The conference theme “Inspiring Communities of Wellbeing” invites us to embrace grander possibilities individually and within community. Our co-location NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation reminds us of the many professionals on campus who share, with student affairs, the principles of wellbeing and personal development. In this spirit of partnership, community, and wellbeing, the ACPA Convention in Las Vegas asks the larger questions: How do we connect to the communities we touch in our work? How do we contribute to the wellbeing of these communities? Four critical issues undergird these questions and inform our program curriculum. These issues were developed with the intention of advancing our scholarship and practice and challenging us to live our theories, to engage our resistance, and advance our conversations.
The 2013 ACPA Convention Team identified four critical issues for the Las Vegas Convention. Program planners are encouraged to develop sessions that further participants’ skills and knowledge in these areas. Additionally, we encourage presenters to consider ACPA/NASPA Professional Competencies (PDF) when developing proposals.
The American College Health Association (ACHA, 2011) identified the 10 most common health and wellness-related issues that impede students’ academic performance demonstrating a critical link between student wellness and academic achievement (University of Minnesota, 2008). These findings re-enforce the shared responsibility across organizational units in higher education for purposefully promoting student health and wellness.
The purpose of health promotion on college campuses is to support student learning. As students thrive in other areas of their lives, they can then focus on academic achievement and campus involvement (ACHA, 2005). Striving toward wellness is an on-going process and college campuses should be at the forefront of creating leaders in wellness for ourselves, our communities, and our nation.
In what ways do we systematically and explicitly support student health and wellness? To what extent to we relegate health and wellness as a responsibility of specific units on campus and in doing so compartmentalize students’ development in these areas? Important ideas and questions to consider:
Institutions of higher education provide an opportunity for students to engage around a wide array of compelling issues from political thought and academic ideas to issues of diversity and difference. The lessons learned from this context offer long lasting implications for how students engage with others in their personal and professional communities after graduation.
Fostering civility represents a necessary, incremental step in the purposeful development of knowledge and skills associated with competency in engaging across difference. Critical Theories (e.g., Critical Race Theories, Critical Disability Theory), Queer Theory, and Feminist Theory all provide an even more complex lens through which to extend notions of civility by unpacking issues of power and hegemony. These frameworks require a more sophisticated approach developmentally, but also serve as a powerful tool through which to engage students and colleagues in critical reflection and discourse. Preskill and Brookfield (2009) suggest that at the heart of this is the exploration of “how power is distributed, how it moves around a community, organization, or movement, and the degree to which it is used responsibly or abused” (p. 42). They go even further and suggest that the treatment of hegemony through a critical lens must be concerned with how individuals and groups “internalize ideas, beliefs, and values they regard as commonsense, good for their interests, and broadly supported- and then realize how these ideas, beliefs, and values are subtly destroying them” (p. 42). A movement from reflection and dialogue to critical reflection and discourse, then, necessitates a developmental shift for both educators and students alike.
How do we move students along a developmental continuum from demonstrating basic civility to using a critical lens to unpack the complex issues of power and privilege? To what extent do we apply a critical lens to our own lives, work, and relationships as educators? These broad questions have application in a variety of domains in higher education and student affairs. For example:
Scholarship informing student affairs practice increasingly emphasizes the critical importance of intersectionality and the dynamic ways in which social identities (e.g., race, gender, sexual orientation, ability status, socio-economic status, religious affiliation) influence one another. Dill and Zambrana (2009) identify four core dimensions to intersectionality:
(1) Placing the lived experiences and struggles of people of color and other marginalized groups as a starting point for the development of theory; (2) Exploring the complexities not only of individual identities but also group identity, recognizing that variations within groups are often ignored and essentialized; (3) Unveiling the ways interconnected domains of power organize and structure inequality and oppression; and (4) Promoting social justice and social change by linking research and practice to create a holistic approach to the eradication of disparities and to changing social and higher education institutions. (p. 5)
Movement away from dissecting people into discrete identities reflects our deeply held commitment to holistic education. As an educational framework, intersectionality offers a powerful tool that ‘helps us understand the multidimensional ways people experience life- how people see themselves and how they are treated by others” (Dill, McLaughlin, & Nieves, 2007, p. 630).
How do we consider what intersectionality looks like in our work with students and one another? To what extent do we pair acknowledgement of multiple identities with attempts to promote social justice? How do we acknowledge the simultaneous need to address unique social identities while also offering opportunities for exploration of multiple identities? These questions elicit a number of concerns for specific functional areas. For example:
The institutional landscape in higher education is rapidly changing. First and foremost, our curricular and co-curricular lenses continue to become more finely tuned to purposeful outcomes and sustained life-long learning. Second, our rich and diverse international student populations continue to grow, as do the number of university centers and institutes all over the world. Third, the speed of technological advancement is transforming everything from platforms and pedagogies to definitions of community and peer engagement.
The above trends interact with one another leading to a variety of significant philosophical questions as well as functional challenges. They also create rich opportunities to alter educational paradigms. How do we ensure that our institutions are effectively navigating these transformations, even as we are embedded within the change? Unpacking the implications of this question must occur at both the institutional level as well as within our specific student affairs roles. For example:
American College Health Association. (2011). National college health assessment: Spring 2011 reference group executive summary. Retrieved from http://www.acha-ncha.org/docs/ACHA-NCHA-II_ReferenceGroup_ExecutiveSummary_Spring2011.pdf
American College Health Association. (2005). Standards of practice for health promotion in higher education. Retrieved from here
Dill, B. T., McLaughlin, A. E., & Nieves, A. D. (2007). Future directions of feminist research: Intersectionality. In S. N. Hesse-Biber (Ed.), Handbook of feminist research (pp. 629-637). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Dill, B. T., & Zambrana, R. E. (2009). Emerging intersections: Race, class, and gender in theory, policy, and practice. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Preskill, S., & Brookfield, S. D. (2009). Learning as a way of leading: Lessons from the struggle for social justice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
University of Minnesota (2008, October 21). Grades in college directly linked to health-related behaviors. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com¬/releases/2008/10/081021120925.htm
ACPA - College Student Educators International actively promotes and recognizes principles of fairness, equity, and social justice in relation to, and across intersections of race, age, color, faith, religion, ancestry, national origin, citizenship, sex, sexual orientation, social class, economic class, ethnicity, gender identity/expression, and all other identities represented among our diverse membership.
By appreciating the importance of inclusion, we acknowledge that the collective and individual talents, skills, and perspectives of members, constituent groups, and partners foster a culture of belonging, collaborative practice, innovation, and mutual respect. ACPA seeks to empower and engage professionals, scholars, and partners in actions that productively contribute to accomplishing the goals of our association.