A Minute with the Board

by Dr. Kate Butler

As we approach the end of the academic year, we are well into our annual student affairs shuffle on many campuses.  It seems that every day I see a new job posting or am sent a request from colleagues for any names I may know of folks job searching.  My own team had the opportunity to search for and hire a new member of our staff this spring.  Through this process, we were able to reconsider what it means to be qualified for a role in fraternity and sorority advising and how we would assess those abilities.  What are the skills/knowledge/philosophies/traits that are essential for hiring?  What do we have the ability to teach on the job?  What resources do we have to support a new hire (and our current team)?

At the Board level, we are asking similar questions as we continue to champion the ‘Forward to 50’ strategic plan, as Josh discussed in April.  As AFA works to develop a robust professional development strategy that meets the needs of fraternity/sorority professionals, from graduate student/early-career professional to senior level administrator (Pillar 1, Stretch Goal 1), it is vital for us to reflect on the current landscape of higher education.  In particular, the decrease in graduate student enrollment is challenging many systems that have previously required, whether formally or through common practice, a masters degree in Higher Education or related fields.  

We see this trend play out in AFA with approximately 75% fewer graduate members than in 2014.  Decreased unemployment rates, increased inflation, and rising costs of education may be pushing individuals towards the workforce rather than to graduate programs.  This shift also impacts some of our traditional educational programs, like Graduate Training Track.  Approximately 33% of the 2019 GTT attendees are still actively engaged in the SFL Profession.

Luckily, the unique structures of support around fraternities and sororities provide our field an extended pool of experienced applicants than many of our colleagues.  Local, regional, and (inter)national volunteers have significant experience working directly with students and navigating the interplay of campus and organizational policies.  Particularly for our organizations that are heavily volunteer-run, these roles create a challenging learning environment that equip professionals well for full-time work in higher education.  Similarly, headquarters staff members gain perspective of a variety of campus structures and cultures, which can be valuable to challenge current norms within our individual systems.  Valuing these practical experiences not only help to increase our pools of applicants, but also increase access to our field.

As our field continues to expand beyond our traditional models of full-time, higher education masters programs, we must consider how we best educate our profession.  How are we encouraging the use of tuition-remission programs or other professional development resources to increase understanding and use of student development theory, assessment and research, or higher education law in our work?  How are we supporting staff working with councils different from their own affiliation and working to develop cultural competency?  How are we connecting new staff to colleagues within our institutions/organizations, to peers across the field, and with partners on campuses or supporting organizations?

The AFA staff, our dedicated volunteers, and the Board are continuing to understand and address the current needs of our profession based on our current landscape.  I welcome conversation about areas of growth that you have identified for our profession and how the Association can best support that development.

Career Center

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