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Practical Ideas for Collaboration (between multicultural student services and academic affairs)

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

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Although there is existing literature on student and academic affairs collaborations focusing on systemic and organizational change, it can be challenging to find concrete examples for partnerships, particularly between MSS (multicultural student services) and academic affairs. Therefore, the following section includes practical suggestions for MSS/academic affairs collaborations 



The posting below looks at several opportunities for collaboration between multicultural student services programs and the academic functions of a college or university. It is from Chapter 15, Developing Collaborations With Academic Affairs, by Corinne Maekawa Kodama and Kisa J. Takesue in the book: Multicultural Student Services on Campus: Building Bridges, Re-Visioning Community, Edited by Dafina Lazarus Stewart. Published by Stylus Publishing, LLC 22883 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, Virginia 20166-2102. [] Copyright © 2011 by ACPA, College Student Educators International. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.


Rick Reis

UP NEXT: An Elite University ... From Scratch?



 Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

 ----------------------------------------- 1,693 words ---------------------------------

 Practical Ideas for Collaboration


Although there is existing literature on student and academic affairs collaborations focusing on systemic and organizational change, it can be challenging to find concrete examples for partnerships, particularly between MSS (multicultural student services) and academic affairs. Therefore, the following section includes practical suggestions for MSS/academic affairs collaborations.


On many campuses, research is a priority, because it generates funding dollars, results in publications, and increases the institution's academic prestige. Moreover, hard data speak to academic administrators and faculty in a way that nothing else can, particularly at a research university. Data can be used to educate the campus about students and multicultural issues, gain legitimacy for multicultural initiatives, and lay the groundwork for establishing collaborations with academic affairs.


Many national grants or agencies require a section about diversity in grant proposals as a condition of funding, which is a prime opportunity for multi-cultural programs to partner with academic units. These partnerships could be as simple as providing student data to a principal investigator or could be more collaborative in terms of generating ideas for programs that would meet the conditions of the grant and increase the likelihood of funding.

Multicultural student services can also generate research that might require expertise from academic colleagues. For example, an MSS professional might benefit from input and assistance from faculty on a research project. Not only could this partnership raise awareness and visibility, but it also might give an MSS unit access to additional resources (e.g., research databases, statistical programs) and assistance in data analysis.

Inside the Classroom

The most obvious area for academic affairs collaborations is within the classroom. Research has demonstrated the positive impact of diversity courses or related content on students' openness to diverse ideas (Milem et al., 2005; Pascalrella & Terenzini, 2005). Reaching students in the classroom is particularly important for campuses with a large number of commuter or nontraditional-age students who are not as engaged outside their classes (Kuh, Gonyea, & Palmer, 2001). This is highlighted by National Survey of Student Engagement data, which showed that commuters were less likely to participate in enriching educational experiences (a category that included climate for diversity) and campus educational resources (Kuh et al., 2001). There are also students who never set foot in an MSS office, whether owing to personal prejudices, identity issues, or merely a lack of time, so an MSS presence in a classroom might be their first and perhaps only exposure to MSS and its programs and services.

Teaching is the most direct and obvious way to provide visibility and impact for an MSS office, although university policies differ on nonfaculty teaching appointments. Some institutions require that nonfaculty be affiliated with an academic department through an adjunct or temporary position. Other campuses might have first-year orientation, career exploration, or other developmental courses that allow nonfaculty to teach with some flexibility in the curriculum.

Teaching a course is not the only way to make an impact; a single lecture can be a useful collaboration. Depending on staff members' academic background and expertise, guest lecturing might be possible, in areas from ethnic studies to education, political science to sociology. In addition to direct instruction, visiting classes to promote an upcoming program can be an effective avenue for publicity, particularly if the curriculum is relevant to the program's goals. For example, writing courses might be an effective place to publicize a visit by an author, communications courses for a media presentation, honors courses to recruit peer mentors, and so forth. Such presentations can also be effective ways to provide general information about services to a captive audience. If faculty members are not willing to devote class time for a personal visit, often they will distribute an announcement, a more direct way of reaching students than other forms of publicity.


Service-learning is another area perfect for collaboration between MSS and academic affairs, because service-learning activities combine out-of-class experiences with an intentional focus on academic learning outcomes (O'Grady, 2000). Service-learning can bolster some of the goals of an MSS unit and has increased in popularity and funding in recent years. MSS staff with community connections might help faculty find appropriate agencies or locations for projects as well as provide expertise in individual and group processing of service-learning experiences (Alvarez & Liu, 2002). Faculty can provide the historical context and academic analysis for the issues and communities that are being served. However, multicultural-oriented service-learning initiatives must be carefully considered on both sides, given the potential for perpetuating stereotypes and a colonialist mentality (O'Grady, 2000). Proper and thorough processing of service-learning experiences at community sites is the best way to prevent privileged students from leaving the service experience with previously held stereotypes more deeply embedded and using the service experience only as a missionary outlet without reflecting on what the agency and its clients have to teach them.

