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Why a Master’s Degree in Student Affairs?. Tamara Yakaboski & Saran Donahoo Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Presentation Overview. Topic Origin Student Affairs (SA) graduate students Anecdotal experiences Dated literature on SA choice and motivation Foundational Research

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why a master s degree in student affairs

Why a Master’s Degree in Student Affairs?

Tamara Yakaboski & Saran Donahoo

Southern Illinois University Carbondale

presentation overview
Presentation Overview
  • Topic Origin
    • Student Affairs (SA) graduate students
    • Anecdotal experiences
    • Dated literature on SA choice and motivation
  • Foundational Research
    • Structure and data collection
    • Research results
    • Implications
  • Strategies
    • Moving beyond this case study
    • Improving recruitment and socialization of SA graduate students
topic introduction
Topic Introduction
  • Recruitment, Motivation, and Expectations of Master’s Students
      • Who enters Student Affairs
      • Preparation of New Professionals
      • Socialization into Student Affairs
  • Dated Literature
    • Doctoral student focus
    • Dominant view of Student Affairs
      • A ‘Hidden Profession’
      • Fall into it by accident
      • Undergraduate leadership experience
research design
Research Design
  • Research Questions
    • Why do students choose to pursue a master’s degree in student affairs?
    • What are student’s motivations and expectations for entering a master’s degree in student affairs program?
  • Study Scope
    • Master of Education in Student Affairs degree students
    • 21 students at the beginning of their program

70% graduated from undergrad between 2000-2009

data collection
Data Collection

Open ended questionnaire administered on Survey Monkey

  • 2 surveys administered within first three weeks of first semester and first 3 weeks of second semester
    • First survey
      • Undergraduate goals and experiences
      • Approach and attraction to graduate education
      • Perspective of Student Affairs
    • Second survey
      • Experience of first semester’s introduction to SA
      • Change in perspective of SA
      • Changes in career goals within SA
  • Student narratives from Introduction to Student Affairs seminar on perceptions of student affairs
the undergraduate influence
The Undergraduate Influence
  • Unrelated, specific career goal at the undergraduate level
  • Changes during undergraduate due to:
    • Negative experience in first chosen field:
      • “I no longer wanted to accept the competitve nature of journalism.” - Kappa
    • 40% Decision to attend graduate school
    • Surprise absence of undergraduate academic leadership roles/conferences/work
role of involvement
Role of Involvement
  • 65% attended undergraduate leadership conferences - mostly Greek or general leadership
  • 65% held undergraduate leadership roles - mostly Greek or housing
  • Connection to college environment:
    • 90% On campus work experience, primarily in student affairs offices or departments
influence of sa s profession professionals
Influence of SA’s Profession/Professionals
  • Student Affairs leadership offices/positions
  • Job descriptions required masters in SA
  • Clerical or paraprofessional SA work experience
  • Desire to prevent negative experiences:
      • “I enjoy working with students and I want to make sure my students have an advocate and needed support, where it was lacking for me here.” – Beta  
entering student affairs
Entering Student Affairs
  • Still a “Hidden Profession”
    • Students stumbled into the program
    • Found it by “accident”
  • Ability to pursue more education while working in a supportive environment
    • “I love learning and I wanted to pursue education further.” – Lambda
  • K-12 as a career path to Student Affairs
    • “As a K-12 school counselor I did not feel that my skills matched with that age level. I was volunteering as an advisor to a sorority and realized that my skills fit much better in a college environment.” – Alpha
role models and mentors
Role Models and Mentors
  • Positive interactions and role models
      • “Working with the Vice President of student affairs, the Coordinator of Residence Life, and Student Involvement, I wanted to do the job they were doing, and to affect student’s lives.” – Gamma
      • “Particularly my experiences as an Orientation Leader. I had great mentors who helped me decide it would be a good field for me.” – Sigma
growing the field
Growing the Field
  • Early information about SA careers
      • “I was in a college student affairs group, put together by some hall directors.” – Epsilon
      • “Many of the individuals I went to undergrad with have pursued their Master’s degree in student affairs/college student personnel.” - Mu
  • Desire to impact other students
      • “I wanted to be able to give students the same leadership opportunities that I experienced.” – Nu
undergrad to grad to student affairs transition
Undergrad to Grad to Student Affairs Transition

95% planned to still pursue student affairs

62% have the same career goal that they entered with

Pursuing a PhD or EdD in SA:

underestimation of transitions
Underestimation of Transitions
  • Role change/transition:
    • “My transition into graduate school is the most significant lifestyle transtion I have chosen in many years…the transition from full time worker to full time student is more challenging than I imagined.” – Gamma
  • Academic expectations:
    • “stressful”; “writing expectations”; “theory to practice”
  • Validation
    • SA as a good investment of campus resources
    • Lasting value of SA programs and professionals
    • Impact SA has on students
  • Needs
    • Exposure to the SA Profession not just professionals
    • Marketing what we do and how we came to do it
    • Deliberate recruitment efforts
  • Guiding Questions
    • How do programs identify prospective students?
    • What competencies and experiences do pre-professionals need to enter careers in SA?
    • How do we present graduate programs and SA professions to a wider audience?
thank you


Tamara Yakaboski & Saran Donahoo

[email protected]@siu.edu