Blogpost: NASPA 2013: Beyond Boundaries

By Kyle Southern

Two weeks ago, my colleague from the National Forum, Kim Reyes, and Dr. Cassie Barnhardt—a graduate of the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education here at Michigan, former National Forum team member, and current assistant professor at the University of Iowa—joined me at the annual conference of NASPA – student affairs administrators in higher education.  The conference’s theme, Bold without Boundaries, served as an inspiration for higher education student affairs professionals to support all of the students on their respective campuses.  Each student on every campus deserves the opportunity to benefit from a full collegiate experience—whatever that happens to mean at his or her institution.

The conference theme complemented the work of the National Forum to broaden opportunities for deserving students nationwide.  Dr. Barnhardt, Kim, and I presented an overview of the National Forum’s prior and emerging work focusing on educational opportunities for undocumented students.  As Congress moves forward with comprehensive immigration reform proposals, the intersection of immigration and higher education policy represents a pressing area of concern for campus leaders.

Regardless of political opinions about issues as complicated as familial ties and citizenship, student affairs professionals who are active in NASPA share a common commitment to the success of each student they encounter.  The presentation we brought from the National Forum sought to broaden understanding of the policy environments within which campuses make decisions about how to encourage and support undocumented students pursuing postsecondary educational opportunities.

In addition to sharing our work on state policies regarding the availability of educational access and in-state tuition benefits for undocumented students, we presented a case study of how one small liberal arts college took up the cause of ensuring an undocumented student could benefit from participating in laboratory research to enrich her experience.

This case study of a dean of students recognizing the responsibility of student affairs professionals to support their students provided one basis for developing the uLEAD Network.  Dr. Barnhardt, Kim, and I previewed uLEAD for session attendees at NASPA, and more information will soon be available on this website.  The uLEAD Network will be a dynamic resource for institutional leaders who are confronting complex issues of campus diversity.  Information for leaders on campuses will help facilitate dialogue and increased understanding, and increased understanding will help encourage action to support deserving students.

By taking this approach, uLEAD represents a new step in the National Forum’s continuing effort to promote higher education’s role in expanding the opportunities of democracy—in other words, to equip campus leaders with the resources they need to take bold action and build bridges across boundaries to students fulfilling their potential.

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