substantial commitment, particularly as a young professional.
I hate to hear young staff members say ‘that’s not my job.’
There should be a line in job descriptions that states ‘your job
is to do whatever it takes.’ Young professionals will be well-served to look for opportunities to expand their experience
base so that they are well prepared to take the next steps in
LM: We need to push down genuine ownership of roles and
responsibilities and offer professional development programs
to augment the skills and experience that staff members do
DB: I would discourage professionals to advance if they no
longer have a passion for what they are doing. The work looks
like a lot of fun until you are immersed in it.
MJ: We have to give staff ownership of decisions in their areas
and encourage them—not get in their way. All of us hate to
be micro-managed. We need to have real conversations about
what staff members are doing and not be afraid to ask
if their goal is to become a vice president or a dean one day.
If so, they need to be realistic and build portfolios to help
them accomplish this. LE
Future Hot Topics
Where will SSAOs be concentrating future
efforts? Our discussion participants cited the
following key areas:
• International and global partnerships will be
expanded through increasing numbers of study
abroad programs and the growth of student affairs
• Converging technology will have an even greater
impact on the educational process. How, when, and
where students want to communicate will demand
quick responses and a change in communication processes. What will be the new Facebook and MySpace
in the next 10 years?
• Mental health issues will continue to merit SSAO
attention. How will student affairs staff deal with the
increasing population of students who are medicated? How must student health services adjust?
The Must-have Skill:
By Bill Flanagan
The discussion between highly respected leaders in our
profession emphasizes a skill that is increasingly, and
equally as important for SSAOs at small colleges and
universities as it is for those at large, complex universities:
business acumen. In these times of economic uncertainty,
small college SSAOs will be responsible for, or intimately
involved with, negotiating food service and union contracts;
managing auxiliary services; developing or overseeing
construction and bond agreements for housing, recreational,
and athletic facilities; developing affordable health insurance
plans for students; managing ever-tightening budgets; and
facilitating the development of marketing plans to ensure
steady revenue streams from tuition, fees, and services.
Additionally, SSAOs at small colleges are rapidly becoming integral parts of institutional fundraising efforts for key
student life projects and operations. In short, the need for
SSAOs to be more focused on business-related activities and
bottomline financial goals will continue to grow at small and
The following suggestions help guide the small college
response to this growing trend:
• Current small college and university SSAOs must take
advantage of every professional development opportunity
available to sharpen their business and management skills.
Several excellent professional development programs,
including the NASPA SSAO institutes, can provide the training and skills necessary to meet this challenge.
• SSAOs must add individuals who possess strong business
skills to their management teams, especially if those skills
are currently lacking in the department. Hiring key staff members with skills that complement your own rather than mimic
them is a best practice from a management perspective.
• Graduate school preparation programs must offer aspiring
SSAOs more business- and management-related courses
at the master’s and doctoral levels. Candidates for positions in student affairs offices who are capable of citing
student development theory, counseling students, and
creating student-centered programming and are also comfortable with preparing budgets, reading balance sheets,
and developing business and marketing plans will be in
demand by large and small colleges and universities.
For those of us in this profession who have chosen the
calling of careers at small colleges and universities, it is fun
to think about what our lives and careers would be like if we
had chosen different paths, like those described by our colleagues. In either case, both new and senior student affairs
professionals should consider how they can strengthen or
develop their business acumen. As Bob Dylan so aptly wrote,
“The times, they are a changin’.”
Bill Flanagan is vice president for student affairs and dean of
students at Beloit College in Wisconsin.