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Philosophy for Practice

Shelby Elkins

Loyola University Chicago


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Philosophy for Practice

Student affairs practitioners have the opportunity to create well-rounded individuals that

can take on the issues facing our society today. Our job in this world is ever-evolving, but we do

know that there are various possibilities that can come from our daily work. By having a

philosophy to root our work in, we have something we can base our future endeavors in and

ensure we are on the right path moving forward.

In this paper, I will discuss the three main parts of my philosophy for practice as a student

affairs practitioner. Through my diverse set of experience in student affairs, I have been able to

see what parts of the field I value and think contribute to our field in a progressive manner.

Through my work, I know significant things are possible. My philosophy for practice statement

is as follows:

A student affairs practitioner is an opportunity; it is not just a position, it is not just the

tasks of a job. Being a student affairs practitioner is the opportunity to impact a community,

assist others in their journey, and provide diverse perspectives while creating respectful

dialogue. These three components inspire me to do my work with grace, persistence, and a gritty

heart.

Impacting Communities

When I was an undergraduate Orientation Guide (OG), I had a strong and close

relationship with the director or Recruitment & Orientation, Kate Howard. She became a

mentor to me, and honestly inspired me to dedicate my career and time to this field.

Through her, I was able to see the potential of the field of student affairs, and

wholeheartedly see communities of students impacted by your work. As an OG, I was

able to work with various communities on campus and build relationships for our
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summer programs. I began to see how the impact we make on other communities can

influence the experience our students have while on campus.

Schuh, Jones, & Torres (2017) wrote, “many colleges and universities strive to

offer their students inclusive campus environments where everyone feels welcomed and

accepted” (p. 73). I have found this goal to be part of my philosophy of working towards

an inclusive environment through the ways I impact communities in the field. Through

our daily tasks, we encounter students from all walks of life and have the opportunity to

impact their journey. This is significantly possible through the opportunity of engaging

in leadership development with communities of students (Schuh, et al., 2017). Through

leadership development, there are many ways that we as student affairs practitioners can

grow organizations’ capacities and encourage them to be successful in their tasks. By

being able to create these opportunities in our work, we are fortunate to be able to create

lasting impacts on communities of students that will outlast their college experiences.

Assisting Others

In the field of student affairs, many tasks can seem very labor-some and tedious.

The plus side to this is that the opportunity to assist others and potentially influence their

journey is a priceless chapter of our work. Supervising students and assisting them in

their journey is one of the parts of the field I most look forward to doing full-time.

Although it is exciting, I know it can be challenging (Amey & Reesor, 2015). Amey &

Reesor (2015) describe the opportunity of being a supervisor as acting like an architect

with the students you work with. We have the opportunity to influence their journey and

mold their opportunities on campus, and that is something we must handle with grace and
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not abuse our power. I have personally seen student affairs professionals see themselves

as those who choose the path for their students, and that is not what our job is. We are

merely here to assist them in their journey and provide them the most support we can to

achieve their full potential. We must develop and use structures of support for our

students even if they do not support our success (Amey & Reesor, 2015).

Diverse Perspectives & Respectful Dialogue

Elephants in the room must be confronted, even if they put us in uncomfortable

situations. In the field of student affairs, we often like to challenge uncomfortable

conversations and think of solutions, but often times we avoid them and relish in the

privileges of our educational environments (Magolda & Baxter-Magolda, 2011). A

specific example of this is how many events or conversations in higher education try to

face blatant acts of racism but avoid subtle ways race affects society (Magolda & Baxter-

Magolda, 2011). We must be well intentioned and find ways to provide our diverse

perspectives while engaging in respectful dialogue.

In our field, we have the opportunity to create dialogues, facilitate events around

critical conversations, and engage students and their minds. By using my philosophy for

student affairs practitioners, I believe we can find a balanced way of confronting

uncomfortable situations while also caring grace in our hands. We also must trust that

our students have valuable voices that can hold weight in any conversation. Although it

can be considered a risky proposition, it is a valuable proposition that we must be content

with (Magolda & Baxter-Magolda, 2011).


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When I think of the possibilities of being a student affairs practitioner, my heart

smiles and I get excited for the future. I know we have the power to honestly change the

world and create lasting impacts on our students. By giving them the opportunity to

engage in critical dialogue and hearing diverse perspectives, we are assisting them in

their journey of becoming well rounded individuals. I will use my philosophy statement

as a point for me to revisit and ground myself in my calling to this field.


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References

Amey, M. & Reesor, L. (Eds.) (2015). Beginning your journey: A Guide to new

professionals in student affairs (4th ed.). Washington, DC: NASPA

Magolda, P., & Baxter-Magolda, M. (Eds). (2011). Contested issues in student affairs:

Diverse perspectives and respectful dialogue. Sterling, VA: Stylus

Schuh. J. Jones, S., & Torres, V. (Eds.) (2017). Student services: A Handbook for the profession

(6th ed.) San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass