now make-up well over 50% of the undergraduate student population, yet research pertaining to the various student subgroups that fall under this umbrella comprises a mere fraction of the research, presentations, and publication available. To address these issues the Commission will:
- Publish a white paper addressing why nontraditiaonal students need to be addressed in current research, why graduate preparation programs need to provide education on this demographic, and how we can move beyond thinking that extending service hours is a solution.
- Produce a webinar series on the various experiences of nontraditional students
- Highlighting the experiences of nontraditional students by publishing student profiles in our newsletter
Commission for the Global Dimensions of Student Development (CGDSD)
The ACPA CGDSD helps student development professionals recognize and understand cultural differences, collaborate across cultures, and negotiate international environments. We promote international and cross-cultural learning in order for university students, faculty, and administrators to become engaged global citizens. We accomplish this by facilitating globallyfocused programs, providing educational resources, and creating opportunities for international and cross-cultural dialogue among higher education professionals.
The current topics in the field are:
Ethical Issues Associated with Internationalization
The Commission for Professional Preparation
The Commission for Professional Preparation is committed to the preparation of student affairs professionals. It accomplishes this via a diverse graduate and continuing education directorate that: create opportunities for the recruitment of those interested in entering the student affairs profession; promote advanced learning opportunities that embrace critical values of the profession such as the development of the whole student, diversity, and ethics; and that seek to address the professional development of student affairs teaching faculty through collaborative opportunities for networking, scholarship, and service with colleagues.
- Budget challenges on many campus have the potential of affecting graduate preparation programs in three significant ways:
- Declining number of graduate assistantships available to recruit students and to provide them the theory practice opportunities vital to their preparation.
- Smaller programs, typically run by single full-time faculty members, become vulnerable to closure.
- Programs are springing up on some campuses without the requisite infrastructure to support graduate education or graduate faculty.
- As ACPA moves forward in its discussions on credentialing professionals, there may be implications for graduate preparation programs. If credentialing (i.e., the "Register") is based, in part, on possessing a degree from a student affairs program and there is an assumption that "all programs are not alike" then, by extension, some programs may run the risk of not being "credentialed" themselves.
Meeting Faculty Professional Development Needs
- Faculty in graduate preparation programs come in multiple forms. Some are full-time, tenure-track faculty; dedicated wholly to the goals of the department. Some are practitioners and administrators in part-time or adjunct roles; bringing valuable theory to practice perspectives. Some faculty enter the ranks with limited practical experience, but strong research and scholarship preparation. Some faculty are mid-level or senior administrators whose scholarship is limited, but they bring a wealth of practical experience to their teaching. The challenge is acknowledging the valuable contributions of all in preparing new professionals and finding ways to meet their unique professional development and career needs.
Balancing Act for Graduate Students
- Graduate assistantships and the valuable supervision provided by supervisors is essential to professional preparation. So too is the classroom experience. Faculty and supervisors need to work more closely together to help graduate students find a balance between the complimentary roles of student and emerging professional.
- A tension within the profession is the growing number of programs that offer certificate degrees in higher education and student affairs. These are typically on-line degrees and while they serve a specific purpose, but may be viewed as a shortcut to a more traditional masters degree in the profession. Still, some of these programs exist within highly-regarded traditional programs that seeking an additional revenue stream because, on many campuses, online course tuition is treated differently from general fund or tuition dollars and can go directly back to the department.
