Administrators in Higher Education
As we enter the new academic year we celebrate autumn and
what it means for the many different environments of our
colleges and universities. The new year brings the latest
initiatives, opportunities for growth, and the sense of a clean
slate—a fresh beginning and the chance to make things happen.
During my opening remarks in April at the NASPA Business Meeting,
I noted a philosophy about trees—a philosophy I often share with students. We can view our
lives as the roots and trunk; the branches represent the decisions we make along the way. To
experience the fruits and flowers, one must be ready and willing to climb to the top or to go
out on a limb. The fruit and flowers hold the seeds of the future, too. In student affairs, we
must be willing to shake those very limbs as we contribute to continued growth and progress.
This philosophy applies to NASPA and to our priorities as professionals as we use our
strengths to reach new heights, while remaining true to our core values or roots. Similarly,
Robert Young in Student Services: A Handbook for the Profession (Jossey-Bass, 2003) addresses
our professional philosophies as the roots of a tree, and our values as flowers, representing the
next phase of development. As leaders in higher education, we can shake the limbs to compel
others to collaborate, reinforce student learning, lead assessment efforts, share evidence from
student experiences, and learn about and espouse principles of social justice. We shake the
limbs: Preconceptions move and fall, thoughts are inspired, ideas collide. The result translates to
meaningful actions and intentional activities. For example, during Arcadia’s new student orientation program one of my colleagues addresses parents and indicates that we want students to
learn and grow. To do so, students need to “stretch beyond their comfort zones.” Professionals
in student affairs must do the same.
When a branch of a tree breaks, a knob is left. That knob, sticking out of the tree trunk,
affords the next tree climber an added advantage. In the same way, colleagues or staff members
may be able to take advantage of our previous experiences, regardless of how successful we
perceive our past ventures. One also may note that just as the most unusual tree stands out in a
forest, we must be comfortable with differences in approaches and thinking in the day-to-day
In addition to many regional events this fall, don’t forget the professional development
programs planned on numerous topics. What wonderful opportunities to come together to
network and learn. I look forward to seeing colleagues in my travels.
As this new edition of Leadership Exchange arrives on your desk, consider how you use your
position to share information and offer guidance and direction to
staff on topics of particular interest. In our roles, we can be
change agents and raise these critical issues to the senior
management teams on our campuses.
Remember, it is up to you to keep shaking
Gwendolyn Jordan Dungy
Nancy E. Grund
Leah Ewing Ross
Cynthia Cherrey, Chair
James F. Conneely
Gary L. McGrath
Eliseo “Cheo” Torres
Barry L. Wells
James F. Vick
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Leadership Exchange is published
four times a year for senior student
affairs officers in higher education.
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