Competency 2 – Student Development in Higher Education

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2) Student Development in Higher Education

Graduates should be able to demonstrate their understanding of student populations and sub-cultures within varied higher education settings. In meeting this competency, students should demonstrate their knowledge of…

Transitional issues faced by students before and after their tenure in higher education settings

The beginning of a student’s academic journey starts when they are first engaged in the admissions funnel. During my OSU assistantship, I was exposed to the Oregon State admissions process. I was able to see that the admissions process is incredibly complex and relies on multiple internal and external constituencies. My primary responsibilities for OSU Admissions have revolved around increasing the quality of their overall web presence. While working on the OSU Admissions web sites, I have been able to increase the overall accessibility and usability of the Admissions web presence. Web site accessibility is always part of the any web project for OSU Enrollment Management. I am very proud to say that web standards, accessibility, and usability are part of every online process that comes out of the Enrollment Management Information Technology unit.

OSU Success
In addition to the OSU Admissions web sites, another project that I worked on was the OSU Success site. The OSU Success project was a web site for first-year students. I was involved in the initial planning stages of the site. The site was used as an online textbook for OSU Odyssey. My duties fluctuated throughout the project management cycle. I was consistently in charge of accessibility and usability. I introduced an online project management tool (Basecamp) which enhanced project group communications/organization. The site was part of a collaboration between the Academic Success Center and Student Orientation and Retention. The site design and structure was created by an external vendor. However, I was deeply involved in both the design and the overall usability of the site.

I learned a lot while working on this project. It was probably the most comprehensive of all of my OSU experiences. I learned about contracts and legal issues which related extremely well to my CSSA Legal Issues course. I learned how to operate within the context of a collaborative work group. We collected data which I was able to synthesize via skills learned from my CSSA Assessment course. I was also able to see how the online materials interfaced with an actual class. My Odyssey class was required to discuss and reflect on the value of the materials.

The next step for most students involves an orientation process. It is important to note that the beginning, continuation and completion of a student’s academic career can be dependent upon a successful Orientation/Retention Program. As Marketing Specialist for the UIC Wellness Center, I was involved in UIC’s Orientation program for 2 years. I designed and co-wrote the Wellness Center’s New Student Orientation Presentation. The PowerPoint presentation was consistently one of the most remembered Orientation lectures. I also worked with Orientation Directors/Leaders to provide a consistent Orientation Leader message in regards to wellness information for new students. I advised the Orientation Director and Student Directors on ways to make the Orientation program more memorable. I was a member of the UIC Orientation Programming Taskforce. Taskforce duties included: creating, planning, and in part, implementing the 2 day UIC orientation.

During the interviews for my assistantship, I stressed the importance of student contact within the context of the position. One of the ways that I was able to connect with students was in my experiences with OSU Connect Week. I led students from the Memorial Union quad to Gill Coliseum during Convocation. I co-created the Convocation introduction PowerPoint which showed scenes of OSU while Green Day played in the background. I emceed the raffle process for the Carnival in the Quad and assisted SOAR staff with event setups. During a late night activity at Fred Myer, I managed to entertain over 100 students who were waiting to enter the building.


I have always been able to combine my nontraditional technology skills with my student affairs skill set. The Student Orientation and Retention Office allowed me to present a technology session during summer orientation. Each week I would present to students and their parents about a variety of tech-topics. I promoted the OSU Success project and crafted a segment which informed parents, family members, and students. I entertained questions which focused on the overall experience of OSU Students with regard to technology access.

First-Year Experience
After orientation, students are faced with numerous issues which can affect their academic success. Several factors can affect academic success including: study skills, wellness, multicultural competence, time management, learning disabilities, test taking skills, access to technology, note taking skills, and relationships with faculty. I decided that the best way for me to engage first-year students was via a first year experience course: OSU Odyssey. I taught Odyssey during the fall term. It was my first experience teaching a class.

Academic Success

I taught an Academic Success class during the winter term. The class consisted of first-year students, sophomores, juniors, and seniors. It was a snapshot of undergraduate life. The first-year students seemed to soak up all of the class information while the seniors were looking for excerpts which were applicable to their future careers.

Student Conduct
My practicum experience with OSU Student Conduct involved several transitional issues for OSU students. The students were at Student Conduct due to a myriad of reasons. Stress, low involvement levels, peer pressure, lack of awareness, and problems with authority are a few of the reasons why I was engaged with students in my role as an informal hearing officer.

The various and changing needs, goals, affinities of students within varied higher education settings (i.e. community college, private, public, etc)
I feel that my experiences in higher education have prepared me to work with most students. At OSU, I have been able to work with students from a wide range of backgrounds while immersed in a rural area at a state funded institution. I have been exposed and worked with conduct situations, orientation programs, multicultural affairs, and campus technology structures. I learned about students with disabilities in my CSSA Disability Issues course. I learned about oppressions and the ethics of diversity in the following courses: Ethics of Diversity, Feminist Philosophies, and Multicultural Competence in Student Affairs. In my Enrollment Management course I am learning about the complexities of the enrollment process.

My previous student affairs position was at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). At the UIC Wellness Center, I was able to learn about student life in an urban environment. Some students lived on campus, but most lived off as UIC was known for its commuter school status. A branch of the greater University of Illinois system, UIC was incredibly diverse.

