Resources for Senior Student Affairs Officers
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Student Life in Catholic Higher Education: Advancing Good Practice

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Senior Student Affairs Officers

Student affairs professionals provide opportunities for personal growth and help students make healthy decisions within a framework of Catholic values. Given their pivotal role on a Catholic campus, ACCU offers these resources to assist them professionally and personally:

  • Student Life in Catholic Higher Education: Advancing Good Practice contains the collected wisdom of both current and former student affairs leaders, this book offers a blend of practical advice and personal reflection on leading student life at a Catholic institution.
  • Reprinted in 2017, Principles of Good Practice for Student Affairs in Catholic Higher Education has long been the standard for understanding and assessing a vision of student affairs at Catholic colleges and universities.
  • Strengthening Catholic Identity – Student Affairs: This installment of a 12-part brochure series provides an overview of how student affairs seeks to develop students spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and physically in the context of Catholic values and Christian community.
  • In 2017, ACCU launched a conference specially designed for senior officers in student affairs. Bringing together expert speakers and representatives from Catholic colleges and universities across the country and beyond, this annual session equips senior leaders in student affairs with new skills and new ideas for working through the evolving challenges of their profession. See below for information on the most recent conference.


2020 Senior Student Affairs Officers Conference

"The Agile SSAO: Adaptively Serving Our Students in Challenging Times"

The ACCU Senior Student Affairs Officers Conference offers a networking space for professionals at Catholic colleges and universities, where colleagues share ideas, resources, and best practices related to the urgent challenges SSAOs are facing. The 2020 conference will also offer an opportunity to refresh and recharge to be able to focus on the mission in our daily work. Join us for discussions on mindfulness for leaders, a mission-centered lens of leadership and leading in challenging times, and the work of student affairs professionals in the future.



Saturday, February 1, 2020  
 8:00 – 8:30 a.m.
Breakfast and gathering
 8:30 – 9:00 a.m. Welcome and Prayer 

Lisa Kirkpatrick, Vice President for Student Affairs, St. Edward's University, and conference chair

ASACCU Welcome
Kathy Byrnes, Association Vice President for Student Affairs, Villanova University, and ASACCU chair

Conference Overview
Lisa Kirkpatrick

 9:00 – 10:45 a.m.

Mindfulness for Adaptive Leaders
Because we are servant leaders pulled in many directions, it’s easy for our own self-care to fall to the bottom of our “to do” lists. But our students and staff watch us and often emulate our behaviors. This session is meant to provide SSAOs with the quiet and safe space to reflect on our self-care behaviors and recommit to our own well-being. Leaders know it can be lonely at the top, but we can’t serve others if we don’t take care of ourselves.

Tessa Todd Morgan, founder and CEO of TRIESSENCE, mindfulness expert, personal growth coach, and accredited trainer in Emotional Intelligence

 10:45 – 11:00 a.m. Break  
 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. 



The Agile SSAO: Showing Up Each Day as a Mission-Centered Leader
Our leadership position calls us to be many things — to our staff team, to our colleagues, to our president, and to our students. How can we draw on our Catholic mission to re-energize ourselves? How can we embrace a relational leadership philosophy (Komives, Lucas, & McMahon, 2013) and move beyond hierarchical structures that may inhibit innovation and creativity? How do we balance optics of budget and resource allocation with the actual work of educating students? How do we tie this all together under a mission-centered lens of leadership as an SSAO? This session aims to acknowledge our bravery and provide us a space to be the strong dynamic SSAO leaders that our students and our Catholic institutions need us to be.

Brian Bruess, President, St. Norbert College

 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. Lunch and table discussions  
1:30 – 3:00 p.m.

Student Affairs Landscape in 2020: Our Responses to Serving Staff
We know that a sense of belonging and being valued as an individual are key to the retention of employees. Given that, SSAOs are seeking successful methods for engaging staff in meaningful (and affordable) ways. For example, as leaders at Catholic colleges, how do we engage staff whose identities are not fully embraced by the Church? How do we adapt to the various generational perspectives represented by our staff? This session will engage participants in a discussion about organizational structure and innovative strategies to lead, empower, and support employees providing opportunities for professional development and promotion that leads to greater productivity, retention, and job satisfaction.

Kevin Kruger, President and CEO, NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education

 3:00 - 3:30 p.m. Looking Toward the Future  
 3:30 p.m. Closing Prayer  



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