The Developing Professional

 

Sub-Competencies for Competency #5:

    1. Define professional development needs and interests for continued growth including opportunities for future contributions to the body of knowledge
    2. Identify one’s professional values and ethics
    3. Describe how one’s own world view impacts values and assumptions when working with others
    4. Establish a commitment to engage in ongoing inquiry throughout one’s career or articulate the value/appreciation of ongoing inquiry and engagement

 

Introduction

The world around us will always be changing and higher education is continuously evolving with the changing world. Continuous growth is critical and something I take seriously. Personal development and education is a lifelong pursuit, it has no end point and requires a commitment of constant inquiry and engagement. While I do not see myself pursuing a doctoral degree currently, I believe there are plenty of other opportunities that will assist in my efforts to continue my education regarding higher education, social justice, student affairs, diversity, etc. I am committed to ongoing education and professional development so I can continue to check my own biases when considering assumptions, best help students in the ways I know how, and provide improvements within departments for which I work.

 

Professional Values & Ethics

I view myself as a work in progress. Sometimes I discount the life and work experiences I have brought with me into the program. There have been moments when I believe that I lack foundational knowledge in a particular subject area, so I have not tried to take risks or voice my opinion in meetings. I have felt nervous about taking ownership over projects if I thought a supervisor would veto the idea, or if I did not feel like I had enough knowledge to lead the project. When I doubt myself, I am being unfair by not realizing my full potential. I have a lot to offer, and I need to be comfortable with that. My experience in the CSSA program over the past three years has given me more confidence in my knowledge of higher education and put more trust in my work and educational experiences. In the future, I plan on continuing to think about who I am as a leader, my leadership style, being my own advocate for my ideas and finding my voice to share my thoughts and perspective.

As part of my leadership journey, I think it is important to examine the personal values I hold as a student affair professional. In ‘Organization and Administration of College Student Services’ (CSSA 558), we learned that the most successful organizations were those that had clear mission and vision statements a clear set of values. Having clear mission, vision and value statements makes it clear to employees what they are about and sets the direction for where they are headed. Similarly, to be successful as a student affairs professional and as a leader, it is key to understand what drives our work. The work in CSSA 558 prompted me to think more intentionally about which personal values I hold as a student affairs professional, which I briefly outlined in my leadership and supervising philosophy statements (Artifact H and Artifact N). These values include:

  • Personal Growth – In order to grow, I believe I need to accept my own weaknesses and mistakes and be aware of the improvement that can be made. This is a value that I often communicate and stress to others, so it is important to me that I am an example and continue to seek opportunities for growth, by examining my own identity, thoughts, and shortcomings.
  • Loyalty – Being loyal to the institution I work for, to the colleagues I work with and the students I am serving is essential. I take representing those groups seriously and I will refrain from being seen as disgraceful in any form of communication. 
  • Diversity and Inclusion – Diversity drives transformation which is important to me as a professional. I respect and seek out the inclusion of differences as I can learn from others. I celebrate multiple approaches and points of view in situations.
  • Collaboration – I value teamwork and partnerships in career setting. I believe creating collaborations within higher education helps units flourish and there are benefits to these partnerships.
  • Accountability – Holding myself accountable to the mistakes I make has significant value and importance to me. Learning from these moments will continue to shape who I am as a professional.

Ethics is commonly defined as a set of principles that guide moral behavior and involves personal values, organizational contexts, and community norms (Holzweiss & Parrott, 2017). Ethical decision making protects others from harm and ensures a higher quality of professional performance. Professionals start developing competencies in ethics in graduate preparation programs as well as experience (Holzweiss & Parrott, 2017). Through the CSSA program, I have had the opportunity to increase awareness of my own personal values and beliefs during several assignments ‘Programs and Functions in College Student Services’ (CSSA 551) (Artifact P), CSSA 557 (Artifact O), CSSA 558 (Artifact H and Artifact N) and ‘Academic Advising’ (CSSA 599) (Artifact G). Self-authorship describes the process by which individuals learn to rely on personal values and beliefs to make life decisions (Holzweiss & Parrott, 2017). Identifying my personal values as a student affairs professional is important, as it will guide the work I am involved in for years to come, such as if I am looking for a new job does the unit I am applying within have similar values as myself? These values define myself as a professional, so I need to let them guide the work I am doing when supporting students and remind myself as to why they are important to me. I plan on revisiting my personal practices on an annual basis, to be more aware of when and how competencies in ethics are used in work environments.

 

Professional Development

During the ‘Professional Development in College Student Services’ class (CSSA 557), we focused on self-assessment, goal setting, professional growth and professional ethics as a student affairs practitioner. We developed personal goals for development during a reflective practice assignment and those that I wrote down two years ago still apply to what I am hoping to accomplish (Artifact O).

