Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

"On the Road to Cambridge": A Case Study of Faculty and Student Affairs in Collaboration

Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

"On the Road to Cambridge": A Case Study of Faculty and Student Affairs in Collaboration

Article excerpt

Introduction and Problem Statement

Dating back to the founding of Merton College in 1264, by the Bishop of Rochester at Oxford University, the residential college has held a time-honored position in the annals of Western higher education. However, the history of American higher education illustrates that the kind of collaboration between faculty and other college constituents required of such programs has endured an "on-again, off-again" relationship since the mid-nineteenth century. Indeed, at Harvard University, the residential college idea was fiercely debated and subsequently defeated in 1906 (Duke, 1996). While once those who taught and those who administered in the academy were one and the same, and where students learned and where they lived were indistinguishable, perhaps the legacy of American higher education in the 20th century has been an institution somewhat divided in both purpose and personnel.

For good or ill the emergence of the modem university has seriously jeopardized whole learning in students' lives, as some scholars have observed (Boyer, 1987), and contemporary higher education now serves very different ends than residential colleges once did. Such fragmentation has not gone unnoticed, though, as consumers and reform groups have called for the restoration of accessibility, personalization, wholeness, and human scale design in the academy (American Association for Higher Education, American College Personnel Association [ACPA], & National Association of Student Personnel Administrators [NASPA], 1998; Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University, 1998; Strange & Banning, 2001). Many institutions have responded in recent years by revisiting this age-old form of pedagogy--the "living-learning community"--in hopes of attracting and retaining students in an increasingly competitive environment. In the meantime, however, faculty and other campus constituents may have all but forgotten how to collaborate on common educational goals and programs. As Matthews (1997) concluded in her analysis of contemporary campus culture, the "world of academe [has become] strongly territorial, but not very social. Its three tribes--those who learn, those who profess, and those who arrange--carry a great deal of baggage, visible and invisible. All are jealous of traditional boundaries" (p. 36).

With regard to the role of student affairs, in particular, "those who arrange" in this landscape, Love, Kuh, MacKay, and Hardy (1993) have suggested that the "unsatisfactory quality and frequency of [student affairs'] relations with faculty on many campuses are due to fundamental differences in the way [they] view [each other]" (p. 53). On all too many campuses today, that relationship is characterized by infrequent contact, a lack of knowledge and interest on the part of each about the purposes and functions of the other, and frustration over what appears to be skewed priorities in the distribution of institutional resources. Although these two groups work at the same institutions with the same students, they sometimes act as if they were in different worlds. What ensues when they do respond to an invitation to come out of their respective worlds and to collaborate on a common educational program? In Matthews' (1997) characterization, how do these two tribes--those who profess and those who arrange--proceed when committed to a common educational goal? Such questions grounded the present work, in that this case study sought to understand the dynamics of collaboration observed over a period of fifteen months, at one Midwestern university, as faculty and student affairs staff together attempted to create a whole learning experience for students in the name of "Cambridge Learning Center," a living-learning, residential college program.

Method

This study employed the methodological assumptions and practices of constructivist inquiry (Guba & Lincoln, 1989; Lincoln & Guba, 1985) to capture the multiple and socially constructed realities of case participants. …

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