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Running Head: GROUP DIVERSITY AUDIT ON MPTSS 1

Group Diversity Audit on Military and Post-Traditional Student Services

Karen Clinton-Earl

Eric Gorman

Julie Griffith

Ellen Shannon-Ball

Northern Illinois University


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GROUP DIVERSITY AUDIT ON MPTSS
Introduction
Offices within colleges and universities often spend years and even decades perfecting

their operations and functionality. Despite the intricacy, innovation, and principle that goes into

these designs, there is always room for positive change. The Military and Post-Traditional

Student Services (MPTSS) Office located on NIU’s campus is no exception. The MPTSS

department serves a population of over 13,000 students including prior service military, active

military, transfer students, commuter students, all students over the age of 23, and married

students. Through a two-hour interview, observation, and online research, our team analyzed the

MPTSS. In this audit, we will shed light on the functionality of the MPTSS as well as

recommend ways in which they can further promote equity, inclusion, and social justice.

Description of MPTSS Department

The Military Student Services department and the Office for Post-Traditional Students

merged in 2016 to form the MPTSS. The expectation of the merger was to centralize resources

for all post-traditional and military students since many self-identify in both categories. When

the merger occurred, most of the department moved to the basement of the Holmes Student

Center where students can receive mentorship and guidance during the workday and relax in

between classes. Assistant Director Jeffrey Salmon noted that the large lounge space serves as a

“home away from home” (J. Salmon, personal communication, February 8, 2017). The Military

Student Benefits Counseling Section did not move and is still housed in the Campus Life

building. As far as personnel are concerned, five counselors provide administrative support to

student veterans and identified dependents. The counselors process students’ paperwork with

state and federal agencies to ensure that they receive their monetary benefits from the GI Bill and

Illinois Veterans Grant.


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GROUP DIVERSITY AUDIT ON MPTSS
Areas Where MPTSS Meets Professional Standards

Mitstifer (2012) illuminated several areas where the MPTSS office meets professional

standards for higher education. First, the office advocates the inclusion of students through

learning programs. Mitstifer (2012) promoted programs that “enable commuter and off-campus

students to achieve learning and development outcomes” (p. 189). The MPTSS office hosts bi-

monthly workshops, called Facts and Snacks. Interactive sessions such as Ensuring a Successful

Semester, Mastering Technology at NIU, and Navigating the Campus and its Resources combat

common student challenges. Additionally, the Genius Guide, available on the MPTSS website,

directs students to resources such as commuter parking tips, the various uses of a one-card, and

how to find student legal assistance or child care. These various resources enable students to

better navigate the university system, so they can achieve their educational goals.

Second, the MPTTS office meets professional standards by collaborating with other

departments. Mitstifer (2012) also articulated that commuter offices should “coordinate their

activities with all offices and agencies whose efforts directly affect commuter and off-campus

students” (p. 194). The MPTSS office participates in orientation and collaborates with the Asian

American, Latino, and Gender and Sexuality resource centers and the Office of Student

Engagement and Experiential Learning. A recent collaboration with the Latino Resource Center

focused on providing support to First Generation Latino students. Salmon thinks “if you lighten

the load outside of the classroom, it empowers students inside the classroom to matriculate to

graduation” (J. Salmon, personal communication, February 8, 2017). By combining resources

with other departments and providing as many resources as possible, he believes the department

can better serve students.


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GROUP DIVERSITY AUDIT ON MPTSS
Mission Statement Analysis

All universities across the country have a mission statement that aligns with their core

values and vision. According to Morphew and Hartley (2006), mission statements are intended

to be both instructional and convey a sense of purpose that “has the capacity to inspire and

motivate those within an institution and to communicate its characteristics, values, and history to

key external constituents” (p. 456). NIU’s mission statement is “to promote excellence and

engagement in teaching and learning, research and scholarship, creativity and artistry, and

outreach and service” (NIU Statement, 2012, para. 2). This statement is intended to reverberate

across all areas and aspects of NIU, and the MPTSS Office is no exception.

The mission of the MPTSS Office is to function “as a central resource center for our

unique and diverse population of students at [NIU]. By developing student centered

programming, we will enhance the learning environment and develop a culture of inclusion for

all military and post-traditional students” (NIU Military, 2017, para. 1). While having mission

statements is certainly an excellent means of an institution holding itself accountable to its goals

and values, it is not always easy to create congruence between the mission and the population it

aims to serve. Ahmed (2012) introduced the term “non-performative” (p. 117), --and how those

in higher power love to share how their mission aids in the students’ success. Unfortunately,

administrators are not working with students to hear what they need to succeed. Ahmed

insinuates that non-performatives are the result of a commitment that has been made but is not

utilized in practice. These commitments generally “do not necessarily commit the institution to

anything or to doing anything” (Ahmed, 2012, p. 116). When an institution or office fails to

align its mission with its actions, it results in a non-performative.