I went to Indian Hills Community College (IHCC) in Iowa for my associate’s degree. I was extremely involved at IHCC. IHCC has a large contingent of on campus students. Residence life contributed to my campus life and development. I lived in the dorms for two years at IHCC. My experiences at IHCC increased my empathy for students that I would interact with in a conduct situation.

My undergraduate career culminated at the University of Northern Iowa where I was involved with a student organization. I was in a leadership role and was able to navigate the complexities of being a student leader.

It is my hope that I will be able to explore new educational settings as I continue my professional journey. One area that I have thus far been remiss in my learning is the private institution. I have been in an environment (IHCC) that consisted of a small number of students in an on campus learning community, but I still need to discover the nuances of private colleges and the students that they enroll. Fortunately, the Chronicle of Education, NASPA Forum, and the ACPA Journal of College Student Development provide me with insights into a variety of student populations and the institutions that serve them.

The diversity of student populations including, but not limited to, age, socioeconomic status, gender, race and ethnicity, language, nationality, religion or spirituality, sexual orientation, ability, and preparedness
Initially, this sub-category was going to have to contain a tremendous amount of content because I feel that it is extremely important. Fortunately, a few of my colleagues (Padma Akkaraju, Wendy Alemán, Annette Martel and Cathlene McGraw) created a multicultural competency (Competency #9) which incorporated self-awareness, knowledge, skills, personal growth, and lifelong learning. I have included all of my thoughts and reflections regarding the diversity of student populations in this competency section.

Theories related to student development and potential practical applications
One of the reasons why I pursued a graduate degree in higher education was because of my lack of student development theory. Throughout my time at UIC, I developed several student affairs practitioner skills including: budget creation, promotion and marketing, mentoring, assessment, and networking. One of the gaping holes in my knowledge was student development theory. The CSSA program contains two formal student development theory courses. Theory is blended into other courses but it is inferred instead of directly recognized.

CSSA Student Development Theory I
This course was my first student development theory class at OSU. The amount of reading was astounding. Each week we would read journal articles and/or book readings by various student development theory theorists. As I read theories by Astin, Maslow, Sanford, Kohlberg, Schlossberg, Chickering, etc, I couldn’t help but reflect back to my practical experiences at UIC. It was fascinating to realize how Astin’s theory of student involvement was applicable to the students I had worked with at UIC. To further our critical thinking, “think cards” were due each week. This assignment was extremely simple yet profoundly helpful. On one side of our “cards” we would write thoughts and reflections about our weekly readings. On the other side we would write a few questions for further exploration. I found this to be very helpful as it pushed me to think about the readings at a deeper level of understanding.

One of our first papers for our theory class was a student development autobiography in which we reflected on our own undergraduate experiences and how they related to the theories that we had read. I talked about my levels of involvement (Astin), the challenge and support I received (Sanford), and the basic needs that I had required to survive my undergraduate experience (Maslow). It was a great way to personalize theories which usually had been constructed in very specific contexts. One of the opportunities that I found in my writings on student development theory were the times when the theories were not applicable. Several of the theories that we read were formulated on research that was conducted on middle-class white men. This meant that while some theories were relevant to my experience, others were not.

In my second student development autobiography I talk about my trouble with Janet Helms’ Model of White Identity and of my own struggles to find a support network in Corvallis. Written in 2004, it is amazing to see how much I have grown during my 2 years of graduate school.

One of the assignments for our class that I initially had difficulty with was our theory to practice paper. I struggled with how to connect my OSU assistantship (Student Affairs Web Specialist) with student development theory. It took a while before I realized that I needed to shift my thinking from the brick and mortar world to the virtual world of the web. I was able to apply Sanford’s theory of challenge and support to online services within the context of my assistantship. I was able to translate Sanford, Maslow, Schlossberg, and Chickering, Astin into a paper about web services.

The final paper for our CSSA Student Development Theory I class was on a “Student sub-culture.” This was a challenging assignment because of two reasons. The first aspect of this assignment that made if different in scope was that it was a group project. The second factor was that our group decided to research and write about graduate students. We found that there was not a lot of literature on graduate students and student development theory. We interviewed several graduate students to see if we could develop generalizable themes and their primary thoughts led us to two student development theories. We ended up focusing our attention on Schlossberg’s theory of marginality and mattering and Sanford’s theory of challenge and support.

CSSA Student Development Theory II
I continued to learn about student development theory in the second CSSA Student Development Theory course. Once again we had “think cards” to write after our readings. There was one caveat to this process. “Think cards” were posted on Blackboard discussion forums and classmates could post comments on each other’s thoughts. It was an interesting experience. Having feedback on what had been a personal experience during the first term was exhilarating and scary.

During my first two terms at OSU one of the foci of my theory writings was technology. One of the assignments for our class was to create our own student development theory. I ended up creating an online development theory which even included a model of development.

The final project for our CSSA Development Theory II class was the wild card project. Gail Wootan and I created a cognitive learning theory PowerPoint presentation for students in higher education graduate programs. The PowerPoint contains some video game characteristics, which we thought would engage students. It contains student affairs scenarios that allow students to relate the theories they read to practice. A manual was included with the presentation which included directions on viewing the PowerPoint and guidelines for reflection.