One of the most significant threats to student success right now is our collective inability to hire and retain key student facing roles in the midst of the Great Resignation. Across institutional type and size, we are all struggling to find and retain talent at this critical level because of how we define, design and support student success work.
Roles that could be virtual are not. Career advancement pathways are unclear or buried in bureaucracy. Mentorship and professional growth are nonexistent or an afterthought for important positions like advising and student support. If we want to attract talent in the 21st century, we need to define and design our work for the 21st century. Student success roles must be purpose filled, steeped in community and belonging, surrounded by mentorship, and able to demonstrate their consistent direct impact. They also may need to be flexible and remote. These are the things people are asking for.
The good news? Examples of purpose driven and impactful work are happening on campuses every day, even in the face of today’s pandemic related constraints. And we aren’t the first sector to grapple with the need to redesign how we work. The bad news? HR is also overwhelmed and does not have the innovation support or capacity to address this challenge on their own.
We can solve this together. While one institution attempts to figure out the 21st century academic advisor position description, another institution may only focus on more clearly defining what professional development plans and career pathways look like in another student success unit. This singular approach to problem solving will not help. We need to pull together for this shared challenge and engage in consistent conversations across institutions and the sector to continuously evaluate, change, and redesign student success positions and how we support them.
I believe the reason people work in higher education is because it changed their life and they want to give back. If we want them to keep paying it forward, we need to take a step back and redesign student facing roles to ensure we meet student needs while also recognizing the humanity of the people we are asking to do the work. And we need to take fundamental responsibility to not just be a place that one is “lucky” to work in; we need to invest in our people to ensure they can thrive and achieve their greatest potential. Now is the time to change the future of higher education. Let’s redefine the work of student success together.
UIA Member Spotlight
In 2018, seven UIA member institutions joined together to innovate around strengthening the college to career pipeline for underserved students on their campus. By the end of the Bridging the Gap from Education to Employment (BGEE) initiative, over 1,947 students were served through 7 career readiness programs, and 33 robust employer-campus partnerships.
One such intervention, the Career Champions Program at Oregon State University, specifically focused on engaging faculty and classroom instructors on incorporating tangible career connections within the classroom for first generation students, students of color, and low-income students. This innovative cross-campus professional development opportunity, which was originally overseen by former UIA Fellow, Brenna Gomez, is run in partnership with the Office of Academic Affairs and the Career Development Office at OSU.
Brenna’s great work continues under her new role as the Director of Career Integration in the Career Development Center, which was a direct outcome of the BGEE initiative. We look forward to seeing how she, along with her OSU colleagues, continue to grow the program beyond the pilot project while advancing diversity, equity and inclusion for all OSU students.
Dr. Claudine McLaren Turner
University of Central Florida
Born in Jamaica and raised in Orlando Florida, Claudine attended her first college at the age of sixteen and struggled to find her way at an undergraduate institution that did not actively reach out to academically talented first-generation students of color. Regarding the complexity of her experience at the intersection of those identities, Claudine states: “I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and I felt dazed and confused. I didn’t understand that I needed help or even what kind of help to seek out.”
The lack of advising resources at her first institution set Claudine on a circuitous and arduous path towards achieving her educational goals, a path she navigated alone over many years, with multiple starts and stops before earning her undergraduate degree at another institution. Many would have given up after such an experience but Claudine’s sense of hope, her devotion to learning, and her determination to contribute to the lives of people in her community and beyond fueled her journey as she eventually completed a master’s degree in applied sociology and a Ph.D. in Education: Higher Education and Policy Studies. Her ambition to create academic and advising support systems for students, her work as an academic advisor, faculty member, and scholar, and her desire to be a change agent at the institutional level stem from both the heartbreak and triumph of the sixteen-year-old youth stepping onto the college lawn, hopes and dreams tucked into her pockets and the powerful woman who is the Claudine of today, the mother of two, whose continual curiosity, wit, and love for others allowed her to navigate an educational support system that was falling to pieces all around her.
Claudine now holds her dreams in her hands. No longer dreams deferred, they are the building blocks by which she is helping to remold the educational landscape into a space that can adequately support first-generation college students and students and faculty of color.
Learn with Us
Teamwork, Completion Grants, and Workforce Readiness from our 2021 Annual Report
How Universities Collaborated for Student Success from our 2021 Annual Report
We know your time is limited. That's why each issue, we'll choose THE BEST things we watched, listened to, or read.
2. Reset: A Leader’s Guide to Work in an Age of Upheaval by Johnny Taylor
3. Drive by Daniel Pink
4. How to Lead the Millennials, podcast episode with Chip Espinoza
5. When Talent quits, don’t be a Jerk by Chris Nickols on Linkedin.
Events to Put on Your Radar
April 4 - 6, 2022: ASU + GSV Summit, San Diego (Deadline to register: April 3, 2022)
June 7 - 8, 2022: Horizons JFF National Summit, New Orleans (Deadline to register: May 6, 2022)
June 26 - 29, 2022: NASPA Conferences on Student Success in Higher Education, Baltimore, MD (Deadline to register early: April 13, 2022)
July 17 - 20, 2022: ASHE Annual Conference, Boston (Deadline to register early: May 5, 2022)
September 12 - 14, 2022: NCAN Conference, Atlanta (Registration information not available)
September 16 - 18, 2022: #RealCollege Annual Convening, Camden, NJ (Deadline to register early for in-person
October 23 - 26, 2022: NACADA Annual Conference, Portland, OR (Deadline to register early: September 8, 2022)
November 6 - 8, 2022: APLU Annual Meeting, Denver, CO (Registration information not available)
"You have to do the little things and the big things well. Sometimes that means mostly coaching, but sometimes that means you have to be a player, too."
- Kristina Johnson, President of The Ohio State University