Thursday, February 25, 2010
Monday, February 8, 2010
Dear Res Life Blog Readers,
This is Adam, the Area Coordinator in Ellingson & Larson. For some of you the road ahead after your time here as St. Olaf is clear. Some of you may still be exploring your interests and wondering about your future. The following information is to help you to consider a career in college student affairs. The information you will find below has been collected from several professional organizations that represent student affairs professionals.
Student affairs is a relatively young profession. It has evolved over the past 100 years into a field that is dedicated to the holistic education of students and is committed to helping students develop into educated, responsible people ready to enter into the professional field. "Student affairs" is represented by a wide range of roles and departments at colleges and universities, which includes - but is not limited to: Dean Of Students Offices, Student Activities, Academic Advising, Academic Student Support, Trio, SSS, Upward Bound, Registrars Offices, Admissions Offices, Leadership and Service Offices, Multicultural Offices, Women’s Centers, LGBT Centers, and Residence Life. There are so many areas in which student affairs play a vital role to the college experience for all students. If you are interested in having a career that impacts the lives of others and a career that is driven by a passion to educate, then we encourage you to learn more about the student affairs profession. If you have any questions please feel free to seek out any of us in the Residence Life Department.
(The following information can also be viewed at the homepage for the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators...)
NASPA: Consider a Career in Student Affairs
If you answer yes to any of these questions, then you may want to consider a career in student affairs.
- Would you like to work on a college campus?
- Do you enjoy being a part of a dynamic and enriching environment?
- Are you interested in making a difference in the lives of college students?
- Are you committed to creating environments of learning, diversity, and tolerance for all people?
Who are Student Affairs Professionals? They work in a variety of settings on college and university campuses, from financial aid, orientation, and residence life to athletics, international services, and student activities. They provide services and develop programs that affect all aspects of students' lives inside and outside of the classroom. Some of the things student affairs professionals do in their day-to-day jobs include: enhancing student learning; helping students make academic and career decisions; mentoring students and helping them develop their leadership skills; and meeting students' needs by providing a range of housing, dining, health services, and recreational facilities.
If you like working in a dynamic, exciting, and enriching environment; are interested in making a difference in the lives of college student; and enjoy intellectual challenge, then you are a good candidate for a career in student affairs. Other qualities useful in student affairs work include creativity, motivation, leadership, and the abilities to work well both individually and in groups, to multi-task, to organize and coordinate work efficiently, and to be an effective communicator. You may work on developing many of these qualities during your undergraduate years.
You will also need some special skills – in advising/counseling, human development, administration, and management, for example – to enter the student affairs profession. Training in these skills will be a part of your graduate study.
Steps to Exploring a Career in Student Affairs
If the idea of a career in student affairs appeals to you, you can take these steps to learn more about the profession:
- Talk to student affairs professionals at your school, a nearby college or your alma mater. Talk to the senior student affairs officer, usually known as the Dean of Students or the Vice President for Student Affairs. Or talk with another student affairs professional on campus – perhaps the director of orientation, the coordinator of student activities, or staff in residence life. You may want to start with a brief informational interview to learn more about what they do or set up a day of job shadowing. If you're not sure how to get started with this idea, the career services office on campus will be able to help. Also, if you are still a student or working on a campus, go a step farther and establish a mentoring relationship with one of the professionals that you talk to. Sample Informational Interview Questions
- If you are a student, you have a great opportunity to explore your potential workplace. Take advantage of every chance you can to learn how your college works and develop your skills. If you are a student, run for an office in student government or in a student organization; serve on a judicial board; be a tour guide, orientation leader, resident assistant, or peer educator; or join a student organization. If you are not sure where to start, ask a member of the student activities staff.
- Work in a student affairs office. Ask about internships, jobs, and volunteer opportunities in student affairs offices on campus. Consider possibilities during the summer as well as during the school year. You'll get hands-on experience and have a chance to interact with professionals in the field.
- If your college offers an undergraduate class geared toward learning more about student affairs (or related paraprofessional or leadership classes), sign up. Often, these classes are taught by student affairs professionals and can help you learn more about your interests and preferences, as well as what it is like to work on a college campus.
- Join a student affairs professional association. Undergraduate students can become a member of NASPA for $25 a year. Benefits include member discounts, access to publications and online resources, and a range of professional development opportunities (including regional/national conferences and workshops).
- Explore programs designed to help you learn more about careers in student affairs and higher education. These include the NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program, targeted toward increasing the number of ethnic minority, LGBT, and persons with disabilities in student affairs; the National Orientation Directors Association's (NODA) internship program; and the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International's (ACUHO-I) STARS College and Housing Internship programs. Learn more about graduate study. You'll find graduate programs in student affairs (also known as "college student personnel") and higher education at colleges and universities across the country. A helpful resource is NASPA's comprehensive online Directory of Graduate Programs. Once you've identified programs that you're interested in, call, write, or e-mail them to request more information. Ask for admissions, curriculum, and financial aid information, as well as information about possible assistantships and fellowships. If possible, visit the campus, meet with current students and faculty in the program, and talk with recent graduates.
Benefits of a Career in Student Affairs
The personal rewards of a career in student affairs are numerous. Here are just a few:
The Ability to Make a Difference
As a student affairs practitioner, you will have the opportunity to help students during a critical time in their development. You'll see the results of your work in the lives of individuals and the community, and build mentoring relationships with students that can last a lifetime.
A Wide Range of Choices
Student affairs offers a broad range of career possibilities. It also attracts people with many different interests. If you like business or technology, for example, you might consider a career in financial aid or admissions. If you've been active in student government or greek life, you might enjoy coordinating student activities. Or, if you like to study human behavior, career counseling or residence life might be right for you.
You can consider a career in student affairs no matter what your undergraduate major is or was. Many professionals who enter the field have a background in psychology, sociology, education, or human development. But having a major in another field – from political science to art to physics – is also useful when working in an academic setting.
Your possibilities expand even more when you consider the variety of workplaces available to you as a student affairs professional. You can choose a campus based on its geographic location, its student population, or any other requirement that's important to your life plans and career goals. All colleges and universities – large or small, public or private, two-year or four-year, rural or urban – need professionals trained in student affairs.
An Exciting Work Environment
Student affairs professionals rarely have a boring day at the office. They perform many different types of tasks – advising groups, chairing meetings, coordinating events, overseeing budgets, and working with a range of students, staff, and faculty. The campus environment continually offers new challenges and requires new strategies to deal with them. On top of that, working with students generates its own kind of energy and excitement.
Access to the Profession
There are numerous entry-level positions available each year in the nation's 4,000+ colleges and universities. Because of the need for student affairs professionals on campus, your services will be in demand.
Potential for Advancement
A master's degree in college student affairs is your ticket to enter the profession. Through assistantships and internships, you'll have the opportunity to gain valuable experience while you attend graduate school.
Once you enter the profession, the possibilities for career growth are limitless. New student affairs professionals who demonstrate talent can move quickly from entry level positions to roles of increasing responsibility.
Some student affairs professionals take advantage of the opportunity to pursue a doctoral degree, which gives them even more options, including becoming a director, a faculty member in a student affairs graduate program, a dean of students, or even a vice president for student affairs.
Colleges and universities often offer an attractive benefits package. One of the greatest advantages is the opportunity for additional education – some schools provide tuition remission for employees and their family members. Student affairs professionals also enjoy comprehensive medical benefits, retirement plans, generous vacation time, and access to all of the cultural, recreational, and social opportunities that a college campus has to offer.
Additional Websites for Resources:
Search for Graduate School Programs at: