Printer Friendly

The missing link in the puzzle: innovative student services in selected Ghanaian universities.

I started my college education at a public university in Ghana with very exciting expectations. It did not take long for me to revise my hopes, having realized that my wishes could differ from realities. Having read about college experiences in the U.S. through high school social studies and geography, I had expected a week's orientation of activities to introduce me to the campus environment. I had also wanted to meet some university staff members for regular interactions to help me learn about available campus resources that could help me become successful as a college student. Above all, my dream was to have a memorable college experience that I could refer to as a life-long legacy. The Office of the Dean of Students' interaction with students was very limited. My personal observation was that many students had frustrating college experiences. My greatest frustration was the fact that the dean of students' office lacked adequate resources such as student affairs practitioners and modern technology to serve students. This college experiences inspired me to pursue a career in higher education and student affairs to help college students have better experiences than I did.

The goal of this study was to understand the perceptions of the work by deans of students at Ghanaian universities and to further understand the ways in which their experiences influence the provision of student services. I was also interested in understanding the deans of students' experiences and philosophies that relate to their work.

Statement of the Problem

In contrast to research universities in the United States, professors at Ghanaian universities from a variety of disciplines play leading roles in student affairs units (UNESCO, 2009). In Ghana, for instance, professors are appointed by the Vice Chancellors to serve as deans of students in the public universities, which is different from the US model where administrators are hired as deans of students mostly through national, regional, or institutional searches. The deans of students generally continue their teaching appointments on a part-time basis, and, thus, have limited time to attend to the needs of students.

There are limited available data to serve as the basis for improving student services and student success on college campuses in Ghana. In particular, information is lacking concerning why the dean of students in a Ghanaian university has limited interaction with students. Furthermore, literature concerning the philosophical foundations that shape deans' work is unavailable. Therefore, it is important to develop a model aimed at providing a well-defined relationship between the dean of students and the Ghanaian college student.

Many areas of higher education such as funding, cost, access, affordability, leadership, governance, student activism, and quality have been studied by Ghanaian researchers. It is timely and important to investigate the role and experiences of deans of students in relation to student services and student success.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study was to understand the perceptions of the work by deans of students at Ghanaian universities and to further understand the ways in which their experiences influence the provision of student services. In particular, the deans of students' understanding of their work in providing student services and promoting student learning, student engagement, student development and success was of special interest in the study.

Significance of the Study

Research has shown that positive student interaction and engagement on college campuses potentially could result in the holistic development of college students and prepare them to become responsible global citizens (Manning et al. 2006). The availability of the dean of students and the quality of services the office provides are important elements in student development.

The study offers research opportunities for other related student affairs areas, and serves as a research document and reference for university leadership and student affairs professionals to assist them in serving students in a more professional manner.

Higher Education and Development

Morley (2007) noted that the global realization of the significance of higher education in national and international politics has led to an increased participation in higher education across the globe. Literature on higher education in Africa has revealed significant concerns (Makhubu, 1998; Mlama, 1998). Prominent among them are the role of higher education in wealth creation, higher education financing, the development of private higher educational institutions, leadership, and inadequate qualified personnel (Morley, 2007).

In 2003, the former United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, at a Regional Capacity Building Conference on Tertiary Education in Africa, said access to higher education should be Africa's key to economic development. Mr. Annan emphasized the role of African universities to develop curriculum capable of equipping university students with the knowledge, skills, and competencies needed to function as global citizens (United Nations Information Service, 2004).

In April 2008, the US State Department sponsored and convened an international higher education summit aimed at bringing together stakeholders from different higher education institutions around the world (USAID, 2008). The main goal was to form partnerships and strengthen the resource capacity of universities abroad. Many participants at the summit acknowledged that the challenges of Sub-Saharan Africa's higher education needed to be addressed with the urgency they deserved. The then President of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, Peter McPherson said many African universities were struggling with inadequate resources, including staffing. Peter McPherson called for support in areas of partnerships, collaborations, and scholarships to help strengthen the human resource capacity of African universities (USAID, 2008).

