Bridging the divide: Collaborative practice between faculty and student services staff — Findings from a doctoral study.


  • Jill Gibson University of the Fraser Valley



faculty, student services, leadership, power, collaboration, relationships, student experience, governance


Research has shown that collaboration between faculty and student services is essential for the development of a quality student experience (Kezar, 2005). First-year collaborations are designed to support the incoming student and provide a springboard/safety net; however, they often exist on the periphery of the academic experience (Barefoot & Gardner, 2003) and continue to be secondary add-ons.

A multiple-site case study across three post-secondary institutions in British Columbia utilized interviews and focus groups comprised of 10 administrators, 13 faculty, and 13 staff. Using organizational theory (Schein, 2004; Tierney, 1988) and critical theory (Foucault, 1982), the research investigated successes and failures of cross-divisional collaboration between faculty and student services. The critical approach studied developing culture, governance structures and policies, job descriptions, institutional divisions, reporting lines, and marginalized voices. These historical patterns of meaning reflected on the current structures and cultural infrastructure at each site where organizational barriers, role confusion, lack of knowledge, lack of time, and lack of connection were highlighted.

The four major themes that emerged from the study were: (a) informational issues around awareness and definitions, as well as territorial awareness and models for training; (b) environmental issues including history, resources (time and money as well as human), roles, and responsibilities; (c) relationship development that focuses on trust, connection, power, and leadership; and (d) structural issues involving governance structures, reporting structures, and silos.

Author Biography

Jill Gibson, University of the Fraser Valley

Dr. Jill Gibson is a retired student-affairs professional with 25 years of experience at the University of the Fraser Valley. Jill has progressive experience in planning, organizing, and delivering programs and activities that support student development, student leadership, and student success. Jill’s leadership positions in higher education include Coordinator Student Events; Coordinator Assessment Services; Acting Director Assessment Services; Acting Athletic Director; Faculty/Staff Contract Administrator; Manager Housing and Student Life; and Program Manager, Continuing Studies. Her career has provided a broad canvas that supported her completion of a Master’s degree from Royal Roads, and she recently completed a Doctor of Education from Simon Fraser University. The access to numerous personal stories, that depict how individuals experience their environment and their relationships, helped develop the framework for her doctoral studies.
Jill continues to have a passion for finding ways to connect and collaborate through compromise, dialogue, respect, and vision.




How to Cite

Gibson, J. (2022). Bridging the divide: Collaborative practice between faculty and student services staff — Findings from a doctoral study. International Journal for Leadership in Learning, 22(2), 287–318.