Master’s students’ perceptions of and approaches to enacting student affairs values are not examined in the literature. Because students will be professionals in student affairs, it is important they can explain how they came to learn and demonstrate values core to this work. This study addressed four aspects of socialization to student affairs’ values: graduate students’ perceptions of essential student affairs values, the extent to which perceptions aligned with literature on student affairs’ values (Young, 2003), how perceptions differ across functional areas, and socialization agents and processes that influenced views of values and their enactment.
Through a qualitative study combining aspects of phenomenology and narrative inquiry, impressions about student affairs values development were collected from 17 master’s students. Students were second-semester, second-year participants in one of three distinct student affairs graduate preparation programs. Between February and April 2010, two separate interviews were conducted with each student. From transcriptions, narratives were developed to tell the story from each interview. Participants reviewed each narrative. The second interview included individualized questions based on participants’ first-interview and narrative review.
Through analysis, the researcher interpreted 13 shared values of student affairs: diversity and inclusion, collaboration, learning, student centeredness, change and responsiveness, ethics, holistic student development, intentionality, community, service, professional development, caring, and responsibility. These values were mostly aligned with the literature on student affairs values (Young, 2003); however, some differences existed. Values not described by Young are change and responsiveness, collaboration, learning, and professional development. Participants perceived values appear to be shared across student affairs, but functional areas prioritize and enact them differently. Participants learned student affairs values and their enactment through 11 factors categorized as program-structured or self-directed. Program-structured included: assistantships and practica, supervisors, course work, faculty, guiding documents and professional standards, lessons on the historical role of student affairs, and cohort members. Self-directed included: participants’ previous experiences, emerging approaches to enacting student affairs work, involvement in the broad student affairs profession, and the job search.