Studies have shown that well-resourced universities and access to higher education are critical to economic development and poverty reduction (Bloom et al. 2006). Many African countries, including Ghana, need to provide services and programs capable of enriching students' experiences on campus while engaging them in activities aimed at helping them achieve success.

Theoretical Framework: Traditional and Innovative Models of Student Affairs Practice

A discussion of models of student affairs practice in the US offers the researcher, the practitioner, and the reader the opportunity to evaluate student affairs practice in Ghanaian universities and offer recommendations for improvement in the delivery of student services.

In an attempt to relate the campus environment to student engagement, student success, and student services, the Documenting Effective Educational Practice (DEEP) project was launched in 2002 (Manning et al. 2006). This project was aimed at identifying best student affairs practices and models in colleges and universities that had achieved significant levels of student engagement, success, and graduation higher than predicted rates. The project was aimed at discovering, documenting, and describing the various intentional programs and activities that distinguish high achieving institutions from other universities whose levels of effectiveness are relatively low.

According to Kuh et al. (2005), many of the DEEP institutions employed innovative homegrown ideas and student affairs models that uniquely distinguished them from other institutions. Manning et al. (2006) identified six traditional models of student affairs practice from available literature. The DEEP project, on the other hand, offered five innovative models of student affairs practice that have yielded positive results in the DEEP institutions. The six traditional models are: extracurricular; functional silos; student services; co-curricular; seamless learning; and competitive models. The five innovative models are: student-centered ethic of care; student-driven; student agency; academic and student affairs collaboration; and academic-centered. The extracurricular model "rests on a foundation of psychosocial student development and leadership theory" (Manning et al. 2006, p. 43).

Rhatigan (2000) opines that the model is rooted in the 1937 Student Personnel Point of View (ACE, 1937), which outlined many uncoordinated services which were united through a broad educational philosophy. Furthermore, the extracurricular model helps with the expansion of programs and policies; and also offers faculty the opportunity to concentrate on teaching and research (Manning et al., 2006).

The functional silo model depicts student affairs practice involving minimal collaboration with other units. The Student Learning Imperative (ACPA, 1996) suggests that each functional unit is decentralized and autonomous. This offers specialized expertise for student services. This model seems to be administration-centered rather than student-centered.

The student services model usually has clustered functions and services (Manning et al. 2006). In this model, one assumes that the purpose of student affairs is to offer student services; and that provision and promotion of student services and student development respectively are separate and can be handled by different educators. Even though this model seems to be convenient in terms of access to services, it lacks integration of various functions and services (Kuh et al. 2005). The co-curricular model distinguishes out-of-class programs from the formal classroom curricular, and further expects student affairs professionals and the faculty to place greater emphasis and concentrate on their respective areas of expertise (Brown, 1972). This model does not view student affairs and academic affairs as complementary to each other. The seamless learning model recognizes the need for collaboration in student learning experiences, and is consistent with the philosophy espoused in The Student Learning Imperative (ACPA, 1996). Both student affairs and academic affairs collaborate for improved student involvement and engagement. The competitive model sets an agenda for rivalry between student affairs and academic units. This model discourages collaboration and could lead to unhealthy and unnecessary competition which could work against the overall student learning experience. In this model, many student affairs professionals care less about how their programs affect and relate to services in academic units.

The student-centered ethic of care emphasizes on care and relationships, and responds to those in need (Gulligan, 1982; Nodding, 1984). Caring involves entering into others' frame of reference. When there is care, one prioritizes the needs and expectations of other people (Nodding, 1984). The level of service available in this model is driven by the ability of student affairs to devote time to students in need. There is compassionate means of response and a climate where each member is valued. This leads to the development of an environment of trust. Critics of this model suggest that the student-centered ethic of care has the tendency to treat students like children and is less efficient than some alternative models, such as the student driven model.

