Leadership Competencies Needed for Early-Career Student Affairs Professionals: A Delphi Study Thesis uri icon


  • With the continued expansion of student affairs leadership programs and initiatives, more students receive their leadership education from student affairs offerings than from academic leadership courses. However, a problem arises as many of the student affairs professionals who coordinate these leadership programs have never completed any formal leadership education, training, or development. This raises the question of their preparation and training to be leadership educators. Using a classic Delphi approach, this research sought to identify the leadership educator competences required of entry-level student affairs practitioners and where entry-level student affairs practitioners should learn and practice these competencies. Two context-specific expert panels were used in this study; one consisting of 17 student affairs practitioners and the other consisting of 20 of student affairs preparatory program faculty members. There was little agreement between the two expert panels in terms of the required leadership educator competencies. Thirteen of the 140 leadership educator competencies identified were rated as required by both expert panels. However, the two panels did agree that the three most important places to learn and practice these competencies were the graduate assistantship, an academic course in leadership, and through other experiential learning opportunities such as internships or practica. These findings support previous research that student affairs practitioners and preparatory program directors do not agree on the competencies needed to be a successful student affairs practitioner. Yet, the results only partially support previous student affairs competency research; indicating the competencies needed to be an effective student affairs leadership educator may be different from the competencies needed to be an effective student affairs practitioner.

author list (cited authors)

  • Dunn, A. L.

complete list of authors

  • Dunn, Allison L

publication date

  • October 2018