Academic and student affairs partnerships are critical to student success. However, many barriers exist that prevent academic and student affairs professionals from partnering together. These barriers can be categorized into structural and cultural barriers (Kezar, 2003). Structural barriers include organizational fragmentation, division of labor, and specialization among faculty. Cultural barriers include lack of common purpose or language, few shared values, and cultural differences in terms of personality styles. Our Teaching and Learning Conversation focused on identifying ways to breakthrough these barriers and create successful partnerships between academic and student affairs that can positively impact student success.
Often times a paradigm exists between academic and student affairs professionals, creating a divide between the two areas. Faculty see their role as attending to students’ intellectual development, while student affairs professionals view their roles as focusing on students’ social and emotional development. This paradigm results in a division between professionals, competition for resources, misunderstanding, mistrust, informal partnerships, and less focus on student success. When we focus on the things we have in common and some key assumptions for our work, we can begin to breakdown these barriers that separate us and bridge the cognitive affective divide. Academic and student affairs staff can agree that the preeminent goal of partnerships is academic success. We are more likely to achieve student success through partnerships that integrate learning both inside and outside the classroom. It is important for us to recognize that learning takes place anywhere there are students, faculty, and staff members interacting.
Bridging the divide between academic and student affairs has many benefits (Peterson, 2015). First, working together can create a seamless connection between in- and out- of-the-classroom learning opportunities. This seamless connection can help students successfully navigate the college environment and learn more from their time at TCU. Next, providing students with co-curricular experiences that enhance and compliment the classroom curriculum leads to richer learning. In addition, both faculty and staff contribute to the holistic support and development of the whole student. Therefore, it is critically important for both to be involved in various aspects of students’ growth and development. Finally, working together results in increased resources and support for students.
Numerous opportunities for collaboration exist at TCU. These include:
- In-class trainings provided by student affairs professionals. The Wellness Center offers a program called Don’t Cancel That Class. If instructors are away for the day or want a complimentary presentation for their course curriculum, the Wellness Center will provide an hour-long presentation that covers a variety of topics that are designed to increase students’ developmental knowledge and skills. The TCU Leadership Center offers StrengthsQuest workshops for classes. These workshops give students and educators the opportunity to develop strengths by building on their greatest talents. This provides students a way to learn how to utilize their strengths in academics, leadership, career, and beyond.
- The Office of Community Engagement provides faculty support in building service-learning into existing courses, developing new courses, or creating community- based research projects. Community Engagement also provides presentations on service-related topics and assistance with service reflection activities.
- The First Year Experience program provides multiple ways for faculty to connect with first-year students. These included serving as a Frog Camp Faculty/Staff Partner, Frogs First Family Dinner Host, or Connections Faculty/ Staff Mentor.
Faculty are the frontline of the student experience, interacting with students multiple times per week. Students will often turn to faculty with concerns or share things happening in their lives. Understanding the developmental needs of students and available campus resources can help faculty members support students. Many resources are available on campus to help students who are struggling or need personal or developmental assistance.
- The Counseling and Mental Health Center has the TCU Helpline. This Helpline has counselors on call 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. In addition, the Counseling
Center provides individual and group counseling, as well as stress-less workshops.
- The Alcohol and Drug Education office provides a recovery peer support group that offers support to students looking for help with substance abuse and addiction problems.
- Religious and Spiritual Life (RSL) at TCU offers pastoral and spiritual care for students to explore the questions and challenges in life. RSL also offers grief and loss support groups for students dealing with loss or the death of a loved one. The RSL office is also home to the TCU Student Emergency Fund, which provides short- term financial assistance to students in catastrophic and emergency situations.
Creating strong partnerships between academic affairs and student affairs helps to strengthen students’ academic experiences. Working together to collaborate and create a shared vision for student success, faculty and student affairs staff members can enhance student learning and positively impact the culture of the institution.
Kezar, A. (2003). Achieving student success: Strategies for creating partnerships between academic and student affairs. NASPA Journal, 41(1), 1-22.
Pedersen, J. (2015). Bridging the gap between student affairs and academic affairs. The Student Affairs Collective, Retrieved from https://studentaffairscollective.org/bridging-gap-student-affairs-academic-affairs/