How Should We Measure Student Success?

Student Success: “Value” as in dollars and cents? Or “value” as related to merit and importance? We address this critical topic in our recent blog post in HEQCO‘s itsnotacademic blog.

Supporting student success has been at the heart of many recent media posts, academic circles, and recent conferences dedicated solely to the topic. Supporting student success has been the focus of our research and we have had the privilege of talking to stakeholders across colleges and universities in Ontario about how they perceive student success. We heard amazing stories about how people support students, how students perceive success, and most importantly how we can move towards a more holistic definition of success that extends beyond persistence and retention.

We recently partnered with Joe Henry, Associate Dean of Student Success at Sheridan College, and collaborated on a blog post for HEQCO‘s itsnotacademic blog. Sheridan College has been a leader in defining student success through a holistic lens and their perspective resonated with what we found in our own research.

We invite you to read our blog post and join the conversation about this hot topic. To read our blog post go to:

Taking The Plunge: Going to Grad School and Working Full-Time


This is the fourth in a series of posts profiling current students in the Higher Education program at OISE with an interest in student affairs and services.  Previously we shared the perspectives of  full-time PhD and part or flex-time PhD students as well as  part-time Master’s (thesis route) students. Today Gavin Taylor-Black reflects on studying part-time while working full-time at Ryerson University. Gavin is interested in long term planning at post secondary institutions.

A few things I wish I knew before taking the plunge

When I first started my undergraduate degree over ten years ago I knew I wanted to pursue a master’s degree at some point but I never really knew what I wanted to study. When I finished my degree, I was no closer to knowing what I wanted to study next. So, I decided that I had been in school for 18 years straight and, for me, it was time to do something else for a while. Seven years have passed since then and in the mean time I have married my lovely wife, bought a house that is now my home and taken up a fulfilling six year career at Ryerson University.  While I have been there and interacted with students, staff and faculty, I came to have a greater appreciation for the number of competing issues and the social complexity universities deal with every day. Alongside this came a greater academic interest in the field of higher education and so, here we are. With this in mind, here are some things I wish I had thought of about balancing work, school and home life before beginning my graduate school journey.

Change your personal scheduling before you start classes

One thing I wish I had started sooner was getting in the habit of allotting specific time to read and write about academic material. Seven years is a long time to get out of practice. I am only taking a single course this semester and yet I am finding the time to read and write my papers is proving to be challenging. If you are like me and have been out of school for a number of years, you have hobbies and other interests that now consume a good portion of your time. With doing a master’s degree, your time is going to be pulled in more directions at the same time. I really wish I had started trimming some of this time back in increments before I started my first class. I ended up doing this all at once. Now that I am a month in, I have gotten used to it but it was a challenge. Going from reading my novel on the GO train to making sure I read and understand about 100 pages of academic reading a week was quite the adjustment! All this and I am only starting off with a single course.

Rethink your approach from being an undergrad

The other side of this is rethinking how I approach my school work. When I was an undergraduate student, going to school full-time was my job and I worked part-time doing other things. Now I have a full-time job and do school and read for class in my spare time. It sounds like a simple thing but it requires a bit of mental gymnastics. This is causing me to get a little creative about how I get my school work done. For example, last week I was looking forward to the weekend and a full three days to get caught up on readings and paper writing. What I didn’t fully consider was that there are two sets of family that need to be seen alongside other commitments. The reality was that I got my paper outline finished on my phone while on a ride back from Thanksgiving dinner in Unionville!

Start thinking early about how this impacts your work

If you are like me, you may be completing your master’s for two main reasons: (1) you want to know more and be better at your profession to help make post-secondary institutions a better place; and (2) to further advance your career while you are doing it. I have gone into the M.Ed. in higher education program with a distinct interest in how planning for the future is done at post-secondary institutions. Only a few weeks in and I have already started to re-think assumptions I had made about how post-secondary functions and how that interfaces with my job. I wish I had done some digging into this earlier! It really helps put you in the right frame of mind for what you are studying and you will get an awful lot more out of it. The earlier you can start engaging what you are doing in the classroom with what you do during your day job, the better.

Even with the things that I haven’t considered, I am still very happy I have taken the plunge. Best of luck and happy studies!

Remember, you can come and learn more about the programs at OISE and how graduate study can enhance your professional practice at our upcoming open house on Monday, October 21 at 5:00 in OISE 5-210

Call for Proposals and Reviews #acpa2014 Deadline September 5

In the last few years, ACPA has highlighted a significant interest and movement in understanding how student affairs and services practitioners and educators from around the world support student success. As such, ACPA Commission for the Global Dimensions of Student Development (CGDSD) invites you to submit a proposal and/or to become a reviewer for the 2014 Conference in Indianapolis.

Specifically the CGDSD is seeking out innovative proposals that address topics related to the global dimensions of student development. We encourage proposals on a broad range of international and global issues in post-secondary education that are relevant to the professional and geographic areas you live and work in. Some possible areas for proposals include:

– The practice(s) of student affairs world globally

– Interesting/innovative work on education abroad and/or international student programs

– Examples of intercultural competence development (at home) initiatives

– Ideas and discussions on working with diverse populations of students

Why Submit a Sponsored Program? A sponsored program receives additional visibility among existing members of the Commission. Sponsored programs also get greater promotion to all conference attendees though dedicated and additional spaces in conference program and web promotion.

