Dr. Rishi Sriram, assistant professor and program coordinator in the School of Education’s higher education and student affairs program, recently received a grant from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators to expand his research on job competencies among student affairs professionals. The project, which involves surveying a nationwide sample of practitioners in the field, is based on a pilot survey which Sriram and a student previously developed with funding from the Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Achievement (URSA) small grant program.
Sriram says professional groups in the areas of higher education and student affairs have propogated lists of key competencies for practitioners, but until now, little research has explored the extent to which student affairs professionals actually meet these competencies. He believes a scholarly approach to measuring job competencies is critical to advancing the profession.
“If we talk about competencies but don’t measure them, then we don’t know what we’re good at,” he says. “If we can find out more about our strengths and weaknesses, we can focus our professional development and education to help us serve students better.”
Caroline Clark, a master’s candidate in higher education and student affairs, assisted Sriram in developing the URSA-funded pilot study during her junior year at Baylor and is still involved in the research as a graduate student. Clark, who earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 2012, says the experience of participating in research as an undergraduate helped her recognize the benefits of systematically evaluating the student affairs profession.
“Applying quantitative data to a list of competencies that was developed qualitatively really helped me see the value of research to higher education affairs,” says Clark. “This is a relatively new field, so being involved in this research has shown me ways to help develop and improve the profession.”