Commission for Social Justice Educators
Returning to the Core: Recognizing the “isms” in daily practice
- Identifying Intersectionality:
Identity dynamics at play Race, gender, cultural heritage. Each social identity we embody is not divorced from another. As student affairs practitioners it is our responsibility to identify the many lenses brought to our daily interactions and to acknowledge this reality for our students. Such dynamics have multiple implications and are present in many facets within the field. While it is important to foster environments that embrace discussions of identity, it is critical that we move beyond that to make space for the many dimensions such discussions and programming require. This need elicits a number of opportunities for specific functional areas. The Commission for Social Justice Educators encourages you to raise such questions and to identify measures to take action. You may find the following resource a helpful introduction: Crenshaw, K. & Harris, L. A primer on intersectionality [PowerPoint slides]. Paper presented at the White Privilege Conference. Retrieved from http:// www.whiteprivilegeconference.com/pdf/intersectionality_primer.pdf
- Values & Politics: Approaching the work with intention
At times the values of an institution of higher education can conflict with the personal or professional values student affairs practitioners embrace. Sometimes professionals must choose to uphold the values of an institution despite personal hesitations. For matters of social justice, this dynamic can be particularly tricky. As Bolman and Deal (2008) identify in their book Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice, and leadership, cultural change within organizations is slow. While many practitioners push for increasingly socially just policies on campus, doing so may prove difficult when confronting adversity. The Commission for Social Justice Educators is a resource for campus professionals who seek allies and advocates for positive social change on campus at the individual and institutional level. Please subscribe to our newsletter and participate in our free Dial-a-Dialogue programs to engage in the conversation.
- Criminality and Consequences on Campus: A second chance or reliving history?
In an age of increasing risk management measures on campus, the impact to students with criminal histories is greater than ever before. More universities have toyed with the idea of implementing background checks in admissions policies. Students with prior felony offenses are often prohibited from employment on campus making them less competitive to the job market and at greater risk of becoming another attrition statistic. We encourage employers to hire students with felony records yet our campus practices often do not align with our message. Our campuses have a duty to serve both students and community. The question becomes, at what time does someone ever stop paying for their crime? We encourage you to check out Michelle Alexander’s (2012) book The New Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness.
- Diversity, Multiculturalism and Social Justice: Finding the nuances in each
Diversity. Multiculturalism. Social Justice. As practitioners, we see hear these buzz words across campus and often mistakably used interchangeably. Knowing the difference can help student affairs educators become better advocates for the students we serve and can encourage positive social change in many spheres. “Diversity” relates to the relative distribution of differences among members of given population or group whereas, “Multiculturalism” refers to the intersection of cultures. Social justice incorporates both, promoting the fair application of policies, opportunities and existing systems to ensure such social institutions do not oppress individuals or identity groups. For more information we encourage you to check out these resources: For more information check out these resources: Adams, M., Bell, L., & Griffin, P. (Eds.). (2007). Teaching for diversity and social justice. New York, NY: Routledge. And http:// www.edchange.org/who.html
Commission for Spirituality, Faith, Religion and Meaning
The ACPA Commission for Spirituality, Faith, Religion and Meaning aims to position ACPA as a leader and informed voice on student spirituality and spiritual/faith/existential development in college, community college, and university communities.
The current topics in the field are: Best Practices that Promote Pluralism for Religion and Belief in College, Community College, and University Environments
- Identify and promote best practices in institutional approaches to supporting the search for meaning by students, faculty, and staff convey these best practices through convention programs and professional development opportunities (such as Webinars, publications, etc. Through these activities, we aim to assist ACPA members in developing professional competency in “leadership and administration/management”
- Research engagement with past and current trends related to spirituality, faith, religion, and meaning in the lives of college, community college, and university students
- Contribute to the knowledge base in the field on the relationship of spirituality and faith development to other aspects of student development, including cognitive, moral, and identity development
- Empirically examine the faith development process as it relates to varying faith traditions and spiritual practices.
- Support the empirical examination of secular humanist and non-deistic forms of meaning making and their relationships to cognitive, moral, and identity development. Disseminate these research findings with the membership via existing ACPA publications and other outlets developed in collaboration with the International Office. Through these activities, we aim to build competency in “assessment, evaluation and other research activities”
- Develop professional and career development resources to provide ongoing skill development and continuing education as a source for creative and informed methods of building bridges among all meaning-making communities on campus
- Strive to highlight the uniqueness of perspectives related to differences of faith and belief, including non-deistic and secular humanist traditions
- Encourage and support ACPA members to explore their own spiritual, religious, secular humanist, and/or faith development in a supportive, educational, and developmental
- Build relationships with other organizations including Hillel; Newman Center; Muslim Student Associations; Association for Christians in Student Development; the Society for Spirituality, Theology, and Health; and other professional organizations with an interest and focus on issues of spirituality and faith for young adults on the college, community college or university campus.
The Commission for Spirituality, Faith, Religion and Meaning will seek to locate groups that support the faith development of students but who are not necessarily religiously affiliated, including secular humanist, and non-deistic perspectives.
Commission for Student Conduct and Legal Issues
The purpose of the ACPA Commission for Student Conduct and Legal Issues is to support the professional development of student conduct professionals in higher education in a progressive and visionary way. The Commission offers resources and opportunities, including collaboration, in conduct and legal issue education in an effort to support the development of socially just conflict resolution strategies that effectively resolve individual and group differences.
The current topics in the field are:
The Intersections of Mental Health and Student Conduct
- More and more students are coming to college with diagnosed and undiagnosed mental health conditions. Sometimes the management of these conditions becomes difficult due to the new environment and behavioral concerns arise. Student conduct officers have to develop strategies to respond to the student behavior in ways that best meet the students’ needs and balance protecting the community and upholding college/university policy.
Development of Behavioral Interventions Teams
- One effort to support and serve our at-risk students is the development of behavioral intervention teams. The purpose of these groups is to identify students who may be harmful to themselves or others, and create an intervention to help them be successful at an institution. There are many implications and potential liability concerns for these teams, so the development and implementation of these teams are very complex.
Title IX understanding and implementation:
- Title IX is an extraordinarily complex issue with many implications for colleges and universities. Title IX can impact a college and university on all levels and student affairs professionals need to focus on these issues regardless of their position at the institution.
- More and more synthetic drugs are emerging and are becoming available to our college students. State laws differ and these substances sometimes legal. The effect of these drugs can be dangerous, and campus officials need to learn to manage these drugs and their impact on the campus community.
Commission for Student Development in the Two-Year College
The Commission for Student Development in the Two-Year College is directly concerned with issues relevant to student development programs at two-year institutions. Additionally, it is designed to promote the improvement of student development programs; enhance the professional development of student development personnel; and serve as an advocate for student development programs at two-year institutions.
The current topics in the field are:
- As reported by the American Association of Community Colleges in 2011 the number of students entering community colleges has leveled off and as a result institutions can no longer utilize extra tuition dollars to off- set the diminished funds from their local and state entities. Two-year colleges are still experience high levels of enrollment however without growth in enrollment institutional budgets are lagging. As a result program cuts are taking place, faculty and student affairs professional positions are not being replaced after retirement, and support staff positions are being eliminated.
The Completion Agenda
- The president’s education agenda turns to community colleges to educate an additional 5 million students by 2020 to prepare them for the changing workforce. In order to realize this goal community colleges must increase their retention and completion rates. This is no easy task for community colleges. With a renewed commitment to open access community colleges enroll more students underprepared for college coursework, students who regularly stop-out, students who attend part-time, students who are parents, students from low SES background, students uninterested in earning a degree and students unsure of future goals. Each of these attributes creates risk for student success and college completion.
The American Association of Community Colleges has set forth recommendations for institutions to support the president’s agenda and increase retention and graduation rates. Two of the suggestions can be incorporated into the professional development work of ACPA. The first is to enhance student services. Through ACPA and the ACPA Commission for Student Development in the Two-Year College we can offer more professional development opportunities for two-year college professionals focused on support of the completion agenda amidst tight budget constraints. Areas and topics that we can address include early alert systems, orientation content and delivery, and the process of student advisement with a focus on the transfer process. The second suggestion that we can support is improved student engagement. A challenge to the two-year system as primarily commuter based institutions student engagement can be redefined to include student to student outreach via phone, text, Facebook and Twitter. We can support institutions in new thinking about the role of family based programming on campus and engagement programs for first-generation college students specifically.
