What Is Higher Education Teaching Local Government?

My career began by accident while I worked in higher education. Even though going to college wasn’t the ideal choice for my profession, I am nonetheless thankful for the knowledge I gained there. As I made the move from working in education to local government, I thought about the distinctions between the two fields and the lessons that might be drawn from observing trends in this industry.

What then can we learn about college students from higher education?

establishing a connection with young adults. Those who are nearing retirement rather than attending college frequently attend our gatherings. Colleges and universities always want to establish a connection with the 18–22 year old demographic. By observing and analyzing these patterns, we can determine what may be tailored to local government and where our messaging should be directed.

Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity. Conversations regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion among college students were different in 2007 when I graduated than they are now in 2019. Graduates have a better awareness of both their own identities and the oppressive institutions in place. Many students have the expectation that their places of employment will be accepting of their identities and forms of self-expression; if they don’t, that expectation may lead to their departure.

Record learning, not just contentment. Less focus is being placed on service satisfaction in higher education, and more emphasis is being placed on learning outside of the classroom. We should also monitor learning in local government areas where it is deemed important. For instance, it’s wonderful that your child is happy with their swimming instructor, but what if, despite receiving lessons, your child is unable to swim? If there is a high failure rate, you can assess the cause and devise a plan of action.

Promote Innovation, Assess, and Expand! Prior to my departure, my organization hosted an innovation competition akin to Shark Tank, wherein projects had to transcend departmental boundaries. Seeing what people came up with was interesting, and there were a lot of really good suggestions. Since many initiatives required many departments, establishing connections with people from different departments within the division was beneficial. Although there isn’t a general trend toward this kind of competitiveness on college campuses, my schools are depending more and more on innovation to make the most of what little they have.

These are only a few ideas I have about what we might learn by examining the topic of student affairs, and specifically higher education. Many of our future employees and residents will have expectations that are shaped by these institutions taken as a whole. We can leverage their triumphs to better engage young adults, make data-driven decisions, and create a more positive work atmosphere if we pay attention to them.

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