In support of Careers in Student Affairs month, members of the Assessment, Evaluation, and Research (AER) Knowledge Community share their story of how they got their start in Student Affairs and how their role working in assessment has shaped their practice. We hope these stories help inspire others to further a career in student affairs and discover where a journey in student affairs assessment can take them.
Please welcome Laura Shackelford, Senior Associate Director for the University of North Texas and the Region III Representative for the AER KC.
- How did you get your start in Student Affairs?
I found my way into Student Affairs by happy accident. As someone who has spent the last 8 years in a career development role, I live and breathe the “planned happenstance” theory of career development. I graduated college with absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life, as a Psychology major. I started working for a non-profit organization, and as they had a vacancy in Human Resources, I helped out temporarily by screening resumes and conducting interviews. With this experience, I was able to get into a Human Resources management role for 3 years. While I loved HR, I realized that I truly enjoyed encouraging people to go to college, pursue their career goals and follow their dreams. This led me to apply for a position at the University of Utah in a career services role, and the rest is history!
- What do you do in your position?
As Senior Associate Director for the University of North Texas Career Center, I oversee the operations of our department, which includes 25 full-time staff and 20+ part-time staff. I also oversee our Assessment and Operations team in the areas of assessment, marketing, technology, and student employment. Our Career Center implements student employment policies and procedures for more than 6,000 hourly student employees and 1,000 UNT supervisors annually. I am a vocal advocate for building a culture of evidence in assessment, and participate in campus discussions ranging from improving first destination outcomes data collection efforts to building assessment plans in student affairs.
- What advice do you have for those interested in exploring a career or role heavily rooted in Student Affairs Assessment?
My advice is to learn as much as you can about assessment, and get involved in some way. I actually wrote a blog for the NASPA AER KC on “7 ways to engage in assessment, even if it’s not part of your job title.”
- What is your favorite part about your role in Student Affairs assessment?
I love assessment because my focus is on continuous improvement. Assessment allows me to strategically plan ahead and then share the results and impact of what we do in our profession. In a time of higher accountability in higher education, it is critical that we are able to understand, make improvements, and share the impact of what we do! Some say “data is the new bacon,” but I think it’s more than that. Assessment is like the fruit and vegetables of your diet – healthy and nutritious, and if left out, extremely problematic to the “health” of our organization.
- What is one challenging lesson learned that you gained through your role with assessment?
I have learned how helpful it can be to incorporate assessment into strategic planning. If we take the time and effort to formulate goals and plans for ourselves, teams, or divisions, we should be able to assess and share our progress.
- How has your role in assessment shaped your practice?
As I have mostly worked in a career services role, assessment has helped me to bridge the gap between what we are hoping to accomplish and what we actually accomplish with actual data and results. I have learned, through trial and error, how to better tell my story and the story of my department.
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