Balancing Idealism and Practicality in the Student Affairs Profession

By Michael Lampe — It has been yet another sizzling skillet of fun at the practicum site while producing an online orientation program and assisting at UW-Waukesha’s registration sessions.

On my days off these last couple of weeks, I was contemplating finding out who started the company that made my air conditioning unit and send them a thank you card.

However, once I got back on track, I was excited to offer the opportunity for one of the orientation leaders to be a voiceover for some of the online tutorials explaining students how to utilize various institutional tools. It is amazing how much you could do with a smart phone. I was able to use my phone as a microphone, send it to my email, then use it as the audio to the tutorial videos.

One of the great aspects of Marquette’s College Student Personnel Administration Program is the focus gaining practical skills through their practicum courses and numerous assistantship opportunities. Having these opportunities combined with a rigorous study on student development theories and best practices allowed me to analyze and balance between the ideal and practical. Although it is quite simple to just blindly follow best practices, professionals should analyze and critique the documents that guide our practice in a forward direction.

There are many variables that play into best practices and approaches that may inhibit our ability to do so. For example, we live in a new age of rapid information sharing that creates an environment of criticism from the media and analysis from political institutions. On top of this environment, the economic labor markets have some implication on how institutions may adjust in their academic programming and student services. The million dollar question is how to balance these two variables while providing the best service for our students?

Also, should student affairs professionals have an enhanced understanding of politics and economics? The answer should clearly be yes.

Just as highly rely on accountability measures for learning outcomes, professionals should learn how to explain their importance in a manner to which the general public understands. There should also be a call to have more connection of why our services help create a better competitive workforce applying for jobs.

Do not get me wrong, I am completely on the student affairs bandwagon when it comes to professionals enhancing the student experience. However, we must not totally disregard the political movement citing fiscal red flags connected to government educational funding.

The more we learn to work together, the more we can save money and present a case for doing something about it. If we continue to disregard criticism as a profession, economic and political forces will undo the impact student affairs has had on the college population since the profession’s inception.


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