Historical and philosophical foundations in student services

After reading about the historical and philosophical foundations in student services (in Lecture 1A –see below), discuss how three of Marron’s (2013) leadership skills (Heart, Perseverence, and Talent) are important to the future of student affairs. Be sure to support your position with references to the historic leadership suggested in the readings. Your paper should not exceed two pages and does not have to be formatted in APA style.

Lecture 1A

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Historical and Philosophical Foundations of Student Services in Higher Education

Student services and student affairs are uniquely American creations in higher education. In the beginning was the term in loco parentis signifying that the entire staff of early American colleges were to act in the place of the parent when it came to students. This model evolved from the English residential system of the seventeenth century. It accentuated the intellectual, social, moral and spiritual maturity of the students assigned to the care of the college.

Having little exposure to the developments in higher education throughout the world, America followed the English model as new colleges emerged and took shape. Interesting in the development of higher education in early America was the limited emphasis placed on intellectualism as was found in German universities. Believing that preparation was a significant requirement to be successful in higher education, early American educators did not think students were adequately prepared for the rigors of the German model. Eventually this concept broke down and colleges and universities began to abandon the paternalistic model and embrace a more academic focus leading to a rich and varied extracurricular life for students. Thus, student personnel services were born.

The incredible growth of higher education in the United States and the corresponding enrollment explosion paved the way for the expansion of student personnel services as an answer to the ever-increasing complexities of colleges and universities. By 1890, Harvard had named the first student personnel dean and higher education saw this expand into deans of men and women and ultimately into what we now call the dean of students. In our text, Coomes and Gerda (2016, p. 3) suggest that “Today’s student affairs professionals walk in the footsteps of women and men who, for more than 100 years, have loved learning so much that they dedicated their lives to colleges and universities and to their students.”

Many historians of student services and student affairs believe the defining document of the profession was the Student Personnel Point of View (ACE, 1937). Bringing together a group of leading professionals in this emerging field, the American Council on Education (ACE) examined the extracurricular programs and activities that were gaining popularity as student personnel services. Seeking to clarify this emerging field, the authors of this document explored the relationship of these extracurricular activities to the academic programs and services being offered. Historically, the model on college campuses was that student personnel staff served faculty and the academic mission of the institution to ensure students were prepared for the coursework. This document began to change that point of view as it highlighted a new philosophy whereby colleges and universities were obligated to consider all aspects of the student – intellectual capacity and achievement, emotional disposition, physical condition, social relationships, vocational aptitude and skills, and moral and religious values. No longer was student personnel services to be relegated to second class; instead, it became a significant part of the responsibility of everyone at the college.

Despite this emerging status, there remained some confusion as to a single functional focus of those dedicated to supporting students. Defining this profession was a challenge because “professionals in this field have historically performed a wide variety of distinct, uncoordinated, and quite specific roles” (Fenske, 2016, p. 28). In a search for full professional identity, there remained disparate services instead of a cohesive collection of programs. Even today, while the umbrella of student affairs looms wide and large in higher education, many of the services remain uniquely separate and siloed. However, the field continued to evolve and develop an increased focus on educating the whole person in partnership with others on campus. Even though most student services professionals accepted their role as complementary but distinct from the academic function, the shared focus on the whole student led to growth in the field and theories that began to define the student experience.

Evolving from the early years of student personnel services came the concept of student development and the theories that began to define the student experience. There are at least four families of developmental theories that may be of use for student affairs professionals: psychosocial theory, cognitive-structural theory, person-environment interaction theory, and typological theory. For the purpose of this class, we will discuss the first two families of theories. Psychosocial theories attempt to describe the development of adults at various points in the life span. These stages are built upon the biological and psychological changes occurring within individuals and the environmental, cultural, and social norms for a given age range. One of the most recognized and widely used psychosocial theory is Chickering’s Theory of Identity Development. Cognitive-structural theories attempt to describe the development of how adults make sense or meaning of our experiences in the world. It explores how people perceive, organize and reason within the various domains of our experience. One of the most recognized cognitive-structural theories is Perry’s Theory of Intellectual and Ethical Development.

Most recently, we have seen a full evolution from the student personnel days whereby student affairs and academic affairs are full partners in the student learning experience. As allies of the mission of our institutions, student services and student affairs staff have become full partners in the educational experience. Having reached a place in the academy whereby our programs, services and academic research articulates nicely the role of student development, student affairs is not just a nice-to-have concept but the foundation of all we do in higher education – facilitating the cognitive development and educational achievement of students.

References and Additional Resources

American Council on Education. (1937, June). The student personnel point of view. Retrieved from https://www.naspa.org/images/uploads/main/Student_Personnel_Point_of_View_1937.pdf

Coomes, M. D., & Gerda, J. J. (2016). “A long and honorable history:” Student affairs in the United States. In G. S. McClellan & J. Stringer (Eds.), The handbook of student affairs administration (4th ed.), pp. 3-23. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Fenske, R. H. (1989). Historical foundations of student services. In U. Delworth & G. R. Hanson (Eds.), Student services: A handbook for the profession (2nd ed.), pp. 5-24. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Fenske, R. H. (1989). Evolution of the student services profession. In U. Delworth & G. R. Hanson (Eds.), Student services: A handbook for the profession (2nd ed.), pp. 25-56. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Patton, L. D., Renn, K. A., Guido, F. M., & Quaye, S. J. (2016). Student development in college: Theory, research and practice (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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