In Fall 2017, Susie Brubaker-Cole succeeded Greg Boardman as vice provost for Student Affairs. Under Susie’s leadership, Student Affairs began the process of building upon Greg's successful “Future of Student Affairs” groundwork to develop priorities for the next three to five years. Called “Our Most Important Work,” this effort was designed to be highly interactive and action-based. Here are updates on some of our initiatives.
Our Process and Statement of Work
In developing the “Our Most Important Work” priorities, we heard from other Stanford community and educational leaders, including Harry J. Elam, Jr., senior vice provost for education, Jane Shaw, then dean for religious life, Patricia Gumport, then vice provost for graduate education, and others. We also analyzed data from recent student surveys and demographic studies; worked with Stanford's Office of Institutional Research & Decision Support to understand that research; and reviewed recent student presentations on the most important issues facing the student community. We then intensively discussed and culled the ideas that surfaced.
As we engaged in this process, we realized that our priority focus was on five key areas, which align with the mission statement we had developed in the “Future of Student Affairs.”
Equity and Inclusion
- Our Goal - Design experiences and systems to ensure that students have equitable access to opportunity. Engage students, faculty and staff in critical thinking and practice around identity, diversity and inclusiveness.
- Our Challenge -Students, particularly those from historically underserved populations and graduate students, indicate to us that they often do not experience equitable access to opportunities and that they encounter systems and attitudes that isolate, exclude and marginalize.
Community and Belonging
- Our Goal -Foster experiences, relationships and environments to ensure that every student feels a firm and abiding sense of belonging and contributes to the good of our community.
- Our Challenge -Surveys suggest that many students feel a lack of belonging within the Stanford community. Undergraduates’ satisfaction with the climate for racial and ethnic minorities on campus has steadily declined over the last several years.
Mental Health and Well-Being
- Our Goal - Develop and strengthen the foundational conditions that support students to be engaged, powerful learners.
- Our Challenge -Many undergraduates enter Stanford with low or vulnerable mental health and well-being. This worsens at Stanford and a sense of feeling overwhelmed is particularly pronounced for our first-generation college students.
- Our Goal -Enhance opportunities for students to engage in purposeful learning that is mutually enhancing with the classroom.
- Our Challenge -There is unrealized potential to connect the realms of learning and development across domains of Stanford’s educational landscape. Integrated learning currently occurs too often through chance rather than through intention and careful design.
House in Order
- Our Goal - Ensure that each department in Student Affairs embodies excellence in its core functions.
- Our Challenge - Given the pace of Student Affairs’ dedicated student-focused work, it can be difficult to focus on core administrative functions, such as policies, protocols, budgets, management practices and organizational design.
In our next phases, we looked to people across the division to take collective responsibility for including these priorities in their work. Our belief is that there will be core practices, defined by evidence of success at Stanford and nationally, that we will all need to engage in to improve and advance student learning and the student experience at Stanford. Through alignment of practices across the division, we can create collective impact and a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts.