A Year in Review: Celebrating Our Milestones and Achievements!

A Year in Review: Celebrating Our Milestones and Achievements!

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In the ever evolving landscape of higher education, organizations such as Student Affairs Assessment Leaders (SAAL) play a pivotal role in shaping the student experience as well as for those engaged in assessment. This year, SAAL has taken a bold step forward with the implementation of its new strategic plan. This blog post explores the key elements of SAAL's strategic plan and how it has been executed to enhance student affairs assessment practices and help nurture a thriving community of individuals engaged in Student Affairs Assessment.

Setting the Stage: The Need for a New Strategic Plan

The higher education environment is dynamic, with constant changes in student demographics and wellbeing, technological advancements, educational and research methodologies. Recognizing the need to stay ahead of these shifts, SAAL embarked on a journey to develop a strategic plan that would guide its activities and initiatives for the foreseeable future. The goal was to honor our ancestors (founding members) meanwhile, carrying the core essence of SAAL into the future. We are celebrating a year into our newly minted plan and governance structure.

Key Components of SAAL's Strategic Plan

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Organizational Viability

Implementing a new strategic plan requires effective communication and transparency. SAAL has been transparent about the goals and objectives of the plan, ensuring that all members are informed and engaged in the process. Regular updates and a more active and collaborative approach to implementation have taken place. We have developed multiple metrics for our strategic plan and will be working on a series of infographics and reports for our members. Our Bylaws have received an update. The President is working with the treasurer and Chief of Staff to create templates for sponsorships and tracking of our progress. The Communications Specialist is helping to keep our organization on brand and helping with our social media channels. We have primarily used LinkedIn (416 followers, 75 search appearances and have gained 23 new followers in the last month) and Facebook (1,145 followers).

Community of Practice 

SAAL's strategic plan places a strong emphasis on embracing innovative practices that are dynamic rather than linear. The foci center on the human volunteers that make up the organization while fostering collaboration. This includes leveraging across the various committees and Board member positions to deliver our core activities.  SAAL has invested in professional development opportunities for its members to ensure they are equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to implement Student Affairs assessment effectively. Structured Conversations, Blogs and the Open Course have been organized to keep members abreast of the latest assessment trends.

Student Affairs Assessment Advancement & Research

Recognizing the interconnected nature of student affairs, SAAL's plan prioritizes collaboration both within the organization and with external partners. This year, SAAL has continued to foster collaborative partnerships with Assessment Network of New York (ANNY), Anthology, Enflux, Higher Education Benchmarking Institute, Modern Campus, Weave for the Open Course and podcast. We have cemented our innovative partnership with The Council for the Advancement of Standards (CAS) to ultimately support our members and better support sharing advice for program review and other CAS products. We formalized our connection with other Student Affairs assessment organizations, NASPA Assessment, Evaluation, and Research (AER) Knowledge Community (KC) and ACPA Commission on Assessment and Evaluation (CAE)

SAAL is committed to ensuring that equity is central to steering our direction. This year, we hosted several, safe conversations with Student Affairs assessment professionals in DEI challenging states with the goal to share effective practices for navigating these difficult policies and their impact on assessment.

Success Stories and Impact

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  1. The Board has been using Google Analytics to view engagement on our website. Our most active pages are the Open Course and Home Page. Our blog is the most active with topics surrounding data practice and logic models and assessment frameworks, along with Structured Conversations. Our YouTube channel has 382 subscribers with an average of 30 minutes of viewing time. We have the most views on equity-focused and assessment framework videos. Structured Conversations are the oldest professional development opportunity and going strong and these are planned monthly with some time off in the summer.
  2. SAAL reached over 1,400 members on our listserv. This year we averaged around 26 new members per month. The listserv was active this year, with 99+ monthly conversations ranging from members asking questions about instruments, advice, frameworks and announcing jobs. Because of activity, our VP for Community Development and Engagement has started Monthly wraps up, which are very popular and helpful to busy SA assessment professionals. We launched our first ever SAAL Awards and Our VP for Community Development & Engagement has been working to keep these organized along with launching our “New to Assessment Chats.”
  3. This year SAAL had its 7th run of Open Course,which is a free, self-paced introductory course, Applying & Leading Assessment in Student Affairs. The course saw 1500+ participants and 96% agreed that the course materials had a positive impact. Course participants indicated they take the course because they enjoy learning about topics that interest them and hope to gain skills for a promotion or new career. 
  4. SAAL is working to create a community among SA Assessment colleagues in DEI oppressive states by inviting leaders of the organization to provide inspiration and support. SAAL has reached out to NASPA and ACPA governing boards to invite them to future conversations.
  5. SAAL has intentional connections and conversations with NASPA AER KC and ACPA CAE on how to better support one another and not step on each other’s toes. We have had 3 meetings and as a result are planning a Panel on the Future of the Field of Student Affairs Assessment recorded as a podcast. We have invited CAS to join as well. This will be published at the beginning of 2024.
  6. SAAL launched its updated Landscape Survey to understand trends and changes in the field with the goal to better serve its members.The Landscape Survey results help the SAAL Board identify where to invest our volunteer time to serve you and the field.
  7. One of the notable successes of SAAL's strategic plan is the emphasis on collaboration which has resulted in stronger partnerships between different organizations with related missions. This interconnected approach has led to more comprehensive and holistic ways to support our members. For example, our partnership with The Council for the Advancement of Standards (CAS) has allowed us a more intentional connection. At the November CAS Council meeting, the President gave an update about SAAL and we are now hiring for an Operations Coordinator to begin next year. CAS approved new Standards in Campus Religious, Secular, and Spiritual Programs, Civic Engagement and Service-Learning Programs, College Honor Society Programs, Education Abroad Programs and Services, and Internship Programs. There will be more CAS resources shared next year.

Challenges and Lessons Learned

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Implementing a strategic plan is not without its challenges. SAAL has had to navigate unforeseen changes and adapt its approach accordingly. Flexibility and a willingness to adjust strategies have been key lessons learned in the process. SAAL recognizes that the implementation of a strategic plan is an ongoing process. Regular assessments of the plan's effectiveness, feedback loops, and a commitment to continuous improvement are integral to the long term success of the plan. Thus, every Board meeting dedicates 25 minutes to our strategic plan. Beginning next year, a more formal communication on how SAAL is achieving its goals will be shared.

Continuing our Journey

SAAL's strategic plan implementation in 2023 marks a significant milestone in the organization's commitment to advancing student affairs assessment practices. By embracing innovation, fostering collaboration, and prioritizing equity and the humans leading assessment, SAAL is not only shaping the future of student affairs but also contributing to the overall success and wellbeing of professionals in higher education. As the journey continues, SAAL remains dedicated to refining its approach and staying at the forefront of assessment excellence.

~SAAL Board

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