Recently, our research team had the opportunity to present the findings of the Supporting Student Success study to a dynamic group of student affairs and services staff members at the University of Toronto’s first Student Life Professionals (SLP) meeting of the year. SLP is a network of U of T administrative staff dedicated to improving the student experience on all three campuses by enhancing communication and collaboration between the divisions and providing a forum to share and discuss student issues. SLP participants included student affairs and services staff from the U of T St. George, Mississauga and Scarborough campuses.
Through interactive group activities and on-line media tools, participants had the opportunity to share their perspectives on how they have made sense of their organization’s structure, share ideas on how to collaborate with other units on campus and find ways to include and recognize students in the learning environment. Participants shared innovative ideas on how to collaborate with staff, administrators, students and the community to enhance services. Participants also reflected on their role as transformative educators.
Our goal for this presentation was to ground participants in our study by having them complete activities we utilize within the research process. We found that SLP participants shared similar perspectives about the organizational structure of their campus as participants in our study. For example, when prompted to draw the organizational structure of their unit and division, some SLP participants depicted their organizational structure as a spider web. Spider webs depict units that are interconnected and where collaboration is keen in supporting students. Others depicted their organizational structures as silos where units work independently of each other with little collaboration between units. Some participants illustrated a combination of both. These results resonated with our research findings in that where one “sits” within the organization can often influence how that person perceives the organizational structure. The research team has observed that it can be useful for staff to reflect on their organization’s structures. These reflections often highlight organizational strengths and opportunities for improvement as they relate to supporting student success.
We would like to thank the SLP members and Lisa Chambers for inviting us the opportunity to present our research findings. We hope to have the opportunity to interact with the SLP group in the future and invite everyone to post any thoughts about their experience at the meeting.