The student-driven model assumes trust in students' ability to manage collegiate functions (Manning et al. 2006). This creates an "environment of belief in empowered students" (p. 103). The model promotes student involvement, engagement, and success. It works best among traditional students in traditional college settings- that is, where students spend much of their time, and have the greatest potential to invest time in the social and cultural, as well as the academic dimensions of university life. The student-driven model both relies on and encourages personal agency among students. According to Bandura (2001), the concept of personal agency involves one's ability to have control over one's life. Bandura further asserts that in the student agency model, students are in charge of programs and activities that directly affect their out-of-class experiences. Also, students collaborate with faculty and staff as equal partners. The strength of this model lies in students' motivation to be involved and contribute as educators. External stakeholders such as parents may question the rationale of this model because it tends to empower and allow students to take control over their life with.

The academic-student affairs collaboration model takes its roots from The Student Learning Imperative (ACPA, 1996), which recognized the need for a joint commitment to student learning. The document encouraged student affairs and academic units to collaborate in shared responsibility for better student involvement and success (Kuh et al. 2005). In the academic-centered model, student affairs division is very active in the provision of support systems to make academics work for students (NSSE, 2002). Student affairs professionals understand the emphasis on promoting the academic environment. They are committed to the academic mission of the institution.

Methodology

I conducted a basic interpretive qualitative study, and used multi interpretive case studies. Grounded theory analytical procedure was used for data analysis. The purpose of the study was to understand the perceptions of the work of deans of students in selected Ghanaian universities as they provide student services and interact with students. The research questions included: How does the university community perceive the work of the dean of students? How do the deans of students describe the performance of their duties? How do the deans of students perceive changes and the future of their offices? These research questions guided the interviews and provided data for the study.

The research questions were investigated through qualitative research design that consisted of interviews of deans of students, staff in the deans' offices, vice chancellors (presidents), and focus groups of students. Observations were also used to help me experience the different types of interactions that take place in the offices of the deans of students. The observations were more opportunistic and informal than planned. I used documents, in addition to the interviews and the focus group interviews for data triangulation, which Patton (2002) describes as the "use of a variety of data sources in a study" (p. 247). Marshall and Rossman (1989) underscore the need for flexibility in the data collection process in qualitative research.

Using Patton's (2002) "critical case sampling procedure" (p. 236), three public universities, namely, Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, and the University of Cape Coast were selected. Additionally, one private university, the Central University College was selected. These sites were selected as "critical cases" (p. 236) for the study.

The sample for the study consisted of 36 participants from 4 case institutions, whose characteristics are shown in Table 1.

Purposeful or purposive sampling was used for the selection of participants for the research. Merriam (1998) indicates that "purposive sampling is based on the assumption that one wants to discover, understand, gain insight; therefore one needs to select a sample from which one can learn most" (p.48).Three main purposeful sampling methods were used in this study: Criterion sampling was used for selecting the vice chancellor, the pro vice chancellor, the deans of students, and staff at the deans' offices. Snowball, also known as chain sampling, and stratified purposeful sampling were used for the student participants. The choice of these methods for the study was influenced by the varying characteristics of the various groups of participants involved in some of the sample categories. Snowball helped me to identify students who could provide useful data for the study; and since the students had different class ranks and gender, stratified purposeful sampling was also helpful.

Data gathered through my field work was analyzed using the grounded theory method. The tenet of grounded theory approach is that emerging themes from the data gathered should guide the discussion (Straus and Corbin, 1998). The various processes of using grounded theory for my analysis is illustrated in figure 1. There are six main steps in using grounded theory for data analysis. These are data collection, note-taking, coding, memoing, sorting and categorization, and data writing and presentation. Data collection, note-taking, coding, memoing was done simultaneously while I was still in the field collecting data.

Patton (2002) argues that the credibility of qualitative research is dependent on the methods of conducting the fieldwork, the researcher's credibility, and one's ideological position in qualitative research. The step-by-step procedure to using the grounded theory analytic process supported the trustworthiness and credibility of the development of my findings.

Major Findings

Traditional Leadership as Parenthood

Many of the participants exhibited a traditional leadership style, where decisions are made at the top and disseminated from top to bottom. Decisions made by traditional leaders in Ghana are hardly questioned, which seems to echo a Ghanaian traditional saying that Nana kasa a oblara nka bi, meaning, "When the chief speaks, there is no challenger." Traditionally, the chief is perceived as the repertoire of wisdom and everybody's father. In describing his interactions with students, the Dean of Students of one of the public universities in Ghana said:
   Many students these days do not listen and as such they are unable
   to learn from the elderly. They do not take advice. This makes it
   difficult for my staff and me to have positive interactions with
   some of our students. Student leaders are sometimes disrespectful
   and antagonistic. They tend to ask too many unnecessary questions.
   I remember how humble and obedient we were to university leadership
   when we were students. We regarded the university as our parent.
   Times have changed.


This illustrates that the DOS expects students to listen without questioning just as the chiefs subjects listen to him with absolute humility and sometimes fear. The DOS also wanted to serve as parents, similar to the in loco parentis era of American higher education prior to the 1960s. However, during a focus group interview at the University of Cape Coast (UCC), a student expressed her frustration with how the DOS office interacts with students:
   The DOS is always threatening us with disciplinary action. He wants
   to treat us like children, but we are matured young adults capable
   of making informed decisions. The university should not assume the
   role of parents. The university authority now wants to control our
   lives including what to wear. Some professors have adopted the
   habit of dismissing some female students from their class for
   wearing what they describe as indecent/provocative dresses. It's
   absurd! They are not our parents, and we do not expect them to be.
   They are our leaders and we expect mutual respect and
   collaboration.


Clearly, these students do not appreciate the parental approach the DOS offices take on college campuses, and strongly argue that current college students do not need that relationship. In describing the nature of their work, all the four deans of students I interviewed perceived themselves as serving as parents to the students. The DOS of the Central University College said, "As a Pastor and a father of three, I see the students as my children and I am committed to serve them as a parent. Unfortunately, many of our students do not seem to understand this role."

This opposing view between students and university leadership in relation to the role of the DOS as a parent remains a challenge and represents a source of many conflicts between students and university leadership. Even though some faculty and staff do not support the traditional leadership style approach to interacting with students, they are unable to openly criticize it for fear of being tagged as supporting student indiscipline. A faculty member shared that his colleagues had described him as weak and too student-focused due to his commitment to enhancing student experiences on campus. The director of student affairs (DOSA) of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) called for a careful combination of tradition and modern practices in interacting with students. She said:
   Times have changed. The way we interacted
   with students in the 1970s and the 1980s were
   different from how we did it in the 2000s. It
   should be definitely different from how we want
   to do it this decade. We cannot assume the role
   of parents and treat college students as a group
   of uninformed children. We should not be
   immune to change. Our students have a voice
   and we need to listen to them.


It is important to note that most of the deans of students expect students to recognize and appreciate their parental approach; and in many instances staff members of the DOS' offices are quick to accuse students of not appreciating their parental role. Students, on the other hand, are of the view that the DOS should not serve as parent, but a campus resource capable of helping them to get more involved on campus. It was clear during the interviews that the DOS perceive the parental role as well-intended, but students view it as misplaced and unnecessary.

Traditional leadership or chieftaincy has influenced student affairs practice in Ghana, leading to a model of student affairs practice which is more administrative-centered than student-centered. This model is similar to the functional silos model described in the theoretical framework. I strongly recommend for student affairs in Ghanaian universities a system that blends administrative-centered and student-centered models of student affairs practice. Such a model, in my opinion, will be most appropriate for the Ghanaian student affairs program.

The Dean of Students as an Intercessor

All four deans of students I interviewed seemed to perceive their work as basically serving as a bridge between university leadership and students. This created the impression that students needed to use their offices as conduit for communicating with university leadership. One dean of students noted:
   Hmmm! Students and student leaders of today
   have no respect for authority. They now have the
   tendency to want to meet the vice chancellor,
   vice president, or the registrar without first
   notifying my office. In our student days, this
   would have been perceived as an abomination. It
   would have been impossible! We need to
   strengthen existing structures to ensure that all
   students and student groups use our offices as
   the contact points for access to university
   leadership. This cannot be compromised.


