Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

A Pathway to the Presidency

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

A Pathway to the Presidency

Article excerpt


If you took a random sampling of student affairs professionals, they'd all agree: without the work they do with students, campus functions would simply grind to a halt.

"Student affairs professionals spend 80 percent of their time with students. We do admissions and registration, we house them and feed them, we do the counseling and guidance and all the other things they need to properly develop in the classroom," says Dr. Roosevelt Littleton, president of the National Association of Student Affairs Professionals and special projects manager for Jackson State University's office of development.

But ask that same random sampling of student affairs officers how they assess their role within their universities, and you'll find they agree about this, too. "Far too much of the time, we're taken for granted," Littleton adds ruefully.


"My perception is that a vice president of student affairs is one of the hardest working people on campus," says the Rev. Dr. Michael Battle, one of the few who's made the difficult leap from student affairs to the presidency. Battle started his career as the campus chaplain at Hampton University in Virginia - and through a series of canny career choices, he's now at the helm of Atlanta's Interdenominational Theological Center.

Battle adds that, in student affairs, "You're the one who gets called when a student gets in trouble, when something happens in the dorms, when students are leaving on trips." But still "there are people who have the image of student affairs as a less favored profession, especially in academic affairs. Those people just don't bother to find out what we do."

Ignorance has its costs, however, and salary survey data offer a stark perspective on those costs. According to the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR), which offers one of the most respected annual surveys in the industry, chief research officers are the most highly valued of top administrative executives, with White chief research officers earning an average of $165,000 annually and minorities holding the position earning an average of $182,104.

Executive vice presidents follow, with an average annual salary of $142,554 for Whites and $126,374 for minorities. Next in line are chief academic officers with salaries of $122,550 and $130,000, respectively. They're followed by chief financial officers, who earn averages of $100,000 and $104,590 in the two racial designations.

And bringing up the rear are chief student affairs officers. Top White student affairs officers earn an average of $94,348; the average for minorities is $108,244.

(It should be noted that the salary figures for minorities are affected by the fact that their numbers are significantly smaller than those for nonminorities. For example, there were 1,001 chief academic officers in the nonminority sample. The number of minorities, by contrast, was 117.)

Dr. Melvin Terrell, vice president of student affairs at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago and an award-winning professional in the field, says it's a well-known fact that the salaries in student affairs are low in comparison with those in academic affairs.

"But the bottom line is this: To be in student affairs, you have to have a desire and passion for it. We're not doing it for the money. We're doing it because we enjoy our work," he adds.

Indeed, passion appears to be the thing that draws most student affairs officers to the field. Most of the people interviewed for this report could tell stories similar to Emilye Mobley's. For Mobley, vice president of student affairs at Bennett College in North Carolina, it was the student development aspect that hooked her on the work.

"As a kid, I had so much trouble with adjusting to the separation from my family, so the work really resonated for me. …

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