Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Staffing in Student Affairs: A Survey of Practices

Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Staffing in Student Affairs: A Survey of Practices

Article excerpt

A geographically stratified sample of 263 chief student affairs administrators responded to questions related to their division's professional staff recruiting and selection processes, new position orientation programs, supervision practices, professional development activities, and performance appraisal procedures. This produced a descriptive overview of national staffing practices in student affairs.

The successful administration of a student affairs division is primarily determined by the competence of the staff members who fill the positions. Like many higher education organizations, human capital is student affairs' greatest resource (Winston & Creamer, 1997), and that is the reason it is important to understand how to effectively recruit, select, orient, develop, supervise, and evaluate this valuable resource.

The largest percentage of any institution's budget is dedicated to personnel cost (Winston & Miller, 1991)--generally at least 75-80% of the total budget. This makes hiring decisions a critical component of a student affairs division's effort to be consistent with the mission and to illustrate fairness in hiring (Taylor & von Destinan, 2000). Factors, such as fluctuations in the national economy, the number of traditional age students in the population, political influences, level of institutional resources, number of graduates from professional preparation programs each year, professional mobility, and many other factors, present substantial challenges to attracting and retaining a well-qualified, motivated, and energetic student affairs staff. Ultimately, the quality of the programs and services a division can provide to students rests principally on the talent and commitment of the professional staff. Ironically, however, even though few would dispute the crucial importance of having a well-qualified staff, there is very little in the literature that describes staffing practices or the processes used to attract and develop professional staff members.

The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of current staffing practices of student affairs divisions. This overview is purely descriptive; that is, no attempt is made to evaluate the effectiveness of varying approaches or to determine what constitutes best practice.

Past Studies of Staffing Practices

By "staffing practices" we mean approaches "to the selection, orientation, supervision, development, and evaluation" (Winston & Creamer, 1997, p. 3) of student affairs professionals. All of these components are critical to the successful utilization of the human resources in student affairs. With the exception of three research projects (Carpenter & McIntire, 1987; McIntire & Carpenter, 1981; Winston & Creamer, 1997), the student affairs literature concerning this concept has focused on one of the components rather than the integration of all of them.

The recruitment and selection literature has concentrated largely on suggestions for practitioners rather than research on actual practices (Dalton, 1996; Farber & Hotelling, 1992; Moore & Burns, 1983; Rickard, 1984; Taylor & von Destinan, 2000). By far the preponderance of the research conducted on staffing practices focuses around staff development issues. Several authors have focused on the general factors involved in staff development, such as the needs of practitioners (Cox & Ivy, 1984), preferred activities (Miller, 1975), learning from mentors (Cooper & Miller, 1998), and institutional models for the development of staff (Grace-Odeleye, 1998). Others have looked at specific needs of a particularly group, such as mid-managers (Fey & Carpenter, 1996; Gordon, Strode, & Mann, 1993), entry-level (Coleman & Johnson, 1990) and women (Blackhurst, Brandt, & Kalinowki, 1998). And finally, the issues of competencies are considered in regards to staff development (Dalton, 1996; Ebbers & Henry, 1990; Saunders & Cooper, 1999). …

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