Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Promising Practices

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Promising Practices

Article excerpt

Building on the success of last year, we are excited to include another set of "promising practices" in this year's report for Most Promising Places to Work in Student Affairs 2017. As the MPPWSA project matures each year, we learn more and more about what's going on at various institutions to increase staff diversity, foster a sense of belonging and equip college student educators for their work with students. In last year's edition of Diverse, we shared five practices that hold promise for achieving the outcomes we desire with student affairs staff (for more, see Diverse March 2016). This year we present four new promising practices.

Promising Practices 2017

1. A Culture of Evidence Based Practice

The American College Personnel Association (ACPA), along with several other national professional associations, acknowledges the important role that research, theory and scholarship play in effective student affairs practice. So much so that the most recent Professional Competencies and Standards Report affirms the importance of evidence-based practice, which is one of this year's "promising practices" that distinguish MPPWSA institutions from their peers. Our conversations and site visits this year revealed a rich, holistic ethos within divisions of students affairs that pressed for the use of research, theory and scholarship in everyday practice. More than just a one-off mention of Alexander Astin's "involvement theory" or a drive-by lecture from a highly-acclaimed speaker, this year's MPPWSA institutions were largely characterized in both structure and form as workplaces that infused the collection, use and sharing of evidence or "provocative information" consistently throughout the entire division. For instance, student affairs staff at St. Louis University get the message from "day one that research and evidence are critical for effective practice" as part of their on-boarding process, which is also reflected in the division's guiding documents and policies. SLU's Division of Student Development hiring plan includes multiple references to the literature on effective practice for building multicultural competence, sense of belonging and power/oppression.

Although many of this year's MPPWSA institutions are marked by a culture for evidence-based practice--where decisions begin with questions about data, information, and current research--the institutions we visited were quite different in "how" they created this distinctive culture. Some through book clubs, affinity groups, rubrics and box-whisker plots, while others preserved a culture of evidence through guest speakers, webinars, strong partnerships with graduate prep programs on campus and so on. At the University of West Georgia (UWG), Vice President Scott Lingrell and his team have developed a literature review, chock-full of APA citations, that supports the Division's five strategic imperatives and they require all new staff to read the review. UWG and other featured campuses perpetuate the culture of evidence by incentivizing staff to justify funding requests, new programs and work success using data, assessments, and the science of college impacts. Our team at CHEE was impressed by the explicit mention of theory, evaluations and "value-added models" in student affairs workplaces. In many ways, this year's MPPWSA institutions possess evidence-based cultures that compel staff to marshal evidence of their impact on students, which makes them a viable partner to other units on campus in ensuring student success!

2. Engagement in the Broader Profession

If we learned anything from this year's conversations and visits to several Most Promising Places to Work in Student Affairs institutions it's that staff at these institutions feel as if they belong in the campus, division, and broader profession. Time and time again, staff at this year's MPPWSA emphasized that they were encouraged and supported to be engaged actively in the broader profession. …

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