In the Ghanaian Akan language, "hmm!" is suggestive of the strong feelings and emotions that the dean of students attaches to the account. This account seems to put less emphasis on the role of the dean of students as facilitator for the provision of student services. It also downplays the expected role of the dean of students as the catalyst for student engagement. The impact a college experience has on a student depends on one's involvement in the available curricular and co-curricular activities (Pascarella and Terenzini, 2005). In many instances, when the campus environment is perceived by students as supportive and congenial for the overall learning experience, student engagement occurs (Chickering and Reisser, 1993).

A student leader at KNUST indicated that many student leaders have been unimpressed in the past by how the DOS had represented them at the Vice Chancellor's Office. He explained:
   We have instances where our petition and
   grievances to the Vice Chancellor through the
   DOS' office have been misrepresented. A case
   in point was November 2010 when our request
   for the Vice Chancellor to strengthen the
   performance evaluation process of faculty was
   presented as an attempt to undermine the
   authority of the Vice Chancellor. The DOS
   woefully failed us.


Traditional Student Needs and Services

All four deans of students (DOS) I interviewed were emphatic about the fact that their offices were under-resourced to provide the many diverse student needs such as career services, counseling, spirituality, religion, and crisis response. They also pointed out that the many student concerns or complaints they had received and documented over the years had given them a fair idea of the nature of students' needs. Staff at the DOS' offices had concerns about their inability to serve students on time. They acknowledged that due to limited resources, student requests are often delayed at their offices. They added that they would continue to do their best, hoping that students would understand and appreciate their services.

Student needs and services identified and mentioned by the four DOS I interviewed were mainly on counseling services, financial support services, and mediation and conflict resolution.

Confirming this, the DOS of KNUST said:
   The major student needs that we provide
   services for are counseling and psychological
   needs, financial needs, and academic-related
   needs. The others are issues with relationships,
   theft cases, and conflicts. The few available
   counselors and psychologists have tried to
   provide services for students. My office has also
   liaised with the Finance Office to help arrange
   payment plans for financially-struggling
   students. Again, my office continues to provide
   conflict resolution and mediation services. We
   also collaborate with the police to resolve theft
   cases.


The DOS of the Central University College (CUC) added his voice and shared his experiences in relation to student needs and services, in particular citing the religious and moral foundations undergirding his work. He said:
   As a Christian institution, we are concerned
   about the perception of low moral values among
   our students. We provide biblical moral
   education for our students. We also provide
   marriage counseling services for our nontraditional
   students. I have a team of pastors that
   meet once a week to pray for our students. I
   believe in the power of prayers and I know that
   our students will grow and become responsible
   God-fearing adults.


Many students I interviewed argued that due to changing student characteristics, student needs continue to change. They were however concerned that provision of student services had not adequately responded to the changing needs. They called for a more systematic method of identifying student needs to be able to provide the appropriate students services to meet those needs. Stan, a senior at the University of Cape Coast (UCC) said:
   Student services have not significantly changed
   during the past three years I have spent on this
   campus as a student. Student population has
   changed, student needs continue to change, and
   students are exposed to different cultures
   especially due to the internet. The DOS' office
   has to change the way student services are
   designed and provided. We need more
   innovation and creativity. Students can help to
   make this happen, but the office does not see the
   need to involve us.


A professor of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), who also had concerns about student services said:
   I was a student of KNUST from 1997 to 2001,
   and after almost a decade, the DOS' office
   provides the same student services. The services
   have remained the same, the method of service
   delivery has not changed, and staff work ethics
   and attitude towards work are the same if not
   worse. As an institution, we need to take
   advantage of modern technology in the delivery
   of student services.


