NASPA.edu: The 9,400 Square Foot Campus

This past spring as I was applying and interviewing for summer internships, I wanted to find a position that would allow me to distinguish myself as a professional with experiences both in and adjacent to the campus environment. As these interviews went from the first to second rounds, I realized that the pull of interning in a more generalist higher education space was where I needed to be to grow into a more dynamic professional. During this summer internship period in Washington, D.C. at the NASPA Central Office, gained a macro-level view of the function of student affairs and our role within higher education as a whole. I was also able to compare and contrast the values, environment, and structure of this association to the campuses that I’ve attended and worked at. Below are my observations on NASPA University!

NASPA - Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education lol

Mission and Values

NASPA seeks “to be the principal source of leadership, scholarship, professional development, and advocacy for student affairs” by serving “a full range of professionals who provide programs, experiences, and services that cultivate student learning and success in concert with the mission of our colleges and universities.” NASPA indirectly touches the lives of the students that professionals work with daily, helping them gain skills and relevant, up-to-date knowledge on how to serve them. When thinking to the model of a university, I’d say that NASPA members are like the students at the university, gaining the practical knowledge needed to do the best work for the campus community. NASPA is an educational place, for graduate students, practitioners, researchers, and policymakers, and as we invest in professional development, we invest in all who we work with and serve+.

Locations and Spaces

NASPA’s “main campus” exists in the Central Office located in Washington, D.C. The association additionally has “branch campuses” in Denver where our BACCHUS Initiatives are housed as well as the multiple locations across the country where NASPA staff members work remotely. NASPA also extends their online ‘campus’ component to their constantly updated blog and constituent contributions and the many online tools that connect the team together. As NASPA continues to make its mark online, this placement mirrors the growing number of online learners who attend classes virtually.

Office Structure and Roles

The office structure and roles at NASPA often mirror those of on-campus Student Affairs offices. As illustrated on the NASPA Staff page, the organization is lead by a President and three Vice Presidents for the three overall organizational divisions at NASPA: Professional Development, Operations, and Research and Policy. Under these auspices are the directors for various departments, their assistant directors, often times a departmental assistant, and interns.

Member and Student Interaction

Throughout the year, NASPA hosts multiple work-study students from neighboring universities who aid in departmental work in accounting, membership, educational programs, and in research and policy. And of course, during the summer NASPA hosts graduate, undergraduate, and high school interns that work with full-time staff members to create and deliver well-rounded services to 16,000 members and counting. Though students aren’t always buzzing around NASPA’s office on the daily, our association still has direct connections with students through the NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program (NUFP), the Graduate Associate Program (GAP), and the New Professionals and Graduate Students Knowledge Community (NPGS KC). In addition, if you find yourself in the DC area during the summer, NASPA hosts an open house and rooftop reception!

For members, NASPA’s Constituent Groups (such as the Divisions, Regions & Areas, Knowledge Communities) serve like majors and ‘student’ organizations on a campus, bringing together people through content interests and identity affiliations. These co-curricular and often digital spaces allow us to transcend our physical campuses, if only for a little while, to gauge best practices for students and for ourselves.

CTAG2017

Staffing the joint-located Closing the Achievement Gap and Symposium on Financial Well-being conferences with NUFP Intern, Thalia

Having the privilege of serving as the 2017 NASPA Summer Graduate Intern allowed me to have a myriad of unique experiences, ones that I may not have had if I had interned on a campus. From staffing a 500 person joint-located conference, to planning and translating a national social media campaign centered around our field’s progression, many of these learning moments and opportunities for me to grow were unique to a higher education association. I challenge all incoming and current graduate students to think of the multiple spaces adjacent to the campus environment and to think how their degree can often translate far past a campus. As my supervisor Lucy explained in one of our last meetings, our degrees are often focused on the training and development of young people, skills which can easily be used on campus, in various non-profits, and even for-profits! Look for the spaces that excite you, that bring you toward new experiences, and that will challenge and push you. I did and I’m thankful for graduating from NASPA U!

Header photo by Susie Ho on Unsplash 📸

1st Year Grad Recap & Summer 2017 Goals

Hello all! If you’re taking some time to read this blog, you may be interested in hearing more about my life after undergrad. This May, I finished up my first year of graduate studies. I am currently at Slippery Rock University in their Master of Arts program in Student Affairs in Higher Education. I didn’t truly know what the field was until the October before I applied yet I feel that I better understand myself and my interests through the coursework and via dialogue with my cohort mates and faculty.

