The Compass Report: Charting the Future of Student Affairs

 

 

The student affairs profession has evolved over the last half century in response to the ever-changing landscape of higher education. The student affairs profession has evolved over the last half century in response to the ever-changing landscape of higher education. Now is the time to review current practices and craft an appropriate vision for the near- and long-term future.

In 2020 NASPA initiated a yearlong project to identify issues and trends that could influence student affairs professionals and respective functions in the years ahead. The project was guided by a national task force of leaders in student affairs and NASPA staff, who regularly convened to discuss emerging topics. The task force conducted 18 focus groups with a total of 97 student affairs faculty, graduate students, and administrators across all position levels, as well as a national survey of professionals who hold student affairs positions at colleges and universities of all sectors and sizes within the United States.

The Compass Report - Four Critical Areas

Findings from the Future of Student Affairs Task Force’s discussions and extensive data collection efforts revealed four areas as most critical to the future of student affairs within the next 5 years.

Student Needs and Expectations
Social Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Professional Preparation and Development
Workforce Satisfaction and Retention

Although demographic challenges were already leading to declining enrollment prior to 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic amplified this long-term challenge. These concerns, coupled with the need to better demonstrate the value of higher education and provide tailored supports, require the student affairs profession to respond accordingly. The large-scale shift to remote learning and flexible student supports across multiple modalities has also demonstrated the potential of technology to deliver programs in inclusive ways. However, student affairs professionals require training and the elevation of student perspectives to use all available tools effectively.

Supporting students from an equity-minded lens is critical. While operationalizing commitments to advancing social justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) is an institutionwide responsibility, student affairs staff must have a shared understanding of the vision, strategies, opportunities, and challenges for change. In addition to developing anti-racist programming and identity-affirming supports for students, senior leadership needs to address bias and inequities among staff and faculty.

Now is an optimal time to assess career development processes and resources to identify possible areas for improvement. There is some debate within the profession on the need to identify and support student affairs roles that require specialist knowledge along with those that require generalist knowledge.

Senior leaders who can provide additional professional development resources can help ensure staff and administrators are adequately prepared to handle the decisions, challenges, and opportunities that come with role advancement and portfolio shifts. Despite the growing number of challenges and demands, student affairs professionals still find their work affirming. However, this may require a closer examination of how institutions can demonstrate espoused values and student affairs leaders can find balance in meaningful ways while contending with a growing portfolio of responsibilities.

Data Highlights

Task Force Members

Angela Batista Vice President for Student Affairs and Institutional Diversity and Inclusion (former) Champlain College
Claire Brady Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Ana G. Mendez University System USA
Danielle DeSawal Clinical Professor and HESA Master's Coordinator Indiana University
Jon Dooley Vice President for Student Life Elon University
Ann Gansemer-Topf Associate Professor Iowa State University
Anna Gonzalez Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Washington University in St. Louis
Erin Grisham Vice President of Student Affairs (former) Northern Arizona University
Robin Holmes-Sullivan Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Lewis & Clark College
Vernon  Hurte Vice President of Student Affairs Towson University
Lamar Hylton Vice President for Student Affairs Kent State University
Matthew  Jeffries Director, Gender Identity/Expression and Sexual Orientation Resource Center Washington State University
Charles Nies Vice Chancellor, Student Affairs UC Merced
Tonantzin Oseguera Vice President for Student Affairs CSU - Fullerton
Smita Ruzicka Vice President of Student Affairs Middlebury College
Lou Stark Vice President for Student Affairs Case Western University
Byron Tsabetsaye Native American Center Director San Juan College
Victor Wilson Vice President for Student Affairs University of Georgia
Erica  Yamamura Associate Professor Seattle University
Kevin Kruger President NASPA
Stephanie Gordon Vice President for Professional Development NASPA
Amelia Parnell Vice President for Research and Policy NASPA
Monica Nixon Assistant Vice President for Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice NASPA
Omari Burnside Assistant Vice President for Stategy and Practice NASPA
James Stascavage Senior Director of Leadership and Senior Student Affairs Officer Initiatives NASPA
Abby  Vollmer Director, NASPA Advisory Services NASPA
Alexis Wesaw Senior Director of Data Analytics NASPA
Alexa Wesley Chamberlain Director for Research and Strategy NASPA
Mary Fugate Associate Director, Center for First-generation Student Success NASPA

Contact

For inquiries about the work of the NASPA Future of Student Affairs Task Force, please contact:

Amelia Parnell

Vice President for Research and Policy, NASPA

aparnell@naspa.org

(202) 719-1191

 

Stephanie Gordon

Vice President for Professional Development, NASPA

sgordon@naspa.org

(202) 719-1166 

 

The Compass Report: Charting the Future of Student Affairs