Monday, October 29, 2012

What Student Affairs Can Learn from Madonna

There are few things in my life that I always clear my calendar for:  a meeting with my boss, fun stuff with my kids and, of course, Madonna whenever she goes on tour.  I got to see her tour about two weeks ago (from the fifth row!!!), but that is the topic for another blog J.

Like Madonna, I have been on tour this fall.  Not singing and dancing, but meeting great student affairs professionals from around the country in places like Virginia, California, and New York.

Inspired by all that Madge has to offer the world, I shared with them a specially prepared talk titled “What Student Affairs Can Learn From Madonna.”  And there is a lot we can learn from the principles that have made her career so successful over the past three decades.

Madonna knows her audience.  How well do we know our students?  I mean really know our students.  Do our programs and services reflect them or the students that we enrolled ten or more years ago?

How often do we let old styles go?  Madonna has gone from French provincial, to country, to religious icon, to disco queen and on and on.  When was the last time we closed a department or service that wasn’t working?  Instead, we just add on to existing programs and services that bloat our administration.

Madonna is in improbable places like the Super Bowl halftime show.  She surprises people, sometimes with a kiss of Brittany Spears at the MTV awards.  And she has unlikely collaborators, like the latest efforts with Nikki Minaj and M.I.A.  What are the improbable places that student affairs work can be found on your campus?  When was the last time your work surprised people?  Who are your unlikely collaborators?

Finally, Madonna is a super businesswoman.  It is time for student affairs professionals to recognize that we are part of an industry and that we need to match our student development acumen with equally strong business skills if we are going to survive.

So, go inside for your finest inspiration.  Your dreams will open the door.

Dr. Keith Humphrey
ACPA President, 2012-2013

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