Professional Development Goals:

  • Finding a mentor – I have learned those who have been in the field of student affairs have so much knowledge they can spread to others, and in my experience, they enjoy supporting newer professionals with their professional development by sharing experiences and expertise. Finding a mentor that can provide me with feedback and accountability, who can share their experiences with me, allow space for discussions and bounce ideas off of, and support me in developing appropriate professional goals to become a better professional, will be an important aspect of my ongoing growth as a student affairs professional.
  • Join a professional association – I have yet to apply and become part of a professional organization, but I look forward to exploring associations such as the Council of Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) or the National Association for Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education (NASPA) to find one that will fit my needs and supports my goals. These organizations provide multiple opportunities to increase my knowledge and leadership skills through conferences, training sessions, webinars, and networking with others in similar positions in different universities around the nation.  
  • Participate in the OSU Journey to Leadership program – This program offered by Oregon State University provides a supportive structure to help you discover who you are as a leader, colleague, coworker, and family member. It would allow me to explore my strengths/talents, how to balance work and life, exploring diversity and celebrating the discoveries I have made. This is a well-rounded program that provides a supportive place to work through these topics as I work on becoming a better leader.
  • Continue education through personal development There are endless opportunities to continue my education, such as: personal development books, academic journals, articles, and websites. Since starting the CSSA program, I have been accumulating several books given to me by those who have graduated from the program and/or currently work in the student affairs field, and I also have a running list of book titles that I want to add to my collection as well..

Positions held, number of institutions worked for, expectations of colleagues and mentors, personal needs, professional goals and career interests, all of these things can influence professional development for student affairs practitioners. We must remain aware of our future goals and be able to evaluate our own abilities to determine where our professional development should take us next.  If we do not plan our professional development intentionally, we are likely to find later that we have become dissatisfied with our work environments, job roles and that our personal needs are not being fulfilled (Holzweiss & Parrott, 2017). The professional development goals I have listed out above I believe will benefit me for at least the next few years as I progress through different positions. Each of these professional development objectives allow me to work with other professionals in the same functional area as myself, which I believe will be the most beneficial to me as a newer higher education professional because they can provide feedback on where I need to grow, share their experiences of working in the field and provide support and collaboration.

 

World Views and Assumptions

One of the greatest competencies that I have gained in the CSSA program is the ability to try and see each person as an individual, and not as a group. Our worldviews are shaped by our experiences, beliefs, cultures, learning moments and more, which means no one’s worldview will be the same. Yet, assumption is an unfortunate part of who we are as humans, and we must unlearn the habit of making assumptions about others. It is important to realize the responsibility we all have in trying to balance our own thoughts and assumptions. I believe that if I open lines of communication around me, while working to remove barriers and become more comfortable with talking about views, privilege, and assumptions, I will be able to contribute to changing the world and bringing about social change.

Chimamanda Adichie (2009) warned us that there can be a critical misunderstanding when we make assumptions and reduce stories to a single experience based on what we want to see or hear during her TED Talk titled ‘The Danger of a Single Story’ which I listened to multiple times in different CSSA courses. Knowing the danger of a single sided story and being aware of the misunderstandings it could cause is a sign of tremendous personal growth in my opinion. Personally, if I spend more time on listening and comprehending the story instead of assuming how it ends, I can better understand those I am interacting with. It could lead to less bias and discrimination, a more equal playing field and an understanding that difference among humans is not only to be expected, but to be appreciated. In our stories, we have the ability to not only share our experiences but educate others on those experiences as well.

In addition, we must critically exam the role of privilege and power. We all have privilege in some way or form. Recognizing our privilege is critical if we want to see change in the world; I believe it is important to then educate those around me on how privilege serves to reinforce systemic oppression and talk about what we can change to create a more equitable society. When I consider how I can get better at discussing problematic or uncomfortable topics, I am reminded of Johnson’s (2006) assertion that “…members of some other privileged category will have an easier time of it if they try to tolerate the discomfort.” Like most of us, I have had to go through uncomfortable experiences, but Johnson (2006) is correct, if I am in a position of power/privilege I will get through the discomfort more easily if I embrace this discomfort. A sense of ownership regarding privilege is important to seeking a path towards a solution to bias and oppression. As I mentioned previously, I believe in the power of open lines of communication to address systemic oppression. To achieve open lines of communication, it is important to acknowledge one’s privilege and encourage members of the dominant group to understand that they can be part of the solution by leveraging this privilege to remove barriers that perpetuates systemic oppression.

 

Conclusion

Graduate school can be emotionally, physically, mentally, and socially challenging for students and I do not pretend to be any exception. I have struggled with self-doubt, imposter syndrome, anxiety and depression while enrolled in this program. While I never expected some of these challenges, I gained so much more. The amount of self-growth I have experienced has been exponential. Along with that personal growth, I have been made aware of how resilient and determined I am, which will help me be able to navigate challenges ahead in my life as a professional. There have been moments of struggling with guilt during this program for my privilege, however I have realized that I cannot be ashamed, and I need to recognize my privilege and do what I can to be a part of change in culture and society.

Over the past three years, this program has shown me how much I did not know and was not aware of, and I am grateful for the reminder that improvement never stops no matter how long you have been in a field or how much you think you know. I am currently looking at positions within academic advising, recruiting, and student support services. I am most attracted to positions that would allow me to work with current or incoming students directly with an emphasis on first year students.  It is my intention to never get complacent and continue learning throughout my career in higher education. I want to remain engaged and be a contributor within the field as to not end up on the sidelines. Working to remain engaged will happen through my own personal inquiry while encouraging those I work with to do the same and staying informed on issues/topics connected to higher education and social justice. Lastly, as a professional I aim to accept work communities for what they are, but foster a communicative environment where people are shown respect for one another and can honor their own values, beliefs, identities, and more.

 


 

Resources:

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi (July 2009). The Danger of a Single Story Retrieved from: https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story

Holzweiss, P., & Parrott, K. (2017). Careers in student affairs: A holistic guide to professional development in higher education. Washington, DC: National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.

Johnson, A. G. (2006). Privilege, power, and difference (2nd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

Artifacts: