For the last nine months, I’ve asked a lot of questions.
For our Division of Student Affairs, I develop a monthly professional development newsletter. Since our October 2012 edition, one of the recurring columns are to highlight stories of “workplace engagement and professional development”. I interview someone each month and ask them three basic questions: what does it look like to be successful in your job? Why do you value professional development? What are the approaches you are currently taking to professional development.? I have also conducted interviews with staff here at the University of Memphis who I identify having a high level of confidence and competence in each of the ACPA/NASPA Core Competencies. I featured these interviews in the February 2013 newsletter. From these 16 interviews since October, I have heard three common themes about how our staff demonstrates commitment to good work and professional development.
1. Good work requires one to go the extra mile and engage others in a shared goal.
2. Professional development is important because it helps us to be better in our work. It has personal benefits as well but ultimately the commitment we give to learning and improving in student affairs is because we want to be better facilitators of student success.
3. People engage in a range of professional development activities. Conversations with colleagues, serving on campus committees, and reading articles about specific competencies they wish to develop was as important as attending a conference. Additionally, such approaches are more sustainable and can have more frequent benefits.
These findings aren’t surprising to me. In my dissertation I identified professional development was a value of graduate students entering student affairs. Others such as Darby Roberts, Stan Carpenter and Steve Janosik have also explained some of these approaches to professional development. So, why does this matter when it’s already been established?
It matters because it happens here. It matters because my colleagues are committed. It matters because a place I love to work has an ethos of being better. I may have just reinforced the obvious, but it wasn’t “known” here. It’s important that we continue to ask the questions about what good work looks like and why and how we prioritize professional development. When we do that, we create a culture of being better. That’s an environment in which I really enjoy spending my time.