Jennifer Joslin, LGBTA Concerns Commission Chair
Imagine a college or university in which students feel that no matter which staff member, advisor, or professor they approach, they have an equal chance of being assisted, nurtured or challenged -- no matter the issue, no matter the question. At this institution, the academic mission and the professional commitment to student welfare meshes seamlessly and is embraced by staff, faculty, and administrators. Here it is clear that everyone shares in the responsibility of the institution’s mission and reaps the involvement and engagement that results. Imagine an institution where shared responsibilities means academic and professional opportunities for students, staff, and faculty exist in abundance.
Where this description matches the institution’s mission, then many students, including lesbian, gay, transgender and queer-identified and allied (LGBTQA) students, receive the support and services they need to thrive as students, individuals, and citizens. If this is your campus, you know that shared goals and shared efforts create a crucible from which a different educational experience is possible for all students, including those who, on other campuses, might be the least involved and engaged.
On these inclusive campuses, the following is true:
- Advisors are committed to ongoing diversity and educational programming that expands their comfort zones, challenges their stereotypes, encourages advocacy, and rewards cultural competency. Advisors are up-to-date on the histories of different campus populations and move fluidly in the nuances of those communities as they work with different students. Advisors frequently refer interested students to majors and programs that appeal to diverse populations and advocate for students when their life-experiences are not given voice in curricular development.
- Advising offices and administratorssupport the integration of educational research into daily “best practices” and reward advisors who stretch themselves by implementing innovative programming. Electronic and print materials represent advisors and the larger academic community truthfully – a place where all students thrive in a respectful and engaging atmosphere. Advising administrators support Safe Zone programs, NACADA, and other professional development opportunities, as well as campus programming that benefits and nurtures advising professionals.
- Institutional leaders and decision-makersadvocate for mission, vision, and non-discrimination statements that touch all members of the community such as students living with disabilities, LGBTQA students, and underrepresented minorities. The infrastructure of this campus supports fair and equitable practice in health care and benefits coverage. Individuals on this campus respond emphatically to hate crimes and mobilize campus-wide in response to their eruption. Leaders on this campus seek out and promote “best practices” in all areas of community life in order to better serve students, staff, and faculty.
But what if this is not your campus? How do you get there? How do you create the university or college where you have always wanted to work? At the University of Iowa, we are in the midst of reaccreditation and the air is alive with the talk of “learning outcomes” and “measurable goals.” Certainly, one of the many outcomes of the reaccreditation process will be reflection and recommitment to core values. As part of this process, our advising office will face directives from central administration; directives that will guide our next few years.
One step that we have taken in our office to meet the university-wide mandate is to create an Action Plan. The Action Plan encompasses our goals and dreams but also makes “best practice” a daily reality. An Action Plan is vital when goals are as complex as improving understanding of diversity and culturally competent practice. Action Plans account for short-term steps – Is our office environment welcoming to different campus communities? – to long-term practice – incorporating annual diversity programming into the advisor development program.
In February, NACADA will offer a Webinar that ties together diversity programming on LGBTQA issues and the opportunity to develop a concrete action plan for advisors and advising offices. Casey Self, NACADA Vice-President, and I will present an informative session for advisors and administrators that not only dispels stereotypes and myths about LGBTQA issues but offers tips for assessing current strategies for working with this population. Participants will be able to develop and submit an Action Plan for improving their work with LGBTQA students.
Imagine a campus where everyone understands that we share the larger responsibility for being good stewards to our community. Imagine a campus-wide understanding that in being knowledgeable, informed, responsible, and resourceful, we can see the future as one filled with opportunities. Ongoing programming, such as the LGBTQA Webinar and programming offered year-round at NACADA Regional and Annual Conferences, offers us an opportunity to learn, to understand more about one another, to connect, to share, and to become passionate about that of which we knew nothing a moment earlier. NACADA President Jennifer Bloom and Vice-President Casey Self have written about “paying it forward” as the theme they want to emphasize this year. In much the same way, our responsibilities and service to our community today will create amazing opportunities for all of us tomorrow. We will, over time, create the campus where we have always wanted to work.
Senior Associate Director
Academic Advising Center
The University of Iowa
Cite this article using APA style as: Joslin, J. (2007, December). Shared responsibilities,shared opportunities. Academic Advising Today, 30(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]