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Future of Student Affairs: Our Process

The goal of “The Future of Student Affairs” is to develop a collective vision for the division’s work.  The mission of Student Affairs was crafted with input from the entire division. An executive leadership group (composed of the Vice Provost and Associate Vice Provosts for Student Affairs and Jenn Calvert, Associate Dean of Residential Education) spearheaded the creation of a Leadership Cabinet.  Four staff Working Groups have each been charged with focusing on one of the following: Communications, Collective Student Response, Optimization of Resources, and Staff Experience. Phase Two of the strategic-action process will be devoted to engaging faculty, exploring development opportunities and transition planning. 
Our process is addressing the following:
  • Mission and Vision:  The first priority of the process was to develop a comprehensive and commonly understood mission statement.
  • Leadership Infrastructure:  Student Affairs has approximately 300 employees and only eight leaders with responsibilities that span the division.  The leadership team sought to build a more robust and division-wide leadership infrastructure.
  • Communications Strategy:  A key challenge for Student Affairs is now to evaluate and improve the division’s communication strategies with students, the campus community, and across the division.
  • Collective Student Response Strategy: While Student Affairs is expert in providing support and response structures for individual students in crisis, mechanisms to respond to “groups” of students are needed in today’s world.
  • Optimization of Resources:  Student Affairs needs to undertake an intentional examination of how to optimize the division’s resources by looking across the division as a whole.
  • Staff Experience: Staff retention and ensuring equity across the diversity of staff in Student Affairs were identified as two areas of significant importance. 
  • Faculty Integration: Faculty are integrated with many student affairs areas, and the leadership team articulated the need to envision additional meaningful opportunities to connect faculty with the mission of Student Affairs.
  • Development Opportunities:  Student Affairs aspires to developing a strategic plan for partnering with the Office of Development to further student learning outside of the classroom.

Work on the Student Affairs strategic vision has been informed by a number of university-wide initiatives, including Stanford’s staff survey and the Administrative Planning Executive Committee (APEx).  Planning work included background briefings completed in advance of the arrival of President Marc Tessier-Lavigne addressing key student issues of diversity and inclusion, activism, trust and communication, and mental health and well-being. These issues not only have an impact on the work of the university in general and Stanford’s Student Affairs professionals in particular, they also permeate the national and international discourse in higher education.
Student Affairs also is engaged in a space-utilization study, which will inform planning for future student meeting, gathering and social locations. The next phase of strategic work will focus on fundraising and development strategies and enhanced collaboration with faculty colleagues.

Starting the Process:  Setting Priorities and Developing a Timeline (Fall 2015-Winter 2016)

Beginning in the fall term of 2015, the executive leadership in Student Affairs (composed of the Vice Provost, Associate Vice Provosts and Associate Dean of Residential Education Jenn Calvert who facilitated the process) identified and sequenced eight major priorities to be addressed in the Future of Student Affairs (FOSA) initiative: 


The planning process began as the university was preparing for transition at the President and Provostial level, and as the Executive Team in Student Affairs was experiencing a 50 percent turnover in leadership. The team stressed that the planning process would require a transparent, inclusive and division-wide approach.  The group developed a timeline and began to communicate with the Student Affairs staff about the strategic-action process.

Phase One - Mission/Vision, New Leadership Infrastructure and Working Groups  (Spring 2016 – Spring 2017)

Year One focused on the foundation of the strategic-action process – developing a new mission/vision statement and communicating broadly throughout the division.  Leadership and Working Groups were formed and began their work together.

Our updated Mission Statement was created as a result of this division-wide work, with the help of the Executive team and the newly-created Leadership Cabinet.

Leadership Cabinet

In order to build and develop the divisional leadership capacities identified by the executive team, the division created a Student Affairs Leadership Cabinet. This group was designed to become a team capable of overseeing the day to day work of the division, facilitating the development of divisional policy and addressing major project work that is cross-divisional. The group played a significant role in crafting the mission of the division, is underway with crafting a flexible work policy, and helps to lead the divisional working groups below.  The Cabinet meets on a regular basis and has convened sub-groups to work on particular areas of focus and interest.  To ensure that the Leadership Cabinet has access to relevant resources and opportunities including coaching, courses and site visits to peer institutions, the division created a professional development program for Cabinet members, tailored to their needs as emerging divisional leaders. 

Working Groups

The division also, in this period, developed four working groups drawn from the staff of Student Affairs, to focus on the four strategic priorities of Communications, Staff Experience, Optimizing Resources and Collective Student Response.  The goal of these groups has been to bring broad and representative staff participation to the issues of highest priority to Student Affairs.  The groups were provided charges developed by the Executive team, with a target completion date of summer 2017.

Phase One Achievements - Communication and Implementation (Summer 2017)

The Future of Student Affairs effort will be piloting, communicating and implementing a number of achievements developed by the Leadership Cabinet and Working Groups throughout the summer of 2017.   More information will be available on these initiatives in the coming months.  They include:

  • Devising a new flexible work policy – to be piloted June 2017 – December 2017 (Developed by a subcommittee of the Leadership Cabinet)
  • Creating a vibrant first year experience for our staff, with a new welcome video and first year training modules – to be piloted in summer 2017 ( Developed by the Optimizing Resources Working Group)
  • Piloting communications materials and suggestions for Student Affairs Forums and Staff meetings – to be completed in summer 2017; (Developed by the Communications Working Group)
  • Administering a Self-Assessment Survey to better inform ourselves about our workplace climate – to be completed in spring/summer 2017  (Developed by the Staff Experience Working Group)
  • Articulating communication strategies for groups of students and care for first responders – to be completed in summer 2017 (Developed by the Collective Student Response Working Group)

Additional projects have been inspired by the work above and are being undertaken by the Student Affairs Central Administration.  The division will be updated about these projects in summer/fall 2017 as well.

  • Space Utilization study – including updated thoughts about new Student Center needs
  • Salary equity study – being developed by the Budget Group, University Human Resources and Student Affairs Administration
  • Participation in the University long-range planning process – from across Student Affairs and from the Associate Vice Provost team

Phase Two – Engaging Faculty and Exploring Development Opportunities, Transition Planning - Fall 2017

As the first phase achievements are becoming clear, the Executive Team will being work on the next two priority areas of the Future of Student Affairs  work – engaging faculty and exploring development opportunities. The division will engage these issue areas in the context of another transition – the retirement of Vice Provost Greg Boardman.  The test of any strong plan is its ability to pivot, and so the Future of Student Affairs plan is preparing  for this reality.  Fall 2017 will be a time of continued engagement in the plan, in preparation for a new Vice Provost of Student Affairs.