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Grad students like Michael Davis want careers helping and advising college students.
SAHE program ladder to higher ed careers
Master's course appeals to those who enjoy helping others
Leah Jackson
07/01/2012

NATCHITOCHES – Michael Davis of Monroe did not originally choose student affairs as a career path, but after working as a business and facilities manager at the University of Louisiana-Monroe, he realized a desire to serve the students. Davis is now enrolled in Northwestern State University’s graduate program in Student Affairs in Higher Education and said the program will not only help pave his way toward fulfilling his career goals, but the on-line aspect allows him to balance coursework with family and work responsibilities.

“I feel the best way to make an impact on lives and give back to an institution and community is through the students,” Davis said. After obtaining his undergraduate degree in construction management, he worked first in ULM’s College of Education and later moved to Residential Life, where he has the opportunity to work directly with students.

“The main appeal to student affairs, for me, is the impact you can have on college students before they graduate and enter a new chapter of their lives,” Davis said. “We have the opportunity to help them choose career paths, make their time on campus a great experience and provide opportunities to make them feel comfortable in a time when most students will be moving away from home.”

Shane Creppel of Natchitoches shared those sentiments.

“There is no place quite like a college campus,” he said. “People come here to truly find out who they are. It is so much more than getting a piece of paper to get a job and student affairs professionals are dedicated to facilitating the growth of the whole student which goes far beyond the classroom.”

Creppel earned a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management and Tourism at Northwestern State, where he was involved in campus organizations and found working on projects that positively impacted the campus rewarding.

“I was very close to many of the graduate students who worked in the Division of Student Affairs and they shared information with me about the program,” Creppel said. “I also received a lot of encouragement from the student affairs staff about the program. It seemed to me that the skills I learned while obtaining my bachelor's in HMT where applicable to student affairs also.”

Northwestern State’s graduate degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education is a 36-hour program within the College of Education and Human Development that is 100 percent on-line. The concentration was formerly known as Student Personnel Services, but was renamed and redesigned to clarify program goals and streamline coursework for students interested in pursuing careers in a post-secondary setting, such as at a university or community or technical college.

“Our program is about meeting the needs of students and engaging the students. Our program completers learn to connect with individuals and help them navigate the university,” said Dr. Henrietta Pichon, coordinator of the SAHE program. “These individuals will help undergraduates work through social, developmental and academic issues.”

The track is designed for individuals interested in a career as an academic advisor or coordinator of programs that meet the needs of student populations such as student activities, student life, financial aid, Greek life or new student programs. Students take administrative courses and learn to make assessments and recognize trends in higher education. Meeting the needs of undergraduate students and engaging them in campus life correlates to retention, Pichon said.

“I have actually been searching for this degree program online for the last two years,” Davis said. “I knew I wanted to pursue a master's in students affairs, but could not find an institution that was offering it online. Since I work full time and have a family with a young child, I would not be able to spend several hours a week in a classroom. The online path makes the most sense for me and my situation. To my knowledge, no other institution in the LSU or UL system is offering the master's in Students Affairs in Higher Education online degree plan.”

Northwestern State’s SAHE program offers advantages for individuals employed in entry-level positions at post-secondary institutions who are seeking credentials for career advancement.

“Many students are drawn to the field because of their experiences with professionals that have helped them or experiences they had outside the classroom such as with student activities, student government or Greek life,” Pichon said.

“One thing I am very impressed with in this program is the accessibility I will have to the faculty. Natchitoches is only two hours from Monroe and Dr. Pichon said anytime I wanted to come on campus I was welcome. It means a lot to me as a student that the faculty would take their time with an online student and for me not to just be another name or number on a screen,” Davis said.

“The work that we do is useful in helping institutions meet their goals,” Pichon said. “Our program is about helping the students be a successful as possible. It’s a very impactful career.”

For more information on the Student Affairs in Higher Education program, contact Pichon at pichonh@nsula.edu or call (318) 357-5192. Individuals can also visit delt.nsula.edu/student-affairs-in-higher-education.