Higher Education as Jadzia Dax

Over the past few weeks there have been several conversations in the Twitterverse and other platforms about the worth and recognition of Student Affairs. I’ve also recently participated in a study where the relationship between academia and student affairs popped up as part of the conversation. So on my way home yesterday, while I was dashing between raindrops to make my Star Trek marathon in time, I came up with an interesting analogy that helped me put the relationship between “the faculty” and “the staff/Student Affairs” into a new-ish perspective for me.

Now, my first point of order for this analogy:

Where my Trekkies at?

Oh yes. I am a lover of all things Star Trek. I grew up on Next Generation and Deep Space Nine; with Wesley Crusher as my BFF, Worf my idol and Data my conscience. Once a year I have a Star Trek marathon. It drives my partner and friends nuts LOL.

Now, if you are a Trekkie who embraced Deep Space Nine (yes there are factions of Trekkies based on the multiple series) then you’ll be familiar with Jadzia Dax.

Courtesy of startrekdesktopwallpaper.com
Courtesy of startrekdesktopwallpaper.com

Jadzia Dax is a joined Trill. Jadzia is the name of the woman host, while Dax is the name of the symbiont that lives in her abdomen. Once joined, the host cannot live without the symbiont; and while the symbiont can exist without the host, its life is meaningless until joined with another host.

Can you see where I’m going with this?

As a Graduate Student I took an Organization and Administration of Higher Education course that focused on the structure and foundations of institutional structure. I remember one of the first lines out of the professor’s mouth was “Student Affairs is secondary in organizational development because it is not the Core of the the institution”. As an SAPro, I was appalled at this blasphemous statement. However as the course continued I began to see what he meant. The Core, or the very foundation of higher education, is academics. Without academics, there would be no higher education, therefore no need for Student Affairs.

We all know that as higher education in the United States began to grow, the positions such as Dean of Men and Dean of Women emerged and our field began to take root. During this process, a symbiotic relationship was created with the academic side and services side of higher education, like the host Jadzia and her symbiont Dax.

Courtesy of Brian D. Proffer
Courtesy of Brian D. Proffer

Coming full circle to the actual analogy, consider our academic programs and faculty as the symbionts. They are the core of the institution, but in order to thrive and make an impact on the world, it needs a host. Now consider that Student Affairs, Auxiliary Services, etc. is that host. We engulf the symbiont/academics and support it, giving it an environment to thrive in and make contributions to society and to pass on knowledge to the future generations.

For me I think that being in a symbiotic relationship doesn’t often net the accolades or recognition that a partnership or collaboration receives because of the inherent nature of the relationship. Most times, both sides take each other for granted while forgetting that without the other they would both fail. 

So rather than staff expecting accolades from the faculty or faculty exerting themselves on a higher plane than staff, perhaps it would be more beneficial to know and appreciate that while both parts of the higher education house have their own merits, abilities, key roles, limitations, etc. neither could exist and be productive without the other, just like Jadzia and Dax.

Until next time

Peace, Love and Pandas!


Live Long and Prosper!

Published by Brian

I am currently the Assistant Director of Student Life for Registered Student Organizations and Late-Night Programming at Michigan State University. After earning my B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint, I entered the Student Affairs profession. After a few years in the field, I returned to school and earned my M.A. in Educational Leadership-Higher Education Student Affairs from Eastern Michigan University. In my spare time I blog about my thoughts and musings on current issues in higher education, student affairs, digital worlds, identity development and general life inspirations and observations. I also volunteer a lot for my fraternity and multiple regional and national professional associations.

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