Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Student Affairs scholarship

Most of the literature in student affairs, development, and services is written by faculty in graduate preparation programs. Analysis of articles in journals confirm that as graduate faculty have been increasingly rewarded for research and publication, the literature shifted to accommodate their contributions. The days of significant numbers of scholar-practitioners, staff who researched and wrote as a function of reflective practice, authoring published works has declined over the last 50 years.

Chelsea Gilbert wrote that "Colleges should recognize that research grounded in the daily experiences of those most knowledgeable about students' lives is crucial for meeting students' needs." While I heartily agree that student affairs staff should write more, it's an error to claim superiority in being the "most knowledgeable about students' lives," primarily because it has the potential of alienating many faculty who are also deeply informed about students and may resent the assertion that they are not.

I don't know of research that will confirm my assertions but my belief is that many student affairs staff don't write because they have not benefitted from the cultivation that many faculty receive. Student affairs has been an oasis for diversity in many institutions, first welcoming women, then colleagues from diverse cultures, and then opening the door for LGBTQ+ colleagues. In addition, many may have been first-generation students whose families were not able to mentor them into the culture of writing and research. All this adds up to a population group that has much to offer but is silenced in a system that rewards certain kinds of academics, with specified elite credentials, and sponsored by senior colleagues who encourage them.

Chelsea proposes three corrective measures: provide time, provide funding, and provide a spotlight. Addressing these three issues would help but the reason student affairs staff are constricted in their scholarship goes much deeper to issues of background, identity, and reward.

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