Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A crisis of leadership for Student Affairs

A few days ago I tweeted from my @acpaprez account that there was much student affairs leaders could learn from the ongoing challenges at the University of Virginia. While the details of the current situation are still unfolding and it is likely that none of us will ever know the full story, I want to encourage ACPA members to study the situation and find the lessons that are applicable to student affairs.

I see many: campus relationships with governing boards, advancing your own pedagogical agenda in concert with others’ agendas, leadership in times of change, and the evolving nature of the higher education system. Last time I checked, these were all student affairs issues. One of the most interesting facets of the situation is that very little discussion has taken place about the impact of these high level decisions on the student. This may be the most salient issue for our community. As the higher education system transforms and evolves there will be more high profile “crises” like these. Student affairs leaders have the responsibility to ensure that our relationship and community building skills are maximized in times like these for the benefit of the student experience.

The student experience was the primary focus of the agenda as ACPA leaders represented our membership in Canada and the Caribbean at student affairs conferences in June. ACPA is proud of its long-standing relationship with CACUSS – the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services and CTLPA – the Caribbean Tertiary Level Personnel Association. Executive Director Gregory Roberts and I traveled together to CACUSS where we were hosted by President Chris McGrath and I logged more air miles on behalf of ACPA members and our international agenda traveling to CTLPA in Jamaica. Past President Dr. Tom Jackson, Jr. and University of Louisville Professor Michael Cuyjet were also in Jamaica to add to the rich discussions about how we support our students.

These travels bring me to just over 50,000 miles this year on behalf of ACPA. While it has been a pleasure, I need a break! I am headed out of town with my family for a technology free (and Tucson temperature free!) vacation in Montana next week – so I apologize if you reach out to me and I do not respond immediately. I hope you are taking a break too. My Provost reminded me yesterday that the summer is more than 1/3 over on our campus. Students are returning soon – take care of yourself so that you can be ready to support them no matter what crisis comes your way.

Dr. Keith Humphrey 
ACPA President 

 Follow Keith on Twitter at @acpaprez

Sunday, June 3, 2012

ACPA says Xie Xie (thank you) to China

I’m on the airplane headed home from ten days of sharing and relationship building with student affairs professionals in China.  Executive Director Gregory Roberts, Rutgers University Professor Dr. Florence Hamrick and I were hosted by Professor Johnston Huang of United International College where we visited ten campuses in Hong Kong, Zhuhai, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing.   We also met with officials from the Ministry of Education, the China Education Association for International Exchange, and had sharing sessions with regional student affairs associations in Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Beijing - all in support of ACPA members and our profession-leading globalization initiative.

Here’s some highlights of what I learned:

Things move fast in China, but they are slowing down.   The minute you get off the airplane you realize that everything moves faster in China.  Escalators move at almost twice the pace of those in the US and the urgency of taxi cabs make NYC cabbies seem like they are out for a Sunday drive.  In many cases university curriculum is three years to degree completion, but many are moving to four-years to degree completion.  They are slowing down the student educational experience and reframing their entire out-of-classroom curriculum to accommodate the longer time on campus.

We are more similar than different.  Students in China and the student affairs professionals that staff campuses to support them have the same objectives for their students that we do.  We both want our students to be happy, safe and successful out of the classroom.  Peers play a huge role in the college experience, including RA’s and peer counselors.  Technology dominates the Chinese student experience, even though Facebook is blocked in China.  There are differences.  Chinese law requires that all enrolled students live on campus.  We saw some residence halls that mirror the size of Las Vegas hotels.   It brought back the former hall director in me fast!

Our opportunities with students are the same.  The challenges, or as we see them, opportunities students present us are very much the same in both the US and China.  Career development and cultivating a meaningful life after college is key.  Student mental health issues are occupying the time of many student affairs staff and financial aid and how students pay for college consume the time of staff that care for students.

These were just the beginning of our conversations.  Our dialogues were rich with ideas for future collaborations between student affairs professionals in China and ACPA members.  Many of the colleagues we met plan to join us in Las Vegas for the annual convention this March to continue the discourse and offer program sessions for attendees.  We will share more about how this enhances the ACPA member experience as we move forward this year.

And, of course, we got to the Great Wall.  Here’s a photo of your ACPA delegation at the start of our Great Wall climb at the Badaling section and several others of our meetings with colleagues.

Dr. Keith Humphrey, ACPA President

 On the Great Wall!

 With China Education Association for International Exchange Officials

 Meeting with Ministry of Education Officials to discuss partnerships

Q & A Session with Guangzhou Student Affairs Association