Submit a Sponsored Program. To have your program considered for sponsorship, simply select the ‘sponsored program’ box when beginning your application. We have 5 dedicated spots in the 2014 program. If your proposal covers multiple areas (e.g. career planning for international students) you can indicate co-sponsorship (by selecting that option instead of sponsored) and choose the relevant commissions on the next screen. The co-sponsored option means we can sponsor more great work as it only counts as 0.5 of our 5 allotted spots. Proposals not selected for sponsorship will remain in consideration in the general program review.

Guide/Tips on Submitting a Proposal. You can find more information about the program submission process here and watch a great video on developing and submitting proposals to ACPA.

All program submissions for the 2014 Convention are due on Thursday September 5. 2013.

ACPA Seeks Program Reviewers. In addition to the call for sponsored programs, ACPA is also seeking members to be program reviewers. Reviewing programs is a great way to get involved with ACPA and to help shape the conference program by bringing your international perspective to the review process.  You can sign up here and please don’t forget to select”Commission for Global Dimensions of Student Development” when selecting your interests.

By proposing sessions and becoming involved as reviewers we have a chance to advance the international outlook of this and the other professional networks that we belong to.

– Jeff

Teaser Video: Two Roads Met in a Yellow Wood

We look forward to seeing you at CACUSS 2013 for our presentation Two Roads Met in a Yellow Wood: Faculty and Staff Perceptions of Student Success. The team is presenting on Tuesday, June 18 from 4-5:15PM in room W215 Arts. Please see page 35 of the conference program for more information.


Congress 2013

Next week, members of the Supporting Student Success research team will present two papers from the study at #Congress2013, Canada’s largest meeting of the Humanities and Social Sciences.  Much of the conversation about postsecondary education capturing the headlines lately has focused on student success, with some suggesting the imperative of postsecondary education to prepare students for the workforce as a key benchmark of success. But beyond the media, how do those involved in postsecondary education—either as an educator or as a student—define success? Diliana Peregrina-Kretz and Tricia Seifert will share participants’ definitions of this much talked about concept. Let’s just say, student success is more multi-faceted than graduating with a credential and getting a job. Come hear their presentation titled “What defines student success: A multiple choice question” Monday from 10:00-11:15 in Room A264 H/SD.

If student success is really a multi-faceted notion, then how do postsecondary institutions support students to succeed in achieving their personal and academic goals? What level of awareness do faculty members have about the programs and services available on their campus that support student success? Jeff Burrow and Tricia Seifert will present findings  on “Faculty perceptions of student affairs and services in Ontario’s colleges and universities” Tuesday from 3:00-4:15 in Room A264 H/SD.

We invite you to join us for these two sessions which will also feature papers from Peter Dietsche and Kathleen Moore among others. In addition to presenting, we will be using social media to provide for real time perspectives and thoughts from the Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education meeting at the University of Victoria, June 3-5. Follow us @CdnStdntSuccess.

Finding Your Way During Conference Season: A first time attendee looks back at AERA13

In late April I attended the American Educational Research Association conference in San Francisco. It was nearly a month ago, but with a few conferences coming up in June I wanted to reflect on what I remember.AERA2013_Banner_Homepage

I remember it was BIG. The largest conference I have ever been at. I think at the #ACPA13 keynote address they said there were 6,000 or 7,000 guests including the NIRSA delegates. AERA was more than twice that size with about 15,500 registrants. It’s a monster and had2,400 sessions and 6,000 presenters scattered over at least 6 hotels. And at 452 pages, the program guide was bigger than most municipal phone books I have seen.

It was BROAD & DEEP. AERAs’ divisional structure covers nearly any angle of academic research you can imagine. K-12, curriculum studies, social contexts of education, teaching to teacher education. Post-secondary education (#AERADiv_J) is what I would call ‘home’. But even Division J has 6 sections within it! However I am also attached to the Measurement and Research Methodology group, which is Division D and, as a current doctoral student I am a member of, the very large (and well organized) Graduate Student contingent.

Wait there’s more. AERA also has a very large number of Special Interest Groups (SIGS).  There are at least 100 of these and they cover issues that cut across the divisional structures like Private Education, Survey Research, or Post-Colonial Studies. So there are no shortages of places for newcomers to use as a ‘base’ for the conference.

It was FORMAL. By this I mean that the most common session was 3 or 4 papers grouped into similar topics like one session Tricia Seifert presented in called ‘Assessing Teaching Contexts, Strategies & Outcomes’. Each paper (they are presentations based on pre submitted academic papers) had about 15 minutes to present, followed by 15 minutes from the discussant talking about each paper’s (strengths/weaknesses) and common themes, followed hopefully by a few minutes of questions from the audience.

