I’m very excited to share my next adventure. Beginning tomorrow, I will be the Student Experience Specialist for Noodle Partners. Noodle Partners is an organization that works with universities to bring programs online in alignment with university goals. My role will be to prepare universities for the aspects of the student experience outside of their coursework — everything from orientation and career services to disability accommodation and career counseling and even to understanding and creating “campus culture” for students participating online.
The reality is that more students are attending classes entirely online and even more are blending their class modality, taking some courses online and some face-to-face. Where does that leave the student affairs (aka “out of class”) experience? How can we use the body of research in our profession, including student development theory, to build agile, dynamic, and responsive online services and environments? I will work with student affairs divisions to retain their mission of serving and supporting student success and educating the whole student while using innovative solutions to get there.
I am eager to work with a team of individuals who have varied backgrounds and come together to create high-quality, evidence- and outcomes-based online learning experiences. I very excited to have Melora Sundt as my supervisor; I have wanted to work more closely with this brilliant woman since the moment I met her, (she was a course coordinator of the doctoral leadership course I taught at USC) and I am now fortunate to hold a position that she created. The Noodle Partner website says the following about the team: “We think and argue about the future and are committed to creating great educational opportunities for all students. Together, we can build something extraordinary.” I am ready to be a part of this team!
Some might be surprised by this change, but over 20 years ago I joined the field of student affairs to make an impact on the lives of others, like my mentors had done for me and to improve the educational system to provide greater access and opportunity for all. That was my “why” and my passion and still is. Early on, I defined my identity by titles, divisions, and even types of institutions (for instance, when I was a graduate student I was certain I would retire as a Director of Housing). The reality is that the organizational structures that exist today were built for a different time and different student population. I foresee that in coming years the lines between university divisions will begin to blur as the inside and outside of the classroom will become the same place for online learners.
Over the years, especially since having children- which revealed new aspects of my identity and gave me a better understanding my strengths, I have come to realize that I must be open to new possibilities while staying guided by my “why.” I have learned that to be effective at supporting the needs of online students, I need to be agile, build expertise beyond “traditional” student affairs roles, and embrace the potential value of technology for supporting students while defining that which is most valuable to occur in person. I think we, as student affairs educators, need to move beyond seeing ourselves as leaders in student affairs, but rather higher education leaders.
I have also learned that I must go where I am being led, find opportunities that engage my strengths, and satisfy my “why.” This landed me in two different divisions of the university (academic affairs and information technology), and now I find myself in this current position that effectively draws upon my student affairs, technology, and teaching expertise to help create the future of education.
Meanwhile… I’m not out of the classroom completely… couldn’t do that! I’m excited to continue teaching future student affairs educators by serving as an adjunct faculty member for the M.S.Ed. in Student Affairs Administration at University of Wisconsin La Crosse