Three Assumptions that Student Affairs Professionals Should Never Make

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    Angie Lamb
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We have all heard the old adage about what assuming does to you and me. Yet, we continue to make assumptions, almost every day, about students, the campus we work at, our co-workers, and the community we live in. And while some assumptions can be quite valuable and get better with age and experience, others are extremely detrimental and serve no real purpose.  Simply put, there is a time and a place for assumptions.  The trick is learning when to assume and when to walk away so as not to be destructive. There are numerous assumptions that student affairs professionals and higher education administrators should never make. Here are three of them.

1. Never assume that everyone agrees with you.

This sounds like something my mother used to tell me, but I think she was on to something. Just because others are quiet or not voicing their opinion, don’t assume that they agree with you or are hanging on your every word. Sometimes in higher education we get carried away with our agendas, which can leave those around us feeling alienated or unwelcome. Or worse, attacked and unappreciated. Not only does this create barriers, but it’s more difficult to do our jobs. The assumption that everyone is okay with or supports your views is corrosive and is detrimental to positive relationships with students and peers. If the people around you lose trust or respect for you, it will become increasingly difficult to provide meaningful services to students. In addition, these types of assumptions risk loss of resources, friends, and job satisfaction.

2. Never assume that you are done learning.

At some point in our academic or professional careers, most of us were informed that humans are life-long learners. Even as adults there is always something new to learn. But truly, never assume that there isn’t another professional development opportunity lurking around the corner, waiting for the perfect moment to catch your attention.  Whether you participate in a campus workshop, attend a conference or, gasp, start another degree, the very nature of the student affairs profession requires that you continue to seek out learning opportunities. Educate yourself on changes to policies and laws, new ways to support students, or methods of theory to practice that are hot off the press.  Stay informed. Use reputable resources that cover various points of view. Learn new practices and stay hip on the latest buzz words. Never stop learning. Student affairs professionals have put a lot of effort into positioning ourselves as necessary, important campus partners. Don’t lose a seat at the table.

3. Never assume that you can’t do more.

Every day, it seems, we are asked to do more with less. Provide better programming but don’t incur additional costs. Increase retention without bringing on more staff.  Conduct an assessment that doesn’t require extra resources. This can all seem disheartening. But there’s good news! We are a resourceful and resilient bunch. We network and find the things we need. We ask questions or secure means. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. We work hard and play hard. We want nothing more than for our students to be successful. And even when it starts to get difficult, we always find a way to make it work. We have to, our students need us to. And we must assume that they’re right.

Angie Lamb
University of Iowa



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