Back From NASPA Region 1 Conference 2010: Critical Skills for Student Affairs Professionals

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The NASPA Region 1 Conference 2010 was held this year in Manchester, NH on November 7th – 10th . The event was well-attended with many insightful programs led by peers. Valerie Szymkowicz, SJG Senior Associate, particularly enjoyed the session led by Bill Boerner at Mount Holyoke College on “Transitional Leadership: Strategies for a Successful Interim Experience” and another program facilitated by Phillip Bernard, Anna Maria Wenner, Marlin Nabors, and Peter Fowler of Wentworth Institute of Technology titled, “Beginning Assessment Strategies: Starting the Climb.”

Bill showcased both the research that he conducted as part of his recent doctoral thesis, as well as his experience serving as the Interim Director of Residential Life at Mount Holyoke. The Wentworth Institute of Technology team did an excellent job outlining the planning process and initial data collection they have done with sophomore and junior students to assess learning outcomes of efforts across the student affairs division at their institution. While they are beginning to think through the implications of this data, the entire audience left the session looking forward to hearing an update next year that will detail how they have utilized insights gleaned from the process, and what that means in terms of re-engineering, rebranding the work of the division, and bridging the gap between theory and practice when it comes to supporting student development and institutional strategic priorities.

SJG’s session titled “Advancement Planning: Primer for Student Affairs Professionals,” provided an overview of the leadership demands of today’s student affairs senior staff members, along with strategies for advancing and maximizing options in the evolving higher education environment (slide excerpts above). By outlining the concepts of intentionality and offering concrete advice on successful navigation of the recruitment process, the seminar aimed at helping participants develop a roadmap for career advancement in student affairs. Key to any student affairs professional development program is developing and honing the critical skills outlined on slides 2 and 3. When assessing candidates seeking senior level positions (particularly at the Dean and Vice President level within student affairs), evidence of these skills in one’s resume is something all search committees and hiring authorities look for. Strategies for developing these skills are often employed outside of occupational engagements, and can range from assuming a leadership role with a professional organization to promoting collaborative programs and services on campus, to seeking specialized training.

What specific strategies have you employed to develop critical student affairs leadership skills, both inside and outside of your current job responsibilities? Are there any critical skills you would add to the list?

Peter Rosenberg