There is One House, not Two: Student Life Professionals’ Intentional Search for Inclusion and Understanding.

 In earlier posts, we discussed our findings of Faculty Perceptions of Student Affairs which focused partly on the varying levels of knowledge and understanding faculty have of student affairs and services. Today, I argue that we—as student affairs professionals—need to explore and better understand the culture of our faculty counterparts. We often preach the importance of a holistic student experience, and the value of engagement in curricular and co-curricular opportunities. Students live in one house, and so should we.

So how can we go about this?

As student affairs professionals, we can be intentional about our collaborations with faculty members and have a sense of agency to better understand institutional priorities and faculty culture. Below is a snippet of and initiative from the University of Toronto.

The Student Life Professionals (SLP) Group is a network of professionals across the three campuses, whose vision includes: to create a broad sense of community, to integrate academic and co-curricular facets of the student experience, to share resources and expertise across divisions, and to act as a communication vehicle. The SLP Group organizes monthly meetings and a retreat throughout the fall and winter semesters, and increases collaboration and communication between divisions through a listserv with over 300 staff.SLP_Wordle

Over the years, the SLP has reached out to different faculties in attempts to broaden our networks, and reach into the so-called academic side of the house”. We’ve invited faculty to present research results and be a part of panel discussions. This year, the SLP Group has invited Professor Gertler, 16th President of the University of Toronto in January 2014, to speak to the SLP Group about his vision and strategies for the university. This will also provide Professor Gertler an opportunity to learn about the SLP Group, and for us to engage in a Question and Answer session with the President.

Then in February, Professor Glen A. Jones will present on trends in higher education to the SLP.

While these are small steps, the coming together of student life professionals has advanced the values and vision of student services and affairs, while exploring our role within the institution. Through the Supporting Student Success research study, we heard of institutions whose senior leaders brought together student affairs staff and faculty in intentional ways, whether it was through large town halls or focused Strategic Enrolment Management committees. The keyword in all of this is intentional. Whether it is from a senior leadership approach or a more grassroots initiative like the SLP Group, or even better both, there are ways that we can navigate our role in the institution and learn how to better understand the ways we can work together to support student success.

How have you and your student affairs and services colleagues reached out and engaged with faculty? How has your senior leadership brought together staff and faculty to learn from one another? We invite you to leave a comment and share the great ways your campus has sought to live in “one house,” not two. 

– Kim Elias

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