Last fall the new APCA/NASPA Professional Competencies document was revealed. Our division of student affairs at the University of Memphis has intentionally applied the previous professional competencies through our professional development challenge programs, individualized professional development plans, and our annual Memphis in May Student Affairs Conference. We have even assessed the extent to which our staff felt these competencies to be (1) important and (2) in their skill set. These competencies have helped us to be very intentional in our ongoing search for competence and confidence in student affairs work.
The new document has a few changes within, including combining some previous competency areas (Personal Foundations and Ethics are now combined) and adding new ones (Hello, Technology!). Language has been modified to reflect more modern approaches to student affairs concepts. The new document is friendly for the reader as it aims to help us to understand the bottom line utility of each competency area as well as some of the key changes made within these areas.
The revisions make sense to me. Good job ACPA and NASPA…..
But all of this will not matter if we are not continually intentional in analyzing how these competencies play out in the work we do. None of it will matter and it will just be another association document unless professionals take the time to reflect on the gap between their current skill set and those necessary to do this work.
When I did my dissertation research, one of the factors that participants highlighted as influential in their development of a set of student affairs values was the use of guiding documents: CAS Standards, some of the seminal works of our field such as the Student Personnel Point of View, and association ethics statements were items they mentioned as very influential in directing how they should work and what they should value.
I recently interacted with a participant from my study at a professional conference. When I asked if they had seen the new ACPA/NASPA professional competencies, they had no idea (this person has been “in the field” for almost six years now). Another person in the conversation said “oh yah, I’ve seen those” but explained she had not found the time to review them. And I realized, I hadn’t given them much attention either. I had not been intentional about using the documents that should guide the work I do.
We just had our annual Spring Break Professional Development Challenge at the U of M. Staff is encouraged to come to workshops that will enhance their professional competence. We tie all sessions back to at least one of the ACPA and NASPA professional competencies. It was the first time I had probably uttered the statement “hey we have new competencies to guide our work” since the revisions were released over six months ago. I had even failed to tie this new document back to the work we’re doing here and it’s my job to coordinate and promote professional development in our division.
It has reminded me that the value of guiding documents to professional work is significant. It has reminded me that using these documents needs to be at the forefront of my mind as I create learning experiences with and for students, staff and faculty. It has reminded me that while it is so often overused in our field, being intentional matters in order to ensure we are achieving the goals and objectives of our programs: using these documents means we are creating and conducting programs with intention to achieve what our field has said is important. Moving forward, I commit to incorporating these competencies into my professional development plan in more meaningful and appropriate ways.
Have you reviewed the newest version of the ACPA/NASPA professional competencies? What stands out to you as areas of focus?
What kinds of things do you need to do in order to enhance your competence and confidence within each of these competencies?