Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Hairdressers Do it. Why Can’t We?

Nowadays I only get to see my friend Peter on Mondays, his day off.  He changed careers in his mid thirties and became a hairdresser.  Last Monday I called him to come over and spend time with me and my family (and do my hair!) but he couldn’t.  He told me he was at his monthly professional development session.

Not knowing he had to do this, I inquired further.  He told me that all hairdressers in our state are required to have a certain number of professional development hours each year to keep their license active.  “We work with people,” he said.  “So we have to make sure that our skills are fresh so that we can serve our clients with the most current approaches.”

A light bulb went off above my head at that moment.  Did you just hear the “ding?”

If hairdressers do it, why shouldn’t student affairs professionals?

After all, we work with people too.  Arguably, the stakes are higher in our work with college students.  If I get a bad haircut from Peter (and I never have) my hair would grow back in a month’s time.   If I provide bad guidance to a student based on out of date ideas or without the knowledge I need about current student issues, I could negatively affect the rest of their lives.  And that damage can be permanent.

The next time you get your hair cut, think about this as we continue to debate the credentialing initiative put forward by ACPA earlier this year.   What harm does a voluntary system that allows student affairs professionals to track the professional development experiences they have had really do?  I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it does no harm at all.  It actually helps student affairs.

In a cost-escalating environment where all aspects of higher education are under question from both inside and outside the academy, student affairs as a profession would be wise to adopt a system where we can quantify and qualify our value as individuals, side by side with our own institutional data that supports our work.

Back to Peter.  He needs to have a certain skill set regardless if he is working with a person with curly long hair or someone with almost no hair. And, like student affairs professionals, he needs to be adept at a number of skills from a basic cut, to coloring, and more sophisticated styles (very similar to our levels of competencies).

He gets to choose what professional development activities he wants to attend to meet his requirements.  Why can’t we?  Shouldn’t credentialing credits be awarded for attending national conventions, state conferences and institutes and seminars offered by ACPA and other associations?  I say absolutely.  You shouldn’t have to be boxed out of validating your skills just because you don’t have travel funds or you have to be the one to stay home and take care of campus while others attend conventions.

Think seriously about the credentialing initiative.  Lend your thoughts to the dialogue.  Our profession – and the students we serve are worthy of this effort.

Keith Humphrey, Ph.D.
President, ACPA-College Student Educators International

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