But it had VARIETY. In any 90 minute block there were usually 80 sessions, plus any 60 or so roundtable discussions. These also had 3 papers, a discussant, but the audience, sat around them, making it a little less formal and more conversational. There were poster sessions with maybe 50 presentations several times a day usually organized around a few themes. There were keynote lectures. There were invited responses to conference themes. There was a Film Festival.

It was very active in SOCIAL MEDIA. Search Twitter for #aera13 and you will see what I mean. Also a number of the very large keynote addresses had hashtags set up in the program beforehand.

It had some BIG NAMES. Depending on your line of work and research, many of the big names were present. For those interested in research methods you could see presentations by John Creswell. Interested in critical theory? Michael Apple and Peter McLaren were presenting. And in the higher ed world Laura Perna, Adriana Kezar and Kristen Renn were each a part of numerous sessions. And from what I saw and experienced, everyone was very willing to take time to talk.

There was some CONTROVERSY. (Search Google/Twitter for Arne Duncan AERA).  That particular controversy was given a forum, and a process to discuss the issues was set up. Surely, not everyone was satisfied with that process, or the outcome, but AERA recognized how important the discussion was for many members.

I enjoyed AERA this year, but know there was lot of unrealized opportunity. All conferences need a plan, and this is especially trye for for me and AERA14. And with the annual Congress/Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education and CACUSS  coming up I’ve thought a bit about how to have a better conference experience; especially when it’s your first time attending.

What You Can Do

  1. Review the program schedule carefully, identify your preferred session and have a backup in case you get sidetracked or something gets cancelled. With that read the abstract and the title carefully.
  2. Talk to people who have been there before to learn about the key events, experiences, cultures and people that you may not know about or don’t jump off the page while you are planning the sessions you will attend.
  3. Have a 30-second talk ready for when someone asks you about your research and/or work.
  4. Try to engage deeply with a few people, rather than meeting everyone.
  5. Attend orientation and welcome sessions, roundtables, panel discussions, and anything with free food! These are some of the best places to meet new people.
  6. Think about your networks. They are larger than you realize. Both your institution and your area of work or research.
  7. Follow up during and after the conference.
  8. Volunteer. Most divisions, interest groups etc are always looking for volunteers to help out.

What the Conference Can Do

  1. Host 1st-timer and newcomer sessions – Both before the conference and as the conference begins. Kristen Renn hosted a great webcast for newcomers to AERA13 that really helped me plan my time there.
  2. Mix up the program with large plenary talks, paper/presentations, roundtables, films, Pecha Kucha sessions, learning labs. Recognize multiple learning styles!
  3. Ask for feedback! AERA_DivJ had a full session on improving the conference experience.
  4. Give some of the conference away for free. Pick a few sessions, have them webcasted for free to anyone – member or not. This is a way to introduce your organization and conference, and encourage participation and attendance next year.
  5. Set up hashtags for each session and put them in the program guide. A+ to ACPA 2013 for starting this!

These are just a few random thoughts as we move deeper into conference season. We would love to hear what advice seasoned conference-goers and newcomers have for maximizing their conference experiences!

Student Affairs and Services in Global Perspective

Typically our blog focuses on research, findings, presentations and musing related to the ongoing Supporting Student Success research project. As we wrap up sharing preliminary findings with each of the participating institutions, we will begin our cross-site analysis and continue to plan for presentations at Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education in Victoria and CACUSS in Montreal in what promises to be a very busy and exciting summer.

However, this week we wanted to share something a little different. The International Association of Student Affairs and Services (IASAS) has started a research project to look at the practice of student affairs and services around the globe. Some of you may have already received this invitation and we are grateful to the nearly 100 people who have already responded. If you have not participated yet, we encourage you to do so. Either way we want your voices included as part of this project and hope you can share this message broadly with your colleagues, locally, nationally and beyond!

The formal invitation and survey link are below. Thank you again for reading and participating.


In recent years, two books have provided an organizational perspective of student affairs and services practice from around the world. Whether you work in residence life, career or job placement services, academic learning support services, counseling or in another area that serves to support students, we would like to hear from you!

This research study seeks to understand the experiences of postsecondary/tertiary staff members. As a subscriber to a listserv for student affairs and services practitioners, we invite you to help develop this understanding by completing a brief 15 minute survey in which you will be asked about your job position, duties and background. We intend to use the results from this survey to share information about student affairs and services work in a global context and provide resources and a support network for those working in the field.

We invite you to share the survey link with other staff colleagues not part of the listserv. A copy of the results from this study will be available on the IASAS Web site. You will be notified through this listserv when the results are available.

To access the survey, please click here. If the survey does not open automatically, please copy and paste the following link to your Web browser’s address bar.

If you have any questions regarding the content of the survey or want to know how we intend to use the data, please do not “reply” to this email. Rather, direct all study questions to Dr. Tricia Seifert at

Please help contribute to our understanding of the experiences of student affairs and services staff by completing the survey.


Tricia Seifert, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto
Brett Perozzi, Weber State University
Mary Ann Bodine Al-Sharif, Florida State College
Katie Wildman, Hamad bin Khalifa University, Qatar Foundation