HESA students

Preparing students with the skills and competencies necessary to succeed in a professional setting is a core value of the UVM HESA program. Students consider how their positionalities and privilege impact their approach to professional practice and social justice work. The HESA program prepares students to work across sectors including higher education, non-profit, public policy and more.

Professional Competencies

While enrolled in our HESA program, students are provided multiple opportunities to grow as a professional and to increase in the competencies that have been identified as undergirding the best professional practice in the field. Those competencies have been developed by two professional organizations, ACPA: College Student Educators International  and NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Educationeach devoted to furthering the scholarship, research, and practice of student affairs and college personnel services in higher education.

Students are frequently asked to engage with the standards, using them to direct their learning, monitor their progress, and assess their achievements. A description of each standard can be found in the publication "Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Educators" overview  and  extended description. An additional publication,  ACPA/NASPA Professional Competencies Rubrics, identifies the beginning, intermediate and advanced rubrics for each competency.

A review of the competencies provides a general perspective on what guides one’s study, research, and practice in our HESA program.

Competency Areas

Competencies are developed in accordance with the professional competency areas for student affairs educators (ACPA & NASPA, 2015). 

Assessment, evaluation, and research 

Focuses on the ability to design, conduct, critique, and use various assessment, evaluation, and research (AER) methodologies and the results obtained from them, to utilize AER processes and their results to inform practice, and to shape the political and ethical climate surrounding AER processes and uses in higher education. 

Law, policy, and governance 

Includes the knowledge, skills, and dispositions relating to policy development processes used in various contexts, the application of legal constructs, compliance/policy issues, and the understanding of governance structures and their impact on one’s professional practice. 

Organizational and human resources 

Includes knowledge, skills, and dispositions used in the management of institutional human capital, financial, and physical resources. This competency area recognizes that student affairs professionals bring personal strengths and grow as managers through challenging themselves to build new skills in the selection, supervision, motivation, and formal evaluation of staff; resolution of conflict; management of the politics of organizational discourse; and the effective application of strategies and techniques associated with financial resources, facilities management, fundraising, technology, crisis management, risk management and sustainable resources. 

Personal and ethical foundations 

Involves the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to develop and maintain integrity in one’s life and work; this includes thoughtful development, critique, and adherence to a holistic and comprehensive standard of ethics and commitment to one’s own wellness and growth. Personal and ethical foundations are aligned because integrity has an internal locus informed by a combination of external ethical guidelines, an internal voice of care, and our own lived experiences. Our personal and ethical foundations grow through a process of curiosity, reflection, and self-authorship. 

Social justice and inclusion 

Both a process and a goal which includes the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to create learning environments that foster equitable participation of all groups while seeking to address and acknowledge issues of oppression, privilege, and power. This competency involves student affairs educators who have a sense of their own agency and social responsibility that includes others, their community, and the larger global context. Student affairs educators may incorporate social justice and inclusion competencies into their practice through seeking to meet the needs of all groups, equitably distributing resources, raising social consciousness, and repairing past and current harms on campus communities. 

Student learning and development 

Addresses the concepts and principles of student development and learning theory. This includes the ability to apply theory to improve and inform student affairs and teaching practice. 


Focuses on the use of digital tools, resources, and technologies for the advancement of student learning, development, and success as well as the improved performance of student affairs professionals. Included within this area are knowledge, skills, and dispositions that lead to the generation of digital literacy and digital citizenship within communities of students, student affairs professionals, faculty members, and colleges and universities. 

Values, philosophy, and history 

Involves knowledge, skills, and dispositions that connect the values, philosophy, and history of the student affairs profession to one’s current professional practice. This competency area embodies the foundations of the profession from which current and future research, scholarship, and practice will change and grow. The commitment to demonstrating this competency area ensures that our present and future practices are informed by an understanding of the profession’s history, philosophy, and values. 

Advising and supporting 

Addresses the knowledge, skills, and dispositions related to providing advising and support to individuals and groups through direction, feedback, critique, referral, and guidance. Through developing advising and supporting strategies that take into account self-knowledge and the needs of others, we play critical roles in advancing the holistic wellness of ourselves, our students, and our colleagues. 


Addresses the knowledge, skills, and dispositions required of a leader, with or without positional authority. Leadership involves both the individual role of a leader and the leadership process of individuals working together to envision, plan, and affect change in organizations and respond to broad- based constituencies and issues. This can include working with students, student affairs colleagues, faculty, and community members.


Per the Council for the Advancement of Standards (CAS) in Higher Education guidelines for master’s level student affairs professional preparation programs, students are required to complete 300 hours of supervised practice. At UVM, students complete these hours through a combination of internships, graduate assistantships, full-time work and practice-focused activities and assignments all connected to three semesters of EDHI 6890 (2 credits per semester).  Through this practicum curriculum, students gain direct professional experience in at least two unique campus offices/functions and explore a variety of professional contexts and challenges in higher education. The practicum curriculum helps students prepare for and reflect on this work, as well as plan for their continued development as educators in higher education.

Career Development

Graduates from the HESA program pursue careers as professionals in colleges and universities, as well as in fields related to higher education such as non-profit, educational policy, and more.

UVM HESA graduates possess substantial knowledge in college student development, programmatic evaluation and assessment, social justice and inclusion, historical foundations of American higher education, helping skills, functional areas of student affairs, organizational development, administrative leadership and legal issues.

During their final year, students participate in a career development seminar originally developed by Jackie Gribbons, one of the founders of the HESA program. Working in partnership with HESA faculty, UVM’s Career Center, and other campus partners, the purpose of this career development seminar is to help students clarify personal/professional aspirations and to enable each student to integrate theory and practice within a structured resume, cover letter, and interview format for their job search process.