SJG Student Affairs Pipeline Survey Results

As part of our effort to highlight Careers in Student Affairs Month, here are the full results from SJG’s Student Affairs Pipeline Survey, where we asked a small group of higher education career services professionals how they are helping to discover talent and promote professional opportunities in the field of student affairs.

1. From your perspective as a career services professional, what interests, background, and/or experiences might an undergraduate student showcase that could suggest an alignment with a future career in student affairs or higher education administration?
• 75% of respondents mentioned the importance of being engaged in a campus leadership role
• 63% of respondents indicated that experience as a volunteer and/or paid staff member in a role such as resident assistant, peer educator, admissions tour guide, orientation counselor, and/or student affairs intern is essential
• 63% of respondents cited an interest in community building and desire to help others in their development as important attributes
• Other skills and attributes cited by respondents included: outstanding verbal & written communication skills—including public speaking ability; problem-solving ability; teamwork; creativity; event planning; management skills; and organizational skills that span the ability to both initiate and implement

2. What are some of the active strategies you, or your staff, have used to promote the exploration of careers in student affairs and/or higher education administration?
• 38% of respondents indicate that they incorporate undergraduate students as career ambassadors/peer career advisors into the work of their respective offices
• 25% report sponsoring graduate interns in their career services office
• 63% sponsor a “Careers in Student Affairs” program or event ranging from a “lunch-in” to various panel presentations—including one titled, “Careers in Student Affairs: If you love college, why leave?”

3. Does your institution have a formal internship program to introduce current students to a variety of higher education/student affairs positions prior to graduation?
• Responses were split down the middle—50% indicated “Yes;” while 50% indicated “No”

4. Please describe the internship, apprenticeship, externship, or other means that students have to explore potential careers associated with student affairs and/or higher education administration at your institution.
• While half of the respondents indicated they had no “formal” internship program, 100% of respondents indicated that students are able to gain an inside view of student affairs as a profession prior to graduation through engagement in a wide variety of campus experiences, including participation in para-professional programs, student employment positions, and unstructured conversations with administrators
• One respondent specifically mentioned the incorporation of NUFP and ACUHO-I interns along with other University student interns in a summer program of rotational internships showcasing many facets of student affairs
• Informal mentoring was also cited as a valuable resource to helping students explore the field of student affairs and their capacity to make a difference in that arena

5. As you consider the higher education/student affairs role models and mentors you’ve had throughout your career – – what it is about these people that have served to inspire you?
• An obvious passion for, and sense of joy about, their work—both the theory and practice—as demonstrated by mentors is the most frequently cited factor that has served to inspire respondents to this survey
• Other values, motivations, and skills derived from mentors include (in no particular order): encouragement to think outside the box and innovate; boundless optimism; understanding that real engagement with students is important through support of student-led organizations, activities, and professional development initiatives; patience—recognizing that students grow and evolve at their own pace; ethics and integrity, laced with a dose of good humor; recognition that honest, frank feedback is valuable; and scholarship—it’s important to keep growing, sharing one’s knowledge, and pushing forward.

6. For you, what has been the greatest reward you’ve reaped from your own decision to pursue a path in student affairs or higher education administration?
• 100% of respondents spoke of the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of students as the source of greatest reward in their work
• One respondent answered: “I have two: 1) I have especially enjoyed having a front row seat – the ability to witness the result of the work I’ve done directly with students as a service provider and/or behind the scenes on their behalf as an administrator; and 2) I’ve also enjoyed the ability to continually grow and develop professionally as the field evolves – this is not a static work environment.”
• Another respondent summed up the rewards of working in student affairs as follows: “Personal connections across cultures, incomes, races, and educational levels.”
• One other respondent shared: “I have had the privilege to create sustained relationships over time that begin with support to take advantage of the opportunities during their education, helping to translate those experiences into meaningful resumes and interview stories, finding satisfying employment, and then becoming friends who are eager to give back to a new crop of students. It is an amazing cycle to be a part of and I am grateful every day that this has been my career. It is the moments that no one could ever compensate you for that have been the best.”

What has been your experience in promoting careers in student affairs or higher education administration? What qualities, other than leadership, are essential for success as a future student affairs professional? Share what’s happening on your campus!

Ellen Heffernan

President - Spelman Johnson

Ellen Heffernan graduated from Smith College with a B.A. in economics and government. She joined Spelman Johnson in 1996, after a ten-year career in higher education that included positions at Smith College and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is also a national speaker and writer on topics related to recruiting and professional development in higher education and serves as faculty for several national higher education association professional development programs. Ellen also currently serves on the executive board of the National Association of Executive Recruiters.