Here a few of the great things I’ve gotten to do while in my program:

  • I got involved! In things like:
    • The NASPA Graduate Associate Program, coordinating programs for my cohort and interning at the #NASPA17 Annual Conference in San Antonio, TX.
    • The Student Affairs Graduate Association (SAGA), first as a member and then elected as President!
    • I joined the SRU Student Government Association Social Justice Committee.
  • I presented at two regional conferences teaching about how to get into graduate school and how to connect with student affairs professionals via Twitter.
  • I set up this website and I’ve started writing blogs such as In Defense of Career Services and Student Affairs Twitter Resource Guide.
  • I’ve maintained a 4.0 GPA these two semesters and have discovered an interest in qualitative research, which I’ll hopefully be more involved with this upcoming year.

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It hasn’t all been easy though. I’ve found this year to be one where I’ve had a harder time balancing my school, work, and home life. My 40 minute to-and-from commute has been at times exhausting but I hope to push through this one more year and finally get into listening to audio books and podcasts. If you have suggestions, let me know!

This summer, I am interning in Washington, D.C. at one of the student affairs generalist associations, NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. There I will gain an in-depth experience in association, project, and conference management and be able to continue growing my higher education network. In addition to my internship, I’m using this summer to work on a couple of goals that are harder to attend to during the school year.

Here are three goals that I hope to achieve this summer:

  1. To create a more specific list of professional development goals for my time at NASPA Headquarters, such as coordinating an assessment and connecting with the Student Career Development Knowledge Community.
  2. I want to commit myself to writing a blog a month and include insights regarding my NASPA internship experience. I’ve signed up to write soon for Student Affairs First Years so look out for that!
  3. I will focus energy into enjoying my time in DC and making the most of my summer away from the Pittsburgh area by exploring the city and touring the numerous universities in our capitol.

Thank you all for checking up on me and if you’re interested in hearing more, feel free to visit my contact page!

Header photo by Jing Xi Lau on Unsplash 📸

10 Programming Ideas for Working with African-American / Black Students

These recommendations are in part based on research conducted to derive best practices for African-American students on college campuses, particularly those who attend Predominately White Institutions (PWIs).  Additionally, a few of these recommendations are informed by hour-long interviews with a three currently enrolled Slippery Rock University students who identify as African-American and/or Black.

1. Hairology: The Black Hair Business – Based on both a recent event hosted by the Slippery Rock University Women’s Center and based on the concerns one of my interviewees, this one event can be developed to serves both the African-American community and educate students from other cultures about Black hair.  The event hosted below promoted a couple of Black-owned businesses in the Western Pennsylvania area, outreaching to the community to bring hair care tips and share business acumen and entrepreneurial experience with interested students.  This kind of event helps normalize Black hair, recognizes the buying power of Black women (a population often ignored by mainstream businesses), as well as fosters campus partnerships.

Poster for "Hairology: the Black hair business" which includes photos of Black women in various hairstyles including guest Mariah Woodard, own of MilleniCollection

2. Microaggressions Trainings and Workshops – One type of stressor that students of color, especially Black students, experience that their White classmates don’t are racial stressors.  Microaggressions, a term that encompasses indirect racial invalidation and discrimination, includes jokes based on race and comments that undermine a minoritized student’s success such as “You did well for a ___________.” In addition to the common stresses of attending college (financial, interpersonal, academic, etc.), the added pressure of racial stressors can hurt a student’s self-concept and make them question their ability and their reasons to stay in college. These trainings, if implemented, should be directed toward all community members, perhaps in sessions tailored specifically for faculty, students, staff, etc.

3. Diversity Advisors – Based on an idea from another interview with a Slippery Rock student and information from Penn State, one institutional change that could be that underrepresented students have a Diversity Advisor in addition to their traditional Academic Advisor.  The student I chatted with liked this idea since it brought another aspect of inherent support at the institution. These Advisors can work to help students feel included on campus and provide them the tools they need if bias incidents occur.

4. Alternative Black History –  One interviewee of mine as well as William B. Harvey, former Vice President and Director of the Center for Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Equity at the American Council on Education, both recognized the inequality of the American education system in not educating students about non-White history.  They both suggested universities create programming to educate to all about Black History outside of the ‘designated’ month of February to encourage learning of this history throughout the year.  This can be done as programs hosted by a student organization or done more formally through the implementation of this knowledge within first-year seminars.

5. Extensive Transition, Mentoring, and Follow Through – Both Ohio State and Texas Tech implemented extensive transition programming and resources to their Black student populations starting in the early 2000’s and have seen dramatic improvements in these student’s graduation rates. These programs include scholarships, mentorship (from peers and community members), summer bridge programs, and dialogues about race on campus. As a current Graduate Assistant in the Office for Inclusive Excellence at Slippery Rock, I believe our Jump Start Transition Program can be improved with the implementation of campus community members serving as mentors as well.

