Competency E: Professional Values and Ethics

In several of my courses in the CSSA program, we have been given an assignment to write about our professional values and ethics in working with students in higher education. With this post, I will attempt to excerpt, as well as integrate and combine, those texts, but I will include links to the full texts as well for those interested. The following post includes writing from four different courses: TCE 530, Fundamentals of Counseling, AHE 599, Academic Advising, AHE 520 Multicultural Issues in Higher Education, and AHE 551, Programs and Functions in Student Services. Click on the course number to see the full text associated with that course. Because of the personal nature of the text associated with AHE 520, Multicultural Issues in Higher Education, please email me directly if you wish to read the entire paper.

In higher education, my personal ethical standards are determined by my allegiances to students and to the institution and institutional policies. I have certain responsibilities to students, to colleagues, and to the institution in which I work. These responsibilities dictate the values I bring to my vocation, as an educator and a facilitator of learning. Whenever possible, I determine to put the needs of the student first and strive to, above all, do no harm (American Psychological Association, APA, 2010; American Counseling Association, ACA, 2005). This guiding principle will affect all of my interactions with students, including when I am acting as a supervisor of a student worker and during informal interactions as well as formal advising or academic counseling situations. Doing no harm includes: respecting the dignity and cultural diversity of the student; avoiding imposing my personal values on the student; providing appropriate referrals for the student if the needs are beyond my competence; respecting the student’s right to privacy as best as I am able within the confines of the procedures of my institution; maintaining a professional relationship with the student; continuing my professional development in the field in order to offer the help the most current research shows to be valuable; and monitoring myself and reflecting on my personal well-being in order to determine whether I am healthy enough to offer help to others (APA, 2010; ACA, 2005).

In my interactions with students, I value diversity, knowing that each student I work with comes to me with a unique set of circumstances, including ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, and beliefs, among other intersections of identity. Crookston’s (1972) ten dimensions of developmental advising emphasize trust in the relationship between advisor and student as an essential component. When a student has trust in an advisor, it manifests in the sharing of struggles, challenges, and accomplishments. It manifests in increased student motivation based on mutually agreed upon academic, professional, and personal goals. Using counseling micro-skills as a way to establish rapport, including paraphrasing and reflecting feeling and meaning, I will work to show that I am reliable, knowledgeable, authentic, and empathic early on in the relationship to establish this trust. When a student I am advising academically is faced with problems that are larger and more looming, such as psychological or financial issues, I become a referral agent, connecting that student with professionals who can address those concerns that I am not trained to tackle.

In my interactions with colleagues and my institution at large, my responsibility is to be an eager collaborator, to work within the bounds of my institutional goals and mission, and to be aware of and sensitive to the scarcity of resources, particularly financial and human capital. To serve students to the best of my ability, it is imperative that I work in teams and across boundaries to ensure that needs are being met and services are being provided but not duplicated. It is often between the institutional “lines” that innovation comes, through new collaborative programming or creative scaling back that provides services in a more efficient way. I must continually work to accomplish my goals for my students, which should align with the institution’s goals for my students, within the bounds of fiscal responsibility.

I make a pledge to work to become an educator that empowers all students. I pledge to keep myself committed, obliged, and involved. I aspire to be an ally for social justice. I will work intentionally to create community, to push back against the paths of least resistance, and to collaborate with my students and colleagues to change the system of oppression from within. I look upon social justice in my life and work as a spiritual quest that will and has already tested me in my humanity. Johnson (2006) believed that “we need faith to do what seems right without necessarily being sure of the effect that will have” (p. 132). As a higher education professional, this pledge to do what is just will guide my work and my life.

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