Donning a degree

Student affairs is a growing professional field in Canada

The lack of Canadian graduate programs in student affairs has led to an increase of students enrolling in American universities, Hung Mai, Residence Life coordinator said.

Staff in student affairs provide students at universities with services and support. There has been a recent trend in master’s degrees specializing in the study of how to support students.

Mai presented a case study last Wednesday at Gordon Hall based on personal research. The presentation, “All Signs Point South: the Experiences of Canadians in American Student Affairs Graduate Programs,” discussed the experiences of Canadian students in graduate programs specializing in student affairs in the United States.

Jobs which are often available in the field of student affairs are; administrative support staff, dean of student affairs, coordinators, vice-chancellor or president of student affairs and directors. “[When I] first started this, my research question was to gain better understanding of what leads Canadians to purse their Master’s degree from US schools,” he said in his presentation, adding his research consists of personal experiences of individuals pursing their master’s in student affairs in American graduate universities.

During the research process, Mai strived to figure out the factors causing students to study in US schools, what extracurricular experience these students have before completing their undergraduate degrees and how these experiences affect their desire to purse student affairs in their professional field.

There were six individuals selected for the purpose of this study: four females and two males.

“Participants were selected using a combination of purposive sampling and snowball sampling,” he said.

Mai, who received his undergraduate degree from Carleton University and pursed his master’s at the University of Vermont, said his experience as a residence don influenced his decisions to pursue student affairs.

There are currently five universities in Canada which offer some type of graduate level degrees in student affairs, they are; University of Toronto, University of Calgary, Memorial University, University of British Columbia and Simon Frasier University.

Mai said oftentimes Canadian students go to American universities for these graduate programs because of the more practical experience they provide.

“It’s a different kind of student affairs,” he said, adding that his educational experience at Vermont University allowed him to view the field from a different perspective.

He said students who often have experience in part-time parent type positions, such as being residence dons and orientation leaders are students who are often interested in student affairs as a profession, adding that there needs to be a way in which younger students can learn about this professional field at an earlier age.

“Awareness for these opportunities don’t come [to students] until third or fourth year,” he said, adding that this is a field which he can see growing tremendously in the graduate level.

“It’s important for students, who’ve had those [extracurricular] experiences to think, ‘hey I’ve enjoyed my experience, would I be willing to do this more than just part-time job.”

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