A reunion story: 50 years and counting for CSU’s Student Affairs in Higher Education program

After educating more than 850 students, marking 50 years in the books, and offering courses to individuals all across the world, the School of Education’s Student Affairs in Higher Education program gathered for its first reunion celebration.

“The reunion was a highlight for CSPA/ SAHE because we celebrated 50 years of hard work, growth, and commitment so many people put into this program,” said Colorado State University SAHE Co-Chair, faculty member, and Dean of Students Jody Donovan.

The reunion allowed for many graduating classes to network with each other and explore different career paths individuals had taken after earning their master’s degree at Colorado State. Many of the older graduates were impressed by the SAHE program, as well as the significant campus improvements.

About SAHE

There are two parts to understand about Student Affairs and SAHE. Student Affairs is nearly everything that impacts students outside the academic area on campus. Student Affairs consists of Housing & Dining Services, the Lory Student Center, Campus Recreation, the CSU Health Network, and many departments that exist to support students to be successful both in and out of the classroom.

Drawing of SAHE by Kriss Whittmann
Kriss Whittmann, Whittmann Studios – photo illustrator/ design

SAHE is a 45 credit hour graduate program that prepares individuals to enter the Student Affairs profession. The graduate program began as the College Student Personnel Administration (CSPA) master’s degree and shifted in 1990 to Student Affairs in Higher Education (SAHE) to better reflect the profession.

“Most people don’t know that this graduate program exists and don’t really know what Student Affairs is,” said alumna, Interim Executive Director of Housing and Dining Services, and faculty member in the program, Mari Strombom. “It’s a pretty young profession that’s growing. We are becoming one of the top and most selective programs in the field.”

SAHE is unique because unlike most other programs on campus, the majority of the faculty are full-time Student Affairs professionals at CSU. This year, the School of Education invested in hiring the first full-time, tenured faculty member to join SAHE, Dafina-Lazarus Stewart.

50 years of success

With the amount of positive and necessary change the program has gone through, SAHE is proud to celebrate their 50 years.

“It’s significant to celebrate 50 years as a graduate program for our field,” Donovan said. “I was really excited to see the energy and the passion for the graduate program leading up to and throughout the reunion weekend. We wouldn’t be where we are today without the help of our very loyal alumni who encourage their students to apply to our program.”

The reunion took place over a weekend mainly on campus. More than 170 individuals attended the event to honor this milestone for the program. The alumni of the SAHE program who attended included numerous vice presidents for student affairs, higher education attorneys, directors of non-profit organizations, athletic directors and a few university presidents.

Strombom served as the chair of the CSPA/SAHE 50th Reunion Committee, collaborating with event chairs who planned tours of the campus, professional development sessions, a hike to the “A”, a social in Old Town, and several recognition programs.

The main reunion event allowed alumni from the program to gather and hear from Grant Sherwood, David McKelfresh, and Jody Donovan talk about the past, present, and future of the SAHE program The trio of the past, present, and future of SAHE resonated well with the alumni and honored the program’s accomplishments over the years.

Grant Sherwood
David McKelfresh
Jody Donovan

“It was wonderful to see so many people come back and celebrate 50 years. It was especially incredible to see and hear how the alumni continue to have such a positive impact around the globe because of this program,” Strombom said.

What now?

After a successful weekend, Donovan and Strombom realized they need to plan more reunions (hopefully more than one every 50 years).

With many new connections made, alumni of the program were happy to see how SAHE has grown and where it’s headed. The program now includes an online Master of Science degree in Student Affairs, and four online certificates in Student Affairs.

SAHE is also focusing on educating and serving students internationally with the Global Perspectives in Higher Education course and field experience.  Students enrolled in this course will travel to Seoul, South Korea for two weeks in January 2018 to visit partner universities and engage with students, faculty, and higher education leaders while also participating in cultural immersion activities.

“I’m proud of our entrepreneurial spirit in SAHE,” Donovan said. “Students are always changing and we need to be nimble to prepare future student affairs professionals to meet students’ needs. It’s exciting to think about where we’ll be in the next 50 years.”

The SAHE program is part of the School of Education in CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences. See the SAHE website for more information on the program.