This is the fourth post in which we have shared data from Phase 3 of the Supporting Student Success research study. Faculty and student affairs staff from colleges and universities across Canada were asked reflect on how they support student success. We invite you to take a look at previous blog posts from this series. We started first with how faculty and staff learn, then we talked about how aware both groups were of programs and services at their institution and last week we looked at to which programs and services faculty and staff referred students.
This week we look at partnerships and collaborations. Throughout the student success literature, we see numerous references to the importance of faculty and student affairs staff working together. Partnerships and collaborations matter as student success isn’t the sole purview of just one person, or one department on campus; instead it is best considered as a shared responsibility across the institution.
We asked faculty and staff to look at a list of 10 different areas of programs and services and indicate if in the last year they had:
a) never partnered with someone from that area (scored as 0);
b) had partnered but not currently (scored as 1);
c) have an ongoing partnership with that area (scored as 2).
Someone who said they had an ongoing partnership with all 10 areas would score 20, while someone who had never partnered with any of these areas would score 0.
The first chart highlights that staff are involved in more ongoing partnerships than faculty in these five areas. Academic services (which includes Academic Advising and Learning Support) and Administrative Services (which includes Registrar’s Office and Financial Aid) were the two areas faculty and staff indicated having the most active partnerships.
Although faculty and staff have ongoing partnerships with similar areas (Administrative Services and Academic Services), twice as many staff indicated an ongoing partnerships with these areas in comparison to faculty.
Interestingly, 67% of faculty indicated they had not partnered with the area of Personal Well-Being (which includes Counselling & Health Services). Given ongoing discussions of the importance of a whole campus approach to student well-being (check out the Health Minds | Healthy Campuses website and recent international conference held at UBC, Okanagan), this finding is striking.
Moreover, we might expect faculty and staff to have more active partnerships with Experiential Education (Career Services, Internships, Service-Learning) considering the continual conversation about helping students become career-ready. Again, this is an area ripe for partnerships between faculty and student affairs staff members. Combining strengths and expertise of disciplinary knowledge, leadership, and interpersonal communication would prepare students for their career and engage meaningfully in their communities.
Also, in some areas more respondents indicated having a previous partnership in comparison to those who indicated an ongoing partnership. For example, while 21% of Faculty indicated having a previous partnership with the area Personal Well-Being, only 11% indicated an ongoing partnership. A similar pattern exists with the area of Alumni, where 20% of faculty indicated a previous partnership in comparison to 8% who had a current partnership. Findings were similar with staff where 29% reported a previous partnership and 22% indicated an ongoing partnership. One most consider what factors influence these partnership patterns and what prompts partnerships to develop. Furthermore, how can partnerships be maintained in an ongoing manner?
In the chart above, we see faculty and staff partnering almost equally in academic programs and with specific faculty. Some of the most noticeable differences between faculty and staff in terms of ongoing partnerships are within the areas of Specific Populations (Faculty=14%, Staff=46%) and Student Life (Faculty=11%, Staff=45%).
Similar to the first chart, we notice here areas in which respondents indicated a previous partnership in comparison to those who have an ongoing partnership. For example, 21% of faculty indicated a previous partnership with areas for Specific Populations (International students, First Nations students, or First Gen students) while 14% indicated an ongoing partnership. While the trend of having more respondents indicate a previous partnership compared to an ongoing partnership occurs in three out of five areas for faculty, it occurs once for staff; and in this case (Community Outreach), it was a slight difference (Previous partnership=28%, Ongoing partnership=27%).
Just over 60% of faculty indicated they had never partnered with three areas: Community Outreach, Specific Populations, and Student Life. While the opportunity to partner with these areas may never have arisen, what influences the development of these partnerships and what may be preventing them from occurring?
Questions to Consider
1. How much of the differences in partnership activity could be related to the nature of the role of staff versus the role of faculty? How much do we expect staff and faculty to partner and who decides this? Maybe a bigger question is: are partnerships encouraged (by students? by senior leaders?) and valued on campus?
2. Given faculty members’ inherent focus on academics, the differences in partnership activity with Academic Services is noteworthy. 55% of faculty and 75% of staff indicated a previous or ongoing partnership with Academic Services. This suggests a larger percentage of student affairs staff actively involved in supporting the academic missions of their institutions than may have been recognized previously.
3. On your campus, who are the faculty you partner with? Are they tenured/permanent stream or sessional/adjunct? How much might this impact their willingness and ability to partner?
With the academic year around the corner, we hope the summer blog series has provided food for thought on how faculty and student affairs staff members may seek opportunities to learn more about how each group uniquely contributes and supports student success. As we move into new faculty and staff orientations, what from this research resonates with your experiences on campus? How might these findings spark a conversation in which campus stakeholders share their thoughts on building a campus culture in which supporting student success is truly a shared responsibility? What role might you play in cultivating those conversations?
As always, we welcome your comments, thoughts and reflections. Please “leave a comment” and be part of the conversation.
If you would like to have a member from the research team present findings from the Supporting Student Success study and/or facilitate a conversation on your campus, please contact Tricia Seifert at Tricia.Seifert@utoronto.ca