Jon Dalton and Pamela Crosby have published an article in the current Journal of College & Character (available to NASPA members) that I plan to share with members of the Penn State Student Affairs Cocurricular Learning Group. Its content fits nicely with the longstanding mission of the CLG and with our recent discussions on developing programs along the themes of character, conscience and social responsibility. Noting the importance of the out-of-class experience, and its many unintended pitfalls, the authors prefer the term 'cocurriculum' (as do I) to help us focus on programs and learning interventions that support and enrich classroom learning. Their recommendations also include the creation of an intentional cocurriculum - again, something we have been striving to achieve here.
As the authors note: "Creating an intentional student affairs cocurriculum involves a more concerted effort on the part of student affairs staff to plan, coordinate, and manage those student activities that student affairs directly sponsor. In order to maximize the positive educational influences of the cocurricular core, student affairs staff should be more intentional about the activities and programs that are selected for inclusion in the cocurriculum core. Without intentionality cocurriculum activities can easily become, as Woodrow Wilson commented, merely "sideshows" that have little connection to the moral mission and educational goals of the institution."
Side shows? Ouch. But, yes, President Wilson was sadly spot on. Step right up.
In their conclusion they write:: "Approaching the student affairs cocurriculum in a centralized, coordinated, comprehensive manner. Student affairs planners should consider how all of the various sponsored programs and activities fit together into a coherent whole that directly advances the mission and values of the institution. Too often student affairs educational programs are approached in an ad hoc manner that can lead to many disconnected individual programs that stand alone without much, if any, connection to each other or to the institution's mission."
I recommend this article and it can be found at http://journals.naspa.org/jcc/vol13/iss3/1/