Student Affairs: An Overview
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Student Affairs: An Overview

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Student Affairs: An Overview

Overall the body of evidence research on higher education students is conceivably one of the largest fields of inquiry in the realm of higher education. Over the past two decades,studies have been conducted with higher education student samples. Only a fraction of this broad body of research reflects and considers ways of improving Student Affairs and educational needs. Student Affairs and the related programs in institutions of higher education play an essential role in meeting the academic and co-curricular needs of students. This subset of a research is distinguishable from the wider body of research primarily by its concern with identifying the ways, in which academic and co-curricular needs can be addressed. It is in this line that this paper reflects upon the role of Student Affairs and discusses ways, in which higher education entities can address the ever-increasing needs. In the same context, the paper gives an overview of the role of Student Affairs in higher education institutions.

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Understanding Student Affairs

NASPA (2014) conceptualized Student Affairs as a division or department of support and services for students at institutions of higher education. Student Affairs is structured to enhance growth and development of students. Student Affairs’ professionals or Student Affairs’ practitioners are people who work in the field of Student Affairs. These practitioners or professionals work to provide support and services to students at institutions of higher learning. Before outlining the ways, in which higher education institutions can address the diverse needs of students, it is essential to point out the linkage between Student Affairs and its impact on students. According to Pascarella, students become more knowledgeable, mature and focused regarding their thinking about their careers at college level. In addition, there is a number of research data and publications suggesting that college seniors have a better perspective about labor markets realities. Moreover, college seniors have higher level of workplace readiness than their peers with minimal exposure to post-secondary education. Therefore, it is important to consider the relationship between Student Success, college impact and Student Affairs in relations to the subject discussion.

Addressing the Academic and Co-curricular Needs of Diversified Student Populations at Institutions of Higher Education

Student Affairs and educational needs can be addressed by building capacity to use data and create knowledge in order to provide a research-based evidence, which will support excellence in the delivery of student services or support. Student Affairs’ professionals should serve as the primary source of critical data on the experience of students in colleges and universities. Such data and information would be used to illustrate the impact of Student Affairs on their persistence, learning, and success through assessment, scholarship, evaluation, and research. In the same context, Student Affairs’ practitioners should tighten and align the linkage among research, theory and practice. Consequentially, the practitioners will be able to enhance their skills and provide methodologies to conduct Student Affairs program assessments in support of institutional effectiveness and best practices.

 

The other way, in which the institutions of higher education can address the needs of diversified students, is to initiate and lead advocacy efforts that restructure the transforming environment of higher education. This approach would be in line with the second goal of NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, meant to assert the role of NASPA leadership in vital issues of public policy concerning higher education. Since the higher education environment is changing rapidly, Student Affairs’ professionals should approach the current Student Affairs’ issues strategically because they have a direct impact on the Student Success. Some of the focus areas that are integral to the success of Student Affairs, as identified by NASPA, include gender issues, equity and diversity, mental health, globalism, civic education and democratic engagement, technology, violence prevention, assessment and evaluation, and alcohol & drug abuse. Professional development of these focus areas is provided by NASPA through publications, events, and networking opportunities. Students face various mental issues during their college life. As the stigma linked to mental health continues to decline, Student Affairs’ professionals will continue to face and adapt to new challenges. Therefore, continuous support should be given to practitioners to deal with the emerging cases. Technology plays a critical role in higher education, particularly in student learning and success. Therefore, opportunities for innovation in higher education environments can be improved through technology. Equity and diversity emphasize social justice and diversification in the present day higher education environment. The focus area on gender issues should continue to support sensitive debate on Student Affairs regarding a number of gender issues. Violence prevention and alcohol & drug abuse are the focus area that should be used to highlight the challenges facing students and education programs in higher education. Student administrators in colleges and universities should consolidate resources of specialized conferences, knowledge communities and in-depth evidence-based researches on violence and alcohol & drug abuse prevention. Ultimately, Student Affairs professionals’ will be equipped with the tools necessary to deal effectively with these challenges.

The present day colleges and universities recognize and appreciate a diversity subject to the intersection of color, nationality, race, gender, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, and socioeconomic status. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are not new focus areas in higher education. In view of the fact that the description of diversity, equity, and inclusion may vary between individuals and over time, the concepts are similar. The key concept entails awareness of personal bias, fostering inclusiveness, valuing the differences in human interaction and many more. Therefore, learning and encouraging these concepts in the Student Affairs field is considered to be of great importance.

The other concept of diversity that should be considered by institutions of higher education is by aligning inclusiveness and equity with the mission of the subject institution mandated to educate and prepare students to lead or navigate an increasingly diverse society. That is to say, diversity must be engraved in the culture of colleges and universities. It can be achieved by supporting diversity initiatives in student activities, such as sports, drama, and art. Higher education top administrators and leaders should support diversity initiatives in alignment with the institution’s mission. Colleges and universities should also consider different perspectives and viewpoints enriching learning. When institutions of higher learning support existence of various perspectives and viewpoints, they improve their ability to create a macrocosm for students to communicate and learn effectively.

Career centers should be used to offer individual-tailored support to the students who want to develop their work experience and lifelong career management skills that will assist them in meeting their academic and career goals. The needs of academic programs regarding Student Affairs can also be addressed by examining the staffing and resources of Student Affairs to ensure alignment with strategic planning. In reference to student achievement, institutions must strive for equity in the rates of graduation for all students. Most importantly, institutions of higher education must support historically underrepresented students to achieve equity in graduation rates. Schuh, Jones, & Harper asserted that resources should be committed to recruiting and retaining a diverse Student Affairs body with programs and initiatives to support the inclusive campus environment. Resources should be devoted to the civic engagement and learning divisions of Student Affairs to promote student opportunities through service to the community. Community programs focus on the environment, youths, elderly, and homeless people. In this respect, students will recognize and appreciate people from various backgrounds.

Student Affairs should also devote resources to <a href=”https://essaysworld.net/”>educational services for students</a>, thereby enhancing the academic experience in the institutions. Programs and services include individual consultations for academic success, graduate teaching assistant, supplemental instruction and peer tutoring. Forming a multicultural affairs division would serve the diverse needs of students and promote the harmony of diverse ethnic community through mutual acceptance of all students. For example, unique cultural programs for Native Americans, African Americans, Pacific Islanders, Latinos/Hispanic and others can be held annually. Educational programs’ schedules should factor in established religious holidays to ensure that students from various religious backgrounds are not affected. Lastly, it is important for higher education institutions to support Student Affairs administrators, who are working on the underrepresented student populations while helping develop and nurture future leaders.

 Main Conclusions

In the current globalized educational environment, a research about equity, inclusion, and diversity should continue to be a focus area in Student Affairs within the field of higher education. This is subject to several core agreements regarding the importance of diversity, including learning, service, integrity, fellowship, collaboration, and access. In line with the general commitment to inclusion, equity, and diversity in higher education, Student Affairs practitioners must emphasize on the importance of approaching, owning and understanding of equity and diversity from a personal, institutional, and global perspective. The Student Affairs divisions or departments of higher education institutions meet academic and co-curricular needs or interests of students and their respective intuitions. They provide leadership in growth and development of programs and services that enrich student life. They also enhance and extend academic experience of students. Most importantly, effective Student Affairs divisions contribute to an educational setting that encourages growth and development of students at a personal level. Based on these observations, higher education institutions should strive to tailor their programming to reflect the needs and interests of all students. To this end, their educational programs and professional development will probably address the needs and interests of students.

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