Non-Traditional Student Needs and Innovative Student Services

During a focus group interview at the University of Cape Coast (UCC), the students unanimously said that they appreciate all the services they receive from the DOS' office. According to them, the counseling services, the conflict resolution and the mediation services only serve the traditional needs of students. Many of them expressed a desire for services that met more diverse student needs, including some that challenged the traditional ethos of the Ghanaian culture. Eva, a junior at UCC said:
   I know few students who describe themselves as
   lesbians and gays; and due to the way our
   culture frowns on these practices, such students
   struggle to deal with the many social challenges
   associated with being gay/lesbian in our culture.
   There are no services on campus to support
   them. Again, students cannot transfer from one
   university to the other, and this remains a very
   big concern for students. There are no on-campus
   opportunities for career services in
   relation to our majors. We are not even sure
   about the future prospects of our majors. Access
   to internet services on campus is very limited,
   and we still receive all notifications on notice
   boards. These are non-traditional student needs
   that we expect the DOS' office to provide
   services for.


Eva's concern was repeated at the other research sites during the various focus group interviews I had with students. This seemed to suggest a call for transfer of credits, career services, disability services, and LGBT services in Ghanaian universities. The issue here is that what the DOS' offices consider to be the most important student needs are viewed as less important by the students. Students expect the DOS' offices to recognize the changing student characteristics and respond with more innovative student services that can serve the non-traditional needs of students. This was re-echoed by a former dean of students of KNUST when he said: The DOS' offices ought to have a more systematic way of assessing student needs. The needs continue to change and provision of student services have to respond accordingly. Student needs in the 1990s are not the same as current needs. I highly recommend a more scientific tool/instrument for identifying student needs. This will be a necessary condition for providing the ideal student services.

Many US and European colleges continue to review student services to respond to changing student characteristics, student needs and emerging trends in higher education. Ohio University (OU), for instance, recently introduced gender neutral housing to meet the housing needs of its Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. The gender neutral housing offers a residential facility where rooms, bathrooms and other facilities are not gender specific. What it means is that roommates are assigned without gender consideration, and this serves the needs of the LGBT community. Ohio University has special services to provide for the needs of veterans, students with disabilities, and victims of sexual assault. The DOS' offices in Ghanaian universities need to collaborate with selected colleges in the US and Europe to replicate some of the non-traditional student services aimed at meeting the needs of specific student populations.

Inadequate Resources

Throughout the interviews at all the sites, it was obvious that inadequate resources posed as a major challenge facing the DOS. Support staff members at the office are not sufficient in number to respond to student needs. This situation is frustrating for both staff and students. Staff members at the DOS' office were concerned that sometimes it takes too long to respond to student needs due to the many students the few staff members have to serve. Students, on the other hand, need the services and cannot wait. All the DOS and their staff were worried about the inadequate equipment at their disposal. They complained about lack of modern technology and unreliable access to the internet. The offices are unable to communicate effectively with students. Student records are not properly managed, making access to student information challenging. Various offices in the universities have difficulty sharing information. This was echoed by the DOS of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) when she said:
   Our offices are under-resourced and yet we are
   expected to serve students with distinction.
   Sadly, we are often unable to serve students the
   way we wish to serve them. It is a pain to access
   student records and our ability to use technology
   to monitor our students is limited. Sometimes,
   this is very frustrating, especially when one
   knows what to do to serve students better, but is
   limited by available resources.


Afro-Americans in New York Life and History

The Success Story

Despite the many instances of frustration expressed by students in their interactions with the DOS' office, there were some significant success stories. Students, staff at the DOS' offices, and the DOS recounted some stories related to student services. Tony, a student of the Central University College noted:
   Our DOS and his staff genuinely show concern
   and care towards the welfare of students. They
   are committed to student success and they
   demonstrate this by their patience and tolerance
   when serving students. The staff members listen
   to us even when we provoke them. Many
   students have very positive testimonies about the
   work of the DOS' office.


When I asked the DOS of KNUST if he could share some success stories, this was what he shared:
   I have had parents call me to express their
   satisfaction and appreciation for helping their
   children deal with specific difficulties. I recall a
   mother who called about a month ago to thank
   my staff and me for assisting his son to deal with
   a very challenging roommate conflict. Students
   have come to my office to thank me for
   supporting them to resolve academic-related
   issues. We continue to receive positive feedback
   from students, faculty, staff, and parents. It is
   exciting to know that despite our many
   challenges, we still are able to make an impact
   on students' lives.


