Seattle University’s College of Education offers one of the only Student Development Administration programs (often called “Student Affairs”) in the region, focusing on the co-curricular aspects of college life. Graduates of the program go on to jobs such as student activities advisor, academic advisor, international student advisor, and community engagement program manager. These administrators represent and advocate for the students, run leadership programs, and develop activities that complement the academic experience. Seattle University’s program is in its 25th year and is sought out for its strong clinical experience and its incorporation of social justice values, says Associate Professor Erica Yamamura.
How does social justice apply to your program?
For starters, our master’s program doesn’t require a GRE for admission like most. Instead, we seek out students from all over the country with strong leadership and multicultural experience. We look at the student holistically, and academic excellence is just one of many components. In class, we cover topics like gender-identity theories, multiracial-identity theories, and religious/spiritual-identity formation, among others. And student internships are often focused on social-justice work. Plus, all students are required to complete an electronic portfolio that includes deep, reflective exercises that demonstrate their understanding of leadership, higher education, and the changing makeup of students on college campuses.
There’s an emphasis on clinical, project-based experience. What does that look like in your program?
Right now, all first-year students are looking at the Seattle University Youth Initiative, a major university initiative that is focused on improving the lives of youth and their families. One aspect highlights education—in particular, elementary, middle, and high schools close to campus where there’s a large immigrant and refugee community. Some of the parents of these kids are new to the country and can benefit from intentional support with college preparation. So, in a required course, we’ve created an opportunity for our graduate students to research and design a project that looks at promising practices for college preparation and access.
Some students are considering developing a project where they might serve as mentors to these students and their families, which can positively impact the community while enhancing graduate students’ own learning in the classroom. Other students have done internships at local colleges and universities, helping those schools find ways to be more inclusive of emerging student populations. Examples include a project developing undocumented student resources and another helping a university assess students’ needs in order to develop a veteran resource center at a community college.
What led you to this field?
I’m the first in my family to go to college. I ended up at UCLA. When I got there, a lot of my hallmates already knew each other because they’d gone to high school together, and I found that there were all these unwritten rules and friendships. I was the only one of two from my neighborhood living on campus. I ended up being the representative for our building, took a leadership position, and became an RA and then a program coordinator.
Eventually, I realized there was a whole field related to this. After I graduated, I was an academic mentor at a Title 1 urban school in LA, and it was my job to bring in people from the entertainment industry and universities to read with and tutor the kids to help them academically. I’d been planning to go to law school but realized that this is what I wanted to do—work with college students to provide positive developmental experiences, especially for underrepresented student populations. My undergraduate thesis advisor at UCLA encouraged me to pursue a graduate degree in the field, and the rest is history.
What brought you to Seattle University?
I was attracted to the diversity and social-justice emphasis, which is part of the mission of the university, as well as to the holistic, practice-based emphasis of the program.
I also love our community: our master’s students, on-campus program partners, university partners in the region, and our alumni. We have a strong synergy with our alumni, which is a distinctive aspect of our master’s program. Many of them stay connected to the program even after they graduate. They come back and serve as internship supervisors, mock interviewers, and mentors to our current students—and in this way, we have created an intergenerational mentorship model to prepare both reflective and social-justice-oriented leaders.
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