The Role of Student Affairs on the Post-election Campus

Joy, dismay, fear, elation, security, vulnerability, anger, betrayal, despair, hope. The results of the 2016 presidential election elicited a wide spectrum of reactions from both colleagues and students. The breadth and strength of the reactions prompted us to write to you, our colleagues, who, like our country, reflect diversity in all its forms including ideologies, attitudes, opinions and beliefs. Our message is a call to you to emerge, as you always have done, in order to do the important work of helping all stakeholders come together as a community to help students succeed in the broadest and most all-encompassing sense of the word.

If you are feeling as if what you believed about our nation is out of sync with today’s reality, reflect on what Jon Stewart said in an interview with Charlie Rose on CBS This Morning, November 17, 2016: “I don’t believe we are a fundamentally different country today than we were two weeks ago. The same country with all its grace and flaws, and volatility, and insecurity, and strength, and resilience exists today as it existed two weeks ago. The same country that elected Donald Trump elected Barack Obama.”

Post-election Silver Linings Playbook: Recommitting to Core Principles of Higher Education
By Dr. Shannon Ellis | January 18, 2017

Events have revealed a truth, and it’s a truth we must acknowledge and understand so we may best serve our students. There is great value in knowing where the country truly stands and clarify our role as Student Affairs professionals.So, how is our work different now?

Let’s start where we usually do not – with ourselves. Some of us were elated at the outsider being placed in a position in which he could tell insiders how things should be run. Some of us were crest fallen when it was clear the glass ceiling had not yet been shattered by the first female president.

Add to that the students – Trump and Clinton supporters alike – who sought counsel from us. Black women wept, telling us they feared for their safety. Black men asked us, “How are you doing?” White women in both camps were in disbelief. Women who supported Trump felt empowered by their belief that political correctness around equal pay and affirmative action would be dissolved. Women who supported Clinton were stunned, some wondering aloud about what kind of sexist workplace awaited them post-graduation. Legal and undocumented immigrant students feared for themselves, their parents, and their siblings.Not only were there incidents of “fisticuffs ” between roommates at the University of Nevada, Reno but deep divisions also surfaced among staff, characterized by chilling silence and sensitivity to words like “aftermath.”

As Student Affairs professionals, we now are put to the test to stand by a belief in a “no-censorship” approach to life – both on and off campus. We recommit to that principle of higher education.

Journalist and activist Gloria Steinem points out that the election is evidence that we are not living in a post-sexist, post-racist society. Seeing opportunity in the election results, scholar Shaun Harper wrote in The Chronicle of Higher Education (January 9, 2017), “The polarizing nature of the 2016 campaign makes improving the racial climate a more urgent matter for higher education leaders…Donald Trump has given us a gift – in that the racial ugliness of our nation has been exposed.”

If the silver lining of the presidential election is that there is no longer any doubt that racism and other biases and prejudices persist, Harper also provides the following warning: “If we’re not careful, we will see a very serious clash of races on campuses. We shouldn’t wait for that to happen.”

Jon Stewart said “there is this idea that anyone who voted for [Trump] has to be defined by the worst of his rhetoric. There are guys in my neighborhood that I love and respect, that I think have incredible qualities, who are not afraid of Mexicans, not afraid of Muslims, and not afraid of Blacks. They’re afraid of their insurance premiums.”

What is our role as Student Affairs professionals, then? I will tell you! It is to help students, faculty, and staff avoid viewing any group – Trump supporters, Clinton supporters, Muslims, immigrants, ANY labeled group – as a monolith.

The Student Affairs professionals needed today will help students wrestle with ideas, with perspectives and viewpoints that offend. These professionals will console, challenge, and affirm who students are and their aspirations for who they will become personally and professionally. Our time to develop this openness and willingness with students is brief. We are all on a lifelong journey to determine who we are – each of our students is a part of our journey, and we are just one part of theirs. This is our time to help students on our campuses be courageous, open, resolute – even stubborn – and willing to change their minds. This is, after all, what the academic world prides itself on – intellectual inquiry that requires an openness for discovering new ideas, overturning assumptions and biases, all in pursuit of truth. Higher education should model for all the ability to take joy in learning and growing, as well as the ability to welcome the ambiguity of “not knowing.”

