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 J. Patrick Biddix, Professor of Higher Education at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and the Faculty Representative for the AER KC.
- How did you get your start in Student Affairs?
I was working as a travelling educational consultant for my fraternity and we had a colony at the University of Mississippi. The colony needed a house dad so I applied and did my graduate work there, while also working as a GA in financial aid. After graduation in 2002, I interviewed for positions at The Placement Exchange at NASPA, and landed a first job working at Washington University in St. Louis as the Coordinator for Greek Student Housing.
- What do you do in your position?
The University owned all fraternity and sorority housing and meeting facilities. My job was to act as a residential coordinator, which included staff training for house directors, liaising with housing corporation and alumni advisors, and aiding in leadership training. I also managed the facility aspects such as maintenance, cleaning, furniture upkeep, capital projects, and inspections.
- What advice do you have for those interested in exploring a career or role heavily rooted in Student Affairs Assessment?
Seek experiences during your graduate program to work with assessment projects. Broaden your methods skillsets as well as functional area knowledge by working with diverse projects. Today’s new professionals often graduate with more experience in assessment than many seasoned professionals, so there is a growing expectation that they will take on assessment work, whether as part of a formal job description or not. So, having expertise in methods, functional areas, and also in designing and managing projects is significant.
- What is your favorite part about your role in Student Affairs assessment?
I am a faculty member now, so I have the unique role of training graduate students and meeting with and coaching existing professionals on projects. It gives me a broad view of the work going on in the field and helps me expand my skillset while also giving back.
- What is one challenging lesson learned that you gained through your role with assessment?
All assessment is political. Schuh noted this in one of his early books and it is so true. It is important to recognize who the players are in an assessment project, the rationale for the work, and the intended use/s of the results. In each case, there are likely visible people, and also stakeholders and issues that are not so easy to perceive.
- How has your role in assessment shaped your practice?
It has expanded my knowledge of instrument design, data collection, and reporting for specific audiences. It also has expanded my familiarity with different functional areas and enhanced my professional network.
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