|"Cinderella" Team of Davidson Student Life Leaders Head Their Professional Associations
February 04, 2009
Contact: Bill Giduz
Basketball fans aren’t the only ones taking increased note of Davidson these days. About 20,000 people involved in the field of student services are looking at the top of their professional organization charts and wondering, “What’s going on at Davidson?!”
|Davidson's Patty Perillo and Tom Shandley lead the top organizations for student life professionals. |
That’s because the two major student services organizations worldwide -- the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) and National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) -- are currently being led by Davidsonians Tom Shandley and Patty Perillo.
Shandley, Davidson’s vice president of student life and dean of students for the past 15 years, is NASPA Vice President for Region III, its largest in both size and membership. NASPA has 11,000 members in all 50 states and 36 other countries. Shandley represents that region on the organization’s board of directors.
Perillo, who joined the Davidson staff 18 months ago as associate dean for residence life and Patterson Court, is national president of the 10,500-member ACPA.
Shandley quipped, “In the student affairs world, having two people in top leadership positions from a small school is just about as remarkable as the basketball team reaching the Elite Eight!”
Perillo has been involved with ACPA for more than 20 years. She rose to the ACPA presidency by chairing for three years a task force charged with developing a new governance structure for the organization. The process led to a streamlined board of directors, and initiation of a biannual assembly during which members are invited to address concerns to the board in a town hall-style meeting. She was president-elect in 2007-08, and is serving as president through the upcoming ACPA annual convention in late March.
Her priorities for the organization have been women’s leadership in higher education and athletics, issues of faith and spirituality, student development, sustainability, inclusion, and collaborating with other professional associations.
Shandley joined NASPA as a graduate student, and has consistently presented at conferences and served on committees. He began to stand out as a national leader when he organized an unprecedented week-long institute for senior student affairs personnel in Salamanca , Spain instead of in the U.S. “We call ourselves international and represent 16 countries, but all of our meetings were in the U.S.,” he explained. “I thought we should reach out to our international members, and it actually turned out to be less expensive than conducting it in the U.S.”
Shandley is in the middle of a four-year leadership commitment with NASPA. He was Region III vice president-elect for one year, is now serving a two-year term as vice president, and will serve an additional year as past vice president. Though he does not aspire to the NASPA presidency, Perillo intimated that many in the organization wish he would. As evidence of the esteem in which he is held, NASPA plans this year to present him with its “Pillars of the Profession” award.
Both organizations employ a professional staff and are headquartered in Washington, D.C. Though they were created with different focuses, they have evolved to become very similar in their promotion of professional development, student learning, scholarship, and legislative advocacy in student affairs. Members of both include companies that are engaged in the campus marketplace, graduate and undergraduate students enrolled in student affairs and higher education administration programs, faculty members, and all levels of student affairs professionals.
In fact, NASPA and ACPA are so similar that they have agreed to hold a joint conference every 10 years, and a task force co-chaired by past presidents of both groups is currently studying how they might better collaborate to achieve greater administrative efficiency.
Their service to the profession has led to another recent professional honor for Shandley and Perillo. The Senior Student Affairs Officers of the Associated Colleges of the South recently presented its Leonard Goldberg Citation to both Davidsonians as “extraordinary leaders who merit acknowledgement for notable achievements in student personnel administration.” The honor is not awarded every year, and had never before been presented to two people at the same time.
Service to the profession is a significant time commitment and intellectual challenge for both Shandley and Perillo, but they insist that it brings significant benefit to the college. It happens in small ways, such as their names and collegiate affiliation being printed in their organizational journals and other literature. It also happens in very tangible ways, such as Perillo having hosted on Davidson’s campus last summer ACPA’s annual leadership conference for 100 elected senior leaders. About 50 ACPA members from a three-state area also gathered at Davidson in late January for a one-day professional development workshop.
Regular interaction with colleagues from other institutions helps the Davidsonians keep up with new ideas in the field. Shandley noted that a recent NASPA board meeting focused on the financial crisis and how schools can maintain their quality of service in the face of cutbacks.
|Shandley checks in with colleagues Drew Chin, Patterson Court advisor, and Julia Jones, director of the Chidsey Leadership Development program.|
Perillo attended about 10 meetings of ACPA state affiliates last fall, and observed, “I got to see best practices around the country. I saw how others were working around issues such as social justice and supervision, and that helps me in my work here at Davidson. I’ve also become a better scholar practitioner because I have to keep up with all the new literature in the field.”
Their leadership in the profession also helps Davidson attract top young candidates to apply for entry-level student services positions at the college, such as residence hall area coordinator positions. Applicants know they will be working under administrators who have vast knowledge of the latest strategies, issues and scholarship in the field. Then in a few years when the junior staffers are ready to apply for more advanced positions elsewhere, recommendation letters from the top officers in the profession provide an impressive edge for them as job seekers.
The commitments are time consuming, but Shandley and Perillo are determined it not detract from their Davidson work. “I’ve seen some people become so involved in professional organizations rather than their jobs that they become less effective on campus, and I’m determined not to let that happen,” Shandley said.
Shandley attends about six state affiliate meetings a year, as well as four annual meetings of the NASPA board. He tries to defer NASPA business until Sunday afternoons so that it does not interfere with his work for Davidson. He also tries to coordinate his travel plans with the alumni office when possible so that he can host alumni gatherings while in distant cities on NASPA business. Perillo estimates she spends 15-20 hours a week on ACPA business, and that will increase with the approach of the national conference in March.
The student life division at Davidson includes 75 employees in the areas of the college union, residence life, career services, community service, student health, campus police, Patterson Court, student leadership, the Lilly Program, chaplain’s office, multicultural support, disciplinary action, disability services, and academic support. Shandley said that’s about an average number of employees for a college of Davidson’s size.
Major issues of concern for both the ACPA and NASPA include campus safety, the economic crisis, and social justice as the college student population becomes increasingly diverse. Perillo said the latter issue is increasingly important. “The scholarship tells us that greatest cognitive enhancement for young people is learning from and living with difference,” she said.
Many concerns are perennial on every campus because of the nature of students. Perillo said, “The most profound development in a young person’s life occurs during the college years. They all have to learn to manage developmental stages like autonomy and competency, and the task of student services is to guide and nurture them as they go.”
Davidson surely struggles with the same student life issues as all other schools, such as underage drinking, intolerance, time management, and stress. However, Perillo said Davidson’s particular characteristics help mitigate those issues. “The things we know in our profession about what keeps students engaged, learning, and happy all happen here. When we talk about the optimal environment for learning, which is our ultimate concern, it’s Davidson. Sometimes I pinch myself and wonder why it took me 20-plus years of employment to get here!”
Shandley added, “We are blessed to have students who have been committed to learning their whole lives. The atmosphere here feeds their impetus to high achievement both inside and outside class, but they don’t always have the maturity to set limits. Our job is to be there to help them deal with that.”
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,700 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.
Posted By: Bill Giduz