Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Building Community: The Calling of the Student Affairs Profession

Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Building Community: The Calling of the Student Affairs Profession

Article excerpt

This article provides an introduction to the concept of community. The article begins with a definition of Student Affairs' Community, outcomes of community development, and provides a supporting framework upon which to establish and maintain community. It also includes essential commitments that campuses must make to create campus community.

People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going more quickly and easily because they are traveling on the thrust of one another. (Taken from "Not Such A Silly Goose," source unknown)

One of the true legacies - as well as future challenges - of student affairs work is our responsibility for creating a sense of campus community for the constituents we serve. For students, faculty and staff alike, community fosters a sense of belonging and connectedness to their respective institution's mission and purpose. And yet, community is often misunderstood and under appreciated.

Bellah, Madsen, Sullivan, Swidler, & Tipton (1985) illustrate this confusion by contrasting "community" and a "life style enclave". For Bellah and his associates, community is defined by its past and a memory of that past. Community is not quickly formed and is characterized by an interdependent group of people that participate in common experiences and shared decision-making. Consequently, the resulting community history nurtures participants and the community becomes a "community of memory."

In contrast, Bellah et al (1985) define a lifestyle enclave as a group of people that have shared activities and identities; however, they are not interdependent. Further, they do not have a past that defines the group, nor do they participate in shared governance. Bellah et al goes on to assert that much of what has been described as community in America is actually a mixture of community in a strong sense and lifestyle enclaves that may or may not develop into community.

The late Ernest Boyer (1987, 1990, 1997), arguably the leader of higher education's community revitalization, believed that learning is not compartmentalized by in class or out-of-class experiences. Further, Boyer (1997) believed that community was the tool to transform the campus in ways for campus members to "go beyond their private interests, learn more about the world around them, develop a sense of civic and social responsibility, and discover how they can contribute to the common good." (p.58).

Boyer's vision continues to challenge institutions of varying sizes, classifications, and status from across the country to build a stronger sense of campus community. Five specific models were described in a recent book, Creating Campus Community: In Search of Ernest Boyer's Legacy (McDonald & Associates, 2002). However, while these five institutional models, among numerous others, demonstrate much work has been accomplished, Yolanda Moses (2002), President of the American Association of Higher Education, reminds us that creating community is still today's most important topic for higher education. So, it is incumbent upon student affairs to continually explore our calling for building campus community by grappling with what community means within our realm of responsibility. The purpose of this initial article is to provide a framework for the student affairs educator to emulate when envisioning new ways to build or renew campus community programs.

Defining Student Affairs' Community, Outcomes and Supporting Framework

Parker Palmer (1986) reminds us that "community is vital and important but is also terribly difficult work for which we are not well prepared." (p.20). Further, for the individual, Palmer (1986) writes, "the degree to which the individual yeans for community is directly related to the dimming of memory of his or her last experience of it." (p. 20). So, how is a student affairs division interested in creating a sense of community to proceed?

We believe the first step is to define the role of student affairs in building community as well as identify the outcomes community should accomplish. …

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