In the Filipino school setting, a student affairs office would mean to be an “auxiliary” unit of the campus, an office that provides co-curricular activities for the students. They are there, their existence is acknowledged, but at times they are kept on the sidelines. Adamson University’s latest seminar aims to change these and move towards a more prominent, professional conduct for the student affairs department.
The Office of the Student Affairs (OSA) recently hosted the Student Affairs Seminar-Workshop for AdU and Manila Universities last April 28-30, 2009 at the OZ Audio-Visual Room. Two distinguished speakers from Chicago-based sister school DePaul University conducted the workshop: Prof. James R. Doyle, the Vice President for Student Affairs, and Dr. Peggy Burke, the Assistant Vice President for Student Development.
Prof. Doyle and Dr. Burke both have dedicated years to developing student affairs. Prof. Doyle started his career in 1968 first in Rome and then in Milwaukee, when he accepted the offer to become assistant dean of men at Marquette University. Since then he has served in two more universities before joining DePaul in 1982. At DePaul, Prof. Doyle was at the forefront of transforming the university’s Student Affairs division, with the conversion of their Lincoln Park campus from a commuter to a residential campus as one of his crowning achievements. His ability to stay attuned to students’ need led to the university becoming enabled to answer to whatever they may need: from creating NCAA-certified athletics programs and facilities, establishing seven residence halls, to creating programs enriching the lives of freshmen and multicultural/minoritystudents.
Like Prof. Doyle, Dr. Burke also fell into the job of getting involved in student affairs. An active student leader during her college days, she was also offered a job at DePaul (her actual alma mater) by a former mentor who knew she was a good candidate for a position in one of the student affairs’ departments. Since then Dr. Burke has reached out to international students, accommodated the needs of differently-abled, redesigned their unique Greek Student Affairs Office resulting in increased activity by the Greek-letter fraternities and sororities, and became responsible for the Student Leadership Institute which enhances leadership development opportunities to their undergrads, among other achievements.
They bring their expertise to the country to help Adamson and the participating institutions the chance to reform and professionalize their own student affairs office. To professionalize student affairs is key to revitalizing the service being given, the two American educators believe.
The three-day workshop was actually divided into two parts: a one-and-a-half day seminar for AdU offices involved in giving student services and a one day seminar for other invited institutions on April 29. The workshop has set two goals: to explore the foundations of student affairs work, by learning its history, evolution, and theories involved in creating services for students; and to explore the principles of student affairs work by looking at the principles of student affairs practice and that of the Filipino student affairs setting. Prof. Doyle and Dr. Burke began by giving a history of how the student affairs profession began in the United States, which has been prompted by the shifts and changes in higher education as prompted by events of the times. A strong emphasis was also placed on theories of student development, learning, welfare, and discipline, as well as organizational models, administration, and principles, which will enable SA professionals with the right tools on how to fully understand their students’ needs and how to respond to them in the most effective and professional manner.
The workshop facilitators also placed the topics in the local context by delving into how student affairs has developed and practiced in the country. Touching on local practices and observing guidelines given by the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) and leading Filipino experts, the participants are given the chance to put the theories and principles of their American counterparts and apply them into what works for Filipino schools.
The workshop was also a highly interactive activity. Participants were given time to look into their existing practices and take into consideration what students really need and how to respond given their resources. The result was an eye-opening revelation, with offices and schools acknowledging the need for greater, more open communication and discovering even more ways of enriching the student experience.
Prof. Doyle and Dr. Burke believe that professionalizing the service given by student affairs departments will help strengthen them to become a big part of students’ whole development. Prof. Doyle sees student affairs practitioners as having three roles: “I think our role is to be educators, service providers, and advocates for students. Our role in the university in student affairs…is to support the academic mission so we recognize the importance of academic work…But our role [also] is to bring a set of values, to help bring the institutional values to the growth and development of students [through] the co-curricular programs that we manage. We ask students to get involved in student organizations, we encourage students to think about important ethical and moral issues, we help them develop as leaders, and to be successful not only in college but also in terms of being able to get jobs and be influential in their jobs.” He also calls SA practitioners as “professional educators” who can be relied upon as experts since they have knowledge of issues that maybe faculty or administrators may not know about.
Dr. Burke further attests to this: “…If we’re contributing to student learning then we needed to be professional, we needed to have standards and competencies.”
With fresh, new insight on hand, it is hoped that AdU’s student affairs department as well as that of the other participating schools can solidify their status as the office that rounds up student development, making them complete, fulfilled individuals on top of becoming excellent students. -Yael Esperat