ACPA – College Student Educators International (ACPA) recently announced it is moving forward with a Credentialing Implementation Team (CIT) after years of researching and discussing the topic of credentialing student affairs. As always, Eric Stoller provides a great synopsis of the process in his post, Certification for Student Affairs Professionals, and there are some fantastic responses/comments. I just finished reading through the Task Force document, and I have some thoughts of my own about this development.
It is clear that this has been the plan for some time, when you look at the timeline in the Task Force document. The plan was always to develop a new set of professional competencies in order to make this move to credentialing happen. The new set of professional competencies (ACPA/NASPA Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Practitioners) were developed by ACPA and NASPA and passed by both organizations. In my opinion, a wrench got thrown into ACPA’s overall plan for credentialing when the vote to merge ACPA and NASPA failed. Moving forward with credentialing was never contingent upon a merger, but it does muddy the waters quite a bit.
I read through the comments in Eric’s post and agree with many of the points highlighted. I am in support of credentialing as long as it is complementary to what is currently out there. I would rather see credentialing as being a way to help organize professional development opportunities for student affairs professionals and not become a gateway to opportunities, subsequently creating further hierarchy in a system that touts being equitable. What I mean is that I don’t want this to become another “have versus have not” thing. It is becoming more and more difficult for professionals to attend national conferences. Technology is helping to level the playing field and provide additional opportunities but there are still disparities. Money is huge factor. Will a credentialing program add additional costs/fees or will it be a free service to professionals to help maximize their development?
I would love for credentialing to be a rubric of sort that allows members to plot out professional development opportunities and professional goals. To generate my own professional development plan and have that linked to my ACPA Member Profile, now that would be an amazing addition to ACPA’s portfolio of services and offerings for professionals. I was required to develop a professional development plan (PDP) as part of my graduate school program, and I feel that this is something that can easily be adapted to ACPA’s new Member Profile offerings. The CIT can look at professional development opportunities that could be incorporated into the PDP that meet the standards developed through the shared professional competencies.
Ultimately, I see credentialing as being a matrix that would allow individuals to essentially use drop down menus to create their own plan that they can accomplish at their own pace. It is self-directed and organized around the professional competencies to allow flexibility. Wouldn’t it be awesome if ACPA took a cue from GetGlue and created stickers or FourSquare and established badges for when someone accomplished parts of their PDP or reached certain benchmarks in the professional competencies? It would be a modern approach that I believe is aligned with the image of ACPA and yet remains accessible to its members without over-burdening them.
A problem I see moving forward is how the CIT (and future boards overseeing credentialing) fit into the overall governing structure of ACPA? I believe if ACPA makes credentialing similar to what I stated above then this board becomes more of a quality control board for professional development opportunities. Individuals would be allowed to submit possible additions to the PDP options each year, and this board would review these options and determine how they fit into the professional development plan rubric/matrix. My assumption is that it would need to be a branch of the governing board in some way shape or form and my guess is that it would have representatives from ACPA who have memberships in sister organizations.
As stated by others, this is definitely going to be an issue that sparks some contention throughout the profession and even within ACPA. There are a lot of questions swirling already and I encourage people to read through the documents available to inform themselves on what I consider to be a monumental and potentially divisive decision for ACPA. What are your thoughts?
*Update since I initially posted*
Dr. Heidi Levine, ACPA President, posted some more information and clarification about credentialing and the CIT (Statement on the ACPA Student Affairs Credential Program). Dr. Levine stresses the voluntary nature of the program and highlights two components the CIT will be tasked with: (1) the “Student Affairs Register”, and (2) the “Specialized Skills Certification”. These elements speak to the “basic” and “advanced” components of the professional competencies. There is mention of being a member of the Register and in order to do so certain requirements need to be met and sustained each year.
It seems the direction is not necessarily to preclude people from getting into the field, but the Register concept is a little concerning. How long does it take until this becomes a part of job descriptions? This is where my “have versus have not” argument from before comes in. Granted there is a lot of work that needs to be done moving forward. I am not assuming this is the direction or intention. It is just something that immediately jumps out at me.
On another note, I am encouraged by the last paragraph and ACPA’s emphasis on keeping professionals not a part of CIT engaged in the conversation. I feel that this is one ACPA’s greatest strengths as an organization. It wants to hear your voice and opinion. So I suggest reading through the materials, and constructively contributing to the conversations that will be taking place.