4 Questions to Ask Your Student Affairs Staff About Their Roles as Educators

Student Affairs focuses on student learning. As articulated in our founding documents, as reflected in the curricula of our graduate preparation programs, and as represented in our professional associations and conferences, college student learning is the core of our work. And yet, sometimes our roles may not reflect this.

From the first Student Personnel Point of View (American Council on Education, 1937) to Learning Reconsidered 2 (Keeling, 2006), the lineage of authors of the student affairs foundational documents articulated going beyond providing services for students. The thought leaders of the profession wanted to impart an ethic of care (Gilligan, 1977) onto students within a postsecondary community. As our understanding of students’ experiences of vulnerability, exclusion, and danger. When students share these stories, these experiences with us, our response is not: “Wait. Let me write a learning outcome related to your experience.” Most often our response is grounded in care, affection, and problem-solving that extends the work of student learning in those moments.

(ACPA, 2018)

When embarking on a journey of curriculum development, or an enhanced focus on learning objectives and assessment, it is important to reflect on your own role as an educator, whether you fulfill this role, and what helps or hinders you in its pursuit. As you seek to develop more intentional learning efforts on your campus, ask yourself the following questions.

Do you view yourself as an educator?

When you think about your day to day work, do you approach it with the mindset of an educator? Student affairs positions are varied with some involving more operational or administrative-heavy roles. Some involve more close daily work with students while others may work at a distance. Individuals that embrace a curricular approach recognize themselves as educators and contributors to the student learning experience. How do you contribute to student learning?

Are you an educator?

You may think of yourself as an educator, but is that what you actually do in practice? Perhaps you have certain duties in your position that don’t make you feel like an educator but are nevertheless important to support the student learning experience. Are the policies, processes, and procedures you follow designed to enhance student learning?

Are you viewed as an educator by others?

If one were to ask your students, their parents, the faculty on your campus, or other administrators, would they say you are an educator? Do you interact with these audiences in the way an educator might? What are the messages in the marketing put out by your department, division, or institution? How can you help educate others about your role as an educator?

What are the challenges to you fully realizing your role as an educator?

What roadblocks are in the way of you fully realizing your role? Are they within yourself? Within your department? Within your institution? Or perhaps there are boarder societal challenges. If you are committed to being an educator, how can you address these challenges?


Individuals and institutions each have their own unique set of circumstances. Because of this, the curriculum development process will necessarily look different at different institutions. As you embark on this journey, take the time to reflect and gain a deep understanding of your campus culture and context, as well as where you fit into this individually. Remember that curriculum development is as much a process as it is a product.

Reference: ACPA – College Student Educators International. (2018). A bold vision forward: A framework for the strategic imperative for racial justice and decolonization. Washington, DC: Author.

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