This is it: Student Affairs for “such a time as this”
By Dr. Gwen Dungy | January 18, 2017


Versatile, disciplined, resourceful, and emotionally strong are some characteristics of successful Student Affairs professionals. These are transferable skills valued in many professions, but you chose to work in a college environment. Now is the time to navigate caution signs without losing either patience or direction and thrive, helping your institution prioritize students’ intellectual learning and emotional development by ensuring a supportive environment. Ensuring a supportive environment in times such as this will require different approaches, new tools, and a clear understanding of what you need to do your job.While others may view the possibility of turbulence on campus as a problem, you see an environment where you can shape and contribute to the future of students and your institution, alike, in an unprecedented manner. You embrace your role as mediator when there are controversies related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. You support faculty and other colleagues who create a space for dialogue and conversation about sensitive and controversial issues.

Times demand you shift focus solely from students within the bailiwick of Student Affairs to the entire campus. No one office, division, unit or person can create an inclusive and equitable campus climate. Wrenching change demands a new approach to collaboration.

Collaborate with your Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Office. You are in an optimal position to help faculty, staff, students, and administrators contribute to a climate of inclusion. Who more than professionals in Student Affairs understand how important it is for every member of the community to feel a sense of belonging? Extend your reach. Actions speak louder than words. Equity and inclusion must permeate a diverse institution at every level, every position, and every role. All stakeholders are responsible for identifying who is marginalized and in what circumstance.

Executive leaders have important visible and symbolic roles to play when there are demands for a shift in the focus of the institution. With your support, your campus leaders will understand and address what students need in order to feel a sense of belonging, to be assured they are getting the quality education expected, and to believe their opinions matter. You can help these leaders become more knowledgeable about campus climate and help make inclusion the norm.

As a professional in Student Affairs, you also have skills that support faculty, but not all faculty may be aware of these skills. Help faculty identify common experiences for students to share that both support curricular objectives and allow for the expression of differing opinions and emotions in a facilitated academic environment. This kind of environment will help students experience deep learning and discover the core of who they are. Offer your help to facilitate these discussions. Be the champion of intellectual learning coupled with personal development.

Likewise, staff who employ or mentor students may need your help to ensure they take advantage of teachable moments.

It is during these times that you need to shift your focus to the community at-large. Your education, training, and access to students have prepared you to do this work. During times that are both propitious and unfavorable, you must increase your communication and visibility with all stakeholders. To play a major role as mediator, mentor, teacher, and leader in an educational environment during uncertain times is why you went into Student Affairs. This is it. This is the time for you to assume your role with confidence and to ask for what you need to do your job.

It doesn’t take a technology wizard, just a good plan!

By Raul Rodriguez
Coordinator, ASUN Center for Student Engagement

Every day we use technology in our work environment and in our daily lives. As Student Affairs administrators we interact with students via emails, social media, and text messaging. The recent increase in technology integration in institutions of higher education has demanded changes in practices, and organization of student support services (Junco, 2010). With various social media and technology outlets, the opportunities to engage and involve students is easier than before.  How can we use the current technology to get students more involved and engaged?

The first thing that we need to consider is what technology, or social media students are using. We need to be able to meet the students where they are at. Understanding our student population and their preference for technology or social media can provide a clear path to develop strategies and plans to increase student involvement and engagement.

Create a strategy for the technology or social media that you choose to interact with the students. Each technology or social media serves a different purpose (Berry 2016). Continue reading ‘It doesn’t take a technology wizard, just a good plan!’ »

Advanced Registration, More Than Recruitment

By Theo Meek
Coordinator, Admissions and Records

Review more information on the effectiveness of Advanced Registration

What do 3,183 students, a 93.2% full-time semester-to-semester retention rate, and an average enrollment of 15.8 credits all have in common? They are all characteristics of the freshmen class of Fall 2016 that participated in the University of Nevada, Reno’s Advanced Registration program.

Advanced Registration is a first semester recruitment and matriculation tool coordinated out of the Office of Admissions and Records. It is used to ensure enrollment in degree applicable courses, reduce enrollment melt of newly admitted freshmen, and assist with new student transition from high school. Advanced Registration partners student services with academic advising teams to enroll all new incoming freshmen into their first semester classes.

