Higher Education & Student Affairs

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The Importance of Complex Thinking in Student Affairs

I worked as a higher education/student affairs administrator for 8 years before becoming a full-time faculty member. And even now, I find myself in administrative roles (I direct both our graduate program in Higher Education & Student Affairs and our undergraduate minor in leadership studies).

I love teaching. I love to teach more than I love to do anything else. And you know what I love to teach more than anything else?

How to think differently.

But it’s more than just thinking differently. It’s thinking better. And by better I mean, more complexly.

I want to complicate the thinking of my students.

Today’s institutions of higher education are more complex than ever. Experience is not enough for administrators to do their job well. Too many student affairs administrators are doing the same things they have always done because it allows them to survive. I want the future leaders of higher education to not just survive, but thrive! It is for this reason that I am so passionate about teaching students theory and teaching them how to apply such theory in practice. Once you know how to think about problems (or better yet, multiple ways of thinking about problems), you open yourself up to a world of complex solutions to match complex problems. Experience is important, because complex thinking takes practice. But experience alone, experience without intentional reflection and the purposeful application of theory, is nothing more than occupying a position and taking home a paycheck.

Our students deserve more than that. Our students deserve the brightest, most reflective, most passionate, most caring student affairs professionals. It is only through such fine, complicated thinkers that there will be hope for solving the complicated problems facing our colleges today.

This is the relationship I have with my students. I help them to think with more sophistication and reflection, and they help me do the same. If at the end of each semester we are all a little further down that road, then I am ready to call that class one in which education truly occurred.

Will you join me in this quest of developing true scholar-practitioners?

Rishi Sriram, Ph.D., Assistant professor & Program coordinator, Higher Education & Student Affairs

rishi_sriram • November 5, 2012

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