Staff members of the DOS' office at UCC shared instances when student feedback on their experiences with the office has been very positive. In one instance, Sam, a senior administrative assistant, said:
   It is always heartwarming to receive positive
   feedback from students. I had a student who was
   helped by our counselors to deal with a
   traumatic experience of sexual assault come to
   me thanking our staff for their support. It
   dawned on me that despite our many challenges,
   we are still able to make an impact on the lives
   of some of our students. It was such a good
   feeling!


Students expressed appreciation for efforts being made by staff of the DOS' office to support them on campus. Students who had had interactions with the DOS' offices were generally positive about the experience even though they wished staff could reach out to many more students. They also suggested the need for the DOS to have more one-on-one interactions with many students, hoping that could positively impact the experiences of many students on campus.

Conclusion

Many students I interviewed at the public universities were of the view that the offices of the deans of students were not serving their needs, and that the offices were not well-resourced to effectively provide innovative student services. Also, the deans' description of the performance of their work was centered on conflict resolution among students, mediation, addressing issues of student discipline, and counseling services for students. There was no formal evaluation of their work. They all depended on occasional feedback from students and parents. Again, the deans of students at the public universities argued that inadequately qualified staff and lack of support systems made it difficult for them to offer effective student services.

Moreover, the offices of the deans of students' interpretation of student needs revolved around financial problems, counseling services, roommate conflicts, and issues of academic success. Furthermore, the major challenges facing the deans at the public universities were inadequate qualified staff, lack of support from university leadership, unreasonable demands from student senate such as request to change grading system, and indiscipline among students. All the interviewees were positive about the future of student affairs in Ghana. A model that effectively combines the traditional mindset approach of university leadership such as the parent-child relationship and the more liberal mindsets of many students such as the use of social media for communicating with students would potentially offer a more student-centered model of student affairs practice in Ghanaian higher education.

The study has shaped my views about the role of DOS at the research sites, and how these roles affect student services and success. During the fieldwork, it was clear to me that many students are less satisfied with Ghanaian student services, but have no forum for addressing these concerns. It occurred to me that many college students are left "in the wilderness to fend for themselves" with very little support from the institutions.

I would recommend that Ghanaian universities begin to develop graduate programs in college student personnel to train student affairs practitioners for the professional delivery of student services on campuses. Again, there is the need for more international collaborations and partnerships with US universities to promote professional development in the area of student affairs practice in Ghana. Efforts should be made to redefine the mission of student affairs in Ghana, and students' input will be needed in this process.

Through the study I had the perception that the DOS and the leadership of the research sites genuinely care about success of students since many of them perceive students as their children. This care is often portrayed in the form of ensuring that students remain children who need the protection of adults; and since they are perceived as incapable of protecting themselves, they are often expected to listen and obey university leadership unconditionally. Any attempt by students to question university leadership often leads to tension on campus. I am convinced that the different mindsets of students and university leadership on issues of tradition, culture, morality, and student needs and services deserve more attention, reflection, and debate to create awareness about the status quo and offer recommendations for the realization of integrative higher education and student affairs in Ghana. Such a debate could be organized in the form of town hall meetings across the country with adequate student representation.

One unique experience throughout the study was the realization that the academy is notoriously resistant to change; and that "changing a university is like trying to move a cemetery. You get no help from the inhabitants" (Palmer and Zajonc, 2010, p. 127). I am hopeful that the study will promote collaboration and enhance integration in the work of the DOS's in Ghanaian universities. Integrative higher education unites intellectual rigor with compassion and love. It also infuses the academy with meaning, purpose, and soul (Palmer and Zajonc).