The most remarkable data collected from Advanced Registration is the success rate of the students that participate. Since its full implementation in 2013, the number of students who have participated has increased, as well as the average number of credits that students are enrolled in. Below is a breakdown of the average number of first semester credits that Advanced Registration students are enrolled in.

College 2013 2014 2015 2016 % Gain (’13-’16)
CABNR 13.4 14.5 15.3 16.0 119%
Business 14.2 14.1 15.7 15.6 110%
Education 14.0 14.8 15.6 15.6 111%
Engineering 13.5 14.1 15.5 15.5 115%
Health Sciences 13.8 14.9 15.3 15.8 114%
Journalism 13.9 14.9 15.7 16.1 116%
Liberal Arts 13.9 14.8 15.6 15.9 114%
Science 13.8 14.9 15.5 16.5 120%
Interdisciplinary 13.4 14.2 15.4 15.7 117%
University Average 13.8 14.6 15.5 15.8 114%

Credit enrollment continued to grow in Fall 2016 with the continuation of the program. Not only have we found that students are enrolled in a larger amount of credits during their first semester, but they also continue this momentum during their second semester. Below is a longitudinal look at those who participated in Advanced Registration in Fall of 2016 and their sequential enrollment in the Spring 2017 semester: Continue reading ‘Advanced Registration, More Than Recruitment’ »

Personal Finance for Students in Higher Education

By Delana Miller
Assistant Director of Accounting, ASUN Center for Student Engagement

Today’s students have access to purchase virtually anything with just a few clicks.  Whether it’s via mobile apps or online shopping, spending money has never been easier.  This proves all too true for acquiring credit cards as well.  With access to credit, the ease of spending, and the subsequent ease of accumulating debt, do students really understand the basics of personal finance and the impact of credit? Do they know the importance of establishing (and adhering to) a budget for their spending habits throughout their college years?

These questions arose after a conversation with a group of our student employees.  We were discussing their spending behaviors (e.g. how they pay for necessities like books and housing and how they cover wants/unnecessary purchases like new clothes or entertainment). To my surprise, they stated that the majority of their unnecessary (wants) expenses were covered with credit cards.  When I asked if they were aware of the impact of credit card usage on their credit score, I received blank stares in response.  These juniors and seniors were unaware of the meaning of a credit score.  Their questions included: “What is a credit score? Why do I need to know my credit score?” Continue reading ‘Personal Finance for Students in Higher Education’ »

Why I Write!

By Kimberly Cooper Thomas, J.D.
Assistant Dean of Student Conduct

Author, Sister in the Shadow (2015)

About two years ago, I sat down with a friend to discuss the idea of me as a blogger.  This friend’s idea for me was more of a directive than a cool idea worth sharing.  She said, “You are a really good writer and you have a lot of great insights to share.  You should have a blog.”  Prior to our coffee date, I had never considered blogging.  The truth was that I didn’t even know what a blog was — ­I didn’t even follow any blogs!

I have used journals to record my thoughts in the past, but I explained to my friend that I purposefully decided NOT to journal because people are nosey and I have had my privacy violated.  The notion that I should put my thoughts in a venue for people to read freely felt frightening and foreign to me. That said, many people have encouraged me to write about parenting because my kids are such cool kids. In fact, my friend and I often talked about the job of parenting and our lives in the shadows of our families.

Although I understood her interest in my insightful experiences and belief I should blog about shadow dwelling, I was immediately overwhelmed by the possibility that I should give myself permission to use my emotional energy and take time to develop something for myself, about myself.  Despite my initial resistance, my friend continued to email me assignments, then she checked on me periodically via text messaging to encourage me to continue to take steps that got me closer to going live with the blog.  She would ask me how things were going, had I thought of a name yet, did I find words to describe the takeaways I wanted for my audience, and what categories would I use to label the site.  Oh, the pressure!  It took eight months of strong nudging from my friend to compel me to complete my blog and click the “go live” button on the blog site.

So, part of the reason I became a blogger was because someone said I should and I trusted her and decided to just try.  Honestly, her comments initially aggravated me, but the voice of my friend encouraging me to dig deeper into the why of my journey helped me find another reason to blog: I wanted to offer encouragement to folks who might be going through some things in life and feeling alone.  I wanted to offer the caretakers of family members a caring, sincere, transparent voice to empower and enlighten them.

Continue reading ‘Why I Write!’ »

Institutional Socialization and Difference

By Sandra Rodríguez
Director of the ASUN Center for Student Engagement

Whether or not Higher Education as an institution can evolve into an entity with greater depth and meaning is challenged if it is rooted in cultural hegemony, that is, the cultural dominance of one social group – the white, educated, upper class in the ivory tower (Gramsci, 1971).  I write this with the conviction of a student affairs professional that is trilingual.  I speak Spanish and English.  When I was a child I remember speaking with a Spanish accent and being ashamed of it.  I remember trying really hard to formulate my o’s and a’s and u’s and “th” and “sh” sounds.  There was a clear difference in the sound of my voice that detracted and diminished the value of my voice in its observations of the world in the classroom.

My mother, in her infinite wisdom based on her mono-language and mono-cultural existence, understood early on that if her children read books in English, fluency in the language would follow.  Instinctually, she believed that opportunity was tied to an education that consisted of a wide scope and breadth of knowledge rooted in assimilation.  I most definitely got the impression that our ability to speak only Spanish made us inadequate in terms of our education and our “Americaness” and thus opportunity.  From the onset, this ensured my “social identities” would be at odds with themselves (Harro, 2000).

ACCESS R. L. Harro “Cycle of Socialization” : READ FOR NETMAT ON JANUARY 31st

Today, I speak the third language of scholarly critique although not as fluently as I would like to.  You see, right now, my ability to speak in critique is hindered by the very accent that I feared and was ashamed of in childhood.  My language of critique is accentuated by difference rooted in a worldview that is inconsistent with the dominant culture’s view.  It sounds different because it comes from a different perspective.  As a result, my critique is inconsistent with institutionally culturally sound critique and becomes questionable in its legitimacy. Continue reading ‘Institutional Socialization and Difference’ »

Scholarship is Leadership

Scholarship will move our work with students from practice to influence (Hatfield & Wise, 2015). Good scholarship is a critically reflective process that integrates and applies research to improve student services. As scholarly practitioners we are well positioned to articulate the student voice and integrate student experiences in to the practices and theories that inform the administration of higher education. But why stop there? Our work intersects with psychology, sociology, business & finance, political science, organizational science, public health, and career development… you get the idea! We have a responsibility to make theory and research benefit students and a multitude of pathways to do so.

Scholarship will also support your professional development. Good scholarship is a critically reflective process that produces learning. Your learning! Critical reflection identifies your limitations and reveals what you don’t know — honestly, it should make you a little uncomfortable! But, if you open yourself to feedback, collaboration, gathering data, and examining evidence, then you will come to know yourself through the process of research (Hatfield & Wise, 2015)!

Scholarship helps educators EDUCATE. Your voice is important. Capture what you learn through research and share it. Make your voice heard, become a resource for your office, our division, and the university.

Read more by Lisa Hatfield and Vicki Wise (2015) A Guide to Becoming a Scholarly Practitioner in Student Affairs. Available at Amazon, but we also keep a few copies around to share with our colleagues. Contact Perry Fittrer to check out a copy.

First Step to Publication

Student Service faculty, staff, and students are invited to share a research abstract summarizing an idea for a research project.

  • Get your work and ideas out to your colleagues.
  • Identify collaborators to take your idea the next level.
  • Discuss trends in work or trends in research.
  • Get feedback to improve your work.
  • Find data to help you explore or investigate an observation.
  • Create knowledge through reflection.
  • Problem solve through story telling.

250-500 words. 500! That’s 1/2 to one page Word document single spaced.

Yes, 500 is the maximum. Less is better!

Start small. State your intention to write an abstract and we will hold you to it! Email your idea to

Need feedback to work out a research idea? Send whatever you have prepared to for feedback and support.

Have work lying around that you want to take to the next level? Send your abstract draft to to get feedback.

Just need some help getting your head around this opportunity? Email Jennifer Lowman, Perry Fittrer, Sandy Rodriguez, or Megan Pittman your questions.