Last month, I attended the new NASPA Student Success in Higher Education Conference. It combined four conferences in one: Closing the Achievement Gap, Student Financial Wellness, First-Generation Student Success, and Assessment, Persistence and Data Analytics. Because all of those topics intertwine, the conference had something for everyone.
From the assessment standpoint, I continue to be surprised, although I should not be, at the number of people who just got assessment added to their job without any skills or knowledge about assessment. Over 50 people attended the “Assessment 101” pre-conference session to get themselves a foundation. In an assessment culture session, some professionals are at the beginning stages of implementing assessment in their department or division. At the same time, the conversation about student affairs assessment has matured at the conference, so there are sessions that are more advanced, focusing on use of big data, different data collection methodology, and using data to predict at-risk students.
Several sessions addressed student employment from a financial as well as a developmental experience, which I think is going to continue to be a hot topic as more students work during college. Some students, even those that work, struggle with food and housing insecurity. They are a challenging population to assess because they may not be clearly apparent.
Students are complex. Higher education is complex. Student affairs is complex. Data is complex. This conference tried to address some of these issues and how they intersect, so that we can help students be successful in their college life and beyond.
NASPA has not announced where the 2020 conference will be, but I encourage you to consider it as part of your professional development options.