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BRIDGING THE ACADEMIC-SOCIAL DIVIDE: ACADEMIC AND STUDENT AFFAIRS COLLABORATION.

The academic-social divide was explored at a Mid-Western coeducational liberal arts college. Academic-Social divide are the barriers between academic and student affairs that prevent collaboration. Presently, this is one of the major foci today in higher education. This attention is imperative in reference to the quality and type of services we can offer students. Students feel torn between two worlds (Tinto, 1998). An evaluation was conducted for barriers that prevent collaboration between academic and student affairs. Barriers were then analyzed to develop initiatives for collaboration.

One of the major foci today in higher education is the relationship between academic and student affairs practitioners (Streit, 1993). The academic and social divide are the barriers between academic and student affairs that prevent collaboration. Attention to this division is imperative in reference to the quality and type of services we can offer students. Students feel torn between the two worlds (Tinto, 1998). Therefore, many institutions of higher education are making attempts to address this problem (Altizer, Glover, Seehafer, & Walch, 1996; Astin, 1996). Institutions have an opportunity to respond to this concern of disconnection by developing a holistic undergraduate experience. Scholars of higher education have suggested that by fostering this collaboration between academic and student affairs the quality of life for students on our campuses would be enhanced (Tinto, 1998; Chickering & Gamson, 1987). The academic-social divide exists for several reasons: (1) very little training in academic and student affairs collaboration is being offered in graduate or post-graduate work, (2) very little substantive literature is available, and (3) it is unclear how to achieve this goal of collaboration. In many cases the available personnel and/or resources on campus are not sufficient to deal with this situation. Hence, institutions are seeking qualified professionals to train their faculty and staff to address academic and student affairs collaboration (Brown, 1989). This training tends to be in the form of professional development seminars. In other cases, consultants may be asked to help develop and implement a collaborative initiative. This process entails conducting an evaluation for barriers that prevent collaboration between academic and student affairs. The barriers are then analyzed and initiatives developed which will result in collaboration.

Tenets of one such professional development training session which may be used as a model are discussed as a case study scenario. This professional development training session was facilitated at a Mid-Western coeducational liberal arts college (see methods section for more detail). In searching for information to foster academic and student affairs relations, Chickering and Gamson (1987) provide a list of good practices in undergraduate education which would seem to serve as a foundation for this collaboration. Their findings were aggregated into seven principles for excellence. They were: (1) encourage students-faculty contact; (2) encourage cooperation among students; (3) encourage active learning; (4) give prompt feedback; (5) emphasize time on task; (6) communicate high expectations; and (7) respect diverse talents and ways of learning. Later, Tinto (1996) contrasted the opposite view point and identified seven major causes of withdrawal from colleges and universities.

He found the following: (1) academic difficulty; (2) adjustment difficulties; (3) Goals--uncertain, narrow or new; (4) commitment weak and external; (5) financial inadequacies; (6) incongruence; and (7) isolation. In order to properly grasp the aforementioned findings, an understanding of how students learn information is necessary.

Ewell (1998) set out to determine what we know about learning. He found that learners are: not "receptacles" but generate their own learning; that learning is an individual activity; that all students can learn; that individuals shape their learning; that the learner must be ready to learn; that learning occurs as a result of problem solving; that learning must be exercised for growth; and that learning occurs best in an enjoyable environment (Ewell, 1998, pp. 11-14). Furthermore, Ewell's (1998) properties of successful change initiatives were utilized to tie together the seminar to address the relationship between academic and student affairs. Discussion of the aforementioned research was used to provide the reader with a short theoretical background to utilize while addressing the academic-social divide. The purpose of this inquiry is to examine several emergent themes from a professional development seminar conducted on this topic. In the examination process, the findings will be translated into initiatives to address each emergent theme.

Method

Participants

The participants in the case study were 12 faculty and student affairs professionals employed at a coeducational liberal arts college located in the Mid-Western region. The institution is an Evangelical Lutheran Church of America affiliated college offering two and four-year degrees. The institution has a total enrollment of approximately 1,400 students, the majority of whom are non-traditional aged undergraduates.

Data Collection

The faculty and student affairs professionals were asked to record barriers to bridging the academic-social divide after attending a seminar conducted by the authors. The seminar was part of their professional development training. The information was recorded on index cards. Of the 12 index cards returned by the participants, 12 were usable for analysis. Participants were treated in accordance with the "Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct" (American Psychological Association, 1992). No participant names or other identifying characteristics were used in reporting the results of the study.