It is important to recognize the role of globalization and technology on potential changes in organizational culture and societies (Kegan and Lahey, 2009). Many students I interviewed at the research sites mentioned that access to the internet has made them aware of how student activism and student expectations at different universities worldwide had led to changes in institutional cultures and conservative mindsets. Many of the students were confident that change was inevitable, even though they acknowledged that it would take time. Change will naturally occur in Ghanaian higher education; and student affairs will assume a more student-centered approach.

I was surprised that none of the deans of students directly talked about their advocacy roles. Even though they recognize the need to support students, my impression was that they do not see themselves as being advocates for students. In the US, both the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) have student advocacy strongly captured in their vision statement and goals respectively I am hopeful that change will naturally occur in Ghanaian universities with student affairs assuming a more student-centered approach.

References

American College Personnel Association. 1996. The Student Learning Imperative. Washington, D. C.: ACP.

American Council on Education. 1937. The Student Personnel Point of View. Washington D. C.

Bandura, A. 2001. "Social Cognitive Theory: An Agentic Perspective." Annual Review of Psychology 52: 1-26.

Bloom, D., Canning, D. and Chan, K. 2006. Higher Education and Economic Development in Africa. Washington: World Bank.

Brown, R. D. 1972. Student Development in Tomorrow's Higher Education: A Return to the Academy. Washington, D. C.: ACPA.

Chickering, A. W. and Reisser, L. 1993. Education and Identity. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Gulligan, C. 1982. In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Kegan, R. and Lahey, L. L. 2009. Immunity to Change: How to Overcome it and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.

Kuh, G., Kinzie, J., Schuh, J., Whitt, E., and Associates 2005. Student Success in College: Creating Conditions that Matter. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Makhubu, L. 1998. "The Right to Higher Education and Equal Opportunity for Women: The Major Challenge of our Time." In Higher Education in Africa: Achievements, Challenges and Prospects. Dakar: UNESCO.

Manning, K., Kinzie, J. and Schuh, J. 2006. One Size does not fit All: Traditional and Innovative Models of Student Affairs Practice. New York: Routledge.

Marshall, C., & Rossman, G. B. 1989. Designing Qualitative Research. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Merriam, S. B. 1998. Qualitative Research and Case Study Applications in Education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Mlama, P. M. 1998. "Increasing Access and Equity in Higher Education: Gender Issues." In Higher Education in Africa: Achievements, Challenges and Prospects. Dakar: UNESCO.

Morley, L. 2007. "The X Factor: Employability, Elitism and Equity in Graduate

Recruitment." The 21st Century Society: Journal of the Academy of Social Sciences 2: 191-207.

National Survey of Student Engagement 2002. From Promise to Progress: How Colleges and Universities are using Engagement Results to improve Collegiate Quality. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research.

Noddings, N. 1984. Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Palmer, P. J. & Zajonc, A. 2010. The Heart of Higher Education: A Call to Renewal. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. 2005. How College affects Students: A Third Decade of Research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Patton, M. Q. 2002. Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods. California: Sage Publications.

Rhatigan, J. J. 2000. "The History and Philosophy of Student Affairs." In The Handbook of Student Affairs Administration. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Straus, A., and Corbin, J. 1998. Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory. California: Sage Publications.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization 2009. Trends in Global Higher Education: Tracking an Academic Revolution. Paris, France: UNESCO.

United Nations Information Services 2004. Annual Report. New York: UNIS.

United States Agency for International Development 2008. Annual Report. Washington: USAID.
Table 1. Research Participants

Research Participant                        Number

Vice Chancellor (President)                   1
Pro Vice Chancellor (Provost)                 1
Dean of Students                              4
Former Dean of Students                       1
Higher Education Expert                       1
Faculty                                       2
Staff at the Deans of Students' Offices       8
Students                                     18
COPYRIGHT 2015 Afro-American Historical Association of the Niagara Frontier, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2015 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Boakye-Yiadom, Michael
Publication:Afro-Americans in New York Life and History
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:6GHAN
Date:Jul 1, 2015
Words:6759
Previous Article:A regional interpretation of Black Nationalism.
Next Article:The Sankofa student: chartering a transnational education.
Topics:

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters