Why a master s degree in student affairs
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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