I have a unique position in higher education. As many of you know I work in a space where I need to piece together projects that often require, I work with multiple departments with different foci and missions. This is on top of working with external partnerships and we have three universities in our Consortium. I have a lot to put together and it requires I wear all the hats. Just to give you an idea of how this works in my world here are the projects I am working on right now.
- Designing a Four-Year project with our Transfer Success Network that includes a Coaching Academy, a deep dive into course alignment and equivalency for transfer students, and targeted student supports using micro investments.
- Executing a multi-university assessment of diversity and inclusion practices at our three universities using an immersive rubric and focusing on student supports, faculty engagement, institutional practices, and policy development.
- Working on a continuing education project centered on micro-credentialing for many in demand skills to add value to our students’ degrees and allow an upskilling platform for our cities.
- Coordinating a session on changes in Federal Financial Aid for the National Student Success Conference.
- Investigating how our three universities can align practice and provide support for students with different abilities through a collective bargaining with service providers.
- Executing a curriculum alignment projects where we match skills desired by employers with curriculum offered in seven majors.
And this just scratches the surface. More and more our work is becoming a hybrid of academic and student affairs work and those of us who adjust will benefit. And it makes sense. As I paraphrase Dr. Richard Keeling; our students do not see departments or divisions, all they see is college. We need to unify in that effort, and this includes assuring that we can understand and perform multiple tasks with the goal of student success in mind.
I love the movie Saving Private Ryan. It is perhaps my favorite movie about war because the characters are so well developed, and Tom Hanks is a revelation. But there is one scene I always think about when I consider the randomness of our hybrid work in higher education. As the group is going to rescue Private Ryan, they happen upon a German machine gun nest. Now, they could pass on by and accomplish their mission, but Hanks orders the team to storm the nest to neutralize it. He does this knowing that it puts his men in great peril. At one point one of his men says, “Captain, we can just walk on by and no one will know the difference” but Hanks reminds the men that if they do not then the next company that comes by may not be so lucky and may be ambushed. Besides, Hanks reminds them, “Our Objective is to Save Private Ryan, Our Mission is to Win the War.” (paraphrased again).
This is what I teach my grad students and anyone who will listen. Our jobs are not Student Affairs, or Administration, or Academic Affairs, our jobs are students. It is our goal to ensure every student graduate and is successful. It is the fundamental point of college. So, if that means we need to teach, administer, minister, or assess we need to be ready and trained to do that. I know what your job description says but really it should be – help students graduate from college and find a great career. Sure, you will have duties that are slightly different from the Physics professor, but the results should be the same.
I feel like once most of our peers understand that working among multiple boundaries is the future then we can get to our objectives and show our worth. This does not mean you will teach a class or advise a fraternity or set the divisional budget, but it would help if you understood how all of that worked and what that means for the totality of the student experience. Because when that student knocks on your door, they come to you with an expectation that you will help them figure it out. To be honest I find this work exciting. It really does feel these days that we are all in this together. I believe as lines blur; we learn more about what it takes to help a student be great. So, do not label yourself. You are none of the above, you are an educator and that is awesome.