added value

I read this article this morning, and agree so strongly with it, that I felt compelled to write on the topic of appreciation and value in the workplace.

Many student affairs departments are often branded as “high touch” or “too soft” particularly in comparison with their academic counterparts.  Does genuinely appreciating the work of others make you “too soft”? I don’t think so.  And what about a student-centred approach? Does that denote a “high touch” environment? My opinion is that we work in student affairs, it we aren’t student-centred, then what business do we have working in this field?

Having worked in four different housing & residence life departments, and with a number of supervisors, colleagues, and students, I can safely say that providing positive feedback comes easier to some than it does to others, and some organizational cultures value it more than others.

In a time of incredible competition for students, institutions should pay more attention to how much value they place on their employees.  I believe in the trickle-down effect.  If an institution’s top administrators emphasize value and show it through their daily work and interactions, this will catch on.  It becomes a part of the culture of the institution.  This trickles all the way down to the students.  If employees feel valued for their work, they’re more likely to interact positively with students.  In turn, this makes the student feel more valued, and reinforces the reason they chose the school they did.

Think of the other side of this.  If the perception is that employees are not valued, from the top down, what impact does that have on their interactions with the students?  How many times have we seen people refuse to do any work outside the realm of their job description, simply because they feel the work they do is not valued or appreciated.  This can be an awfully slippery slope.  A supervisor may view this as a “lack of initiative” and find a way to remove that person from their position, without ever getting to the root of the issue.  What a missed opportunity!

Individuals like to be acknowledged and recognized in different ways, so ask those you work with what they prefer.  Remember it and implement it.  They’ll appreciate it and be more likely to appreciate you.

How do you show your appreciation for the work of others?


who knew credentialing was such a dirty word?

I wasn’t able to partake in the #sachat discussion on credentialing in student affairs this afternoon, but I did read through all of the tweets generated by such a hot (and current) topic.  [You can now view the conversation transcript here].

As I scrolled through the discussion, it became quite clear that there is not one simple definition of “credential” or how and where it fits in to the student affairs field.  I thought a dictionary definition of credential might help to clarify the conversation.


1. Usually, credentials. Evidence of authority, status, rights, entitlement to privileges, or the like, usually in written form: Only those with the proper credentials are admitted.

2. Anything that provides the basis for confidence, belief, credit, etc.

Unfortunately, I don’t think this definition helps us to get any closer to a broad, student affairs focused definition.  For many professions, there is a set path to said career.  In order to become a lawyer, one must obtain an undergraduate degree, be successful in the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), complete a law degree and an apprenticeship (articling), take the bar admission course, and then of course, pass the licensing exam (better known as the bar exam). Doctors and teachers have similar concrete paths.

However, there are many routes to obtaining a position in student affairs.  In the USA, attending graduate school (in a student affairs focused program) and completing a graduate internship appears to be common.  In Canada, most student affairs practitioners enter the profession after obtaining an undergraduate degree (often in an unrelated field of study).  As we increasingly look south of the border for comparisons sake, more entry and mid-level positions are requiring candidates to have a graduate degree in a related field.  This has encouraged many Canadian student affairs practitioners to return to the classroom to obtain a graduate degree.  Luckily, more Canadian institutions are catching on to this, and are offering more specialised graduate programs for professionals.  As student affairs and student services continue to grow on a global scale, the path to a career in this field is becoming more and more diverse.

Earlier this month, the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) released information about its newly appointed Credentialing Implementation Team.  Who would have known that this would spur such rich, lively, and sometimes contentious conversation?  Many in the field took to Twitter and their blogs to share their thoughts about credentialing in student affairs.  With there being so many avenues to enter the field, how does a credentialing program serve a wide scope of professionals? What purpose does this type of program serve?  Is this simply another way to alienate those who wish to partake in such an opportunity but do not have the financial resources (personal or institutional) to do so from those who do?  Will we see job descriptions requiring candidates to have a specific credential from a professional association?  In an effort to respond to the growing concerns throughout the field, Dr. Heidi Levine, ACPA President shared this message on her blog: Statement on the ACPA Student Affairs Credential Program.

Right now, there seem to be more questions than answers.  While the discussion about this topic is diverse, and tends to be rooted in individual experience, bias and allegiance, it is fantastic to see so many contributors to the conversation.

Here’s my take:

Student affairs is an incredibly competitive field.  We are among some of the most educated individuals in the country (probably the world) and come to the table with such diverse job-related experience.  We know that any given job receives hundreds of applications and that we must find a way to stand out from the crowd.  Because of this, there is a certain level of onus on the individual to supplement their own learning and development, to prove to be a worthy candidate.  This need not be expensive, as there are many ways to remain current on trends and challenges in the field. [Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on my top-ten “PD for free” ideas].

