By Niki Messmore
The process for selecting a graduate program in student affairs is changing. The platform for this change: Future Student Affairs Grad Students (FSAGS), a public Facebook group that boasts 4,093 members as of Oct 21, 2014.
Several years in the making, there are 13 administrators who monitor the page. Members include prospective students, currently enrolled graduate students, recent graduates who joined the group during their graduate program search, and current faculty members. It is a highly active group with 55 posts in the last 7 days.
No longer are students exploring programs through just their personal contacts, but now they have the opportunity to explore programs from around the country with a simple post.
I’ve been observing and participating in the group for around the last two years and it is interesting to consider what impacts it may be creating. Here are a few brief thoughts that require further exploration and discussion:
- There is an online community for individuals who want to enter student affairs
- A variety of schools are represented; top-ranked, regional campus, counseling focus, administrative focus, etc
- Great opportunity for current graduate students to take ownership of their experience and engage in mentoring activities with prospective students
- Information on #SAgrad programs is notoriously difficult to find (NASPA’s website is ok but not easily accessible). Prospective students can easily inquire about almost any program and almost every post has at least one (or twenty) responses.
- The group is accumulating a wealth of user-generated resources, such as database on program assistantships (70 positions/schools & counting) and information on graduate programs.
Areas of Concern
- Group think can occur. Some posts (especially around Jan-March) cultivate a hive mind that student affairs as a field already has difficulty shaking.
- Unsure what the best course is for rules of engagement. There is a list of SA grad program information with current student contact names, but often prospective students don’t take time to look for the list and post general questions. They literally list 12 schools that they are interested in attending and asks “who goes here?”
- While this is probably helpful for prospective students, it is time consuming for highly engaged folks who reply to multiple posts and – quite frankly – can be terribly annoying after a while.
- Who should be a member? Some prospective and current students post fairly personal thoughts, feelings, experiences, etc. Should assistantship providers and program faculty stay away from this group so the space is safe? Or do they have wisdom to provide?
- It can become, at times, a space that straddles the line between shameless self-promotion & helpful information
- There’s a reason why we can’t cite Wikipedia: crowd-sourced information isn’t always accurate. Some advice that is provided should probably, well, not.
- Is FSAGS a community? The exchanges are often brief Q&A, so it is difficult to tell if authentic relationships are being built across social media. Will these connections last?
- Will this impact how SA grad programs market themselves? Should we be providing current students with more ‘marketing’-esque info since they have a more public opportunity to represent our programs? Already some personnel and students are using the group to share their marketing information, like visiting days and webinars.
- Are prospective students being authentic? From reviewing posts (quite a few ‘inspirational’ links about leadership), it appears that some may recognize they are being observed by individuals that could impact their opportunity for an assistantship…or is that just who they are?
- Will this even the playing ground for lesser-known or newer programs to market their degree and increase applications? Grad programs rate based on reputation. With easily accessible space provided, programs can really get their name out there.
Ultimately, it is a very cool corner of the internet. This group creates further exposure to student affairs, thus possibly increasing awareness to students who may not have considered a masters in higher education. Currently, the group is a wealth of information for navigating the grad school process and it may also increase accessibility for historically underrepresented populations – which is awesome!
Have you had any experiences with the group? Do you think this is a positive addition to the student affairs field? Please comment or tweet me at @NikiMessmore. I’ve been thinking on this group a lot and what it may mean – I would love to hear your perspectives!