While new student orientation has been occurring throughout the year in some form or another at many colleges and universities, we generally think of August as the time for orientation. In the past, when I heard the word “orientation,” I would think of students who recently graduated from high school and were entering college for the first time. Clearly, this is outdated thinking because of the demographics of our students today, especially in regard to increasing numbers of adult learners.
I, now, also think of orientation programs not only for students, but for their parents because, more than a decade ago, parents of Millennials forced colleges and universities to consider them as part of the package.
And, it is probably-last century thinking to imagine new student orientation solely as a face-to-face encounter on campus. How many colleges and universities are offering orientation online as a choice for students? More than I would imagine, I’m sure.
August is also a time for professional development programs for faculty and staff. While many of the new student orientation and professional development programs are interesting and helpful, I wonder if there are similar goals for faculty and staff as there are for students, such as where to access resources available on campus and near the campus, activities to help them identify their short- and long-term goals, tips on how to be successful in their work, and expectations as a member of the academic community.
Many professional development programs will focus on specific training in evaluation and assessment, skills for successful use of new technologies, policies on student privacy, and federal mandates regarding campus safety, for example. While all of this information must be shared and learned, there is something missing if professional development programs fail to also address the personally professional needs of all faculty and all staff. I use the term “personally professional” deliberately because what faculty and staff want to achieve in their career is certainly personal.
To me, separating “personal” from “professional” is similar to separating “learning” and “development.” As we have come to accept the integration of learning and development, we should begin to see personal and professional also as two sides to the same coin. A comprehensive professional development program responds to what faculty and staff need for personal fulfillment, and it addresses what faculty and staff must provide to meet the needs of students and the college or university.
I am also a proponent of an integrated professional development model. While some programs are division- and classification-specific because of their nature, faculty and staff from every division and classification should have opportunities to access learning if the particular program meets their personally professional needs. I believe that a campus that models this kind of integration across boundaries for professional development will also create an inclusive climate for students. What is good for students is also good for faculty and staff. An integrated comprehensive model for professional development for all faculty and staff can be attained if leaders of colleges and universities see it as a vehicle to fulfill their vision of how to successfully accomplish their mission and goals.
I am eager to learn about colleges and universities that have what they see as an integrated and comprehensive professional development program that has been evaluated and assessed over time.