For Careers in Student Affairs month and my contributions to The Defectors series, this month I’m writing a series of posts exploring the future of the higher education administration in light of the emerging futures of education and work. Last week I shared the notion of the Networked University, which suggests administrative infrastructure that connects several universities centrally rather than working for one specific institution, to provoke thinking about the implications for student affairs professionals in that model (click here to read my introductory post if you haven’t already). And while it’s presented as a future state, there are reasonable elements of the proposed “Network University” that very much exist today.
In fact, the diversity and breadth of functions of the Outsourced University continues to grow. Given the evolution of online education, advising, and coaching, you can enroll, coach, advise, train, or teach students without working at any one particular University. With the evolving role that technologies and services are continuing to play on behalf of Universities, you might even be focusing your work on degree wayfinding or acceleration for students. And stepping outside of the campus itself to support and inform Universities you can use those grad school writing and presentation skills to research best practices (like here, here, and here), partner on strategic planning initiatives, or design new offerings. Depending on your role, background, skill set, and relationship with these focus areas, you might even do several at the same time.
That said, recognizing the new reality of the education landscape (with decreasing full-time enrollments and more and more students opting to take courses online), despite the introduction of technology competency in student affairs programs, this practical need that might also be met with a changing landscape of where education administrators go to work.
Peloton University, for instance, is an in-person campus that doesn’t offer degrees, but rather, advising and coaching services and a physical space to pursue an affordable, career-oriented degree. It’s built for learners who are looking for a community of academic support, mentoring, and coaching, but without the broad array of functional areas beyond academic and student support. As more institutions ‘go where students are,’ I believe this will be an emerging delivery model with implications for how student affairs administrators go to work.
Coding Bootcamps, like the one I worked at, are among a new and emerging set of college “college-alternatives” that are establishing a new and evolving model of higher education institutions that are short, punctuated across a career, and workforce-driven. In my role as a campus director, I supported students from admissions to job placement in their engagement with the DC campus, providing student support across an array of student support services: admissions, enrollment management, advising, academic support, campus life, skill and leadership development, and career services. In this new and emerging model, there are endless ways in which student affairs professional might marry an interest in student support and integrate the broad range of skill sets developed in student affairs preparation programs.
In similar fashion, as Universities services and support structures expand beyond the physical campus and therefore to a wider audience of learners, higher education professionals must expand and reposition their toolkit and knowledge to address the new realities of the learning environment and students, which in some cases mean considering roles that are no longer “on campus.”
I believe that preparation of the next wave of higher education pros is preparation for the future of work more generally; one that is impacted by changing job responsibilities because of automation, evolves with and considers the democratizing of learning and unbundling of the University’s programs, offerings, and services, while also aligning its’ offerings for the realities of the evolving population of learners to prepare them for the workforce.
A few implications begin to emerge in this future state:
- Purely ‘administrative’ aspects (that is, routine, predictable work like reporting) will become less a part of the role of the job description of student affairs professionals in light of automation
- Student affairs pros as we know them today may work directly for a single University less and less, or at least less frequently on a traditional campus in light of organizations serving a network of Universities centrally
- Professionals might be prepared in a wider array of “preparation” programs, deferring formal pursuit of an advanced degree by gaining certifications in specific specialty areas that reflect deep knowledge in areas like coaching, counseling, or curriculum development set in the context of the needs of the new and emerging learner profile.
With the necessity facing student affairs programs to prepare graduate students for the realities of their graduates’ job prospects in light of the “unbundled” university, how might the skills that graduate programs address in their curriculum continue to evolve and adapt?
I’d love to hear what’s on your mind. Share your reactions in the comments below!