Shared Grounds: Exploring Our Identity

Submitted by Sam Holtshouser, Commuter Student Services Coordinator ~ As we begin the new semester, I would like to bring us back to the beginning of the academic year when we explored our identity in many capacities for our first Shared Grounds event. Andrea’ Alexander and myself had the pleasure of hosting many engaged student affairs professionals as we dove into conversations about pride, perceptions and relationships. There are many great insights that arose from the below questions.

What are the perceptions of UAA Students Affairs to outside individuals, groups and the community? (Bold font indicates themes raised by two or more groups.)

  • Student-centered: Student Affairs is secondary to the student at the university
  • Student Affairs is about quality
  • Student Affairs is accessible
  • We are respected in the community
  • We are not realistic, we dream big
  • Progressive vs. traditional, there is a disconnect
  • Talented. Excellent Rep. A high level of respect for student affairs
  • We are a great school for veterans
  • We are physically disjointed. Main Campus and the UC
  • People on the street may not know what Student Affairs does. Who? Huh? We need to take   responsibility to be representatives of the university.
  • Misperceptions exist!
  • Headlines shape outside views
  • Success Services
  • Problem Solving
  • UAA Cares
  • Student Services
  • Success and Support
  • Guidance
  • Separation of Academic and Student Affairs with lack of understanding
  • Enthusiasm
  • Forms & Stuff
  • Foundation for Academic Success
  • Partnerships that create success for students
  • Non-teachers/non-faculty
  • Service oriented
  • Supporting the academic side
  • Experts in field

How do these perceptions align with or relate to our core themes within Student Affairs?

  • Student Centeredness
    • Getting students started and keeping them going, speak directly to our students needs
    • It is a life journey not just an educational journey for our students
  • University & Community Partnerships
    • New Student Union – All SA coming together
    • We are Student Affairs
    • We are connected to our community
  • Student, Staff & Faculty Well-being
    • We care for the whole student
  • Student Learning & Success
    • Engagement matters
  • Advance the Profession
    • Nontraditional is the new traditional
    • Our ability to be proactive regarding reporting
    • Solving problems and changing the world

The conversations were rich jumping-off points to continued conversations in future Shared Grounds throughout the semester: exploring how we grow as professionals, appreciate our student diversity and engage in self-care. These topics help shape our identity, our brand as UAA Student Affairs. During this Shared Grounds there were wonderful accolades of how UAA Student Affairs puts our students first, understands the needs of our student population and truly cares about each student’s success at UAA. There were also expressions of a lack of understanding as to what exactly we do as UAA Student Affairs. We asked about perceptions at this Shared Grounds event with the intent to understand our identity from many angles.

After hosting this Shared Grounds and listening to conversations that followed: How can we as UAA Student Affairs better tell our story to others outside of Student Affairs and foster understanding across all levels (to academic affairs, our students, parents, stakeholders, the community, etc.)? What makes you proud to be a Seawolf within UAA Student Affairs (share your pride)!?

Let the conversation continue…

0 comments on “Shared Grounds: Harvesting an Appreciation of Diversity at UAA
  1. This was a great conversation! I am interested in talking more about how we can provide or better raise awareness about staff development opportunities to better understand the meaning of diversity in the Alaska context. I think this would be especially helpful for our Alaska transplants.

  2. Katie Alley says:

    Thank you, Andre, for leading a time of interesting discussion and learning.