Category Archives: NASPA

After September 11, 2001

After September 11, 2001, everyone had a story about where they were, the efforts they made to get home, and what they did to connect with loved ones upon hearing the devastating news about the attacks made on American soil by foreign terrorists. The senseless tragedy was almost beyond comprehension.

After September 11, 2001, I witnessed a NASPA staff that was shaken but not defeated. Although there were a multitude of anxieties, such as fear of being in Washington, DC, doing work on Capitol Hill, taking the Metro to and from work, flying on behalf of NASPA, and even opening mail because of anthrax, staff members adapted and redoubled their efforts in support of student affairs professionals who were needed more than ever on their campuses.

After September 11, 2001, student affairs professionals served as navigators and provided safe harbors for all members of their campus communities. Using their skills of empathy, understanding, and knowledge of crisis intervention, they were the first responders for students, faculty, and staff. They did what they were trained to do and shared strategies with colleagues across the nation on how best to respond to these unprecedented times, and the increased needs of the student and campus community amidst fear, uncertainty, and a range of reactions, including the bizarre and self-destructive.

After September 11, 2001, NASPA leaders looked beyond the tragedies of the day and sought ways, where possible, to reduce risk on campuses and, unfortunately, to prepare for the aftermath of future senseless tragedies.

After September 11, 2001, what did NOT—and never should—go unnoticed is the commitment of student affairs professionals to working with campus communities to create a climate that promotes learning and a sense of security and belonging in the face of adversity.  

Amazing Grace

Patricia Telles-Irving

Dr. Patricia Telles-Irvin assumed her position as vice president for student affairs at Northwestern University in 2011—the same year that she began her term as president of the NASPA Board of Directors. As executive director of NASPA, I was aware of the difficult decisions that she had to make and the many responsibilities that she carried ever-so-thoughtfully and gracefully in both of her leadership positions.

When I think of the year that I spent close to her as a colleague, friend, and confidant, I realize even more in retrospect that she was the epitome of love, kindness, and compassion. She was amazing grace, a gift to the world. I am privileged and honored to have known her and to call her friend.

RIP PTI 2019

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants – Honoring Dr. Bobby Leach


Dr. Bobby Leach
NASPA President

NASPA has a brand new award for equity, diversity, and inclusion, and it is named in honor of Dr. Bobby E. Leach, who served as NASPA’s first African American president (what would today be the board chair) from 1985-1986.

It was my honor to accept the “inaugural” Bobby E. Leach Award this past month at NASPA’s 2017 Annual Conference in San Antonio. Dr. Leach was an extraordinary man who accomplished much in his life. Extremely well educated, he attained an undergraduate degree in mathematics and science by the age of 21, and a Masters Degree and a Ph.D. after also excelling in military service.

His work life included serving as a high school principal for 10 years, associate dean of students at Wofford College from 1970-1973, and dean of students at Southern Methodist University from 1973-1976.

Bobby E. Leach Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Award Recipient Gwen Dungy with NASPA President Kevin Kruger and Board Chair Lori White.

Bobby E. Leach Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Award Recipient Gwen Dungy
with NASPA President Kevin Kruger
and Board Chair Lori White.

In 1978, Dr. Leach was the first Black administrator hired at Florida State University, and the highest ranking African American in the Florida State administration. He served as vice president for student affairs at Florida State until 1988. He passed away much too soon in 1989. In 1991, Florida State University named its new Student Recreation Center in his honor.

Following are brief remarks I made about Dr. Leach at the NASPA 2017 Awards Luncheon when I accepted the award named in his honor:

Reflections on Cool Passion: Challenging Higher Education

NASPA’s latest book Cool Passion: Challenging Higher Education by Arthur Chickering will be available to the public in mid-March.

I just finished reading every line of this extraordinary work. I was hooked by the title even before I began to read. The opening paragraph of the preface is sheer poetry!

Chickering gives us an incredible gift as he shares his personal experiences, values, and beliefs, as well as his professional reflections. It is fitting that he shares a holistic perspective that is in line with his foundational philosophy of student affairs and the premise of promoting learning that lasts.

There is so much in this book that will appeal to a diversity of people who are at different stages of their life and to those who are working with students who are finding their way. For example, the Wesleyan University story will resonate with those who are having a rough beginning. To me, it speaks to having someone believe in you and the power of will. This part of the book says a lot about the influence of every educator on campus, including the deans in the admissions office.

Chickering’s candidness about developing self-esteem as a result of small acknowledgements and recognitions is so important to hear because of late the so-called “self-esteem movement” has put a negative connotation on any efforts to address self-esteem issues with students and colleagues.

As I read about the evolution of Chickering’s thinking about what variables had an impact on students’ learning, I realized that all of the insights that theorists and I have had about teaching and learning were already there in the Goddard educational philosophy. Chickering’s work continues to demonstrate how those insights can be put into action.

I take heart in the fact that though Chickering was never a student affairs professional, in his daily work, his insights have served the profession well. I was never a “student affairs professional” in the strict sense of the term, and I hope my insights have been beneficial to the profession.

The professional reflections Chickering and his colleagues share make this book required reading for graduate programs throughout higher education. What an incredible gift Art Chickering has given to higher education and all educators!

Take a breath and keep doing your good work…

Take a breath and do not feel defensive. When the reporter from The Chronicle of Higher Education called to get my thoughts on the conclusions drawn from the Delta Cost Project’s report on the higher education workforce, I took a breath and did not become defensive. The conclusion of the report is that the big increase in the higher education workforce is attributable in large part to what is labeled “Student Services.” The question is whether the expenses are justifiable or unnecessary bloat.

I told the reporter that if one looked at the numbers under the classifications “Professionals” and “Student Services” and compared the numbers to full-time faculty, one would get the sense that more resources were going toward student services professional staff than to faculty. However, there is a problem with labeling what are student services.

The Lumina-funded study we did at NASPA a couple of years ago about resources expended on student services was a clear demonstration that what is described as student services is all over the place, depending on the college or university. Further, if one reads what is labeled as student services in the Delta Cost study, it’s obvious that student services cannot be aggregated and referenced as one would the classification of “faculty.” The bottom line, though, according to the study, is that “hiring practices favor non-instructional professional positions.”

I assured the reporter that one would be hard-pressed to find a college or university president who would choose to fund student services if there were a choice between the academic program and student services. Upon investigation, one will likely find that increases in student services are related to governmental regulations and avoiding the risks of liability.

The general conclusion from this study adds kindling to the smoldering between academic and student affairs, and I encourage student affairs professionals to not be defensive but to do the job you were hired to do. There is too much work to be done to spend energy justifying your existence or explaining the reality of your work to those who have already prejudged.

Competencies and a Cross-Cultural Perspective

gwen dungy at nissiThe second day of the Institute was divided into two sessions. During the morning session, we reviewed the lessons from the previous day and the goals the participants had for the Institute. Most of the goals not met on the first day were going to be addressed on this day. Our topic was the competency Advising and Helping.  Before giving an overview of the session, participants also shared what they saw as the most pressing concerns their students had. We would plan to use the list of concerns for role playing during the Advising and Helping session.

We learned that some of the participants had had some training in active listening skills, and we asked them to demonstrate some of the skills of active listening for the entire group. During the role play, one person was the student with a concern, one person was the helper, and the third person was the observer. The role play was videotaped and played back for all to see and share in discussing observations related to active listening skills. There was enthusiastic participation, and the exercise seemed to be quite effective.

oscar felixThe afternoon session was the Host Country Session on culture. What began as an information session became a lively discussion among nationals who had different perspectives on traditions and customs. This session is an invaluable part of the NASPA International Student Services Institute, and the only thing we would change about it is where we place it on the schedule. In the future, we will do the Host Country Session earlier in the program in order for non-nationals to have this information as the competencies are reviewed since the competencies were created from a U.S. perspective.

Dr. Oscar Felix, Dr. Courtney Stryker, and I think the participants learned and were satisfied with the Institute. In a cursory review, the evaluations were extremely positive.

NASPA International Student Services Institute

The first day of the NASPA International Student Services Institute (NISSI) was attended by forty participants, ten of which were undergraduate students. The five male and five female undergraduates were an interesting and thought-provoking addition to the Institute. As we student affairs practitioners talked about students, these students were able to interject the student perspective as they were living it.

courtney strykerDr. Courtney Stryker, student affairs administrator at Zayed University, Abu Dhabi, hosted NISSI at Zayed University’s Abu Dhabi campus. Some photos of the convention center where the Institute is being held speak volumes about the AAA facility with so much space and architectural interest. The facility is impressively beautiful, comfortable and quite practically useful.

Zayed UniversityFrom 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Dr. Oscar Felix and I shared a sketch of student development and learning theories. I talked briefly about the evolution of student affairs, the purpose of the publication Learning Reconsidered and how the publication has redefined learning.

oscar felixDr. Felix gave an introduction to various student development theories. Participants were engaged throughout the session and had quite a bit of discussion on Sanford’s challenge and support theory.

It was interesting to see the different perspectives of students and student affairs educators on whether or not students were more challenged than supported. Baxter-Magolda’s theory on self-authorship caused several participants to recall conversations with students who were at the threshold of making the decision to take responsibility for self authorship or sacrifice their own independence for the sake of tradition and family pride.

Tomorrow as we discuss and practice using the basic skills of advising and counseling, we might explore how the helpers would guide a student who is in-between.



Had a really fine dinner and discussions with colleagues last night at an Indian restaurant in a shopping arcade next to the Shangri-La Hotel. Yes, it really does look like it should be called Shangri-La.

After dinner, sleep did not welcome me with open arms. Writers have described the sound of the wind during the night as howling, haunting, or even mournful. As I lay awake last night, because my body has not adjusted to the new time zone, I likened the sound of the wind to an ensemble of wind instruments, especially the flute. The sound was lilting and soothing, and for that, I am grateful.

In just a few hours, Dr. Oscar Felix and I will meet the participants who are attending the first NASPA International Student Services Institute (NISSI) in the United Arab Kingdom (UAE). This NISSI is a collaborative program created by Colorado State University Student Affairs in Higher Education program, Zayed University, and NASPA.

I could not be more excited about the Institute and future possibilities!

Oscar Felix, Colorado State University; Courtney Stryker, Zayed University;  Karla Fraser, American University of Afghanistan, Gwen Dungy, NASPA

Oscar Felix, Colorado State University; Courtney Stryker, Zayed University;  Karla Fraser, American University of Afghanistan, Gwen Dungy, NASPA