Photos of 100+ college students in the SRU Jump Start program. Birds eye view of students smiling in white t-shirts.
SRU Jump Start Transition Program 2016-2017

6. Programming for African-American Men – According to Robert Littleton’s 2003 research article about Minorities in Minorities, he reveals that African-American students have the greatest gender divide in graduation rates, 38% African-American men vs 62% African-American women in the early 2000s.  He suggests that there be programming and initiatives such as specific student organizations and mentorship programs for this population of student, in order to promote not only the rate of graduation but their overall undergraduate experience of African-American men. One student I interviewed is a part of one such an organization on Slippery Rock’s campus and believes that it has benefited his growth tremendously as well as his knowledge of Black history and how he incorporates this into his identity.

7. What’s in a name? Labels of Identity – One theme that emerged from the three interviews I conducted was the idea of identity and what my students preferred being called. I distinctly remember one student saying that she preferred being called African-American over being called Black, but not by much. To her, both identifiers contained negative connotations especially the word Black as it is commonly associated with “darkness and mischief.” I can imagine an event about identity as a discussion, students talking about the merits and disadvantages of certain labels while coming to speak to their authentic identities.

8. Hashtag Campaign – Another idea from one of my interviews was to create an awareness of Black history and achievements via a social media hashtag. This specific hashtag (institution-specific or otherwise) can be used to promote Black culture and champion awareness regarding differences this population makes across the world and on the campus, a way for people to see that “Black people are out here helping.” Campus social media channels can partner with departments or student organizations that create this content and share it out throughout the year, not just in February. For example, SRU’s KINGS Org. created the hashtag #Black87 in response to Black History Month’s repeat of the same 13% of Black history each February. You can read more information about #Black87 from this piece by the Slippery Rock University newspaper, the Rocket.

9. Multicultural Graduations – These graduations, which are more of a recent phenomenon, celebrate the successes of students of color on an achievement that they often face more barriers in receiving compared to the majority population. These ceremonies are times to bring family, friends, and mentors together to send-off their students as well as a time for non-graduating to imagine themselves up on the stage. My suggestion is to involve non-graduating students in the planning process so that they feel closely tied to this celebration and the meaning that it holds for all attendees and the university community.

Photo of kente, NPHC Greek, and nationality stoles with graduation certificates upon a black clothed table.
Office for Inclusive Excellence (OIE) Multicultural Graduation Celebration 2013

10. Anti-Blackness in Non-Black Spaces – Within the interviews I hosted, most of the rhetoric regarding non-Black people focused on White people, how they didn’t often attend events hosted by multicultural organizations and what it’s like being African-American at a university that is predominately White. I would love to see programming from non-Black multicultural organizations regarding their communities and anti-Blackness that can often abound. This work is work that should be undertaken from all non-Black students, in order to truly be allies to the Black community.

Have you conducted any of this programming on your campus? What other recommendations do you have for working with and educating others about the African-American subculture on American campuses? Comment below with your thoughts and ideas!

This post was created as an assignment for the Spring 2017 section of ‘Higher Education Environments, Cultures, Students’ taught by Dr. Stacy A. Jacob at Slippery Rock University. She can be contacted via email at stacy.jacob@sru.edu or via Twitter @stacyajacob.

Photo by Suad Kamardeen on Unsplash 📸

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In Defense of Career Services

Author note: Hello all, this is a repost of a blog that I wrote for the NASPA Graduate Associate Program (GAP). The original posting can be found here: https://www.naspa.org/constituent-groups/posts/in-defense-of-career-services

During my Slippery Rock University interview day in January 2016, I chatted with future cohort members about what experiences brought them into Student Affairs. After some informal polling, it seemed like residence life and orientation were the strongest pulls toward the field. These functional areas make sense as all campuses host Resident/Community Assistants and Orientation Peer Leaders, yet not all hire undergraduate career advisors. Though many career centers employ undergrads, not all host active, peer-driven career advising programs, programs like ones hosted at George Mason, Boston College, and my alma mater, Carnegie Mellon (CMU).

