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March 4, 2004 • Volume 12 Number 12

Associate Dean for Student Development Carole Hughes has co-edited and contributed to a book of essays based on a highly acclaimed panel discussion she helped organize on women's careers in the student affairs field. (File photo by Lee Pellegrini.)

Glancing Down the Roads Taken

BC administrator finds women's issues strike a chord in student affairs

By Sean Smith
Chronicle Editor

When Associate Dean for Student Development Carole Hughes co-organized a panel discussion on women and student affairs careers for a national conference, she never imagined how much attention it would attract.

"The place was packed, and the audience was hanging on every word," said Hughes of the event, which took place at the 2002 National Association of Student Personnel Administrators annual meeting in Boston.

"There were so many issues people wanted to hear and talk about, especially related to women in the student affairs field entering mid-career. I was getting phone calls and e-mails well after the conference was over."

Two years later, that interest shows no signs of flagging, says Hughes, who has co-edited a book of essays inspired by the panel discussion. Roads Taken: Women in Student Affairs at Mid-career contains reflections from more than 20 women on their personal and professional lives as administrators in the student affairs field.

The essays are organized into five sections, focusing on subjects such as pursuing a doctorate, dual-career couples and motherhood and student affairs, each with an introduction by an expert in the specific topic area. Hughes, who also penned an essay on her experiences as a working mother, introduces the section titled "'I've Arrived': It's the Journey, Not the Destination," to which Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Sheilah Shaw Horton contributes a piece.

"We thought we could take the project a step further, so we added a scholarly perspective," said Hughes, whose Roads Taken collaborator, Michigan State University faculty member and student affairs administrator Kristen Renn Ph.D.'98, also helped to organize the original panel discussion. Hughes and Renn also are giving occasional presentations based on the book's themes to student affairs professionals.

"Some of the issues and concerns we deal with are common to many professions, and to men as well as women," said Hughes, holder of a doctoral degree from BC. "But while women have certainly been a part of student affairs in higher education for many years, as a field unto itself student affairs is a fairly recent development. More women are entering administrative positions in student affairs, and at an earlier age, than in the past and many of these women have young families.

"So, we've tried to examine questions - like 'What are our career expectations?,' 'How do we keep motivated at mid-career?' and 'How do we derive meaning from our profession?' - from the perspective of student affairs, and the particular challenges and demands it brings on a day-in, week-out basis."

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