In 2016-2017, ACPA’s Senior Scholar group and the SSAO advisory group worked together and identified the following research agenda for the field of Student Affairs. These are the categories, topics, and issues these groups believe are most in need of inquiry and exploration. Additionally, ACPA’s Strategic Imperative for Racial Justice and Decolonization (SIRJD) serves as the organizing theme of this research agenda project, in that there are specific topics related to racial justice and decolonization and that the other topics can also be viewed through the SIRJD lens.

Race/Racial Justice

  • Impact of intersection of race and other identities on students (e.g., first generation, veteran, disability, sexual orientation)
  • Interactions of race and racism with other systems of oppression to affect learning, personal growth, and other student outcomes
  • Creating effective dialogues about race
  • Examining level, types, and impact of racial bias among faculty and staff
  • Impact of diversity education and training on racial bias
  • Lessons to be learned from MSIs and community colleges relating to campus climate for racial and ethnic minority students
  • Racial and ethnic minorities in STEM fields
  • Identifying and dismantling institutional and organizational structures that oppress and marginalize racial minorities
  • Identifying and shaping more productive ways of interacting across difference


  • Interrogating and dismantling the ways that U.S. and Western European colonial assumptions are embedded in the structures and practices of postsecondary education in the U.S.
  • Examining the effects of colonialism and imperialism on globalization movements in higher education and student affairs
  • Examining level, types, and impact of Western European bias among faculty and staff
  • Effects of the use of indigenous imagery (e.g., mascots) by non-Native institutions on perceptions of campus climate for indigenous students
  • Lessons to be learned from Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) specifically with regard to incorporation of indigenous knowledge systems
  • Relationship between race, nation, and colonialism in identity articulation and meaning-making among both indigenous and racially minoritized students

Diversity and Social Justice

  • Exploring the balance of freedom of expression with culture of care/expressed values
  • Identifying structures that oppress/marginalize and determining strategies to dismantle such structures
  • The degree to which student affairs’ role is advocacy or education or both
  • Impact of an increasingly diverse society and workforce on student affairs work
  • The need to teach not only American diversity but also global diversity
  • How to balance support of students with responsibility to institution
  • Assessing the impact of spaces on campus designed to support varying identities
  • Understanding and addressing the achievement gap

Each of the following categories and sub-topics can be considered through the lens of the Racial Justice Imperative. Questions to consider:

  • How do racial disparities on campus impact the research topics listed below?
  • How might student affairs address racial disparities in each of these areas?
  • What are the ways in which racial disparities and/or injustices play out within particular topic areas?

Student Demographics

  • Identifying and serving first generation college students, students with mental health concerns, low income students (e.g., impact of food insecurity, homelessness, housing insecurity), undocumented students, LGBTQ students, international students, part-time students, on-line students, veterans, community college students
  • Understanding the issues faced by students with multiple, minoritized identities
  • Understanding the impact of continuing changes in demographics
  • Exploring graduate student development
  • The role of student affairs at institutions designated as HBCU, HSI, MSI, TCU, and Native American Serving Non-Tribal Institutions, etc.

Safety and Security

  • Understanding and eliminating rape culture and sexual assault
  • Best ways to prevent sexual violence and support students who experience trauma
  • Understanding the role of athletics, Greek life, and other institutional contexts on rape culture
  • The effect of increased compliance related to sexual violence on behavior
  • Balance between security procedures and practices, and an open community, such as in the case of controversial speakers
  • Impact of the hostile messages from governmental leaders and how they manifest on college campuses
  • Serving students while meeting expectations of regulations
  • Emergency management and response as a growing area of focus on campuses
  • Concealed/Open Carry (and impact of such legislation on campus)
  • Implications of immigration policy, undocumented students, sanctuary campuses
  • Links between behavioral intervention, bias response, and crisis response teams

Impact and Value of Student Affairs on Student Success

  • Exploring and understanding differential rates of success by subpopulations
  • Identifying effective ways of improving retention and completion rates within the realities of today’s higher education context
  • Measuring and assessing student engagement and how the various forms of engagement relate to outcomes
  • Role, impact, and ethical use of predictive analytics
  • Demonstrating impact of student affairs on success
  • How best to track and understand persistence across institutions (not just within an institution)
  • Better understanding and improving transfer student success – time to degree, rate of transfer
  • Designing for equity and justice and investigating the effects of design designing for equity and justice” and effects on student satisfaction, perceptions of climate, etc.on student satisfaction, perceptions of climate, etc.
  • Identifying new ways to measure student learning outside the classroom
  • Impact of the personalization of the student experience
  • Identifying students who are not engaged and determining what, if anything, can be done

Changing Nature of Work in Higher Education

  • Impact of students’ increasingly complex lives on the educational process
  • The education or training that is actually needed to do the work in student affairs
  • Competency based education and the implications for the co-curriculum
  • Impact of technology-enabled education
  • Impact of the compliance burden
  • Exploring relative effectiveness of student affairs structures, such as functional areas versus generalization of practice
  • Development and fundraising in student affairs
  • Rise in one-stop shop models of service and impact on meeting student needs
  • How the marketplace and job projections inform the mix of curriculum and co-curricular offerings
  • Use of alternative means of demonstrating what students learned (e.g., badges, certificates, co-curricular transcripts)


  • Impact on engagement
  • Impact on community development
  • Impact on student development (e.g., delaying separation from parents/family; digital identity development)
  • Technological applications to enhance student affairs work


  • Recruiting and serving low income/high ability students
  • Challenges related to affordability
  • Short- and long-term institutional strategies to reach prospective students
  • How to attract and serve students representing evolving demographics (ages, races, documented status, income level, campus or distance, students with some credits but no degree, etc.)
  • Financing higher education for a more economically diverse student body
  • Funding models for public and private higher education
  • The sustainability of having students pay an increasing percentage of their education
  • How to diversify funding streams
  • Impact of student debt on recruitment, enrollment, and alumni engagement

Changing Government and Public Roles and Expectations Relative to Higher Education

  • Impact of decreased state funding
  • Impact of increased compliance burdens
  • Effect of laws on campus (concealed carry, financial literacy, civic education, etc.)
  • Many more external groups are asserting expectations about higher education (legislatures, employers, parents, think tanks, etc.)
  • Exploring the role of postsecondary institutions in broader societal issues related to equity and justice.
  • Impact of seeing education as a commodity
  • Impact of increasingly intrusive media/social media
  • State/Federal policy impact on MSIs
  • Exploring how we can demonstrate both the private good outcomes AND the public good outcomes
  • Understanding and addressing the decline in the public’s confidence in higher education