In my role as a Career Peer Mentor (CPM) at the CMU Career and Professional Development Center (CPDC), I always looked forward to the opportunity to work individually with a student on one of their career documents, usually a first year student with a mocked up resume made the day before. I learned that career, to someone on the outside, can seem like a passive transfer of a student through the meaning-making of academics to the soul-sucking real world. However, I know that thinking about oneself in a professional manner is a really personal, narrative-based experience that is difficult for a student to convince themselves to go through, adding to the need to demystify the career education. I have worked with students who have told me that “I’ve never done anything, I don’t have any skills,” which is heartbreaking to hear and even more heartbreaking to see that person with their head down, feeling defeated before they even start. To alleviate this negativity, I asked students to detail a volunteer/part-time experience, what they did, and what resulted. They detailed their role for a minute or so as I jotted down key words and impressive phrasing, adding a strong action verb to the start. “So, you said that you ‘Led a cabin of 20, 8-10 year old students and provided them an environment of physical and mental wellness?’” Their voice after my summary suggested confirmation of my interpretation but their face displayed amazement, amazement that they truly have made a difference and do have skills. I saw my role as a CPM as a translator, interpreting a student’s disappointment, role explanation, and job description into short action statements and actual action plans. After translating an experience of theirs, I asked them to do the same thing for the next experience listed, with my guided help: “Say out what you’ve done, pick apart the themes that come through, and whittle it down to a few bullet points.”

It’s obvious that Career Services/Education is misunderstood by students in general, as shown by this Inside Higher Ed article stating that “only 17 percent of those who graduated from 2010 to 2016 said they found their college career centers to be “very helpful,” with another 26 percent reporting that the career office was “helpful.” I agree with Andy Chan, Vice President for Personal and Career Development at Wake Forest University, who in this article states that “one of the challenges is helping students understand that going to the career office is a multioccasion, multiyear experience, not just going ‘at least once.’ Sometimes students think they’ll go one time for 30 minutes and get everything they need, but it’s not that simple.” As CPMs, we address this issue by encouraging students to attend multiple CPM hall programs and teaching students how to request counseling appointments in the Career Center.

The Carnegie Mellon Career Peer Mentor logo. The logo is a read circle with the phrase "CPM career peer mentor" in white.
CMU Career Peer Mentor logo

Within the CPM residence hall mentor roles, we spent a lot of time building relationships with Residence Life and working with RA liaisons, attending extra hall events, adjusting our schedule for theirs, and making sure to update Housefellows/Resident Directors on our progress mid-semester. Even with these adjustments, we sometimes encountered negative feedback regarding the presence of CPMs in first-year halls from ResLife staff. Once, a staff member told my supervisor that our presence in the halls may cause students stress, pressuring them to have an internship by the second semester. I have come to understand her statement as both a misunderstanding of our role and the purpose of the program as well as a denial of the pressures students inherently face when attending a prestigious and expensive school well-known for the stress students undertake. We have found that peers offering career advice and addressing the professional needs of students literally where they are allows them to feel more comfortable in the process. Additionally, though we have specific workshop topics, all mentors worked with students where they were at, and addressed the needs they had at the time, preparing them to think about these topics before they got to their senior year and didn’t know what to do.

The image of a mission statement on sticky notes next to two markers. The sticky notes read "We strive to be active professional developmetn mentors connecting CPDC and the CMU community with a special focus on early caeer exploration."
CPM Mission Statement, developed with the help of Carnegie Leadership Consultants

I believe it is important to defend what you love and more importantly, let others know why you do. I hope that as I’ve described a couple of the myths related to Career Services and what I’ve gained from the excellent Career Staff at CMU, that others who may feel like it’s not something they’d like to do may give career a second chance. Every day I think to and use the skills that I gained as a CPM as a Student Affairs Graduate Student and within my graduate assistantship in Diversity and Inclusion. When I think to my future internship and job applications, I look with excitement and proactivity rather than fear. I’d even venture to say that my time at the Career Center, changed me very personally, as CliftonStrengths (formerly known as StrengthsQuest) has determined my top strength as ‘Futuristic.’ This position changed me as a person, secured my self-image as a leader, and continues to prepare me for the challenges I anticipate I’ll face as a professional. I thank the Career Center for what they taught me and hope to bring peer mentor programs to other career offices once I graduate.

Does your campus host a Career Peer Mentor-like program? If it does, what benefits and drawbacks have you seen? If not, how do you think a program like this could be implemented?

Header photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash 📸

Hello, World.

Hey y’all, it’s Sammie and I’d like to welcome you to my blog! I hope to use this space to reflect on my undergraduate and graduate experiences as I obtain my Master’s in Student Affairs in Higher Education and look to enter to field as a new professional. I have written a couple of pieces for NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education regarding professional development & social media in the Student Affairs field and they are posted in subsequent blogs. My interests include career education and LinkedIn use, civic engagement and service-learning, and moral development research. My current long-term goal is to become faculty in a higher ed program. Stay tuned and keep connected!

Header Photo by Pablo Gentile on Unsplash 📸