ACPA and the ACPA Commission for Student Development in the Two-Year College has the expertise and tools to provide this type of support through professional development opportunities. We will need to spend time on improving our relationship with two-year college professionals so that we can be viewed as a viable pathway to meaningful professional development focused on community college needs.
Commission for Student Involvement
The focus of the Commission is students in colleges and universities and their environments. Efforts of the Commission are directed toward a deeper understanding of the students, their characteristics, purposes, attitudes, behavior, mores, campus activities, and community life as a basis for more effective planning of relevant programs for students. A major emphasis of the Commission’s work is on the integration of out of class activities of students on the campus and in the larger community with the formal academic curriculum. The college student’s total educational experience is seen as a potent force for student development. The Commission fulfills its function not only through convention programming but also through research and ongoing task force efforts aimed at advancing and advocating the development of more visible student organizations and activities programs. Within the Association, the Commission provides an avenue for involvement of anyone working with and/or interested in student activities at post-secondary institutions.
The current topics in the field are:
- Within the ACPA Commission for Student Involvement, conversations continue about how (as practitioners) we continue to make sure that we are doing evidenced based practices. Effective ways to conduct assessment, various methods to collecting data and report results to key constituents are all subjects that we have covered recently.
- Currently we are hosting a book club on the book Brotherhood by ACPA Bronze Partner and Campus Pride Founder Shane Windemeyer. The book examines the coming out experiences of gay men in fraternities during their college years. The book is serving as an impetus to many conversations around how we continue to engage our communities in inclusive ways based on sexual orientation.
- With support from our friends at the National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs and the NASPA Knowledge Community on Leadership Programs we are continue to advance the conversations and scholarship surrounding leadership.
- Another ongoing conversation in the ACPA Commission on Student Involvement is looking at the ways we continue to mentor graduate students and new professionals in the field. Recently we launched a mentoring program to help pair emerging professionals with more seasoned practitioners in an effort to help support the culture of mentoring.
- With the advancement of social media, we continue to be invited to look at new and innovative ways to connect students to our programs as well as ways in which we engage our practitioners.
- Budgets continue to be a source of scarcity for many practitioners. We are currently seeing greater conversation about program sponsorships from private corporations and non-profits to help offset budget cuts.
ACPA Commission for Wellness
The purpose of the Commission for Wellness is to provide education, resources, support and recognition to Student Affairs professionals in order to enable and sustain campus cultures of wellness through the six dimensions of the wellness wheel (intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, physical, and occupational) at the individual, community and policy level.
The current topics in the field are:
Student Affairs Practitioners (particularly new professionals) Daily Wellness
- Wellness Challenge began in June and continues through March 2013
Financial Wellness of College Students in the Age of Extreme Debt
- Plan to work with the Commission for Admissions, Orientation, and First Year Experience in the Spring (not yet started)
Infusing Wellness into Training Schedules for Student Staff
- Commission Directorate will be developing a guide to be placed on the Commission for Wellness website with ideas and strategies
Wellness & Social Media Practices
- Article on the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) phenomenon in September 2012 newsletter
Working with Students Undergoing Cancer Treatments
- Commission is developing a white paper on this topic to be released this Fall
Canadian Association of College & University Student Services
ACPA has a long-standing relationship with CACUSS and we are proud to share the hot topics for CACUSS and its membership this year.
CACUSS is a professional bilingual association representing and serving those individuals who work in Canadian post-secondary institutions in Student Affairs and Services. While it has existed in its present form since 1971, the origins of this association derive from the University Advisory Services (1946) and, more recently, the University Counseling and Placement Association (UCPA) and the Canadian Association of University Student Personnel Services (CAUSPS).
Since 1973, CACUSS has provided professional development services and programs for members in all the Canadian provinces. Cross-divisional interest groups are formed by members from time to time based on their professional needs focusing on areas such as peer helping, first year students, new professionals and leadership education.
The current topics in the field are:
- Student Mental Health
- Provincial Elections (politics, funding, student protests)
- Rising costs for students and families, value of a university degree
- Budget cuts
- Town/Gown relations