The field of education is constantly shifting, and student affairs graduate programs—sometimes referred to as student development graduate programs—may help professionals respond to those shifts. More specifically, graduate programs in this area may help professionals pursue positions in advising, counseling, management, administration, and other areas through which they can respond to students and administrations’ needs. Those needs—academic, personal, professional, and social from the perspective of the student affairs professional—may shift regularly as education’s politics, and structures shift. Professionals in this field may need to be prepared to respond to them. Student Affairs Graduate Programs helps professionals gain the tools and capacities they need to do so.
What is Student Affairs?
Student affairs is the collective of people and departments that create programming and provide services that promote student growth and development. Some areas of student affairs include advising, counseling, management, and administration. Within those areas are departments (typically) such as admissions, financial aid, counseling centers, advising centers, student activities, residence life, advocacy and support services, and developmental learning services. These are just some of the many areas and departments that may be housed in student affairs.
Student affairs is typically designed to serve students while providing programming and services consistent with the mission of the school for which they work. Professionals in the field may have their eyes on providing support that promotes students’ intellectual, social, emotional, and even spiritual or psychological growth and development on campus and beyond. They often strive to create a campus experience—both for the individual and collective—that is inclusive, safe, and allows for effective education both in and out of the classroom. They may also manage the administrative components of the students’ experience (financial aid, admissions, and records, for example) that, when handled smoothly, promote student success.
Professionals who have a graduate certificate or degree in student affairs often work as leaders or supervisors in the field (though not always) and may act as leaders, educators, trainers, counselors, advisors, planners, program developers, researchers, conflict negotiators, and in numerous other capacities. They often focus on social justice, effective communication, sound policy, and action that supports and promotes student success.