Developing Social Justice Training for Student Staff: One Administrator’s Experience

Group of protestors where one individual is holding a sign saying "ENOUGH"
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Tammi Kohl Kennedy, M.A., M.Ed.
Director of Academic Support, University of Mount Union, Alliance, Ohio


As the administrator of a one-person office at a small, private, liberal arts university, I rely heavily on my teams of student staff. Together we provide academic support for just over 2,000 undergraduate students and 200 graduate students through several targeted programs that lead to increased success and retention.

Training my student staff is a vital part of our programs’ and our students’ success. To build my teams’ foundational knowledge around enhancing cognitive function as it relates to academic success, I developed a training program centered on evidence-based approaches to effective learning strategies.

Leaning on scientific research and data lends credibility and relevance to the work we do. By helping students understand why strategies are effective and working with them to develop individually tailored approaches they can use now around their busy schedules, students begin to see my teams as legitimate and qualified resources as they start to realize improved success through their evolving approach to learning.

Connecting our work to social justice

Core-shaking events in the spring and summer of 2020 demanded a voice in this year’s training. As I reviewed materials to prepare my student staff of 40 for our work ahead, it became clear we would need to expand our scope to include social justice if we hoped to secure our place in students’ lives as relevant resources on their academic journeys.

With so much misinformation surrounding the nation’s social justice movement, and so many of us simply not knowing the origins or realizing the existence of systemic racism, our valuable work with students – and the improved success and retention that typically result – seemed in jeopardy unless we educated ourselves.

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