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Preparing Higher Education’s Future Leaders

Lewis & Clark launches a new master’s degree program in student affairs administration.

Anna Gonzalez, dean of student life in the College of Arts and Sciences, notes strong interest in the new program both regionally and nationally.Anna Gonzalez, dean of student life in the College of Arts and Sciences, notes strong interest in the new program both regionally and nationally.

In the coming decades, the demographics of students attending America’s colleges and universities will change dramatically. According to the Pew Research Center, more students will be Hispanic or Asian, with their respective populations nearly tripling in size in the next 40 years, while only 47 percent of the population will be white. Meanwhile, the international student population is also expected to increase, with the number of students in the world studying outside their home country rising by more than 30 percent in the next 10 years, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

As a result, colleges must change to reflect this growing diversity and globalization. On the front lines will be professionals in the field of student affairs administration—those who work in areas such as multicultural student affairs, student activities, career services, academic advising, international support services, and residential life. Along with faculty, these key staff positions will be engaged most closely with this shifting campus reality.

To help prepare these higher education professionals, Lewis & Clark is launching a new master’s degree program in student affairs administration this fall that will be focused on social justice and equality. The program will be housed in the Graduate School of Education and Counseling but will touch student life in all three of Lewis & Clark’s schools.

“Breaking down barriers to access and providing the support needed for success in higher education is what student affairs administration is—or should be—about,” says Scott Fletcher, dean of the Graduate School of Education and Counseling and director of the new program. “Lewis & Clark is going to make a significant contribution to that effort.”

Scott Fletcher, dean of the Graduate School of Education and Counseling, is the program's director.Scott Fletcher, dean of the Graduate School of Education and Counseling, is the program's director.

A Growing Field

Last year, Fletcher and Anna Gonzalez, dean of student life in the College of Arts and Sciences, began discussing the idea for an M.A. in student affairs administration. They knew a serious need existed and noted that job placement rates for graduates of top programs in the Western region hovered near 95 percent. “All over the Northwest, we’ve been seeing a tremendous demand, with applicants to existing programs far outnumbering available space,” says Gonzalez. In addition, they felt that the Portland area provided a particularly rich living-learning laboratory for such a program since it offers a varied array of colleges, universities, and community colleges. As they surveyed this landscape, Fletcher and Gonzalez saw opportunity for Lewis & Clark.

The natural home for such a program, they felt, was in the Graduate School of Education and Counseling. “The graduate school is deeply committed to preparing professionals in education and counseling who will make a difference in the world through their service to others,” says Fletcher. “Our commitment to equity, diversity, and social justice is a cornerstone of this work.” It was a natural step, says Fletcher, to build on these core values to create the new master’s degree program in student affairs.

Rather than focusing on student affairs as “customer service,” Lewis & Clark is focusing on the ways that learning and development occur beyond the classroom.

In addition, the program will have a unique social justice angle. “There are currently few graduate programs that have this social justice angle, and many of the professionals currently working in the field without an advanced degree have a strong interest in this focus area,” says Gonzalez. Graduates of the program will enter the higher education arena with the tools to create open, inclusive, and democratic communities that are responsive to changing student populations.

  • Program Details

    • Total credit hours: 39 semester hours.
    • Program length: Four-semester and six-semester options. Classes scheduled in the evening and on weekends to accommodate working professionals.
    • Practicum: Placed in an office on one of Lewis & Clark’s three campuses. 150 hours, 10 hours per week in both spring semesters.
    • Graduate assistantships: Available, 20 hours per week.
    • Program start date: September (July 15 or August 1 for those with assistantships).
    • Next application deadline: February 15, 2015.
    • No tests required for admission.

Program Structure

Lewis & Clark’s program is based on a practitioner-scholar model. In their coursework, students will engage with topics such as student development and leadership, organizational management, legal issues, professional ethics, assessment, and advising. They will then apply this knowledge in supervised practica located in offices on all three Lewis & Clark campuses—and eventually in other schools around Portland. Each student will graduate with a portfolio of work summarizing his or her learning outcomes and goals for the future.

In addition to Fletcher and Gonzalez, the program’s founding faculty will include Mark Figueroa, associate provost for institutional research and planning; David Ellis, vice president, secretary, and general counsel of the college; and Mollie Galloway, assistant professor of educational leadership. All are actively involved in student affairs and leadership in varied capacities. “One of the real joys of developing and launching the program has been working with my Lewis & Clark colleagues across the institution,” says Fletcher. “These are individuals who have national reputations in their respective fields.”

A Promising Future

In the early years of the program, Lewis & Clark plans to keep the initial cohort sizes small—most likely around 8 to 10 students. However, the faculty is confident that the program will grow over time. “Our admissions process has been open just a few months, and we are already talking with numerous applicants from across the country,” says Fletcher.

Everyone associated with the program is excited about its potential—both for Lewis & Clark and for those who enroll. “This program will help integrate the graduate school, the undergraduate college, and the law school,” says Gonzalez. “And in the process, we’ll be educating a new generation of higher ed leaders who will be modeling the transformative power of education.”

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