Rather than spend institutional time, effort, and
resources to develop individual responses, SSAOs
and their supervisors might consider using the
already-developed, standardized College Portrait
as one significant way to respond to ongoing queries.
analyses. The data provided through the VSA can be particularly valuable to SSAOs in carrying out these assignments.
Since SSAOs and all other student affairs professionals have
long viewed prospective students, current students, and their
families as primary stakeholders, the VSA can assist SSAOs
in reaching these critical constituencies and share information with prospective students and their families in a way that
facilitates and clarifies the college selection process.
How Can an SSAO Participate in the VSA?
Like almost every other project SSAOs undertake, there is no
single “right” way to complete the College Portrait, but the
following five steps may expedite the process.
Step 1. Log on to www.voluntarysystem.org and skim
the list of VSA participants by state. If your university is not
listed as a participant, determine the best way to initiate VSA
conversations with your president
or other vice presidents. Before
engaging them, do your homework. Peruse the comprehensive
materials posted on the website
to gain a context for the program
and detailed explanations of the
elements contained in the College
Portrait. If your institution was
one of the early adopters, you
still may want to review the next
steps to refine or revise what is
Step 2. Volunteer to bring
together a cross-divisional team
SSAOs can visit the VSA
website to participate in
the College Portrait.
to review your institution’s initial entry or those from other
universities to conceptualize your institution’s new College
Portrait. Create action plans to complete revisions or designs
in a timely way. The team may include colleagues from enrollment management, institutional research, public affairs, or
Step 3. Identify which members of the team, or their designees, are responsible for completing specific sections of the
template. The selection of the learning outcome instrument
is likely to be shaped by campus-wide conversations involving
faculty, academic leaders, or shared governance bodies.
Step 4. Even if you are not taking the lead in the rest of the
College Portrait design, it is critical for SSAOs to play a role
in labeling and designing the nine campus life buttons, which
are the primary mechanisms for communicating to prospective students about the various programs and services in the
student affairs division. Moreover, the buttons are one of the
few parts of the template that can be completely customized
for each university.
Step 5. Once you populate the data fields, draft the text
you are using in customized sections, choose the photos or
images that will make your campus College Portrait student
friendly, and circulate your template to campus colleagues for
their reactions and input. The more buy-in and the greater
sense of inclusion you can generate, the better. LE
Lori E. Varlotta is vice president for student affairs at Sacramento
The author would like to thank Christine Keller and George McClellan for
their contributions to an earlier version of this manuscript.