Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

A Portrait of Balance: Personal and Professional Balance among Student Affairs Educators

Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

A Portrait of Balance: Personal and Professional Balance among Student Affairs Educators

Article excerpt

The purpose of this qualitative research study was to explore (a) how student affairs professionals define the concept of balance in the context of balancing their personal and professional lives and (b) how student affairs professionals identified as "balanced" describe their experience of achieving and maintaining balance in their lives.

An increasing number of working individuals have become concerned with the "Holy Grail of the workplace"-the ability to achieve a personal/professional balance (Buckner & Sandholtz, 2003, p. 68). Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines balance as a "state of equilibrium or parity characterized by cancellation of all forces by equal opposing forces," or as "a stable mental or psychological state; emotional stability" (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 2003). Kofodimos (1993) defined balance as "a satisfying, healthy, and productive life that includes work, play, and love; that integrates a range of life activities with attention to self and to personal and spiritual development; and that expresses a person's unique wishes, interests and values" (p. xiii).

Balance is a challenge for most individuals working in higher education (Tack, 1991). Toma and Grady (2002) reported that achieving balance in one's life "is often difficult but essential" (p. 97). Within our profession we serve as both educators and role models to students. Toma and Grady wrote that we bear a particular responsibility in "practicing what we preach" (p. 102) as we encourage students to think holistically about thek development and lead lives of balance themselves. Student affairs professionals often assume many responsibilities within thek positions, creating a high personal demand in terms of both talent and energy (Carpenter, 2003). However, as demanding schedules from work-related activities continue to mount, there is an increasing recognition and cognizant effort by student affairs practitioners to be more mindful of their obligations to themselves, particularly in terms of maintaining a degree of personal and professional balance (Amy & Smith, 1996; Carpenter, 2003; Toma & Grady, 2002; Reisser, 2002; Tack, 1991).

Articles in many popular magazines, including Time, Fortune, Ebony, Money, and Prevention (Dollemore & Harrar, 2003; Fisher, 2003; Gilbert, 2002; Steptoe, 2003; Wang, 2003), describing the busy lives of high profile professionals, have frequently turned to the topic of balance. Most focus on interviews and profiles of individuals who appear to have attained balance and offer lessons on how others can achieve the same. The sheer volume of publications with strategies for achieving balance and avoiding burnout further identifies it as an important topic. The publications range from journal articles to self help books, all offering guidelines, models, and suggestions for achieving balance (Tarver, Canada, & Iim, 1999; Markel, 2000; Provost, 1990; Reisser, 2002). Many articles attempt to create a list of suggestions on how to solve the "balance problem," while others find a fundamental problem with the typical approach to the topic and propose alternative ways of approaching the issue of balance (Caproni, 1997; Kofodimos, 1993). secretan (2000) reported that integration, not balance, is the solution!

Several articles were specifically directed at student affairs professionals (Amy & Smith, 1996; Bellman, 1990; Berwick, 1992; Toma & Grady, 2002; Wiggers, Forney, & Wallace-Schutzman, 1982), but contrary to the national trend, the student affairs literature offers comparatively little to practitioners interested in achieving balance as it relates specifically to their profession. Nearly a decade ago, Tack (1991) called for a shift away from the "workaholic" attitudes adopted by many individuals in higher education and toward a "work-to-live" philosophy, but our literature has not reflected this directive. This topic predominantly emerged in student affairs literature within the context of imbalance through research on stress levels, job satisfaction, "burnout," and attrition among student affairs professionals. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.