Higher Education Ph.D. Dissertations


Senior Student Affairs Officers' Perceptions Of Critical Professional Competencies

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Higher Education Administration

First Advisor

Maureen Wilson

Second Advisor

Steven Cady (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Michael Coomes (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Robert DeBard (Committee Member)


Literature describing the role of the senior student affairs officer (SSAO) is plentiful, but research studies describing the specific skills needed to successfully fulfill the role are fewer in quantity. Therefore, in order to better understand the skills needed to be a senior-level student affairs administrator, and how to acquire them, this study examined SSAOs ' perceptions of the ACPA and NASPA joint competencies. The sample, comprised of SSAOs who hold ACPA membership, shared their perceptions, which were examined according to several variables including gender, ethnicity, professional experience, and institution characteristics. Findings indicated that a doctoral degree was particularly significant for developing the skills necessary to be a successful SSAO. Additionally, there were differences according to several of the variables, indicating the importance of different competencies at different types of institutions, although no clear-cut picture of specific competency importance emerged. The additional competencies suggested by the SSAOs who participated in the survey, although nearly all of them overlapped with the ACPA and NASPA joint competencies, provide reinforcement of skills important to SSAOs in today 's higher education landscape. The findings provide a snapshot of the skills necessary for successful SSAOs, as well as implications for graduate preparation programs and future revisions of the ACPA and NASPA join competencies.