Academic Contests

Working collaboratively with an academic department on an academic competition can be implemented as a one-time activity or on an ongoing basis. Essay contests on a multicultural topic can encourage writers to think about new issues and provide thoughtful analysis for others to read. Art contests can produce designs for logos, posters, or other publications and give visibility to student work for an artistic portfolio. Encouragement, including extra credit, from faculty and academic departments can increase student submissions, and awards might be more meaningful if faculty members serve as judges. These types of collaborations can bring valued attention to students' talents, particularly if their work is published in a newsletter, website, or other public venue. This visibility might be particularly important for students with multicultural interests who have not otherwise found recognition or an appropriate outlet to express their talents.

Multicultural Speakers and Programs

Collaborating with academic affairs on multicultural speakers or performers can be an effective and fairly easy partnership. MSS staff can ask faculty colleagues for recommendations of a colleague with relevant multicultural research interests, an author of a book used in existing courses, or a notable figure in popular culture. Often academic departments have limited funds for this type of event, given the budgetary priority placed on direct instruction. Thus, cosponsorships with MSS might be of great benefit to an academic department by providing an enrichment opportunity for their students and faculty, while concurrently introducing a new audience to MSS.


Whether or not an academic unit is an official cosponsor, it might still be useful to include faculty in program planning to lay the groundwork for future, more meaningful collaborations. Faculty might be asked to give students extra credit for attending an activity. Inviting faculty and administrators to an invitation-only gathering to meet guest speakers and discuss their work provides an opportunity for them that also brings exposure to multicultural student services.

Mentoring Programs and Student Organizations

Establishing a mentoring program between students and faculty allows faculty to learn more about MSS and how it serves and impacts students. Mentoring programs provide an opportunity for faculty to connect with other student-centered faculty and staff and learn about student development issues from a student services perspective. Participation in a mentoring program might be also be an opportunity for junior faculty in underrepresented groups to connect with senior colleagues outside their departments, resulting in a positive impact on faculty retention.


MSS staff often serve as advisors to student organizations, and faculty might also be willing if there is a relevant connection. This can help share the advising load and bring in new advocates at the same time. It is also a great way to increase student-faculty contact outside the classroom, which has been shown to be particularly important for students of color (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). Advising an organization provides faculty with valuable insight into students' cocurricular lives as well as campus climate issues. A faculty member who has firsthand knowledge of a student organization's difficulty with funding or recruiting members might be more likely to serve as an advocate around these issues in other settings. Other ways to include faculty with multicultural organizations are to invite them to speak at an organization's meeting or have them as a special guest at an event.


College and university libraries have found interesting ways to collaborate with student affairs (and specifically with MSS) through peer education, first-year programs, service-learning, mentoring programs, and academic skills workshops (Albin et al., 2005; Walter, 2005). MSS staff can also work with libraries to suggest books, films, or other multicultural resources and perhaps share the cost of these purchases. MSS offices that house their own small libraries can promote their holdings with faculty and academic departments as well as involve them in new acquisitions.


Having a faculty member serve on a search committee for a staff opening in MSS can increase awareness about a department, its mission and goals, and what qualifications are needed for a professional staff member. This experience gives the faculty member or academic administrator a stake in the future of the MSS office from a personal and professional standpoint; it also cultivates another advocate. Other related collaborations could include serving on a scholarship committee or an advisory board.


Additionally, including faculty or academic administrators in an advisory capacity can bring institutional credibility to an MSS office, particularly if it is located in student affairs. Faculty can offer a different perspective into the issues that face MSS and serve as a conduit for making connections with academic administrators. Conversely, it can be useful for MSS staff to serve on academic affairs committees such as summer programs, orientation, academic advising, and admissions and recruitment.

Consultations and In-Service Trainings

Staff in MSS can also serve as resources for faculty through consultation or workshops on topics such as basic information about students served by the office, cultural competency training, or differences in teaching/learning styles. MSS staff who have an understanding of racial identity and student development theories can offer faculty their expertise in facilitating the often emotional and confusing feelings that arise in classroom discussions around race and ethnicity (Alvarez & Liu, 2002). MSS staff can also help faculty design activities that are developmentally appropriate to the needs of students and perhaps bring practical or experiential applications to an academic course (Alvarez & Liu, 2002).


Abin, T., Currie, L., Hensley, R. B., Hinchliffe, L. J., Lindsay, B., Walter, S., & Watts, M. M. (2005, April). Meeting the student learning imperative: Building powerful partnerships between academic libraries and student services. Presented at the National Meeting of the Association of College and Research Libraries, Minneapolis, MN.

Alvarez, A. N., & Liu, W. M. (2002). Student affairs and Asian American studies: An integrative perspective. In M. K. McEwen, C. M. Kodama, A. N. Alvarez, S. Lee, & C. T. H. Liang (Eds.), Working with Asian American college students (pp. 73-80). New Directions for Student Services, no. 97. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Kuh, G. D., Gonyea, R. M., & Palmer, M. (2001). The disengaged commuter student: Fact or fiction? Commuter Perspectives, 27(1), 2-5. Retrieved December 10, 2008, from

Milem, J. F., Chang, M. J., & Antonio, a. l. (2005). Making diversity work on campus: A research based perspective. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.

O'Grady, C. (2000). Integrating service learning and multicultural education: An overview. In C. R. O'Grady (Ed.), Integrating service learning and multicultural education in colleges and universities (pp. 1-19). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Pascarella, E.T., & Terenzini, P. (2005). How college affects students: A third decade of research (Vol. 2). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.