Lower retention rate amongst young professionals in Higher Education

While higher education encompasses both academic and student affairs areas, for this blog post I want to focus on a contemporary issue specific to student affairs area in higher education. One of the biggest problems in student affairs functional areas is the retention of new professionals. Student affairs is known to have one of the highest attrition rates compared to a similar profession.

According to Renn & Hodges (2007), the reasons professionals leave one institution for another institution or one job for another job is connected with having heavy workload impacting their personal life, job dissatisfaction, lack of direct mentoring from a supervisor, inadequate supervision, and lack of professional development opportunities. Based on numerous research studies conducted to understand the reasoning behind lower retention rates amongst young student affairs professionals, lack of quality supervision is one of the biggest factors (Davis and Cooper, 2017). Just like many individuals in the workforce, Student affairs professionals highly value progressing in their functional areas while continue gaining knowledge and experience through participating in diverse practices/opportunities. However, this requires not only participation from new professionals but also supervisors. This practice is known as synergic supervision. Davis and Cooper (2017) describe synergic supervision as a dynamic process that requires participation from both the new professional(s) and the supervisor. Also, synergic supervision ensures that new professionals achieve their professional and personal goals as well as meeting organizational goals.

Unfortunately, most if not all of the professionals do not learn about supervision in their graduate program as well as their graduate assistantships. Thus, professionals try to perfect their supervision style through trial and error. This specific approach comes at a cost because a lack of quality supervision has been linked to young professionals leaving the department or the institution or the student affairs profession as a whole. Losing a professional comes at a very high cost to the department and/or the institution because you lose the diverse experience and the ideas they have but also resources invested after them.

In my experience thus far as a graduate student in the higher education program at Virginia Tech, I have not had as much experience supervising student leaders as I would have like to. Although, I have learned about other people’s supervising style, reflect on my supervision style, and the ways I can work to improve my supervision style through classes, and participating in training sessions and other professional development opportunities. Furthermore, I have had one opportunity in my time as a graduate student to directly supervise student leaders. During the summer of 2019, I served as a NODA intern at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg working in the orientation office. One of my responsibility as a NODA intern was to supervise 15 student leaders. Just as I mentioned above, I had no previous experience directly supervising students. Therefore, I had to follow a trial and error approach as well as the content I learned in classes to supervise students. Through this experience, I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge on how I can best supervise individuals. Moving forward, I will continue to seek out opportunities to further my knowledge in supervision and incorporate the knowledge I gained through my past experiences into my practice in the future.


Davis, T. J. & Cooper, D. L. (2017). “People are Messy”: Complex Narratives of Supervising New Professionals in Student Affairs. Journal of Student Affairs Reseach and Practice, 54(1), 55-68. https://doi.org/10.1080/19496591.2016.1219267

Renn, K. A., & Hodges, J. P. (2007). The first year on the job: Experiences of new professionals in student affairs. NASPA Journal, 44(2), 367–391. doi:10.2202/0027-6014.1800



Intersectionality is a term that came into light in the 1980s. While it is an important term, it is not widely known. It is, therefore, our obligation to educate ourselves as well as others on this term as we work to expand our knowledge on diversity, inclusion, and equity.

So, what is Intersectionality? According to the Oxford Dictionary, Intersectionality is “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage; a theoretical approach based on such a premise”. Intersectionality was first used in 1989 by social theorist and law professor, Kimberlé Crenshaw in her paper where she focused on different identities of Black women and how each of them informs one another to oppress them.   

In this short clip, Kimberlé Crenshaw explains Intersectionality.


Personal Experience and Moving Forward: 

As an undergraduate student, I was very involved on campus. Between all the training I went through, I learned about Diversity and Inclusion, however, I never learned about intersectionality. If I recall correctly, I first learned about intersectionality during the first semester of the graduate program. Since then, I have been part of various training and attended various presentations where the topic of intersectionality was discussed. As I now know the importance of the term and meaning behind it, I believe educators should focus on teaching intersectionality to students at an early age. 

As a student affairs professional, I will be working with students and their families quite frequently. In order to make an environment inclusive and making sure everyone feels comfortable, I will make sure to be cognizant of the differences amongst people, avoid using generalized language that may be based on experiences of majority of people but not all, ensure that the space I create or work in is welcoming to all, and show up for those who may hold different identities than me and support their cause in fighting systems of oppression.



Contemporary Issue in Higher Education

As I shared in my introductory blog, I am a second-year master’s student in the Higher Education program. I am pursuing the functional area that was essentially not created for me and many of us in the class. The higher education system in the United States has excluded minority groups in some ways since its creation. The education system was built on the idea of educating rich white men. However, over the years that has changed, and more diverse groups have been granted access to higher education.

While access to higher education has improved for minority groups over the years, it is nowhere near being perfect. Many institutions lack in diversity due to issues surrounding access. A 2013 report from the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) stated that from their study of 77 major sports programs, they found that only 2.8 percent of the undergraduate male students were Black, however, they represented 57.1% of the football players and 64.3% of the basketball players. These statistics indicated that if you were a black male athlete playing football or basketball, you had much higher chances of attending elite institutions than black males (non-athletes) who solely wanted to attend elite institutions for their academics. “Higher education in this country must see value in young black men beyond the court or playing field.” (Dr. Marcus Bright).

UPenn study only focused on black male athletes, however, this shed a light on the lack of accessibility for underrepresented and underserved minority groups to higher education. There are many barriers created by the dominant group that has limited access to higher education for minority groups. We must work together to remove those barriers as it has a direct impact on our country’s economic future but more importantly, the economic future of predominately minority communities because most of the new jobs and careers require post-secondary education.