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GROUP DIVERSITY AUDIT ON MPTSS
Non-Performatives, Equity, and Inclusion Within the MPTSS

Within the MPTSS Office specifically, there are multiple non-performatives that must be

addressed. One such non-performative pertains to the time during which the MPTSS Office

offers its services. The office is only open from 8:00 AM- 4:30 PM every day, with the only

service available after 4:30 being access to the lounge. Since military and post-traditional

students tend to have fluctuating schedules and full-time jobs, the current hours of operation do

not provide much for the students who only have availability at night. Even if the office staff is

not always accessible, it would help if they had a system in place that was convenient for this

population of students who commute back and forth from home to school. The limited office

time goes against the MPTSS mission statement because they are not being inclusive of the

limited time that military and post-traditional students have available. The current hours of

operation act as a non-performative because they are not providing the necessary outreach and

service that the University’s mission statement promises.

The recent merger resulting in today’s MPTSS office exhibited another non-

performative: it has not been entirely as inclusive of military students. While the goal was to

support each office since there is some overlap in the student populations, this action illustrated a

non-performative by not helping students in each population. Although the MPTSS Director and

Veteran’s Affairs (VA) Student Benefits Counselors have military experience, the academic

counselors do not, thereby under representing and underserving the military students in academic

areas. While there is somewhat of a crossover between the needs of military and post-traditional

students, there must be more of an effort made to improve the inclusion of military students.

The theme of military student inclusion correlates with Magolda’s notion regarding

campus custodians, particularly his discussion of who was seen and unseen on college campuses.
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GROUP DIVERSITY AUDIT ON MPTSS
Magolda (2016) mentioned that “being visible is not the same thing as being seen” (p. 211).

While campus custodians may be physically visible, people who view them often fail to see them

in a way that considers how custodian’s lives intersect with and relate to their own. In a similar

manner, individuals with marginalized identities are often merged together and afforded less

opportunity to be seen publicly. Just as people do not “see” campus custodians, post-traditional

and military student populations go unseen by the public. The merger reduced the visibility of

each population individually, and the two populations are not getting the same treatment that

other groups are receiving. Military students especially, who were not in favor of the merger,

feel less “seen.”

Recommendations

An analysis of professional standards as compared to the practice of the MPTSS office

reveals that the office could improve by elongating their hours and services to meet the need of a

non-traditional schedule and by employing staff with military and academic experience.

Veterans and Military Programs and Services and Commuter and Off-Campus Living Programs

must “modify…practices…that limit access” (Mitstifer, 2012, p. 506). By conforming to a

traditional schedule, the MPTSS office restricts access to a large part of the population they

should be serving. We recommend expanding the workshop and counseling services to evening

and weekend hours to meet the needs of a post-traditional student population. Additionally,

Mitstifer (2012) noted that military programs and services should hire staff who have experience

with “issues related to student veterans, military service members, and their family members” (p.

503). Employees that possess the skills and knowledge to help post-traditional students, student

veterans, active military service members, and their families with their unique needs could better

promote inclusion and equality for the students they seek to serve.
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GROUP DIVERSITY AUDIT ON MPTSS

Conclusion

Overall, the MPTSS department is off to a great start since the merger between Military

Student Services Department and the Office for Post-Traditional Students. While there is

certainly room for more military advising expertise, as well as further availability for post-

traditional students, the office has done an excellent job of adhering to CAS standards and has

taken the merger in stride. With the expertise and drive of Jeff Salmon, it is likely that the

MPTSS Office will adjust to its new population of students sooner rather than later.
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GROUP DIVERSITY AUDIT ON MPTSS
References

Ahmed, S. (2012). On being included: Racism and diversity in institutional life. Durham, NC:

Duke University Press.

Magolda, P. (2016). The lives of campus custodians: Insights into corporatization and civic

disengagement in the academy. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Mitstifer, D. I. (2012). CAS professional standards for higher education. Washington, DC:

Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education.

Morphew, C. C., & Hartley, M. (2006). Mission statements: A thematic analysis of rhetoric

across institutional type. The Journal of Higher Education, 77(3), 456-471.

NIU Statement of Vision and Mission. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.niu.edu/at-a-

glance/mission.shtml

NIU Military and Post-Traditional Student Services. (2017). Retrieved from

http://www.niu.edu/mptss/about/mission.shtml