Unless student affairs goes the way of the law profession, I see taking part in a credentialing program after working in the field for a number of years.  ACUHO-I offers two certificate programs, each focused on a specific area of housing. While these programs are completely open (to those in housing and outside of the field), I see them being most beneficial to those who foresees a long-term career in housing/student affairs, and to those who have mastered the basic skill set for a housing professional (although I know we could argue what such a basic skill set consists of).

ACUHO-I, ACPA/NASPA and CAS all provide exceptional documents on professional standards and competencies.  If you are not familiar with these documents, I suggest you read through them.  As assessment continues to be an important part of our field, it is crucial for departments to understand the importance of such standards and competencies.

For me, the most memorable tweet from the #sachat discussion came from Joe Ginese: “If your position doesn’t require you to keep learning, I fear #studentaffairs is in trouble (starting with your institution).”

If departments or institutions do not value the learning of its employees, then how can it support the learning of its students?

While it is up to you to stay current on trends and continue developing professionally, I think it is also the responsibility of the department and institution to contribute to your professional development.  If you find yourself working in a place that does not support this, or does not have the financial resources to fully support this, you need to take control of your own development.  Think outside of the box and utilize your resources.

So, is credentialing important? Absolutely! I think it can be a great professional development tool and help to further develop the skills and knowledge required to move-up in the field.  But we cannot forget the importance of experience.  After all, you can read all the student development theory you like, but until you can see it in your work and put it into practice, what use is it?

What is your take on the credentialing conversation? Share your thoughts here, or continue the conversation on Twitter!

Follow me @KateMcGK

thank you

I had a phone conversation this afternoon with someone I’ve never met.  Despite that, we chatted for 45 minutes about mid-level positions in housing & residence life and student affairs.  There was nothing awkward at all about picking up the phone to call someone I’d never spoken to before.  You see, we are very lucky to work in this field.  I bet I would be safe to say that 99.9% (if not 100%) of student affairs professionals are happy to chat with one another about a variety of topics, even if they have no pre-existing relationship.

Every so often, I peruse the ACUHO-I regional and international affiliations websites to see what’s happening and who I can connect with.  Through this, I have found conference information, new projects and initiatives taking place and further networking opportunities.  By checking out UMR-ACUHO’s website and reading through the list of programs presented at their recent regional conference, I made contact with Nick Lander, Assistant Director for Residence Life at Kansas State University.  Nick had presented on “Preparing for and Transitioning into the Mid Level” and I was curious to know more.  After a couple of emails, we chose a time to chat on the phone.  Nick was open and honest in his advice, experience and knowledge.  I’m sure if anyone had overheard our phone call, they would have been surprised to know that this was our very first conversation.   That’s the thing about this field.  That willingness to pick up the phone and devote time to a complete stranger.   How many professionals from other fields can say they experience the same thing?

Nick is not the first person I have connected with in this way.  Twitter has been a powerful tool in relationship building and encouraging connections with other students affairs professionals.  Ann Marie Klotz, Laurie Berry, Kelley McCarthy, and Niki Rudolph are just a few of the amazing people I’ve connected with, mainly thanks to Twitter.  Being involved in ACUHO-I has also introduced me to wonderful folks from across the student housing spectrum.  Ana Hernandez, Rebecca Chan and Janine Arcus are among some of these very people, representing the global nature of ACUHO-I.

I am so thankful and grateful for these connections, and for being a part of a field that values this far reaching support and fellowship.

Even if you currently have a great network, I encourage you to cast a wide net.  There are so many phenomenal people in this field, across the globe and you have the opportunity to connect with them in many ways.   Do it.  You will not regret it.

Who will you connect with next?


one word for 2012

Instead of creating a list of New Year’s resolutions, I’m joining other tweeps in the #oneword2012 revolution.  The basic premise is to select one word that will guide you throughout the year.  Check out this post for more information on #oneword:

I knew in November what word I wanted to use.  It marries my hopes, goals and aspirations and I am sure this word will give me better focus overall.  I’ve chosen MOVEMENT as my one word for 2012.

move·ment definition

Pronunciation:  /ˈm{uuml}v-mənt/
Function: n
1 :  the act or process of moving

I plan to incorporate movement into every aspect of my life.  I will physically move more, in an effort to trim and tone, and get into better shape.  I will continue to work hard to move my career forward, seeking opportunities that I may have previously overlooked.  I will need to move out of my comfort zone and into uncharted territory, as I begin my thesis for my Master of Education program this month, and continue to do so until it’s completed (hopefully less than a year).  I want to move others to action, in a way that is connected to each individual’s own goals and aspirations.

I feel as though I have stood still for too long in many areas of my life, so it’s time to get a move on! I’m excited for the momentum of this one word challenge and witnessing others’ journeys with their selected one word.

If you are interested in taking part in the #oneword2012 project, choose a word and tweet it to @NikiRudolph, including the hashtag #oneword2012.

What is your one word for 2012?