Data Analysis

The analysis of data collected in this study passed through three interrelated stages: (1) data reduction, (2) data display, and (3) conclusion and implications (Keeves, 1988, p. 518). Data reduction was managed through the identification of emergent themes from the participants' recorded responses. The displayed data consist of the quoted answers supplied by the respondents. The following are the emergent theme findings:

* Opportunities do not presently exist for faculty and student affairs staff to work cohesively together.

* Student-centered activities and initiatives need to be developed.

* Time constraints are a significant issue.

* Institutional (organizational) structure perpetuates the academic and social divide.

* The students' external commitments create barriers to this seamless concept.

* Incentives do not presently exist to promote faculty involvement.

* Students do not value "out of class" experiences because they are not reflected in their degree program.

* Student involvement is low on this commuter campus.

* The knowledge base is not present to bridge the academic and social divide.

* Respect is a key factor in an effective collaboration between both parties.

Conclusion and Implications

Utilizing their findings the authors explore direct implications for future activities of faculty and student affairs staff at College Midwest. Each emergent theme can be utilized to develop and implement program initiatives to address bridging the academic-social divide.

Opportunities do not presently exist for faculty and student affairs staff to work cohesively together

The college could implement a series of small incentives grants that are awarded to units or individuals who foster academic-social collaboration. Learning communities may serve as an excellent vehicle for collaboration.

There is a need to develop student-centered activities and initiatives

Focus groups with students should be conducted to understand how they learn information. Faculty can integrate student learning styles in classroom instruction.

Time constraints

Creative ways to maximize the use of time must be developed. For example, time management techniques and strategies would serve as an excellent topic for a professional development seminar.

Institutional (organizational) structure perpetuates the academic and social divide

The institution could re-evaluate their organizational structure in the context of the academic-social divide to encompass equal representation from both student and academic affairs in all aspects of governance.

The students' external commitments create barriers to this seamless concept.

Services and programs could be offered to support the students' external commitments (i.e. child care, jobs, work-study, campus housing, etc.) to allow students to spend more time engaged in campus-related activities.

Incentives do not presently exist to promote faculty involvement

Collaboration with student affairs could be incorporated in the evaluation process under the service requirement for tenure and promotion.

Students do not value "out of class" experiences because they are not reflected in their degree program

Include portions of "out of class" experience as part of the curriculum utilizing concepts of service learning. Also, provide leadership programs that relate to in and out of class experience.

Student involvement is low on this commuter campus

An assessment of student services could be conducted to determine if the students' needs are being met. Also, the assessment would help to ascertain what services would attract student participation.

The knowledge base is not present to bridge the academic and social divide

This emergent theme could be addressed through educational materials and professional development seminars offered on a continuing basis.

Respect is a key factor in an effective collaboration between both parties

Tell student success stories to each other to show the impact that both academic and student affairs have on students.

"Developing effective partnerships between faculty and student affairs professionals is critical to maximizing the educational potential of colleges and universities" (Streit, 1993, p. 40). Collaboration between these two entities on campus will afford the ability to address critical issues that affect students' in and out of class experiences. This particular research provides information that could ultimately improve the college experience for students at College Midwest. However, institutions could collect similar information to develop initiatives and models to help bridge their academic-social divide. Moreover, a series of follow-up activities will be necessary to ensure progress toward academic and student affairs collaboration.

References

Altizer, A. A., Glover, W. F., Seehafer, A. L., & Walch, T. E. (1996). A model for increasing collaboration between academic and student affairs. College Student Affairs Journal, 16, 56-61.

American Psychological Association. (1992). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. American Psychologist, 47, 1597-1611.

Astin, A. W. (1996). Involvement in learning revisited: Lessons we have learned [Special issue]. Journal of College Student Development, 37, 123-134.

Brown, S. S. (Ed.). (1989). Approaches to collaboration between academic and student affairs: An overview. NASPA Journal, 26, 2-7. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. ED 402 076)

Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. ED 282 491)

Keeves, J. P. (Ed.). (1988). Educational research, methodology, and measurement: An International handbook. Elmsford, NY: Pergamon Press.

Streit, C. (1993). Between a rock and a hard place: Barriers to collaboration between academic and student affairs. Journal of Higher Education Management, 9, 39-45.

Tinto, V. (1998, Winter). Colleges as communities: Taking research on student persistence seriously. The Review of Higher Education, 21, 167-177.

JERLANDO F. L. JACKSON Administrative Assistant to the Dean

LARRY H. EBBERS Associate Dean College of Education Iowa State University
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Author:JACKSON, JERLANDO F. L.; EBBERS, LARRY H.
Publication:College Student Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 1999
Words:1741
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