Student Affairs Initiatives

At the 2017 Educators Retreat, over 60 Southern Miss student affairs professionals met to discuss a coordinated division-wide and departmental efforts to advance this strategic plan. The main focus of the DSA strategic plan in the first year (i.e., 2017-18) is summed up by this overall goal: we will aggressively support a culture of student learning and academic success.

In response to this charge, all departments in the division are responding to four goals in the 2017-18 academic year to be documented in each department’s respective University unit assessment report.

  • Review selected departmental practices, policies, and/or recurring programs to identify student and or staff time-saving opportunities.
  • Identify and carry out opportunities to better support a culture of learning and academic success.
  • Initiate a plan to enhance departmental support of meaningful contribution to students’ knowledge, ability, and attitudes within the department’s sphere of influence.
  • Improve and/or contribute to accessible students’ knowledge, ability, and/or attitudes on one or more of the selected Student Affairs Learning Priorities.


A Culture of Learning and Academic Success

The heart of the Division’s strategic plan involves culture building.  Experiential learning theorists such as John Dewey, David Kolb and many others recognize the benefit of a social environment that is not only conducive for learning but encourages learning. Thus, student affairs staff members, and frontline educators, in particular, are challenged to create and support such an environment.  For example, in conversations known as “Cultivations” and inspired by Iowa GROW® (link), students employed in the operational aspect of the Student Union now expect their professional staff supervisor to speak with them regularly about their courses and how content in those courses might relate to their work.  Using ideas like these, as well as those identified through the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE; link to .pdf), more programs like this will be developed on an ongoing basis.


Learning Priorities

As part of this strategic plan, the Division has situated itself alongside leaders in the field by organizing the many experiential learning experiences students frequently encounter when engaged in a student affairs context. Through these experiences, frontline educators in student affairs will advance and maximize student learning opportunities in their sphere of influence.  While the scope of what a student may learn in these contexts is broad, practitioners selected and will focus on four Learning Priorities: Wellness, Leadership, Teamwork, and Problem Solving.


VALUE Rubrics

With the desire of better recapturing the dream and benefits of a liberal education, the American Association of Colleges & Universities commissioned the LEAD initiative (link), which identified Essential Learning Outcomes (link) and operationalized these desired outcomes through detailed and scrutinized VALUE Rubrics (link) enabling objective assessment of a student's genuine work.  Two of the established Learning Priorities—Teamwork and Problem Solving—have such a corresponding rubric, which will be used to coordinate curriculum, provide important feedback to students, and measure development.


If you have any questions about the Division’s strategic plan or initiatives described herein, please contact the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs at 601-266-5020.