9 Clever Ways #SApros are Collaborating with Academic Affairs Around the Country

It’s no secret that professionals in student affairs and academic affairs often have different perspectives, priorities, and cultures even while seeking to uphold mutual values and missions established by the institution.

However, studies have repeatedly shown that collaboration between the two departments improves the holistic student experience and produces greater outcomes for the institution.

So, I searched for great partnerships and initiatives happening around the country that might inspire you to strengthen the bond between academic and student affairs on your campus.

Here are some of the top tips that you can learn from such collaborations. 

1. Bring workshops into the classroom

When mental health counselors and academic advisors at Monroe Community College noticed a stark drop in student walk-ins and workshop participation, they decided to bring their workshops to the classroom. The WINS program (AKA Workshops Initiated towards Needs of Students) enabled the student affairs staff to reach a greater number of students in single settings. Sessions were held in classrooms when a professor knew in advance that they would not be able to attend a specific class time. Workshops included topics on time management, test anxiety, career exploration, and more. 

2. Build academic-service learning opportunities

Academic and student affairs staff at Purdue University have teamed up every semester since 1995 to facilitate EPICS (Engineering Projects In Community Service), a service-learning program that empowers students to address human, community, and environmental needs locally and around the world. 

Participants have created a multi-line braille eReader, among other projects, and alumni are encouraged to assist with mentoring and critiques.

Other academic-service learning opportunities you could bring to your campus include:

  • Service-based projects and internships for academic credit, such as building habitats for local endangered wildlife
  • Service trips that interweave course concepts, including setting up a vaccination clinic in underserved communities
  • Researching social and humanistic problems then taking action, such as assisting a professor with gathering data on voting rates
  • Advocating for causes via writing to students’ representatives, canvassing on campus, and creating flyers

3. Start a faculty and staff-student mentoring program

A 2018 Strada-Gallup alumni survey found that among graduates who had a mentor who encouraged the student’s goals and dreams, 64% of those mentors were professors.

You can get inspired by this fact and create a faculty and staff mentorship program for first-year students. At the University of Oklahoma, mentor/mentee pairs are matched based on academic interests, veteran status, gender, ethnicity, or state/country of origin.

4. Coordinate seamless student services

Instructors may be the first line of support for students who are struggling and are not sure of whom else to turn to. Yet, some faculty may be unsure of best practices in referring students to a counseling center, accessibility services, the campus food pantry, or other follow-up services.

So, you should seek to create seamless transitions from academic to student support services. This can be done by training faculty on how to refer students to services related to physical or mental health, classroom accessibility, financial aid, food insecurity, and more.

The University of Southern Maine communicated this advice excellently through its counseling resource guide, which outlines different scenarios that staff and faculty might face with students in crisis. 

5. Share career exploration offerings

A recent survey showed that students who feel supported in connecting their post-secondary education to a career are more likely to say that college is worth its cost.

The University of Central Florida has been working on a groundbreaking pilot faculty and career services collaboration project. The p program involved professors mentoring students in their desired career search, helping students practice using desired field language, and advising students on skills articulation. Employers had reported that many UCF students struggle in each of these areas.

6. Support diversity and inclusion programs

Academic and student affairs partnerships are vital for cross-campus change. And that fact is perhaps especially true for diversity and inclusion efforts. 

Campus-wide endeavors can include adding diversity and inclusion curriculum to courses, revamping the institution’s values and mission statement, and expanding the funding and availability of student support services.

The University of California Berkeley has several faculty diversity initiatives aimed at  engaging, inspiring, and supporting faculty. This includes 11 research centers in which students, staff, and faculty collaborate on research related to race, gender, sexuality, and other social identities.

7. Share Summer Bridge responsibilities

The Access Summer Bridge program at Norfolk State University was developed to support underperforming high school students transitioning to college. Academic and student affairs staff work together to help students acclimate to campus life, improve study stills, and connect with staff and other students.

Norfolk Summer Bridge Program participants are nearly 15% more likely to persist through to their second year at the institution at Norfolk than their peers.

Topics you could cover during summer bridge that blend academic and student affairs skills include:

  • Time management
  • Writing professional emails
  • Finding tutoring, accessibility services, academic advising, and other campus resources
  • Navigating learning management systems
  • Common academic terminology (High Point University has a great glossary)
  • Study habits

8. Invite faculty to interact with and lead living-learning communities

The University of Connecticut has several academic-focused living-learning communities, including the Women in Math, Science & Engineering LLC which “provides ongoing support for female undergraduate students in STEM majors.”

The learning community is led by a faculty member and features unique academic and social opportunities —  such as lectures, research, and special first-year experience sections — within a residential environment.

You can invite faculty to connect with students who are passionate about that faculty member’s research and personal interests. This could go beyond the students within living-learning communities to include clubs and organizations.

9. Facilitate first-year experiences courses

The common goal of many first-year experience courses is to help students navigate academic expectations, build connections with staff and students, and start to find their niche communities on campus.

Allegheny College turned their first-year experience into a first- and second-year experiential learning program, which students can opt into continuing with through their third and fourth year. The program focuses on critical skills that students can use in the classroom and in their post-grad careers.

All of these ideas emphasize shared responsibility for building an engaged student community. They can set the stage for future ideas and commitment to bridging the gaps between academic and student affairs.

Interested in learning more about how you can break down silos on your campus? Check out 5 Pervasive Myths About Academic Advising that SA Pros Can Help Bust.

What awesome academic and student affairs have you started on your campus? Connect with us on Twitter @themoderncampus.

Corinna Kraemer

About the author: Corinna Kraemer (she/her) works in ed tech and loves painting, running, and hanging out with her cat, Mr. K. She hopes her posts will finally help her dad understand what her career in student affairs is all about. Learn how we can help get your students involved.