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